Copy stands are the piece of gear for camera scanning that we are asked about the most. In the past, we have had problems recommending a single good option because each market around the world has access to different ones, and some markets don’t even have access to any affordable, good options. Now we are finally introducing our own copy stand, but let me tell you - it was not an easy project.
In this article I will tell you about what makes the copy stand challenging to make and walk you through the design decisions that landed us here. - Arild (VALOI Co-Founder)
Shipping a hunk of metal around the globe
In 2022, about 95% of our total sales were outside of the country that we are based in - Finland. This leads to constraints on the design of our products, since too big or too heavy products means we have to increase the price of shipping or of the item to you, the customer. This leads us to some of the design criteria for the copy stand:
Compact, so it fits in a box as small as possible
Low weight to avoid additional charges for a heavy package
Assemble-able by the user
Being able to carry a normal mirrorless camera or a small DSLR
Essentially, we had to design something that was sturdy (making it heavier and bigger) while also being easy to ship, meaning making it light and small.
The stand itself will look somewhat familiar to some of you - it consists of a type of construction material called extruded aluminium profiles. This is quite common in DIY workshops for creating solid constructions because it’s easy to assemble, very modular and easy to cut to length.
It is a type of rail with indents for attaching screws, nuts and brackets. It is quite stable for the weight, allows a copy stand head to be moved along the rail and, importantly, allows for user assembly of some parts making it smaller to ship. Finally, it makes the development process quicker and cheaper because the parts are readily available as off-the-shelf parts, meaning the total cost of the project comes down and the time from drawing table to final product is shorter. All of this is important in creating an affordable copy stand at this very low volume.
The design is simple - a U-shaped construction from these extrusions forms the base of the stand. It is balanced in such a way that when you put a camera on it, leaning forward, it stabilises the base - it will therefore feel back-heavy when you first assemble it. A hole in the main column of the base allows for a hex hey to pass through to tighten a large screw that goes into the threaded bottom of the upright column. This large and long screw provides stability, while being easy to assemble at home with the supplied hex key.
A good copy stand head was the starting point for the project - simply put, the ergonomics of a lot of the attachment heads for copy stands are not good. Either you need a tool to attach your camera or you have to cramp your fingers into a tight space which doesn’t allow you to tighten the head sufficiently. We started with the tripod screw - a custom machined aluminium screw with a large diameter (40mm) grip area was ordered almost 6 months ago, and we built the rest around that. This great screw allow not only easy access to the screw, but also, being big, allows leverage to attach the camera securely without tools. The head flares out from the 30mm wide column to the 70mm wide front of the head. This allows for ample room for your hands and create a wide surface that grips onto your camera. The front surface is covered in rubber to provide even better grip. The cut-outs on the side are there to provide strength while saving material - their shape and location optimised for the direction of tension. A simple locking handle on the back of the stand allows for adjustment, then a secure lock. Effective, but cheap, helping bring the cost down.
Providing a copy stand that is as affordable as possible, we have had to make some compromises while trying to spend your money where it matters. Firstly, the stability is not up to the standard of the professional-level stand that we sell, the Novoflex 650 for VALOI. This stand is also almost 3 times the price, so it should come as no surprise. Our new stand is perfectly capable of holding a light mirrorless camera, like the A7R II, with a moderate lens, like the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 ART. However, if you want to scan with heavier camera, you will either have to be quite patient with waiting for vibrations to settle down, or get a stiffer, more expensive stand. We have also had to compromise on the weight of the stand, resulting in quite a light base. This means that the stand will move more easily than a stand with a heavy base-board. It is completely necessary to make this saving if we were going get close to the price point we are at.
Finally, we have had to make a head that is simpler than what is optimal. Ideally, the head would have two-axis adjustment to make parallelisation easier, a fine focusing rail and a quick-release plate. These would, however, likely double the price of the stand.
We have created a stand that we can ship around the world, while making it affordable enough we believe it will complement even affordable setups at home. We are proud we were able to hit this price target and able to provide a product that we know a lot of you have been struggling to find good alternatives to.
This is a new product, so if you have any feedback, please get in touch with us directly per email or social media and we will work on addressing your concern. You can find the assembly video here, if you are curious how to put it together.