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
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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
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...
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...
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.