Can I use a process camera?

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by jim_gardner|4, Sep 11, 2009.

  1. So I was looking on e-bay the other night and came across a 16x20 camera. There was only a few hours left so I put a bid on it and went to bed. The next day I found that I had won the camera as I was the only bidder so I rang the owner to arrange collection. It turns out that the camera is a process camera and I am told it is only useable to copy prints or other art work.
    Why is this? If it has a lens (which it does) and it takes film, why is it I wont be able to use it "normaly"? What would the result be if I did use it normaly?
  2. You can use it normally. The lens might not be good for infinity though. And if the camera has a very long bellows you might not be able to focus at infinity. Film will be the problem. Bergger does not have film anymore, you can special order Ilford. Let me know if you need further info about this or need filmholders.
  3. All the process cameras I've ever worked with were built into the darkroom wall with the copy-board outside, and the film inside. The lens-board and copy-holder were generally ran on a track on the floor. Film holders weren't an issue because the they had a vacuum platen:
    Hopefully you've "won" one of the smaller variety...
    Bruce is correct about the lens; generally they are optimized for 1:1 and similar ratios. I've never tried one at more than about 4:1 or 1:4...
    Let us know how it turns out...
  4. There is many types of a process camera. It would be nice if you put up the picture of it and info on the lenses. As Bruce says the lens might be no good in infinity and the film is a problem.
    Bergger is not a problem but Forte is as they not existing anymore and Berrger just sold a rebadged Forte.
    Just what comes in mind if you love still life like it would be good and you can arrange your images on the bed if you have the one which Geoff's second image shows. Also you can make duplicates for alternative printing from positive images. And last you can use the one on the first of Geoffs image with modifications as a studio camera for portrait for ecxample.
  5. Did I say it was old?
    Many thanks so far.
    Bruce, I have not picked it up yet but when I do I may well get back to you re your offer.
  6. Last try.
  7. The main problems with process camera conversion to "pictorial" photography purposes:
    1) They're huge and very heavy; 2) they don't have movements front or rear, only focus adjustment; 3) typically they won't accept regular lightproof film holders.
    That one at least looks customizable, so you might be able to make, or have made, a back for it which would accept standard film holders. This is simple by design but not easy if you can't machine wood to thousandths-of-an-inch tolerances. (I've done it before and will be doing so again soon -- I guess I'm just a glutton for punishment.)
    You could have great luck converting it into an enlarger though; this would be much easier.
    Let us know your impressions of it after you procure it. And good luck!
  8. You might also not be able to transport it very easily and it will not have any view camera movements like tilts and swings to control plane of focus or rise/fall and shifts to control image placement.
  9. it will work. try it. if you have a holder or find one you should be able to make some sort of a back for it. i know "they" say you have to bve very very precise in making the back and all that buit it has been my experience it si not all "that" will be surprised how fogiving it actually is.
    you could also try shooting wet plate with it.......if you decide you can not handle it a wet plate photographer may be interested. loooks lik efun. keep us posted.
  10. The process camera we have here has a 24x36" back; 17 foot bed and is built into the building; the back is in another room; the copy platen that rides on the 17ft bed is about 48x100 inches.
    Most process lenses are designed for 1:1 to about say 1:5 usage; they will work at infinity too but with lower performance; ie great contact prints and say 2x enlargements; maybe more depending on the viewing distance.

    Process cameras are abit bulky; often on Ebay they are/were sold where one had to remove them; pay for the freight. Its like selling a tree a stump in your yard; the "winner" pays to remove the stump!:)

    Your lens may not have a shutter; most process work is via timed lights; you might need a packard shutter.
    Maybe the rig will fit in a pickup truck bed; ie make a box the camera sits on; use the truck as the tripod.
    The camera you bought look real nice; probably pre WW2 in vintage; heck maybe 1950's too. The lens performance is the least of your issues; transporting it is it probably weighs a few hundred pounds maybe? Its hard to say.
  11. My main aim is to use it once a year maybe and get at least one decent print from it. Im fairly sure it would go in the back of my truck so yes, on the very rare occasions I intend to take it out I would use the car as a tripod. I should have in in the next few days and I thought about doing initial tests with paper negs just to try it. Will let you all know what happens.
  12. Paper negs would be fine, just very slow in terms of sensitivity.
    I remember palying aroung with Cibachrome paper in a 8X10 camera.
  13. Note that this camera was not attached to a wall but was free-standing - I hope very much that it comes with the detachable filmholder (with a slatted "darkslide" like a roll-top desk). This holder would probably have been used with a fixed sheet of plate glass coated with non-drying medium-tack adhesive, onto which sheets of film would be laid. Having this holder would make life much easier and would means you could change film in the field (given a large enough changing tent). Also, the bellows looks as if there is a good chance it will unclip into 2 parts - the back end certainly looks as if it will unclip from the rear of the camera. Finally, the camera does not have anything like the movements of a normal camera but might well have rise/fall and cross movements on the front standard to help position images on the film (particularly when using small sheets).
  14. Many process cameras have a door in the back that the film is placed in to make the exposure and the film is held in place by a vacuum. They don't use a film holder like a camera would. Those latches on the back look like that may be how this process camera worked.
  15. Here our process camera has several door(s) like Bob mentioned above.

