Compatible with the legendary lineup of Mamiya Press lenses and Mamiya RB67 backs, the Goodman Zone is, at its core, a 3D printed medium format film camera body. Designed and built by Dora Goodman Cameras, this modest little box isn’t quite as simple as it may seem at first glance.
In this article we will be looking at 9 very different representations of the Goodman Zone, showcasing exactly how versatile little box really is, and hopefully I will have you convinced that there truly is a Zone for everyone.
Full disclosure: This article is brought to you by Dora Goodman Cameras.
A quick note before we dive deeper: if you’re unfamiliar with the Zone or the other great work that Dora Goodman Cameras does, then definitely check out this previous article from the PetaPixel archives. Trust me, it’s well worth the read!
All right, let’s get cracking!
If you’ve ever spent some time shopping for a medium format film camera, you have probably realized that there’s a long list of fantastic cameras, with a variety of aspect ratios, ergonomics, accessories, and of course, let’s not forget about price. Altogether, you can imagine just how difficult this makes choosing your first system. Sometimes there’s even a little compromise that happens, and the general theory used to be this:
Lightweight, high quality, affordable. Choose two.
It’s not often that you can find a camera that ticks all of the boxes, however, in my opinion, the Goodman Zone does just that.
Giving a new meaning to the term modular, the Zone is entirely customizable with fun accents and accessories like wood veneers, custom grips, laser distance measurers, viewfinders, a smartphone holder, and even a ground glass attachment to give you those large-format vibes… the possibilities appear to be limitless. The fact that this camera is 3D printed and also offered as an open-source project means that it can be constantly worked and reworded to be as unique as your personal taste and workflow, and change as your style evolves.
Available through the DGC website, there are a few ways to “get into the Zone” – see what I did there?! For the classic look, you can get a DIY kit to put together yourself with all the hardware components included, you can get a fully assembled setup, or you can build one from scratch if you have access to a 3D printer by downloading the open-source files. If it’s a more unique experience you’re looking for, then keep an ear to the ground for one of their one-of-a-kind special editions, but act fast, because I’ve already let one slip through my fingers for being too late!
While choosing only 9 examples from the close-knit DGC community to showcase the impressive versatility of the Goodman Zone was an extremely difficult task, each of these photographers has truly adapted the camera to their unique desires.
Wanting to get to know a little more about them, I took some time to ask them a few questions and, through their answers, I found some common threads so I will be breaking this group into 3 categories of Zone users; The Avid Shooters, The Trendsetters, and The Do-It-Yourself-ers. I know, no one wants to be put in a box, and I’m no expert here, but their answers tended to fit a theme that I thought was pretty fascinating, and I could even see myself in some of their answers.
So, without further ado, let’s meet these photographers and check out their personal Zone setups!
The Avid Shooters
Regardless of their day jobs, these guys have a clear passion for film photography. Being predominantly driven by results and preferring to maintain a focus on their beautiful image galleries rather than on their gear, these photographers have still found a way of personalizing their Zones to match each distinctive workflow. Honestly, their stories make me want to grab a camera and get off this computer, so I’ll leave it to them!
#1. Harvey Mills (@harvey_mills)
An award-winning professional photographer based in the UK, Harvey first discovered his love of the medium through American skateboarding magazines as a kid in the ‘70s. Captivated by those images, he decided to pursue his studies in photography in college and, not only did that lead him into a career of skateboarding photography, he also followed his passion into other forms of commercial and photojournalistic work.
Traveling light seems to be a near-impossible feat as Harvey claims he always over-packs (I feel your pain!); he doesn’t want to be caught out in a great location only to find himself wishing he had brought another camera. This is where the Goodman Zone comes in, as it is the lightest way for Harvey to get that beautiful 6×7 negative while in the field.
The experience of shooting and developing photographs from a camera that you have built yourself is incredibly satisfying!
Choosing to build his own camera from a DIY kit ordered from the DGC website, Harvey was amazed at how fun and easy it was to assemble. The end result is what I would as “classic with a twist”, printed in standard black with an RB67 Pro S back and a Mamiya Press 100mm f/3.5 lens. The centerpiece of it all, however, has to be the old Kuhn Flexameter mounted on top, which acts as both a viewfinder and rangefinder and kind of mimics the idea of a non-coupled TLR.
Whenever I am out in the countryside and intend on shooting landscapes, or natural scenes, I find that the Zone is perfect as my medium format choice. It’s light, compact, and fully customizable – a very versatile system.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
#2. Rupert Pupkin (@adventuresofruniel)
Claiming to be made of Hot & Spicy Pringles and stardust, it was Rupert’s love of quirky things that led him down the road to the Goodman Zone. Rupert also chose to purchase the DIY kit to get the full experience of building his own camera without the hassles of 3D printing it himself.
