8×10 Large format shooting

 

Eastman no 8x10 camera

My Eastman no 8×10 camera

There is a rekindled interest in 8×10 photography after a few NEW sub-$1k 8×10 cameras appeared in the scene. The most notably would be the Intrepid 8×10. As of this writing, it has far exceeded its lowly set target  £18,000 goal with 255 backers. That would means there is going to be at least 220(less those who backed for non camera reward) 8×10 cameras out there. I guess that there maybe  150 new 8×10 cameras users while the rest are existing 8×10 users who are just buying another lighter and cheaper camera.

What does this means? This means there will be an increased demand for

  1. 8×10 lenses
  2. 8×10 film
  3. tripods and tripod heads
  4. processing equipment such as paper drums and tanks

Here i share my own experience in shooting in the 8×10 format.

8×10 lenses

The most important factor to look out for when looking for a 8×10 lens is is the image circle. The minimum image circle to cover the 8×10 format is 12.8inches / 325mm (the diagonal of the film size). Ideally you should have lens that has an image circle greater than 325mm if you intend to use movements which you normally would. After all, camera movements are the unique feature of a view camera.  Next up for consideration is the focal length of the lens. A 300mm lens will be about the standard lens for the 8×10.  A 210mm lens will be considered wide on the 8×10 lens. To get its estimated equivalent focal length in 35mm terms. simply divided the focal length by 8.

While there are vintage lenses or barrel lenses out there in the used market, I would suggest getting one with a modern Copal shutter for a start. There are some good old lenses with old shutters but most of these shutters are at least 50-60 years old and the many shutter mechanism are worn out. Even the well know camera machinist shop , SK Grimes does not take in any more vintage shutters for repairs or CLA.  Whereas a good Copal shutter will last you many more years to come and still serviceable.

You will be glad to know that with a big negative like 8×10, you will need  less demanding performance from the lens so 8×10 lens are relatively cheaper compared to a high performance 35mm lens. After all, for the same scene, the 8×10 lens would need to resolve less lines per mm. I use the Schneider G-Claron 355mm lens with a Copal 3 shutter.  The image circle of this lens is 444mm at f22 allowing quite a bit of movements on the 8×10.  I also have a cheap Seneca 305mm f7 lens which is using a old Betax No 4 shutter.

There are other ways to work with vintage or barrel lens such as using a Packard shutter or shooting with low ISO paper negative or wetplate. However if you are new to 8×10 or just shooting 8×10 film, go for a lens with a Copal shutter first. Other lens experiments can come later!

8×10 film

If we are talking about panchromatic silver gelatin film, you only have a few choices from these 3 manufacturers  Ilford,  FOMA and Shanghai.

FOMA Fomapan 8x10 fim

FOMA Fomapan 8×10 fim

I have been using FOMA 8×10 film for the past 6 months and have been happy with it. It is a good balance between price and performance. I have also used Shanghai 8×10 before but their supply has been a bit erratic after they shifted their factory but I see that they are back on the market again. For me, I will stick to FOMA film for now. Ilford 8×10 film is about double the price of a FOMA sheet so I have not used any Ilford 8×10 film before.

Another cheaper alternative is 8×10 Xray film such as those produced by Fuji. However it is an orthochromatic film ie it is not sensitive to red light and  is also of high contrast.  Most of the Xray film are coated on both sides and making it susceptible to scratches when wet. I have tried a box and must say they are quite cheap to use and very suitable for alternative printing where a high contrast negative is desirable.

Tripod & tripod head

First thing is to ditch your ball head no matter how big and strong it is. A 8×10 camera with its lens is a big camera and you do not want to the whole camera to drop off when you loosen the ball. Go for a 3 axis panning head such as the Manfrotto Junior 410 head or even better the Manfrotto 3263 deluxe geared head. Match it with a set of strong  tripod legs. Those who do not have a big budget can also look for the 2 axis Majestic tripod head. These heads are old, big and heavy and do not command a premium price on the used market, at least for now.

Do not be mislead into believing a lighter 8×10 camera means a smaller and lighter tripod. If you extend the bellows of the camera, it would turn into a sail or kite catching wind and before you know it, the whole camera and tripod will topple over.

