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Sunday, June 25, 2017

rollin', rollin', rollin' ...

Since this blog is devoted to the the resurrection and use of old film cameras and  often discontinued film formats  I thought it should have a fitting theme song.  I've settled on Frankie Laine's 1958 rendition of "Rawhide".  A lot of my old film cameras are from that same time period, and more than a few go back another fifty years.

Meanwhile, I continue to make progress in reverse with my efforts to get pictures from my excellent if small collection of cameras using long-discontinued film formats.  Rolling 46mm Portra 160 into home-made backing paper for my Foth Derby and my Kodak Brownie Reflex went well.  I decided to capitalize on that success by extending the benefits of the lessons learned to my 828 cameras, which include some really stellar performers when they are supplied with film.


The first important step in my latest film rolling adventure was to move much of the process from my one-gallon dark bag to my ten-gallon bathroom.  This morning, as I had done with the 127 film, I cut some 120 backing paper down to the appropriate width for 828 and inked in frame spacing numerals using old 828 paper as a template.  One advantage in doing this with 828 is that I can make more frames available than the meager eight that was true of the original 828 packaging.  I decided to go for 14 exposures, and that does look like it will work, though it may be a tight fit in the film chamber.


Next, I moved all the necessary tools and components into the bathroom which has two handy work surfaces: the toilet seat with a towel covering, and the flat top rim of my steel bathtub.  I also carried in a small stool to sit on, and I covered the bathroom door keyhole with a piece of black tape and the gap at the door's bottom with a bath towel.


The two round refrigerator magnets work like an extra pair of hands to hold the backing paper and film in place.  A couple paperclips served to mark the starting and ending points for the film strip, as well as measuring markers for cutting the strip to length in the dark.
     After removing the magnet and paper clip, rolling the film in the backing paper starts from the frame-14 terminal end; the film on this end is left unattached as the paper is rolled over it.  The magnet on the other end remained in place briefly to help maintain tension and alignment.  Then I removed that magnet as well and rolled up the film and paper completely on the spool.  I then unrolled back to the beginning of the film strip preceding the first frame and applied a piece of tape to hold the film in place as it initially travels past the film gate.  I rolled up the remaining leader, applied a piece of masking tape to hold things in place, and popped the roll into a black plastic 35mm film cannister.
     The 35mm film I used, by the way, is exactly the same width as 828.  The image will spill over onto the perforations; that can be retained in the scan for an interesting framing effect, or the sprocket holes can be cropped out, leaving somewhat of a panoramic-proportioned image.  The actual rolling of the film strip into the paper backing only takes a couple minutes.

The candidates for this first roll are my Kodak Flash Bantam and the later Kodak Bantam RF.  Both cameras have fabulous lenses  The f4.5 Anastar in the Flash Bantam is a coated four-element design that was the equal to anything available in the immediate post-war years.  The coated three-element f3.9 Ektanon on the Bantam RF produces sharp, brilliant images.  Perhaps I'll give the roll to the Bantam RF; I've only shot a single roll in it before, and it only needs the first frame number to start as the subsequent frame advance is automatic thanks to a roller cog sensor.


I have used simpler techniques in the past to get film into my old cameras built for now-unavailable film formats.  With both the 828 and 127 cameras I have just covered the ruby windows with black tape, rolled 35mm or 46mm bulk film with no backing paper onto the reels and shot the roll by blind winding the film between exposures.  That has worked out surprisingly well with only a few over-laps and failures.

My medium format 1A Pocket Kodak was built to use 116 film which a little wider than 120.  I found that I could use 120 film in the 1A with no modifications at all.  The pressure plate has cut-outs that accommodate the smaller 120 roll and the boxy structure of the camera's front section hold everything in place.  Again, you need to cover the ruby window and blind wind the film between exposures, but that is easily accomplished with a little experimentation.  Others expounding on this subject have issued dire warnings about film flatness using the method I advocate, but I submit my images in rebuttal.

