20 Square Inches Of Trouble – Sheet Film

20 Square Inches Of Trouble – Sheet Film

No apologies for the inches, children. It is what the adults use to measure photographic surfaces.

Even if we do give in to buying inkjet paper in A4, A3 and A2 sizes, we still get boxes of 6 x 4 and 5 x 7 from Ilford. And we measure print sizes in 8 x 10, 11 x 14, 10, 12, and 20 x 24 as well – it must put the wind up to the bureaucrats in the EU standards Department something chronic.

We also measure one of the standard sizes in the industry for sheet film as 4 x 5 inches. Europeans tried for years to make this into 10 x 12 centimetres but it never really took off – people still think of 5 x 4 or 4 x 5. 20 square inches of sensitive emulsion to put into the new Ilford Obscure pinhole camera – for good or ill. There is a 10-sheet box of it included with the kit – Ilford Delta 100 – a tabular grain film of excellent tonality.

Note: you can also get Ilford HP 5 and Ilford Delta 400 film in 4 x 5 packs from the regular fridges at the Camera Electronic shops. They are the larger 25-sheet boxes.

The convention of sheet film is familiar to all the old hands – but newbies to large format need to remember that the sensitive emulsion side of the film is TOWARD you when you can feel the film notches on the right hand top corner of the film. You will feel, rather than see them as you will be in total darkness for this loading and unloading procedure.

In the case of the Obscura, as soon as you are sure it really is entirely dark, open the box, locate that upper right notched corner, and lay the sheet into the large of he two boxes. Then drop the smaller box into it and press until the magnets catch. You are loaded for ( extremely slow ) bears. Unloading is the reverse of the procedure, and you can make use of the three-tray spare film box that came in the kit to hold your exposed film for processing later.

Now 4 ” x 5 ” is a little bit larger than the sensor on the average digital camera or mobile phone….and records a geat deal of information. The pinhole of the Obscura may be laying in a slightly soft image, but it will be laying a lot of it in there. If you were to make a contact print of the resultant negative – provided it was a good exposure – you would be amazed at the amount of detail that has been captured. If it is a bad exposure, you will be struggling to see anything.

The best hint I can give with the end result is for people who have good scanners like the Epson V700 or 800 series. You’ll have a sheet film holder in your standard Epson kit and can easily translate a negative to a digital file. I do it all the time using the ” Home ” setting in the software. There is plenty of detail captured from the sheet negative.

Users of sheet film who develop their films with traditional developers like Rodinal have sometimes bemoaned the grain structure that it produces. Scanned work in small sizes exhibits none of this problem and the contrast of the grain is excellent. Remember that you can also use Kodak Portra sheet film for colour work and have it developed at a professional lab.

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