View Full Version : on the verge camera build

07-09-2014, 01:16 PM
As I continue the pursuit of paper negative portraits,I'm continually digging through an old stash of stuff and today really outdid myself. Unearthed two lenses both were used on process cameras,one is a 21 1/4" un-coated Kodak Copying Ektanon f11 thru f128,the other is a 15" coated Ilex Process Paragon f9 thru f90. Along with the lenses was a new Packard shutter wired for flash, w/new bulb and hose. Can a large format camera be far behind??? On my bucket list for a while is carbon printing and guess with this "find" it's moved up a notch on the "to do" list.The problem is what size negative material to shoot for and where to locate it? Am thinking the big lens could easily cover 11"x 14" allowing for some swings and tilts or even a 16"x 20" without swings and tilts.As these are flat field lenses swings and tilts will have to be performed verrry carefully.
Haven't started designing yet so would appreciate suggestions you all might have.
Thanks in advance,

07-09-2014, 06:10 PM
You will be making negatives bigger than you can scan, so your goal will be to use the camera negative for the print. I would go with some relatively inexpensive film - xray film or ortho litho film. Both can work well for large format, but you will need to do some testing on exposure and development to make a negative that will print well with carbon printing. The process has the longest scale of any process out there. Do you have copies of The Journal of Post Factory Photography? The low contrast developer by Dave Soemarko works well with lith film, and you should be able to fine tune it to make carbon-ready negatives. Do you have a transmission densitometer? Not required, but helpful.

I can help you find developer recipes, and I can even send you scanned articles from TJPFP if you like.

Send me a pm if you want me to send you some of the good stuff.

Jimmy G
07-10-2014, 01:46 PM
Some great advice right there...

07-11-2014, 01:11 PM
WOW! The parts list just keeps growing.I stumbled onto a place that salvages computers and televisions and came away with a large 52" Fresnel lens laminated on a 1/8" thick piece of Plexiglas(can a large ground glass be far behind?),LOL! Think if I lightly sand the back side I'll have a nice light weight ground glass focusing screen for a LARGE camera.

07-11-2014, 10:39 PM
Though they're not as rigid as glass fresnel lenses, the page-sized plastic fresnel magnifiers sold at office supply stores like Staples make pretty good view screens. Take a very fine emory paper on a random orbital sander to the smooth side and Bob's yer uncle.


07-12-2014, 10:39 AM
I'd looked at those Joe but wanted something larger.Had looked at Fresnel lens companies for larger sizes and the pricing was enough to scare me off.Am really happy finding this one off a projection TV for $10.00 and thought it is a steal.Now trying to decide on the size to cut it down,Probably won't be shooting larger than 11" x 14"but am thinking about 16"x 20" size just in case(better safe than sorry,I guess).Still up in the air design wise....

07-12-2014, 12:35 PM
I've never seen a GG with a fresnel, do you still need a loupe to focus?

07-12-2014, 01:47 PM
Yes, you still need a loupe (at least I do),younger eyes might not.The Fresnel lens keeps the image bright out to the edge of the GG. My 4"x 5" Graphic has one and several of the view cameras we had at Hallmark had them.

07-12-2014, 09:28 PM
...The Fresnel lens keeps the image bright out to the edge of the GG....
Thanks, that advantage makes perfect sense to me. I've had trouble seeing the edges and corners, and don't always remember to get my head at a good angle to see them better. I've been using a pair of high power reading glasses, which seem to work pretty well. Next time I'm at an office store I will look at the full page reading magnifiers. If they aren't too think there's a chance I could put one in my existing GG holder.

Barry Kirsten
07-13-2014, 03:26 AM
On the subject of high power reading glasses, I asked my optometrist whether they would be suitable for ground glass viewing, and he said they were and that probably +4 diopter would be a suitable strength to try. I'm thinking I might get a prescription bifocal pair with suitable grind for far viewing as well closeup.

