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Intro

I wanted to learn photography the Real Way, and that's with large format. Not only do you have all the movements, but you can easily adjust development per picture, experiment (eg. with pinholes and paper negatives), etcetera. I decided to build my own, and in the meantime I have largely finished the project.

Resources

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My Camera

So I bought Jon Grepstad's book and went out for wood. To make a long story short, I finished the camera and am now saving up for a lens and shutter :-). Basically I followed Jon's plans, with some adaptions for the standard sizes over here (the whole thing is a little bit bigger now), and with a (second-hand) Cambo Bellows (EUR 60) and a (new) Cambo groundclass (EUR 30). I really can't say how much went into wood, glue, screws, oil, etcetera. Certainly not more than EUR 75, I think a little bit less. The whole thing looks a little bit sloppy (I'm not very patient) but works fine. I'll be concentrating now on remaking parts smaller, in order to make the whole setup a little bit more portable.

Click on the thumbnails to get pictures:

The last picture shows a tripod I built. I only have a couple of shaky 35mm tripods (one even from Hama, shame on me!), so I needed something better. Jon kindly provided me with a JPEG of a drawing from an old Norwegian magazine and I went out, bought wood, and smashed the thing together in some 8 hours of work (most of the time went into finishing the platform). It's sturdy, but not very portable...

Lenses

Someone gave me this. It is a lens, it has a shutter, so I'll be able to use it. That's, in my opinion, the whole fun of large format - I've shot pictures with a +5 diopter spectacle glass using paper as a negative (and one of a set of three drilled diafragms), with pinholes, etcetera.

I've asked the Usenet what kind of lens the Kodak is, and the answer came quickly: it's from a 620 folding camera, upper-middle class and thus quite sharp; will cover 6x9 and you can make enlargements to 11x14 from there. The shutter is simple but solid - I'll build a shuttertester sometime.

In the meantime, I bought a "serious" lens: a 210mm Kodak Ektar. It's a bit long, but therefore covers 5x7 so plenty of room for movements. First shots look great, if only I had the time to go out more...

Enlarger

Early 1999, I saw an ad on the Dutch photograhy newsgroup where two large format enlargers were offered by a small press agency. The prices were incredibly low (for the Netherlands - normally you only see Laborators starting at 800 Euro or so), so I made an appointment and drove over.

Forget about the other enlarger (it was a simple, sturdy, Eurocolor and I think he's still offering it for 120 Euro), I fell in love with this one. I bought it for some 225 Euro, and boy was I glad that I brought my Volvo Estate with me: this thing is big. Big in the sense that it managed to occupy most of my car (it came with a cupboard full of accessories).

It's an English enlarger, by MPP (Micro Precision Products, they don't exist anymore). It's typically English engineering, I think: where they had problems to solve, they started out by making the thing bigger and using thicker steel so they had more room for manouvering ;-).

To give you an idea of the dimensions: the colum rises around 120cm, the head's base plate is 30cm diameter; while the head itself is some 60cm high. A negative holder measures some 20x30cm, and a lensboard is 20x20 (that's why he included a small cupboard for these). See the pictures for details.

It came with all the bells and whistles: negative holders for 35mm up to 5x7, lensboards for 50mm, 105mm and 180mm lenses (it is autofocusing and has three autofocus rails for these focal lengths), and the guy even threw in an old 150mm Comparon for good measure. The current head is a Philips color head, but I think I'll make a diffusor head myself.


 
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