Monthly Archives: November 2014

Shallow depth of field on 5×4

Today I was looking for a lens to put on my MPP 5×4 to shoot a still life in the studio, and I picked out a 150mm f2.8 lens which originally came from a photocopier. The reason I know it’s origins is because about 15 years ago, a slightly eccentric neighbour was breaking up an old photocopier outside my house, so I asked him if he would give me a lens if he found one inside. I got it and I’ve had it sitting in a box of odd lenses and unusual bits of glass since then. Putting it on the camera, I really liked the shallow focus and beautiful soft background, but with a fixed aperture of 2.8, I had to find some way to control the exposure. I decided that some very slow X-Ray film and a diffuser over my tungsten light would give me a manageable exposure which I could time in seconds. I cut some strips of X-Ray film and put them in a dark slide, then did a couple of test shots, one at the exposure I expected and one with more exposure. The second one gave me the kind of negative I was after, so I cut a piece of film to the full 5×4 size and exposed it. I took it into the darkroom and processed it in a tray of paper developer for a minute and a half, gave it a quick stop and fix, then washed it. The negative looked much softer in the background than it looked on the focusing screen (this is something I’ve noticed a lot) and I thought it would make a nice print. Then I remembered that somewhere in my studio I had a 150mm f2.8 projector lens which gave really nice out of focus softness, probably better than this one I’d just shot, so I thought I’d expose a second shot through it and compare them.

I had a faint idea that I’d read somewhere that two lenses with the same focal length and aperture should produce the same depth of field, so I was interested to see if it was so. After shooting and processing the second sheet of film through the projector lens, I could see immediately that they were quite different. The projector lens had a much shallower focus and was far softer in the out of focus areas, so I must have misremembered the thing about comparable focal lengths.
Anyway, I present the two images here for comparison.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 18.42.54 Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 18.42.17

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 18.42.02  Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 18.41.45

If you have enjoyed this post and the information here and elsewhere on my blog, would you consider a small donation via Ko-fi please? You can send as little as £3.00, or more if you are feeling generous. This money goes towards materials used for the tests and printing for these articles. The link is;


  1. Keith

Posted 21/11/2014 at 7:22 am

This makes me want to get my old MPP Mk VIII out of the box and take some still-life.
I only have a 150mm Xenar lens though.

  1. Thomas Binsfeld

Posted 27/11/2014 at 5:38 pm

Could you give some advice how to attach the lens to the camera and e.g. which lens to which camera?
Kind regards,

1923, 1988, 2014

Alongside my eclectic collection of cameras which have built up over the last 35 years, I have been acquiring negatives and prints wherever I find them. Much of the collection sits in boxes that have not been opened for twenty years or so, but last week I rediscovered a box of them whilst looking for something else. I lifted a few out and held them up to the window to see what was on them and of the first two I looked at, one looked rather familiar. After contact printing it I realised that it was of a farmhouse which I had photographed in the late eighties, when it was very dilapidated. I found the negative and did a print off it too, noticing that I had stood almost in the same position as the first shot, taken 65 years previously.
I remembered that the house was renovated a few years after I had photographed it, so I revisited it this week to get another shot from the same viewpoint. I think the three images make an interesting set.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 22.46.51

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 22.48.02

If you have enjoyed this post and the information here and elsewhere on my blog, would you consider a small donation via Ko-fi please? You can send as little as £3.00, or more if you are feeling generous. This money goes towards materials used for the tests and printing for these articles. The link is;


  1. Dave Burrows

Posted 17/11/2014 at 10:01 pm | Permalink | Edit

Hi Andrew
I really like the comparison between the images as a piece of history, you where lucky to find the 1923 negative, how did you find it.
Glad you are back and writing.
Wish I had interesting projects to work on such as this one.
I posted a link to your website the other day on my face book page telling people. they should check you out as a fine artist and master printer I hope you don’t mind.
Regards Dave
Regards Dave

2. Paul Blanchard

Posted 05/12/2014 at 8:48 pm | Permalink | Edit

Have just found your site, Superb comparison of the Farmhouse in the spirit of ‘How Buildings Learn’ I am working my way through the wealth of posts and shall leave any comments, when worthwhile, as I know from personal experience that it is hard to get them!/Paul

It’s been a while

Sorry it has been quite a while since my last post. I am aware that I don’t write often enough, though I am resolved to do more about it. Apart from the usual excuse about not having enough time to do it, another reason is that I’ve always wanted to be able to give something of use, and to keep the posts as high a quality as I can. If I’m unsure as to whether my current project is going to be good enough, or interesting enough, I don’t sit down and write about it (Self doubt is a bloody nuisance and gets in the way of many a plan). Another thing is, I’ve always wanted to write about what I’m currently doing, but often I’m doing more of the day to day stuff, or jobs for other people and not enough creative or experimental work, so I don’t have anything current to post. Now and then I can have a week of intense activity and shoot a lot of stuff, but the processing and printing of those images can often be weeks or months after. I don’t want to write a post and not have the images to hand.

A friend of mine runs a very similar blog and he is doing regular posts and getting a lot of followers and views, so I emailed him to ask his advice. He was very helpful and suggested that I post some sections from my books and write about individual images from my portfolio. That was a very good suggestion, I’ve got a very large range of work which spans the last thirty five years and I should make use of it. So after reading his advice, I’ve decided to write more regularly with a mixture of technical writings on particular films and developers etc, interspersed with posts on individual images and how they came about, excerpts from my books, updates on new discoveries, breakdowns of printing sessions and problem solving, unusual developing techniques for individual images and anything else I think of.

I would be very happy to hear from any readers on ideas for future posts, so if there is anything I can help with please get in touch.


  1. That Hairy Canadian

Posted 11/11/2014 at 8:29 am

I look forward to reading what you have to say about your experiences at producing some of the wonderful results you have achieved. That same “self-doubt” you mention is slowing my hand at producing a digital portfolio style book of my better portraits and recent Caffenol prints. I have used 40yr old expired papers as well as having recently found a preference for Ilford MG-IV RC Deluxe Pearl. I have been practicing “Geurrilla Photography” and any advice you may have about cutting corners, or basic rules of thumb which guide your work, would be indispensable.

  1. Thomas Binsfeld

Posted 14/11/2014 at 5:28 pm

Ideas for future posts:
-impact of toning, showing untoned and toned photo with explanation how it is made
-post about composition showing a series of shots of one scene/subject explaining why one is
better than the other
-contrast reduction techniques

Kind regards,

  1. wayne

Posted 04/01/2015 at 11:20 am

Dear Andrew, have you done any work with silver gelatin emulsion, if so would like to hear your ideas. Many thanks Wayne.

  1. Andrew Sanderson

Posted 08/01/2015 at 10:46 pm

Dear Wayne, I’m hoping to get back to liquid emulsions this year, it has been quite a while since I used the process, but I really like it. I shall post something about it when I have the results.
Regards, Andrew.