07-13-2014, 05:57 PM
Barry,a photographer I worked with for quite a while had a reading prescription bifocal made on his normal glasses and after some time using them,he had the same prescription placed at the upper part of his lens as he constantly had a stiff neck from tilting his head back to use the bifocal in it's normal position on his glasses lenses.Don't know if it would cause you the same problem but just thought I'd toss it out in case it might be of help.

07-17-2014, 07:33 PM
Think I'm going to go with 11"x 14"for the film size.This will allow tilting the front and back using the larger lens and will cost less for materials as well. Thinking of a sliding box design with a tilting lens board and film back.The first part of the build is going to be a film holder then ground glass holder,will size everything off those.
Am still open to suggestions as no material has been cut as yet...

07-29-2014, 12:54 PM
After finally deciding on 11X14 size,I started looking for a film holder and found one on e-bay for over $200,needless to say my being frugal(read cheap)I'm setting out and making my own. Almost have one side cut out and am getting ready to glue it,then doing the same to the reverse side resulting in a"normal" two sided film holder.Once this is complete the ground glass holder will follow and the overall size of the boxes will be established so the actual camera build will begin.

08-15-2014, 03:44 PM
It's taken a while but finally got back to the camera build. I've gotten far enough along with the film holder to establish back size which will be 17 3/4" square.
Now to begin the camera. Plan on finishing the holder and camera together(no sense dabbing stain and varnish all over twice!).So now to practice my finger(or box) joints and get on with it...Wish me luck!
http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/d1bb929c-9e4f-4ebd-9652-e33c0e389567_zpsa598b063.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/d1bb929c-9e4f-4ebd-9652-e33c0e389567_zpsa598b063.jpg.html)

http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/2c27b799-791c-4017-bbb0-955be00c35e2_zps59c219b1.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/2c27b799-791c-4017-bbb0-955be00c35e2_zps59c219b1.jpg.html)

Barry Kirsten
08-15-2014, 05:34 PM
Looking good, Don, I don't think you'll have any problems with the woodwork. What material are you using for the septum and dark slides? Keep posting, this is an interesting project. Thanks,


08-15-2014, 07:52 PM
Thanks Barry,
Since this is sort of a research project I'm trying to use materials at hand.The septum is 1/8" tempered Masonite with a strip of aluminum flashing for thickness of the film,a hold down which is made of Formica strips as well as dark slide channels and topped off with"C" shaped white pine. So the stack is Masonite,aluminum flashing and three strips of Formica,covered with a white pine channel.I purchased ABS plastic for dark slides as well as black Foamcore for the sliding boxes.Unfortunately the ABS is textured on one side which had to be sanded down to allow it to slide freely. I'm planning to build the box supports,front and back of the white pine.Also the bottom rail which will have a rack and pinion gear arrangement for sizing and focusing.Just finished some"honey do" home projects so am hoping to forge ahead with the camera.

08-23-2014, 07:21 PM
Got a little more work done the last few days.Waiting for glue to dry on the front and back as well as support sections for the foam core ,am hoping to cut foam and test fit it all together tomorrow or Monday. will take pictures.

08-25-2014, 05:32 PM
It's beginning to resemble a camera at last.Got the supports and Foamcore "bellows" assembled for a test fit and to see if it had a chance of meeting the specifications I'd thought up. Pretty happy with it so far(got a way to go before any film gets exposed,LOL!).
Here are some pics:
http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/1afa9230-cb32-4fde-a632-46c28e2b1abb_zps4485098e.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/1afa9230-cb32-4fde-a632-46c28e2b1abb_zps4485098e.jpg.html)
http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/7c3c614b-0c6c-40fb-81b9-6238eb3ab722_zps76250f7d.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/7c3c614b-0c6c-40fb-81b9-6238eb3ab722_zps76250f7d.jpg.html)
http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/ee0ea4ab-1675-4f16-a622-32052e78fcb6_zps95941118.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/ee0ea4ab-1675-4f16-a622-32052e78fcb6_zps95941118.jpg.html)
Intend to have a tilt lens board and tilt back,both with "bag" type bellows as next parts to build.

