View Full Version : Seneca 5x7 Improved View Lenses and Film

Eric Johnson
23-Apr-2002, 13:19
Hi, I just acquired a Seneca 5x7 Improved View from my grandfather. I have only 3 double-sided film holders and one Bausch and Lomb lens with a resolving power down to about 14 inches. I was told there were other lenses, but they were los t. I would like to know if anybody can tell me about using the f-stops on it, a nd what film and shutter speeds are good together and such. I do some 35-mm B&W and do my own developing, so I have some background in photography already. An y info would help. Thanks

Colin Carron
23-Apr-2002, 14:59

The book says your Improved View 5x7 is 1905 - 25 vintage. It will take some determination on your part to use this camera but essentially it is quite possible. I have a 1905 Sanderson cmaera and have used that to get some excellent shots (at least I thought so)

If you have never tried LF before you should read up on it to get an idea of the picture taking process. There are several books which tell you the details (eg view camera basics by Stroebel) and although these are designed for modern cameras the basics are still the same. But for a vintage camera there are some additional obsracles to overcome. The camera : Are there light leaks in the bellows? Are the front and back of the camera in working order. Ground glass in place for focussing? Do the film holders work smoothly?

Once you are happy the camera is ok then you will have to adapt the film holders to take modern sheet film. They were designed for glass plates. You will have to work out whether you can use modern 5x7 sheet film. If so then that can be loaded in a darkrrom into the holders with a sheet of card behind it to put it into the right position. You might find you will need to use the next smaller film size which is 5x4. You will have to use yur ingenuity to work out exactly how to mount the film sheet.

The lens is your next problem. Does the shutter still work ok ? (assuming the lens has a shutter.) If it sounds reasonably accurate then check the glass. If you look through the lens at a light does the glass look clear? Does it form a decent image on the ground glass ? If the lens is still useable then you are ready to start but if not you will have to find another lens which covers the film size you are using. This would not be cheating as the choice of lens with LF cameras has always been a matter of personal preference.

Good luck !

A word of caution: I started off this way and ended up hooked on LF photography. You have been warned.

Eric Johnson
23-Apr-2002, 18:11
First i have to marvel at the speed with which i got a response. This is my first experience with a forum and i thank you for your time to look up and compose this.

I have fiddled a bit with the camera, and the iris and the shutter settings all seem to be perfect, and the plate holders appear to be for film, not glass, because of the narrow retainer slots. All the adjustments for pitch and angles and alignment work well.

The groung glass is perfect and the lens itself is clear, and i have had it out on its tripod and set up recently. The lens will focus vey sharply on anything al;l the way down to about 14 inches from the lens.

I am at a high school which has a darkroom, where I caught the camera bug in the first place. Unfortunately, they only have a special no-tone film only for use in a print press, and no good for photographs. I did cut a sheet, however, and put it in the camera with the shutter closed and moved the bellows in and out, and then developed the film. It came out with no streaks, so i presume the camera is light-tight.

The camera is missing the extender track, so the bellows only goes so far, but with my current lens i do not need it anyways.

I am looking for any experience anybody has had with f-stops for these things as I do not yet have a light meter nor do I know how to work one. Thanks again

Chris Partti
23-Apr-2002, 20:40
Assuming that your lens has a normal f-stop scale (not necessarily the case, since some very old lenses used a different scale)--that is, including some part of the progression 2.0, 2.8, 4.0, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, 32, 45, 64--you can calculate exposures the same way you would with your 35mm, and even use the 35mm camera's exposure meter. Set the ASA/ISO on the 35mm camera to match the film you are using in the Seneca, find the right shutter speed/aperture combination on the 35mm camera, and you can use that for the Seneca. Now you may want to use smaller apertures (ie., higher f-stop numbers) on the Seneca than you do for 35mm. Just compensate by doubling the exposure time for each step you increase f-stop on the progression listed above. For example, if your 35mm camera says the proper exposure is f/11 at 1/125 seconds, you could also use f/32 (3 steps higher than f/11) at 1/15 seconds. Beware that this relationship will start to break down as exposures exceed about 1 second (known as "reciprocity failure"), in which case exposure times will have to be increased more.

Steve Gangi
23-Apr-2002, 20:59
I have the larger version of your camera, the 8x10 Improved. If it is like mine and there is no reason to think it isn't, you can use any modern 5x7 film holders... Lisco, Fidelity, Kodak, etc. Get some more whenever you can. You will enjoy it, it's very light for a view camera. The f-stops are probably just like your 35mm, except big camera people tend to stop down more, say f/8 to f/32. As far as film, everyone has their own opinion. I like TMax100, others hate it. I like Tri-X and Ilford black&white films also. There are not as many 5x7 films as there used to be, but there are enough to find one you like.

Eric Johnson
23-Apr-2002, 21:43
Hello all, Thank all you very much for your responses and time in sending them. I am heading to a camera store in my area, Gene Hackers in Hackensack, NJ. I will write back to-morrow with the results of my journey. Theank you again and I hope I am lucky finding film. If not, I will be back to bother you all about finding film.

Till then, Eric

John Kasaian
24-Apr-2002, 01:39
Eric,if you can't find 5x7 film locally, you might want to try Freestyle Sales. 5x7 Arista 125 or 400 ISO is 20.99/25 sheets. A-r-i- s-t-a is how they spell Ilford in Hollywood where www.freestlyephoto.biz is located. Good Luck! Your new camera sounds like a lot of fun!

Struan Gray
24-Apr-2002, 04:41
If you want to save on film costs while you experiment, you can always put printing paper in the film holders and make a paper negative.

There are also ways to develop lithographic film for normal pictorial contrast, usually by developing in a print developer like Dektol. So you may be able to use your school's plate making film after all.

Once you get going though, you will want 'real' film, and for that the cheapest source is almost always Freestyle's own brand, which common knowledge reckons is Ilford by another name. Good stuff, and cheap.

Colin Carron
24-Apr-2002, 05:04

If you are have no light meter available a standby is the 'sunny 16' rule. 1) Find out your film speed - say it is 100ASA for example 2) set your shutter speed to 1/100 sec 3) set your aperture to f16 for sunny weather, f11 for bright cloudy, f8 for cloudy etc. To get a fuller idea get on to google and type in 'sunny 16'