Paper equipment such as paper drums and tanks

Last but not least would the film processing equipment, we have a few options for film processing

  1. Trays processing – just processing the film in trays in total darkness. This kind of setup would cost the less assuming you already have a darkroom or lightproof area. Just buy 3 12×16 trays and you would be good to go.
  2. Another kind of tray processing is using the Paterson Orbital processor where you will be processing one sheet at a time. It is a daylight tank where you load in the sheet in total darkness and then carry on the processing in daylight. These are hard to come by and are usually available as used in the UK ebay. Their prices have been increasing and will continue to do so.
  3. Rotating tanks slikeusing Jobo paper drums or Expert drums.  The paper drums are cheaper as they are designed for paper development but can be easily used for film development.  You can either roll the drum by hand or build a rotary film development system.
  4. Lastly, we have the guys from Stearmanpress prototyping a 8×10 processing system. It probably will be improved and ready for sale soon.

Overall any rotary system will use less chemicals than a stationary with inversion) system. I use about 250ml of chemicals for sheet for the Paterson Orbital processor and the Jobo paper drum system.

Lastly welcome to the big world of 8×10 photography.

A Protective case for my 8×20 camera

My Korona 8×20 camera is heavy but it is still possible to hand carry it by the leather handle for short walking distance. Carrying it bare will expose it to scratches and knocks as it is easy to bump this big camera into walls and such.

So I went to buy a $5 foam camping mat, some Velcro straps with tape and went off to work on a DIY protective case. As seen in the video, I have the map trimmed to the required size including the corners  and then add in the Velcro straps at the places where the different ends meet.  The Velcro straps came with tape where I  simply taped it to the foam. It may not last so I have sew a few of them in place instead. The foam is not to the best material to sew but I will monitor and see how well they stand up to the frequent opening and closing.

While this is for a ULF camera, it can be easily modified for a smaller camera.

 

 

Arduino Code for the Rotary Film Processor

In my previous post about the DIY Rotary Film Processor that I use to process my 8×20 film for my 8×20 camera, I did not go into details about the Arduino code that controls the rotation and timings. This post will explain more about the Arduino portion.

Hardware

I use 3 pieces of boards for the project :

    1. Arduino UNO
      Arduino UNO board

      Arduino UNO board

       

       

    2. An motor shield
Motor Shield

Motor Shield

    1. An LCD shield
LCD Shield

LCD Shield

 

I am not a programmer so what I did was to piece the different sample codes for the different shields in order to achieve what I need.

This is a Rotary Film Processing controller . It simply rotates a motor for 4.5 seconds in one direction before rotating back in the reverse direction for another 4.5 seconds and stop for a sec. This is considered as one cycle. Therefore 6 cycles of it will constitute 1 min.

When it is powers on, you will need to press a button (connect to the RIGHT button of the LCD shield) to start the development process. When the first step (ed Prewash for 3 mins) is completed , the buzzer will sound off and you will need to press the same button to continue to the next cycle (of course after pouring out the first and in the next chemical)

Currently, it is coded for my FOMA 200 developing needs. You will probably need to modify the code to your needs.

/* Rotary  Film Processing  
 * ------------------ 
 * This is a Rotary Film Processing controller . It simply rotates a motor for 4.5 seconds in one direction before rotating back in the reverse direction for another 4.5 seconds and stop for a sec
 * . This is considered as one cycle. Therefore 6 cycles of it will constitute 1 min.
 
 // include the library code:
#include <LiquidCrystal.h>

// initialize the library with the numbers of the interface pins
LiquidCrystal lcd(8, 9, 4, 5, 6, 7);

// define some values used by the panel and buttons
int lcd_key     = 0;
int adc_key_in  = 0;
#define btnRIGHT  0
#define btnUP     1
#define btnDOWN   2
#define btnLEFT   3
#define btnSELECT 4
#define btnNONE   5

int buttonPin=2;
int buttonState=0;
int buttonCount=0;
int EN1 = 6;  
int EN2 = 5;  //Roboduino Motor shield uses Pin 9
int IN1 = 7;
int IN2 = 4; //Latest version use pin 4 instead of pin 8
int BUZZ=3;

void Motor2(int pwm, boolean reverse)
        {
          analogWrite(EN1,pwm); //set pwm control, 0 for stop, and 255 for maximum speed
         if(reverse)
         { 
          digitalWrite(IN1,HIGH);    
         }
        else
        {
          digitalWrite(IN1,LOW);    
         }
        } 

void Motorprocess(int stepno, int noMins)
{
   int counter;
   int noRepeats;
   noRepeats=noMins * 6;  //6 cycles is one minute, so to repeat for the required no of minutes

     for(counter=0;counter<noRepeats;counter++)
                      { Motor2(255,true);
                       delay(4500); //turn for 4.5secs
                       
