The BlackJacket focusing cloth

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sanking

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I would like to provide a short review of the BlackJacket focusing cloth. I purchased the item in December and received it a few days before a trip to Mexico. During the trip to Mexico I made extensive use of the BlackJacet with my 5X7 Nagaoka, exposing over 80 sheets of film.

By nature I am a critical and skeptical person and would like to report some fault with the BlackJacket when used for composing on the ground glass, but by Jove I can not. This cloth rates about a 9.9 on my scale, where no other cloth I have every used rates much higher than 7.0. In short, the BlackJacket is, IMHO, the best focusing cloth on the market. Period. End of discussion. And did I mention how little the BlackJacket weighs?

I also found the BlackJacket to be very useful in changing film in a room that was mostly dark but with some faint light from an overhead window. I just put the holders and boxes under the cloth and used it as one might use a changing bag. The BlackJacket is not totally light tight of course so it can not be used as a regular changing bag in bright light, but in the above circumstances it worked very well.

Very hopeful that this positive report will put me at numero uno (with discount) on the list of those who are interested in a bigger BlackJacket for 7X17 and 12X20 format. I am of the opinion that one size should fit both sizes, given the adjustments built into the cloth.

Sandy
 

Loose Gravel

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Sandy, I've been interested these, but I'm concerned about the light leak that usually exists with a field camera below the bottom of the rear standard and the focussing bed. If one is focussed near the sun, this is a very reflective surface and I prefer not to include it within/under the darkcloth. Does this darkcloth have some means to block this? Also, I'd like to be able to pull the darkslide under the cloth. Would this work with this cloth?

I'm presently using one that velcros directly around the groundglass and this is good, but it nees to be a little longer and I haven't found a seamstress to make me a new one.

Thanks for the feedback.
 

Jeremy

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Sandy,

3 Questions:

1. Was the 5x7 blackjacket large enough for you to remove the darkslide with the back of the camera covered?
2. Did you buy the original or the hybrid?
3. Do you know anywhere to get a Nagaoka 5X7? I've been looking for one for a while to take hiking :smile:
 

Aggie

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ya'll can look the info up since black jacket is an apug sponsor. I have one in the 5x7 size and love it.
 

DeanC

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After the last round of posting on these I finally broke down and ordered one a few days after Sandy did. It's truly dark cloth nirvana. I hope that by the time the insanity takes me enough to order the 7x17 or 8x20 back for my Canham that one is available for those sizes.

Dean
 

scootermm

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I have one for my 8x10...... Just wonderful.
ingenious velcro system with a buckle that allows me to use it with my 4x5 as well.

partnered with the SatinSnow groundglass these are two of the best buys in large format Ive experienced thus far (aside from my GORGEOUS 300mm Nikkor W)
 
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I am very interested in these. My main concern is the windage when left attached to the camera in a bit of a blow. I shelved the Harrison cloth which used to inflate like a rogallo parafoil wing due to porosity of black fabric cloth and the imporosity of space man silver cloth. I quite like the idea of an aerial viewpoint, but would seek more control!

As a result of this I have switched to a (Helly-Hansen) stretch fleece top with sleeves cut off, poppers removed from neck and it fits nicely over the Ebony 5x4. Easy to leave over my head/shoulders and hook over every time I go to camera. I find this far faster than going back into the dark cloth, especially when dilly-dallying over filter choice/placement etc. It also leaves camera without the dark cloth sail attached.

I do get light through baseboard/GG gap, but expect this with anything. The shorter sleeves allow very easy access and light ingress can be curbed by folding them over when viewing very dark situations. the fleece can also be worn if the weather worsens and I find myself under-dressed.......

I was pleased with this design of mine and big-headedly attributed the Blackjacket to "great minds across the pond thinking alike!" The blackjacket is much more refined than mine and as such I am keen to see how they are considered for windy coastal conditions.
 
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sanking

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Loose Gravel said:
Sandy, I've been interested these, but I'm concerned about the light leak that usually exists with a field camera below the bottom of the rear standard and the focussing bed. If one is focussed near the sun, this is a very reflective surface and I prefer not to include it within/under the darkcloth. Does this darkcloth have some means to block this? Also, I'd like to be able to pull the darkslide under the cloth. Would this work with this cloth?

I'm presently using one that velcros directly around the groundglass and this is good, but it nees to be a little longer and I haven't found a seamstress to make me a new one.

Thanks for the feedback.

You can tighten the cloth around the camera via an adjustable cord and eliminate virtually all light leaks from the top, bottom and sides. I guess you can not eliminate it completely but I found it very effective even when working in the sun.

