Week Fifty One – Kodak 3a model B4

October 25, 2017

Week 51 – MY Kodak 3a model B4

I am close to the end of this project and the things I have experienced throughout it have changed my photography. Take a look back at week 17 and you will see a camera almost identical to this, this one though is mine and completely influenced by that week. When I first considered medium format Em, at Emulsive film suggested a folder but I was sceptical. After getting a few folders under my belt during this project I was rueing that decision. That first big 3a sold me and I had to have one! Several came and went through Russell’s shop but were not quite the one, then this one appeared, it was broken but otherwise perfect and I wanted it, a deal was done and she became mine!

It is almost identical to week 17, c 1908 it differs in one main aspect, it is bigger! The first one took 118 film giving 6 x 10cm frames on 120 film, this one was built for 122 film with 6 x 14cm frames on 120 film. Now, it had some issues, firstly the shutter was sticking so went off to Lyndon for repair,  it leaked at the back but a length of black wool sorted that. I needed spindle adapters for the smaller film, I made my own from 2 spare spindles and the core tube from a till roll. While the shutter was away I popped on a spare shutter combo and ran a roll quickly to test for leaks etc. there were a couple of issues similar to other folders I had used - Hood too small for one but an easy fix. The second was getting the film to travel flat. A couple of tips to improve this are to only advance after extending the bellows then set your shot up while it settles. Bellows are exactly that, they suck and they blow – they will suck your film forward and will blow dust on your film when closing, carefully is the answer! I went a step further using 2 measured strips of card to extend the width of the film rails stopping any forward movement. Once I got the lens back I ran a second quick roll to determine the shutter speeds, Lyndon had informed me there were now fewer speeds, no timed and bulb either. He gave me a guide to what they were. That second roll showed me how much they were out and that everything else was ticketty boo.

Here we go then, here is what I plan for this camera and how I intend to take it forward. I want to use it as it would have been in its heyday, at present I shoot, scan then choose a suitable image and attempt a print, but with this I intend to go straight to the darkroom and produce 1:1 size contact prints for a scrapbook, it takes postcard size pictures for this reason and although mine will be narrower I think it is a good way to take a step further into the whole process, I will scan prints for sharing. I can tell you they don’t do the real prints justice, so much detail and sharper.

I selected 2 films, Ilford FP4+ not only because it is my favourite film but it also dries flat which is ideal for contact printing. Secondly I choose Bergger Pancro 400 for some extra speed given a storm and bad weather had been forecast, it also I hoped would dry flatter than the curlier HP5+ I would normally choose. I made up a mask for printing from a piece of glass masked with black tape to my finished picture size.

Well as predicted storm Brian played out for a lot of the week, but I did manage to run the films in-between. It was a grey day for the first roll and low mist for the second making life difficult. I am still treating these as test rolls, I think I have the shutter speeds dialled in, I am fairly close with overall exposures too. The finishing process is long so only managed to get to first draft prints but I am very happy so take that into consideration!  The camera is clearly happiest with the aperture closed right down with longer exposures, it gets quite soft otherwise particularly at the edges as you will see, I need to tweak the mask and a few other bits but very little. I tried to get 5 frames from each roll but will defer to 4, it will be better for the whole process. I look forward to nice slow days shooting slow images and tinkering in the darkroom. I think for a 110 year old camera it has done well in the hands of a printing novice. I see a lots of fun times to come.

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