Standard Cameras is a new large format camera company founded by Drew Nikonowicz. The Standard 4×5 is a simple, lightweight and affordable 4×5 view camera – available fully assembled or as a DIY kit. All photographs featured in the interview were made using The Standard 4×5.
Hey Drew! It’s great to be able to chat with you and hear more about Standard Cameras. Can you first introduce yourself?
Hey Parker – I’m happy to be on A-B! My name is Drew Nikonowicz, and I am an artist from Saint Louis Missouri. I work primarily through photography, but I dip my toe elsewhere from time to time. Although that’s usually in the service of making a photograph. I really love anything that allows me to experiment, whether that be photography, woodworking, 3d modeling, or 3d printing! I am happiest when I can bounce between a few different projects using different media.
What inspired you to begin this project of building your own camera, how long did it take you to work on the specs and get the camera to where it is today?
I have always been a maker, and had made experimental lenses and things in the past. In some ways it seemed inevitable that it was going to happen. While I was pursuing my BFA from the University of Missouri, my mom and I agreed to split the cost of a 3d printer, which was a compromise from what I truly wanted – a car. A few months previous I had successfully made a 4×5 from cardboard. One day my professor made the logical progression and suggested I design and print a 4×5. If I could make one out of cardboard, surely I could 3d print one.
The idea checked all the boxes for me – photography, building, experimentation. From there I never really took time to 3d print anything else. It’s been about 4 years in the making, and a lot of significant changes have been made along the way. I have spent a lot of time testing the camera and receiving feedback from friends and colleagues. I plan to continue to improve the design with the help of our growing community. I am very pleased with where the camera is now. I will say though, it definitely took longer to get here than I thought it would!
Have you always shot large format for your personal work? How has shooting 4×5 shaped your work?
I have, but not as a rule. I believe the work determines what kind of camera is needed, not the other way around. In the past, my projects have required a large format camera, so that’s what I have been using. Admittedly, I prefer to work with large format. It forces me to slow down and compose my frames with more purpose.
Shooting with a 4×5 has improved my photographs in all formats. I think it has made me focus on different parts of my images, and spend more time making each frame feel complete. In other words, I spend more time looking at the edges of my images than the centers.
I had the pleasure of seeing the prototype and chatting with you this year at SPE in Philly. I was struck by the simplicity of the build and most importantly how lightweight thecamera is. What do you hope to see and hear from photographers who purchase and use the Standard 4×5?
Photographers should make photographs with the help of their cameras, not in spite of them. I hope people report the camera does its job, and asks very little of the user. I hope the weight and price give photographers more freedom to shoot wherever they want with confidence. I hope as people use the camera, they provide feedback that helps me improve it for everyone. Most of all, I hope people have fun using the camera and make great photographs!
See more about Standard Cameras by checking out the kickstarter!