Barry Kirsten
08-26-2014, 04:08 AM
Looking good, Don. Do you use an ordinary dovetail jig for the finger joints?

08-26-2014, 10:34 AM
Thanks Barry. No dovetail jig,as they say in the Ozarks"Pore people got pore ways"(bad spelling but hillbilly I guess LOL!).Not having the proper tools often leads to makeshift equipment ,in this case I sandwiched two saw blades for the kerf and cobbled up a jig from scrap wood built to slide in the miter gauge groves on the saw table.Not the best looking job but serviceable I think. I've not made finger joints before and am surprised at the strength they exhibit.
I'm getting side tracked again but hope to return to the build soonest.

Barry Kirsten
08-27-2014, 02:46 AM
Thanks Don. I don't have a dovetail jig either, but I like the idea of finger joints which I've seen a lot in wooden cameras. I'll keep your idea in mind when I get down to wood camera making - which will be soon, I hope. Keep up the good work; your camera is an interesting project.

08-27-2014, 11:49 AM
Looks great to me.

09-04-2014, 04:08 PM
Got a little more done.All the hardware has been fashioned and is test fitted,so far so good! Need to install the Packard shutter and finish the ground glass back then sand,stain and reassemble with the Foamcore box and cloth bag bellows.Gonna' have to find or construct a support for the beast soon too.
Been a lot of fun....
http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/ec9216ba-2ddb-434e-a400-6d44625b8995_zps382476b3.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/ec9216ba-2ddb-434e-a400-6d44625b8995_zps382476b3.jpg.html)
http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/3ede461b-8907-4de2-b5cb-1cde9544ffcf_zpsc1772e1d.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/3ede461b-8907-4de2-b5cb-1cde9544ffcf_zpsc1772e1d.jpg.html)
http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/4d3d27ce-c89f-4ad8-84e1-ce00e0687f62_zpsbbc5a159.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/4d3d27ce-c89f-4ad8-84e1-ce00e0687f62_zpsbbc5a159.jpg.html)

09-24-2014, 05:09 PM
Am done with the camera and looking for some film.I probably will do some test shots using paper to practice with the Packard shutter as I've not used one in a long time and have to remember to remove my thumb when opening or get a short exposure LOL!
Here are some pics:

http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/872cddcb-664e-406f-b85d-527e2eb3ac49_zps57b9057b.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/872cddcb-664e-406f-b85d-527e2eb3ac49_zps57b9057b.jpg.html)
http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/c8c4a88c-1efa-43f6-81b4-b1be5ff29d93_zps511ce696.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/c8c4a88c-1efa-43f6-81b4-b1be5ff29d93_zps511ce696.jpg.html)
http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/c2ee5df4-d1f3-4678-9491-0bc1233c56cf_zps59bfd086.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/c2ee5df4-d1f3-4678-9491-0bc1233c56cf_zps59bfd086.jpg.html)
http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/9a86b24b-9e65-4607-98c4-d3a70cad7cee_zps8ca2500d.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/9a86b24b-9e65-4607-98c4-d3a70cad7cee_zps8ca2500d.jpg.html)
Now all I need is a camera support for it.
Let me know what you think OK?

09-24-2014, 05:15 PM
Thinking about transporting and supporting during shooting a camera this large had me stumped for a while but think I've resolved both problems by modifying this dolly.

http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/bbeb8c8b-823a-4b67-a904-f03f6fb5ea65_zpsd4423071.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/bbeb8c8b-823a-4b67-a904-f03f6fb5ea65_zpsd4423071.jpg.html)
Haven't come up with a final design yet but the Fall is upon us and the light is getting good for early morning and late afternoon shots,so I'll have to be quick about it...

Barry Kirsten
09-24-2014, 05:19 PM
Wonderful job, Don !!! Inspires me to get off my but and start my pinhole. Hope you get a lot of enjoyment from using it.

