Visit my new blog

I´ve decided to split my blog in two. I will continue to post DIY projects and musings here, but (serious) pictures, taken on film of course, will be posted in my new blog "Silver Halides"

I now consider Caffenol to be a developer like any else. As such the new blog will focus more on the pictures, rather than the process.

Thursday 28 October 2010

DIY grip for the Kowa Super 66

The Kowa grips are not that hard to get hold of. Neither are they expensive. There are two types, both have the same handle, but one is attached to the side mount only and uses a release cable, the other is attached both to the side and with a bracket along the the bottom of the camera and handle. The latter has a built in mechanism to trigger the shutter. Both have an accessory shoe for a flash or spirit level or other.

However, I thought I´d capitalise on my recent experience in the woodworking of my DIY 4x5/6x12 camera. I liked the ultimate handle´s design features and went about making a handle similar to it.

Design demands: A rectangular handle, but should still be ergonomic. Thumb activated shutter release. Attached both to side and bottom of camera. Accessory shoe. Relatively easy to mount and unmount. If possible should still be able to mount camera on tripod with grip attached.

I used a piece of pine, 20mm thick. A piece of sheet aluminium 1mm thick. A flash bracket. A 3/8" to 1/4" tripod adapter. Two 1/4" tripod screws, both male and female at the same time. A couple of smaller bolts. Mahogany stain, black satin paint, and clear gloss lacquer. Glue

And this is the result:
Side mount and release cable runs through grip, held fast by sculpted piece of black painted aluminium

3/4 view. You can see both side and bottom mount (an adapted flash bracket)
Side view. 6mm bolt runs through grip into tripod adapter. A 4mm bolt through bottom bracket into handle
where a nut has been seated and glued
A final addition will be a leather strap stretching from top to bottom towards to the outside, which I can slip my hand through. Makes for easier carrying, and I won´t drop the camera. Did it meet my design criteria? Yes, for the most part. My only gripe is it taking 2 or 3 minutes to attach and remove. 

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Caffenol-C-H third test roll

After a first attempt somewhat underdeveloped and a second slightly overcooked, the third effort has been developed in Caffenol-C-H with just 0.5g/l of potassium bromide (Reinhold @ the Caffenol blogspot says I can cut it out altogether) and for 16 minutes @20C/68F

At first when scanned I wasn´t quite as impressed as with effort no. 2. They seemed to be slightly flatter than the previous attempt. But after post-processing I think they turned out nicely. The micro contrast is still well controlled, and highlights are nowhere near being blown. Shadows are full of detail, if one would want to draw it out. Here are some examples (click for larger version, they do the pictures more credit):

My Caffenol set on Flickr

I´ve been able to get consistent results, and results I like, over the last films. I will definitely continue using Caffenol for TMAX100 from now on. Next tests will be with TMAX400, I just need to get some first.

Try it out. Its not at all difficult. And the negatives do have a signature, if you like it, you need to try it out.

Monday 25 October 2010

Caffenol-C-H second go

The results from the first film were encouraging. There were little in the way of streaks, uneven development, spots and the like to suggest that Caffenol should be written off as a mere mad chemist´s concoction. It works, and does nice things to the negatives too. So armed with new knowledge I went about developing film two. Same recipe as last time, though a tad less potassium bromide, now only 0.8g/l. But 18min @ 20C/68F, 1min initial agitation, 10s every minute.

And boy did this knock my socks off:
Overcast with a bit of sun. High contrast lighting
Overcast, rain and dreary, low contrast lighting
Same conditions as above

 I´m very content with the quality of the negatives. The somewhat muted contrast, the way Caffenol reigns in the highlights at the same time as it draws out shadow detail is impressing.

They may be a tad overdeveloped however. So next effort will be shortened to 16mins or thereabouts.

What´s stopping you trying out Caffenol?

