Archive for June, 2012

Testing Four by Five

June 5, 2012

Doing a bit of woodwork and metalwork is satisfying enough if you enjoy handling the tools and materials, but it’s not a whole lot of use if the end product fails in any way. The thing has to work, but even an obsessive perfectionist will have to draw the line somewhere, wherever skills are not enough to match aspirations.

This is not my first brass and cherry 4×5 camera. The original Surveyor, long since sold on, was a lot of fun to make and worked very well. But it was a tad clunky by my reckoning and this time I wanted a design that was smoother in operation. This was one of the reasons I decided to make a flatbed rather than a folding cam. A flatbed has less materials and so is lighter in weight. And while it may be less convenient to carry, a flatbed is faster to set up.

The typical flatbed has a wide base tray. I thought that if the tray were smaller and could fit in the palm of the hand then the carrying problem would be resolved. But the tray itself would need to be sufficiently rigid and dense to support the two standards at full extension. This raised the question of how long the extension could be if the tray were shorter than usual. The solution I chose was to use a solid brass extension tongue to fit onto the front standard rail – the bellows extension runs from 75mm to 300mm.

After many days of rain I finally got out to give the new Surveyor prototype a test run. I had eight sheets of ERA 100 ISO film, and perhaps because of the long gap in using sheet film in the field I ended up with five shots, one with an extreme vignette at the top, one blank, and two double exposures. That might not seem to add up, but hey, you should have seen the shots I missed.

Dunraven Beach, South Wales. No movements used other than front forward tilt.

Schneider Angulon, 90/6.8


Aldis Plano-Anastigmat, 150/6.8

Aldis Plano-Anastigmat, 150/6.8

Zeiss Tessar, 135/4.5

A test drive will quickly identify any design issues. In this case, the need to adjust the front standard lock and improve the film holder clips. Everything else was fine, though I’ll have to find a 75mm lens someplace.

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