Got my LF camera today, now a question... : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I just got my first LF camera today (a used Calumet 45N off eBay), and now I've got a couple of questions.

1. When I was taking some pictures today, my (homemade) focusing hood kept sailing around in the wind. What's the best way to attach it to the camera? Is there a special way to sew it (maybe like a tent or something)?

2. I'm getting ready to develop the pics I took (Ilford Delta 100 in D-76), and I was wondering about developer capacity. I buy D-76 in the quart size, and there's no information the envelope to help. For 35mm, I always diluted D-76 1:1 (4oz developer/4oz water). I figure a 4x5 neg has the equivalent surface area of a 15-exposure roll of 35mm film, so I should be able to develop two sheets in one mixture of D-76, right?

3. Is it better to place the file emulsion-side up or emulsion-side down in a tray to develop?



-- Curtis Nelson (, June 04, 2002


1) The folding focussing hoods are generally held in place by clips. If this is just something you jury-rigged, you could try those little bulldog clips or larger paper clips.

2) A roll of 35mm film has a surface area of approx. 80 sq in. The same as four 4x5 sheets. You basically want to ensure there is sufficient developing agent to develop the given surface area of film. I would suggest the following developer volumes. If you are using D76 1:1, use at least 125 ml per sheet of 4x5 film.

3) You'll get conflicting opinions on this. I personally find it easier with emulsion side down. When I develop emulsion side up, I often find that the sharp corner of the film I drop down onto the stack scratches the emulsion which is face up. Other folks seem to scratch the emulsion when the emulsion faces down and they scrape the emulsion along the bottom of the tray. So, if you lift the entire stack up before sliding a sheet out, I would suggest developing with emulsion face down. If you can drop the sheet you have removed perfectly flat without having a corner dig into the sheet below, I would suggest emulsion side up.

Good luck. Enjoy your camera. Cheers, DJ 3)

-- N Dhananjay (, June 04, 2002.

Thanks for the response.

Question #1 is actually referring to a focusing cloth, not focusing hood. Sorry for the confusion.

-- Curtis Nelson (, June 04, 2002.

When you say to use 125 ml, is that 125 ml D-76 + 125 ml water, or 125 ml total (D-76 + water)?

-- Curtis Nelson (, June 04, 2002.

I will address #1 only, I can add little of value to N Dhananjay's responses to 2 and 3.

I would be cautious about attaching the dark cloth to the camera. The wind can push the cloth around and depending on how sturdy the tripod is could cause the whole thing to come crashing to the ground if left unattended.

The cloth should be large enough to wrap completely around the back of the camera and still hang below the camera far enough that you can grab both sides in one hand. This will seal the cloth around the back of the camera and allow a free hand to make adjustments. You will need to gather the dark cloth up to put a clip on so why not utilize the most complex "clip" of all, your hand. It is also quite hard to misplace the "hand" clip. Like all things Large Format, this "dance of the dark cloth" takes time and practice to perfect.

Weights can be sewn in to the coners of the cloth. Just be prepared to be smacked in the mouth at least once, a rather unpleasent learning experience, but one you will definately profit from.

-- Marv (, June 04, 2002.

The "Dance of the Dark Cloth" can be simplified with a strip each of velcro hooks and loops. Squeeze the velcro together when you are focusing and remove the cloth before you move away from the camera.

-- Graeme (, June 04, 2002.

For developing, I love my Jobo reel and tank. I roll it by hand in a 68 degree water bath. I get nice, even development with no scratches.


-- Dave Willis (, June 05, 2002.

Regarding numbers 2 and 3 (3 first): I agree with DJ in that you'll get conflicting opinions about emulsion up or down, but I think the general concensus is emulsion side up, pull from the bottom of the stack, and place on top. Don't try to slide the neg under the solution; instead lay it on top and apply pressure to submerge it. This will avoid the notorious corner digs and scratches.

As far as developing in D-76 goes, why bother developing only a couple at a time? You'll easily be able to develop 6 or 8 4x5s in a liter of 1:1 in a 5x7 tray.

-- Chad Jarvis (, June 05, 2002.

Regarding darkcloths...

I got a BTZS darkcloth. It works much better than a normal darkcloth with velcro. The BTZS darkcloth is smaller and uses elastic to attach to the camera. It's great to have both hands free and it's very quick to attach. I've used it in heavy wind with no problem. It is sort of pricy, but I think worth it.


-- Noshir Patel (, June 05, 2002.

