Last week we had the pleasure of a special visit to the New55 FILM factory. Among our most generous supporters are Eric Luk and Shirley Lung.
Traveling from Hong Kong to the States with their daughter, they came to collect their Kickstarter reward — a 20×24 family portrait — from 2014’s successful New55 PN crowdfunding campaign.
We had a lovely time getting acquainted with Eric and Shirley and wish to thank John, Nafis & Theo at 20×24 Studios for providing unique and enabling photographic services that have been important to the survival of large format instant film.
Why is it that some users have significant difficulties — sometimes compounding difficulties — while others skate through the New55 PN learning curve smoothly?
Friends & users of the Customer Support line — firstname.lastname@example.org — are familiar with my reply, “You’re facing a common issue that is easy to remedy once its source is understood.”
A 545 holder that’s warn out or functioning “out of spec” can lead to repeated failure, so it is important to check your holder’s condition — particularly the function of the Finger and the Gate — to establish confidence in your setup. Success comes from experience and learning to identify the ins and outs of a hand made system of systems. (Our trusty refurbished 545 holders are available here.)
ISSUE #1 — “Sticky-Sleeve”
… in which the Sleeve-to-Clip attachment is over-tight, making Sleeve Withdrawal difficult. In some cases, the film packet’s stainless steel Clip “jumps the 545 holder’s Finger” during the Sleeve Withdrawal. (This results in a BLACK PRINT and a CLEAR NEGATIVE if the condition is not spotted before processing — see “Feel Your Pod“. It is because the negative, being still up in the Sleeve, has not received any light during exposure.)
The Sleeve-to-Clip attachment is reasonably tight coming out of assembly; this was engineered into the film packet system in order to prevent accidental separation and therefore accidental exposure of the negative in casual handling such as during unboxing or during film transport in a camera case. Some 545 holders prefer a looser attachment in order to function optimally. Here’s how to prepare for 100% success to deal with the tight Sleeve-to-Clip bond.
REMEDY to ISSUE #1 –“New55 PN – The Clip Tip-Tap Tip”
An additional note on the spirit of the Clip Tip-Tap process: Don’t wait for the issue to arise. When I am shooting New55 PN on an important series or project, I use the Clip Tip-Tap exercise for all 5 film packets in a box when first opening the box at the outset of the shoot — very likely this takes place as a preparative step back at the studio over coffee, WELL BEFORE beginning the shoot and certainly WELL BEFORE arriving at a location. My purpose is to get all my film stock in shooting fettle so as to maintain full concentration and not to be distracted from my subject in the midst of a shoot. Film-packet hold-ups are infuriating and unnecessary when preparation is possible and, indeed, helpful.
There is also …
ISSUE #2 — “Sleeve-Hang”
… in which, during Sleeve Replacement, the Sleeve will only return about 3/4 back home. (This issue is more commonly experienced in use with the 545i [plastic] holders.)
REMEDY to ISSUE #2 – burnish or tape
Burnish the leading edge of the Silver Release Tab with a finger nail with the purpose of minimizing its relief from the Sleeve paper. Then replace the Sleeve into the holder as normal.
The other, and most certain, way of curing “Sleeve Hang” is with the temporary use of masking tape to cover the leading edge of the Silver Release Tab in order to get the Sleeve home properly. After getting the Sleeve home, be sure to remove the tape before processing or it will cause an impression in both the negative and positive in development. The proper sequence is: add the tape to the Sleeve, then replace the Sleeve, then remove the film packet from the holder (using the holder’s Release Lever ‘R’), carefully remove the tape, then replace the film packet in the holder and processing as normal.
All the Detail You Were Afraid to Ask
The New55 FILM system is a SYSTEM-OF-SYSTEMS: the New55 PN film packet has over 17 components that must work together in concerted tolerance within a holder with many many moving parts and three critical sub-systems — the Rollers, the Finger and the Gate — which can vary from 545 holder to 545 holder and across over 7 different vintages of 545, 545i and 545 Pro holders in the series since the 1960’s. New55 PN’s variability in pod production and in its paper components reward alertness and sensitivity to the condition of the Systems in each mode or state of use.
