In the past two articles we’ve explored the possibilities of a simple and straightforward DIY (do-it-yourself) large format camera system. We’ve considered optics and camera design, discussing the information necessary to build effective lenses and simple, one shot hyper-focal box cameras. In this article I’d like to introduce you to the use of orthochromatic lithography film in a large format camera as a unique and interesting alternative to conventional black and white sheet film.
There are several reasons to try “lith” film for creating in-camera negatives. Chief among them might be cost. A quick comparison shows that a sheet of 4×5″ lith film costs about $0.22, while a leading conventional black and white film is closer to $1.33. If working with larger formats interests you, 8×10″ lith film is more than five times less expensive than conventional film−$0.80 compared to $4.50! And, if you dream of experimenting with “ultra-large” formats, lith film provides a cost effective opportunity to try it without breaking the bank.
Another compelling reason to experiment is for those who harbor a longing to create photographs that have the look and tonality of wet plate collodion, but are unable or uninterested in making the significant commitment in chemistry, apparatus and learning that is necessary to begin. While there are tactile differences, lith film and 19th Century processes such as collodion offer similar sensitivities to various wavelengths of light. This phenomenon is known as spectral sensitivity, or spectral response. This simply is the term to describe how sensitive a photographic substrate (film, paper, glass plates, CCD, etc) is to radiation in the different spectral regions.