Adapting the Canon 1D as a Digital Back for an MPP Monorail View Camera

by planetMitch2 Comments

If you've been following the blog for any length of time, you'll know that I love to highlight features I find with real old time cameras or lenses. This is no exception

Our friends over at Northlight images have adapted a Canon 1D to be the digital back for a monorail to you camera from the olden days.

What do you think is this crazy or is this something that you would do?

Using View Camera Lens Parts with DSLR


The concept behind the view camera is that there are two plates connected by the bellows. One plate holds the film and shutter, the other holds the lens. The two can be adjusted for focal length but can also be set at an angle to each other. This modern adaptation uses an adjustable frame to hold the two plates in position. Custom connectors were made by attaching lens rings to the plates. It’s pretty much the same connection technique as we’ve seen when trying to mate cameras with lenses from a different maker.

An SLR to large format camera adapter project

From Northlight Images:

A study of how it was built, suggested that removing the screen would leave a convenient 12cm x 15cm slot that could be used to mount a digital camera back.

You can actually buy view camera DSLR adapter plates. They will cost you a lot of money – certainly a lot more than the $20 or so that mine cost to make… (There are even systems like the Horseman LD – not bad for £1400 😉 🙂

The picture below, shows my adapter plate being slid into the slot. Note the metal clips at the top and bottom. You can also see the black felt lining which the original film holder would rest against.

view camera image 1

The plate is made of 2mm aluminium, which is both strong, and easy to work with.

You can see the two small clips holding the plate in place. These go under two small plastic blocks, which are screwed to the rotating back. These blocks are where the original ground glass screen fitted.

Using the Canon ‘View Camera'

view camera image 2

A background on all those levers and dials

The vertical bits are called ‘Standards'.

The bit between the front and rear standards is where the bellows go.

The lens is attached to the front standard, and the film (or digital sensor of my 1Ds) is attached to the rear standard.

With this camera both the front and rear standards can be raised of lowered, giving rise and fall effects

The dial on the front standard allows you to tilt the lens up and down.

The monorail at the bottom allows you to slide the standards back and forth.

The fitting in the middle clamps the monorail (it can rotate along its axis) and attaches to a sturdy tripod.

Back tilt

view camera image 3

The standards on this camera can also tilt along a lower axis, by releasing the locking levers. In this case the back standard is being tilted back.

Note the small spirit levels on the standards that make it easier getting everything level (if needed).

Continue reading about the Canon View Camera on Northlight Images: A Canon MPP view camera – Full camera movements for a DSLR

  Note: it is our policy to give credit as well as deserved traffic to our news sources – so we don't repost the entire article – sorry, I know you want the juicy bits, but I feel it is only fair that their site get the traffic and besides, you just might make a new friend and find an advertiser that has something you've never seen before  

(cover photo credit: snap from Northlight Images)


  1. It looks very interesting, but how is the camera attached? And can you only use long lenses even with the bag bellows?

  2. I use my ‘olden days’ bellows from my Spotmatic. I can Swing the back (camera) and Tilt. Swing and Shift the lens board. I’m from the ‘olden days’ and have used View Cameras. I am also looking at a Bag Bellows for better tilt and shift.

    If and when I get it perfected, I’ll send you the “how to” so you can do it too.

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