Cameras and Wood chips

Sawdust, Router and camera back

Sawdust, Router and camera back

What does a wooden view camera and a power tool have in common?  That is a very good question indeed! let me brush a few wood chips and sawdust outta the way and I will tell you about another camera modification . . . if your a collector of vintage cameras you may want to go read some other blog and pass this story by . . Cameras & Wood chips an adventure begins . . . As you may have read I came upon an eBay special I just couldn’t resist and my G.A.S. affliction kicked in in high gear and I whipped out my plastic to acquire my latest treasure.  An Eastman 5 X 7 View No.2 Improved Model of Century View and Empire State No. 2 camera.  Well it showed up with a 4 X 5 reduction back instead of the wanted 5 X 7 back.  A few weeks of searching proved that finding a 5 X 7 back might be a lengthy quest . . . However I did find several 8 X 10 to 5 X 7 reduction backs.  After another week of searching I made a purchase of one of the reducing backs with the intent of cutting it down to fit the camera I have (this is where some collector is falling out of his chair and all I can say is sorry, I want a 5 X 7 back) . . . Well I am a few weeks down the road now after purchasing the candidate for modification.  I carefully eased out screws and removed the view screen, frame springs and frame . . . then using a miter saw I rough cut the major portion of the wood away from the basic 5 x 7 back.

finished routing and locator pin installation

Showing the finished routing and locator pin installation so back can attach to camera.

The next step as you can see above, was to use a router and remove enough of the frame (and size it down about 1/4″) to fit into the camera back. I also needed to route a guide / light trap on the back about 1/8″ thick which once that is finished I will then drill and insert new brass register pins so the back will lock into the retainer spring clips.

Had to notch the frame so retainer tabs could fully grab pins

Had to notch the frame so retainer tabs could fully grab pins


5x7 Back with Film holder partially installed

5×7 Back with Film holder partially installed

5x7 Back (installed) and 4x5 reducing Back

5×7 Back (installed) and 4×5 reducing Back

I am learning much about camera construction doing this and really admire those photographers from back then.  Imagine this, they did not have the benefit of modern power tools as I do today.  How labor intense photography was . . if you broke something or needed to do a repair . . . well it just wasn’t simple.  The simplicity of the equipment, the wide forgiveness of the medium.  Today’s precision is required, as the film plane of a digital camera is measured in microns . . . not fractions of an inch or millimeters . . . the film medium now replaced with a slab of silicon . . . well you get my point don’t you?  You can’t work on a modern camera with power tools from a wood shop.

I am now finishing the repairs to the film holders and am eager to get some paper and cut it down to fit the holders . . . always fun things to do.

Now that the hard part is done and the dust has settled a bit, yes I admit, it is not a pretty modification to the 8×10 reduction back so it would fit the Camera body, but I must remind you this is a field camera and an experimental platform for use.  I had no intent on original restoration, as such I may make other mods that will allow different uses.  For now, I can finally see the experiments with paper negatives and other light sensitive materials . . . this means . . . FUN of course.

I will post again when I take my new (old) 5×7 on an outing and make a few photos, more to follow

P.S.  2 points if know what “The Scheimpflug Rule” is.

Tim . . . . aka “Digipainter”


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