Dingo ate my film!

Bela says, "Screw this crappy picture with this crappy camera.  I'm outtie."

Last night, whilst perusing the eBay (as I am wont to do), I found an auction up for about 8 or so old, exposed rolls of film from Australia. Travis and I both thought that developing old Australian film sounded like it had the potential for awesomeness, so I bid on it. I think my max bid was Aus. $20 (which I think was about US $14), and international shipping was about the same amount. The auction was up at 6:00 am or so, and when I went to bed, I was the highest bidder.

I woke up to find out that the auction was cancelled about 2 hours before it would have been up. I was still the high bidder at that point. Travis’ theory was that the guy canceled the auction because he didn’t want to ship to the US. So, I looked at the reason why it was canceled, and the reason given was that the items had been stolen. 8 rolls of old-ass film. Stolen. Two hours before the auction would be over.

Remarkably, none of the seller’s other 50 or so auctions that are currently still up on eBay right now were affected by the outbreak of Australian thievery. So, I say this to eBay vendors – if you don’t want to ship internationally, then don’t do it. If you’re not 100% positive that you’re willing to sell items online, then don’t make them available. And, if you’re going to back out of an auction for whatever reason, at least make your bullshit excuse something believable. Things in the realm of believability: “Dog (or dingo) ate the film.” “Film accidentally fell into trash.” “Film ruined by enthusiastic small child.” “Film, specifically, stolen?” Not so much.

In other news, my color chems are toast. I have a few theories on what killed them. One is that maybe something in one of the older films I tried to develop funked up the chems, but my primary theory is that I simply got the Blix and the Developer mixed up, put the wrong caps on the bottles, and contaminated the developer by pouring it in after the Blix. Oh well. Still got quite a few more rolls of film developed that the kits recommends, so I’m not bitter. It’s going to be black and white developing for me for a while, though, until I place another Freestyle order.

When I do place that order, one of the things I’m going to get is an E-6 processing kit. I haven’t really seen much in the way of C-41 pics developed in E-6 chems, although I read a comment on Flickr that said that they come out much more subdued and low-contrast compared to how the E-6 on C-41 comes out. Still want to try it, though. I printed out the directions for the E-6 kit and was looking at them today, and notice that the E-6 processing involves a “First Developer,” “Color Developer,” and Blix. And the instructions also note that the First Developer is weak, and is the chem whose time is going to have to be adjusted with reuse. So, my immediate thought was, “Hmm. Wonder what happens if you replace the First Developer with regular black and white developer?” Don’t know what happens, but I want to find out.

Since my color chems are shot, I’m going to be doing black and white developing for the immediate future. I happen to have a huge stockpile of color film, though, so I’m going to try developing color negs in black and white chems. Maybe I can use up some of that damn Portra. Actually, yesterday I cut a length of Portra 220 and taped it to some 116 backing paper and loaded it into my Agfa Shur Shot (because you can’t, you won’t, and you don’t stop). Panorama, baby!

I want to try out that camera tomorrow, and also try out my new camera, the Rolleicord II.

Rolleicord II

Just got this today, and it seems to be working okay, although it’s quite confusing. The film advance locking mechanism intimidates me, and you have to cock the shutter, like a gun, before you take a picture. I’ve taken two pics today, but just inside the house, and mainly more to see if it was advancing the film okay.

It’s loaded with some of the Magic Ilford Pan F, from the antique store haul back in August. It’s become a little bit of a tradition with me to try out a new camera with a roll of this film. Why? Because I had 26 rolls of it, and the film is of dubious quality. Sometimes I get results like this:

Depth of Field

And sometimes I get results like the photo at the top of this post. That’s from a roll of Ilford Pan F that I had loaded into an old Brownie box camera. It’s actually a No. 2 Cartridge Hawk-Eye Model C, but just picture any generic Brownie box camera from circa 1918, and that’s pretty much it. I loaded this camera with film this summer, managed to take 4 pictures, and then couldn’t cope with it any more and set it aside. I can’t remember exactly why I was so adverse to this camera, but apparently my ill will seeped into the film, because the four pics I took all came out like ass. And not good ass. Sad, sorry ass. Here’s the best of the lot:


I gave this camera to Travis last week, and he finished up the roll. His pictures came out far better. The backing paper imprints were nowhere near as dark. He took his photos on a very foggy morning, whereas I think I took mine in the late afternoon of a hot summer day, so maybe that had something to do with it? Crazy film.