Barry Kirsten
09-24-2014, 05:27 PM
A lot of LF'ers use baby buggies for their big gear, and I believe you can get 3-wheel models specially designed for hikers who want to take their baby with them. Something like that might be more manouverable than a dolly, but more expensive.

09-24-2014, 08:10 PM
Thanks for the kind words Barry. I'd hoped for a better looking outcome but using things I had at hand resulted in a streaky stain job.I used an old can of walnut gel stain that is 2 or 3 years old and has been subjected to below freezing and probably 100 degrees Fahrenheit or there abouts in storage in my garage. Anyway needless to say it streaked and I figured instead of sanding it off I'd leave it as a camera this large is going to get battered just from moving it around in and out of my car etc.I'll post the camera support pictures when finished...

09-24-2014, 11:28 PM
I think it looks wonderful. My foamcore and matboard creations are slowly but surely falling apart and I need to think about making more substantial cameras soon too!

10-02-2014, 12:01 PM
Ready to shoot!
Finished the combination camera transporter/shooting platform and am ready to give this thing a good testing and hopefully find everything performing as it was designed. The yellow dolly wouldn't fit in my car's trunk so had to come up with another idea. The vertical tube on this device is removable allowing an easy fit in my car.Building a camera this large comes with interesting added little problems(like a person who builds a sail boat in his basement then realizes it won't fit through the door).I figured on carrying it in the back seat of the car but hadn't given much thought to moving it around etc.
Here are some pics:
http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/camerastantft_zpsacc2af43.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/camerastantft_zpsacc2af43.jpg.html)
http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/camerastandside_zpse1901e33.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/camerastandside_zpse1901e33.jpg.html)
http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/682dd2d7-ecab-4293-8852-0094b7a36a8e_zps613fee23.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/682dd2d7-ecab-4293-8852-0094b7a36a8e_zps613fee23.jpg.html)
More to come(pictures I hope.
PS. With paint and eye bolts the price is now $52 for this build...

10-02-2014, 05:46 PM
Don - that is a masterpiece of DIY! I hope the images are as impressive as the instrument!

10-02-2014, 11:12 PM
Thanks for the kind words Earl.As I was going to test it with some paper negs today a series of storms came through and kept on till I gave up,We've got out of town company coming tomorrow staying through the weekend,buuuuuut next week I'm hoping for a window to take 'er out! The part I'm most concerned about is the light tightness of the film holder(got my fingers crossed).I'll post pics as soon as possible.Am anxious as you might imagine...

10-24-2014, 03:11 PM
Finally got to try'er out! After several "Honey do"s and a week out of town(with a few days to recover),made a couple of exposures today. The camera and traveling support worked fine but seems I need to do a little more work on the film holder.I used 5X7 sized paper negatives for the tests and found both were fogged on the slide edge of the holder,"A" was exposed with the slide removed and"B" exposed with the slide pulled to the edge but left in the holder.It appears there's less fog on "B".Also I shortened the exposure on "B" slightly as I thought "A" was over exposed a little.Think attaching some felt to drag on the slides might fix this issue.
Overall things went well(better than expected with a new piece of equipment).I'm really liking the look of in camera paper negatives so an 11X14 paper purchase is coming soon..
http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz128/blindpigetc/6f777e08-7cbf-4174-a9be-122d4bd1e3b8_zps8a2bf326.jpg (http://s820.photobucket.com/user/blindpigetc/media/6f777e08-7cbf-4174-a9be-122d4bd1e3b8_zps8a2bf326.jpg.html)

12-18-2014, 01:26 PM
Been thinking of an improvement/update for the rolling camera platform.The 10" wheels are great for moving around on concrete and mowed lawns but not so much over rough terrain so am trying to score a couple of 20" bicycle wheels to make this type moving easier. Also toying around with the idea of a pinhole to replace the lens for fooling around but not sure about hole diameter so any thoughts will be appreciated.