    One has two different doors; one hinges from the left; another from the right. One door has the 24x36 inch vacuum back; the other door is lighted back that illuminates a finished negative when one projects it; it now is in blowback mode; ie an what non process folks call an enlarger. The blowback back has a mess of fluorescent tubes and a diffuser to even out the illumination. One replaces all the bulbs at once; so they age roughly the same.
    Some process cameras do NOT even have a ground glass; focus is by setting the lens and copy boards by distance along the rail; its all computed out for specific serial numbers of the lenses you use. Yours since it is an older unit probably does have a ground glass.

    There is no reason a process camera should have any movements at all; thats NOT the purpose of a process camera. The lens on a process camera only has a moderate coverage in angle anyways. Saying a process camera should have movements is actual a very weird comment.

    The main purpose of a process camera was to make copies to a precision scale.
    The prime design goal of a process lens is not resolution; but low distortion. In reprographic work process cameras started to have a decline in the late 1980's and early 1990's; when digital 36" wide scanners and 36" Bond digital printers were taking hold. By roughly the mid 1990's most process cameras were used little; and many were scrapped. The cost of materials skyrocketed as volume contacted and the the number of suppliers went less than the critical three. The 36" digital scan printer rig we got in 1992 for 55k basically killed off our 1970's process camera. The entire digital replacing film event occured about a decade before the 35mm/roll film event.

    A typical F stop used is about F22 on a process camera; stopped down enough to quash field issues at the edges. Most of the time film is loaded into a process camera when under red safelight; most films used were/are Ortho stuff.

    Your camera looking at it and guessing probably has a 14 or 19 inch lens; ie say 360mm or 480mm.

    A 360mm repro process lens covers 16x20 plate/neg at 1:1; and say 8x10 at 1:10 say infinity too

    A 480mm repro process lens covers 20x24 plate/neg at 1:1; and say 11x14 at 1:10 say infinity too

    Its a good bet your rig will NOT shoot a 16x20 negative for pictorial infinity images; more like say a 8x10 or 11x14 inch negative.
    In normal usage a process camera usually is working in the 1:1 to 1:5 regions; typical 1:2 or 1:3 as very common. Hopefully your camera will actuall focus to infinity; some will not and one has to recess the lens with a recessed lens cone/box; or use a longer focal length lens. The coverage I gave was for an Apo Ronar. Your 1930's rig might have a Goerz Red Dot Artar; old Kodak process lens; or even a Zeiss or BL.

    Many older process lenses were never coated; a 1950's to 1970's lens usually is single coated. A homemade Walmart kids black school construction paper lens hood can be built in a jiffy; and one can radically gain more contrast if your rig is used outdoors. Before any work one should stick a lightbulb inside; maybe a cool running fluorescent one and light leaks found and fixed with tape.

    When you find out the lens; mention what it is so we can look up its coverage. There a MANY errors in some texts as to process lens coverage.
  16. To use a shorter lens; or to shoot at a larger ratio like 1:10 (ie your infinity) many process cameras have a recessed lens cone or box.

    On you rig you can see the 4 lens board clips; the board look like it is about 10 inches square. The box lens board attaches like a regular lens board; but places the lens back inside; maybe say 6 inches or whatever. If your rig will not focus to infinity as is; one can make a simple wooden box and get the lens towards the film plane. An added bonus is one now has abit of a lens hood too.

    Our big camera requires a lens cone/box when we use a super short lens like a dinky 360mm lens. Or regular lenses are a 480, 600 and 900mm,

    A tiny subset of process camera lenses and enlarging lenses made came with leaf shutters. These were for shooting grey scale work; ie typically non ortho films that were say as 50 to 100 instead of say asa 2 to 6.