If you go the route of velcro for attaching the dark cloth, use small pieces and put the hook side on the camera. The hooks will fill with lint if attached to the cloth and quit sticking. Be gentle when removing the cloth, it's easy to move the camera when disengaging the stuff. I use clothes pins (wood, of course) to attach mine to my field camera. They won't work if your camera doesn't have some sort of lip on the rear standard.

-- Hal (, June 05, 2002.

The old standard recommendation is a minimum of 100ml stock before dilution per 80 square inches, so a 1:1 dilution is 200ml total. For a single 4x5 sheet, and by the above you should be able to develop the film with 25ml stock solution, but I think it best to err on the side of more, (plus you'll need to cover the film totally) so I use a minimum of 125ml stock for 80 sq, or in the case of developing a 35mm strip in a daylight tank, alot more stock to get dilution, in which case your covered. (Test for your own knowledge) For two sheets, one at a time, (maybe doing N+ or N- devloping) I use 4 Yankee utility tanks with a minimum of about 250ml total 1:2 solution which gives me a little more than necessary, but I need to use extra solution to cover the film. I use stainless holders for the film, cutting off the holder tops to lay the holder flat in the bottom of the tank. It's easier to handle the holder than the film to change tanks, and pouring out chemicals in the dark is no fun nor do I want to put my hands in the chemicals. Without the holders you could probably get by with 150ml. Consider a water bath to temper the lowered volume of chemical and keep it correct.

-- Wayne Crider (, June 05, 2002.

I use two ounces of D 76 1-1 per sheet of film (in BTZS tubes). I also second the recommendation of others that you spring for the $50 or so and get the BTZS dark cloth. In the overall context of large format photography costs, it's pretty small considering that you should only need to buy it once in your life and it will save you a lot of aggravation. BTW, congratulations on getting the camera and going right out to make some pictures. So many people seem to be afraid to use their cameras once they get them, or spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about which one to get (a personal failure of mine). They're made to be used, not worried over, so I think it's great that you just took it out and used it right off the bat.

-- Brian Ellis (, June 05, 2002.

I tell customers that buy our focusing cloths (and anyone else who uses one and asks) just to wrap the cloth around the camera back and clamp the cloth to itself underneith. You can use a teeny Jorgensen spring clamp for this (about 3")- get them at Home Depot, etc. A big problem with a big view camera like an 8x10 is using too small a focusing cloth. Around 4'x 5' is a good size for 4x5 and 5x7, I think you need at least a 5' x 6' for an 8x10. Lots of focusing cloths aren't really opaque either...

-- Anthony Guidice (, June 06, 2002.

Curtis, Let me add some distinctly minority views to the preceding responses.

#1 Dark cloth. I shoot on an 8x10 and my (homemade) darkcloth measures 5 by 7 feet and is none too big. Double layer of black cotton knit and totally opaque. Being that big, the cloth can be wrapped around the bellows and cover the top of the film holder. It's amazing how light can penetrate, esp. film holders. Lost a couple of good 8x10s to light leak--they were verticals and I suspect it was sunlight somehow entering from the top.

#2 D-76 developer. I'll add that in my experience the Kodak estimates of developer capacity have to be taken very seriously. It's not like film expiration dates; you can't cheat on them.

#3 Emulsion side up or down. We put so much into our shots, that I'm not willing to take a chance on scratches. I don't shuffle. I develop 8x10's one at a time in a 12x16" tray; 5x7's two at a time in the same tray. I move the film sheets; I don't rock the tray. (This technique also solves another problem, which you may not have, of rebound of developer off the side of the tray causing uneven development). I don't how much you plan to shoot, but on a typical outing we may shoot eight 8x10's and eight 5x7's. If it takes three hours one night every two weeks to develop acc. to this method, I consider it worth it. We want a few really good negs for years of future contact printing and enlarging.

Good light, Nick.

-- Nicholas F. Jones (, June 06, 2002.

Another minority opinion here:

I don't use a darkcloth... I use a black T-shirt instead! The nech opening fits perfectly around the back of a 4x5" camera, the sleeve openings provide access for one loupe-wielding hand, the other sleeve collapses flat, the wind-capture area is smaller than for "proper" darkcloths - and it's cheaper.

Of course, if I were shooting in Death Vally, the Negev Desert, Danakil, or some simlar area I might well consider getting a darkcloth with silvered or white outside. But I don't, so I don't...

-- Ole Tjugen (, June 07, 2002.

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