Archive for December, 2011

Recycled Parts

December 22, 2011

The Neretta Rail Camera
The first large format lens I ever bought was a late 1920’s Zeiss Tessar 135/4.5 that must have come off a 9x12cm Zeiss Donata. It cost me £30 in a second hand camera shop in Singapore. Since I started shooting Whole Plate and 5×7 a few years back the lens has just been sitting around unused, which is a pity as the shutter is excellent and the lens has everything you’d expect from early an uncoated Tessar. It’s capable in a beautiful way.

Well, that’s one old part that can be reused. Cue a broken Cobra tripod, the front fork from a Houghton Folding Klito, (1920’s), the ground glass and fresnel from a Speed Graphic, (1950’s), the viewfinder from a set of Taron auxiliary lenses, (1960’s), the 1/4″ thread socket from some unknown ever-ready case, the film back from an alternative version of the Neretta 4×5 that was never completed, knobs leftover after building the Surveyor 4×5, a mini ballhead, and of course some new bellows which were made for the purpose. Creating a new camera out of old parts just needed a little cobbling, and some casting.

Using a tripod leg instead of a standard focusing rail seemed feasible but I needed some way of attaching the rear standard, hence the casting. Some piece of plumbing might have done it but I couldn’t find any shapes that would fit securely. I still had some Britannia metal, (lead-free pewter), lying around from casting small sculptures years ago. It does not have a high tensile strength, but it melts at a low temperature, is robust enough to bear weight and easy to fashion.

So first the mould.

Then the hot metal.

And finally, the functional base for the camera.

Bit by bit it assembled itself, almost. The rest was aluminium strip from B&Q. I prefer brass, but that would be too expensive for a parts cam!

The front standard has a free range of movements due to the ballhead, including rise and fall on the fork. The rear has forward tilt, and just a very slight degree of backward tilt. The extension runs from 135mm to 250mm for macro work. I also have two other lenses that cover 4×5, a 90mm and a 150mm, but they usually live on other cameras.

Although constructed as a 4×5, in a studio context I might just as often use a 6×7 roll film back. And Polaroid’s are not impossible, (pun, geddit?)

OK, boring test shots on a dark and rainy winter’s day, on Wephota NP27, an ISO 400 sheet film, dev’d in Rodinal.

One shot straight …

And one shot twisted !!

A test out of doors.

And finally some serious work.


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