Hand-held/Aerial 8x10

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by Richard Boutwell, Aug 17, 2007.

  1. Richard Boutwell

    Richard Boutwell Subscriber

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    I am thinking about making a hand-held fixed focus 8x10 to use with an aerial project. Has anyone made such a camera? Or used an 8x10 in a small airplane?

    I am envisioning a Hobo with a 19" (480mm) lens. Could be aircraft plywood or aluminum, and would have a standard film back for normal holders.

    By the looks of the Gowland Aerial 8x10, it should be fairly simple-- I would think the hardest part would be finding a LF Shutter fast enough to minimize the effect of the plane's engine vibration. I was thinking maybe a Sinar Epolux or something similar.

    Any thoughts?

    Best, Richard
     
  2. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    I could be wrong but I dont really think engine vibration would be much of a problem.

    Fotoman makes one....but not for 480 mm...check Badger Graphic Sales.

    19" might be a bit awkward in a small plane (how small?)

    It might be possible to use a regular field camera with a smaller focal length lens, say 150, 210 or 300? Just some thoughts. In any case if you are set on 480 mm, a simple thin plywood box and use the back from a field camera.
     
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  3. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    richard,

    you might consider putting some sort of metal sleeve around your bellows
    to keep it from being pushed into the the view. (maybe this is only needed
    when shooting from a helicopter, with a HUGE downdraft, but just the same,
    it might be something to consider.

    steve grimes and i were working on a project to make something similar
    for a speed graphic --- i was considering documenting a highway project from the air.

    good luck!

    john

    ps. shoot from a "high wing" plane,
    use the hightest shutter speed your lens has,
    and get a LEASH for your camera :wink:
     
  4. freygr

    freygr Member

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    I have a surplus F5.1 300mm duplex lens from a aerial camera, unluckily the lens was the only part in the surplus store. But I keep see aerial cameras on ebay, and the sellers must think they are made of gold. Just remember you are moving and the shutter speed can't be too slow.
     
  5. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Standard aerial cameras are 9x9 or 9x18 format with 9" film on rolls. Filters must be used as a function of altitude in about 10,000 - 20,000 ft increments for UV problems.

    The usual lens runs about 36" (Sorry but the English system was used by the AF here. That would be about 1 meter.).

    This arragement works very well.

    PE
     
  6. richard ide

    richard ide Member

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    PE
    I thought the long focal length lenses were more for military cameras. Aviogon lenses used in Wild cameras such as the RC7 were 150 mm. I think the Super Aviogon is about 83mm. Both cover 9 x 9.
     
  7. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    I don't know what you mean by "small airplane", but since you want the camera to be hand held it's probably a safe bet that you won't be riding shotgun in an RF-4. Unless you'll be in a helicopter like a UH-1 with the side door open, even a 19" focal length won't give you enough room to aim the camera.

    Back in my flying days in Louisville I went up a few times with Billy Davis in his custom modified Cessna 210. He had had the left side of the airframe cut out underneath the back seat window and replaced with a plexiglass insert that he could remove while the pilot circled the subject slowly in a steep bank. He used a Speed Graphic and even that was a pretty tight squeeze in a vehicle narrower than my car. And that was with Billy sticking his head and camera outside the aircraft.

    The shutter won't be a problem at all, since you'll always be shooting at infinity. If you're shooting Tri-X rated at 200, on a sunny day you can shoot wide open (given that your lens is f/11) at a 400th of a second. Or 200th at f/16. You get the idea. Besides, the pilot can idle the engine while you're over the subject and there will be little vibration anyway.

    It seems to me your problem is not the camera per se, but the logistics of using such a long lens in such cramped quarters. If it were me, I think I'd go ahead and photograph with a hand held 4x5 or 5x7 and then make digitally enlarged negatives to be contact printed.

    Whatever you do, make sure that there is nothing between you and the subject but air. Shooting through plexiglass windows of the airplane will destroy your resolution. You may as well photograph with a Holga as do that.
     
  8. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    Like a 4x5 box "camera"

    Richard, make one with a fixed focus at infinity and you are good to go. To get that infinity focus correct, make sure to allow for a couple of shims if you don't hit the nail squarely on the head. You can get pretty close with the lens you want, measured on your existing 8x10 setup (front of lens board to face of film holder). I would use thin plywood (1/8" or 3/16") with battens to stiffen the inside edges (3/8" or 1/2") of the snout and yellow glue (Titebond, Elmers, etc.). Same thing with the backing for the film holder. I used band saw blades to hold the back in place as springs. You might think about a "sky hook" in the middle of the snout on two different sides (vert & hor) for a bungie cord or spring to help hold it from the top as you shoot.

    These are two variations of the same thing. The first used a focusing knob, the second just a slip joint with a "box within a box" design for a light trap. Inner box attached to lens board, outer box attached to camera body. Fuzzy velcro was the sliding part to form the light seal. Watch out for buffeting from the wind and put some strong handles on the box! Best, tim

    P.S. pm me if you need to do some brain-storming.
     
