Tag Archives: camera

Refurbishing Antique Bellows Cameras

The Blog writing has been on the back burner whilst I spent time refurbishing my two 1900s, mahogany and brass bellows camera.

The Boots camera is a single-rack camera and less useful so I decided to refurbish this one keeping it as original as possible. The Hora camera is slightly more modern by 10 -20 years and has a double rack and pinion adjustment making it much more useable since focussing can be accomplished without changing the distance between the lens and the object. This Hora camera then was to be refurbished to make it as useable as possible.

Each camera was stripped down, as far as possible, to its component parts. IMG_3023  The wood was cleaned with “Soft Finish” remover to gently lift off grime leaving the patina intact. The wood was finished with liquid wax. All sliding surfaces had a light dressing of graphite powder to ease movement.

The brass was in a badly corroded state in many places.

The worst was treated to a light sanding with 600 wet&dry then polished with a cream cleaner. After completing the first camera my fingers hurt so I purchased a battery powered Dremel to do the buffing. However this new Dremel was dreadfully underpowered and stalled with the lightest pressure at the slow and medium speeds. After finishing the cleaning using the high speed only I returned the Dremel to Amazon who refunded me fully.

As the pictures show the bellows of the newer, Hora camera have had a lot of bookbinding tape applied to cover light leaks.

IMG_2862

IMG_3057

I bought, from a supplier in China, replacement bellows and glued them in place with flexible adhesive. Whilst the new bellows are fully light tight they are less stiff that the original and sag quite a bit. To address this I have attached a brass ring to the middle section of the bellows and use a tensioning wire to hold the bellows up. This is a period feature on some other cameras of this type.

The Boots camera had its glass screen cleaned with 1200 grit wet&dry carborundum paper. I still haven’t removed all the marks, but the glass is much clearer in use. It does still need new bellows but I want to locate a leather type to look more original than the Chinese polyester version.

Both cameras have now been completed.

because of the cleaning and lubricating graphite, are much easier to use. and I have taken some very pleasing images with them since the refurbishments, an example of which is below. More images to follow in my next blog.

Flowers_PS_pos-1

Success with the antique camera and shutter

Well, some success and still some failures(learning opportuntites). Saggy bellows have caused a shadow on the negative and one or two film holders have small gaps – now filled.  But the ones that workd I am very pleased with.

The big challenge is metering correctly to set the exposure. I realised that in trying to increase the exposures I had been getting, I had been metering the highlights instead of the midtones.

img_4983
River Axe – set up for the shot
img_3804
F8 1/30s print and negative – Focus not great
img_3446
Cornwall F8 1/100s print and negative – Bellows drooped causing shadow
img_6522
F8 1/30s print and negative – Just right 🙂

 

How to measure the speed of my antique shutter

My Boots branded 100 year old Thornton Pickard camera has a new addition – a mechanical shutter. This allows me to shoot at speeds under 1 second. With these faster speeds I can use 200 ISO sheet film instead of the much slower photo paper.

To measure the speed of this shutter, I fixed it in front of my digital fuji XT20. I set the Fuji on a 5 second exposure on f8 (as wide as the old camera goes). This gave me time after pressing the Fuji shutter to then trigger the old shutter.

I then viewed the histogram of the image taken – which was of course, at the speed of the old shutter.

I then moved the old shutter out of the way and took a few images on the Fuji adjusting the shutter speed until I found a speed that gave me a similar histogram to that obtained with the old shutter. This turned out to be a useful 1/30s.

The speed of the old shutter can be changed – but it is a bit of a fiddle.

 

Adding a shutter to my antique camera

In order to access shutter speeds of less than 1s I need a mechanical shutter. I found one on eBay for a bargain price – and it is in good mechanical working order. The challenge was to attach it to the camera as the rubber seal has gone solid.

I first rigged a plastic adapter to put the shutter on the front of the lens. This did work OK, but isn’t very elegant. Next, I looked at putting the shutter between the lens and the camera body. I didn’t want to make too many cuts, or changes to the camera or shutter so fabricated a frame to hold the shutter onto which the lens could be mounted. I only needed to make 3 small screw holes into the lens mounting plate. This has worked well, so will now stain the frame to finish it off. Next step (in the next blog) is to measure/adjust the shutter so I know what speed it is running at.

Sheet film experiments

I now have some 7″x5″ sheet film for the antique Thornton Pickard (Boots) bellows camera. Unfortunately the film/plate holders are slightly less than 7″x5″ so in complete darkness, using masking tape stuck to the bed of the guillotine as guides, I trimmed down the film to fit. What you see here is my third day’s experiments – Day one produced under-exposed images, day two over-exposed and today – just right (mostly).  Setting up the still life by the kitchen window, I took light readings off each piece of fruit and the black paper backgroud – yielding recommended exposure times ranging from 4 to 30s at F32. As the 30s was for the black background I went for a 20s exposure and was very happy with the result. I used the same settings for my portrait shot.

Contact prints were made, experimenting with exposure here too. I am exposing using a flashgun held 45cm above the paper. The flashgun has a controllable intensity. – level 4 seems optimum – but doesn’t give quite the contrast I hoped for – I have ordered some filters on ebay to make the flashgun light more magenta as I have read this increases contrast – we’ll find out when they arrive.

Thornton-Pickard-resized-0643
Optimum exposure for the film and print
Thornton-Pickard-resized-6849
Under-exposed print (flash setting 3)
Thornton-Pickard-resized-5741
Over-exposed print (flash setting 5)

Thornton-Pickard-resized-4070

One problem was the film/plate holders are old and fragile and some wood splintered off – the pieces that make them light-tight. So I had to make (using some mahogany veneer) replacement pieces.

The other problem I have encountered with these film holders is that the metal plates that sit in the middle separating the two pieces of film have springy pieces in the middle and these scratch the film and they don’t fit too well either. I am replacing these with stiff black paper and we’ll see how they perform.

My Day two efforts were outside – around Glastonbury – Godney. The light was too bright and I had to deal with exposure times of only half a second with this ISO 200 film even on F64. It wasn’t possible to accurately judge taking off and replacing the lens cap in these circumstances – though I did try. I have sourced on Ebay a shutter mechanism that will fit on the front of the lens allowing me to make theses shorter exposure times. Something to play with over Christmas 🙂