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  1. #1

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    Status of Great Plains ULF Cameras ("Chinn cameras")

    About 2 years ago I began to discuss the idea of building some new, lighter weight cameras for ULF that would be less expensive and include proprietary film holders that would open up ULF photography to a whole new group of enthusiasts.

    About a year ago I began to accept deposits to build a handfull of these cameras. As the year dragged on I was confronted with several obstacles, not having to do with designing or building cameras but with changing my status at my regular employer, a hand injury, family issues etc.

    I also got away from my original idea of building a couple of prototypes and sending them out for evaluation before ever really talking about it publicly. Instead I got caught up in trying to promise all kinds of things I was not ready or able to deliver on. In trying to obtain my goal of cameras and film holders about 1/3 to 1/2 the price of current offerings I began to pile up a rather impressive array of non-acceptable prototypes, scrap aluminum, plasitcs, and various kindling of walnut, cherry, mahogany and oak.

    Eventually I built a very light, but not acceptable camera that I posted images of in the technical gallery. My goal of a positive locking back and top loading film holders has come to fruition and are the heart of the camera. The use of older designs to build a front standard with a screw rise to handle heavy lenses works extremely well, but the bed/rail/chassis was not acceptable.

    So back to the drawing board and returned to using wood for the main frame and then going with an extension rail/bed that transports seperate from the camera. the rack slides into the main bed and is locked down after the front standard is slid into place. This rack which has a double extension is a hybrid of aluminum and wood, which gives me the stability I have been searching for at maximum extensions.

    These changes continue to be made with my orginal goals of affordability, flexability in mind. With the new and final design I will still be able to meet my goals of 11x14 or 7x17 camera with 2 film holders in the $2300-$2600 range. Other formats relatively priced.

    The top loading holders work well and I have tested them using both a hinged frame to hold the film in place and a very versatile double sided adhesive. The top loading holders will provide a nice flexability with the use of inserts to shoot smaller formats with the same holders, thus eliminating the need for extra backs.

    I currently am trying to right the ship by returning depoists as soon as possible to individuals who have waited almost a year. I do not feel comfortable holding onto the money after failing on so many deadlines. As I said earlier it was a huge mistake to accept money for cameras when I was not even comfortable with a final design.


    After I send out a couple of prototypes and get feedback the original folks will still get first dibs on the first cameras.

    After that I will build a few cameras and see if there are any takers. People can base there decisions on the feedback from the prototypes and 30 days to evaluate the camera if they buy.

    I will try to post some images of the prototype (un-varnised wood and non-annodized aluminum next week.)

    I wish I could start the whole process over so the first time anyone heard about the cameras they woud already be a reality. But as they say "live and learn". I'm hoping the interest will still be there when everything is finished.
    "Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
    Robert Adams

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chinn
    About 2 years ago I began to discuss the idea of building some new, lighter weight cameras for ULF
    <SNIP>

    The top loading holders work well and I have tested them using both a hinged frame to hold the film in place and a very versatile double sided adhesive. The top loading holders will provide a nice flexability with the use of inserts to shoot smaller formats with the same holders, thus eliminating the need for extra backs.

    <SNIP>
    Allow me to complement you on your persistence and your unwillingness to bring a less than adequate product to market. Doing the r+d first, rather than selling "upgrades" at a later date is a refreshing sort of marketing plan in this day and age. I'm trying to visualize how your holder works. Phillips (in the past) sold 12x20 holders where the film was held in place by a frame that hinged at one end of the holder and was retained magnets. I have an aquaintence who owned some of these holders. He noted to me that the holders were easy to load in a darkroom but quite another matter to deal with in the field. Loading them in a Harrison (or similar) was very difficult as overhead clearance for the frame was problematic. Good luck.
    Celac.

  3. #3

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    I'll have to see how far the hinge needs to go up to be able to comfortably remove and insert a piece of film.