12-18-2014, 03:20 PM
I'd make the pinhole for the shortest "focal length", i.e. with the boxes collapsed all the way. Probably somewhere close to 0.5mm, but would need the length to do an optimized calculation.. Wow that's a great project!

12-18-2014, 04:26 PM
It just seems the opportunities just keep coming.As I'm working on another project my mind keeps finding more fun things to do with the ones that are completed.
This will allow trying pinhole pics( which I've not done for probably 50 years or more) and use my newly found affection for in camera paper negatives as well, should get the most use/fun out of the new camera as I can.
Ned I'll measure the camera collapsed and post it soon,thanks for the suggested hole dia.

12-18-2014, 07:09 PM
Ned, the extension collapsed is 21" (I new that DUH! )don't know why I didn't remember. Couldn't be age related,must be because the files are too big to recover stuff quickly....

12-18-2014, 07:27 PM
I'm sure that's it. My files are way too big!
Off to see my daughter play in a school concert right now, but I'll calculate it this evening! Bigger than 0.5mm, I was imagining a shorter FL.

12-19-2014, 12:22 AM
Different people use slightly different formulae, but for shooting outdoors on paper here's what I'd try:

21 inches * 25.4 mm/in = 533.4mm "focal length".

"optimum" diameter = 1.65 * sqrt( 450*10^-6 * 533.4 ) = 0.81mm

450nm is roughly the wavelength of blue light, but I'm seriously starting to think that a smaller value to account for UV is more appropriate for most of my paper negatives. Whenever I err on the side of a slightly smaller hole, it seems like the results improve more than the math says it should. So I'd probably aim for about 0.7 even after this calculation, or use 0.8 if you think you'll use it more indoors with artificial light.

Have fun!

my 2 cents!

12-19-2014, 11:41 AM
Thanks Ned,
I'm going to search my stash for shim stock I recall having and mic some drill bits for the proper size.Now is a good time for this type of thing as the weather is treating us poorly(only a few minutes of sunshine this last week and being solar powered it's not helping my progress on the paper negative to carbon print enlarging /copy project).The temperature in the shop/garage has been in the 30's as well adding to the slow down.
Guess I can't blame the large files on this one,must be age related LOL!
Thanks again Don

01-03-2015, 02:05 PM
I've found some shim stock and also have"heavy"aluminum foil and as a last resort an aluminum soda can.My wife is willing to sacrifice a sewing needle that's .o87 mm dia. Figure I can adjust the camera back for sharpest focus. What do you think?

01-03-2015, 05:48 PM

Send me a few bucks and I will fix you up with some copper ems apertures made for the electron microscopy bidness. I have 500, 600, 800, and 1000 micron apertures. Cheap at $1.00 ea + $5.00 per order. They are the best holes that money can buy. You might also think about a lens board with a changeable pinhole. I have one for my 4x5 view camera that I like a lot. The changeable pinholes for my lens board are in plastic 35 mm slide mounts that fit into a friction fit foam core bracket on the back of the lens board. A step-up ring and lens cap on the front side provide the shutter.


01-03-2015, 07:19 PM
Sounds like a great price but think they are optimal for shorter focal lengths than I need right now. That's a super idea putting them in a plastic slide mount so they are easy to switch out.In the case of my 11X14 camera I'm lucky to have a Packard shutter mounted behind the lens,making shooting pretty easy.
Thanks again,

01-03-2015, 10:18 PM
Don -

I have smaller apertures for smaller cameras, down to 75 microns (too small for any good use). 800 microns is .8 mm, which is the right aperture for a camera of 23 inches in focal distance (according to Pinhole Designer, with my favorite constant of 1.414). Try them, you'll like them.

01-04-2015, 12:42 PM
OK Earl,
I'd like one of each,500,600,800 and 1000. My math must have slid out on me previously,thanks for coming back and jolting my grey matter(such as it is).
Please PM me about payment.