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  9. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    A fellow I knew in Colorado back in the mid 80's was doing aerial photography. He had a 4X5 camera and nothing with a really long extension. If my memory serves me correct he used something like a 210 mm. He shot wide open and at 1/400 second using color film...probably 160 speed because it was neg film.

    He said a helicopter was smoother so long as it was moving forward slowly.
     
  10. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    You are correct and that is why I said AF (Air Force) in my post, as that is what I was referring to.

    To go on with this though, I used a Speed Graphic with a normal lens to take some very nice air to air and air to ground shots.

    I used Super XX for most all shots.

    PE
     
  11. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Um, er, ah, yes there were very large format aerial cameras that shot 9" film and some of them used very long lenses.

    But there were also aerial cameras that shot 5" roll film and used lenses as short as 38 mm. And there were aerial cameras that shot 70 mm film and, again, used lenses as short as 38 mm. All military, although some were also used for mapping.

    Perhaps you were thinking of the cameras that flew on SR-71s and A-11s.
     
  12. richard ide

    richard ide Member

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    I now make the connection between AF and Air Force.
     
  13. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Dan;

    All manner of cameras were used for aerial photography and for space photography as well. The 9" cameras were used as early as the 40s and into the present. It depends on how much space is available in the plane. Newer, sharper, fine grained films make it possible to use smaller formats.

    They even used the Hulcher camera with 70mm film and other similar cameras for hand held photography.

    Vibration was never a serious problem in my experience, as long as the shutter speed was sufficiently high.

    Again, see the 4x5 B&W photos taken with a Speed Graphic in my gallery.

    PE
     
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  15. PhotoHistorian

    PhotoHistorian Member

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    I second Photo Engineers suggestions. I shot 4x5 with a Speed Graphic and made mural prints for a government agency for several years in the 60's. With today's films and a Speed Graphic I see no need for anything larger. I have also shot 70mm for smaller aerial applications. So depending on the needs, 70mm-4x5 should fit your requirements

    Walker
     
  16. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    PE, PH, both of you would probably enjoy reading Roy Conyers Nesbit's book Eyes of the RAF.

    The world's Air Forces and map makers do and did very little aerial photography with hand-held cameras. Some, yes, as with the ex-USCG Agiflites that keep popping up. But not a lot, and certainly not for mapping. And these days Air Forces in the first world have sold off their film-based equipment and have gone digital. Its good enough and delivers the results faster. AFAIK, mappers are still film-based, but they're not in the hurry that photoreconnaissance types are.
     
  17. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Dan;

    I agree having done and used both types of cameras for aerial and ground based pictures. However, since the OP did not specify what the job was, I tried to cover both areas. If you are doing straight aerial photography, you can shoot it with a Speed Graphic or even a Mamiya or the like. If you are mapping or doing serious air to ground work you want precision equipment, probably with as large a format as practical.

    To print it, you want to have a rectifying printer to make individual frames match and you have to have overlapping frames and passes with precise navigation to make this work. BTDT too. Each frame should be marked with roll, pitch and yaw information to input into the rectifying printer.

    It depends on what the job is.

    PE
     
  18. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Richard Boutwell, however, makes only contact prints. He does this for aesthetic reasons. I think his best bet would be to have 4x5s drum scanned and then have hiqh quality digitally enlarged negatives made. It certainly seems easier to me than trying to cobble together some cumbersome kind of 8x10 arrangement, and I'll bet that if the right person does it (Salto?) you won't be able to tell the difference.
     
  19. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    John Kasaian uses an 8x10" Gowland Aerial and other LF aerial cameras. I've seen him lately on APUG, but he posts more often on the LF forum.
     
  20. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I will agree with Jim. I would rather shoot a 4X5 in this situation for a lot of reasons...but most importantly you could make a killer 11X14 digital negative that would be virtually indistinguishable in terms of quality from a 8X10 print contact printed from a film negative while at the same time having a print almost twice the size. The additional benefit is that you could tailor both the characteristic curve and the density range of the negative in ways that are simply not possible with a film negative.

    If 8X10 was your desired print size, I would sincerely think that one could enlarge a 6X7.5 or 6X9 film negative digitally and duplicate what an 8X10 contact print would show both in terms of resolution and tonal distribution.
     
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  21. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    I have a Gowland Aerial as David mentioned. It would be easy to make a handheld 8x0 but it would be easier to have Peter Gowland make one for you!

    The lens and shutter combo is critical. A copal 1 will give you max (optimistic)shutter speed of 400 but with a 300 Nikkor M or 305 G-Claron wide open (f/9) and a yellow filter up front my exposures are more in the 125 range on TMY at 400 asa and even then the negatives come out thin. Sure you can get longer lenses and faster lenses, but you'll have to find a shutter to accomodate them which is why the old Fairchilds and Graflex cameras used focal plane shutters.
    The Gowland really shines in helicopters with color film--ie, golf courses, which is what Peter designed the camera for.