Sunday 24 October 2010

Caffenol-C-H first try

Hanging out on Apug can be hazardous to your health. The Scandinavian forum has a few rather enthusiastic members advocating the advantages of brewing your own developer. As self professed DIY'er this sort of thing appeals to me. Reading their input and Reinhold's Caffenol blogspot convinced me that this is not only possible, but can be advantageous too. Caffenol can act as a speed enhancing developer, and to a certain degree as a compensational developer, allowing shadow areas to develop faster than highlights, making high contrast scenes salvageable, while retaining shadow detail. The ingredients can be found in your local grocery, hardware or pharmacy store. One might not exactly save money compared to a commercial developer, but I was looking forward to the sense of accomplishment one gets when doing things yourself. All developers have a signature of sorts. My current TMAX developer is rather strong on contrast and gives good thick negatives. Which is fine for printing, but not so much for scanning with flatbed scanners (due to their lower DMax ratings). I could of course experiment with different temperatures and dilutions, more or less fixing, different stop baths etc, but that doesn't seem quite as compelling as brewing my own developer. Reinhold's blog has more information on the subject of Caffenol than any other site I´ve found. Armed with the recipes found here, and experiences shared by my fellow Scandinavian Apug members, I went about getting hold of the different ingredients.

Caffenol-C derivatives all require three main ingredients. Vitamin C in addition to the basic original Caffenol ingredients of instant coffee and a pH regulating substance, normally sodium carbonate. The addition of vitamin C makes for faster development times, and it also goes a long way in hindering the coffee staining the negatives. It might introduce haze on some films, but that can be counteracted by using very small amounts of citric acid or potassium bromide. I chose to start with Caffenol-C-H for my TMAX100 and 400 films.

For every litre of ready developer you need the following ingredients:

  • 54g of Sodium Carbonate (Washing soda, anhydrous)
  • 16g of Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
  • 40g of Instant coffee (the darker and less palatable the better, preferably Robusto coffee as it contains more of the active agent caffeine acid)
  • 1-2g of Potassium Bromide*

*TMAX films evidently are not susceptible to haze, so I cut back on the bromide to under 1g/l

Development times vary, depending on the film type and speed, and of course on your own preferences. 15 minutes at 20C/68F is recommended as a starting point. I´d seen examples of decidedly shorter development times that turned out quite nicely, so I thought I´d start off with 11-12 minutes. Thinner negatives would still be scannable, or so I thought.

My first film of TMAX100 I exposed a few scenes bracketed one stop above and below the nominal EI of 100. I dissolved each ingredient separately and bottled them for later use. I took into account the final mixing ratios so I could mix the three main ingredients in equal amounts totaling 490ml, topping off with 10ml of 1g/10ml concentration Potassium Bromide solution. (Hopefully the pre-mixed ingredients will not go bad before I have time to make use of them)

Film loaded in a Paterson 4 tank, 11 minutes development, normal agitation scheme (1min initially, 10s every minute thereafter), water stop bath (1min), TMAX fixer (5min), washing and photo-flow (20min).

How did they turn out? Well, I should have listened to Reinhold. The negatives where thin, a bit too thin. However there were quite a few negatives which were no more difficult to scan and post-process than TMAX developed negatives, just different.

Here are a few examples (test images, not chosen for their photographical merit, click to enlarge):
EI 100, levels adjusted, exposure ramped up 0.7,
mid-contrast increased
EI 100, levels adjusted, exposure ramped up 0.7,
mid-contrast increased

EI 100, levels adjusted, no other post-processing

With a little bit of help from my Scandinavian Apug friends I decided to up the development of the next film by 2/3s of a stop. More on the results from that film later.

Not counting the obvious underdevelopment, a fault of my own doing, I think the negatives came out pretty well. As promised, Caffenol does well in drawing out shadow detail, yet retaining the highlight information. The contrast is somewhat subdued, probably not helped by using venerable single coated optics, and can be seen as a disadvantage in the darkroom, but an advantage in my book as it gives my scanner a better time of scanning the negatives.

Saturday 23 October 2010

DIY 4x5/6x12 P+S Version 0.4

I´d been pondering over what to do with handle for a while when I came over flickr member "adbieber" creations. A master of camera building and modification. His Nimslo quad lens camera conversion to a 135 film panoramic camera is one such masterpiece: adbiber´s Nimslo panoramic flickr set

I took inspiration from the handle and adapted the design for my purposes. It turned out like this:

And finally I added an accessory shoe for a rangefinder, and added a spirit level:

I´ve no desire to modify it more. It works as intended, and even if rather large in size, weighs no more than 2.3kg including roll film back. For a 4x5 camera, I don´t think thats too bad. Instead I´ll be making another camera over the long Norwegian winter. A few shots with the camera as it now stands:

Wednesday 20 October 2010

DIY 4x5/6x12 P+S Versions 0.2 and 0.3 - and a word or two on collimation

As mentioned the first prototype wasn´t all perfect. More than a few issues. A light leak,  focus was off, viewfinder too elevated, and a handle not to my liking. The focus being off was a bit of a surprise. But after a bit of research I find out why. The Graflok back has a fresnel screen, an option on most ground glass inserts, but not here. Its supposed to be there, not matter what. Its mounted in front of the ground glass, and my collimation efforts were off by nearly 2mm due to me marking the fresnel and not the ground glass. The chambre noir (lens cone) had to be sanded down correspondingly.

