I built a great big camera, and figured there might be a few folks who would be interested in the process. The idea started when I read something about people using x-ray film in regular cameras as a cheaper alternative to photographic film. For 10 sheets of the film I normally shoot with, I could get about 125 sheets of the x-ray film. This new film, although cheap, is very fickle stuff, but once you learn all the tricks, it can be just as sharp as most other films, but it really requires special handling. When the film is wet, you can rub the emulsion off with your fingers, so tray developing must be done with extreme caution. You can’t develop this film in a rotary tank because it’s got a photosensitive coating on both sides which will cause spots on the negative where developer has gotten behind the film in the tank. Of course, if you really want it to work, it will, and you’ll learn a whole lot in the process.
I started researching lenses and materials for probably a year before I decided to do it. The was no design in place. It seemed easier for my head to build the camera one section at a time. The bellows were first. I had to move my couch and almost everything else out of my apartment’s living room just so I could lay the material flat and glue everything together. Two weeks of hard labour, windows open, and contact cement everywhere. When it was time to fold the bellows down, they wouldn’t go. I tried all kinds of things, clamps, taping them to the floor, coffee, nothing worked, I had measured incorrectly. All that time was wasted with exception to the hard lesson. The next day, I ordered more of the materials and 3 weeks later, I had my bellows. From the bellows, I built the rear portion of the camera, then the front, the rails, etc. I used my 4×5 and 8×10 cameras as reference for building the different sections. Construction time was about seven months, although I still don’t consider it done. There were so many design ideas that I tried, and now laugh at, but that’s just part of the process. Shooting with the camera much more difficult than my 4×5 or 8×10, but the results are quite impressive. The success is always mixed with failure, but that’s ok.