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L2 Camera

Fully manual twin-lens reflex instant film camera

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Not a nice camera: it requires both patience in assembly and a sufficient skill set in photography, and you will need to make difficult choices about environmental pollution.

To build your own L2Camera you'll need:

  1. find a donor Lubitel camera and a Kiipix/Printoss printer
  2. have a 3D printer and approx. 25 meters of PLA filament
  3. print the 3D model
  4. adjust the front panel to the viewfinder lens
  5. assemble the camera body
  6. align the lens
  7. assemble the whole camera

L2Camera Body Parts.stl

L2Camera body parts prepared for 3D printing

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 2.00 MB - 12/10/2020 at 19:08

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  • 1 × Developer Unit Threre are several options to choose from. My current prototypes use parts from Kiipix "printer"
  • 1 × Lubitel TLR camera A tired Lubitel camera which can be easily found in Eastern Europe
  • 1 × 3D printed camera body See the Files section

  • The project is grabbing attention worldwide

    Vladimir Gorshenin01/26/2021 at 12:22 0 comments

    L2Camera project drew attention twice right before the Christmas 2020.

    Keigo Moriyama reviewing a L2Camera

    One of the camera prototypes had traveled half of the globe from Prague to Tokyo, where Keigo Moriyama, an Italian photographer living in Japan, made the first review of a L2Camera. In the review you can spot the same camera body that was printed and assembled in the course of writing these log entries.

    Keigo has kindly shared with the project the photos he took during the review session. Here they are.

    The first scene at 3:40

    A photo by Keigo Moriyama taken with a L2Camera

    The second scene at 3:48

    A photo by Keigo Moriyama taken with a L2Camera

    The third scene at 3:58

    A photo by Keigo Moriyama taken with a L2Camera

    The fourth scene at 4:06

    A photo taken with a L2Camera, by Keigo Moriyama

    The fifth scene at 4:14

    A photo taken with a L2Camera, by Keigo Moriyama

    The sixth scene at 4:22

    A photo taken with a L2Camera, by Keigo Moriyama

    The seventh scene at 4:30

    A photo taken with a L2Camera, by Keigo Moriyama

    The eighth scene at 4:39

    A photo taken with a L2Camera, by Keigo Moriyama

    The ninth scene at 4:47

    A photo taken with a L2Camera, by Keigo Moriyama

    The tenth scene at 4:56

    A photo taken with a L2Camera, by Keigo Moriyama

    Also, Keigo provided technical feedback. He suggests adding a cold shoe mount and switching from 3/8" tripod thread to 1/4". According to Keigo, a cold shoe could carry additional equipment like a like meter, and 1/4" tripods are more common now.

    The project took part in Maker Faire Rome 2020 virtual event. It was both interesting and challenging to show case the project through a virtual stand while sitting at home in reality.

    L2Camera exhibited on Maker Faire Rome 2020

  • Assembling the camera body

    Vladimir Gorshenin01/19/2021 at 12:32 0 comments

    To assemble a L2Camera body the following components and tools are needed:

    Components and tools needed to assemble L2Camera body

     First step - index pins

    There three round holes on the rear surface of the front panel and three their counterparts on the front surface of the main part. Check that filament goes easily into the holes. If not, adjust the holes with a sharp an narrow tool. Then glue in PLA pieces into holes of the main part, and cut filament 2 mm above the surface. You got register pins to facilitate alignment of the camera body parts. Now put the main body part on a horizontal surface with the pins on top and then put the front panel above the main part, align both parts with the register pins, join the parts together and check that there is not gap between them. If there is a gap, shorten the pins and check again.

    Adding register pins to facilitate alignment of the camera body parts
    Register pins glued in and trimmed to 2mm height

    Second step - gluing the parts together

    Now put again the main body part on a horizontal surface with the pins on top. There are four rectangular pads on the main body part and four their counterparts on the front panel. Apply glue to the pads on the main body part. If you printed the model with brims, them apply some glue to the brims at the edge of camera body - that will create a better looking seam. Now put the front panel above the main part, align both parts with the register pins - start with the pin near the main lens hole and then proceed with the pins near the viewfinder lens hole. Join the parts together and apply some force for approx. 10 seconds to form a tight joint.

    Two part of the camera glued together

    Third step - post-gluing finishing

    If you printed with brims, remove them with an utility knife.

    Post-gluing processing - removal of brimsPrepare the tripod mount part - remove the brim if you printed with brims - then slide in the socket part into the hole at the bottom of the main body.

