View Full Version : going "larger" (collecting 2 by 2 cents...)

Janko Belaj
12-Jun-2005, 07:21
(some thoughts on sunny Sunday's afternoon... at least here in Europe, might be same over the ocean when you log on your screen after the lunch. and, please, on any clumsy sentences you find, do remember that english isn't my first language)

Reading last few threads about "other formats", about landscape in 35mm, it came (back) to my mind that I would really like to make larger contact prints. I started as a kid with 35mm, 22 and 28 DIN film, went to 8 or 14 DIN for finer grain, later to ISO 25 or 50 on 6x6 (cm) cameras, 800 or more on 35mm... (yes, ISO standard wasn't "here" when I started, good I didn't have to learn GOST system). Today I'm playing with 25 on 4x5 and 6.5x8.5". Fine grain, decent enlargements (or scans) but I want contact prints.
Well, 8x10" (or 18x24cm) looks to me like fine size, but... *but*, there is also always "bigger is ***er"... At least, easier for my parents and grandparents to see the print. So, do I "want" 20x24"? Probably not for reason that II want to shot mostly landscapes with that camera. But some "table tops" (or likes) too. Either extensions would be way to big, either the camera would be to heavy.

I have a sketch of what I would like to build (have just reinstalled my computer and don't have Freehand on it now, so I will re-draw my idea in Photoshop) - some 12x20 with concave back. With custom build lens... if the students in local optical school will be able to build such thing. Lens will be enlarged redesign of Goerz Hypergon. Concave back to avoid light fall-off on the left and right side. some vertical shift would be possible, maybe some back tilt as well. Don't know what to use as material. Metal might be easier to use, but than without tilt.

http://belaj.com/unsorted/rough_sketch.gif (http://belaj.com/unsorted/rough_sketch.jpg" target="blank)

Anyway, just an idea which is standing around for some time and might not be realized at all. (same as my idea to build body which will use Sinar's lens holder and ground glass with film holder... I just bought Tachihara ;-))

O.K., back to my primary thoughts - to switch or jump on larger (in my case UL) format isn't that easy - completely new system have to be bought. If I switch to 8x10, maybe I will be able to use my 210mm G-Claron as wide angle lens, but that is all. O.K., I hope I won't need new tripod and new car. Few backs - 10 shots is what I would like have in case I really go far away from home and If I find really "really good shots/scenery". I do like new stuff. New double film holders... on 12x20 it's about $500... waaaaaaaay too much for me. And than, where to look for used camera larger than 8x10? 11x14 or 12x20 are formats I like. Which lenses to choose or look for? How much does such system weight? (I'm afraid that most of such cameras are on north-America market, so I will need to pay a lot for shipping)... To go back on (dreaming about) 8x10 or to keep thinking about ULF?

tnx for sharing your thoughts and/or experience,

John D Gerndt
12-Jun-2005, 08:08
As someone who has built his own camera for similar reasons I can recommend that you NOT jump up to 12x20. There is a thread on this topic that I wish was in place before I built but a lesson learned the hard way is one learned forever.

There is such a thing as "human sized". By this I mean arm length, arm strength, ability to pass through human sized doors and other matters of scale all must be taken into acount. I had to build new sinks, new water delivery systems, new contact printing devices, new cabinets for drying film and all if it seemed to require a bit more room than I had in my basement.

7x17 is a darn-good size. I will rebuild in this size this winter. This summer I will struggle with the monster I made and use up the film I bought. 7x17 might also allow you a chance to rebuild some old holders instead of buying new. I think this long-lived format is just right for a guy trying to get the most out of a single piece of film.


John Kasaian
12-Jun-2005, 08:12

My own route to ultra large format negatives was through a pinhole camera using paper negatives. While I never mastered the contraption, it was a great deal of fun, very inexpensive, and really whetted my appetite for the really big stuff. The box was the one my computer came in. A bit of aluminium flashing inside forming an arc to hold the paper 'film' equi-distant from the pin hole. A bit of brass shim stock to pierce, a spray can of flat black 'blackboard' paint, gaffer's tape and some 16x20 enlarging paper were the main components.

OTOH, Igor's Camera Exchange still has a 12x20 F&S with a holder for under $1500 listed (if you want immediate gratification) The 450 Nikkor M covers 12x20 just fine.

A really interesting combination would be a 90mm Hypergon on an 8x10. If the local optical school students could build one for you I think you'd have quite a prize. Check the homepage at http://www.glennview.com for a neat photo of the Chicago waterfront taken with that combination. You might get close with a storebought 120 Nikkor W on 8x10.

Good Luck!

Ole Tjugen
12-Jun-2005, 08:12
Janko, there's one serious flaw in your plan: The Hypergon gives a flat image field. So with a curved film plane, you won't get sharp focus except in the center!

On the other hand, there are several 30x40cm (12x16") ex-Soviet plate cameras around, for an acceptable price, even some new ones!

John D Gerndt
12-Jun-2005, 08:20
Addendum: I have not shot with 11x14, but if one presented itself to me I would gladly abandon my 7x17 project. Much of life is about opportunity. Do seize what comes you way!

As to lenses, much has been written about them on this site and others. I have to say I have come to admire the work of many a photgrapher that uses only one lens for all his or her work. They have learned exactly what that one lens does and how to exploit it. It is a reminder to me to buy and shoot film and stop buying/fretting about lenses. A 305mm G Claron would serve you well in either 11x14 or 7x17 and you are already familiar with its MTF or "look". I would go that route...