Enjoying every part of the process, Rupert was inspired to take it one step further and make his own wooden accent inlays, resulting in a setup that is a beautiful mix of classic and modern. To cap it all off, Rupert included a DeWalt laser distance measurer, along with the Mamiya Press 50mm f/6.3 lens and RB67 back.
Being a big fan of the lightweight factor of the camera, Rupert also noted: “I’m not one to carry bulky gear so this was a match made in heaven.”
Loving that he can slow down and be more intentional in his process while shooting with the Zone, Rupert feels that it adds a new quality to his photographic style. Often found zipping around the streets of Budapest on his longboard, Rupert has a fascination with people; he’ll often strike up a conversation with strangers on the street and end up on a photo walk with them, creating some captivating street portraits with a definite fashion-like characteristic to them, backed by a very playful mix of light and color.
#3. Tobias Staerk (@staerktobias)
This camera is definitely more ‘my camera’ than any other I own.
Tobias’ version of the Zone has such a wonderfully elegant and classic look. He 3D printed the body and 6×6 back using a beautiful wood-infused PLA (that made his house smell like a woodworking shop during the build!) and added his own hand-cut and sanded wood veneer panels. Pairing it up with the coveted blue-dot Mamiya Press 65mm f/6.3 lens means that Tobias now has the lightweight travel companion he has always wanted.
Being a spontaneous photographer, Tobias loves nothing more than getting out into the great outdoors and seeing what happens, especially now that he has that sleek-looking Zone. He’s had more than one conversation with inquisitive strangers who are stunned that he printed it himself at home. Giving full props to DGC on the fantastic design of the camera, Tobias is thrilled with the sharp images he is creating that have no signs of imperfections.
And now that Tobias is a new dad (congrats!), he says he will definitely be passing down his passion for film photography to the next generation, but… “Not getting the Goodman Zone, though – that one is all mine.”
Oozing of style themselves, these next photographers love the look of the Zone and have personalized their versions to fit their exact tastes and needs. Seeing the camera as a beautiful object in and of itself, its quirky nature allows each of them to use the camera as an extension of their own creativity and fully express their uniqueness. The incredible images they produce are definitely enough inspiration on their own, but I’ll let their stories do the talking!
#1. Marcel Preuss (@fxhq_bunjin)
It’s no surprise to me that Marcel bought the Mary Ellen Mark special edition version of the Zone. Part of a series of one-of-a-kind special edition cameras inspired by strong female figures throughout history, and named after the fantastic photographer herself (and one of my personal favorites), this is the camera that I didn’t even know I wanted until I saw Marcel’s intriguing self-portraits with it on his Instagram page.
When I first saw the camera, I felt like the design was kinda perfect. A Cube of love.
At first glance, this camera has a more classic look, with the Mamiya Press 50mm f/6.3 lens and an RB67 back, but with the addition of a Nikon Speedlight SB-23 flash and a compact DeWalt laser distance measurer, it is a seriously impressive machine.
Being a very impulsive and constantly evolving photographer, Marcel has finally found the ideal camera to keep up with him. He loves the automatic connection that he first felt with the camera; he finds it sad that nowadays people seem to have lost their appreciation for custom-built things.
#2. Daniel J Heinley (@newmediaboy)
When asked what drew him to the Goodman Zone, Daniel replied, “Being able to experiment and custom tailor your own gear specifically for your needs is an extremely freeing experience.”
Using the Zone as a solution to a problem of which many of us are trying to crack the code, Daniel refers to his setup as a “poor man’s XPan.” With the use of 3D printed 120 to 35mm film adapters in a Mamiya RB67 back, Daniel can now capture beautifully cinematic panoramic scenes in-camera, at a fraction of the price that a Hasselblad XPan would cost.
Missing from his creative method was not having only what he absolutely needed and learning to work within those artistic constraints, so with his dad’s help in the 3D printing process, Daniel was able to create exactly the camera he wanted. The result is a beautifully streamlined version of an already great-looking camera, without all the trappings of other more elaborate models. A perfect match.
Having a degree in mixed media-based arts from a college in New York state, its no surprise that Daniel has recently started up a YouTube channel as another form of self-expression, and I’m excited to see more of his film photography process on that platform… and perhaps even an appearance or two from his “poor man’s XPan”.
#3. Andrés Osorio Salazar (@andres_os)
My main drive for shooting film is the thrill that you get after seeing the results that you carefully planned and executed, and that you worked so hard for.
That’s the exact feeling that shooting with the Zone gives Andrés. Printed from the open-source files available on DGC’s website, and teamed up with a Mamiya Press 65mm f/6.3 lens and an RB67 Pro S back, his Zone is seriously fully-stacked with an Elega mechanical rangefinder, a 65mm viewfinder, a side-mounted V-201X reflective light meter, and a grip that doubles as a shutter release cable holder.
