Need help with a Zeiss Ikon Maximar 9x12

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by Dirk79, Jan 8, 2014.

  1. Dirk79

    Dirk79 Member

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    I'm new to this forum - I tried posting this before but it didn't show up. I need help figuring out how to get started with an old Zeiss Ikon Donata / Maximar folding camera. It looks like it is the Donata version, which from my initial research is only distinguished from the Maximar by how the lateral movement of the lens is accomplished, so for the purpose of this discussion we can call it the more common Maximar.
    The opening in the back measures 9x12cm. The compur shutter works fine, the aperture is in amazingly good shape and I cleaned the 135mm Zeiss lens.

    I got this camera from my dad over christmas - it once belonged to my great grandfather and came out of my grandmothers estate. I mostly shoot digital and some 35mm film, I also have been learning to refurbish old Nikon AI lenses, but I don't even know the basics of how to take pictures with a sheet film holder, what exactly I need to look for in terms of parts etc.

    My questions:
    1. What is easier to find, attach and operate with this camera: roll-film back, film sheet holder? Currently the camera has an old film pack holder attached, I doubt that this type of film pack is still available.
    2. Where do I find resources about learning how to shoot with roll-film / sheet film? I've found quite a bit on youtube and in forums, but if anyone knows of a good one-stop source of info, it would be great.
    3. Where do I buy? Ebay, Pacific Rim Camera, any other suggestions?
    4. Does anyone know which specific parts I may need to get?

    Thanks in advance for any help, and pardon my ignorance on the subject. I've done a good bit of digging online but I can't seem to get to the point where I know for sure what I need. I don't want to buy fairly expensive parts that may not fit...
     
  2. Dirk79

    Dirk79 Member

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    Regarding question 2, I should add that I want to mostly shoot black and white, develop the film myself and then maybe get a film scanner.
     
  3. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    You're right, the pack holders are useless. Does it already have a ground-glass back?

    9x12 film holders are a bit of a complex world, because there are a bunch of different standards to which they were built. Your best bet may be to find out the Zeiss part number---from googling a bit I think it MAY be 665/7, but I wouldn't bet the farm on that. (Note that Zeiss made several different forms of 9x12 holders, I think because they bought up several smaller companies whose cameras were heterogeneous.)

    Rollfilm backs exist, but again you have to find one to fit a Maximar, the backs tend to be expensive, and you only get 6x9 or smaller formats---I think it's more worthwhile to shoot 9x12. Fomapan 100 is fairly easy to find in 9x12 (Freestyle routinely carries it), a few other films are sold in that format in Europe, and I believe the recently released Adox CHS II 100 is supposed to come in it eventually.

    I've gotten good service from Pacific Rim Camera; what they will and won't have is very random, but they're a reliable seller and I've always found their descriptions to be accurate. eBay is hit-and-miss as with other things---sometimes you get a bunch of holders in great shape, sometimes they're masses of rust or riddled with light leaks or the wrong fit altogether. Often the best way to get holders is to buy a camera that comes with them.

    Shooting large format involves a lot of steps, but none of them are particularly hard. Getting the hang of loading the holders in the dark is the hardest part, I think. Other than that:
    1. Point camera at subject
    2. Put on ground-glass back
    3. Open shutter
    4. Disappear under darkcloth and look at ground glass
    5. Emerge to tell people to stop laughing at you
    6. Go back under and focus until the image looks good
    7. Close shutter
    8. Try to remove ground-glass back
    9. Curse at sticky edges on ground-glass back
    10. Pull hard enough that the tripod moves
    11. Go back to step 1 and repeat until you get the back off without moving the camera
    12. Check that you remembered to close the shutter
    13. Insert film holder
    14. Set aperture
    15. Check that you set the aperture
    16. Check again
    17. Set shutter speed
    18. Dry-fire the shutter to make sure everything is working
    19. Make exposure
    20. Realize that you forgot to pull the darkslide
    21. Pull the darkslide
    22. Check that the lens is still stopped down
    23. Make exposure for real this time
    24. Realize that even with all those checks you STILL forgot to stop the lens down
    25. Curse
    26. Reinsert darkslide and remove holder
    27. Try another holder
    28. Remember all the steps this time
    29. Explain to spouse, friend, parent, etc. why all this is worth it
    30. Tell them again to stop laughing
    31. Go home and develop
    32. Get a fingerprint in fixer on the negative
    33. Curse some more (try another language for variety)
    34. Take up painting instead

    At least that's my general workflow, but everyone has their own preferences. Don't forget that there's some sort of rule that forces you to wear a cowboy hat when shooting LF landscapes.

