About ten years ago, I purchased an AGFA Clipper camera for about $15 at a Brimfield Antiques Show. I’ve used this camera several times, mostly forcing it to take 35mm film and playing with its exposure rates – some of the pictures I’ve created with this camera include The Lenten Meal, The Zipless Chuck and Step and Pivot.
The Clipper takes 70mm “616” film, which most companies stopped making in the mid-1970’s. My other option with this film is to either purchase old-stock rolls of Kodak Verichrome Pan or Ansco All-Weather Pan film, or get some “war surplus” aerial film and re-spool it and recycle old backing paper. That’s fun for a while… but times have changed.
And although I’ve used the Clipper in the past – most recently for Step and Pivot – I wanted to see if there was a way to bring this 75-year-old beast back to life.
Then, one day as I puttered around the eBay auctions, I found something very intriguing. Someone was selling a bulk roll of Kodak Portra 160 film. The bulk roll was 70mm wide and 15 feet long. But that first number … 70mm … that’s the width of 616 film.
And I’ve got plenty of 616 bulk rolling papers, and the bulk paper can be re-used over and over several times.
Chuck’s brain cells are now working OVERTIME. As in … what if I put a roll of 70mm Kodak Portra in some 616 paper, and put it in the Clipper … I could get me some big contact prints out of this AND capture some amazing detail and color. All out of this little box camera that I got for $15 at a flea market.
I couldn’t give out any more Ooh ooh oohs if I was raising my hand like Arnold Horshack in Mr. Kotter’s class.
And yes, I understand that some of you are looking at me and saying, “For the love of God, Chuck, why do you need to use these old antique cameras? Every time you work on one of these projects, it’s like you’re making a right turn with three lefts.”
Ah, ’tis true, but for me it’s also the journey and the completion.
Plus … I have to break out of something bad.
In 2020, I suffered the emotional setback of a broken ankle AND an external hard drive collapse. And with the exception of a few photos here and there with the Nikon Df, I haven’t touched my film gear. Kodak Red, the Rollei, the AGFA Clipper, they’ve all stayed on the shelf.
I need to break out of that emotional prison.
So this morning … I got up early, and went into my darkroom. And when I say “darkroom,” I mean the one room in my apartment where I can have total darkness – my bathroom.
Here’s the can of 70mm Kodak Portra 160NC film. Expiration date – 2004.
The can is wrapped with black electrical tape, to keep as much light out as possible. And so what if the film is 17 years past its expiration date? If I get good images out of it, then so be it.
Into the darkroom.
Black electrical tape removed from the can.
Out comes the film.
I have a roll of 616 Kodak Verichrome Pan backing paper and two 616 spools at the ready. I apply one end of the film to the roll. Scotch tape. Wind it. Cut off enough length to get plenty of pictures, a maximum of 15 square photos out of my AGFA. Wind the film back onto the storage roll. Put the unused film back into its canister. Into the cupboard with you.
There’s my AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3, the high-end AGFA (well, high-end in the 1930’s), along with my first homemade roll of film in over a year.
This will be a simple “test roll” of film, I’m not expecting miracles. If I get images, I’ll be happy. If I don’t, I won’t cry.
But if it works … it’ll be another round of personal healing.
I’ll keep you updated.