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Hello, A few weeks ago I started with large format photography. I own a Cambo 4x5 inch camera and a Durst Laborator 1200 enlarger with a color head CLS-500. I made some nice pictures last week in Paris and I am very impressed of the quality. Every thing works fine until now, but I have problems with dust on my negatives(4x5). Before loading the holders, I use a vacuum cleaner in a seperate room. I use a vacuum cleaner to clean the room itself. If the holders are loaded with film and I start with an exposure I clean the holders in the field with a brush before I remove the darkslide of the holder. Anyway, every negative that I made contains particles of dust. Because I use Fiber base paper it is possible to remove the scratches using a retouching brush. But my general question is: is it possible to make exposures on 4x5 inch film without any dust? Any recomendations are very welcome to this new 4x5 inch worker. Thanks in advance Johan Ditzel

-- Johan Ditzel (ditzeljc@worldonline.nl), August 29, 1999


Make sure the inside of the camera is clean. Removing the dark slide can charge the film with a little bit of static electricity and cause the dust to be attracted to the film. Some people load the holders in the bathroom after running the hot shower to remove dust from the air.

-- chuck k (kleesattel@webtv.com), August 29, 1999.

One of the problems with vacuums is that while on one end they are sucking, at the other end they're blowing! Generally speaking, the use of a vacuum is going to stir up the atmosphere. What I have found works very well, is to brush all the surfaces of my film holders, including both sides of the dark slide. I use a 1" camel hair brush which I keep in a zip lock bag when not in use and which I wash every so often. After I brush each holder, I put it in another zip lock bag. When I load the holders, I get everything ready in front of me, sit down and wait a few moments before beginning. I wear a short sleeved tee shirt when working, so as to minimize generating lint. I pick my film off the stack emulsion down, turning the film only just before I slip into the holder. This way, any dust in the air that settles on the film will fall on the back, not the emulsion. Avoid loading in very dry conditions. I too, run a shower in my motel room before loading on the road. This humidifies the room and also washes some of the dust down. I almost never have to retouch a negative anymore. The best of luck in perfecting your personal technique!

-- Robert A. Zeichner (razeichner@ameritech.net), August 29, 1999.

What most people don't realize is that about 99% of all dust on sheet film comes from the light trap that seals the dark slide. They act like scrubber brushes and remove any dust on the slide when you pull it out. When you push the slide in, the dust is picked up and scattered over the film. You have to use compressed air with about 15- 20 psi to blow a small dust cloud come out of the trap when blown. Too much air will damage the trap, so be careful. Also, make sure the slides are clean both sides, that is where the dust comes from that the felt trap picks up. Also, the longer the film is stored in holders, the better the chance of disturbing dust. Packing holders around on a few trips before actually using them is asking for trouble. Blowing the camera, especially the bellows, is needed as well.

-- Chris Wray (cpwray@hotmail.com), August 30, 1999.

Johan, I have also been confronted with the problem of dust from the film holders. What has been said before on runnig a hot shower for a while in the bath tub helps. But you may consider the preloaded 4x5 QuickLoad from Fuji or ReadyLoad from Kodak. I found it is the only way to get rid of the dust. The sheets will cost a little more, but on my experience it is worthwile. Kodak has T-Max 100, a couple of color negatives and slides as well. Fuji has only slides. The first Kodak QuickLoad back was a nut.I had flatness problems with it all the time.But I have seen reports that the new version has improved. Someone to confirm? The QuickLoad back from Fuji is fantastic. I have used one for years, shooting hundreds of slides... and forgetting all about dust problems. Unfortunately, it is not well suited for the Kodak ReadyLoad (although you may use it but too tight). Then you have the option of a Polaroid back for both brands of film.(Personnaly I dislike it. It is thick and heavy to carry around and I am not sure of it's flatness). The Kodak ReadyLoad stand by two in one envelope.They require a little exercise to handle well. The Fuji QuickLoad are by one and should'nt be a problem as long as one will not insert them back to front. The only problems I had a couple of times was by freezing weather when the envelope stuck to the holder. But all this is just half of the problem. Dust in the laboratory is an other battle! You are fortunate to own a diffuse light enlarger. I am not keen on black and white but I worked on Ilfochrome, making a set of contrast masking negatives and exposing the sandwich...That was four faces to clean from dust! Im so happy the digital era has come! Have your pleasure.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@vtx.ch), August 30, 1999.

Using exotic procedures for managing dust out in the field when you camping in remote areas is not pratical or possible. I have resorted to preloaded film. I no longer the carry those heavy film holders, changing bags, or spend time loading film. Out of 150 frames in 30 days of field work I have zero dust spots.

-- Stephen Willard (willard@lvld.hp.com), August 31, 1999.

How are you storing the holders and carrying them in the bag? For me, the dust problem was greatly minimized when I began keeping the holders in plastic zip lock bags. When not in use I keep the holders in the bags. When loading film, I first brush the holders with an anti-static brush, load the film, and put the holder back in the bag. It stays in the bag until I'm ready to make the photograph. As soon as the photograph is made the holder goes back in the bag, not to be removed until processing. This hasn't completely eliminated dust (Readyload, et al would do that but T Max in Readyload costs twice as much as non-Readyload) but it has eliminated probably 90%.

-- Brian Ellis (beellis@gte.net), September 01, 1999.

I've been using quickloads but recently started using conventional holders for access to more emulsions. I have yet to have dust problems. For one, I use the Toyo holders (they claim the light seal doesn't fray). Second and most important, I load the holders in a changing bag in the shower (I don't run hot water beforehand). The showers in Japan are one-piece fiberglass moulded units of a sink, hose w/ shower head, and drain on the floor next to the sink (so by showering each day, you essentially wash the floor clean :-) ). I carefully blast each holder off (inside in all the grooves and both sides of the darkslide) with canned air, and put them into a new ziplock bag immediately. I also blast off the exterior of the film box and put that into the ziplock bag, and then load all the contents of the ziplock bag into the changing bag quickly and zip it up.

When shooting out in the field, I use a blower on the holder, making sure there's no dust on it before inserting it into the camera. I use a brush/blower on the darkslide, as static tends to attract dust. After I slowly remove the darkslide, it goes either into the ziplock bag (and gets cleaned with the blower before reinsertion) or into the quickload box. My philosophy is that if you keep the darkslide clean, dust won't collect on the light seal on the holder, nor will it collect on the inside of your camera. So far, so good. I won't vacuum holders or the bathroom...that blows dust all over the place.

-- James Chow (jchow@isl.melco.co.jp), September 01, 1999.

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