Podcast: Frankencameras

We took our mics to a basement laboratory on East 30 Street, in Manhattan, where legend tells of a scientist and his colleague who perform ungodly experiments, attempting to bring subjects long considered dead back to life. What we found rattled the nerves of even our steely host Allan Weitz, and brought us to a new consideration of what can be done when modern Prometheans fuse technologies from diverse eras to create extraordinary tools for their photographic purposes.

For this week’s episode of the B&H Photography Podcast, we speak with Geoffrey Berliner, Executive Director of the Penumbra Foundation, and Frank Rubio, the Camera Doctor, about the many “frankencameras” they have created together. In fact, they displayed six examples of their work for us. We talk about each one, most being antique view cameras modified with brass portrait lenses, modern flash systems, or for digital capture. We explain the provenance of the cameras and lenses, the process of “repurposing” them, and the practical applications for these modifications. Each of these cameras is put into regular use at Penumbra, primarily in the tintype studio, and we discuss Scovill, Graflex, and stereo carte de visite cameras; Cooke, Fox, and Hermagis lenses, and even Sony a7 cameras and Canon Selphy printers. For images of the cameras and lenses, go to our landing page.

We also speak with Berliner about his impressive lens collection, with Rubio about learning camera repair in the Army, and about their motivations and collaboration. Rubio, having worked in some of the best camera houses in New York, has established a reputation as a skilled and meticulous craftsman, trusted by artists, pros, and collectors alike, and Berliner is a walking encyclopedia of camera and photography history. Join us for this insightful conversation, which leaves only one question unanswered—which of the two is the true Dr. Frankencamera?

Guests: Frank Rubio and Geoffrey Berliner

Several “Frankencameras” in the darkroom at the Penumbra Foundation
Graflex 4x5 Super D camera with Hermagis 9" f/4 Petzval portrait lens and Graflok back, modified for strobe
Graflex 5x7 Home Portrait camera with Scovill Peerless lens and Cambo back
Montanus Super Reflex Rocca Twin Lens Reflex Camera
Geoffrey Berliner of Penumbra Foundation focusing the Montanus Rocca TLR camera
Graflex Stereo Graphic 5x5 with matched pair of C.J. Fox Petzval lenses
Scovill Carte de Visite four-lens camera with nine-lens board
Graflex 3x4 Super D camera with Cooke Optic 7" f/2 lens and Polaroid back
Frank Rubio, Allan Weitz, and Geoffrey Berliner
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Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: John Harris
Producer: Jason Tables
Executive Producer: Lawrence Neves

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