Searching in the dark! : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hi, Right! I've got the camera, got the lens, got the film backs. Sorted!

Except I can't find any references to the sale of a black cloth in any on line store that I have visited on the web so far. I have seen various references to some 'Hi-Tech' cloths, but cannot remember where.

Can you help? Preferably UK stores if possible, but I have a PayPal account should the need arise to shop abroad.



-- Clive Kenyon (, May 23, 2001


Try "darkcloth" or "focusing cloth". Robert White (U.K.) should have what you need. Try (Harrison darkcloth).

-- Steve Baggett (, May 23, 2001.

I recommend the BTZS cloth, which can be ordered in the US at

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, May 23, 2001.

Clive: Don't buy one at all. Make one. Pretty easy, and you can make it any size and shape that pleases you. There's an article by Gordon Hutchings in a View Camera from last year that gives good directions. Also, a very recent thread on this website (begun by me) gives a ton of advice about weighting corners (the thread is called "brass bead chains for darkcloths" or something like that). Included is a very interesting idea, apparently adhered to by a number of people, involving the use of a modified black T-shirt instead of a darkcloth. DO NOT BUY A DARKCLOTH. The good ones (esp. Calumet) are real expensive and too small. -jeff buckels (albuquerque)

-- Jeff Buckels (, May 23, 2001.



Funny how little things can arouse such passions, but it's often the little things that make a big difference--and the BTZS darkcloth is one of those little things that makes life much easier for LF photographers. The BTZS is cheap (unless shipping is too expensive to where you are), compact, easy to clean, light-tight (esp. on the bottom, where traditional darkcloths are worthless unless you devote one hand to holding them together), and amazingly convenient.

I don't know anybody who has tried the BTZS who went back to the large blanket style; on the other hand, I suspect those who advocate the blanket style have never tried the BTZS. 'Nuff said.

There seem to be two schools of thought on this subject...

....... .......

-- John Whitman (, May 23, 2001.

Don't forget a dark cloth for the holder: once you have pulled the dark slide, these come in handy. No conventional film holder is truly light-tight in that area: think of older, slower films, etc. Someone should market that item also. Good answers and sources. Thanks

-- David Stein (, May 23, 2001.

If you can't find one anywhere else, go to and search on "cloth". You will find several. They sell in UK.

-- Charlie Strack (, May 23, 2001.

dont know what kind of camera youre using, but i gave up on dark cloths many years ago as too slow and awkward for my needs. i use, and highly recommend, reflex viewfinders - mine is a cambo and cost only $150 when i bought it. i would not want to work without it.

-- jnorman (, May 23, 2001.

Thank you everybody. I now know where to look and what to look for.


-- Clive Kenyon (, May 24, 2001.

When I first started out and didn't have much money for such luxuries, I made my own dark cloth. It was cloth but it wasn't dark, nor was it big enough. It flopped around in the wind and I needed one hand to hold onto it while I tried to focus with the other. Then I discovered the BTZS cloth and was stunned by the difference it made. I could actually see all the corners of the ground glass, even when using my slower wide angle lens.

My opinion: don't think twice. If you can afford it, get a proper cloth like the BTZS. I read the article in View Camera about draping your camera in a tent sized cloth. I'm sure it could work with a little practise, but the BTZS cloth solves all those problems painlessly.

-- Bruce Pollock (, May 24, 2001.

The BTZS darkcloth, in addition to being expensive, has a major disadvantage when compared to a large darkcloth you make for yourself, i.e., you can't use it in any way as a shade for your lens and/or camera. If you make a big enough dark cloth (follow Hutchings' guidelines), you use it not only to focus but also to wrap your camera when shooting and, if you wish, as a perfectly good lens shade.... As for hand-made darkcloths not being dark enough, it just depends on what you use for material. Browse your friendly neighborhood fabric store. For my 8x10, I used some quite light but tough black broadcloth, doubled it up, added a white side, and I can see the groundglass (in broad daylight) just as well as with the expensive Calumet I got when I started 4x5. This ain't "science" that has to be left to "experts". -jb

-- Jeff Buckels (, May 24, 2001.

One day's worth of film--55 bucks--is how much the "expensive" BTZS cloth will set you exchange for years of service. Probably the best bargain in large format.

P.S. I've been shooting in the desert with the BTZS cloth for three years and have never had a light leak in my camera or my film holders. Anyone who has to drape his entire camera under a huge tarp to prevent light leaks (as Gordon Hutchings advocates) has bigger problems than what kind of focusing cloth to use.


-- John Whitman (, May 25, 2001.

I use a black t-shirt. I put it on upside down and throw the rest over the camera.

-- Ken Cravillion (, May 25, 2001.

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