Some Assembly Required: Hugo Cardoso

This series focuses on those who take the making of pictures a step or two further, creating their own photographic tools.

Slit-scan camera (exterior)

Hugo Cardoso, Portugal

The classic “photo finish” image that captures motion in a still photograph is made with a slit-scan camera using a small slit of light. Contemporary slit-scan cameras are digital, using a scanner-like mechanism to scan the scene in front of the lens while the subject is in motion. This technology makes a fluid scan and does not record onto conventional photographic frames. Intrigued by these cameras, Portuguese photographer Hugo Cardoso created his own 35mm version in 2015. Satisfied with the results, he returned to his workshop to create a slit-scan camera in medium format.

“Analog photography is great because it allows you to hack and modify the camera and lenses in so many ways.” Cardoso says. He began building panoramic pinholes before taking on the more sophisticated slit-scan. Cardoso’s camera uses 120 film that moves past an open slit at a constant rate. The camera is made from 10mm MDF board, a cheap electric screwdriver for the motor and battery, and a Pentacon Six macro ring that he modified for a lens mount. Cardoso made custom tripod mounts on both the top and bottom of the camera to invert the camera and photograph objects that are moving left to right or vice versa.

He spent a month designing the camera and making sketches to be sure that the components wouldn’t interfere with each other when fitted into the smallest box possible. The actual construction of the camera took only a few days. The resulting images are classic “photo finish.”

Trolley car photographed with slit-scan camera

Slit-scan camera (interior)

View more of Cardoso’s work on his Flickr page.

Have you made or modified your own photographic equipment? Let us know at