And yes, it is possible to pull the darkslide under the cloth. I was able to do this with my 5X7 camera in both horizontal and vertical orientation, though you may have to looseen the hood slightly to do this with the back in vertical orientation.

Sandy
 
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sanking

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Jeremy Moore said:
Sandy,

3 Questions:

1. Was the 5x7 blackjacket large enough for you to remove the darkslide with the back of the camera covered?
2. Did you buy the original or the hybrid?
3. Do you know anywhere to get a Nagaoka 5X7? I've been looking for one for a while to take hiking :smile:


1. Yes

2. I bough the light weight one. Believe that is the original but not sure.

3. I see the 5X7 Nagaoka on ebay from time to time. Or maybe Jim Galli will sell his. I do have a close friend with one who has probably not used it in ten years and I could see if he would be interested in selling it, though I think he is not. But then again, he just re-married and may need the bucks. I will let you know.

Sandy
 

kswatapug

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Thanks Sandy for the rave review, and all others for your input. I’m listening.

Here are some thoughts for you.

In response to the pulling the dark slide with the cloth still attached, it is possible. Horizontally it is a simple task either to do so into one of the sleeves or within the trunk of the jacket. Vertically, as was mentioned, it helps to relieve the pressure by lifting the cloth. Better yet, when I haven’t employed any excessive movements on the rear standard, I orient the film holder opening toward the ground. Since the fabric wants to hang anyway, there is no resulting tension on the dark slide.

Regarding the 11x14, 7x17, 8x20, 12x20, etc., it is quiet apparent that there is a need/desire for a BLACKJACKET™ULF solution, but I’ll need some time to work up the designs. Modifications to the current designs are a breeze, new patterns take longer. And like Sandy has suggested, it would be silly not to design a multi-format solution.

One work-around for the gap below the rear standard is to attach the neck obliquely so that it cuts across the back of the camera just below the film holder. This isn’t ideal if you plan on leaving it on during an exposure, but for focusing works well enough. The adjustable shock cord does a good job of grasping the camera, which can be made even more secure if the top actually wraps around the front edge of the rear standard (as is illustrated on the photos of the 8x10 on the website. I have two more permanent solutions to the gap that I am working on. One is up to me, the other is up to the camera manufacturers. Stay tuned.

If you have any specific thoughts, feel free to pass them along. When I got into this, I had no idea that there were so many 8x10 devotees and now find the 8x10 model eclipsing the dedicated 4x5 in popularity.

That said, I would find it much quicker if I could locate someone (preferably in my area) who use some of these ULF beasts so that I can refine the pattern more easily.
I’m in Boise, Idaho.

Thanks,

Keith S. Walklet
 

James Bleifus

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Sandy, Thanks for the review. Your experiences in the field have convinced me to place my order. I've ordered the hybrid 8X10 for my 5X7 camera so that I will have plenty of room (I hope) to remove the dark slide. I'll post more information about how roomy it is in relation to the 5X7 after it arrives.

Cheers,

James
 

tim atherton

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Sep 19, 2002
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Sandy,

How do you find the material blocks out the light? How light tight do you find it

When I first used these, it was in winter and I was trying them out for the cold. It was also generally not that bright out. But when I used them in the summer in bright sunshine (as opposed to perhaps later in the day or earlier in the morning, or an overcast day) I found that they didn't block out as much light as I realised through the thin synthetic material. I actually noticed it when I used a hybrid, as the half-covering material used in the hybrid actually blocked more light and I could see the difference from inside between that and the lightweight material.

Now, on a bright day it's still not so much that it makes focussing difficult, but I guess I notice now that it isn't quite dark dark under there.... and if it's closer to evening, or overcast, or doing interiors it's not noticable

I don't know if Kieth has changed his materials at all since then? (Kieth - I also meant to email you about it to discuss... various events and tragedies got in the way) - I compared it to the Harrison material - which actually was more light tight.

That said - the design is the best I've come across. They are as light as heck and work in the cold. Despite the small point I raise above, I still use them for 4x5 and 8x10 in place of eveything else...

And mad dogs and englishmen - if you never go out in the nidday sun, you pobably wouldn't notice
 
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Baxter Bradford said:
.........My main concern is the windage when left attached to the camera in a bit of a blow. I shelved the Harrison cloth which used to inflate like a rogallo parafoil wing due to porosity of black fabric cloth and the imporosity of space man silver cloth. I quite like the idea of an aerial viewpoint, but would seek more control!

.........as such I am keen to see how they are considered for windy coastal conditions.

Further info has been useful but am still keen to find out your thoughts on usage in windy conditions.

Or am I the only mad dog Englishman who chooses to shoot in such conditions?

