Archive for January, 2008

The Lens

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

So here it is; the lens. It is a Bausch and Lomb – Zeiss APO Tessar Series VIII – Made somewhere between 1903 and 1915. From what can find, B&L and Zeiss had some dealings before WWI in order to use the Zeiss Tessar patented design in the US. After the war, B&L ignored the patent, and started making the lenses with some improvements under just their own name.

This is a behemoth of a lens with a front diameter of 105mm, and a focal length of 760mm. APO means it can do color, and the Teassar design is supposed to be pretty flat and distortion free for an early design. It weight around 10lbs, I would guess. If you can’t read the ring, it covers 28×32 inches, so it will have plenty of room for movements on my 16×20/12×20, and would even kill on a 20×24, making it sought after in the ULF arena, and rare! This is the only one I have seen come up in the last 6 months and quite a few people bid on this before I won it, even though it was in bad shape. For a 100 year old chunk of glass, though, it actually is pretty clean and usable; a great find, and piece of history.

When I got it, it was in really bad shape. I got it off that auction site for about $220. The iris blades were all taken out, and 4 of them were damaged, but they were all there which was good. I had made the decision that if I couldn’t get the iris back in, that it would still make a great old lens. Luckily there was (and still is) a repair shop near by: ITC Camera, so I took it there instead of shipping it to the expensive Grimes in New Jersey. The guy at ITC gave me a reasonable quote of 3 hours work, but I had a feeling he had his work cut out for him. When I finally got the call to pick it up I found out all the damage that was under the skin, but the guy at ITC stuck to his quote, though he said he “lost his shirt” on it. He is a very honorable guy and I would recommend him.

Here’s what we learned from his work: at some point in the past the iris was damaged. Three nipples broke off three leaves, and one was bent. So the iris was taken out, and a slot was cut into the barrel to accept a plate type aperture. And that’s not all, somebody thought it would be nice to cut down reflections so they painted the inside black. It was a mess in there, and everything was stuck to everything else with paint and grease.

The guy at ITC soaked the inside to remove the paint, repaired the bends, manufactured new nipples, improved the design with a couple of retention screws so the iris won’t get jammed, got rid of the oil and grease (apertures need to be dry and clean, not lubed as most people think), and cleaned up the f-stop markings on the barrel. ITC did lose their shirt on this I think, but the owner was honorable, and only charged me for the low quoted price. So, he got it working, and its in pretty good shape now. The only thing that is still a problem is the slot cut into the barrel. I’ll have to tape that off or put a piece of brass shim in there or something. Now that its in better shape, I am guessing its value went up considerably, and is worth more than I have invested in it (~$500) thanks to the work at ITC.

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Some plans

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

I have been drawing up some plans in Inventor for a while now, but they were all sketches. I am getting to the point that the plan dimensions are making sense. Here is the sort of thing I am talking about. When I get to the finalized plans, I will post the original DWG files (maybe) but at least the details of what I came to.

I have decided to use Cherry. It seems to be the traditional wood of choice because it is very stable and workable word. WIth tolerances down below 1/32 of an inch, the material has to be solid and not warp much. For the rails I have learned that a straight grained quarter or rift sawn wood is best. These grain patterns make the swelling predictable and controlled.

I also picked up a lens and shutter. The lens needed to be repaired, but I’ll post pics and the story later. I have also found a suitable cloth to make the bellows out of. It is a little steep, but it thin and, lightproof. ANother route would be a leather bellows but I haven’t found a source for skins large enough or thin enough (or cheap enough.)filmholderrailprofile.jpg

Some initial Plans

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

So to start with I drew up some sketches on paper. Then found this great trial software, Inventer Light from Autodesk, the AutoCad people. Those drawings will come later since I am figuring out some of the detailed mechanical parts with it.

I decided I would build the camera out of Cherry and either Stainless steel or Aluminum. I am leaning toward aluminum because it is much lighter and once anodized will be quite strong and durable.

Materials Aquired:
Dimensional cherry in 1/2×3 and 1×2 sizes – Aura Hardwoods
Leadscrew and nut for a focussing mechanism – Triangle Tool

Tools Acquired:
10 inch bandsaw – Sears

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To Start the Build, but why?

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

What I hope to do here is let you follow the progress and story of my attempt to build a 16-inch by 20 inch ultra large format field camera. I hope to add Project logs for other projects later, too, once I figure out the best way to present them.

So why build such an enormous camera you might ask? I am crazy of course is the best answer, but in truth there are a couple sorta reasonable reasons for it. First, 16×20 is the ideal presentation size. Small enough to hang on any wall, but big enough to get all the detail and richness available in a good print. Of course enlarging a 4×5 negative 4x gives a 16×20 print, but a contact print of that size would blow an enlargement out of the water in terms of detail and tonality. Larger format film provides excellent range and tonality, giving a print a lot to work with, but in the end an enlarged print gives up some of that quality in exchange for a smaller negative and easier process. With a contact print very little of all that expensive and rich detail and tonality is lost resulting in the best print quality possible in a lot of ways.

Another good reason for negatives that large is for use in alternative processes, like cyanotype, platinum, Van Dyke and Gum bichromate, among a few others. Alternative processes don’t used silver as their base photo sensitive material and are not very sensitive to much light besides UV light. The result is that you need a strong UV source like the Sun or a big bank of lights. No enlargers here. The only way to print with the sun is by contact printing. Photographers have develop ways of getting big negatives in the darkroom, but why not just go straight to film in camera? There are some great alternatives like digital negatives, but that requires a big printer and expensive printer film which has limited sizes. Digital offers more creative possibilities of course, but also has big limitations and is only applicable to alt processes.

I looked around for a way to make big negs and found a few companies that would be happy to make one for me for the price of a small car, but nothing seemed reasonable, until I came across a page built around a group of camera builders. These were my type of people, and what they were doing didn’t seem out of my reach. So I decided to go for it.

What will come is my trials and tribulations of building a ULF camera with my own design. Hopefully it will amuse you and maybe even provide some useful ideas about what to do and what not to do if anyone out there decides to build their own ULF camera.


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