    A pure enlarging lens like a Componon has a better performance than a process lens like a Ronar at 1:4 for resolution; but has worse distortion. With a process camera one might be copying a map in sections; and thus each panel has to match; each road has to match with no errors due to scale varying across the field. In typical pictoral usage 1/4 to 1 percent distortion doesnt matter; this would be a disaster when making maps.

    Process camaras are a different branch of the photo equipment industry tree than pictorial cameras.

    An analogy is a Ford car dealer might be a guru with cars; but not Ford tractors. Or a tractor dealer might be a guru with old Ford 8N tractors; but not 1965 Mustangs.

    The crowd on are mostly like car folks; with little experience with tractors.
    Thus many will say a 210mm Componon never came in shutter; when us repro guys used them on a copy camera for two decades.

    There is a also a few folks on that have preached that a process camera lens is this ultra resolution lens; when the prime goal was low distortion. In like a matter a car guru of Ford cars might preach that a Ford tractor's primary goal is high gas mileage; and not pulling ie traction.

    A guru in both Ford cars and tractors might know piston fits a Ford 8N tractor and Ford 1950's car.
    In the past there have been threads from folks asking how to add a shutter to a process lens;and others have said it was not possible; when there was the same exact lens in shutter on Ebay while the thread was hot and active.

    Things like this are going to happen; each branch of the tree doesnt know the past history of the other branch.
  17. Kevin,
    Rodenstock made a special version of the Apo Ronar for copying maps. But much of that work today in military and industry is done digitally with a 60mm Rodenstock HR Digaron-S lens or the 100mm Apo Sironar Digital HR lens.
  18. Looks great, but please don't try to use it hand-held!
  19. Bob; I believe what what you are eluding too are the ultra low distortion variants of process lenses used in ultra critical applications; ie military and old USGS mapping. Gorez made some ultra low variants of Red dot artars with only 0.005 percent of focal length of distortion; these cost about a grand more each about 35 years ago; on top of the normal lenses prices. I think that some of these might be the same designs; but the lens curvatures were matched in sets; to get a selected better lens. In normal repro work no shop I know used these gems; we just used our regular Apo Ronar etc.

