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Thread: Ideal changing tent/portable darkroom

  1. #1

    Ideal changing tent/portable darkroom

    Since I have lots of blackout material left, I am thinking of making a changing tent/portable darkroom for my summer trips. It would be used to load 4x5 film holders and to transfer exposed film to my Combi-Plan tank for processing away from home. [Ah, the advantages of a daylight tank ;-) ]

    What are the best features that you would incorporate in a changing tent?

    For those that have commercial tents, how are the zippers made light-tight?

    Thanks gang! (And Happy New Year!)

  2. #2

    Ideal changing tent/portable darkroom

    For years I tried to find a portable darkroom. There was a point that JOBO out of England had them but when it came time, they had none available. Was told that some that had been built for the Military were around but never found one. You might again check with JOBO

  3. #3

    Ideal changing tent/portable darkroom


    I've got a PhotoFlex Changing Room that works for 4x5. It's got spring-loaded hoops to hold it open in a nice big cube, a silver-coated outer shell, black jacket sleeves for my arms and two zippers in the loading area. Looks like they made it two layers thick everywhere.

    I got mine pretty cheap used - $40, I think - not sure if it's worth making one or not at that price.

    Regards, David

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Minneapolis, Minn

    Ideal changing tent/portable darkroom


    I have the Harrison 4x5 tent and I have been extremly happy with it. Big, roomy and durable. It has 4 shock corded poles that set up like a small dome camping tent. I don't think you can make a durable changing tent out of blackout material and have it stand up to the rigors of the field. That is where you need it to perform the most; out in the field since you are away from your normal processing facility.

    All in all, changing tents are excellent tools if you don't have a whole bunch of holders available.

  5. #5

    Ideal changing tent/portable darkroom

    I've got 2 tents which both appear to use standard zippers, but the zippers open and close in opposing directions. Also, behind each zipper, on the interior side, there's light baffle made of fabric that hangs behind each zipper's length.

    Also, the sleeves are doubled as well, with an elastic cuff for each. I usually place on just above my elbow and one just below.

    A detail that could easily be overlooked is the height of the tent and placement of the sleeves as you'll use it in relation to your arms. My Calumet changing tent has the sleeves in the center of the front of the tent, as opposed to the harrison tents which have the sleeves at the bottom. This means that if I try to use the Calument tent at a standard-height table, my arms have to be held at an uncomfortably high level, like reaching over a wall. I haven't tried the Harrison versions, but mounting near the floor of the bag would seem to be a better configuration for the sleeves, as you're normally working with things lying on the floor of the tent.


  6. #6

    Ideal changing tent/portable darkroom

    Ditto on the height of the arm holes. I made a changing box and the arm holes are a bit too high.
    Perhaps a little extra fabric in this area would allow for different arm positions.

    Most changing bags have 2 zippers with a fold of cloth in between to act as a light trap.

    For LF, the most important feature is the width of the tent/bag, which I say should be about 3-4 times the length of the film holder. Figure that you need to open the dark-slide, insert the film, and have enough room for your hands.

  7. #7

    Ideal changing tent/portable darkroom

    ditto the harrison tent. I have the pup, which is probably too small for tank work, since I use trays, and gaffer tape to close up the bathroom light tight, spread out the trays in the tub and kneel and develop (get something padded to kneel on). I used to use tanks, but the control is not available, and you can't do inspection, which I think is important.

    I notice the Harrison is silvered-you suppose that helps when working with Infra red?

    The tent has been a joy to work in- I used to have the old flat changing bag.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    Ideal changing tent/portable darkroom

    I also have the Harrison Pup tent. The sleeves are well placed for loading film holders as Ted indicated, but... they are a bit low when loading tanks! I used to load my Jobo 25xx series reels and tanks in the tent before I built a proper darkroom and although cramped, it is doable. For a DIY design you might be better off with something the size of the larger version. Thinking about it, the Combiplan is probably easier to load than the Jobo reels (though I admit is not hard to find something easier to load than the Jobo 4x5" reels!).

    Most changing bags/tents seem to use a double layer of material and avoid getting the seams of the inner and outer material in the same place - ditto zippers. Seams and zippers can also have extra fabric sewn behind them to make a light-blocking flap.

    I'd check the prices of used tents unless you enjoy the creative process of making it yourself, which I would have thought would need some considerable experience of sewing zips etc. I made a focussing darkcloth, but that's about the limit of my sewing abilities...

    Good luck, Bob.

  9. #9
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Stuck inside of Tucson with the Eastern Seaboard Blues again...

    Ideal changing tent/portable darkroom

    I have a Harrison tent in the size suggested for 8x10, but find it quite small for dealing with film, holders, and slides. Also, the contortions/rotations necessary increase the likelyhood of dust on the negative.

    No problems with light leaks, though. There are two sets of zippers, one inside from the other, and I close them in opposite directions. I'm debating building a big rigid box w/ sleeves that would fit in the back of my truck...
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

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