Darkroom DIY Panoramic Negative Carrier


I first ran into this problem when I was shooting with the 35mm pano back on my Bronica SQa. I figured it’s the same length as a 6×6 fame, just a different height. I found extremely difficult to print 35mm panoramic (24mmx55mm) negatives in a 6×6 negative carrier. The reason why is coming up in a second. The solution was to get a panoramic negative carrier for my Beseler 23C.

Fast forward a few years and I make the exact same assumption and mistake when I got a Holga 120Pan Which shoots a 6×12 image. I didn’t even try to print the 6×12 in a 4×5 carrier. I just couldn’t get acceptable focus across the whole image. Here’s why:

Panoramic negatives flop out of focus in oversized negative carrier.

This picture is a bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea. Even if you put one of the long edges in the negative carrier, the one free edge can flop out of acceptable focus. If the film isn’t flat parts will be out of focus.

There was a second problem this time. I looked around for a D5 panoramic negative carrier and came up with nothing. The further you got from 6×6 the more expensive the carriers got with 6×9 carriers fetching $50 or more! This left me with only one real alternative. I needed to somehow make my own.

The fist thing I did was get the cheapest 6×6 carrier I could find. It ran me $20 to my door.

Then I assembled the tools:

Tools for modifying a steel negative carrier.

For this project you’re going to need:

  • Safety Goggles! (on my face, not pictured)
  • A rotary tool like a Dremel
  • A pile of cutoff discs
  • Pliers
  • Scredriver (for putting new discs on the Dremel)
  • File
  • Micrometer
  • Quick Square
  • Sharpie
  • Flat Black Paint (optional)
  • WD40 (optional)

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The first step is to mark up the expansion. I set my micrometer to 30mm to add a full frame’s width on each side. I then used a quick square to keep the lines as straight and square as possible.

measuring the negative carrier expansion

Once you have the lines drawn you’re ready to start cutting!

Negative carrier modifications drawn out.Here’s where you NEED safety goggles or glasses! The negative carrier I was cutting was steel and when you cut steel with a Dremel metal dust goes everywhere. On top of it when a disc breaks it usually happens while it’s spinning and fragments of cutoff disc go flying willy nilly.

In cutting the metal I found it went faster if I sprayed the cutoff disc with WD40 before I started cutting with it. of course when you start the disc little drips of WD40 go everywhere to, so plan accordingly and stay safe!

Also be careful because as you can see, sometimes the Dremel will “grab” and pull itself across the metal as you can see in this image:

Cutting the negative carrier

From my experience, I used about one cutoff disc per side, maybe 10 total. You don’t have to cut the carrier until the piece falls out. If there’s tiny connectors like this you can use a pair of pliers to bend and break the cut out free.

Cut negative carrierTweet this guide!Removing the cut pieceNext comes the filing. First you need to knock out those connectors, then smooth the transition from the factory cut to your cut, then make sure all the edges are smooth so it won’t scratch up the film or you. Pay special attention to the corners, they’re more difficult to get.

Filing the negative carrier.

The second piece of the carrier goes much like the first, I just used the first cutout carrier as a template for the second. I used a fine point Sharpie to trace the lines and cut on the outside of them.

With the second pice cut and filed it’s time for the finishing. Put the two pieces together and file them even. Then with the micrometer measure the ends to make sure their the right length. If they’ve shrunk (which is better than too wide!) then measure from the inside to the outside to determine which side is to thick and needs further filing. Even opening a small amount can take a lot of filing! I prefer a file with a wooden handle. Ones without can stab you if you’re not extra careful.

Once both sides match and the openings are correct, carefully rub your bare fingers over the inside edges, (top and bottom, both sides) and file down anything that feels rough or sharp.

The final step of adding flat black paint is optional but it may help add a more professional look to your carrier. Spray paint stinks and is bad for you to breathe so make sure you do this outside.

My black is flatter than yours.Tweet this guide!Spray painting the negative carrier.

The final result looks and works great!

6x12 custom cut Omaga D series negative carrier.

You don’t have to go this route. As I mentioned before I bought a panoramic 24mmx55mm carrier for my Beseler 23c. This too was a DIY holder made mostly out of hobby or craft plastic and it works wonderfully too.

While there would be more cutting and measuring to do, the cutting itself would be much easier.

DIY Beseler 23c panoramic negative carrier.

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