                        Motor2(255,false);
                        delay(4500); //reverse and turn for another 4.5 secs
                        Motor2(0,false); //stop for 1 secs
                        delay(1000);
                      }
lcd.setCursor(0,1);
lcd.print("Step ");  //write to LCD that the step is completed
lcd.print(stepno);
         lcd.print(" Done");
          Motor2(0,false);
      digitalWrite(BUZZ, HIGH); //sound the buzzer for a second
       delay(1000);
       digitalWrite(BUZZ, LOW);

  
 }  

// read the buttons
int read_LCD_buttons()
{
 adc_key_in = analogRead(0);      // read the value from the sensor 
 // my buttons when read are centered at these valies: 0, 144, 329, 504, 741
 // we add approx 50 to those values and check to see if we are close
 if (adc_key_in > 1000) return btnNONE; // We make this the 1st option for speed reasons since it will be the most likely result
 // For V1.1 us this threshold
 if (adc_key_in < 50)   return btnRIGHT;  
 if (adc_key_in < 250)  return btnUP; 
 if (adc_key_in < 450)  return btnDOWN; 
 if (adc_key_in < 650)  return btnLEFT; 
 if (adc_key_in < 850)  return btnSELECT;  


 return btnNONE;  // when all others fail, return this...
}

int val = 0;     // variable for reading the pin status

void setup() {
  
  pinMode(BUZZ,OUTPUT);
  
  int i;
   for(i=4;i<=7;i++)  //For Arduino Motor Shield
    pinMode(i, OUTPUT);  //set pin 4,5,6,7 to output mode
    
    analogWrite (10, 10);
     lcd.begin(16, 2);
  // Print a message to the LCD.
  lcd.print("FOMA 200 Process ");
  lcd.setCursor(0, 1);
  lcd.print("Press R to start");
}

void loop(){
  Motor2(0,false);
  int counter;
// buttonState= digitalRead(buttonPin);
buttonState = read_LCD_buttons();  // read the buttons
  if (buttonState==btnRIGHT)//change here
{buttonCount = buttonCount+1;



//if (newState==0 && buttoncount>0)
  switch(buttonCount)
  {

  case  1 : //prewash 3 mins
  lcd.clear();
   lcd.print("1. Prewash ");
      Motorprocess(1, 3);
           
      break;
  case 2 : //develop 7mins
  lcd.clear();
   lcd.print("2. Develop ");
      Motorprocess(2, 7);
     
  break;
  
   case 3 : //Stop Bath 1 Min
     lcd.clear();
   lcd.print("3. Stop Bath ");
     Motorprocess(3, 1);
   
  break;
  
   case 4 : // fixer 4 min 
        lcd.clear();
   lcd.print("4. Fixer ");
     Motorprocess(4, 4);

  break;
  
    case 5 : //Wash 1 min
            lcd.clear();
   lcd.print("5. Wash ");
     Motorprocess(5, 2);

  break;
  
   
  default :
  buttonCount=0;
  }//end for switch
}
}


DIY Rotary Film Processor

This Rotary Film Processor project has been on the back on my mind for ages but it became a priority after I got a 8×20 camera.  I managed to get a paper drum that can take up to 16×20. Usually I process one sheet (which for now is actually 2 pieces of 8×10 joined at the shorter side) at a time. Handrolling the tank for 15 mins for every single 8×20 shot is no joke.

Rotary Film Processor

Rotary Film Processor (less the connection to the Arduino box)

In terms of design, I have been looking at the various DIY designs that are found online. Of all, this youtube video looks the most interesting. However I decided to modify the design not to use a water tank for a few reasons.

  1. I do not need a water bath to regulate the temperature. I am quite happy with developing at room temperature. Even when I develop at 20C, I am fine that the chemicals go up by a degree or two.
  2. Saving of water since I do not need a  water tank.
  3. The buoyancy of the water aids the rotation of the tank but I can replace it with a roller base.
  4. A more compact design and easier to store away.

