2009-06-10

Comedy of Errors

I was browsing the used gear section of B&H a while back (never a wise thing to do) and came across a used pinhole camera. This one:



It was selling for $45 so I thought, "Why not?" It's not that expensive, and it'll give me a chance to try large format on the cheap. I now realize that, in the world of large format, there is no such thing as "on the cheap". By the time I added film, film holders, daylight tank, taxes, shipping, and brokerage my cheap entry into large format was pushing close to $600. All for a lousy used pinhole camera.

I got all the stuff and spent an evening in deep dive. The first thing I did was to get a sheet of film and try to figure out how to load the film holders in the light. At first I tried to slide the film in from the top where the dark slide goes. This obviously didn't work. I was really struggling to figure out how to do this when I accidentally flipped out the bottom edge of the holder. Eureka!

Unfortunately, it just got worse. I tried loading three holders in the dark. While I was loading the film I accidentally turned on the lights with the box of film still open. Twice. I had to throw away four sheets just to be sure.

With the holders loaded I did six test shots from my balcony. The website for the camera maker listed an exposure time of two seconds for 400 speed film on a sunny day. From this I calculated that the aperture must be around f/256. I did six test shots with shutter speeds from 2 to 60 seconds. The 60 second shot was completely overexposed. The others weren't much better.

I assembled the Combi tank and developed the negatives. I didn't get the agitation right because all the negative had underdeveloped patches. I ended up throwing away the entire batch of negatives.

I had better luck a few days later. I went up to the university on a bright sunny day. I shot at 2 seconds in direct sunlight and 8 seconds in the shade. I also changed my development method. The last time I was inverting the tank. This time I simply swirled the tank instead of inverting. The negatives turned out much better.





However, the entire exercise turned out to be a complete disaster for two reasons. First, I found that I hate pinhole photography. I prefer tack-sharp images to the blurry, fuzzy image from the pinhole. Yeah, it's kinda cool that you can take pictures with nothing more than a wooden box with a hole in it, but there's a reason why the photo gods invented L glass.

The second reason why it's a disaster is, I love 4x5 negatives! Why is this a bad thing? Because now I want to do more 4x5s, but with better gear. I am now considering buying a 4x5 view camera, but who knows where this will lead. 5x7? 8x10? Whole plate? Then there's the world of alternative processes, which is a whole new level of madness. Arrg!

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