Classic 4x5/5x7 cameras

by Q.-Tuan Luong for the Large Format Page


These cameras were made at a time when 5x7 was still a popular format. They come with 4x5 and 5x7 backs. Make sure you get the back you want- either 4x5 or 5x7- they cost about $100 for each separatly for the cheaper cameras.

" The rigidity depends a lot on the condition of the camera. Of this group I would place the Kodak 2D in first place for rigidity with the Ansco/Agfa comming in a close second. The B&J is probably the floppiest of the bunch. OTOH, the B&J has the most complete movements and the Kodak 2D the least. Often sloppy cameras can be tightened up a lot by replacing screws which have become loose in the wood with slightly larger ones, or where the wood is torn up, by drilling out the softened wood and filling the holes with hardwood plugs. I have two Agfa/Ansco cameras, one 8x10 and the other a 5x7. The 5x7 is pretty rigid, the 8x10, after working it over, adequately rigid. I think the Korona is about the same as the Agfa/Ansco but I don't own one so don't have the kind of intimate experience with it I do with the Ansco's. " Richard Knoppow


The design is a little different from the current flatbed cameras. There is a double rail hinging up and secured to the main part of the camera by a metal snap. There is no telescoping bed, the bed is fixed and the standards move on the bed (more or less like current monorails). A short piece of the bed has the tripod mount and is just wide enough to allow both standards to be compressed together on this section. A second longer piece is hinged to the first and screws in place with a thumbscrew. When hinged up, the whole package is fairly small, though not nearly as small as a Wisner or similar field camera of the same size. The bellows extension is around 12" (which is very short for a 5x7 camera). There is also an optional extension rail which is separate, and extension bellows (mine came without it, but I have seen complete cameras at shows). It screws in just like the hinged rail, but is not attached to the camera with a hinge. Because it's not attached, it's often missing from the cameras these days and is almost impossible to find seperately. With the extenion rail, you probably get about 20". The camera is made of cherrywood and brass.

The front and the rear standards have geared focusing knobs. Therefore both of the standards can be moved forward to use wide-angle lenses. Unfortunately, the tripod socket is not mobile and it is situated on the rear. It might be possible to use a clamp on the focussing rails to move the attaachment point further. Movements are front rise, and back tilt and swing all, geared. These movements are quite limited. In particular I have found that the amount of tilt available within the geared range is not sufficient even to get the ground plane in sharp focus. The version that I have (ie without the back rail and extension bellows) has very short bellows of about 12 inches. The camera has a medium weight (at around 7lbs) and bulk, It is very fast to open and close, especially since you don't need to remove the lens. It is quite well-made and sturdy, quite rigid, and can be bought for $200. If you are using normal lenses and don't need lots of movements, this camera might work well for you. Some models might be considered as antiques, since they were built in the beginning of this century.

David Hosten own and use Kodak's Model 33a, which he believes is a Kodak 2D. The front standard is immobile except for rise. Focus is with the back standard, which includes swing, tilt, and shift.

Burke and James

For some photos see of a refubished 8x10 model, see this article

B&J was a huge Chicago camera store that bought out several samll camera and lens manufacturers and sold the products under house brands, a little like Calumet now. B&J stuff was always good quality and very good value. They have been out of business for many years.

B&J mad some variations on these cameras. Some are "tailboard" i.e. focus only from the back and some have both front and rear focus. They were well made cameras (of Maple of all things under the gray paint) cheaper when new than "name brand" (Eastman or Ansco) but just as good. They are probably a little crude compared to the current brass and wood cameras but do the job. Strictly industrial grade, no-nonsence, glamour-free cameras. It is moderately heavy and bulky (about the same as the Kodak). The camera is made of a battleship grey painted maple and has red bellows. I have seen a B&J beautifully refurbished by Patrick Alt (1324 South Figueroa #101 LA, CA 90015, 213-784-3087). He asked something around $800 for the refurbished camera (the camera in original condition can be bought for less than $300).

The basic design is similar to the Kodak, with the double rail. However, this camera has more movements than any other classic camera. It might be less rigid than the Kodak for this reason. Read on the net:

"They are a functional camera, but do NOT compare nicely with a Wisner (or even a new Wista). The movements are slightly more limited, and a lot less user freindly. The stability of the standards is were they truely look bad (compared to Wisner). If my B&J is aimed down, the back WILL change position when I load the holder (I've had to learn to focus while putting some pressure on the top of the back in these situations!!). Even the front standard moves quite a bit between it's "adjustable" and "locked" modes." Tom Ferguson

"The B&J is rather wobbly, though mine is not in great condition. I've seen other B&J's that were later versions that seem much more solid than mine, but still not as rigid as a Wisner. I would look carefully at the camera and make sure the locks on the focusing tracks lock solidly and do not cause the standards to rotate when the locks are applied. The locks on the rear standard of my camera will rotate around completely (the locks are level cam locks and should only rotate part way) and applying the rear lock moves the standard forward about 5 degrees (enough to make focusing a real pain)." John Sparks

"Any B&J camera you find today is quite old. The design was built to a price- much less that a Deardorff and the like. Because they were cheap from the get-go, many were "ridden hard and put away wet". The owners didn't take the best care of them. This, coupled to a design that wasn't the ultimate makes for a camera- 40-50 years down the line- that can be pretty sad. That said, a B&J in good shape can do the job. I've made a few modifications to mine (I have 2 4x5/5x7 combos and an 8x10) to make them better. I've also reglued and rescrewed mine- pulled out all the screws from the wood, glued in a 'twig' in the hole and redrilled and reseated the screws- and they have really stiffened up. On the 4x5/5x7, I've been able to stiffen it up by screwing down the U-shaped metal support for the back solid to the rear focus mechanism. This loses real shift and swing, but I don't seen to miss it. I noticed the hinge problem on one of my 4x5/5x7 cameras. I took it apart and bent the hinge so it would go flat and reseated it in the bed. I reseated the screws and bedded the hinge in 3M 5200 (a boat sealent) to keep things right. A B&J is cheap. You have to live with a few things in order to use them. I've had good results with mine and I actually like fiddling with the wood. If you can't deal with it, get something better- or something made of metal. I've seen some good deals on Graphic View I (wish I still had mine!) which is a decent cheap monorail." Jeff Benedict

" I have been using a 5x7 B&J for over a year. I bought it several years ago and put it aside. A couple of observations/warnings: this is not a nice tight camera with smooth focussing like th modern ones. The rear standard is a flimsy piece of bent aluminum that moves around a lot when you are trying to focus. The focussing geared rail is aluminum and may be badly worn and rough. There is nothing but the tightness of the screws to keep the movements from moving, the little tin tabs that are supposed to act as locks are a joke. This can be a very frustrating camera to use because of the way all the parts can move around, I wouldn't recommend it to a novice." Frank Kolwicz

Korona (description by Don Abelson

The camera is of the classic wooden-flat bed view camera design, but with many more movements than the Kodak. There are complete front movements:geared rise & fall,manual swing,tilt,and shift; both front and rear focus, with easy locking, and rear geared tilt and manual swings. There is ample bellows draw to focus a long focal length lens (such as a 450mm Nikkor M) and even some additional length for close-focusing. All movements are ample for most uses. It weighs only slightly over 6 pounds.

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