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Friday, October 3

Kodak Specialist half plate: first "outing"




Now that the darkroom is functional once again - how long it stays that way remains to be seen - I thought I'd get the Big Beast out to see if it's working OK. The biggest doubt was over the bellows. I'd checked them in the darkroom using a torch to see if I could spot any leaks and everything seemed fine.

However, whilst giving the camera a bit of a clean a couple of weeks ago I noticed that some of the corners of the bellows had a slightly moth-eaten appearance - nothing drastic but an obvious bit of wear and tear that made me wonder if they were fit for purpose.

The Specialist 2 when it arrived home from the auctioneers.

Nothing too obviously amiss here but you never know...

The other imponderable was the 150mm Ultragon process lens I picked up for £12 months ago but hadn't used either. It looks the business but lacks a shutter, not that something like that is normally an issue using paper negatives indoors where the exposures run into minutes. Oh, and the dark slides aren't in the best condition so they were another potential weakness.


The engine in my brother's car ate itself a week ago when the timing belt snapped so he's been running around in my vehicle as he looks for a replacement. I've been confined to base for most of that time so the Kodak was pointed at familiar scenes at home.

As usual with paper negatives, there was the issue of very high contrast images to overcome, something which a yellow filter helps to reduce to manageable proportions. I could have pre-flashed the Kodak Bromesko paper as well to achieve a further reduction in contrast but I just wanted to get cracking. Only later did it occur to me that a yellow filter wouldn't really have done much at all for the contrast of the graded paper I was using. It works on multigrade paper as that's sensitive to both blue and green light. A yellow filter reduces the amount of blue light hitting the emulsion which reduces the density of skies or light coming in through windows.

Graded papers, on the other hand, are only sensitive to blue light so using a yellow filter will just increase the exposure time without affecting contrast. Working that out beforehand would have been a good idea!

So, at the top of the page are a view of the bottom of the stairs and one of the top, both scans of the paper negatives. Neither is a masterpiece - just snaps to try things out - but at least they show that the camera is working OK. There was no sign of light leakage although it was quite dark in the house and there wasn't much in the way of bellows extension.

Contrast was high as expected. I chose the Bromesko for this test because it's single weight and better for contact printing but also in the mistaken belief that, being at least 32 years old, it might have lost a little contrast. Wrong! The bottom of the stairs picture needed a 30 minute exposure at f11 (with the redundant yellow filter in place and the Bromesko at around 1.5 ISO) so I uncapped the lens and pottered about for half-an-hour. Returning to the Kodak, I realised I hadn't removed the dark slide so another 30 minute exposure was needed. An hour to take one photograph is getting to be a bit much. Need to pay more attention in future.

Now that I know the Kodak is a working proposition, it might be time to load up some more dark slides and take it out into the field. It's a big, heavy brute but it should be fine operating from the back of the car - providing I can get it back from my brother…

You might also like:

Kodak Specialist II unboxing
The £12 large format lens arrives
Kodak Specialist II update and instructions
Getting to grips with paper negatives
Andrew Sanderson on paper negs

5 comments :

Doug H said...

To ensure against light leaks in the bellow's corners, I use liquid electricians tape applied from the inside. Fully extend the bellows when applying, then allow to dry before use. Should give you many more years of usage.

Bruce Robbins said...

Thanks for that, Doug.

MartyNL said...

BRAVO Bruce!

Nice results from paper. I hope you'll be able to put some film through it one day. Although I realise it's not an easy format to get hold of.

Bruce Robbins said...

Thanks, Marty. I can get hold of some 5x7 and cut it down but it's an expensive form of photography. My biggest problem is I have pockets like the Laurentian Abyss and arms like a T Rex. Haha.

Eric D said...

If you have a good 'black cloth', it will help to keep light out.