We’ve seen it before, the use of 3D printing to bring idle objects back from the brink of obsolescence. In fact, some of the first news about 3D printing to hit the mainstream was of Jay Leno’s use of a 3D printer to replace the feedwater heater for his 1907 Steamer. Well, 3D printing has once again proven its ability to resurrect old equipment and technologies in freelance 3D designer and fabricator Patrick Letourneau’s large-format camera lens mount.
The Aero Ektar 178mm f2.5 camera lens was the product of a US government subsidy, manufactured by Kodak and, as described by Patrick, “sold to the US government for the price of a family car.” Mounted on the undercarriages of US bombers, the lens was used to scout out enemy territories before an attack during the second world war. After the war, civilian photographers and journalists made use of them for projects during peacetime. And, now, some 70 years later, Patrick got ahold of one to make high quality, large format prints. The only problem is that today’s digital cameras, like the one this freelancer uses, aren’t suited to mount the massive lens while maintaining its true quality, with Letourneau stating, “I don’t do film, and just placing it in front of my GH2’s cropped sensor would make it a super telephoto, so instead I decide to built a focus adapter.”
To make the lens function with his digital camera, Patrick worked on building a ground-glass style adapter using the diffuser from an LCD monitor. The diffuser, which even disperses the monitor’s backlight, acted as the go-between for the Bomber lens and his digital camera. That way, when the image passed through the bomber lens upside down, it would be flipped upon hitting the diffuser. In order to attach these two parts to his camera, however, Patrick, needed the help of his Up! 3D printer. In addition to building an aluminum frame to house the focus adapter, he printed a plastic lens mount that maintained a tight seal between the bomber lens and the diffuser lens unit.
I’m no photographer and I’ve only been learning to appreciate the art as of late, with my fiancé exposing me to Diane Arbus, but, to my untrained eye, the photos taken with this lens seem pretty high quality.[nggallery id=87]
Take the way that the lens unit casts a dark shadow around the man kissing the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man in one photograph. The photo clearly mirrors the dark irony presented in Ghostbusters – that of the production of a horrible monster from Dr. Raymond Stantz’s positive childlike thoughts when faced with the demon god, Gozer. But, more than my subjective interpretation of Letourneau’s photograph’s, what the project brings to the table is proof of 3D printing’s ability to revitalize and convert wartime technology for artistic means. Maybe in 70 years, some young freelancer will be able to transform an old, beat-up drone into something useful!