Sunday 7 October 2012

Camera fair challenge

There will be more on the epidiascope shortly. Today was the day of the Wolverhampton Camera fair, and as usual this was a lot of fun. And to spice it up a number of us made each other a challenge, which is the subject of this blog post.

Under a tenner

The challenge was to buy kit for under £10 and use it to take a photograph that very afternoon. That means there's little time for tinkering or mending and using additional kit from home is cheating.

One approach would be to get a cheap throw away camera. Another was to get a toy camera such as a Diana or similar, or a semi-working 35mm camera. Light leaks if any would be part of the fun.

I decided to put together an antique 1/4 folder from broken parts. I picked up a broken body with no lens or film holders and a cracked glass screen for £3, a old lens (not original to this camera, in fairly poor condition with non-working shutter) for £2, and from a separate stall got a small set of rather rusty plate holders for £2.

Old quarter plate folder

A number of people at the camera fair today had quite a lot of old glass plates for sale, and I love using these. I did a lot of searching in dealers' junk boxes and eventually bought a pack of 12 for £2.50 and that brought my total to £9.50 for the challenge. Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment putting everything together over lunch, I couldn't figure how to load the plates into the holders. Eventually I gave up and used some antique sheet film I had brought with me instead (bought on ebay for a similar price).

Quarter plate film

I used the film on the right. As you will see shortly, I would have been better with the glass. But the holders had metal sheet film sheaths in them, and these sheaths had rusted tight so I couldn't see how to get them out. Pity. (The sheaths come out by pushing them down against the spring at the bottom. A strong fingernail was needed to undo the effect of the rust gluing the pieces together.)

Putting it together

The lens and shutter goes into the obvious hole in the front of the camera and are held in place by a retaining ring. This ring was very difficult to turn, and I had to leave the lens in a somewhat wobbly state. (In fact, I found later it was not the correct ring as it had the wrong thread. What you get from rummaging through junk boxes.) I improvised a film canister lid as a lens cap and shutter. And loaded the film into the holders in the dark bag I had brought with me.

Old quarter plate folder

At least it's starting to look like a camera now!

I was lucky that the lens (a Beck Mutar 4.75 inch) I had picked was only a centimetre shorter in focal length than the one the camera was designed to take. So I could focus reasonably well onto the broken screen.

The plan was to use the lens on its smallest aperture (f32, or so the shutter said) and use the improvised lens cap as shutter for exposures of about 1s. This was rating the film at about 20ISO. The first attempt was a failure as the film came out of the holder when making the exposure. (It seems the holder is a little too large for the film, or the film too small. Both say 3.25x4.25" but the film does date 50 years after the holder.) I just about managed to succeed to make the next two exposures, but the fourth also suffered from the film coming out of the holder.


I hardly expected the results to be hi-fi.... Note that I trimmed the negatives to be long and thin so that I can scan them with my 120 film scanner.

New camera

This was taken with the camera on the ground, and the lens wide open. At least it's recognisably an image...

Some spaghetti

This has a bad mark SE to middle E where the film accidentally came out of the holder and got folded when I returned the darkslide. It is also fogged at the top because the dark slide didn't go all the way. Ho hum. But at least it has some life to it, and apart from the film problem mentioned there are no other obvious light leaks or problems!

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