Many thanks

Baxter
 

John Z.

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Sounds good; put me down for one for my 11x14 when they are finally in production. Thanks,

John Zdral
 
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sanking

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tim atherton said:
Sandy,

How do you find the material blocks out the light? How light tight do you find it

I don't know if Kieth has changed his materials at all since then? (Kieth - I also meant to email you about it to discuss... various events and tragedies got in the way) - I compared it to the Harrison material - which actually was more light tight.

The cloth of the BlackJacket that I purchased, which is the light original material, is not completely opaque. However, I was not at all inconvenienced by this fact in composing the image on the ground glass, even in bright sun light.

If the BlackJacket could be re-designed to also function as a changing back, which would be a great idea for people who travel a lot and have to change holders in motel rooms that can not be made completely light tight, the material would obviously have to be made completely opaque.

Sandy
 

kjsphoto

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I own one and it is just excellent. Keeps the light out and does not limited the movements. I highly recommend it. Used it in hot and very cold weather and I have not had a problem with the ground glass foging up.

I bought the hybird and it really works well even in direct sunlight.


Kev
 

kswatapug

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Greetings Tim, et al.

Good to hear from the far north. I was wondering how you've been faring.

You are correct about the fabric not being completely opaque, though it is plenty dark inside for focusing, especially compared to any similar (weight, material) alternative I've encountered.

And no, I haven't changed fabric. But, you've piqued my interest, because I thought I WAS using the same fabric as Harrison (there aren't a whole lot of alternatives), and if that fabric is comparable in all respects, but even more opaque than what I am using, I'll see if I can track some down. I'm getting ready to order more anyway. If I find some, I'll let you know.

With regard to the HYBRID, the black/white fabric sandwich is again, not completely opaque, but in my estimation, more than adequate to do the deed in full sun. I made an interesting discovery when researching fabrics for it. Black fabric is not really black. Manufactures use a variety of dyes to make their black. The first black fabric I tested for the inside of the HYBRID turned out to really be a deep red. This wasn't apparent until I took it out in full sun and crawled underneath it. That was a no-go. I found another supplier that instead used a really deep blue to make their black fabric. Psychologically, if nothing else, the blue seemed to be darker than the deep red.

And Baxter, as for mad Englishmen, I must be one, because I spend way too much time on windy cliffs. There are two ways to stabilize the BLACKJACKET(TM) in windy conditions. In a steady breeze, just using it as described in the demo section of the website works well (inserting one's arms from the outside in to create a rigid frame.

In really stiff winds where you wonder what the h-e-double toothpicks you're doing photographing anyway, I found that it is possible to almost wear it. That is, to insert one's arms through from the inside out (as if one were putting on a sweatshirt, except there is nowhere for your head to go) and use one's shoulders to keep the fabric from blowing across the ground glass. It still takes some determination in such conditions, but without the sleeves, it would be hopeless.

Thanks again all for the feedback. I'm listening.
 

lithophotos

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Mad Englishmen!
I am another, with January 04 on Dartmoor and Jan 05 on the north York moors to my credit!. I used a zone VI hood last year, but it and my Linhof got wrecked when they blew off a rock and fell 12 feet on to some more rocks. The Linhof still worked, but was a write off - thank goodness for insurance. I have used the hybrid blackjacket for the last 10 months and find it generally very good. I chose the hybrid to allow the condensation to evaporate on wet days, rather than for ventilation in hot weather.

In windy conditions it performed quite well - the best I have used. It is fidly to put over a Linhof Master Tercknika back, but you get used to that. you also need to roputinely put your arm through the windward side sleeve to maintain a clear view of the ground glass. It is plenty dark enough to view the groundglass clearly.

best wishes

Lithophotos
 

kjsphoto

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Not a problem. Access is not an issue whatsoever. The cloth goes around the ground glass so your movements are not restricted.
 

kswatapug

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Just to be sure we're all on the same page John, what camera are you using?
 

Flotsam

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I've never used the Blackjacket and I've never heard anything but raves from those who have. But with memories of sweltering miserably under a darkcloth last hot, humid summer with sweat running into my eyes, it looks awfully stuffy to me.
Also since all of your camera adjustments are outside the darkcloth, the only time you use the sleeves is to hold your loupe or mop your brow.
After I'm adjusted , focused and locked down, I just pull off the dark cloth before inserting the holder. Nothing more to see after that point anyway so having room under the cloth to pull the slide isn't an issue.
I'm sure that it is a fine product and worthe price but it is a bit too extravagant for me. I think that I'll stick to my old home-made, illustrated at the bottom of this page:
(there was a url link here which no longer exists)
 
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