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Re-birth of a Soho reflex
Re-birth of a Soho reflex
Published by Geoff Leah
30th May 2010
Default Re-birth of a Soho reflex

Whilst the cold weather was around, I decided to see if one of my Soho reflexes could be persuaded to work. Initially the shutter (a vertical roller blind type, the size of a small garage door) was wheezing and running very slowly. The blinds appeared to be in good condition, so tiny amounts of WD40 were carefully applied with a small paint brush, and time spent cocking and firing the shutter. The final result is that the shutter is still slightly slow (about ½ stop), but now reliably crashes down like the afore-mentioned garage door.

The 3 lenses are fungus-free (6” Ross Expres, 12” Dalmeyer ,and a 13” Ross Teleros), but the viewing mirror is in poor condition. Fortunately the camera has a ground-glass screen with hood at the rear, so this can be used for focussing. The bellows are light tight, and all the movements (rise/fall & swing) function well.

The main problem was the huge one of film. 4 double darkslides came with the camera, but they are for glass plates, size 4.5 x 3.5 inches! Plates are not available, nor is film in this size available in the UK. I therefore decided to try to cut-down some 5x4 inch film. This proved extremely difficult. It has to be done in total darkness, yet with a high degree of accuracy. Trying to use scissors to cut around a template proved impossible. Eventually, after much experiment and wastage of expensive 5x4 film, I found the solution. I have a large guillotine, and by making two thick “stops” out of layers of mount board glued together, I could cut the film.

Firstly I cut it to length by sliding a piece of film up against the length “stop”, making sure my fingers were out of the way (don’t forget this is in total darkness!), then operating the guillotine. The “stop” was then changed, and each piece cut to width. I had to be careful not to cut off the identifying notches on each piece of film, because without these it is impossible to know which is the emulsion side. The problem of having no glass in the darkslides was eventually solved by cutting pieces of thin glass to the correct size, then loading the darkslides in the dark with two pieces of glass back-to-back, with a piece of film on the outside surfaces (emulsion facing out). This “sandwich” was then slid into the darkslide. Luckily my “Combo Tank” that I use for 5x4 is adjustable for 4.5x3.5 film.

I made lots of mistakes, and wasted lots of film, but eventually got results from the camera and lenses. The ‘photo enclosed is through the Ross “Xpres” 6 inch lens, and is of Denbigh castle (it has been enlarged slightly). The film is Fuji “Acros” developed in Prescysol. I also have an earlier model of the Soho, made by the Marion Company, so I might try to get this going some time. I see no reason why this system could not be used for any darkslides made for plates – assuming that the image size is not greater than 5x4”. I have recently discovered that an old Rolex film-back can be adapted to fit the Soho, but I haven’t got one. It was frustrating work until my system was “perfected” (?), but rather gratifying to get an old classic working again. Geoff.
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