I have been doing DIY projects for a while so I have collected quite a number of parts so I am able to start the project using mostly of what I already have. Therefore pardon me for the non standardization of lengths and measurements.

Roller base

Rigid Wheels

Rigid Wheels

This is similar to the Jobo roller base.  To make this, mount 4 pcs of 1″ Rigid wheels  on 2 pieces of plywood.  The length of the plywood will depend on the length of your drum. Using my wood scraps, I have a 24″ and a 17″ pieces. Space out the wheels so that the drum will be well supported. Of course you may add more wheels if you intend to process drums of different sizes.

Roller Base

Roller Base

I connected the 2 pieces of plywood using 2 brass rails (they were from a forsaken camera project). They are locked down using 1/4″ bolts and nuts.   This will allow me to adjust the distance between the 2 rolls of wheels for catering to drums of different diameters. At this point the drum should rotate smoothly and evenly by hand.

Roller Base Rails

Roller Base Rails

Motor Arm

Motor and Shaft Coupler

Motor and Shaft Coupler (Motor cables are no connected)

For now I am using a 12V 30 rpm motor.  To mount the 3/8″ threaded rod (again another piece I have sitting around) , I use a flexible shaft coupler which has a one 6mm hole what will fit the motor shaft while the other end is a 10mm hole that fit the 3/8″ rod.

The 3″ wheels were purchased new as the old inline skate wheels I salvaged from my old skates have a bearing hole of 7mm. The hole diameter need to be 10mm for the 3/8″ rod to go through. They were then tighten with nuts on both sides. I placed a drop of Locktite so that the nuts won’t get loose from the turning . However as we do not want the wheels to be free spinning as the rod rotates,  I have to jam the ball bearings. In this way, the wheel will turn with the rod and then in turn causes the drum to rotate.

Wheels

Wheels with 2 nuts locking it down on both sides.

Automation

I have an Arduino Uno that was for my Kallitype printing which I modified it for this rotary film processor project. Basically with a motor shield and LCD shield, the sketch will go through the following cycles where the timings are customised for FOMA PAN 200 film using HC110 Dilution D.

  1. Prewash 3 mins
  2. Developing 7mins
  3. StopBath 1min
  4. Fixer 4 mins
Arduino Interface

Arduino Interface

At the end of each cycle the alarm will sound off signalling the need for me to change the chemical and go to the next cycle by pressing the Red push button. Check out this post for the sketch (code)

 

Conclusion

I hope this article give a good picture on how to construct a rotary film processing on your own. There are still quite a few improvements to be made  for mine. You will need to customize it to your own needs and also the ability to source your parts at your side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recommended Readings

Here are a few books that that personally recommended for your rccommends

1. The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes by Christopher James 

This is a heavy book of almost 900 pages. Being the 3rd edition, it has the latest updated information on the various alternative photographic process including a chapter on wetplate collodion photography.  The author shares the various formulas that are required for the various processes such as cyanotype printing , kallitype printing, salt printing etc.Buy it now on Amazon

 

 

2. Chemical Pictures The Wet Plate Collodion Book: Making Ambrotypes, Tintypes & Alumitypes
by Quinn B Jacobson (Author)

Quinn B Jacobson is considered to be one of the gurus in wetplate photography.  He hosted regularly a live talk show on  wetplate and other alternative photographic processes.  This book covers everything you need to know about wet-plate collodion photography. Quinn teaches you how to make direct positive images on glass and metal plates; Ambrotypes, Tintypes, and Alumitypes.Buy it now on Amazon

DIY Wet Plate Collodion Darkbox

For wet plate collodion process, the plate has to be developed before the collodion get dries up. Therefore an wet plate collodion darkbox is essential for outdoor shooting. There are many designs for a darkbox that can be found  online but  I opted for a briefcase design as you can see in the video below.

The dimensions of my darkbox when closed are 29″ x 22 ”  x 5.5″ making it a very compact size. It is constructed out of plywood and hardwood pieces without any fanciful woodworking joints. The wood pieces are simply joined together using screws.

Let me know if you have any questions.

 

Gallery

Gallery