Janko Belaj
12-Jun-2005, 08:50
Well John, I believe I'm lucky to have darkroom for really large sizes. We (few my friends and I) have adopted one basement as darkroom, there are now 4 enlargers from Leitz Focomat up to 8x10 Elwood, all needed trays etc, etc... Sure, there are some things I will need to rebuild, but I don't think that I have to work that much as you had to. And for arm length... yes, full sized 12x20 with some 800mm monster would require me to search for some "arm surgery"... somehow I don't want that ;-))

Here we came to Ole's note - Yes, Hypergon would have such flat image filed, but that my future redesigned lens (only based on Hypergon) would be much less perfect. From calculations of one optician I know, I will need something about 250mm what will produce 4/3 stop fall-of with small focus shift - that sketch is really rough - holder would be just about 5cm (2 inch) "deep" ending with something like 2/3 light fall-of and with slightly more uniform focus. As that is just in idea-phase, I'm still collecting professional thoughts and calculations. I think that final picture (silver contact prints, later maybe platinum prints) won't show that focus-shift when lens will be stopped down to something like 32 or 64... don't know, just thinking.

John (second one;-), tnx for links - I'm not able to buy camera right now, maybe not evan this year... and yes - that my sketch came from pinhole camera which was "improved" with piece of glass.

As for "normal" lens (or ordinary, i.e. factory build lens) for 11x14, I was thinking about 355mm G-Claron. Maybe 305, but I do like somewhat "narrower wide-angle look". Like 40mm on 35mm film, 60mm on 6x6, or like 135mm on 4x5". Or "slightly wider normal" lens. Take it however you like ;-))

Paul Fitzgerald
12-Jun-2005, 09:01

Interesting idea BUT why not go with a swinging lens, curved film, scanning design from a century ago, just keep it perfectly level. Kodak makes / made Aero films in 9 1/2" X 250 - 3000', you can find rolls on Ebay most of the time. 9"X27" would be large enough for contacts and small enough to handle. Kodak Aero films should start #24xx (heavy Estar base) NOT #34xx (ultra thin base) and they can all be processed in any B&W developer system.

Good luck with it.

Paul Fitzgerald
12-Jun-2005, 10:13
Hi there,

a link to Kodak Aero films:


they do still make them

John Kasaian
12-Jun-2005, 15:38
Regarding the aero films:
You're better off getting them from Mr. Photo(he has an eBay store) dated but frozen.(and IMHO excellent!) To buy this stuff direct from kodak requires a minimum order as costly as a three bedroom house unless you can find an aerial photography outfit who'll sell you some of theirs. As an alternative Photo Warehouse and J and C also have Cirkut film in conventional emulsions and SGT has(had?) some similar roll film for industrial purposes in very short(18'?) lengths.


13-Jun-2005, 10:05
I gave a great deal of thought to what ULF size I wanted, and decided upon 12x20. It is extremely difficult to judge how big is too big till you have the camera in your hands. For me, 12x20 is too large for regular use. The bother of taking the thing into the field, combined with the cost and bother of each individual exposure, overwhelmed me. The 12x20 sits in the closet, while I await a new 11x14. I can easily carry an 8x10 on my back, and am hopeful that the 11x14 will also be conveniently, if not easily, transportable that way.

Edward (Halifax,NS)
13-Jun-2005, 11:14
Another thing to consider is film cost. I find that I can afford to take my Yashica Mat out alot more often then my 4X5. When I do take my 4X5 out it is for a maximum of 8 pictures. If I were to have an 11X14 or 12X20 I might be able to take 1 picture a month. If you can afford to use the camera enough to make yourself happy then go for it - but it is something to consider.

Janko Belaj
14-Jun-2005, 02:09
Tnx for your ideas.
well, I have no intention to walk with 12x20 camera more than few steps from car. specially not with this think I draw on beginning of this thread. 11x14, folded... that's another story. I don't have to buy such camera tomorrow or this year, right now just collecting your opinions.
Paul, I have no idea how to build camera you suggested. Will that be something like "horizont" in 35mm? Do you have any link?
As for film, my intention is to order ISO 25 efke film. They are ready to cut few sheets of ortho emulsion for me when I start with building that camera (if I will start), and latter I will order few boxes of so called "ortho-pan" emulsion. That said, I'm not afraid of cost of the film as I will order from and pay to directly from (local ;-)) factory.

Paul Fitzgerald
14-Jun-2005, 20:11
Hi Janko,

No plans but the drawing you posted is very close. I don't know the "horizont" but I was thinking more like the Kodak panaromic #1 - 4 from 1900's, look on ebay for one.

The lens pivots on it's focal center, has a leather bag 'bellows' to seal out light, and has a flattened funnel with a slit on the back of the lens that almost reaches to the film plane. The slit is narrow and 'scans' the image onto the film. The radius of the curve for the film plane is the back focus length for the lens from the pivot point, I guess at the hyper-focal distance for the most used f/stop.

Making the pivot should only take bending some bar stock and brazing it to the flange ring. To swing the lens, I guess a drop weight thru a pulley arrangement, maybe a fan type air brake to slow it down. A full blown whirly-gig! Yes it would be a project but the advantage is that any lens that can throw a 9" circle would cover 9X27" and it uses a barrel lens.

It's just a thought and I do have all the bits&bobs to build one but I have too many projects and not enough time to get to this one. Good luck with it. If you build one do post some pics.