    Before we got our process camera we had a Durst 138s 5x7 copy camera; with a 210mm Componon in shutter; it made great copy work; except the lens had some distortion; thus abit wonkly for fitting maps together. Later we affited a used Apor Ronar on the durst for more exacting; less distortion; then later we got a giant process camera and got away from all the messing around with as smaller camera. We actually had the Durst on a homemade set of train rails; and did horizontal projection to a 4x8 foot vacuum frame we built. To get an exact scale required two folks; one up on the copy board with trammel points; with another to move the rig a grunt and refocus.
    Today a person wants to wait while a map is enlarged some weird ratio; say 213.7 percent; you scan it in and send it to the printer. Long ago one had to shoot a precision negative; then make a precision blowback to force the scale. If a cheap print material was used; oen had shrinkage to deal with; one had to purposely goose the forced scale a tad more; ie Kentucky windage to allow for teh shrinkage.
    Today one has this issue with some mylar materials in xerox type printers; too much fuser heat and a ppor mylar that is not conditioned will cause it to grow while going thru the copy machine. One gets a X:Y error; a square is not a square by a micro grunt.
  20. OK, I picked it up late last night and 3 of us managed to get it on a table. I had a quick look round it and found the following; 1. It looks great. 2. It has a very clean Cooke 18 inch lens. 3. It has a type of "roll over back" film holder which will take anything from 10x8 too 16x20 4. It has a focusing screen 5. It also has a smaller lens on a recessed panel. The bad points now; 6. Bellows have holes in corners. 7. The lenses do not have shutters. 8.The bellows will not compress enough to allow me to focus on anything more than about 7 feet away. This is the most concerning point as I can patch the bellows but I would like to focus on infinity. I am happy to spend another £50-£100 to get another lens but I have no idea what I should look for. Again, this is not a camera I plan to use every day or do extremely important work with, its for fun and experience of massive negs so I am not going to sink a lot of money into it but would like to be able to use it for a nice landscape maybe once or twice a year. Will try and post more photos of it later but in the mean time I would be gratefull for help with what sort of lens I should look for.
  21. Out of interest, what about the bellows? All I can see from the pic is that the bellows frame will detach from the back standard. What about the frame in the middle? Does this join together two halves of the bellows or is the bellows in one piece and just passing through the center frame for support? Can you reduce the existing bellows to make one about 36 inches long (wouildn't need to be any bigger). This would allow you to try out the Cooke lens you already have - it might cover 12x15 inches or so at infinity.
  22. Kelly,
    The Apo Ronar CL series for general process camera work were 4 element lenses and they were available in focal lengths up to 1800mm. For map making Rodenstock made 6 element Apo Ronar CL lenses in 600, 800, 1000 and 1200mm.
    There was also a 150mm Apo Ronar but it was not part of the CL series as it did not have the linearized aperture scale that the CL series had.
    The Apo Ronars were made to be used on cameras as was purchased by the OP. Rodenstock also made process lenses for vertical process cameras like those that were used in quick print shops and in house print departments. These are wide field lenses and they were made in focal lengths from 150 to 360mm. They were the Apo Gerogon, Apo GerogonS and the Apo Graphigon. The Apo Gerogon covers between 70 and 78°, the S covered 75° and the Apo Graphigon 78°. These compare to the narrower coverage of 48° for Apo Ronars up to 480mm and 40 to 46° for the longer ones.
    While process lenses can be adequate performers for landscape work (bear in mind that optimal aperture on process lenses up to 600mm is f22 and longer one optimal performance is at f32) the OP might find that one of the wide field process lenses like those listed above may let him work with a shorter focal length, depending on how tightly his bellows can be compressed.
    If he is handy he might try fabricating a lensboard that can tilt so he will have some control over the plane of sharp focus since his camera has no view camera controls.
  23. UPDATE. I had a look at the bellows attachments as suggested and yes, they are detachable. I removed the rear half of the bellows and the middle frame and can now focus at infinity. This leaves me with the shutter problem I.E. how to make exposures of less than a second for example. Also, the lens seems to be extremely wide angle. I would guess its compareable to about 20mm on a 35mm camera. Regarding the points people have made about movements; it does have front rise and fall (about 3 inches), I assume this is to align the material that was to be copied in an easier way than moving the subject matter or the camera.
  24. Kelly, Re your question about the lens; it is an 18" 460mm Series VB. Cooke process anastigmat lens made by Taylor Taylor & Hobson Ltd. England. It goes from f10-f64
  25. This leaves me with the shutter problem I.E. how to make exposures of less than a second for example. PACKARD SHUTTER. It looks like a neat vintage camera; I guess early last century, teens. I wouldn't really call it a process camera, as much as a copy camera. You may find it on the "Mathew Brady" vintage camera site, if it is still online.
  26. David;
    A Process camera is a copy camera.
    A process camera is a TYPE of copy camera used more for maps; engineering drawings; where SCALE and linearity of images matter; or to make line screens for printing where several screens must match up for color separations. A process LENS is like an enlarging lens in that it is for for close ratio work; BUT a process lens has an order of magnitude or two less distortion.
    A copy camera just for copying say grey scale B&W photos and pictorial work often has an faster enlarging lens; and one with a leaf shutter; since one is using faster pan films instead of slower ortho films.
    The camera in this thread is a process camera since it has a process lens installed; sort of like a Big pickup truck might have a dump bed and be called a small dump truck.

    In lay terms a process camera is a copy camera.
    We had a Durst 138S 5x7 copy camera/enlarger in the 1960's and 1970's; it had a nice sharp 210mm Componon enlarging lens in shutter. It made tack sharp copy negatives and gaint 36x48" prints too. Since it did not have a process lens; making map panels match was a total bitch; the lens had some distortion. Thus we afited the rig with a process lens to get radicaly better matching of prints that went side by side.
    Later in the 1970's we got a real process camera with abed 17 feet long that shoots 24x36" negatives; an prints them back about 2.5 time larger. With this rig one doent even focus; you set the lens; rails and use a computer for exact scale and focus. The entire track has the lens and copy platten set to 1/1000 inch. Rig like this works better than a dinky copy camera when one wants an exact scale; there is no wasted labor with tryin to get the scale spot on.
    There are local printers that still use rigs like on this thread that are wooden; that they bought new in the 1950's and 1960's. Prior to out Durst 138s we had a wooden copy camera; bought in the early 1950's; I think it shot about a 12x18" negative; half the size of our current rig below:
  27. Update 2 (for those still interested). Firstly, thanks for suggestion of Packard shutter. I know nothing about them but will start learning when I have finished refurbishment. I did say I would post some photos of the camera so here are some of the parts I am renewing.
  28. Film back blind before mending.
  29. Bottom of film back worn after many years.
  30. And make a new oak one
  31. New inner cover for film back blind
  32. One more question - now that you can focus to infinity, how does the coverage of the 18 inch Cooke lens look? How big a negative would it cover (I guessed 12x15", I'd be curious to know for sure).
    An idea - as you obviously have craft skills, give a thought to making a tilt attachment for the lens as a substitute for the lens panel it came with (I expect you know what one of these looks like, I have one on my 5x7" Ansco camera). This is easy to make, just a few pieces of wood and a short extension bellows the same size as the lens panel, and would be great for landscape work, since if you take a landscape shot with no camera movements, depth of field will be a big problem, even stopped way down.
  33. David, The coverage is certainly much less with the shorter bellows. I havent measured it or even looked at the focusing screen with a dark cloth yet but would guess its a max of 12x15 and maybe less. When I measure it I will let you know.

