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Form and Function: A LEGO Camera

carynorton-legotronfinal_0001.jpg Legotron camera, by photographer Cary Norton. Image used with permission, courtesy of Cary Norton.

Photographers with an engineering streak are always looking for creative ways get an image from an unexpected source. Sometimes invention starts with a big (and heavy) box! Other times, innovation comes in a smaller format, the challenge for a reduced (or upcycled) footprint being part of the novelty and the fun. Turning empty mint tins into pinhole cameras, for example, is an irresistible DIY project for some — and one that can turn out surprisingly good, and characteristically dreamy, pinhole-style photos!

When it comes to point and click, the intersection between art, design, form, functionality, and quality provides a framework for thinking both outside the box and "about" the box, and starting with unexpected materials — or "kid" materials — can yield exciting results and new perspective. An unexpected LEGO camera built by professional photographer Cary Norton has garnered an overwhelming thumbs up recently for its novel construction. He constructed the housing for his Legotron 4x5, a working, large-format, manually-focusable camera out of the classic, colorful building bricks.

If you've ever made a basic square house or "parking garage" from LEGO bricks, you've got the basic shape, but Norton's camera housing slides in and out to focus and integrates a 127mm Æ’4.7 lens. The Legotron took many months to create, from initial idea to the working model. Norton has posted technical specs on the process and implementation on his blog, and the sample photos are impressive!

Making Connections

Reading Norton's blog notes suggests many possible ways you might branch out and further his exploration of LEGO camera modeling to create your own fully-functioning camera. As you consider what's possible, the following science projects can help you learn more about camera construction:

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Free science fair projects.