Collimation was performed using an SLR with a tele of 300mm. Set this to infinity, your DIY camera lens likewise to infinity. Mount your ground glass with a few X marks centre and in each corner, on the side facing the lens (on plane with the film), and let light shine through the back. Open up the aperture to max, and sight the SLR through the DIY camera lens. If the DIY lens register is spot on you´ll not only see the markings perfectly focused, but even ink blotches, particles of dust on the ground glass. If not shim up the lens cone, or sand it down, depending on if the register needs to be lengthened or shortened.

Ground glass collimation mark in focus
Picture taken, with the SLR, of the centre mark on my ground glass. Once you see the uneven inky blotches, dust spots and even small fibres as in this case, you are not far off. Preferably all marks will look like this. If not the lens is not completely parallel to the film plane.

Next I went over the internal joins in the lens cone with black acrylic putty and remounted the Graflok back with a smear of putty on the mating faces. And then modified the viewfinder mount. The handle required some thought, and was left for a later revision. I added some protection for the lens too. The camera needed a bit of weight towards the front, as with the roll film back mounted it was rear heavy and would tip over. The lens protector bars counterweight the back nicely.

Version 0.2 looked like this:
Version 0.2
I didn´t take many pictures with it in this form as the handle was still a bit of a drawback. After some research and browsing I fell for a design by flickr member "adbieber". Very rectangular and with no rounded corners it was simple, but nice. The camera it is mounted on is decidedly lighter than mine, so I made a few compromises to make the handle slightly less angular. The result can be seen here:

Version 0.3 - new handle

I rather think it is maturing into a rather good looking camera.

Monday 18 October 2010

DIY 4x5/6x12 P+S Version 0.1 first images

Two images from the first two rolls of film. Unfortunately most images were ruined due to a light leak. I´ve since found out the left hand side of the roll film back does not mate perfectly with the Graflok back letting in light. Need to add som velvet or foam to get it right.

Anyhow, these are shot on TMY-2 and TMX respectively. (click for bigger image)

Sunday 17 October 2010

Want to build an LF/MF camera. Now what?

I´d come to the conclusion that I´d like to build my own camera. Exactly why is a difficult question to answer, but I´ve always been fond of using my hands and pondering about my own solutions to things. Reading more than 3 photography rags a month I sooner, rather than later had to come over pictures captured by a device I would have to copy. The trigger was a series of Fuji 6x17 pictures taken in the Torres del Paine, and I nearly fell off my perch. I beseeched my fellow RangeFinderForum friends for help. I wanted to build a camera capable of such things. I started a thread entitled: "DIY 6x9 or 6x12 or even 6x17" on the forum. And suggestions soon popped in. One that I´d contemplated initially was to chop two 6x9 folders and join theses together, attaching a large format lens with shutter in front and hey presto! Or build a similar camera from scratch like Dean "Razzledog" Jones unbelievable creations. But I had my doubts. I can´t get myself to chop up an old camera, no matter how dilapidated. Secondly, I´ve not much tools for the metalwork involved. My heart wanted a 6x17, but I understood that a camera with a Graflok 4x5 back would be infinitely more adaptable. You can shoot 4x5 sheet film or add a 120 roll film back and shoot anything from 6x4.5 to 6x12. all in the same camera. If I needed the 1:2.8 ratio, I could always crop to fit. I looked at Sinar Handy and Cambo RS super wide designs, and found a number of very impressive DIY projects on the net mimicking these successfully. The "Dorkasaurus" the "Darth Handy" (look them up) to mention a few. However, many of these required the use of lathes and equipment I neither had, nor wished to invest in. Wooden cameras of similar design could also be found. These designs were more like it, maybe not as good looking, but certainly easier to manufacture with hand tools. Notable designs are the "Neretta" by Sandeha Lynch, a 4x5 "point and shoot" by Nana Sousa Dias, Britt K Leckman´s 4x5 "Pancake Camera"