Success! And, subsequent FAIL!

Old west Liquor

Liquors. I need some now.

A few days ago, I got my color chems back out and tried developing the few rolls of color film I hadn’t gotten to during the big C-41 day. My test rolls were shot using Kodak Gold of unknown origin in the Kowa, and 35mm Fujicolor 200 taped to 127 backing paper in my Frankensteined Starluxe. I tried doing some macro photography with the Starluxe by holding up one of my Lensbaby macro lenses up to the Starluxe lens.

Vault Boy, fuzzy

It didn’t exactly work.

I did manage to get a cool shot of Bela through the Starluxe. I scanned this in using the 35mm carrier for the scanner, because the sprocket holes were starting to be a big pain in my ass.

Bela, fast

The Kowa pictures came out better.


I only had one instance of the Kowa shutter flipping open while I was advancing the film, and it happened on the last frame. I liked the effect.

Accidental Jeep diptych

The main thing I wanted to try with the regular film was developing the roll of Portra 160NC 220 film that I had in the Brownie Twin 20. I was curious if I’d get something similar to the red dot effect that I got with the Ansco Shur Flash. The developing went fine, and only a few pictures had what I’m assuming is a reflection from the film window on them. The majority of the shots turned out fine. Really incredibly boring, but fine. The liquor store one at the top of the post was the most interesting, and that’s only because I got a weird coloration on it. Everything else just looked normal and dull. I’m not sure if that’s because I just wanted to burn through the roll of 220 in order to see what it was doing, or because the Twin 20 isn’t the most exciting camera, or because the actual film is just kind of meh. I hadn’t anticipated how much more commitment a roll of 220 is than a roll of 120. I happen to have a buttload of 220, though, and need to come up with creative ways to use it. I think I may try spooling it onto some 616 backing paper next and running it through one of my 616 cameras. I also know that whenever I get my E-6 kit from Freestyle, I’m going to take a bunch of 220 pictures and hope to god that cross-processing them does something interesting to them.

After I did my regular C-41 processing, I let my chems cool down to room temp and then attempted my first go at developing process C-22 film in C-41 chems. My guinea pig roll was a roll of 620 Kodacolor-X that, I think, came out of one of two Brownie Hawkeyes – one I grabbed in an antique mall in Winchester, Indiana, or one that I got on eBay that came from West Virginia. I failed to make any notes at all on this film. Oh well. Anyway, this was my procedure for developing the film:

Presoaked the film in room temperature water for 15 minutes.
Poured in the C-41 developer (which was at 70 degrees), and let it sit in the C-41 developer for 20 minutes, with inverse agitation every 2 minutes.
Poured out the C-41 chems, poured in the Blix, and soaked it in that for 8 minutes, agitating every minute.
Washed and stabilized as usual.

This actually worked! Holy crap! I was thrilled. True, the negatives were really thin, and I only got 6 images out of 12 (but that could have been due to people opening up the back of the camera), but I actually got images! In some weird sort of color!

Here’s the scan of one of the negatives, unaltered in photoshop (although I’m sure the Epson tried to adjust for film base color when I scanned it in):


The big spooge streak was across the entire film. I figured that happened because I didn’t agitate as much as I should have. The darker blue splotches are… what? Mold maybe? Something.

Anyway, after I cropped the splooge mark from the images and adjusted the levels, here is the best that I could come up with:

Woman with parrot

Fat tree

Woman and foot

Sure, the color is uber-funky, but I was pretty happy with it, enough to try again the next day with a roll of 35mm Kodacolor X that frabjousfrocks from Craftster sent me. This time I tried to adjust my method based on the first results and wound up with an uber-FAIL. I got nothing. I got a roll full of blank. Something went horribly, horribly wrong. I’m not sure if it was my fault or if the film was screwed up before I got it (maybe wound back into the canister without ever having been exposed?), but whatever happened, it was bad, bad, bad. I’m just assuming right now that it was something I did. So, in the sake of whoever might be reading this that wants to try C-22 in C-41 chems, here’s what I did that you probably should not do:

1. Presoaked 10 minutes in room temperature water.
2. Had my developer at 80 degrees, and had the film soaking in the developer for 15 minutes, agitating every minute.
3. Also had the Blix at around 80 degrees, and soaked it in the Blix for 8 minutes, agitating every 30 seconds.

