Advice on cleaning old 4x5 Camera? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have huge dust control problems with an old 4x5 I just bought. Someone told me that my camera could be dusty on the inside, and when I pull the darkslide out and shake the camera, dust could be falling on my film. So, is this true? and How should I clean my camera? Thanks!

-- Sarah Brown (, February 26, 2000


Dust inside the bellows has to be quite bad to cause this problem. Part of the problem is also appears to be caused by a bunch of other factors - how dry is the air when you're taking a picture, do you draw the darkslide very rapidly leading to a small static charge in the holder that attracts dust etc. Re cleaning the dust out of the bellows, vacuums are suggested ocassionally but I've never had much luck with them, they just seem to stir up dust like billy-o. Here's one methods thats given me better results. Take the camera into a bathroom. Remove the lensboard and the back, if possible. Extend the bellows to its maximum. Run the shower with hot water for a few minutes (till the mirror gets fogged). All that moisture in the air should settle most of the dust down, outside and inside the bellows. Now take a soft cloth and wipe the outside and inside dry gently. You should get most of the stuff out. Rest assured, it'll get back eventually. DJ

-- N Dhananjay (, February 26, 2000.

Another thing to try is to extend the bellows fully remove lensboard and the ground glass (if you can - in my camera I can remove the glass easily by pushing the two sprung arms down and sliding the unit to one side, I dont know if yours' can so this may be a problem, then using a powerful bulb blower simply blow the dust out one side. Alternativley you could try to use a source of static electricity to attract the dust - a small de-ioniser type thing user for reducing the amount of dust in a room for asthmatics. hope this is in some way useful (if a little vague).

-- David Kirk (, February 26, 2000.

Hi Sarah, I've found dust in old cameras I've bought. I've found it trapped in the folds of the bellows. The solution I employed was a vacum cleaner, simple as that. Then I finally wiped it out with a damp rag. David

-- david clark (, February 26, 2000.

generally, dust problems on negatives occur during the drying process after you have processed your negatives, not during the exposure. perhaps a more controlled drying environment is needed. another possibility is that what you are seeing on your negatives is not dust, but rather impurities in the water you are using to wash the film. there are inline filters which can address that problem.

-- jnorman (, February 26, 2000.

Sarah: Dust inside the bellows is not unusual and in the older cameras the dust is sometimes self-generating because fibers come loose from the bellows lining and wear of the wood and metal. Try this: Put the camera on its tripod, point the lens at the floor and remove the lensboard. Extend the bellows as far as it will go and remove the lens board. Place the hose to a vaccuum cleaner at the front where the lensboard was and tap the sides of the bellows with your hand while the vaccuum is running. Shorten the bellows, then extend again and repeat the vaccuum and tapping process. If you can get the ground glass off, brush out the interior of the bellows with a paint brush to get into the folds. I use a small paint brush with the handle cut off to get inside the bellows. Then vaccuum again. That ought to take care of the dust. Dust in the bellows and on the holders makes cute little clear squiggles on the negative, which look like black snakes on your print. Good shooting, Doug

-- Doug Paramore (, February 27, 2000.

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