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More Adventures With Large Cameras

Updated: May 16, 2021

What seems like a lifetime ago (it was actually only about a month!) I took delivery of a large format (4x5) Burke & James Commercial View camera. It is ultimately destined to live with a friend of mine, but we had it delivered here (long story). The camera was advertised on Twitter for a very modest price, so if Toby didn't have it I was certainly going to - it was madness not to get our hands on it. Both Toby and myself have a real interest in shooting larger format, so I'm sure it will get lots of use on way or another. The camera came without a lens or film holders, but luckily another friend stepped up and offered to lend us an old Aldis 11" lens which we made a board for, shortly after I found an old 7" brass lens (no makers ID) on Ebay for a few quid, so I bought that too for a muck about. Having played around with some 3d printed dark slides kindly made for us by Simon Oakley but struggled to get the 'slide' part working very effectively I weakened and bought two slightly ropey old Toyo film holders to try out the cam (as let's face it, somewhere down the line I'm going to end up with a large format camera). I think I might be able to get the 3d printed ones to work at a later date, but they need careful modification and right now I just want to test out the two lenses we have here. It's been a MONTH for heaven sakes and this thing needed to see some action!!

So before work one morning, and with lighting conditions changing every 30 seconds, I took the beast down the garden for a couple of quick test shots... Well, being the absolute genius that I am, it soon became apparent that where I had set the Aldis lens in the lens board it was no longer very easy to adjust the aperture of the lens. This would not have been a problem if I could have left in on F7 where it was set while I was focusing, but the sun was out and there was no way I would be able to get the right exposure time just using the dark slide as a shutter on my wobbly home made 'quadrapod'. So I had to break the seal twixt lens and lens board (it was only held in with tape and silicone anyway as it's on loan) and I managed to persuade it round to F45. I quickly shot the 2 exposures & then I went off to work. After work I thought I'd give the 'other' unknown 7" lens a try, even though the light was now pretty awful. I shot the final two slides of the old projector lamp at F8 indoors for approx 12 seconds. This (other) lens was held in with tape and due to it's longer and slimmer design I was still able to adjust it despite it being only semi fixed into the board. I will at some point make a better job of this as it's fairly loose but does the job. Later that evening I developed the paper negatives in my 'new' darkroom set up with is basically the spare bedroom upstairs. They were all shot on Ilford Multigrade IV RC Deluxe gloss paper, the garden shot was f45 for 10 sec-ish using an 11" Aldis lens... (I usually write things down properly, but I was in a rush). The projector lamp image was a different lens (the brass 7" one which is not marked) at f8, again for 12 seconds (ish), developed in Ilford multigrade developer. No idea why the projector one is so 'swoopy' in the background as they were developed exactly the same way & in the same sitting. It's either something to do with the different lens (which was different to the one used in the garden shot) or it's maybe a light sealing issue in the camera (although it looks a bit too random for that, more chemical to my uneducated brain). Anyway, it's not a big issue and I quite like the effect. I am pleased with the fact that they all actually came out OK, there are obviously lots of other things yet to try out as this is early days and the camera has a LOT of adjustment, but I am very happy to report that the bits and pieces we have got together so far are fully functioning. Hopefully it won't be long before Toby can come over and he too can have a play, can't wait to see what he can do with it. Roll on 17th May and the next stage of lockdown easing...

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