    Tripod mount with the brim removed

    Post-gluing processing - attaching a tripod mount

    L2Camera body with a tripod mount attached
    The result

    A L2Camera body after assembling

    L2Camera body attached to a Kiipix developer unit
    L2Camera body attached to a Kiipix developer unit, bottom view

  • Adjusting front panel to the viewing lens

    Vladimir Gorshenin01/19/2021 at 12:31 0 comments

    L2Camera front panel is designed to be adjusted to the particular viewfinder lens of the donor Lubitel camera. For that reason, the 3D model has the screw thread which is tighter than necessary. The adjustment procedure requires you to widen the thread by applying heat to it.


    You need:

    • a L2Camera front panel printed with PLA
    • a Lubitel viewfinder lens (the top one)
    • a 1.0 mm flat screwdriver
    • a source of warm air (approx. 50C/120F) - a hairdryer works best

    Steps:

    1. check that the lens screws in into the front panel tightly, if not - if it goes loosely - please report to me.
    2. unscrew and release the lens block (glass) from lens rim by undoing the stopping screw on the rim - you'll get the aluminum lens rim without glass
    3. screw in the rim into the front panel as deep as it possible, but don't apply to much force
    4. warm up the rim screwed in into the front panel with warm air by applying it to the inner surface of the rim only. Try not no heat other surfaces of the panel
    5. screw in the rim a bit further and let the whole assemble to cool down
    6. check if the rim screws in and out completely, smoothly and without backlash; if it doesn't then repeat the step 3
    7. put the lens block back into the rim and secure it with the stopping screw.

  • Printing the camera body

    Vladimir Gorshenin01/14/2021 at 16:44 0 comments

    After releasing the 3D model, I'd like to share my recommendations on printing the camera body. Before printing, please consider my notes regarding printer selection.


    The 3D model is designed to be printed with:

    • PLA filament (please refer to my considerations on filament)
    • a 0.4 mm nozzle and 0.2 mm layer height
    • two perimeters, no supports
    • the infill value of 5% (it's enough)
    • any kind of infill pattern, please consider Gyroid

    If your printer doesn't have PEI surface, I highly recommend to add a 5 mm brim to increase adhesion of plastic and prevent warping.

    The STL file contains the following four parts:

    1. the front panel
    2. the camera body itself
    3. the tripod socket
    4. the light-blocking insert, optional

    I recommend to print the parts in the same sequence. Print the front panel and check that the Lubitel's viewing lens screws in tightly. It can be even very tight - that is expected, that is by design. Later, during assembling, this issue will be fixed and the lens will match the thread perfectly. If the lens fits loosely, please report this case to me.

    Next, print the camera body and the tripod socket. Print the last part, the light-blocking insert, only if the previous parts are not opaque enough. You can print the insert with any PLA filament and paint its internal surface with 3-5 layers of black acrylic water-based paint.

  • Releasing the L2Camera 3D model

    Vladimir Gorshenin12/10/2020 at 19:35 0 comments

    After half a year of prototyping the project came to a point, when it's ready to be shared with a broader audience. The STL file with camera body part is available now!

    I used OpenSCAD software to design the camera body. I made the model many parameters to have it adjustable.

    To facilitate printing I divided the model into three parts: the front panel, the middle part and the tripod socket.

    The rear panel contains a recycling sign identifying filament.

  • Buying a donor camera

    Vladimir Gorshenin11/24/2020 at 10:10 0 comments

    An ideal donor camera for the project has irrecoverably damaged body, but a functional shutter, lenses and a viewfinder. Do such exemplars exist? They do and I found at least two among ten Lubitel cameras I bought within the project.


    I bought all of the cameras on the Internet, except one which I found in a photo shop. My recipe for searching and buying a Lubitel camera is as follows:

    1. Monitor eBay and local East European web sites (listed below)
    2. Search for a Lubitel-2 model using the following keywords: Lubitel, Ljubitel, Любитель
    3. A decent camera should cost between ten and fifteen dollars without shipping

    Several notes on the recipe. Currently the project works with the Lubitel-2 model only. I'm planning to adjust the design to support other models, Lubitel and Lubitel-166, later. Questions about price are always tricky. The lowest price I paid for a Lubitel camera was $2 (the one I bought in the photo shop, which sold it for spares). The highest price I encountered was around $100. From my perspective, it makes sense to pay these money only for a serviced camera with some kind of warranty offered by the seller or, at least, with sample shots provided. From my experience, even if the Lubitel camera looks like a brand new one, it requires re-hauling for sure. This project uses only components of a Lubitet camera, therefore, my suggestion is a $10 tag. That's the price which I paid for the most of the camera.