I think upping them temp to 80 was probably my big mistake. I suspect it melted the emulsion off the film. Stupid finicky film emulsion. Sorry, frabjous. 😦

There is, of course, a bunch of other possibilities of what could have gone wrong, including my chems suddenly going funky within 24 hours. So, today (or tomorrow, maybe, since I screwed up my back a few hours ago and it really hurts), I was going to test out the color chems with a few rolls of 35mm film to make sure they still work, and then try lowering the temp and seeing if they’ll develop another old roll of film. I’ve got two old films loaded onto reels right now. They’re both 126, but one is Kodacolor-X and the other is GAF. I was planning on trying to develop both at once, but now I’m scared and I’ll probably just do one. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just revert to plan B – developing my old C22 film in HC110b chemistry (black and white).

One of the rolls of 35mm that I was going to use to test the color chems was respooled onto 126 backing paper and put back into a 126 cartridge. If that actually turns out okay, I’ll post some info on how to do it on here soon.

A series of spectacular FAILs!

The Kowa eats film

I promised you FAIL potential, and boy, do I deliver! Where to start?

The first place would probably be with the Kowa film eating disaster. In September Travis inherited a Kowa H 35mm camera that had belonged to his grandfather. We found it in the closet of his grandmother’s condo, still loaded with film (I think it was on frame 4 or 5 at the time).


The Kowa is a Japanese camera, and is what Travis’ grandfather used to shoot carousel after carousel of family slides. So, it has a history and a lot of sentimental value, in addition to being nifty in its own right.

We’ve had the camera since September, but haven’t really played with it much – I’m more into roll film rather than 35mm, but we both wanted to see how the camera shot and what kind of film was inside, so we took it with us the other day when we went out shooting pics. Travis was shooting with it, and noticed the film advance being really funky after a while. I said it was possible that the cold weather might be causing it to bind up, so he put it away.

When we got home, I tried opening it up (it took me a while to figure out how to do it – turns out there’s a sneaky mini-latch that pops open the back) in a dark bag to see if I could free the film. My thought was that I would be able to shove it back into its cartridge most of the way until I was ready to develop it. Once I got the camera open in the dark bag, though, I felt all kind of badness – namely, the mess seen at the top of the post.

I had to keep my hands in the bag, so Travis got my film developing tank and a spool ready for me in the bathtub (where I do all of my film loading, of course!) and after I was in the dark, I was able to cut off the bad chunk of film, and wind the rest onto a developing reel. It’s now sitting in the spare tank I have.

It’s sitting there because, although I had every intention on doing a big batch of color developing, it turns out my color chems that I had mixed up have gone bad, leading to FAIL #2. Fortunately, though, the roll of film I wasted in order to test this was a roll of junk 35mm that we ran back through the Kowa. It was just shots taken around the house, but once I ran it through the developer and Blix, I saw that absolutely no development had taken place.

It wasn’t exactly a big surprise that my chems were muck, considering I had mixed them up in September. I had hoped, however, that I would be able to reuse them, like alspix did. I think I had left too much air in the bottles, though, and that’s what killed it.

I loaded yet another roll of spare color 35mm into the Kowa, and Travis shot that up yesterday. That’s going to be my test roll for tomorrow. I’m planning on mixing up the other half of the color chems I have and just developing a veritable buttload of color film all at once. That is, of course, if the unmixed color chems haven’t gone rubbish on me as well. That’s what the test roll is for, I guess. I’m starting to wonder if the Kowa has a curse on it, though.

So, since my plans on color developing yesterday were trash, I decided to develop the three rolls of black and white I had shot on New Year’s Eve. There were from the Uniflex pinhole, the Savoy, and the Falcon Mini. I started with the roll that was in the Uniflex pinhole, and discovered FAIL #3

Uniflex pinhole

The Uniflex was a FAIL of sorts already, as I had bought it in an eBay auction where the seller claimed it was in “Fine condition!” only to have it arrive and find out that its shutter was bunk. Trust me, I left an appropriately sternly worded negative feedback. Anyway, as it would have cost me more money than I spent on the auction to return it, I tired to make the best of a bad situation by gutting the Uniflex, removing its lenses and other random parts, and then putting it back together as a pinhole. The film advance still worked fine, there’s a nice big viewfinder, and the camera is heavy like a brick, which is nice for those long pinhole exposures.

