In your bag No: 759 – Kai McBride


by Bellamy /

4 min read

In your bag 759, Kai McBride
This is one incredible bag. I have never seen a camera like this one. Today, we are fortunate enough to see the inside of a photography teachers bag.

My name is Kai McBride.  I live in Brooklyn, NY and teach photography and manage the photography department at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.  Big fan of JCH’s In Your Bag series and after just receiving my JCH 120-film cases I thought it was time to send in my own setup.


I have had several different style bags, from generic gator-mouth tool bags to a number of great Domkes, but my primary means of getting around in the city to photograph is either by motorcycle or bicycle and I needed a bag that held tight and traveled well on two-wheels.  This Lowepro Slingshot 202 AW fits everything perfectly, stays on my back through turns, and provides a nice platform when swung around to open up the back of the PSYCLOPS and load 120 film.  Extremely happy with this setup.

My primary camera is one few people have seen, the medium format PSYCLOPS 6x? which I usually shoot with the 6×9 back.  This is a limited-edition (only 6 made) camera that the photographer Thomas Roma and I designed and built in his machine shop here in Brooklyn.  He has been manufacturing cameras since the 1970s and I was lucky enough to convince him to make another camera and teach me machine shop practice.  The round black-anodized PSYCLOPS body bayonets on Mamiya Press lenses and attaches to Mamiya Press rollbacks through the M-Adapter.  The Viton O-ring which separates the lens board from the body enabled us to set the lens absolutely parallel to the film plane (it isn’t even off by a half a thousandth of an inch). You can see more pictures of it on the Siciliano Camera Works website:  or watch this fetish video on vimeo:


The PSYCLOPS has the 75mm on it which is my normal lens, but I also pack the 65mm with me and the 28mm voigtlander bright line viewfinder to pair with it.  The camera is scale focus only, so I have this russian 1950s SMENA accessory rangefinder–get them on eBay from the Ukraine–for harder to estimate close-up work .  B+W Orange filter for the 75mm lens.

Sekonic L-308S flashmeter. Bring this along for indoor and low-light work where estimating exposures is tricky.

10 rolls of Ilford HP5 120 film in *NEW* JCH film cases.  I’ve been shooting HP5 since 1990 and have stuck with it after briefly exploring other films.

Leica M4 with Voigtlander 35mm Nokton Classic with Upstrap.  3 rolls of bulk loaded Ilford HP5 in brass Leica IXMOO cassettes.

Brush for cleaning the inside of the cameras and dust on the lenses.

Chain-pod made from 5ft of window-sash chain and a custom-machined aluminum 1/4-20 thread base.  The section attached to the ring is from a keychain quick-release that we incorporated.  I use this anytime I’m making an exposure under a 60th of a second and actually I should use it all the time.  Extremely compact and lighter than bringing along a monopod or tripod.  Typically the base is screwed into the bottom of the camera I’m using and I have the chain in my pocket or over my shoulder ready to go.  I have easily made sharp exposures for up to 1-second and with a couple of tries it is usually possible to go as long as 4 or 5 seconds if you hold your breath.  Thomas Roma told me about the benefits of the chain-pod, he’s been using them and making them for his students since the 1970s.

You can see some of my work on my website, and follow my photo rants and raves on twitter

The Kudzu and Newtown Creek work is all made with the PSYCLOPS.

I keep all of this loaded in the bag and ready for a quick departure.


Thanks for sharing your amazing bag Kai. I have never seen the Psyclops, that is an amazing camera.
Check out the links and make sure you come and comment.

Keep them coming folks, we need more submissions, so get your bag on Send me a hi resolution image of the bag (please make sure it is horizontal) and its contents, with some details about yourself and what you shoot. Oh and don’t forget your contact details (twitter, flickr, tumbler et al). Send the bag shots here. Please understand that there is a long wait now as there is a backlog of submissions. Not all make the cut, so make sure yours is funny/interesting/quirky. And please make sure the shot is of good quality, as the ones that are not do not go up.


4 comments on “In your bag No: 759 – Kai McBride”

    Vance Lester January 19, 2014 at 4:54 pm / Reply

    Interesting camera. The o-ring has me confused though. How does it help seat the lens more parallel than two machine planed surfaces would? Can’t it distort and leave things askew?

    Ralph Hightower January 19, 2014 at 8:23 pm / Reply

    That is an awesome camera. Definitely unique!

    Tim January 20, 2014 at 7:52 am / Reply

    I’ve lusted over the Psyclops for a few years now, Thomas Roma also made an earlier version of the 6×9 you can check out all the camera he made at
    One of his original 6×9’s was up on ebay 4 or 5 years ago and I did bid but did not win.

    Kai may I ask why only 6 were made?
    I love the Newtown Creek photos, I wonder how many New Yorkers actually know the name of the river they go over every time they cross the Kosciuszko Bridge on the way to the airport.

    Kai January 20, 2014 at 12:56 pm / Reply

    Few answers and one correction.

    In the text I say I use the chain pod “under a 60th”, which on re-reading sounds like the opposite. I meant a 1/30th, 1/15th, etc… so “longer than a 60th” sounds more accurate.

    re: O-ring
    Getting the lens-mount ring to be absolutely parallel to the film plane is always tricky unless they are made out of one solid piece. So as the camera is put together small adjustments are made on professional-grade cameras. I’ve heard that Leica technicians use small pieces of cigarette paper to shim. Other cameras simply don’t work to that tolerance.
    On the PSYCLOPS the front lens ring (with the writing) is tightened down against an inner ring which is attached to the body. The O-ring separates the two rings and is compressed as the 4 screws are tightened creating a light-tight seal. By adjusting the 4 screws independently it is possible to get the entire lens plane absolutely parallel to the film plane, and then to lock it all in place 4 set-screws on the inner ring press outward on the lens ring (like isometrics). The O-ring allowed the heavier body to be slightly smaller to save weight and simplified the lens board design. Also, we thought it looked cool.

    re: why only 6
    We started making 8, but wound up with 6. In production in the machine shop the number of identical parts being produced determines the amount of tooling and jigs you have to create. If you are only making 1 camera then you just do everything manually and put no effort into making time-saving custom jigs. To make 8 cameras we did create a good amount of custom tooling, and some of them were quite involved, with the aim of making some of the operations more repeatable. Once you go to 10 or more then you have to start thinking of making even more jigs to automate certain processes so you can move from operation to operation like an assembly line. When he built 50 of the Siciliano cameras he went to that level of production. We didn’t want to ramp up to that extent for this camera, and as it is it took almost two years from start to finish. It also became clear early on that operations on a round bodied camera just made everything more difficult since you couldn’t zero the parts on two edges. So, Roma said early on that we would destroy the tooling as we went along so we would never be tempted to make any more !
    To give an example, in order to deliver the front rings to the company that laser etched the lettering, we easily spent a full day creating a part that held the lens-rings in exactly the right position, but could easily release and accept the next one. After all that work, the thought of the text being crooked or off-center was a real worry. Why not 8 ? My machining mistakes, messed up the grooves on the side of one body and permanently lodged a screw-tap into another.

    Tim, thanks for the kind words on the Newtown Creek work. This summer I hope to finish up the series with some underwater work using a Nikonos on a rig I can operate from within the safety of my rowboat. As to the name, most people don’t know it, or don’t realize that it is the same body of water when they cross it in different places. The Gowanus has a bigger reputation. For a while google maps showed it misspelled as ‘Newton Creek’, but I see they got rid of the label.

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