01-04-2015, 07:59 PM
Oh I didn't know you had them all the way down to 75 microns. I have not successfully made a pinhole smaller than about 125 microns, and I've had fun playing with very small pinholes and close-up almost "pinhole microscope". I think I'd find a use for pinholes that small. You'll be hearing from me soon too Earl!

Jim Jones
01-07-2015, 01:59 PM
Ned, the way I make very small pinholes is to use sewing pins, not needles. The head of a pin is cut off and that end of the pin is clamped in a pin vise. Perhaps it could be driven into the end of a wooden dowel. The point of the pin is driven very slightly through thin brass shim stock. With this technique, .001 inch shim stock works well enough. With the pin tip slightly protruding through the shim stock, it is ground down on a hard smooth whetstone. Removing the pin also removes much of the burr. If the hole is too small, insert a new pin and continue grinding. If the hole is too large, save it for some future use. If a burr remains, I rotate a sewing needle with the tip ground down to a blunt three-sided pyramid as a reamer.

I use a comparator-microscope to check pinhole diameters. A regular microscope with a measuring reticle would work better. The pinhole can be scanned at high resolution on a transparency scanner, or any scanner with an improvised light source above the pinhole. Counting the diameter of the pinhole in pixels and a little basic math reveals the diameter. Exposure is critical to prevent flare from enlarging the apparent diameter of the pinhole.

For interchangeable pinholes, replace the glass in cheap screw-in filters with a disc containing the pinhole. The disc can be permanently mounted in the filter ring or another glass-less filter can be used as a retainer. One more glass-less filter ring mounted on the camera or on a lens board receives that mounted pinhole. If filters of the right size are chosen, a glass-less filter might be epoxied or otherwise mounted in a shutter. Some well-established camera stores have boxes of cheap filters at very low prices. Ebay and other online venues are possible sources.

01-07-2015, 04:44 PM
Jim, thanks for that, I will give it a try! I don't know the difference between a sewing pin and a sewing needle! I'll ask my wife about that. I think it's clear from what you wrote that if I use brass shim stock, and the right pin, and proceed with care, then I should be able to make much smaller good pinholes. That makes sense. So far all of mine are made with sanded down aluminum, a sewing needle, and very fine emery paper, and as I mentioned the smallest I've made was about 0.125 mm.

I don't always measure my pinholes, at least ones between about .2 and .5 mm, you can see if they are close with a magnifying glass and a mm ruler. And there is something I like about the "element of luck" in each one. When I do measure them, or aim to make one a particular size, I use my enlarger.

Thank you!

01-07-2015, 10:49 PM
I have not tried this, but I read in an internet post from more than ten years ago that the finest photographic pinholes are made using silver. The metal can be pounded thin rather easily, and you can stretch a cone with a needle or pin that can turn out to be extremely thin and round. In a conversation with a jewelry maker friend, these contentions seem to be more than plausible, but after discovering the ems apertures, I ceased to be interested.

03-07-2015, 08:01 PM
Just got back from a trip and am waiting out the cold weather so my fingers won't freeze to my tools LOL!(really not that funny).I've some 16"wheels to replace the 10's on the camera stand.Also have some cool pin holes received from earlj (thanks earl) to try out on the camera. It's too cold to process some paper negs shot while on the trip but the weather forecasters are predicting a warm up soon and I won't know what to do first(that will be a good problem I think).
I must learn patience.....

04-04-2015, 02:27 PM
The 16" wheels work a lot better than the 10's did and allow easier movement. I had a chance to test out the pinholes I got from Earl and appears they work well. Thanks Earl!
Still having an issue with the film holder leaking slightly on one side.The strips of wood that contain the dark slides were made from one piece of pine and split to fit on the opposing sides of the holder and one seems to have a bow while the other doesn't(go figure). I've tried adding a piece of felt to drag on the dark slides which helped somewhat but as yet no cigar. May give up and replace them but was hoping to work out an easier solution(haven't as yet!).
More to come.