New adventures in large format film photography!

Set phasers to ‘moderately excited!’ I’ve just shot my first test (below) with a recently acquired Graflex Speed Graphic 5×4 press camera. Subject matter aside, I’m pretty chuffed! I’m basically looking to photograph some shots at weddings this year on 5×4 film in a bid to produce some imagery that is quite different to what I’m shooting now on 645. However, nice as the lens on my Graflex is, I’m looking to achieve a bit of a different look which requires a bit more exotic glass. Now it would be nice to go out and buy a Kodak Aero Ektar f2.5 lens and mount it on the Graflex but courtesy of David Burnett and his amazing results with the same combo, they are in demand and prices are crazy at the moment (as I write this there’s one selling on ebay for £750 still with an hour to go.) So, I’ve bought the closest British equivalent in the form of a Dallmeyer Pentac 8″ f2.9 lens for a fraction of the price. Let me explain…

UK wedding photography on large format film

Both these lenses were originally designed and used by the military during WWII in aerial cameras shooting on 5″x5″ roll film – hence the crazy fast aperture. I suspect they’re probably designed to perform best at infinity but they also make for a very interesting portrait lens with pretty thin DOF wide open and hopefully a pretty decent bokeh. Time will tell, I still have to figure out mounting it to the camera and running some tests to see how accurate the focal plane shutter is so it’s very much a work in progress.

I found someone selling some Polaroid Type 54 sheet film that expired in 2009 and I jumped at it. This stuffs been out of production for a wee while now but should still work OK being only 3/4 years old. I was pretty excited when it arrived and stuck it in the fridge overnight to shoot a test the following day. I took a couple of sheets out in the morning to come up to temperature only to find they were in actual fact Type 51HC film and were dated 1999. Now I’m not all that familiar with these Polaroid stocks but after a quick search it became apparent that the Type 51 film was mostly used for copying purposes and produces a very high contrast positive. I was just a little gutted until I found that unlike Type 54, it produces a negative and positive image in a similar manner to the much desired Type 55 film. My first shot didn’t produce an image so I doubled the exposure and process time and whooped as I saw a picture – all be it a very, very contrasty one. The neg looked OK though so with no sodium sulphite to hand, I washed it in running water for a while and applied a drop of washing up liquid at the end acting as a wetting agent!

UK large format film wedding photographer

You can see in the image above just how vast the Pentac lens is compared to the standard lens supplied with the camera. Because these lenses were made during war time, some are apparently better than others. My copy has N.O.C. stamped on it which I believe indicates it was made by Taylor Hobson’s daughter factory so I’m hopeful of decent results. After all I’m not trying to achieve optical perfection with this, it’s more of a fun experiment to be honest. Be sure to look back and see how I’m getting on with this. I can’t wait to get the Pentac lens mounted and shoot some colour neg film. Thanks for reading!

5 thoughts on “New adventures in large format film photography!

  1. Thanks for this post – Don’t know how old it is abut wondering how you got on with mounting the Pentac and the results. I have exactly the same combo and going to machine a board to take the lens. Lots of info on A.E lenses but not seen many results with this. Planning some close up wet plate portraits among other things.

    • Thanks Guy, I’ve just shot my first test since mounting the lens on to the camera this weekend and am planning a post in the next couple of days. I’m real happy with my first shot, better than I’d hoped TBH! In comparison to the Aero Ektar, there isn’t all that many resources for the Pentac lens which is a real shame – it’s a nice chunk of glass! Take a look back here in a couple of days and you’ll see what I’ve shot!

  2. Pingback: Graflex Speed Graphic with Dallmeyer Pentac 8in f2.9 review

    • Hi Damian, I used plubers PTFE tape, wrapped it around the lens two or three times and then screwed it in to the mount. Fitted very well, especially once I tightened the grub screw. Hope that helps, Craig

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