See how Analogous founder Grant Stewart produced a limited run of bespoke brass camera baseplates using Fusion 360 and a CNC machine.
Grant Stewart is a multi-disciplinary designer living in Portland, OR, who works under the studio name, Analogous. Analogous offers photography, design, CNC machining, prototyping, and limited-run custom goods. Via Analogous, Stewart designs and manufactures bespoke camera parts for photographers.
One of the first pieces of custom photography gear he produced was an adapter to mate a modular Swiss technical camera to a small modern cinema camera. Most recently, Analogous launched a quick-release plate to mount the Leica Q2 camera on a tripod for long exposures.
Getting started with Fusion 360
Stewart has two decades of experience in the design industry, working across a range of clients and industries. After working at a leading design-innovation consultancy centered around design-thinking methodologies, he decided he wanted to invest more time in the tactile and physical aspects of making—everything that originally drew him to design in the first place.
Around the same time, Stewart found Fusion 360, and the tool opened a new door to a way of making that had once been closed for him. “Fusion 360 helped me progressively learn and develop my skills as I went along,” he explains. “First, the fact that Fusion 360 is available for free to start-ups and education made starting a no-brainer. Second, Fusion 360 includes all the tools for both CAD (design) and CAM (manufacturing) in one program, so all the work and learning are self-contained. And third, the overall layout/structure of Fusion 360 means that whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional, you’re only working with one area at a time.”
These three key elements enabled Stewart to start iterating on ideas that he wasn’t yet sure how he would produce. He started learning CAM programming and machine simulation. “At each step, I built confidence and understanding before taking the next, bigger step,” he says. “By the time we moved from our Chicago apartment to Portland, where we have garage space for our shop, I’d done everything I could, right up to the point of diving into an actual machine.”
Crafting the Leica Q2 baseplate
In his practice, Stewart emphasizes the importance of making your own tools. “When you start machining or prototyping of any kind, you quickly realize how many tools you need to make to help you get to the thing you want to make,” he explains. “These tools are often templates or fixtures for holding parts or other shop tools.”
Photography, like machining, is a field that heavily relies on high- and low-tech tools and equipment, so it’s filled with opportunities to improve common tools. Following the adapter project he started with, Stewart set out to design and machine a baseplate for his Leica Q2 Monochrom.
“It’s a bit of a niche within a niche, being that it’s a small, fixed-lens digital camera, and my particular model only shoots black and white,” says Stewart. “I wanted an Arca-Swiss-style quick-release plate to mount the camera on a tripod for long exposures. But nothing I found fit the camera physically, aesthetically, or philosophically. So I made one.”
Producing a small production run
For the past year, Stewart has been using the custom brass baseplate that he designed and machined. After receiving positive feedback from other photographers who saw it, he decided to make a small production run to sell. The end result is a run of solid brass baseplates that are all produced in his Portland studio using Fusion 360. Even the core of the packaging for the baseplate was made in Fusion and then CNC machined.
“Fusion 360 has been central not only to my ability to produce this one object but to my whole journey of getting here,” says Stewart. “It let me take each step in my learning process at my own pace. On top of that, I could go from idea to working part in a shorter time than it would take to order and ship something far less special. Fusion 360 has played a powerful, essential tool in the pursuit of making for oneself, a pursuit I would like to pass on to others.”
Learn more about Analogous and purchase the Leica Q2 Monochrom baseplate here.