    -NT
     
  4. jcoldslabs

    jcoldslabs Member

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    I shoot 9x12 with a couple of old German folders. I think they are wonderful cameras and function really well. Using sheet film with them can be a bit of a challenge for the uninitiated, however, mainly because you not only need to sort out which holders are right for your camera, but you will also need 9x12cm film sheaths that allow you to put sheet film in holders that were originally designed for glass plates.

    I would think that a 120 roll film back would be the easiest place to start since it sidesteps the plate holder and film sheath issue entirely. You can easily search Eb@y for one. Rollex, Rada and Suydam were three well known makers of these backs. The trouble is not every seller is knowledgeable and you could end up with a back that is not compatible with your camera. (Trust me, I've been there.) Here's one (LINK) that might fit your camera if it takes the typical thin-rail, slide-in holders.

    There is a lot of info on the Web about how to shoot roll and sheet film in general. It is a lot of fun. Enjoy!

    Jonathan
     
  5. AgX

    AgX Member

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    In Europe you can get some films and papers custom cut in all sizes you like. It then depends what comes out cheaper or more hassle-free, cutting self of having cut.
     
  6. jcoldslabs

    jcoldslabs Member

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  7. Dirk79

    Dirk79 Member

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    Thanks for the help and suggestions!! Nathan, I enjoyed reading your step by step list... what I'm getting from your and Jonathan's suggestions is that maybe I'll approach this project in 2 steps: starting out with roll film to make it easy on myself and then maybe getting into the 9x12 film sheets. My initial goal is to just be able to take pictures with the camera, and then maybe aiming at higher image quality. Or maybe I'll just see what is available and base my decision on what to start with on that.

    Is it possible to focus the camera reasonably without using a ground glass back? Can I set it to infinity, high f-stop and get reasonable images out of it that way?
     
  8. Dirk79

    Dirk79 Member

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    Thanks for that ebay link, I think from what I've read that one should fit, the current film pack back slides on with rather thin rails...
     
  9. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I have a few 9x12 cameras, cut film is readily available in Europe as it's a standard size, however you do need film inserts for plate holders.

    As has been said roll film backs are easy to find and usually very reasonably priced. Just watch you get the right fit whether plate holders or roll film backs as there's many variations.

    At the moment I have quite a few roll film backs mostly Rollex but a couple of Rada and only 2 are the same fit, I also have Quarter plate which is close to 9x12 (a touch smaller).

    I bought a large box of plate holders just before Christmas and hope to revise th post I made about plate holders in the next few months as I also have some catalogues etc.

    Ian
     
  10. Dirk79

    Dirk79 Member

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    Ian, I've checked out your images of all the different backs - quite an extensive collection and great that you are sharing all the info. My impression looking around on ebay is that I need to be patient to find a reasonably priced holder or roll film back that appears to have the right fit, I have seen roll film backs ranging from $10 starting price to $300 buy it now... could you tell me what a reasonabe sale price would be for a Rada Rollfilm back and for plate holders?
     
  11. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Dirk, I'd pay a maximum of $15 for 3 plate holders and $30 for a Rada or Rollex roll film back, you'd also need to find some film inserts.

    I'll check out what plate holders I have, there's two boxes and over 150 of various sizes & edge fittings, I've only done a quick sort and still need to identify them. I should have some for a Maximar.

    With roll film backs you need to be careful as they were available for 620 film as well as 120. I really need to compile a good table of the different types/edge fittings with photos/illustrations & measurements. It'll take a few days then I can do more accurate identifications.

    Ian.
     
  12. jcoldslabs

    jcoldslabs Member

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    Most cameras have focus scales with marks from infinity to around 6 feet or so. If you are stopped down a bit these can be fairly accurate for focusing without using the ground glass. Framing can be a bit trickier since the wire frame viewing mechanisms are geared toward the full 9x12cm area and not the smaller 6x9cm size. Still, it can be done with practice.