Version 0.1
I finally decided to follow this train of thought and not let myself be led astray. I told myself I´ll be making a 4x5 point and shoot type camera, with a LF lens in Copal or Compur shutter, either hyperfocal focusing, or a helical focusing (no bellows here, not this time), built for hand held shooting, yet can also be tripod mounted and finally; no movements. All manufacturing to be done out of wood. I took inspiration from all the cameras mentioned, and then a few. But I copied none. For one thing, it can be dismantled. When I choose to add another lens, I can manufacture a new lens box and reuse the frame, back, foot and viewfinder. The handle will not be detached.

Once the important decisions were made, making the camera wasn´t that difficult. Above right, you can see the first incarnation of the camera. Fuji SW 90/f8 LF lens in a Copal #0 shutter on a helicoid of Chinese manufacture. Mounted on a Linhof type lens board. A chambre noir made out of a flower pot!. A wooden frame to which a Graflok back is attached on one side, and a sub frame come light trap on the other. The chambre noir slides over the subframe and friction holds the two together. A foot added to fill out the space left over, a handle on the right hand side made out of oak.

The viewfinder is raised up so that the roll-film back will not gash my nose, since found unnecessary and modified. Above left you can see the Graflok back with ground glass inserted. And to its right, with the DAYI 6x12 back attached. Below right you can see the different components before assembly. Can be taken apart again in 2 minutes.

However, once put together, and taken out for a test run, there were a few things that needed doing. One, the viewfinder need not be mounted up high (added to parallax issues) the handle was too small and mounted too close the the body. Three, the unavoidable light leak. More on this later.
How do you do it? Well its not difficult really. All you need to make a functional camera is to have a lens, a film holder or transport, a light tight box, a shutter, and the lens mounted at the correct distance to the film plane. Lens, shutter, helicoid and film holder were all purchased from ebay. The viewfinder too, but I could have made one from say a door peep hole lens, or similar. The light tight box is just that a box, open at one end and a fitting for the lens board at the other. The distance from the rear of the shutter to the film plane should be 99.1mm for this particular lens. In practice there may be sample variation, which is why collimating the lens is important. More about that later, too. Tools and materials used:

  • Saw and mitre box
  • Wood files
  • Sandpaper 60, 120, 180 and 600
  • Screwdrivers
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Sander
  • Spirit level
  • Calipers
  • Carpenter´s square
  • Auto paint, wood stain and lacquer
  • Wood glue
  • Assorted woods, a chopping board as frame, oak handle, fir chambre noir.
  • Cupboard door handles and knobs
  • Screws, nuts and bolts.
Time used, 40 hours maybe. Could do it in half that now that I know what I know. Worth it? Well, yes - I think. At least it gave me the taste for shooting film again. It is capable of taking respectable pictures.

Saturday 16 October 2010

My return to film, the path of most resistance

As you´ve gathered, my love affair with the Epson R-D1 digital rangefinder brought me to the Rangefinderforum. This is a fun place to be. A rather large niche of photographers who understand the niceties of a direct optical viewfinder, manual controls, fast and superior optics in a compact package. Digital camera users are however not the norm, they are tolerated but to a certain degree frowned upon, unless Leica SLR users of course. So, over the last year or two my prejudices towards film have been successively worn down. I grew up on film, but like many had been led down the wrong garden path in thinking that digital was in every way better, and had discarded my film cameras a long time ago. How wrong can you be? This is not a digital vs film rant, because I use and enjoy both. But I´ve come to like taking pictures in the traditional manner more. For me its a more sedate and nerve-calming process. I´ve not yet a darkroom, so post-processing is still a digital affair.

When choosing to start shooting film again. I never considered getting just another rangefinder, 35mm format, camera. There are some very beautiful rangefinders out there. However I thought whilst we are at it, why not go for larger expanses of film? Secondly, me being in no small part stingy (must be my Scottish heritage), I thought I´d build my own camera, and this would be much easier with leaf shuttered lenses, negating the 35mm format altogether. Exactly why I´d like to build my own camera, what type and how will be the subject of another post.