    For a changing tent the tape might work better. The film lifts off pretty easily and the tape remains tacky enough to use a couple more times. I Run the tape right along the long sides of the holder in 4 inch pieces and one piece at the top and bottom. Apply pressure gently with a cotton glove being carful to touch only the 1/4-3/8ths of an inch contacting the tape. (the same area that would normally be under the rails in an old style holder).
    As long as you stay on this width with your pressure you will have no marks on the image area of the film. (although gentle pressure with the cotton glove should leave no marks.) This is how I have been working with the holders.

    The nice thing about using the tape is that it allows the use of inserts in a holder so multiple formats can be used without the need to carry additional camera backs. For example, if one had a 12x20 camera, a set of inserts could be used to center 7x17 or 8x20 or 11x14 film in a 12x20 holder. With one camera, one back and 4 holders you could go into the filed and shoot 4 different formats.
    "Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
    Robert Adams

  4. #4
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    I'm not sure I like the idea of a filmholder that depends on tape (though I realize that the principle isn't too different from that of a very expensive Sinar holder designed for multi-exposure work, where the holder would have to be removed from the camera between exposures). Will the cameras work with traditional holders as well?

  5. #5
    Aggie's Avatar
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    I have been slowly buying 8x10 holders so I would have them for a smaller back on my camera. Are you sure you are not going to do the additional backs?
    Non Digital Diva

  6. #6
    Ole
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    I've discovered I can easily load and unload my 18x24cm plate holders in a changing bag, while 5x7" is about the practical limit with "modern" holders. The plate holders are book-type, and use sheet film insert sheaths. A dab of spray-on "yellow sticker glue" in the middle of each sheath holds the film secure and flat without making loading/unloading any more difficult.

    Maybe that could be adapted to ULF too?
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  7. #7

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    Aggie, there will be a seperate back available for standard cut 8x10 holders.

    At this time the holders are proprietary to these cameras. By designing from the ground up thicknesses and T dimensions are the same between formats. This greatly simplifies construciton of backs and holders and keeps costs down. that allows me to provide a pair of holders with each camera and then sell additional holders for quite a bit less then current offerings. For example an 11x14 holder would sell for about $150 or less then half the cost of other holders.

    I plan to someday make similar holders to fit other cameras. But each format requires different T-dimension and thickness of materials. Those will probably be wood construction. But that would be a ways down the road.

    After I get the initial cameras completed I will offer to build backs to fit standard(?) holders. With the non-ansi sizes such as 7x17 or 12x20 I will probably require a holder from the customer to insure the right fit.

    As far as deciding to go with the hinged frame or tape, I will probably provide a choice with the non-hinged version slightly lower priced.
    "Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
    Robert Adams

  8. #8

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    Jim

    I admire your honesty and tenacity with this project. When you posted images of the first working camera I posted some negative comment on this forum suggesting the rail design had serious flaws. I note too no one else was prepared to critisize the design.

    Well things have moved forward and you've made some positive changes, both design and commitment to your customers. We all make mistakes but not many would be willing to front up on a public forum and openly admit to them.

    I look forward to the successful completion of the new prototypes.

    Clayton

  9. #9

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    At those prices I think interest will still be there. You haven't sold a camera yet and already have an avid and dedicated following. And you appear to be treating them honorably. Kudos, and best of luck. I know I'LL be waiting for the waiting list to open.

  10. #10
    Michael Slade's Avatar
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    Jim,

    When I joined APUG a few months ago I learned of you and your plans to build a new camera system. I was very excited to see how things turned out for you, and have quietly watched in the background, read and re-read the threads documenting your problems, and waited very anxiously.

    This new thread speaks volumes to your dedication to a quality product, and also being an individual with integrity.

    I am sure your venture will have a few more pratfalls (give me a project worth doing that doesn't...), but you have shown the tenacity to succeed.

    I have been looking for a 12x20 for a couple of years, but have recently switched my interest to 7x17.

    I will hopefully be one of the early ones to sign up and pay for one of your cameras soon.

    Best of luck!
    Michael Slade

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