    Great idea about swing and tilt. As I was reading your post it made me think of a kind of gimble. Maybe 2 square wooden frames with one inside the other. If the outer one was slotted on each side to allow for movements and some bolts attached to the inner frame which also carries the lens board, I think it may allow for tilt and swing. The wavy line in my VERY quick sketch is meant to show the attachment of some light proof material from that point to the inside of the camera. Obviously loose enough to allow for the movements. It just might work!

    That said, I must try the camera as it is first which I hope to do on Sunday. Initially it will be with paper negs and indoors as I dont want to spend lots of money on film if there is a fundamental problem anywhere.
  34. Well here it is, the first image from the HP on a 12x9 1/2 paper neg. Actually there is another that I took indoors with flash but this one will do for now.
    So yes its very contrasty, very small dof, terrible composition but it is an image. I focused on the fence, rated the paper at 6 iso and gave 3 minutes at f45.
    Question is, do you think it is worth spending £150 on some film plus up to £100 on a s/h packard shutter (which I will ask more about in a different post as I know nothing about them).
    I would hope a contact print from film would be a lot sharper than this paper neg.
    Thoughts please.
  35. 16x20 contact prints are quite rare, but I did once see a couple by Roger Fenton (19th century British photographer) and they were pretty sharp! Rendition of fine detail is spectacular, and of course if you had normal film you could tackle a much wider range of subjects. Assuming you got the camera cheaply, I am sure you could sell on the camera plus lens and shutter without great financial loss if you made this investment and then regretted it!
  36. I know its very late on this topic. I have used a 20x24" agfa process camera for pictorial work.
    Mr Cad in london have Film in large sizes, I bought ten sheets of 16"x20"
    Its easier to use paper negatives as you don't have a shutter. I have set up the camera in my garage and photographed sitters outside the door by opening and shutting the door for a 30 second exposure, I deveoped this imediatly and then contact printed it while wet onto a second sheet of the same paper, total time 5 minutes to viewable print for the sitter.
    A lot of fun.
    All the best
    Larry Cuffe
  37. Larry, I have just seen your post. As an update I have used the camera quite a bit now with 11x14 film and have to say the results have been fantastic. Contact prints are very very nice. Now, how to make a tripod?!
  38. Glad to hear your geting the machine out, I'll have to get back to mine which is buried under a load of stuff in the garage.
    Re Tripod. If you are serious.
    Makers of large telescopes have a similar problem, and there seem to be two solutions.
    1) atach wheelbarrow handles with wheels on the ends. This allows you to move the telescope around easily.
    2) use marine trailer jacks to provide the machine with wheels you can wind up and down.
    Both these solutions would involve building some sort of a box to hold the camera up from ground level, and then providing the box with wheels to move it.
    Theres a picture of this kind of thing at the bottom of this page:
    All the best
  39. Hi Jim
    I've just bought the same camera you posted here in 2009.
    The camera I have is in good working condition and I have other lenses which will cover but no film holder. I can see the location is on two pins at the bottom and a pair of latches on the sides.
    If you still have the camera, could you send me or post a couple of pictures to help me in building one. Thanks in advance
    Tony Lovell
  40. Tony,
    I attach a couple of photos I have on file and would be pleased to send more if required. I think it will be quite a task but will help where I can. Are you in the UK? If so you are very welcome to come over and take measurements etc.
  41. Sorry that was not the best one obviously. There is also a roll back to the back itself and a fairly simple shutter/door the other side. I dont think images will be enough to go on to make one but I will send another of repair work to mine.

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