How we built Bertha – A large format camera that will shoot 1.1×1.1 metre slides

It’s called Bertha, it’s a gigantic camera built out of a desire to find out what photography can reveal beyond certain limits.

From the first moment I started experimenting I sensed that there are still many ways to go, past and present can merge, just as old and new technologies, historical knowledge can find new contemporary interpretations.

This camera, which has a sensitive area of 1.10×1.10 meters, a bellows draft of about 4 meters and a 1000mm f6.3 lens, is capable of taking portrait photographs in macro mode.


In fact, at the maximum extension of the bellows, the magnification ratio reaches 3: 1, that is the subjects can be photographed with a final size up to three times greater than the real one, I studied this measure to obtain a close-up that could fill a well sensitive area of over one square meter.

The first tests turned out to be a surprise, I discovered that at the maximum draft of the bellows, the depth of field with a fully closed diaphragm is about 4 cm, a real challenge to manage a photoshoot of this type.

Bertha was designed and built almost entirely by the BRANCO OTTICO crew, with the exception of the part relating to the ground glass and film holder, for which we relied on a professional in aluminum frames.

The whole frame supporting the large camera is modular and completely made of heavy metal to support movements without losing stability, was designed by Donato Rizzo, expert in mechanical processing of the Branco Ottico crew.

The main idea is to use the gigantic camera to create unique works with the chemical process we have developed, the ROBA APPOSTA inversion kit, which is able to positively reverse all photographic papers and black and white films.

For the shots we will use both photographic paper and film in rolls of 1m width, we are equipped with a mobile darkroom that we also use for outdoor portraits, live performances and photographic events.

The first tests are scheduled for the next few days and we will perform them with a 50x60cm back reduction.

We will program the photographic shot on a slide of over one square meter for the first months of 2020, then we will take a tour to portray subjects “on the road” on direct photographic paper and mobile darkroom.

About the Author

Davide Rossi is a fine art photographer based in Italy. He has twenty years of photographic experimentation behind him, driving his passion. As well as working as a professional photographer, he runs courses and workshops in film photography including working in the darkroom and making wet prints. You can find out more about Davide on his website and follow his work on Facebook. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

How we built Bertha – A large format camera that will shoot 1.1×1.1 metre slides