Dark Cloths

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The denim dark cloth my mother sewed for me 30 years ago is finally in tatters. It lets in more light than it keeps out. Does anyone have a favorite out there (besides your mother's) that would work well in the field on a 5x7 Deardorf?


-- Anthony Sanna (asanna@sacofoods.com), February 29, 2000


Though I have not yet tried one myself, I've heard lots of good things about the BTZS focusing hoods. I think they're available from Darkroom Innovations.

-Dave Munson

-- Dave Munson (orthoptera@juno.com), February 29, 2000.

A better one that what your MOM sowed 30 years ago? Good Lord man what are you asking?

Why not make another? I'd switch to black velveteen and white cotton or sateen or something to save weight maybe.

I always liked the size of the larger Zone VI one, 6'6" square. My first one was just a piece of some blue material I found at a yard sale. Now I'm using the largest one Calumet sells, poly-esther or nylon with weights in the corners.

-- Sean yates (yatescats@yahoo.com), February 29, 2000.

I was a skeptic until I tried it but the BTZS darkcloth/hood sold by Darkroom Impressions. Easily the best darkcloth I've used in nearly twenty years of LF photography; it is lightweight, very dark, adjustable, and packs up small. It has one drawback: because it is enclosed it can get really hot and stuffy in there in hot & humid weather. But that beats than fighting the heavy Zone VI and other similar "horseblankets".

-- Ellis Vener (evphoto@insync.net), February 29, 2000.

The BTZS is well made. Most of the time I use my windbreaker, since I am packing it anyway. Has anybody tried weighting or velcroing (verb?) a mylar "space blanket"? It always seemed to me that it would be very light, very opaque and very reflective in the sun and would double as a rain cover.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (gkroeger@trinity.edu), February 29, 2000.

Great idea Glenn! I'll try it and let you know. My Idea was to sandwich some black plastic lightproofing material between pieces of white and black ripstop nylon to make a light-weight/proof field cloth. Of course, velcro to hold it to the camera and to close it at the bottom and front would also be a must. Regards, ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (ScudderLandreth@compuserve.com), March 01, 2000.

If you try the one from Darkroom Innovations I don't think you will ever use anything else. I won't lend you mine because I'm sure you would not give it back. Just think...even with some breezes blowing, black as night and two free hands. Only problem is that you don't look like Edward Weston in the field.

-- John Sarsgard (Endive4U@aol.com), March 01, 2000.

I have used the BTZS cloth also and like it,BUT I found that the cloth had too much tension produced by the elastic to put it on and easily remove it from the camera. I own a 4x5 Wisner and found that I needed a 5x7 cloth. My ultimate revision--remove the elastic and replace it with the cord and locks like those found on outdor clothing--like a marmot or north face parka. So the cloth easily goes over the camera and then you can pull the cords to tighten it to your preference. That works well. The BTZS is small, very light tight. The only superior approach I have seen is a traditional cloth with velcro loops, white on one side and black ultrasuede on the other. J. Sexton uses one like that. Very nice.

-- Bob Moulton (bmoulton@icc.cc.il.us), March 01, 2000.

I use and like the BTZS dark cloths on both 4x5 and 5x7 (the 4x5 studio cloth will fit my 5x7 camera). However, a friend of mine made his own out of the same material that parachutes are made out of. I think I like it better but I haven't been able to find the material.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis@tampabay.rr.com), March 01, 2000.

Another vote for the BTZS cloth from Darkroom Innovations (now called The View Camera Store, I believe). I think it's the perfect solution to keeping your hands free for holding a loup and making adjustments, etc., and for big cameras - 8x10 and up - it solves the frustrating problem of light leaking in near the bottom of the dark cloth. The extra "available darkness" these things provide make it much easier to see what's going on at small apertures (and if Edward or Ansel were alive today I bet that's what they'd be using, too!).

-- Mark Parsons (Polar@thegrid.net), March 01, 2000.

I prefer the little spring loaded metal hoods that clip on the back of the camera myself, supplemented, if necessary, by a lightweight black cotton cloth that my wife made for me shortly after we were married.

Very slightly off-subject from this: Most of the viewing problems with GG screens are caused by the reflection from the unground side. A couple of years ago I came across some Linotype-Hell glass carriers. These were 5.5" square thin glass plates, anti-reflection multi-coated on both sides - you know, a green "stealth" reflection, a la Nikon filters - the full monty. Anyhow, I had one of these ground and cut to size as a focussing screen, and what a difference! No more staring at the reflection of my own ugly face in the back of the camera anymore. I'd say it made about the same difference as an extra stop on the lens.

I don't have contacts in the printing industry anymore, so I can't say if these carriers are easy to come by. I bought mine at a junk sale; 5 carriers (10 sheets coated glass) for #1! It's well worth trying to find some IMHO.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), March 02, 2000.


Interesting idea. For a similar solution, I wonder whether you could use your stock ground glass and have the back side coated by one of the folks who re-coat lenses? The reduction of reflections as you described might be enough to make folding focusing hoods (of the kind I am used to on a Toyo 45AII) really useful in more conditions. And the fresnel on the Toyo is in front of the ground glass rather than behind, so that shouldn't prevent you from coating the back. Hmmm....

-- Greg Lawhon (glawhon@unicom.net), March 02, 2000.

You might try making your own by using the waterproof, breathable cloth used in outdoor clothing and tents for the outside. It comes in colors so you can personalize your dark cloth & never get it mixed up with anyone elses in the field. For the other side I sewed the polarfleece or pile type material, using a light grey. It gives me a nice looking darkcloth I can drape over my camera that is waterproof, breathable and is able to be used over my shoulders in the rain, wind and snow to help keep warm when needed. You can use other lining material if you don't want the fleece. The waterproof material by itself is pretty light tight & lightweight as well. Put some velcro at the front, angle the darkcloth to fit a specific camera if you want and velcro it around the back standard & ground glass. You can cut the back area to fit behind your head if you like as well to customize the darkcloth to your personal vision & distance needed for viewing. If you want to get creative, use Pendleton wool inside for the liner & make your own fashion statement. Or bright colors or whatever you want. Just be sure to tell your mom of other relatives you sure miss the one she made, no matter how good you can do in making your new one.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), March 02, 2000.

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