3D Printing my dream camera

    A While ago, I shared the journey of building my dream camera. Even though I achieved my goal, the camera itself had a few drawbacks, like most homemade pinhole cameras. The biggest issue is the film. I could only use Orthochromatic film because I need to load the camera under redlight to make sure the film is loaded correctly and I don't lose film while loading it. Considering it only records 3 frames per roll, the cost of using the camera became too expensive. 

    Fast forward to 2021, I started looking for other options until I found the design of the Terrapin Kaiju. A curved film plane 3D printed camera that looks pretty similar to the internal design of my homemade wooden camera. 

Terrapin Kaiju specs

    The Terrapin Kaiju is designed by Todd Schlemmer licensed under the Creative Commons - Attribution - Non-Commercial license on Thingiverse. The camera uses 120 film and is designed to capture 4 panorama frames per roll. 
  • Frame size: 60 X 180 mm 
  • Focal length: 86mm 
  • Pinhole size: 0.40mm 
  • F-stop: f/215

3D Printing

    It's been a while since I wanted to get a 3D printer. I've always loved to build and fix stuff, but I have no access to a workshop or any place to build using traditional materials like wood or metal.
    After a few months of research, I finally decided to get one. I went for one of the most used by beginners, the Creality Ender 3 V2, because there are a lot of videos regarding that specific model, and the community looks pretty engaged. 

    For this camera, I used 2 different files. The first one is the complete design by Todd Schlemmer. The second file I used is an upgrade for the winding knobs by Dustin Nickerson. Todd shared different files depending on how you want to print the camera. I used the ones as follow: 
  1. Terrapin Kaiju files 
    • terrapin_kaiju_ver2.stl
    • terrapin_gamera_cap.stl
    • terrapin_gamera_shutter.stl
    • terrapin_kaiju_ver2_small_parts.stl
    • terrapin_gamera_tripod_plug.stl
  2. High strength knobs files
    • terrapin_kaiju_ver2_knurl_knobs_with_high_strength_23mm_pins.stl

Slicer Software

    All the 3D files need to be open and processed by a slicer software. The slicer can create a file your 3D printer understands and prints accurately. In my workflow, I'm currently using Cura Slicer, and the presets I use to print the camera are as follow:

  • Infill: 60% 
  • Layer height: 0.2 mm (first layer 0.3mm)
  • Supports: Yes
  • Build plate adhesion: Brim (Not needed for the body)
  • Speed: 50.0 mm/s
  • Printing temperature: 200 C
  • Build plate temperature: 60 C
  • Filament: Creality Ender Black PLA
    It's important to understand that my presets might not work for other printers or filaments. The only one I can recommend to keep at least at 60% or more is the Infill, which seems to be enough to keep light outside the camera to avoid fogging the film.  

Printing time

    3D printing is a slow process, it takes time and can fail so you need to pay attention to what's happening in case you need to cancel a print and start over again. In my case, all the files printed beautifully, and the times to print each are:

  • Body: 28 hrs. 59 min. - 211g. [terrapin_kaiju_ver2.stl]
  • Cap: 6 hrs. 49 min - 63 g. [terrapin_gamera_cap.stl]
  • Shutter: 1hr. 36 min. - 12 g. [terrapin_gamera_shutter.stl]
  • Small parts: 5 hrs 32 min. - 40 g. [terrapin_kaiju_ver2_small_parts.stl]
  • Tripod Plug: 7 min. - 1 g. [terrapin_gamera_tripod_plug.stl]
  • knobs: 2 hrs. 7 min. - 7 g. [terrapin_kaiju_ver2_knurl_knobs_with_high_strength_23mm_pins.stl]
    The printing process took 52 hrs, 5 minutes, and 334 grams of filament, which cost approx. $9.

Camera Assembly

    The design is effortless to put together. Everything fits perfectly. The only extra step I did was to wet-sand the top frame to eliminate any friction that might affect how the film moves through the film plane. 

    The interior of the camera needs to be painted using flat black paint. I recommend getting a paint + primer spray paint. This is necessary to avoid internal reflections when the pinhole is open.

    The shutter needs to be black. I made a mistake printing it in color. When I was testing for light leaks around the shutter, I realized the shutter was not opaque enough and let light pass inside the camera. The outside color pieces don't matter, just the one used to open or close the shutter.

Very Important! This piece is essential to avoid getting "fat rolls." It goes inside the camera, where you place the take-up spool. Once you finish, the roll is safe to take it out because the piece keeps it tight.

Testing the camera

    Even though the camera has screws to keep the top cover tight to the body, it's only at the front of the camera. The film plane looked a bit looser, so I added 2 asparagus rubber bands to keep it tight. 

    First impressions are very nice. I can tell the size of the pinhole, and the focal length is perfect for this frame size. The results look ethereal and "sharp" enough to trick your eye the first time you look at the picture, and most importantly, there is no vignette thanks to the curved film plane.  

    Still, there is an issue, there is a light leak. Since the image is upside down, the problem is the camera's top cover. The rubber bands were not enough to avoid light leaking inside the camera, or the irregularity of the print is letting the light go through.

Fixing light leaks

    I thought about different ways to light-proof the camera. Most of them didn't work because the camera walls are too thin. After trying different ways to fix the problem and not affect the movement of the film, I found a solution. I super glued a piece of black yarn around the inside edge of the top cover. 

    Also, just to be sure, I added a piece of circular felt under the winding knob. 

Testing the camera again

     Feeling a lot more confident, I went out to test the camera again, and finally, no light leaks! The following three exposures are 15 min- 20 min.

    This exposure is 10 seconds.

    The following two are 3 seconds on a very sunny day.

Closing thoughts

    To say I'm happy with the camera is an understatement. Todd designed a beautiful, easy to assemble, and easy-to-use pinhole panoramic camera. This is a camera I can definitely recommend to other fellow pinhole photographers to consider. 
    I find it a bit surreal that someone else had designed my dream camera, and I'm incredibly grateful that he decided to share his design with anyone who wants to use it. 


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