    As for what to pay for backs and holders, I agree with what Ian said, although I might pay a bit more for a good condition Rada roll film back. I have both a Rada and a Rollex and the Rada is much nicer by far in terms of construction and ease of use, but both will work fine if they are in decent shape.

    If you are patient and willing to wait a while, good deals will turn up on Eb@y or elsewhere. Last year I picked up a set of 9x12 holders and a very nice condition Rada back in a leather case for around $20 total. Much to my surprise all of the holders had film sheaths in them, but this was not noted in the item description. Many sellers aren't sure of what they have and might not use the proper terminology in their listings so a detailed browse through the "Accessories" section of the film camera category can yield hidden gems.

    Jonathan
     
  13. edp

    edp Member

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    German ebay is good for these things.
     
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  15. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Ebay is one common database and login (account) details are identical for each portal as are data liked saved items, sellers, feedback etc. However different portals use different sub categories and some things on ebay.de don't map over to ebay.com or .co.uk aetc (and vice versa). So it's definitely worth searching German ebay.de - I do if there's a German item that's hard to find elsewhere.

    Ian
     
  16. Dirk79

    Dirk79 Member

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    Excellent, thanks!! I don't care if I get the absolute best price, but having a rough estimate is INCREDIBLY helpful. There are some rediculous prices on ebay for some of this stuff...
     
  17. Dirk79

    Dirk79 Member

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    There is a focus scale, so I think I'll try that and do a little bit of experimentation with the framing. I think I mentioned before - my first goal is to just be able to take pictures, higher quality will be a longer term project. Definitely exciting getting into this.
    Thanks for sharing the pricing info - it is really hard to judge by what's on ebay, so this is very helpful.
     
  18. shutterfinger

    shutterfinger Subscriber

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    You can measure the Inside Dimensions of the wire finder frame and the ID of the film gate and calculate the ratio between them then convert it to the equivalent for the roll film format you're using, cut a frame insert for the wire frame from foam core or similar material. Makes framing easier. One needs to take the lens angle of view into account when using lens outside of "normal" for the format focal length(s) when using a "sports" finder.
     
  19. Dirk79

    Dirk79 Member

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    That sounds like a reasonable compromise between accuracy and convenience, thanks!
     
  20. edp

    edp Member

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    You can probably convert your otherwise useless film pack holder into a screen.
     
  21. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I've converted film packs to hold a focus screen a few times for other people. I have a few film pack holders in a box somewhere not sure what fit, I know some are Quarter plate.

    Ian
     
  22. Brom

    Brom Member

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    Can I join this thread? I am selling a Zeiss Ikon Donata 227/7, on behalf of my late Father-in-Law's estate. Lovely camera, but I can't work out how to shut the lens! It folded out OK, but I can't find any means of folding it back, and daren't force it!

    Any suggestions?

    Brom
     
  23. shutterfinger

    shutterfinger Subscriber

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    Referring to this google search photo, https://www.google.com/search?q=Zei...kameras%2Fzeiss%2Fdonata%2Findex.html;728;550,
    fold the wire finder frame over the front standard then squeeze the two knurled knobs at the base of the front standard, between the rails, together towards the center of the bed and while holding then together slide the front standard into the body. Once the front standard is in the body press in on the bed braces at the edge of the body to release them then fold the bed up into the body. Movements should be firm but smooth. Do not force anything.

    The knurled knobs may be screw type in which case turn them 1/2 to 1 turn counterclockwise to release them.
     
  24. Brom

    Brom Member

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    Thanks very much for that. I think everything has been unused for so long it's all seized up. The knurled knobs are indeed screw type, and, with a bit of lubricant, I have managed to start them turning - now one of them has come out altogether, and won't go back in again! I shall persevere.

    However, the main problem is that the bellows will slide just half way back, then there is a small white latch adjacent the left hand side runner, into which a black metal piece forming part of the lens holder catches - and the whole caboodle then can't retreat further into the body. It might be possible to force this metal over the top of the latch, but that can't be the way it's intended to work!

    Brom
     
  25. ChuckP

    ChuckP Subscriber

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    Is that latch for the focusing scale? I can't remember but it might be spring loaded. Can you pivot it away to release the front standard?
     
  26. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    brom , pm Ian Grant.