Gaining a full understanding of the parts and functions of the 545 series holders, and of the parts and functions of the New55 PN film packet system, can yield a regular 4- or 5-out-of-5 success rate per box of New55 PN. Confidence in cleaning and diagnosing 545 holder issues is paramount, and preparing each film packet for shooting also remains key during this early hand-made phase of New55 PN’s production.
In the near future, as New55 FILM automates pod production and replaces paper and mechanical components with more apt, rugged and versatile materials, users are justified to expect a more fool-proof photography experience, an improving print quality and even more sublime negative.
R5 NOW SHIPS IN the United States for as little as $3.09 per liter.
Now, for our customers in the United States, we are offering Flat-Rate shipping from the United States Postal Service on orders of R5 MONOBATH DEVELOPER (and some other kit products, too).
You’ve complained about the high costs of shipping R5. And we have heard you — LOUD and CLEAR! The total shipping & handling rate you will pay now for quantities of either 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 bottles (our standard 1-Liter size) will be a flat $15.45. This translates to a significant savings at quantity.
For example, when you purchase one bottle of R5, the transport cost per liter is $15.45. But when you buy in quantity, the shipping costs per liter fall dramatically — 3 bottles ship for $5.15 per liter and 5 bottles ship for only $3.09 per liter. (See the cost analysis at bottom.)
Larger Size Planned
Due to its chemical composition, R5 MONOBATH DEVELOPER has a long shelf-life. Though we haven’t completed long-term testing, we have found in the short life of this product (we’ve been using it regularly since 2015) an unopened bottle lasts months longer that standard developing solutions. And an opened bottle can be trusted to work many months longer than an opened bottle of conventional developer.
R5’s long-shelf life encourages larger purchases, so the idea of a larger container now comes into play. Later in 2017, we plan on introducing a 2-liter bottle to the catalog for heavier use at home and in darkrooms and workshops. Pricing — to be determined — will favor heavy users.
We encourage you to try R5 MONOBATH DEVELOPER in any quantity for all black and white film formats including 35mm, 127, 120, 4×5 and up. You’ll see just how easy developing your black and white analog film negatives can be.
“The REEL Truth About MONOBATHS (Part I) – 35mm”
New55 FILM’s R5 MONOBATH DEVELOPER is easy to use and works nicely with just about all black and white films.
We are making extensive tests with medium- and large-format films, too, but in July we took the chance to try R5 with a few of our favorite 35mm films, including Kodak T-MAX 100, Kodak T-MAX 400, Ilford Delta 100, Ilford Delta 400, Kodak TRI-X 400, Ilford HP5 Plus and Rollei Retro 80s.
All the films worked superbly with R5 MONOBATH DEVELOPER. If it’s possible to draw a broad conclusion from this variety of subjects, settings and lighting conditions, it would be that these films behave very much like themselves with R5.
Their salient characteristics are easy for the experienced eye to pick out: the tabular-grain emulsions (the T-MAX’s and the DELTA’s) are tonally smooth with lovely mid-tones and delicious grayscale transitions, while the classic cubic-grain emulsions (TRI-X and HP5) are high in contrast and, in muted light with underexposure, can display their grain unabashedly. The Rollei Retro 80s examples (these are flash portraits with this adaptation of an old red-sensitive AGFA aero film) show fine grain and good contrast without sacrificing mid-tonality; a very interesting combination of traits. In all cases, R5 MONOBATH DEVELOPER brings out the unique qualities that experienced photographers have come to enjoy in these popular films.
The method used when developing 35mm films with R5 MONOBATH DEVELOPER in a reel tank is straight-forward. We use the Paterson Universal 2-Reel (Super System 4) daylight tank for 35mm films. Our 1-Liter bottle of R5 completely covers the two loaded reels in this tank and the extra solution — which can be used again and again — serves the key purpose to maintain the solution’s temperature.
After warming the R5 solution in a water jacket to 85°F, pour the R5 smoothly and quickly into the daylight tank, swirling the tank while you pour. A familiar agitation procedure begins immediately: rotate the tank’s stem consistently throughout the first minute; then, agitate for 5-second intervals at each 30-second mark. Total development time is 6 minutes. Replace your solution in the bottle, rinse the negatives under a room-temperature tap for 5 minutes and hang them to dry. (Rinsing warm negatives in very cold water can cause the emulsion to reticulate; this effect can be used creatively along with the enhanced grain of pushed cubic-grain emulsions.)