I don’t have a shutter on this camera – instead, I’m just using the cap of a plastic 35mm film can as a lens cap/shutter thingy. It’s a little tricky in order to smoothly remove and replace it within a few seconds. The whole time I was shooting with the camera, I was concerned that I was way overexposing the images.

I kind of stopped worrying about that once I dropped the Uniflex pinhole down the side of railroad tracks onto stone in 20 degree weather, though. That sucked. Amazingly, the thing held together and life moved on.

Once I developed the film, I found out that I had other things to worry about besides overexposing. True, every image (and there were only 4 or 5 that could be made into anything recognizable using Photoshop) was severely overexposed, but part of that wasn’t just my fault.

1st shot with the Uniflex Pinhole

See the lines? I think I’ve got a light leak along the bottom edge of the camera. I’m pretty sure the lines form from when I advance the film – turn and then stop. Light gets exposed onto the film. Turn and then stop. Repeat.

My first thought to solve this is to seal that bottom edge with electrical tape once I have the camera loaded with another roll of film. I’ll see what that does. I’m also going to drop down from TMax 100 to my Ilford Pan F. The Ilford stuff is ASA 50, and very likely expired, so it should be a bit slower than the first roll. I’ll probably still overexpose, but maybe not quite so badly. Freestyle sells several films that are ASA 25, so I might have to try a few rolls next time I place an order.

My other thought with the Uniflex Pinhole is to try a filter with it. I got a pack of cheapy little plastic filters (presumably for a Brownie Hawkeye) at a flea market in Muncie. I’ve used the red one in the Hawkeye with a roll of Ilford SFX infrared film and it worked pretty well. I’ve got a pale orange one (and a yellow, green, and clear one, too), that I’m thinking about taping to the inside of the pinhole. Is it still a pinhole if I use a filter? My theory is that the filter would give me a little additional time to make my exposures, and also give me slightly more contrasty daylight skies.

The Uniflex wasn’t a complete FAIL, though. I’m pretty happy with the actual pinhole I made for it.


Things look relatively sharp and in focus. The diagonal streaks in the above photo, by the way, is from a train going by. This was maybe a 30 second exposure? I’m not sure. It’s all a blur.

The last semi-FAIL I had is with my beloved Falcon Mini.

On the road, with lines

I realized that something inside the camera is causing lines to sctratch across the film. The first roll had this on it, too, I just didn’t realize it until I saw how this roll turned out. I’ll have to see what can be done about this.

I removed the most obnoxious line from this diptych:

Water Tower Diptych

And finally, in happier news, I can report that the Savoy is awesome.

Abandoned building

I ran a roll of expired Ektachrome through it yesterday at the park. If my color chems work, hopefully I’ll be able to see the results of it tomorrow.

Falcon Miniature

Falcon Miniature

This is the first 127 camera I acquired. Last summer I won an eBay auction for two old folding bellows Brownie cameras (the Autographic 1 Jr. and the Autographic 2A). The seller threw in three other cameras along with them as a bonus, which was nice. The Falcon was one of the three and suddenly I had a 127 camera.

I liked the way it looked, but it was pretty funky – the glass in the viewfinder is gone, so composing a picture is pretty much blind, the shutter was sticky, the lens was dirty, and one of the spool cradles didn’t want to move to allow me to put in more film. I was able to fix most of the problems except for the missing glass, and since Travis hooked me up with a bunch of Efke 100 127 film for Christmas, I was finally able to shoot some pictures with it.

The inside of the Falcon is pretty nifty (and, of course, I forgot to get a picture of it). There’s a little compartment inside to tuck away an extra roll of film. The camera, instead of taking 10 or 12 square photos, has the set up where there are two red windows on the back of the camera – you advance the film until the number appears in the first window, take a picture, advance the film again until the same number appears in the second window, and then take your second picture. With the Falcon, the result of the means you get 2 slightly overlapping images, and if you don’t tilt the camera, they’re both vertical.

I loaded up the camera before we left for Christmas, and shot a roll of film while we were in Indiana. Developed it a few days ago and was absolutely tickled with what I got.

Grovertown hotspot

Where to start? First of all, I knew, from reading Marcy’s review of it that the images would overlap. I just didn’t anticipate that they would overlap in perfect little pairs.

Travis diptych

Secondly, the film was kind of warped or loose in the camera, I guess. See the waviness along the top edge of the photo, and the way the road is distorted? I’m not sure what was going on inside the Falcon to cause this, but it’s neat.

