Condensation on sheet film or lens?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Pasto, Jul 8, 2012.

  1. Pasto

    Pasto Member

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    I've been working on a project of environmental portraits taken in cold rooms/wine cellars using TMY-2 in 4x5. On three occassions my negatives turned out having a "fogged" area near the center. Very difficult to see on the negative but it turns out clearly visible in the print or scan. This only ever happens when I'm using my Nikkor SW 75mm lens. However, this lens has taken many other pictures with no such problem.

    The only explanation I could come up with is condensation on the film in the film holder or on the lens itself. My holders are always kept in ziplock bags just before taking the exposure. On all three occassions the weather was hot and humid outside. The inside of the celler is much cooler, and two of the cellers were air conditioned. I'm wondering if this is a problem others have encountered, and whether it is more likley to be condensation on the lens or on the film? Why would the condensation only occur near the center of the image, and does this distinguish between film and lens as the culprit?

    I attached a picture showing the fogged area directly to the right of the subject.
     

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  2. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Are you letting your equipment (lens and film included) acclimate to the environment before use? Condensation can happen anywhere and on any part of your setup. You may be looking at either-or-or_both type of situation.
     
  3. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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    Condensation occurs when a cold surface is introduced to a humid atmosphere. That's the opposite of the situation you described.

    If your camera cooled curing the shoot then you took it outside, you might get condensation that would dissipated as the camera warmed up.

    In any case it would not be in the light path when the exposure was made.

    Is it always in the same place on the print? Could it have occurred in the darkroom during printing?

    - Leigh
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 9, 2012
  4. Pasto

    Pasto Member

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    Tkamiya it takes me about 30-40 minutes to set up my lights, compose, and meter so I just assumed that this was enough time for everything to acclimate. Yes, it's clearly on the negative so it has to be a problem with the lens or with the film. Leigh you're right that condensation occurs when a cold surface comes into contact with humid air. This situation may actually occur in the lens itself (i.e., on the internal elements). Hot air spaces in the lens could possibly condense onto an outer element that's been cooled quickly. So the condensation could be on one of the inside surfaces. Thanks to Ian for this suggestion. I'm not sure but I do need to take some precautions. I'm also womdering that if it is the lens, why it only happens with my Nikkor 75mm and never with my Super Angulon 90mm. Could my Nikkor be damaged such that the internal elements are not properly sealed from the outside environment?
     
  5. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    The filmholders themselves need to be acclimated. If it's condensation on the film itself, there will
    be tiny water droplet distortions in focus when viewing the image under a magnifier. If the fog is
    somewhere on the lens, it will act more like soft-focus diffusion, blurring the image overall. Fog inside of a lens takes awhile to dissipate and will be apparent upon lens inspection. When any kind
    of lens fog is present, it will naturally be difficult to focus, and you should be suspicious.
     
  6. George Collier

    George Collier Member

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    I'm thinking that if it was in or on the lens (front element or otherwise), it wouldn't manifest on the negative as such a defined area, but might soften the image overall.
    Also, you could remove the lens from the camera before shooting, and see it (by looking through it) if it is there. Maybe you should store your holders there overnight before the shoot, if you can.
     
  7. adash

    adash Member

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    Are you sure you're not seeing flare because of the light, which is apparently to the left of the subject on this photo?
    Condensation usually happens when a cold object is introduced in a warm humid environment.
    In the film holder case I would assume it will start over from the edges and progress towards the center, since the edges are where the warm air would come in contact with the film first while still in the film holder.
    If a lens is to get condensation, it would happen all over the exposed glass surface, so you're probably looking at a flare or internal reflection artifact.
     
  8. Pasto

    Pasto Member

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    Thanks Adash. I have not considered that. However, flare would manifest itself more evenly across the picture rather than a relatively small spot??
     
  9. adash

    adash Member

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    Not really. Usually the filter thread acts like a small shade for light at that extreme angle, so if the front coating is bad or old (not that it ages, but coatings were not that good 50+ years ago), it would shine or flare in the spot where light shone on it. I have had such problems with Industar 50-2 and Helios 44M-4, that I believe were single coated, although made in 1980-ies. I guess you could imagine at what angle the flare would look like the one on the picture and how to test. BTW, flare is much more difficult to spot on ground glass than on film, so I believe that's why you didn't see it.
     
  10. adash

    adash Member

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    BTW, I am not completely sure that is flare, but it's a direction to check on the particular lens.
     
  11. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    I have sometimes has problems with condensation while working during the winter. The effects are fairly unpredictable - from none to unusable film - and I have seen something like your example on at least one occasion. The best way (not perfect) I have found to avoid it is to keep film and film holders in pretty close fitting sealed plastic bags. I also try to leave the camera and film out in the cold if it is secure and I'm not going far.
     
  12. Pasto

    Pasto Member

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    I will check adash. I don't think it's the major problem as the Nikkor SW has the latest coatings and the glass is pristine.
     
  13. Pasto

    Pasto Member

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    OK, after considering all the thoughts and advice, I'm taking this problem to be condensation on the inner lens elements. So the fix I'll try is to keep the lens triple-ziplock-bagged with desicant and lens in the inner bag. I'll let the whole thing stand for 20-30 minutes in the cold room before removing the lens and attaching to the camera.

    I'll be shooting several cold rooms in the next 2 weeks. I'll post my findings.

    Thanks to all for your great suggestions.
     
  14. randyB

    randyB Member

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    "If a lens is to get condensation, it would happen all over the exposed glass surface, so you're probably looking at a flare or internal reflection artifact." Initially this is correct, BUT as a lens warms it clears the condensation from the outer parts to the inner parts of the lens. Several times I've had a LF lens look clear but still have condensation on the inner most elements even after 10-15 min of adjustment time. The inner most elements of a LG WA are the most subject to problems as they are the smallest diameter elements that all of the light has to pass thru. You might also look for dust, smudges, crap on or around the inner most elements.
     
  15. Andre Noble

    Andre Noble Subscriber

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    Have you considered paranormal phenomenon?:smile:

    No but seriously, could this be due to pulling dark slide out too quickly - a static electricity discharge?

    Also, how about a hole in bellows?
     
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  16. Pasto

    Pasto Member

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    Regarding condensation, I've actually tested this by putting my lens in the fridge for a minute or so! There was condensation build up and it cleared from the edges to the center area so consistent with the condensation hypothesis. I brought the lens in to my tech last week and he could not see any problem with the glass at all. In fact, he marveled at how pristine the elements are.

    The other possibility is a pinhole in the bellows as Andre suggests. I use a bag bellows exclusively with both my 90mm and 75mm. I've never had this problem with the 90mm. The shorter compression for the 75mm would seem to suggest that a pinhole is less likely the problem. I'm assuming that extending the bellows would be more likely to open up any pinhole. Static charge is possible, but again this only happens with the 75mm...

    I'll check the bellows for pinholes tomorrow morning when I'm more awake....

    Thanks.