Ilford Harman Titan

FOR MOST people, a hole is a gap through which air can pass, like an open window. Most holes are not supposed to be there, and we spend quite some time complaining about them, such as holes in the road that wreck our tyres, holes in Swiss cheese that dont fill us up and holes in the knees of school trousers that cost us money. Some holes do have a value - kids used to bother our long - suffering sweet shop owner for a bag of Polo mint holes - but in general we view holes with indifference and disdain. But a hole is not a hole is not a hole, and there are few more able to appreciate this fact than the pinhole photographer To the pinholer, a hole is a very particular thing that has a known diameter, shape and space behind it. Its a gateway, not a fault, and a magical facet of science.

It is easy enough to make a pinhole of your own, as it is just that - a hole - and it is even reasonably easy, with some care and attention, to make a good one. But making a camera to mount it on that is easy to use,

reliable and convenient is another matter. And that is just what the Harman Titan aims to be.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION

The Harman Titan has a formed ABS plastic body, fitted with two well - secured tripod mounts, dual bubble levels, interchangeable lens mount and double darkslide film holder for the type manufactured, most famously, by Fidelity. The lens - to - film distance is 72mm, which is essentially the focal length of the lens. The 0.35mm pinhole creates an aperture value of f/206. A 72mm focal length on a 5x4in camera is a wideangle with an angle of view of 97 - about the same as a 20mm lens on a 35mm camera.

If you believe the standard formula for discovering the ideal pinhole diameter for any lens - to - film distance, this set - up seems to have it about right. According to the equation, optimal pinhole = square root of distance/25. So, for a focal length of 72mm divided by 25 = 0.339mm. Ilford quotes its 72mm - focal - length pinhole as having a 0.35mm diameter, which is close enough.

The pinhole is created by chemical etching which, Harman claims, delivers a cleaner and rounder hole than other methods. On inspection through my loupe, the hole is certainly very round and very clean.

IN USE

Pinhole cameras of a domestic design tend to be built for results rather than convenience - the end justifying the means. Here, though, we have a camera built for comfort and ease of use. The body is rugged and very nicely made. It is featherweight but seems more than able to withstand plenty of use. Harman tells me the materials have been chosen with the consideration that these cameras will be bought by colleges and dropped by students.

Functional though it is, it does not mean there is no room for some nice touches. Buried bubble levels and tripod threads in the frame make the camera simple to mount for portraits and landscapes, while the Graf lex/Titan - style sliding retainers will make switching pinhole cones a doddle - when they become available, of course. The rear of the camera features a pair of flat spnngs to keep the plastic film holder held close to the film gate - just as is common in a normal 5x4in camera. This at least gave me the confidence that the film wasnt going to be fogged by light leaks in the structure.

The supplied lens cap is attached to the body by a cord so that forgetful photographers dont leave it in a field. This is a nice touch, but it does rather leave the cap swinging free during exposures to catch the wind like the spinnaker of a miniature racing yacht

In dull weather, such as we are likely to experience at this time of year, combining an aperture of f/206 with a material that has an ISO rating of 3 can lead to somewhat extended exposure times. My handheld lightmeter can manage ISO 3, but its smallest readout aperture is f/90. Fortunately, llford provides a neat converter, making it easy to discover the exposure time required. I found I was timing openings of between 8 and 20mms so often that the battery of my stopwatch ran out. If you are bracketing exposures, be aware there will be a lot of standing around, and that lighting conditions can dramatically alter in the course of a single exposure - it might even become dark!

Loading the supplied IS0100 Delta film instead of paper makes a big difference, and reduces exposure times considerably. In dull conditions this is fine, but on a sunny day you might find your exposures become

too short to accurately time by counting out loud. It pays, then, to consider the material youll use according to the conditions and subject matter. Shooting people on paper is not going to be an option - unless they are sound asleep or in the next world.

THE RESULTS

One never expects great sharpness from a pinhole camera, and Im not sure it is something that would be desirable anyway - thered be no point in using a pinhole if you were looking for resolution. There is, however, a level of detail that must be attained, and the Harman Titan does that with ease. I found the pictures easily detailed enough and objects in the frame well defined. There is a decent amount of vignetting that renders corners pretty dark, principally because the combination of focal length and pinhole size cant produce a usable image circle to completely cover the diagonal of the 5x4in film/ paper. But I suppose this is something we should expect and make the most of. Importantly, I experienced zero fogging or threat of fogging throughout the test, which made a nice change.

PRE - FLASHING

The camera comes with both film and paper cut to 5x4in for shooting. Although film is going to deliver the better - quality results, it requires more careful handling so, print characteristics apart, it might suit those without a properly dark darkroom. I tend to process my 5x4in sheets in a Nova daylight tank and can load both film holders and developing tank in a changing bag, so, in fact, a darkroom isnt absolutely necessary - it just makes life easier.

Paper is great fun and is more straightforward if the intention is to scan the results rather than print through an enlarger, but if untreated it produces pictures with very high contrast. Many printers pre - flash their paper before it goes under the enlarger lens so that contrast levels can be controlled, and when shooting with paper some amount of pre - shooting exposure is highly recommended.

The idea of pre - flashmg is that it introduces the paper to some light to get the emulsion active. The amount of light should be such that it does not produce a tone by itself, but it needs only a tiny bit more light to make the lightest grey. If you made a test strip, the correct amount of pre - flash would be the last exposure that still shows as white.

To pre - flash paper consistently, it is necessary to have some sort of set - up with a level of repeatability, which can be off - putting for the casual paper shooter. I wanted to devise a way to pre - expose the paper in - camera at the time of shooting, to make it all a bit more convenient and so there would be less preparation. To do this, I made a diffuser from a thin piece of white plastic sheeting that I could fix over the lens. This sheet reduced the amount of light passing by half. After doing some tests, I worked out that the paper needs roughly 30% of the exposure value before the actual exposure. This can remain consistent, as it will always be based on what is the right exposure for the scene and thus the right amount of light to make the paper produce the right density.

So, if I measure the light and determine that the right exposure time for the shot is 12mins, I need a pre - exposure equal to 4mins. As the diffuser cuts the light in half, this becomes 8mins. I fit the diffuser, make the 8mm exposure, remove the diffuser and make the 12min picture - taking exposure. It may be a bit long winded, but it works.

With the Harman Titan this time can be reduced by removing the lens and fitting the diffuser over the mount aperture, which is about f/6.3. In bright light, ironically, this can deliver an exposure too short to count in your head, so I resorted to increasing the number of layers of diffuser to create a more manageable time. Some diffuser and a 10 - stop ND does the job more quickly.

When exposures are already very long, this can seem a bit of a pain - and all a bit complicated - but once you are in the swing of things it works out well. Its a bit rough, but this is pinhole photography and we dont need technical perfection.

Comments are closed.