I’m also not sure if it’s the film distortion or something to do with the lens that’s causing the weirdness of image/loss of sharpness along the edges of the photo. Altogether, the final result is goofy – it’s the most pinhole-esque of any non-pinhole camera I’ve shot with.

This is the only single frame I got from the roll (because I accidentally advanced too far).


The film, too, is a joy. I had not used Efke before, but was quite pleased with the contrast I got. I took this picture on an overcast day but still got cloud definition.


I also got some misc. funk on the bottom edge of some of the negatives. That may have been my error, though – I was loading the negatives onto developing spools that were damp.

The Efke film also cracks me up by the huge frame numbers they run along the bottom edge of the film. What is up with that? They’re gigantic!

After seeing how the first roll of film came out, I’m now crazy about this camera, so much so that I immediately re-loaded it up with film and took it out again yesterday. It’s great as a snapshot camera. It fits in my coat pocket (barely, but I can get it in there). I was thrilled with how it shot from a moving vehicle (you can see from the image on the right above that it was taken from a moving car). Finally, it just looks cool. It’s a hoot to use. This camera and I, we’re going to have many good times together.

Film. I gots it.

Christmas film bonanza

I’ve been relatively good for a few months, photography-wise, in terms of not buying a bunch of stuff. That all went to hell recently, though. But there were bargains to be had! And I am weak!

The Christmas photography splurge started a few days before Christmas. Since Travis and I spend the holidays travelling, we opened up our presents to each other early. And, since he is awesome, he got me 15 rolls of Efke 127 film. As far as I know, there are only 2 manufacturers of 127 film left – Efke, which makes black and white film, and Solaris, which makes color. Travis got me 10 rolls of regular Efke, and 5 rolls of infrared. I’m excited about the infrared, but I’m going to have to rig a red filter to use on one of the 127 cameras I have. I just won two eBay auctions that come with red filters (I’m back on the eBay, too, but I’m trying to be reasonable with it), so I’m hoping I can make something work.

Travis also got me a new scanner! It’s an Epson Perfection V500, and can be used to scan in medium format film and slides, etc. I was very excited to get it, because it meant that I was now able to scan in my color negatives and actually have them turning out looking like actual color pictures. My other scanner just kind of rolled over and died when I tried to convince it to do that. Here’s the difference in image quality. Old scanner:

Cleveland Cliffs 'C'

New scanner:

Cleveland Cliffs in yellow

I got the yellow tint because I started scanning in my black and white film as color. I like the tinting. 🙂 I’ve gotten some really weird colors because of it – this was a picture that was really dark, and when I scanned it in as color, I got the apocalypse:

Get out the Geiger counters!

So, that’s fun. Here’s an example of the color I get from a regular color negative. This was film I developed from a C-41 kit Freestyle sells:


Yay! Color!

The new scanner has some issues. It crashes every so often, but less so now that I started using alternate software with it. I can deal with it crashing, what I couldn’t deal with was a speck of something that was stuck to the underside of the scanning glass. I noticed it after I had scanned in about 10 images. There was no way for us to clean it, and no way to avoid it being in every single rectangular medium format image. We figured that we were going to have to send the scanned back, but before we did it, I wanted to use it as much as possible. I spend about 8 hours straight scanning in square 120 negatives (I could work around the speck with the square format negs), and somewhere along the way, the speck either fell off or was burned off from the heat of the scanning light. So, it’s fine now and I don’t have to send it back. Yay for persistence, I guess.

Travis’ Mom and Bob hooked me up with some film for Christmas because they’re awesome. They got me a pack of 50 4″ x 5″ TMax 100 sheet film, and 5 boxes of expired 400TX film. Now I have enough sheet film where I can experiment with it without freaking out about wasting film. Hannakube, here I come!

Travis and I went to some antique malls after Christmas, and I got some new camera junk, but I didn’t get a chance to take pictures of it yet, so I’ll just skip straight to the Mighty Film Haul. Travis, his mom, and I stopped at a flea market on Saturday. We didn’t really see anything worthwhile at first, and then suddenly I was distracted by a bin of disposable cameras. I didn’t hear Travis at first, but he was across the aisle from me, yelling at me to come over since he had found bin after bin of film. A feeding frenzy ensued, and $87 later, I left with buckets of 35mm film, a handful of rolls of Advantix (since I have an old APS camera), 2 rolls of 110, a disposable camera (800 speed, sans-flash – I have plans for this that involve tearing it apart), and 12 packs of Polaroid film. I bought all of the Polaroid I could find there. Also grabbed all of the 35mm Elitechrome that they had – I loves me some slide film. Got some black and white film that’s C-41 processed, since I haven’t tried doing anything with that. Thought I might process some C-41, and then process a roll in black and white chemistry to see the difference.