Temperature matters with R5 and serves as a potential control. A well-exposed negative will develop with ideal density at 85°F; to achieve a higher-contrast Push effect, higher temperatures can be used (though development time is always 6 minutes). Higher than 95°F can lead to over-development, and lower than 80°F can yield under-development.
R5 MONOBATH DEVELOPER is so easy to use with 35mm black and white film. Choosing from the variety of available films, you can dial in the tone and grain characteristics to suit your creative intentions. Control in rendering the negative is a key feature of the enhanced palette of the analog photographer. R5 adds convenience without sacrificing variety.
Photography and testing for this article was provided by Charles Fendrock, Jen Scovern and Sam Hiser.
Related article: “R5 Monobath exposure and temperature array” by Bob Crowley.
Angel Rivera, up in Anchorage, did something nice with some aging Kodak Technical Pan 2415 in R5 MONOBATH DEVELOPER. I believe I’m heading up to Alaska to get some of Angel’s Houston Bar-B-Cue. -SH
This tip is for new users of New55 PN who want to know more about the Clip and how it can be checked for the right amount of tightness. Enjoy!
When opening your box of New55 PN, first be careful that the Sleeve and Clip do not separate in casual handling. Then, make sure each film packet is ready to shoot by testing that the Sleeve and Clip are not too tight.
Try shifting the Sleeve side-to-side in its Clip; a half millimeter of shift will do to ensure they will separate smoothly in the holder when you are preparing to make your exposure.
If the Sleeve and Clip are very tight and do not budge in your hand, try tapping the ends of the Clip on a hard surface (not wood, as wood will ding). After the brisk tap, check by hand to see if the fit is just right to proceed.
I perform this little exercise on all 5 film packets in my box before I go on a shoot. This ensures that I don’t get distracted or waste time when the camera and subject are ready.
video: Jen Scovern | New55 FILM
New POD Quality-Control for New55 PN
Ted McLelland and Charles Fendrock are seen in Jen Scovern’s video, above, engaged in Pod production for the New55 PN instant 4×5 positive-negative black and white film.
Not visible is the careful mixing of the developer reagent, which takes uninterrupted time and concentration. But do notice the level of continuous precision necessary to set up, watch, check and test along the production line for a precise fill and even seal, for correct positioning of the cut, for accuracy to the specified Pod weight, and for proper thickness in the “Belly Gage.”
After Jen’s extensive Pod analysis in late May, all Pods going through Assembly upstairs have survived rigorous Quality-Control; and the latest Pod run this week generated a higher-than-expected yield due to a few key tweaks Ted and Charles made to the Pod Machine. Best run yet!
Daily testing in Assembly shows promise and we are looking for better Pod performance, including a more consistent reagent spread on the print and negative, in June.
Surveying the three basic types of 4×5 cameras available for large format photography —
- the Press Camera;
- the View Camera; and
- the Technical Camera
— let’s continue the “TO BEGIN” series with a look at the View Camera, also known as the “Field Camera.”
The bellows maxes out at less than 300mm, so serious macro enlargements or microphotography is out. But the View Camera has a nice wide range of movements for all kinds of Focus Fu, and it has front-rise for straightening the lines of buildings.
See Polly Chandler’s work (at right). Her extraordinary practice in environmental portraiture incorporates lots of camera movement and the gorgeous long tonality and acutance of old Polaroid Type 55.
The View Camera comfortably accommodates lenses from 72mm (wide architecture) to 210mm (head-and-shoulders portraiture). And the light weight and compact size makes for an easy carry. (The Ebony RSW45, pictured above, is a bit of a specialty item: with a rigid back and very short extension range, it’s a high-quality first tool for architecture and wide landscape, weighing in at 3.5 lbs or 1.6 kg. The photograph is from Ilya Azhdarov’s Behance page; I don’t know the creator.)
There are heavier and more precise cameras for indoor studio work, but the View Camera is a solid all-rounder and a superb camera for clocking your first ten thousand hours.
K.B. Canham (Ft. McDowell, ARIZONA)
Mike Walker (Flintshire, NORTH WALES)
Gibellini (Modena, ITALY)
Chamonix (Haining City, CHINA)
Shen Hao (Shanghai, CHINA)
Intrepid (Hove, UK)
Video: Jordan Bickett with his Ebony RW45
OLD WOODEN CLASSICS:
Burke & James
Gowland (especially the Pocket View)
We can help you pick your first large format camera. Please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
Considering the three basic varieties of 4×5 camera available for large format photography —
- the Press Camera;
- the View Camera; and
- the Technical Camera
— we’ll begin this short series by focusing on the Press Camera.