    Working on this project I developed a way to revive used Lubitel cameras and bring them second life. Therefore, if you find a piece that doesn't match the image of the ideal candidate for project, please firstly consider repairing it. I believe, bringing to life a used Lubitel camera is better for our planet than producing a new plastic camera like the Lomography society does.

    Soviet photo industry produced more than one million Lubitel camaras. Most of them settled down in East Europe. Here is the list of local classified ads web sites.

    Use these web sites responsibly and on your own risk, beware of fraud.

  • Selecting a 3D printer

    Vladimir Gorshenin11/19/2020 at 12:23 0 comments

    I have access to a pair of shared Prusa printers: an i3 MK2 and an i3 MK3 models. I've been using these printers for two years and not only learned how to print, but also how to calibrate the printers, do troubleshooting, maintenance and repair (shared hardware is severely abused). I printed with PLA, ABS, PETG, PET, TPE from variety of manufacturers. During all of that I was puzzled: why many 3D printing forums are full of questions describing issues? The description of my experience was "I just printed".

    That was true until I decided to validate my design against another printer. I borrowed an Ender-3 printer with a glass bed from a colleague of mine. This is rather popular and common model of 3D printers.

    Ender-3 turned out to be a crush-test to my design.

    I note the following differences between the Prusa printers and the Ender-3:

    1. no auto bed leveling
    2. glass bed instead of PEI
    3. bowden extruder instead of direct one

    The first two are, probably, the most crucial. I had to learn how to make bed leveling manually and how to make it properly. It took me two days. Filament has lower adhesion to glass, compared to PEI surface. In some cases it's an advantage. For example, when you remove prints after printing - you just pick the prints from the bed. In my case that was an disadvantage, because even PLA prints suffered warping. To mitigate it, I had to print with brims and remove them at post-printing.

    But I was really surprised with another issue - so-called elephant foot effect. It's when the bottom layers of the print got shrunk. In this case it made harder two pieces of the camera body pieces to mesh properly. I encountered this issue for the first time in my experience and in happened with the Ender-3 printer. I had no such issue with Prusa printers. 3D printing forums suggest many reasons for that effect: high bed temperature, insufficient cooling, mechanical issues with the Z-axis, etc. In my case, I believe, it was a mixture of reasons.

    I don't expect all of 3D printing enthusiasts interested in my project to switch to PEI-auto-bed-leveling printers in an instant. Therefore, I reworked my design and formed a set of recommendations for printing with the common goal to eliminate the aforementioned issues. All of these will be included into the release.

  • Selecting filament for the camera

    Vladimir Gorshenin10/15/2020 at 14:04 0 comments

    I printed first prototypes with what I had on hand - white PLA Pro filament. The prints were not opaque enough and I had to blacken their inside surface with black acrylic paint. As the project progressed towards a more mature design, I started looking for a better filament option.

    A friend of mine recommended Prusa Carbon Black PETG, which I tried the first. Unlike the other PETG filaments I dealt with, this one is really opaque! I needed no additional work on the prints made with Prusa PETG - they all were light-leaking-proof. Later, I discovered a Czech company called EKO MB, their website is in Czech only. They produce r-PLA, r-PETG and r-PET filament from recycled plastic. Despite the fact that their price tag is slightly higher than the average, I decided to give it a try because recycled filament nicely fits into the concept of my project.

    China filament is cheap, however I don't like the idea of shipping it over the half of the world. It is not eco-friendly in my opinion. Low price just removes the burden of making a choice, but what are real priorities and criteria?

    EKO MB filament astonished me! For example, printing with their r-PLA or r-PETG, I had no stringing at all. That happened for the very first time in my two-year 3D-printing experience. I believe, the filament works well because it is fresh, i.e. the way from the filament producing machine to my printer was short. This fact encouraged me even to try pure PET filament. I consider this material to be the most "recyclable" filament nowadays, because most of the recycling infrastructure already processes it. This project creates an utility tool, not a toy, therefore properties such as temperature stability and structural strength are crucial. This fact prioritizes PET over PLA. I modified the printer with 0.6 mm nozzle to eliminate clogging of PET, which happens sometimes with the most common 0.4 mm nozzle diameter. I got excellent prints with EKO MB rPET as well.


