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Reading Portra numbers through a ruby window
Old 02-17-2019   #1
DavidX
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Reading Portra numbers through a ruby window

Hi - I use two 120 folders, an Alfa Isolette III and a Nettar. Reading the numbers on Portra is driving me nuts! The print is such a feint grey. I donít want to spoil my cameras but Iím missing shots because I canít read them - Iím wondering if removing the ruby plastic would be a problem? (They both have metal sliding covers too.

I need to work quite fast as I sometimes shoot in-camera panos (see below)

Suggestions welcomed thanks!

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Old 02-18-2019   #2
wwfloyd
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Try using a flashlight as you peer through. I recently had trouble seeing numbers on HP5+ -- shooting my first roll of 120, after having worked with a test roll of something else, which had big, bold print. Had to use a flashlight to see that there was any print at all, and to discover that I had already wound past the first 2 frames.
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Old 02-18-2019   #3
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I do like the above, and it does work.
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Old 02-18-2019   #4
Pioneer
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Yes. I carry a small flashlight and it does work to help see the numbers.
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Old 02-18-2019   #5
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If a flashlight doesn't fog the film then I would think removing the ruby window would work. The again if that didn't work it would be very hard to replace.
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Old 02-18-2019   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beemermark View Post
If a flashlight doesn't fog the film then I would think removing the ruby window would work. The again if that didn't work it would be very hard to replace.
Most flashlights won't be as bright as sunlight, and sunlight on the window should ideally not fog the film... But experimenting with removing the window or replacing it with something more translucent might indeed be worth trying if the flashlight solution is not satisfactory.
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Old 02-18-2019   #7
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Yeah - I’ve been using the flashlight and I’ve been finding it a PITA because I need to keep both hands on the camera for this technique.

I was reading in another thread and didn’t realise that some cameras did not have the metal slider - just the window. (Box Brownies for e.g.?)

Then I was shooting some PanF and the numbers are so clear and easy to read! Why can’t they all be like that? But not much I can do about it...

The window on my Isolette is a bit scratched. I’ll have to have a closer look at it and make my own decision - run some tests on whether my film gets spots through the paper etc.

Another option of course is to find film with better numbers. Fuji E6 film is good from memory,but not sure of Fuji C41. Or not sure that I want to stop using Portra400 as it has given such nice results.
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Old 02-18-2019   #8
Timmyjoe
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David,

Having the same issue with a Kodak Duo 620. Couple things I discovered. First, by taking a Q-tip with a little bit of toothpaste on it, I was able to polish the red windows (the Duo 620 has two) which made visibility better. The second thing, not sure how it works on your Isolette, but make sure your pressure plate springs are keeping the film pressed up against the gate. On the two Duo 620's I've had, I've gotten red streaks on color film because the pressure plate springs have weakened in the last eighty years, and don't hold the film tight against the camera gate, thereby allowing the red light coming in thru the back window to fog/streak the film.

I agree with you, the darkness/contrast of the numbers on certain brands of 120 film are so faint it is really hard to read them.

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Old 02-18-2019   #9
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In my opionion, you could probably remove the ruby window as long as you make sure to shade the window with your hand whenever it's uncovered. I used to use some old Hasselblad backs that had a whole in the back at the end of a shaft through which you would look at the number. No ruby window and I don't remember ever having a problem with fogged film.
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Old 02-18-2019   #10
DavidX
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Thanks guys!

Yeah - I don’t have access to my Isolette at the moment,but when I do I’ll check it out and see if I can non-destructively take the ruby out. From memory it is scratched, so maybe taking it out and then replacing it with something new if I get leaks might be the go.

I think that keeping it closed except when needed and keeping it out of the sun might be the answer.

Thanks all.
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Old 02-18-2019   #11
milosdevino
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I have the same problem. I considered using bleach to fade the red celluloid, but wound up just using a Mamiya 6 automatic instead.
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Old 02-19-2019   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidX View Post
Yeah - I’ve been using the flashlight and I’ve been finding it a PITA because I need to keep both hands on the camera for this technique.

Surely, a head torch would be the easy answer, here?
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Old 02-19-2019   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tbhv55 View Post
Surely, a head torch would be the easy answer, here?
Pun intended - That's a brilliant idea!
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Old 02-19-2019   #14
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I use Portra 400, with the red window removed and a sliding cover transplanted from a scrap donor camera body. 400 because it's a small aperture wide angle lens. No problem in either the often-grey UK or in sunny Queensland.
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Old 02-19-2019   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by citizen99 View Post
I use Portra 400, with the red window removed and a sliding cover transplanted from a scrap donor camera body. 400 because it's a small aperture wide angle lens. No problem in either the often-grey UK or in sunny Queensland.
Thanks good to know - I have the sliding cover already in place, so I think Iím good to go.
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Old 02-19-2019   #16
DavidX
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tbhv55 View Post
Surely, a head torch would be the easy answer, here?
Canít quite tell if Iím missing something, but looking through the viewfinder with a head torch on sounds like not fun, and if I have to switch it on and off I have to move my hands, and because Iíll be shooting in dim conditions my eyes need to adjust blah blah blah... I need better eyes!

But itís all so easy with big black numbers like on the 25yr old roll of PanF Iím currently shooting. Donít get why small dim grey is necessary.
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Old 02-20-2019   #17
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I'm glad I've seen this thread as I'd been considering getting some Portra. Not sure I'll bother now.
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Old 02-20-2019   #18
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But itís all so easy with big black numbers like on the 25yr old roll of PanF Iím currently shooting. Donít get why small dim grey is necessary.
It's all part of the adjustment that companies like Ilford and Kodak must do when the original suppliers leave the business.

In the case of Kodak, the original supplier of the ink to print the frame numbers stop producing the ink for the printed numbers on the backing paper. The replacement is grey.

For whatever reason, then there was a problem with the printing and wheree the grey ink would bleed through the paper backing onto the film. Kodak's backing paper now has a shiny or waxy coating to prevent the printed numbers from bleeding through.
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Just for fun 35mm Gear a Kodak Retina IIa, a Rollei 35 S, plus an Oly 35RD and a Voigtlander Vito II
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Vintage MF Folders a Voigtlšnder Perkeo II and Bessa II, 2 of them - a ZI Mess Ikonta 524/2 - plus an Agfa Super Isolette & a Record III
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