19 February 2020

How to build your own Goodman ZONE camera, part 1

Dora Goodman and the 3D-printed cameras she has designed.

By In Make, Photography 8 min read

The Goodman ZONE is a medium-format 3D-printed film camera designed by Dora Goodman as part of her range of open-source camera models, using the existing Mamiya Press lens series for glass and the Mamiya RB67 backs to hold film. She sells pre-printed kits that contain all the parts – apart from lens and film back – necessary to assemble a ZONE, but you can also download the files available on her website Goodman Labs to build your own.

Update 2021: While I still like the Goodman ZONE camera, I have in the past few months switched to mainly using another 3D-printed camera, the Ligero. It’s an amazing camera design and you can hang out with its creator Mario on the Filament & Film Discord server.

This is exactly the kind of geeky project I love, as it combines both my photography and 3D-printing hobbies. But I can imagine it can look like a daunting project, especially if you’re a beginner to 3D printing or DIY photography projects. To complete my camera I had to scour the assembly manuals from other Goodman cameras, the Goodman forums, the Facebook group, the Discord server, scans of old Mamiya manuals, and a variety of YouTube videos to find out what I needed to print, buy, and assemble to make my first ZONE.

To make it easier for other beginners on this journey, I hope this how-to guide will help you create your own ZONE camera. I’ve split this guide into 2 posts: the first about Dora Goodman and her cameras in general, the second is a build guide for how I built my own Goodman ZONE camera.

Goodman Labs

I’d actually seen some of Dora Goodman’s work before I’d heard about her 3D-printable Goodman cameras. She’d been featured in a 2016 Petapixel article about her custom vintage cameras, which she took apart and rebuilt with hand-made trim on all surfaces. That led me down the rabbit hole of her Tumblr and Instagram accounts – the sources of almost all the pictures I used to illustrate this post. More than a few of my vintage cameras have trim in pretty dire condition, so her work restoring and aesthetically upgrading these cameras fascinated me.

When it comes to the craft that combines old cameras, wood, gold, lenses, films, developing, shooting, designing, and building…what more can I say?? I’m loving it!

Dora Goodman, Work Hard Anywhere interview
Dora Goodman assembling one of her cameras (Gear Patrol)

In these older interviews, she also mentions working on her own original camera designs. In some photos, like the ones in a more recent Gear Patrol profile, you can recognize the beginnings of a familiar body-shape that looked like it was created out of machined wood, but no further details were forthcoming until the summer of 2018.

The Goodman ONE prototype

That year she revealed the Goodman ONE, the first of her 3D-printable camera designs to be released by Goodman Labs. Based on the form factor she had previously machined from wood, it was a throwback to the old large-format cameras which used a bellows-like system for focusing and required a ground glass focusing screen. The ONE was followed by the February 2019 release of the ZONE, which we’re building here, and the release of the AXIS in March of the same year. The AXIS camera made the bellows design from the ONE more explicit and turned it into a technical tilt-shift camera, allowing the photographer to angle the lens independently from the body to correct for perspective.

All of these projects revolve around the same basic design that Dora has been perfecting since the ONE. But the fun doesn’t even stop there, as many open-source designers are contributing to the design to add functionality that was lacking from the original. And the official ZONE itself is still evolving, with new variants being added over time as Dora’s team works on improving the design.

Goodman ZONE camera

The ZONE is intended to provide a professional medium-format camera experience at an entry-level price. While it has many attachment points that can be used to mount additional 3D-printed accessories, only 1 simple print is required to build the camera itself. It’s engineered for zone focusing – hence the name – and envisioned for use by street photographers.

In its stock form, the ZONE mounts a medium-format Mamiya Press lens and Mamiya RB67 Pro-S film back. The popularity of this camera among designers can be seen in the wide range of accessories and modifications now available for the camera, even adapting Dora’s design for other lens systems and backs.

This video from Graham White gives you a good idea of his build process and considerations he had going forward with this camera.

Mamiya Press lens

The Mamiya Press was a rangefinder camera with interchangeable lenses built by Mamiya in the ’60s. Each Press lens contains a leaf shutter, which means the shutter is built into the lens instead of the camera body. By using this type of lens the ZONE design doesn’t have to factor in a shutter mechanism, which is still too delicate to reliably 3D print. The Mamiya Press also has a relatively short flange focal distance, the distance between where the lens mounts to where the film sits, which means the body can be designed to be fairly compact. This has made the Mamiya Press line of lenses a popular choice for custom camera projects. The Goodman Labs site lists the following compatible Press lenses:

  • 50mm f/6.3 – 8 elements in 5 groups (Biogon type)
  • 65mm f/6.3 – 4 elements in 4 groups (Topogon type)
  • 75mm f/5.6 – 7 elements in 4 groups (Super-Angulon type)
  • 90mm f/3.5 – 4 elements in 3 groups (Tessar type)
  • 100mm f/3.5 – 4 elements in 3 groups (Tessar type)
  • 100mm f/2.8 – 6 elements in 4 groups (Biotar type)
  • 127mm f/4.7 – 4 elements in 3 groups (Tessar type)
  • 150mm f/5.6 – 4 elements in 3 groups (Tessar type)
  • 250mm f/8 (not rangefinder coupled)
  • 250mm f/5 – 6 elements in 4 groups (Ernostar type)
Mamiya Press camera with several types of available lenses

It’s worth noting that Camerapedia lists several more lenses, but I’m not sure if the discrepancy is because they’re not compatible or if the Goodman Labs list was incomplete.

The Mamiya Press lenses have historically been quite affordable and easily available, which has made them a favorite lens to design 3D-printed cameras around. Ironically, that has made prices surge as both the recent Cameradactyl and Goodman designs are built around the Press lenses. This has made them steadily more expensive. The price of entry-level models is pushing over $100, while more desirable lenses like the 50mm f/6.3 and 100mm f/2.8 are even changing hands for prices upwards of $400 now. If such prices put you off, some forward-thinking users have already designed modified ZONE bodies that can mount other, less sought-after, leaf-shutter lenses.

I ended up buying the still somewhat affordable 100mm f/3.5 for my ZONE, which is roughly equivalent to a 50mm lens for a 35mm camera. For the other lenses, you can find a handy conversion spreadsheet here, made by @maxwanderlush. Because the ZONE uses a 6 x 7 film back the relevant rows for the stock ZONE are those marked 67 70 x 56. This also helps you in finding the right external viewfinder for your lens and film back combination, if you want one.

Mamiya RB67 film back

While the lenses come from a Mamiya Press camera, the film back Dora designed the ZONE around comes from another camera entirely. The Mamiya RB67 was a medium format system camera more comparable to the Hasselblad 500 system, or any other SLR system where the body is basically a box all other parts connect to. The RB67 backs are readily available on eBay and similar auction sites, though the quality and the

Mamiya RB67 back

Please note: the stock ZONE body will not mount a Pro-SD film back, just the Pro and Pro-S. If you do accidentally find yourself with a Pro-SD back, one of the open-source contributors created a modified body that has the correct mounts for the Pro-SD.

JDflute’s 3D-printed 120 film back

Now if you want to really go for it, you can forego the Mamiya RB67 back entirely and 3D-print a film back. The files for this are available on the Goodman Labs site, and are an interesting exercise in making even more of the camera 3D-printed. With this design you really only have to buy a Mamiya Press lens, and you can start shooting!

In the next part of this series, I will cover how we built our own Goodman ZONE camera.

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