The founder of the company responsible for the world’s lightest, most affordable and compact large-format film camera tells us how they did it.
Of the many adjectives you could use to describe large-format film photography, affordable isn’t the first that springs to mind. But one Brighton based start-up is on a mission to change that. Hot on the success of their £250 4×5 camera, which they financed through crowdfunding, the Intrepid Camera Company has today launched their Kickstarter for an 8×10 model.
Intrepid’s founder-director Maxim Grew had the idea for the camera while mid-way through an undergraduate degree in Product Design at the University of Sussex. He’d become increasingly fascinated by the format beloved of photography greats from Ansel Adams to Gregory Crewdson for its magical, contemplative process and the incredible visual quality of images it produces. However, on finding that his student loan didn’t stretch to the several thousand pounds it can cost to buy a camera, he started experimenting with building one himself.
“I was making these really simple things – essentially just boxes with lenses on the end, using instant film and using photographic paper to make paper negatives,” he remembers. Originally Grew’s vision was to create the world’s first open source large-format camera and publish the design online for anyone to use. But as the project developed he realised there was potential to create an even better camera that would be commercially available.
“Traditional large format cameras are made in small numbers, they use expensive hardwood and expensive metal components, really high quality finish,” he says. “That’s great if you’ve got the money to pay for it. We got rid of all the unnecessary over-engineered and over-polished parts and provided a camera that does exactly what you need.” Made from birch plywood, the camera is also the lightest 4×5 camera out there which makes it ideal for landscape photographers and others working out in the field.
Intrepid’s Kickstarter campaign captured the imagination of a photography world hungry for new ways to explore early processes, and the company raised almost triple its original £27,000 target. “I think there were just a lot of people like myself who wanted to use that type of camera and didn’t have access to it because they were priced out of the market.”
The appeal for Grew is that large-format film photography is about creating a tangible, unique object in an age of digital overload. “I love getting a one-off print where just that one image existed,” he says.
“Because it’s so slow and you’ll only have a couple of sheets of film with you, you have to really consider the shot you’re going to take. There’s a huge risk of messing it all up and coming away with nothing, so you wait for the moment to take the perfect shot and by doing that you find yourself noticing more things and feeling immersed in what’s going on.”
And the results of shooting large-format are magnificent. “The quality of a sheet of 8×10 film is the equivalent of 480 mega pixels,” points out Grew. “It can capture this incredible range of light and presents it back to you in the way it would appear if you were there in the natural environment, rather than it being synthesised digitally. That gives it a certain aesthetic and feeling.”
Intrepid works closely with photographers, testing and soliciting feedback throughout the design and manufacture process. “Because we do all the design in-house, if someone comes up with a change we can implement it and incrementally it gets better and better. It means the community has a direct feed into how we’re doing things.”
But, he adds “what’s really nice is when you get an email saying thank you, I’ve never had access to a large-format camera before you were around.”
“The reason we’re designing the 8×10 is the same as the 4×5 – it’s a camera people want to use but can’t always get their hands on,” he continues. “And there are lots of talented photographers who could do really amazing things with it so we thought we’d step in and change that.”
Intrepid’s 8×10 crowdfunding campaign launches today! Go to their Kickstarter page now to preorder your camera.
Sponsored by Intrepid Camera Co.: This feature was made possible with the support of Intrepid Camera Co.. Please click here for more information on sponsored content funding at British Journal of Photography.