Weird films

Most of the film I got expired between 2005-2008, although there’s at least a roll that is still good through next July. I got some faster films, too – 400 and 800 speed stuff. No immediate plans for that. It’s nice, though, because now if I want to check and see if my color chemistry is still good, I can shoot a roll of color 35mm really quick and use that as a tester without screwing up any of my “good” film.

And, to top it all off, I happened to stumble across an auction on eBay for expired (2003 and 2005) 120 slide film just after it was posted. The Buy it Now price was under $20, and the lot included 24 rolls, so I grabbed it. I only have 2 or 3 rolls of 120 slide film left, and I love the stuff. It’s my favorite thing to develop. There’s something about how the negatives look all milky and murky when they first come out of the developer, and then clear up as they dry that just seems like magic to me. So cool.

Like I said, I picked up some other photographic weirdness that I’ll be sharing in the next day or so. Including a Polaroid 35mm Instant developing machine for Polaroid film. Now I can finally shoot the two rolls of Polaroid 35mm film I have! I just hope my developer hasn’t gone all squicky…

Experimentation with 4×5

When I first started getting interested in pinhole photography and developing my own film, I placed this uber-order of film and paper and developing equipment from Freestyle. I tried to figure out what I absolutely needed and got those things, and then I also got a bunch of stuff that seemed like it would be fun. I haven’t gotten into some of it – I think I ordered some 5×7 and 8×10 photo paper I haven’t touched yet. I got it with the thought I would use it in some large format pinhole cameras, and I haven’t gotten around to making them yet.

Among the supplies I ordered was 4×5 sheet film and 4×5 Efke positive paper. The positive paper is cool because, if you’re making a pinhole photo, you actually get a positive image on your photo paper as opposed to the negative image you would get using standard photo papers (I guess most people will stick photo paper in their pinhole cameras, develop the paper, scan in the result and invert the image). After I made the Hannakube, I tried out the Efke paper. I took 4 pics, but only 3 came out with any kind of decent image. The best of the lot was this:

Kokosing River

The problem with the photo paper is that it messes with my brain. If my exposures turned out too light, did I underexpose or over expose the paper? Since you get a positive instead of a negative image, it’s confusing to me. I need to just load the Hannkube up again, shoot multiple images of the same subject at different times to see which result is the best, and figure out my under and over exposing that way.

That was the only time I’ve developed paper. I set up a darkroom area in my garage, waited until night, and did it then. I think, though, that I’ll try setting up a mini darkroom in my bathroom at night during the winter. My house is staying at a pretty constant 68-66 degrees, which is perfect for developing. I actually have an enlarger, and I need to see if it still is functional (I know it still turns on, but not too sure if it still works for making prints). My bathroom is small, but I think I can go all Tim Gunn and make it work.

My Hannakube camera was designed to work with 4×5 images. I’ve tried out the paper, like I’ve said, but haven’t tried out actually shooting with the 4×5 film in it yet. It was August before I finally got up the nerve to try anything with the 4×5 film.

There are camera geeks out there that are crazy about Polaroids, and although I see the appeal, I don’t really share the passion. I bought an old Polaroid One Step at Goodwill a while ago, and a pack of expensive Polaroid film for it and shot some pics. I don’t know. I just can’t get behind something that is so expensive. For the cost of a box of Polaroid film, I could probably buy 4 or 5 rolls of 120. It was just a bit of a buzzkill.

But, as much as I seem to have this aversion to Polaroids, I was sucked into buying this one:

PLC viewfinder

It’s one of the first Polaroid Land cameras, a Speedliner 95B. This particular camera came with almost all of its original accessories and its case, which was part of the reason it wound up coming home with me. I see so many Polaroids from the 70s and 80s at junk stores, and they just look ridiculous, but the Speedliner is all class, down to its brown leatherette. It’s very Don Draper, no?

