Create Your Own Camera

Build Your Own Camera Using 3D Printed Blocks


3D printing is allowing photographers to build their own cameras in a LEGO-like style using Cambits – a new modular imaging system.

cambitsThe system allows users to build their own cameras from multicolored, 3D printed blocks which makes it easy for photographers to change sensors, flashes and lenses in seconds.

Over two years, Cambits was developed by two researchers from Columbia University – Computer Science Professor Shree Nayar and Makoto Odamaki, a visiting scientist from Ricoh Corporation.

Nayar said in a story on Columbia Engineering’s website:

“Traditional cameras are really like black boxes that take one type of image. We wanted to rethink the instrument, to come up with a hardware and software system that is modular, reconfigurable, and able to capture all kinds of images. We see Cambits as a wonderful way to unleash the creativity in all of us.”

How Does the Cambits System Work?


Odamaki designed one of the key aspects of the system – the circuit board which is inside each 3D printed block. The board includes a microcontroller, an upstream interface, and a downstream interface.

The 3D printed blocks in the system come in five colors, each representing something different. For example, white is used for the base, red for the sensor, blue for flash, green for actuator, yellow for lens and special optical attachments are in orange and purple.

Each block is attached by magnets, meaning no cables or screws are required. Once attached, spring-loaded pins throughout the camera allow the blocks to transfer data, get power from its base and control signals and options.

The spring-load pins carry the power from the host computer and each block has a specific ID, so the host computer can recognize which configuration you require.

One of the major benefits of Cambits is that it is scalable, so you can continue to add blocks and use between three and six blocks at a time depending on your needs.

“There are so many exciting advances in computational photography these days,” Nayar adds. “We hope this reconfigurable system will open the door to new avenues of creativity, bringing new dimensions to an art form we all enjoy.”

Check out the video below which shows many different combinations such as setting up a two-lens system for stereoscopic images, or even building your own microscope.