View Full Version : Salt spray and focusing in dim light.

9-Apr-2013, 23:34
Hello everyone,

I have been looking around for a 8x10 that will fight in a college student's budget.

Tonight as I was pondering the different options, two questions popped into my mind. What maximum aperture would I need to have decent ability to focus in low light? Typically sunset through twilight conditions. I'm asking this because I'm bidding on a Schneider 165 f/8. I might need to go with a Rodenstock 155 f/6.8 instead of a Nikkor 150 or the Schneider. More specifically, is f/8 useable? Obviously f/6.8 is better, but I would love to save money.

I do a lot of coastal photography on my 35mm digital system. Are there any other dangers of bringing a 8x10 system to the coast? I'm typically close enough to the waves that I get hit by water sometimes up to the knees. Would the salty misty air be a big threat to the 8x10? Here's an example.

Edit - How's an Ansco Universal for a starter camera? I see one for 510 buy it now. Everything is in working order as well as a new bellows that was installed. However one thing is missing which is the brass level indicator on the rear standard. How important is this piece?




10-Apr-2013, 02:26
Hopefully someone speak up soon. The auction on the ansco universal 8x10 ends in about 6 hours. It starts at 460 and buy it now at 510. I mentioned earlier that it is in great working condition, the owner did some restoration work on it.

"The restoration included cleaning, adjusting, and lubricating all parts of the camera as required. The brass fittings were all polished. Brand new bellows were fitted to the camera by Jim at Western Bellows Works and they are a thing of beauty."

The seller mentions that one thing is missing, "The camera is missing the brass level indictor from the right side of the rear standard."

Wondering if it's a good deal. My budget is small (college student) so I don't mind waiting for the right price, just don't want this chance to pass if it is a good one.

Cesar Barreto
10-Apr-2013, 04:35
I can't help you much about the question on lens maximum aperture, since I never tried to use it in any of my group of LF lenses. DOF and light fall-off are so limiting that I just take those large apertures convenient for viewing, nothing else..

On the other side, I have some experience working on similar enviroments as you propose and I would say that our cameras are much better fitted than digital ones. After a working day near the waves, most often I'll wash my Shen-Hao in the basin and I suggest you should never try the same trick with your DSLR. Of course, lenses deserve the same care despite the format and bellows should be protected if they are fixed, but most field cameras are made for this kind of situation and will be as good as new after a good shower.

Jim Jones
10-Apr-2013, 05:07
The level indicator isn't important. An inexpensive bullseye level from a hardware store works well enough.

I'm happy with small aperture lenses on large format cameras because they are often lighter and more compact. A good ground glass, focusing cloth, and perhaps magnifier are more valuable in dim light than fast lenses.

10-Apr-2013, 05:45
You're going to have a tough time in the water with an 8x10. Focusing with a dark cloth, calculating exposure, setting up lenses and eventually taking a shot is very time consuming. Shooting photographs like the beautiful one you posted above may be difficult since the waves will be moving the sand out from under your tripod constantly changing your composition.

I use the Nikkor-SW 75 f4.5 around the beaches here in Florida and I can try and focus in twilight but its still very difficult. Bring a flashlight to shine on some of your closer subjects to fine tune focusing.

Good luck.

10-Apr-2013, 05:51
That sounds like a steal for the Ansco, with the new bellows.

Salt water will damage an 8x10 far less than a digital camera. If you're a young college student with good eyes, don't worry about focusing an f8 lens under a dark cloth. Though you could look for a Fujinon-W f5.6 lens if you want more light (and a lot more weight to carry).

Have fun!

10-Apr-2013, 07:59
I like your beach photo there; do post your work when you get things going!

In low light, composition and getting the horizon level is more difficult than focusing. You can use a laser pointer to illuminate a target to focus on. But to compose you need to see everything.

For salt water, you might want a cheap surveying tripod. Wash it off when you are done.

Unless you NEED large negatives for contact printing/alt process, shooting 4x5 might provide a more college-budget friendly option as well with cheaper film and film holders and similar process.

Brian C. Miller
10-Apr-2013, 08:07
There's a difference between salt air and getting splashed with salt spray. Salt air won't do a thing for a quick visit. Salt spray isn't a good thing, ever. It's not really the camera that I would be worried about, it's the lens, specifically the shutter. For an environment with spray, I would definitely make a plastic cover, at least using a garbage bag taped up around everything.