    My ultimate choice of filament for this project is r-PET. But it's not opaque enough and it requires a non-standard nozzle and a special two-component glue for assembling the parts of the printed camera body. Therefore, for the very first release of the project I decided to resort to good old PLA, preferably recycled one.

    Also, I appreciated an EKO MB initiative to re-use filament spools. I sent them a dozen of empty filament spools, which piled up in a corner. 

  • Troubleshooting

    Vladimir Gorshenin10/15/2020 at 13:44 0 comments

    After the fiasco with the first working prototype, I started troubleshooting. First of all, I checked the 3D model and found no issue with it. After that I examined the printed camera body. Everything was OK there, except the distance between the hole for the main lens and the rear panel - it was half millimeter (!) longer than I had designed. I suspected two reasons for this: either the plastic absorbed water and became elongated, or the 3D printer was not calibrated precisely enough.

    Water absorption was not the reason, because two other dimensions of the camera were not elongated. I did several test prints with the printer and none of them had an issue with dimensions. I became puzzled.

    I gave myself a one day break and came back to the puzzle. Luckily enough, having a fresh view of the situation, I spotted the issue. I printed the lens hole edges on top of the support layers, and for that reason the edges sagged 0.5 mm below the expected height. What a tricky case!

    I considered several options to solve the issue and selected the following one. I split the camera body into two parts - the body itself and the front face panel - to print them separately and later join them together.

    In this way I printed the second working prototype, and since then I have had no issue with focusing. Now the focusing mechanism behaves as it should.

  • The first working prototype

    Vladimir Gorshenin09/26/2020 at 10:41 0 comments

    Having reverse engineered both the Lubitel camera and studied Instax cartridges, I had got all the necessary information to start designing my camera. I set a couple of guiding principles for myself. Firstly, the design should be comprised of as little newly introduced plastic as possible. Secondly, it should made up of as many donor components as possible. Thirdly, it should look nice and be handy.

    I used OpenSCAD for modeling, Prusa Slicer for slicing and two Prusas for proof printing. I chose OpenSCAD because I needed the model to be parametric, i.e. it freely adjusts to given parameters like thread diameter, inter-lens distance, mirror position, etc. In doing so, I sacrificed some artistic possibilities with the camera design.

    The goal for the first stage was to develop a camera body that incorporates all the components, and then check the viability of the whole construction. My main concern was that the components may hamper each other. The initial body design was simple: the front panels carried two lenses; the top panel carried the grounding glass, the viewing shaft, and the mirror; and the back panel had holes to screw on the developer unit. It took me some time to prepare a proper 3D model. The main issue of the delay was the viewing lens thread. I measured its diameter and pitch, but for some reason the lens didn’t match any of the proof prints I made. The main thing I missed was the simple fact that the lens had a quadruple thread. Once I had figured that out, I quickly finished the model and printed it with a white PLA filament I had on hand. I used black acrylic paint to blacken the internal surfaces of the camera body.

    The first working L2Camera prototype


    I put together the body and the components, re-hauled the shutter, aligned the lenses according to the instructions, and loaded a cartridge with colour film. I took several photos. Colours and exposure were fine; however, the images didn’t look as sharp as I expected after my experience with the simple frame prototype. I decided to check the accuracy of focusing mechanism with some sort of a testing rig. The appropriate rig should have distinctive features (like contrast lines or edges) and be rather long to cover different focusing distances. The elevator shaft in our house was well-suited to this task. I took two more photos with the elevator as a test rig. I got sharp details on the photos, but I was not satisfied. Curiously, the sharp details I obtained were not those which I intended to focus on. What a fiasco!

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Discussions

Lukas wrote 12/29/2020 at 21:44 point

Hi, I am about to print the kit. How many perimeters and layer height do you recomend?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Vladimir Gorshenin wrote 01/14/2021 at 15:34 point

Hi Lukas, thank you for your interest in the project! I'm working on a "how-to-print" post. Please wait for the end of this week, I'm going to publish it soon.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Vladimir Gorshenin wrote 01/14/2021 at 17:07 point

Lukas, the instruction on printing is ready. Please find it in the logs section.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Vladimir Gorshenin wrote 12/12/2020 at 09:12 point

The first release of the 3D model is available now! Please refer to the Files section

  Are you sure? yes | no

Vladimir Gorshenin wrote 11/05/2020 at 08:11 point

The files will be published soon. I'm finishing proof prints with one more 3D printer model to check that everything gets as it should. An Ender 3 now.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Keigo Moriyama wrote 11/04/2020 at 04:57 point

are there any available files?

  Are you sure? yes | no

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