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Photographer operating Instant Box Camera (Pic: Lukas Birk)
The camera is based on models Birk discovered on trips to Afghanistan (All pics: Lukas Birk)

A new Kickstarter campaign has launched for the Instant Box Camera – a large format camera which can take images on film or paper and can also be used as a mobile darkroom.

The camera, which resembles a traditional tripod-mounted field camera from the late 19th or early 20th Century, and is the brainchild of Austrian photographer Lukas Birk, the co-founder of the Afghan Box Camera Project.

The Instant Box Camera is a portable, light weight camera and darkroom, all in one,” Birk said on the camera’s Kickstarter page. “There is a lens in the front and a moveable sanded glass plate on the inside of the camera that acts as the focus. The Instant Box Camera is a paper camera, although you can expose negative sheet film or other light-sensitive surfaces as well.

“Inside the box are trays for chemicals that allow you to develop and fix the taken photograph on the spot. All the materials are easily available. You do not have to depend on any specific manufacturer. Taking images with readily available darkroom paper and chemicals is much cheaper than any other instant camera film out there (from 10 cents per photo).”

Close up of Instant Box Camera lens (Pic: Lukas Birk)

Birk says there are several ways of taking a picture with the camera.

“The traditional negative-positive process is the cheapest option and allows the most flexibility. Using regular darkroom paper with the Instant Box Camera, you get a negative image first,” he said. “The negative is then photographed with the negative holder to obtain a positive photograph. Through this method you can create multiple positive images from the same negative.”

Pictures can also be taken on direct positive paper.  “Each exposure results in a positive image. There are many box camera photographers out there who love this type of paper because it creates unique photographs like instant film,” said Birk.

Examples of images taken on Instant Box camera (Pic: Lukas Birk)
Examples of images shot on the Instant Box Camera

“You can shoot colour as well, as the RA-4 process is possible with the Instant Box Camera. You will need RA-4 paper and an extra set of colour developer/fixer with a black and white developer,” he adds.

The Kickstart page also notes that handcoated film can also be shot and developed in the camera, as well as traditional large-format emulsions.

The campaign also adds the camera is much lighter than old field cameras. “We chose a very lightweight material for the Instant Box Camera to make it mobile,” Birk said.  “The camera weighs 4.1 kg (9 pounds) and the tripod 1.7 kg (3.7 pounds). We designed the tripod in three segments to be approximately the length of the camera when folded with a strap that can be used to carry the tripod or to stabilise it when set up.

The plywood camera is shipped with a 110/4.5 Soviet-era Industar-23U enlarger lens, though the camera can be used with any other M39-mount lens.

Industar-23U enlarger lens (Pic: Lukas Birk)
The cameras shop with a Soviet-era Industar-23U enlarger lens

Birk said all the materials from the camera, which is mostly made of plywood, are produced from materials made in the EU, and the parts are made in a youth centre which employs young jobless people and refugees.

“The aim is to create an affordable, functional, light-weight yet sturdy camera that suites amateurs and professionals, students and professors, mobile and studio photographers,” Birk said.

The Kickstarter campaign runs until 31 March and when Kosmo Foto published this article the project had almost reached the funding target of £14,000 on the first day.

The cameras cost €395 (£348) for an unassembled kit, or €650 (£572) for a fully assembled model – but there are only 80 of the former and 20 of the latter offered during the Kickstarter.

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Stephen Dowling
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6 months ago

In 1975 I saw such cameras on a street in a small Turkish town. The photographers mainly used it to produce passport photos for their customers.

6 months ago

I can understand people’s preference to get back to traditional analogue photography, but this has to be a joke! I had to check the date to make sure it wasn’t April 1st.