BENDER 4X5: Building a View Camera

Several months back, I saw a post on Craigslist for a Bender 4X5 Camera Kit.  I contacted the seller to set up an appointment to check it out.  When I arrived, he told me that he found the kit in an unopened box in the attic of a cabin in McCall that he had inherited from his grandparents.  Bender only made and sold these kits until 1998, but I had no way of knowing exactly how old the kit was.

I decided I was up for the challenge of building a camera, and bought the kit.  I didn’t realize how much work I was getting myself into, but I’m very happy that I decided to take on the project.

Here is a brief view of the three month journey, building my new Bender 4X5 View Camera:

The kit consisted of several dozen individual pieces of Cherry Wood, various sized screws, a ground glass, bellows, and some lens boards.  (This is a low res picture from the web.  I forgot to take a picture of the complete, un-assembled kit.)

I had to sand every piece of wood first starting with 80 grit paper then working my way down to 220 grit.  After that, almost each piece had to be glued and clamped.  After several hours of drying, I then removed the clamps, drilled pilots holes, and screwed the pieces together with brass screws for reinforcement.

IMG_2184Bender 4X5 View CameraBender 4X5 View CameraBender 4X5 View Camera

The instruction manual for the camera was pretty vague and confusing.  All the diagrams were hand drawn and un-clear.  So I screwed up one MAJOR piece (the back holder) and had to buy new wood from a local store and completely re-mill and re-assemble the piece.

Bender 4X5 View Camera

After I got all the pieces individually built, I assembled the camera without the bellows to see how everything looked.

Bender 4X5 View CameraBender 4X5 View Camera

Then I built the bellows and ground glass holder and put the whole thing together without a lens before putting on the finish.

Bender 4X5 View Camera Bender 4X5 View Camera

The I dissembled everything and removed all the hardware and painted the light traps black.  Then I hung each piece individually and applied 4 coats of spray lacquer.

Bender 4X5 View Camera

After drying, I re-assembled the camera and applied all the accent hardware.  Then I drilled a hole in one of the lens boards for my Fujinon Lens.

Bender 4X5 View CameraBender 4X5 View Camera

As soon as I could, I went downtown and did a few test shots to make sure that I had built everything correctly and that there weren’t any light leaks.  These cameras project backwards and upside down.

Bender 4X5 View CameraDowntown2


I’ve done a few more test shoots but haven’t developed the film yet.

Bender 4X5 View CameraBender 4X5 View CameraBender 4X5 View CameraBender 4X5 View CameraBender 4X5 View CameraBender 4X5 View Camera

I’m still getting used to using a view camera.  But I’m excited for the challenge and for the images this camera will produce.

2 thoughts on “BENDER 4X5: Building a View Camera

  1. Pingback: Camera Catalog | LBcustom Photography

  2. Wow this is incredible! I was taught by a great heuristic teacher and photographer Thaddeus Holownia, who turned me onto large format view cameras. He has an amazing camera collection too and uses many of them including an old antique view camera he got in Toronto many years ago. He would love this!

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