    There are plenty of surplus military roll film cameras around. I'll gladly part with my 9"x9" K-17 and Houston Fearless processor if you're in the market. After the hernia oeration the doc said I shouldn't mess with it again, so you'll have to pick it up (I live in Fresno, Ca btw) It will push the wieght and balance performance envelope on a single engine cessna less than a 180/182 however.

    The K-24 is a nice camera if you don't mind the dinky 5x5" negative. Mine is currently jammed and the only tech shop I know of that will work on it is in Denver. I don't have the money to fix it anyway(do you have any idea what it costs to rent a plane these days?)

    My current love/hate relationship is with a 1930's Keystone F-8 with a 15" Wolly tele up front--a nice size and wieght camera with good handles for gripping onto. Bradford Washburn started out with one----if you're at all interested in aerial photography do take a look at his work. There was a great article in View Camera awhile back and he has a few books out (I have "On High."). The problem with the F-8 is that it takes 7" wide roll film or a bag mag for 5x7. Cutting and re-spooling 9-1/2" wide x 150' long aerial film to 7" is very labor intensive and takes a dark room larger than what I have available (my 9 year old daughter's "Barbie" themed bathroom) One of my many ongoing projects is to get my bag mag supple and light-tght enough to use with it.

    One more thought--if you do shoot 8x10 sheet film use plastic film holders with lots of pattern moulded into the "face" of the holder---it keeps the spring back from acting like a one way pressure valve when climbing to altitude by 'leaking' air into the body of the camera unlike the slick flat wood hiolders (I busted a few finger nails trying to reload over Mt Shasta on account of that lesson!)

    If you want any aerial junk for parts or to experiment with I've got bunch of it. My bride would be grateful if you made me an offer!

    Cheers and I hope every flight is CAVU!
     
  22. Bandicoot

    Bandicoot Member

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    I believe the Ordnance Survey - the UK's (excellent) mapping agency - went digital a cuple of years ago. But then, they already have the whole country mapped and what they are doing now is tracking changes in coastline, new building, etc., so they already have a base map to make the changes to, and they still do quite a lot of ground based surveying. Maybe if they were starting from scratch and were trying to do it all from the air it would be a different story.


    Peter
     
  23. fotoman

    fotoman Member

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    The Fotoman 810PS would be very suitable, but the longest lens useable is 305mm. Attached is a pic of the 810PS with a Fujinon 250/6.3 mounted. More info here... http://www.fotomancamera.com/Specials.asp
     

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  24. Struan Gray

    Struan Gray Member

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    If you can live with the smaller format, Cambo made a fixed-lens, fixed-focus camera for a 240 mm lens on 4x5. They turn up cheaply on eBay.de from time to time. Much more hand-holdable than a 19" on 8x10, where as many have said, the bulk will make life difficult even in a roomy airframe.

    I can understand the wish for 8x10, but smaller negs don't seem to have held people like Emmet Gowin back much.
     
  25. Richard Boutwell

    Richard Boutwell Subscriber

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    Thank you to everyone who has responded, and given their advice. I am sorry this took so long to fallow up on.

    So here is the deal: I want to make aerieal photographs over the Lower Owens River on the next couple of trips, which I would like show along side the 8x10 inch contact prints I have been making from there. I know enlargements from MF cameras can be nice, but when shown along side an 8x10 contact, they fall apart.

    I thought about getting something like a Fairchild, until I lifted one up . . .

    So, I wanted to build a camera on which I could slap my existing lens and film back. I could buy a ready-made camera, but that would be cost prohibitive. Making one is my only option. The shutter speed is still my main concern/problem, and from what I can tell, there is nothing faster than a 1/125 for a size lens that will 1) cover 8x10, 2) be a long enough lens to create the abstractions I am envisioning.

    So, I do have a Hass that I will take up on this first trip, and I will see if I can make some digi negs from that-- Although, the cost of having those made is going to make me wish I had made the damn 8x10.

    I do have my hand-held 4x5, which has a top shutter speed of 1/300, but a somewhat less than sharp lens (the other problem is the lens is slightly wide angle, which is not exactly the look I am going for). I could get a Speed Graphic, but that would involve money I don't really have. (Anyone want to trade a couple of prints for a functioning Speed Graphic with a longish [210] lens and a somewhat fast shutter speed?) If so let me know. I leave next monday . . .

    thanks again,
     
  26. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    What you want, basically is an 8x10 box camera. Simple enough, find an 8x10 back and build a box. For a fast shutter you'll need something that will fit in a Copal 1 shutter---thats where the expensive part comes in :sad: OTOH, you could always rent a camera. If you'll be in LA (Santa Monica really) on the way to Owens Valley you might see if Peter Gowland will rent you one of his aerial cameras. Like I said use plastic film holders and prepare for thin negatives if you'll be using a yellow filter. At any rate look up his website.