From what you showed, I would say f/8 is no problem. There are a number of posts about focusing in low light conditions, and one of the things you can do is take a laser pointer with you. Focus on the dot, and then you know the rest of it will be fine.

As for the tripod in sand, if you shove the legs far enough down then it won't matter for the exposure. However, I'd use a tripod built for that, like a Benbo or Uni-Lock tripod. Some people don't like them, but I love them.

Drew Wiley
10-Apr-2013, 08:23
I live on the coast and shoot 8x10 all the time in salty conditions. Salt air can actually affect your equip quite a distance
from the beach itself. Anything ferrous is at risk of rust. It's quite corrosive and rots leather. Salt air leaves things sticky and smudges up your lenses. So at the end of the day I rinse my tripod off with fresh water, rinse my leather boots well (hopefully I had enough sense to wear an old pair if stomping in a soggy salt marsh per se). If my camera or its bellows feel
sticky, I wipe these down with a slightly moist microfiber cloth. Simple precautions like this seem to keep everything working
well year after year. Any lens, whether related to the camera or light meter, whatever, can be cleaned in the normal manner,
and should be. Salt spray will fog up a lens pretty fast. Of course, you can place a clear filter over it for composition, and remove this just before the actual shot. On the beach itself, and in
general, I prefer big wooden tripods for their bully mass, esp in sand. But if you buy a relatively cheap surveyor's tripod, you
will need to replace or coat any steel bolts etc to prevent rust. High-quality wooden photo tripods like Ries only use nonferrous metals, so merely need rinsing.

10-Apr-2013, 08:41
Whoa...somehow I missed the boat on the laser pointer. Never even thought of trying that. I'm glad I jumped in this conversation!

Drew Wiley
10-Apr-2013, 09:07
I wouldn't worry about dim light too much, at least not in the sense you described it. I have lenses with maximum apertures

Drew Wiley
10-Apr-2013, 09:12
... of f/12 which I use in the redwoods and at twighlight all the time on 8x10. No problem. Night photography is a different issue. And last month I was photographing a cave in Hawaii which was basically impossible. I did the general composition by viewing the scene thru my Nikon with a very fast lens, aimed the view camera appropriately, then located a few little reference highlights (which were themselves quite dim) as indicators and used a loupe for the tilts & focus. Never did know whether I got the shot or not till I developed the neg back home in the darkroom. I got it.

10-Apr-2013, 11:00
Thank you all for the wonderful advice. The laser pointer idea is great!

I was considering going into 4x5 for cost reasons, but I just couldn't convince myself after hearing so many great things about 8x10 (not to devalue the 4x5 format).

I agree that planting the legs of the tripod into the sand works well.

From the responses it seems that the Schneider 165 f/8 will be suitable.

I'm excited to say that I just won the Ansco Universal for 460 + 70 shipping from Canada (snuck out of class to place a bid).

Here's an image of the camera.


10-Apr-2013, 11:51
Sneaking out of class to buy a camera:) I use Auctionsniper dot com for my auction purchases.

10-Apr-2013, 12:23
Gud Luk with the 8x10 camera.
I'm having enough trouble learning to use my 4x5 monorail.

Jim Noel
10-Apr-2013, 15:07
You should have no problem with the f8. One of my lenses is f18, and I can focus it at dusk with my 84 year old eyes. You do need a good dark cloth large enough to wrap completely around the camera back with you inside it. Don't skimp and get a tiny one.

Brian Ellis
10-Apr-2013, 20:15
As the lens focal length increases the maximum aperture can be larger but still easy to use to compose and focus. There's a big difference between say f/9 on a 75mm lens and f/9 on say a 210mm lens. On the latter f/9 is usually fine for composing and focusing, on the former much less so.

Scott Davis
10-Apr-2013, 20:16
Nice camera - those Anscos are a beast to haul around, but they have a nice big lens board you can mount just about any lens on. To use a 150-165mm lens, you may need to get a recessed board, as that camera may not let you focus a lens that short to infinity. I had the junior sister to that in a 4x5/5x7 version, and I could almost but not quite focus my 110mm to infinity with it, and of course at infinity, there are zero movements because the bellows are completely compressed. If you don't have a recessed lens board, it shouldn't be too hard to make one.