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Thread: Coming of Age

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2004

    Coming of Age

    After hearing the romantic siren call of large format photography since taking a photo intro class in 1987, I've decided to give in to the temptation. I'm awaiting a camera and lens that I bought at online auction and need a bit more advise as I get started.

    After doing some soul searching I decided I'd rather start with a monorail, and L-frames looked appealing. After loosing on a couple of bids for Horseman LE models, I was successful with a Cambo Master PC. I'm sure this camera is most at home in a studio (it weighs 16 pounds!), but it folds flat and I got it with a brief-style case for carying around in the car or whatever. For the price of a new D100 body I've gotten a really nice 4x5 body, multicoated 150mm lens, case, film holders and dark cloth; something of an anti-digital statement, I guess.

    My current tripod is insufficient for this weight, so I've sold it. I'm considering a Berlebach 8023 as replacement. Any opions about that? And would it cramp my style too much to begin without a head, relying only on the camera base tilt etc.?

    Also, I'm not quite clear on polaroid instant films. I've read the primer on this site that briefly describes the various films, but I don't understand what is required for the emulsions that need a coating. Do the coating supplies come with the film, or is that something separate?

    And one more thing. I have a 4x5 enlarger and am anxious to do some 4x5 processing. I'll probaly start with trays, but am interested in the homemade BTSZ-like tubes. I've seen plans for the tubes, but the details seem rather vague to me, and I can't envision how the tubes are used. Can somebody point me toward comprehensive instructions?

    Thanks very much. I know similar questions have been asked in the past, but I need help putting this all together.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Sep 2001

    Coming of Age

    Hi Tom,

    A set of commercially made BTZS tubes are available from The View Camera Store for $140 + shipping. The tubes come with instructions for use. the principal advantages of the tubes: they are easy to use; they are economical of materials; they produce reliably even development; much of the process can be done in subdued room light; you can do different films in different developers for different times in the same run -- up to a maximum of six films in a run.

    You might call Fred Newman at the View Camera Store. If you tell him you are interested in perhaps getting a set of tubes, he might be willing to copy and send you the instructions, so that you can see exactly how it is done.

    If you make your own tubes, be sure that the tops are the right size to hold the necessary amount of developer, and that they can be screwed and unscrewed quickly, and yet are leak proof. Unless you are handy with tools, I do think it would be worth the money to get the commercially made set. It is a wonderful way of developing large format B&W negatives.

    Since you are considering doing without a tripod head, I infer that money is tight. Nonetheless, I strongly urge you to aquire a solid pan & tilt head on the used market. I would think it would be completely exasperating to try to work with a view camera without a tripod head. You will find large format challenging enough without making the operation of a view camera even more difficult than it inevitably is.

    Good luck, and welcome aboard.

  3. #3

    Coming of Age

    Polaroid material which require coating come supplied with the necessary coater sticks.

    Re: tripod choice, go back and check the archives on that one. There's got to be a lot of material since the subject seems to come up fairly frequently. I have my favorite, as does everyone else. But the best choice for you will depend upon how you're using the camera. My Ries is great in the field, but would be pretty awkward in a studio situation.

    Best of luck,

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    Coming of Age

    Instructions for the BTZS tubes are here:

    which is linked to from:

    if your browser will not load PDF documents.

    I did try making some DIY versions but finding the right bits and pieces proved impossible locally. I now use a Jobo CPE2, but if I was going to use the tubes, and especially if I lived in the US, I would simply just buy a set and avoid all the faffing about.


  5. #5

    Join Date
    Oct 2003

    Coming of Age

    I'm gonna piggy back on this one Is it possible to develope by inspection with the tubes? It does not seem possible to me but maybe it can.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Oct 2003

    Coming of Age


    welcome to the support group

    It sounds like you are off to a good start. I should have started with a mono-rail. Be careful of the polaroid it is a beast that can get way expensive because it is so easy to use for test shots.

  7. #7
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Rio Rancho, NM

    Coming of Age

    I concur with the previous suggestions of getting a sturdy head. Remember, tilts on the camera only move the lens standard or the back - they don't tilt the camera itself. Without a head, you'd be stuck with trying to adjust the legs to shoot slightly up or down. The head is particularly important with a monorail, as the long distribution of weight puts a lot of stress on the relatively small attachment point. Most of the better heads have weight specs, so be sure to check the manufacturer's site or data - even if buying used.

  8. #8

    Coming of Age

    If you’re broke, patience (and sometimes brute strength) can be substituted for many a gadget, that said…

    Yes do get a tripod head. A bunch of people cast off their bogen 3047 heads when they move up to ball heads; the 3047 is a great three-way head and up to the task of your 16# camera. Check the net for sales.

    Do check the threads in this and other forums for possible tripods and the net for their prices. Make sure your choice of head and legs is compatible. IMHO, you don’t need as heavy a tripod as is commonly thought, I am one for setting up on high (on my car-top sometimes) ground instead of cranking up the tripod. You can also use a stepladder (with a head bolted on it) in place of a tripod until your finances come around.

    Man, I bet I have received some weird looks in the photographic situations I put myself into, but I have fun for cheap and my photographs never show what I had to do to get them.

  9. #9

    Coming of Age

    Tom, here is a link to my homemade tubes:

    phil sweeney's website

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jan 2004

    Coming of Age

    Thanks to all! Many helpful replies.

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