Its lightweight factor makes this a camera that Andrés carries everywhere with him, including to and from school, where he’s pursuing a Ph.D. in Mechatronics Engineering. Carrying the camera with him on the bustling city streets in Japan, Andrés uses the unique and remarkable look of the Zone as an ice-breaker, always willing to answer questions from curious passersby about the camera, perhaps in exchange for a street portrait!
Although Andrés’ workload can sometimes be a little overwhelming, he always tries to take some time out and photograph. Let’s face it, Japan is packed full of beautiful landscapes and interesting scenes, and scrolling through his Instagram feed has made me think it might be time to renew my passport!
It would be a bit of an understatement to say that these guys like to build things, but it is clearly a passion for them. Whether working from their own designs or collaborating on community-based open-source projects, they know how to get the results they are looking for. If the first 6 examples aren’t quite what you’re looking for, and you’d like to give 3D printing a go yourself while adding a special twist, then maybe these next 3 beautiful and highly functioning cameras will be right up your alley!
#1. Mario (@maxwanderlush)
I’m Mario from California, and I have a camera-making problem!
That pretty much says it all, and his version of the Zone is a total stunner! Seeing as Mario loves to build cameras, I’m not entirely sure that this is his everyday shooter, but that gold silk PLA body is absolutely gorgeous. The film back is an original design from a friend of his and was re-printed to match the body, but I think the most impressive part is that Mario created an adapter to mount a Mamiya C-series lens from their TLR system, equipped with its own custom-built focusing ring to make for a smoother experience. A little flashier than most cameras, but it is still one that I would personally love to have in my collection.
Wanting to explore the portability and ease of use in the field, Mario’s favorite characteristic of the Zone is being able to mount it to a tripod on its side to shoot 6×4.5 frames in landscape orientation, which feels so natural to him. This is something completely unique to the Zone, as I honestly cannot think of another medium format camera that has multiple tripod mounts.
#2. Martin J Smith (@aussiemandias)
Originally from Australia, and now living in Ottawa, Canada, Martin has always enjoyed tinkering with things, so it isn’t a surprise that he gravitated towards the Zone when a friend introduced him to Dora Goodman Cameras.
Pairing his beautifully printed body with the Mamiya Press 100mm f/3.5 lens, Martin was able to create beautiful, crisp shots that far exceeded his expectations, so he decided to take it one step further… and this is where it gets VERY interesting.
Martin created a back that took Fujifilm Instax film.
In the beginning, Martin was salvaging parts from Instax camera bodies to build the backs and, although surprised at how easy it was to work out the film plane and have a fully functioning instant film back, he wasn’t completely satisfied with cannibalizing bodies. So, naturally he put his Industrial Design minor to work and set out to build his own Instax back from the ground up, because… well, “This is the maker ethic, I guess.”
In the final stages of development, Martin is at the moment refining the final design of his hand-operated Instax back. So, if Instax is your thing, then Martin’s Instagram page is definitely worth keeping an eye on!
#3. Aaron Tan (@cynical_potatetoe)
A product designer from Singapore, Aaron is a very early adopter of Dora Goodman cameras, going all the way back to the very first camera, the Goodman One.
With its bright, beautiful yellow skin that even wraps around onto a Mamiya RB67 Pro back, Aaron’s version of the Zone is definitely an eye-catcher. The camera also sports a custom-designed grip that doubles as a shutter release cable holder, and once paired up with the Mamiya Press 50mm f/6.3 lens, this is a solid kit that must get a lot of attention and will withstand the rigors of his many travels around the world.
Although Aaron really enjoys the lightweight nature of the camera and the convenience of being compatible with the full range of Mamiya Press lenses, his favorite feature is that it is constantly upgradeable. If needed, components can be constantly re-designed and reprinted to better suit his needs, extra accessories can be added, or even something as simple as updating the inlay can give his camera a fresh new look.
As you can see, the Goodman Zone stands its ground alongside most other traditional medium format film cameras, but with the added advantage of the seemingly endless possibilities to customize this camera. The incredible image quality drawn from the line of compatible high-end lenses means you can create a truly special shooting experience wherever you are in your photographic journey.
My favorite thing about the photography community is being able to come together, share ideas, and pass motivation on. I do find it very interesting that the common thread throughout these stories is that all of the photographers love that this camera is a lightweight, modular, and fully customizable medium format system, each one able to create exactly the camera they need, nothing more.
If seeing these beautiful examples of the incredibly versatile Goodman Zone has got you itching to pick one up yourself, then you’re in luck! Dora Goodman is offering 20% off on the DIY kit until September 30, 2021, so head on over to doragoodman.com and use the code PETA20 at checkout to start your own creative journey!
About the author: Jess Hobbs is a film photographer based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.