The Press Camera is compact, nicely self-contained and — for what it does — light in weight. This makes it simple to operate and inexpensive when assembling a working kit for portraiture, landscape or still life. What the Press Camera lacks in features, it overcomes in ruggedness, portability and elegant mid-Century design (despite its crude appearance).
Note the two most common Graflexes: the Speed Graphic and the Crown Graphic. Jo Lommen’s pages cover the differences between models and offer helpful detail on the rangefinder mechanisms (which can be tuned and used or taken off to reduce weight and bulk). The Speed Graphic’s focal plane shutter permits the use of both mounted leaf shutter lenses as well as barrel lenses — which are plentiful in all varieties, vintages and conditions and can still be found at reasonable prices. My own Speed — available to use at the New55 FILM workshops and featured in the action of our HowTos & Tips videos — carries the notorious Kodak Aero Ektar 178mm f2.5 barrel lens taken from a B-17 bomber.
The Crown Graphic is my personal favorite because of its simplicity, smaller size and lower weight. I removed the top rangefinder to use the camera for landscape work with the ground glass. With a small normal lens on board, it weighs less than 4 pounds (about 1.5 kg) and fits easily in my pack above the film and accessories case.
The Crown Graphic initiated me to large format photography in 2009. I was shooting landscapes and rustic buildings with a 2 1/4 camera and quite soon came to the realization that the converging lines (typical in architectural perspective) required some control. The remedy was a small amount of front-rise (or shift when shooting verticals) which, Cole Bellamy convinced me, the Graflex provides in perfect measure. So my introduction to sheet film came — despite the amazing, huge negative — in favor of the modest but sufficient movements of a Press Camera.
Weaknesses of the Graflex include its modest ground-glass visibility and the lack of back rotation (solved by turning the camera sideways). These are niggles against what is an awesome and timeless package for making real photographs.
For backpacking, this folding camera — essentially a leather-covered mahogany box (replete with dovetail joinery) — is a strong early choice. And there are some classic small 90mm and 150mm lenses that are perfect for travel work at f16. The Kodak or Schneider press lenses that often come on a Graflex (at 90mm, 127mm and 135mm focal lengths) are also excellent and ideal for getting started.
The list of artists known for their work with this camera is too long to mention without omitting (and insulting) many gum-shoe press Jakes, but in the creative arena it includes Ansel Adams, Arthur Fellig (Weegee), Robert Mapplethorpe, Barbara Morgan, Frank Petronio, Louis Mendes, David Burnett, Suzy Pickle, and of course many others.
Today, tens of thousands of these cameras repose in American attics, basements, steamer trunks and fallow darkrooms; and they perform yoeman service in creative hands around the world. Graflex was last owned by the Singer Corporation in 1973 when it sold its tooling to Sakai Special Camera Mfg. Co., Ltd. — today’s makers of the excellent Toyo brand. Joining Toyo, other contemporary Press Camera manufacturers include Linhof, Wista, and Horseman.
When buying a Graflex, try to inspect the camera in person to ensure the bellows is good (they are tough). Check that a Speed’s focal plane shutter is at least intact and that the focusing track travels soundly throughout its whole range. (Especially check the inner tracks, which can be mangled or loose from the camera’s lid being closed with the tracks in the wrong position.) Expect to have a Speed’s focal plane shutter tested and its spring calibrated, and have any rangefinder you intend to use (the Kalart is the one) re-calibrated to your lenses by a professional camera-tech. (If your new Graflex can’t seem to get the focus right, it may be necessary to have the ground-glass assembly checked for correct film-to-flange alignment.) These cameras, when obtained opportunistically in poor shape, can make an absorbing restoration project.
– Sam Hiser, CEO, New55 FILM
Credits: Anniversary and Pacemaker Speed Graphics by Jo Lommen. Pear and Clementine, Peter Lu, at the New55 FILM workshop at Digital Silver Imaging.
GETTING READY: the 4×5 Lens & Shutter
GETTING READY: the 4×5 Tripod & Head