The Speedliner doesn’t work like modern Polaroid cameras, which have a battery in their film packs (so, if you don’t have a film pack in your camera, the camera doesn’t work – which is irritating to me, and another reason I haven’t been bitten by the Polaroid bug). The Speedliner is all analog. It’s a bellows camera, and, fortunately, can still be used to shoot 4×5 sheet film. Of course, you have to load the camera in darkness, hope to god you’ve got the right side of the film facing the lens, and can only shoot one picture with it, but hey! Better than nothing!

In August I finally gave this a whirl. It took me a while to work up to doing this because I was concerned about developing the film. Film developing needs to be done in total darkness, which is not so much of a problem, because you can develop in light-tight film tanks. I have several of them, and they have spools which hold a variety of sizes of film. Unfortunately, they are not set up to hold 4×5 sheet film, and to get the type of tanks and accessories that would let me do this cost more than I was willing to pay. I couldn’t even score a deal on eBay.

You can also develop sheet film in trays in the dark. That seems like a huge scary process to me, though, since my darkroom experience is limited to the one time I developed paper, using a red safelight. There’s no way I could jump straight to total film developing in darkness from that.

What I finally wound up doing was developing the film in my Patterson tank with the spools removed. I took two pictures and tossed the negative in the tanks sans-spool, and hoped for the best.

One negative developed. The other negative, I think, got the emulsion side stuck to the side of the tank and didn’t develop. Here’s the one that turned out:

Ansco Shur-Flash via Polaroid

Could have gone better, but could have been worse, too. I definitely wasn’t far enough away from the box camera to get a sharp image of it, but the grass in the background is in focus. The settings on the Land camera are kind of goofy, and not what I’m used to. Not sure what caused the dark area on top of the photo, wither. It seems awfully dark to be a shadow, but maybe it is. Anyway, a partial success, but it really is kind of a pain in the butt to load the camera, and the camera isn’t the easiest to use. It’s worthy of future experimentation, though.

That was all I did with the 4×5 film until yesterday. Most of the cameras I buy are cheap plastic things. I seem to have scored a lot of cameras made between the late 40s and the 60s. What never really jumped out at me when I’ve been looking for cameras is the generic, standard box camera. These were made in the early chunk of the 1900s, normally made out of wood (or even cardboard, I think!). The lenses are on the inside of the camera instead of the outside. They’ve just never been something I’ve been drawn to.

However, when I saw this behemoth at the Medina Antique Mall, I was stopped in my tracks:

Brownie No. 3 Model B

An inspection of the interior cone revealed this:


It costs $16, more than I normally spend on an old camera, but I had the suspicion that this camera might be able to hold 4×5 film. Because it was huge! Epic! Cavernous! Also, for an old, old box camera, it’s actually pretty cool – it has 3 separate aperture settings, and also a bulb setting so I can do long exposure shots. And, the shutter is a flip flop, which is cool (that means you press the shutter lever down to take a picture, and then for the next picture, you push it up, and so on).

When I got home, I took my 4×5 negative that I developed in August but got all screwed up (yes, I save these things, because I’m weird) and stuck it in the Brownie. It fit perfectly. The only problem was that the negative was hard to get out of the camera, and I foresaw difficulties in doing so in the dark. So, I broke out the plastic window in the back of it, and taped dark cardboard over it, so that if I needed to, I could open up the window, stick a pencil eraser through it, and push out the negative from the back.

I loaded the Brownie up with a sheet of film, and Travis and I went to the llama house so I could try it out. Taking the picture was uneventful – the viewfinders are completely useless, so I just had to guess what the picture was going to look like. The flip flop shutter seems a little anticlimactic. Like, here I was, shooting 4×5 film for the love of god, and all I hear is this little “clop” noise to confirm that something actually happened.

Developed the film in the Patterson tank. Was a little worried about it sticking to the side of the tank like the one sheet did, but fortunately, nothing bad happened.

Here’s the finished shot:

Alpaca house

Wish I had noticed the garbage cans before I took the picture. Oh well.

As far as using 4×5 film goes, the Brownie, at least right now, wins hands down over the Polaroid. It’s just a lot less complicated, and the less flustered I get, the better. I’m looking forward to shooting some more sheet film with this. I’m also going to try to take some 4×5 film pics in the Hannakube. I think my big mental block was the developing issue. Until I can work out something better, I’m going to stick to developing one sheet at a time in the Patterson tank. It’s time consuming, but it works.