Going “large”

I have enjoyed learning to use my 1900s halfplate (5×7) camera and love the images it can produce. However, starting with a piece of paper negative that size means the mounted image is less than 5×7. This means I can’t enter it for camera club competitions. The 5×7 size is a little too small also for selling as wall art – unless arranged with other images.

Having tried 10×8 photography using my cardboard cameras and being satisfied with the results I decided that it was time to “go large”.

So I have purchased via eBay a 10×8 full plate camera of a similar vintage, ( I sold on one of my two 5×7 cameras first). With apparently good examples going for £800, I was pleased to get an offer accepted on one in OK condition for less than half that price.

This camera has bellows in great condition, but needed some light repairs to splits and breaks in the wooden structure and mounting points. I use “chair repair” runny PVA glue to get into the cracks and clamp overnight to effect these repairs.

The metal parts on this “New Countess” are aluminium rather than brass. Some of these parts needed straightening which was a tense but successful process.

With a good dousing of leather “reviver” on the bellows and a cautious sprinkling of graphite powder on the sliding surfaces much of the renovations have been done.

Some home-made PVA and sawdust filler were needed to fill a light-leaking crack in one of the two film slides.

The lens that came with the camera is an F11 10 inch focus length example with a rotating disc of aperture holes. F11 is a bit restrictive so I have made some additional lens boards to fit, using the original one as my pattern. I can now use any of my lenses with this camera, including the Thornton Pickard shutter for short exposures.

The last modification to the camera was to make a strong tripod mount from a disc of 12mm plywood and sunken bolt-screw arranging to take a standard tripod screw.

I taped strips of photographic paper to the slides in order to test the camera and was pleased to find no light leaks from the camera and only the cracked slide needing additional repair. Now happy with the camera I ran three test shots with some 10×8 sheets of photographic paper. I pre-flash the paper to reduce the contrast and for the first shot I over did this so the whole sheet was dark. The next two shots were much better. At this point I was having to guess the F stop as I hadn’t seen the indistinctly scratched numbers on the F-stop disc. Therefore the exposures are a little dark,

The glass focussing screen is not original and quite a thick and murky piece of glass – hard to use. So I have ordered a replacement to be made ( https://www.ebay.com/usr/virgisst ).

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