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Thursday, January 18, 2007

ELDIA - interesting and quirky..but is it useful?

It arrived in a small red box...

Opening it up one can make out some knobs on a Leica sized body...

Once out of the box a Leica screw-mount shaped body is revealed - with a red window through it and with no lens mount.

Is this an early, forgotten Leica camera prototype that never saw the light of day?
A highly specialized scientific piece of equipment custom made for some secret project?
Looking further (and well, reading the text on the box) it becomes clear that it is neither of things - but rather a humble filmstrip copier.

Introduced in the 1930's is this gadget now just something destined for the 'shelf of hopelessly useless items' - or can one actually find some use for it now seventy years after it was put on the market?

A few weeks ago I purchased some Leica close-up equipment and 'thrown into' the deal was this film copier and it turned out to be the more interesting item of the purchase. I knew very little about it - and film copiers in general - and why would I as I live in a world where film scanners and digital projection occupies much of the role that these items once held. But being fascinated with older camera equipment I tried to find out as much as I could about it in hopes that I would be able to give it at least one more time in the limelight (or red-light as it may be).

What is it used for?
Imagine you have some 35mm b&w negatives and you want to project them for an audience. Also imagine that this is decades before computers, scanners and digital projectors became common utilities. In this world - queue the Film Copier that can turn your favorite Tri-X photos into bright slide projections.

How does it work?
A roll of undeveloped film is loaded into the film copier and then a roll of developed negatives is fed through the copier and exposed frame by frame (a simple lamp will do) creating 1:1 contact prints onto the positive roll. As simple as that. It is also possible to feed a strip (or single frame) or photographic paper through the copier to create a strip of paper contact prints.

Illustration showing a negative strip being copied in the ELDIA

What else do you need?
Film - and this is where it gets hairy. According to the old instructions one is to use an orthochromatic film for the 'receiving' film in the copying process but readers have emailed me and let me know that there are alternatives.

Michael, writes:
"In my use it was a trial and error experience using Tmax 100 film in the ELDIA to make B&W slides from my negatives.
I used it under an enlarger, when exposed correctly it makes really beautiful slides (going from your original negative film to negative film gives a positive).
Dust is only an issue if one is careless. I will add the results seemed so much richer than those I usually get from making copy slides with tungsten slide film and a copy stand. And a lot easier in many ways. Give it a spin, you might be surprised"

John, writes;
The appropriate film still exists: Kodak's Eastman Fine Grain Release Positive 5302 - used for making 35mm B&W movie prints and sensitive only to blue light. There's also 2302, on polyester base, hard to find in anything but huge quantities.
I once made a slide using a long-expired roll of microfilm, it came out fine developed in Dektol.

Richard K
, writes:

"Actually, I've never used mine although I have all the materials.
The film I would use, if you can still get it, is
Eastman Kodak Fine Grain Release Positive, a film originally meant for making motion picture prints.
Its an extremely
fine grain, blue sensitive, emulsion with about the same speed as fast enlarging paper.
The contrast is varied by
choice of developer and to some extent by developing time.
It can be developed in Dektol or other print developer for relatively high contrast for projection transparencies.

Exposure is done using an enlarger. Kodak used to recommend
finding the approximate exposure by using Grade-2 Kodabromide but that's discontinued.
I think you would be in
the ball park by using something like Ilford VC paper without a filter.
Of course final exposure must be judged

The Eldia appears to be very simple to use. The red
window on the back appears to be for aligning the negative with the thing on a contact printer. As you can see the instructions are minimal. I think I will have to try mine
soon, maybe next time I fire up my darkroom."

Apart from film you would benefit from having
a dark room, a 25w light bulb and some developer. That and a couple of hours.

How are the results?
I can't personally vouch for how well this works but from what I have read on the internet (and from comments above) - the ELDIA has the capability of providing some very nice contact prints with excellent tonality and sharpness. I am hoping that I will be able to post my own impressions in the near future.

I need one - how do I get my own ELDIA!?
As with so many other obscure photographic equipment the easiest way to track something like this down is through google and/or eBay. Expect to pay about 15-30 dollars depending on condition, box and manual.

Note: Leitz also produced a copier named ELDUR for contact printing the older lantern slides (3.25x4 inches).
See below for a comparison photo between an ELDIA and ELDUR:

ELDUR (left) and ELDIA (right)

Finally some more detailed instructions on how to use the ELDIA from the original manual:

Page 1/2

Page 2/2

If you've made it this far you may already be using, or have used, one of these copiers - or you may be interested enough to invest thirty dollars in trying one out. Regardless I would love to see or hear about your experiences.

It may not be as convenient as a scanner or as slick as a digital projector - but it could be a cheap and fairly interesting way to spend a few hours traveling back in time and to a process now mostly extinct. Who knows - it may trigger an interest in the world of slides and analog projection which is a topic better covered in a completely separate post...


Anonymous eddie maes LRPS said...

I greatly appreciate you making instruiction scans available; a friendly collector's attitude !

I just bought an ELDIA (ebay, 15.50 EUR), the use seems quite straightforward, although care is required. but adding a print of the instructions makes sense.

september 2008

September 08, 2008 7:57 AM  

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