In all of the above examples I am using film stock that is exactly or close to the right width to fit in the cameras.  Perhaps more frequently, film re-rollers will use a film splitter to cut down 120 film to a size appropriate to use in cameras built for now-discontinued formats.  You can find film splitters for sale on line for $30 to $50, or you can build you own if you are the handy type.
     I'm not that type, but I have been tempted to build a splitter based on a design illustrated in a video by Nikolay Grinko.  A couple credit cards and a razor blade are the main components of Grinko's splitter, and the work flow he illustrates in using the splitter is pure genius, and would easily be accomplished in a small dark bag.  The resulting film roll does not have frame spacing numerals, so it would only work in something like my Bantam RF or his 127 tlr cameras with auto frame spacing.  Otherwise, you could take the extra step of re-rolling the film into backing paper with the proper markings to use in ruby windowed cameras. (Grinko is a musician, sound producer and photographer based in Moscow.  His 127 Flickr album is superlative.)

14 comments:

Jim Grey said...

I love it that you're doing the work to let your 828 cameras show their stuff. Look forward to the results.

I've shied away from 828. I'd like to try rolling my own someday but this is not that day, and the only available film for purchase costs upwards of $20.

Mike said...

I've shot quite a bit of unbacked 35mm film in my 828 Flash Bantam, but it is a lot more convenient to have rolls of film that can be handled in daylight.

jon campo said...

I am impressed Mike, very resourceful.I am looking forward to seeing the images you make. Any interest in revealing your film processing work flow?

James Harr said...

Nice one Mike. I think I have some of that same Konica 160 from your color 127 post in non-perf 35mm. I'll look and see and send some your way to feed those nice 828's.

Mike said...

Jon,
The Fuji 200 I rolled up in the 828 backing paper will get processed in Unicolor C-41 chemistry. I have had good luck with that as the time and temp remains the same regardless of the film and film speed. Also, it seems that the liter kit will process at least twice the advertised amount. I actually don't keep track of the roll count; when the colors seem off, I'll order a new batch. With expired film such as that given me recently by James Harr one needs to compensate for age with increased exposure, but the processing is generally the same as for new film. For b&w films I have on hand HC-110 and Rodinal.

JR Smith said...

The Bantam RF is a camera that has caught my eye several times on eBay. The hardware has interested me but the lack of software has scared me off. Perhaps I should reconsider?

Mike said...

I really like the Flash Bantam. I think it is one of the best cameras Kodak produced. The design and materials are top notch. The images the camera makes seem extraordinarily good for such a small instrument. The shutters on these cameras often benefit from some cleaning to work properly. The deco style Bantam Specials go for a lot more money, but I doubt they make pictures that are an better than the Flash Bantam. I made some simple modifications to mine to facilitate using unbacked 35mm film and that worked fine, but I'm looking forward now to shooting some properly rerolled film in the camera. You can also get custom rolled 828 from B&H. That film is custom made and pricey, but it is probably worth a couple rolls to get a feel for how the camera should work with the right film.

jon campo said...

Thanks for the response Mike. If you can process film without a darkroom, I guess I can too..

Mike said...

Home processing adds a lot to the enjoyment of photography as well as being a lot cheaper than handing over the film to someone else. It also provides a lot more possibilities for taking advantage of the great variety of films and developers that are still available. B&W is uncomplicated, but I have to say I've found color processing even easier and often quicker. That "Featured Post" over in the right hand column illustrates pretty much what I know about using the Unicolor C-41 kit which I get from Freestyle.

jon campo said...

Wow, thanks a lot Mike. I will look into that...

astrobeck said...

Rawhide is a perfect tune for your camera collection. Always good to see what you're up to and how you are making old cameras have new life.
Your film re-dos are very helpful and informative. I'll have to try the 127 since I have a Holiday model that needs a workout.

Mike said...

I'd be open to other suggestions, but four stanzas of Rollin', Rollin', Rollin' does seem hard to top.

Adam Paul said...

I've had very good luck getting 16 shots in using the 645 numbers on 120 backing with a 120 slit cut down of film to fit 828. Only catch is that it has to be loaded and unloaded in the dark due to a very modest leader...

http://quirkyguywithacamera.blogspot.com/2016/02/innovation-station-creating-828-film.html

Mike said...

I've seen that idea mentioned several times, but never tried it myself. I'm running my 14-shot roll now in the Bantam RF, so will see how that goes. I think it will work ok, but would also be happy to settle for 12, which I may try in the next round.