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In 2009, I started to build some cameras to answer some of my very specific photographic needs. The cameras I make are all named after well knowned women photographers.
Dorothea is a lightweight, ultra wide angle, 8x10 view camera. It was named after Dorothea Lange which was a well known documentary photographer for the FSA.
I mainly used Dorothea to explore the large format world, and document life with detail. I still use it from time to time, mostly for tintypes.
Here is an article in French about Dorothea.
BEST SUITED FOR:
Dorothea is an amazing camera. It's the widest 8x10 camera I ever saw, and it's portable, you can put the camera, lens and a few 8x10 plates in a small backpack. It's only 2.4kg (with lens), which is very light for an 8x10. It's so light you can use it handheld. Althoug I used it handheld as a point and shoot for street photography in NYC, I mainly used it on a tripod for landscapes and urban exploration.
With Dorothea, I was able to print big, crisp images with a lots of detail.
The lens is a Schneider-Kreuznach Super Angulon 121mm f8, which barely covers 8x10 at f22. Focus is from 3 feet to infinity with the aid of an ABS helicoidal mount. During construction, the position and perpendicularity of the lens with the film plane was critical.
To make the camera lightweight, the body is made out of wood, aluminium, and foamcore. Aluminium tape ensures that the body is light tight, and mat black gaffer ensures the lowest amount of internal reflexions for high contrast images. the aluminium structure gives Dorothea its rigidity.
Using Dorothea is like using any other large format camera, patience is key. Taking something like 12 photos in a day with an 8x10 camera, is a big day. Using a large format camera helps in mastering photography. It slows down the process to a pace that you see all what's happening, you have the time to better understand light, physics, and the mechanics of the camera. I'm a better photographer today because I used large format cameras.
Here is a Photo Gallery about the making of...
Dorothea made me a better photographer. My landscapes are much better approaching the regular cameras like it would be a large format camera.
Tips: if you already have a good knowledge of photography and that you want to get better, get into large format, and print big. Also, bulding your own camera can be a huge learning opportunity and lots of fun too!