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  1. #1

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    Oct 2002
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    Use of the dark cloth

    I am curious as to how many here keep the dark cloth over their cameras at all times. Indeed, how "necessary" is the continued use of your dark cloth in order to prevent fogging of the film when removing and reinserting the film holders and dark slides? Is the continued use of the dark cloth dependent upon the brand or size of camera that you have ( or perhaps the material that is used to make your camera ), the age of the camera that you use, or even the type of film holders that you are using? Does the presence or absence of a bail back influence your decision? A friend of mine and I are discussing the necessity and advisability of keeping the dark cloth on one's camera at all times. Thanks for your help and the details of your experience.

  2. #2
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Unless your camera has tested light leaks, which it would be better to fix, I wouldn't leave the dark cloth attached to the camera. There have been some well known photographers, like Morley Baer, who have been known to wrap the darkcloth around the camera to reduce light leaks, because they had old cameras with lots of leaks and pinholes in the bellows, but if the camera is working properly, it shouldn't be necessary. If you're outdoors, it seems to me, the darkcloth is another thing to catch the wind and cause camera movement.

    When I use a traditional darkcloth, I fold it in half and drape it over my shoulders like a cape, and then flip it over my head and the camera back when I need to see the groundglass.

    I also have a BlackJacket, which attaches to the camera, but I take it off to make the exposure.
    Last edited by David A. Goldfarb; 12-26-2010 at 05:28 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
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  3. #3

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    I have formed the habit of always using my dark cloth when a holder is in the camera. There are so many little things that can screw up a LF photo that eliminating a possible problem always is a good idea. Two of my LF cameras are antiques. I am always suspicious of light leaks, whether in the bellows or because an ancient wooden film holder might be a little warped or the light seals less than secure. Using the dark cloth to wrap the whole works is cheap insurance. My modern wooden 4x5 never has had light leak problems, but I'm so in the habit of keeping everything covered that I don't even think about it.

    I have three LF cameras, none have a bail back. It's never been a deal breaker for me. Bail backs are nice, but unnecessary.

    Peter Gomena

  4. #4

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    I have never used a dark cloth on location or in the studio in the 26 years I have been shooting with large-format cameras. I have never had an issue with not using one. This is with Speed/Crown Graphics, Sinar Alpina, Fs, and Ps, Calumet somethingorother, Wista and Linhof technical cameras, Toyo 45a, and a Toyo 8x10. Mostly with plastic sheet-film holders, but also wood, Fuji/Kodak readyloads, and the Graphex Rapid. I also shoot with 6x6 and 6x12 roll-film holders. All the folks I know that shoot large format have not had issues either. Nor have I ever received instruction to use a dark cloth for more than simply focusing on the ground glass.

  5. #5

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    So there you have it: Two different opinions, each with its strong points. I guess it's up to you.

    Peter Gomena

  6. #6

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    Yes Peter...exactly the spread of opinions that my friend and I have discussed with each other! Obviously there simply is no, "right or wrong".

  7. #7

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    I am not sure it is about opinion. Cameras by their nature should be light tight. And consistently light tight. If not, you have a problem. At that point you can fix the problem by repairing/replacing the equipment or by a some temporary fix. To make generalizations from unique circumstances is not very useful. Basically, the only use for a dark cloth is focusing. If you are using it to prevent fogging, you have a problem.

    It is not about "right or wrong." It is about if it is needed. I knew folks who used to shake their Polariods when developing them in the belief that is was important--it isn't. If you want to wrap your camera in a dark cloth, no one will stop you.
    Last edited by Hikari; 12-26-2010 at 05:52 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  8. #8
    Christopher Walrath's Avatar
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    I check my gear periodically to make certain that everything is light tight. Found holes in a lens board that way. But, as a general rule, and as long as it not windy enough to rob me of my gear, I leave the cloth on throughout.
    Thank you.
    CWalrath

    "Wubba, wubba, wubba. Bing, bang, bong. Yuck, yuck, yuck and a fiddle-dee-dee." - The Yeti

  9. #9
    nick mulder's Avatar
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    When hanging the darkcloth over the camera I've sometimes weighed down the bellows enough for it to mask the film - big ol' fade to black at the bottom of the image that took me about 5mins to figure out (in retrospect)...
    Cleared the bowel problem, working on the consonants...

  10. #10
    CPorter's Avatar
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    While I'm certain that my camera has no light leaks----I'm not equally certain that my holders might not develop a leak, being that some are pretty old---who knows when that might happen. So I have the habit of transferring the holder from it's black plastic bag (I use the bag that 8x10 paper comes in for this) to beneath the dark cloth to insert it into the camera back, so I keep the cloth over the camera until I'm ready to move on.

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