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View Full Version : VDS 5x7 CAMERA REVIEW (sort of)



Leszek Vogt
28-Feb-2017, 14:13
VDS 5x7 CAMERA REVIEW
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Unwrapping

INTRO

The largest influence on my purchase was the weight of this cameraÖ.and the fact that it folds. This became an easy decision, since most of my lenses (by choice) already fit this format.

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Camera Manuf Logo

Much like most cameras, this one isnít perfect. I should add, that it may not be for everyone. Nonetheless, IMO itís the operator and the camera pretty much follows. Anyway, just got this model and decided to share what I found.

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Level (built into rear standard)

MY IMPRESSIONS

Before I get into that, if you are interested in specs you can check the VDS site:

http://vdscamera.com/en/letoltheto-informaciok/termekleiras/

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Name plate

OK, here we go. Iíve waited 88 days for the camera to be made and it finally reached me. We know how fast anything (in LF) is being done.

Construction:

Mostly solid wood (Cherry-light version)
Plywood was used on some parts to prevent worpage
Stainless hardware (brassy hardware is also available)
Aluminum control knobs
Miter joints have a spline (nice touch)
GG creates v. nice and crisp image (Symmar-S)
One leveler is present at the top of the rear standard



The knobs are easy to operate and there are small neoprene bushings that keep things snug-tight. The bellows stay in place without any sagging (not yet anyway). Changing lenses is effortless as it should be. Folding the camera back is bit tricky, but no major feat Ė just something one has to get used to. The footprint is small and Iíll repeat myselfÖ.this rig is hiking friendly. Overall, the camera feels relatively stout, I mean even with the bellows extended. Thatís a plus.

Iím not able to determine nuances or contrasts between this camera and Canham or Chamonix, etc. Indeed, itís an alternative to other cameras and IMO priced reasonably.

Some disclaimers: The lens boards suppose measure 110mm x 110mm and they are actually closer to 108mm x 108mm. Well, not a big deal. The rig has no phys. detents, proscribed measurements to speak of or any sort of fine focus controls. Also, and this may not be a game changer for some, the site indicates that the camera weights (naked) 3.2 lbs., but in reality it was 4.74 lbs.


PARTING NOTES

Besides being tempted to hack my compendium (Calumet/Combo) to fit this camera, I also want to make some real cool looking lens boards (crank my chopsaw) out of curly maple, which will add some charmÖ.they are not as difficult to make as some may have implied.

Positives tend to outweigh negatives. Darker finish (and red bellows) may be more desirable and both are available. Most likely will have to rig up some sort of stretching band to be able to attach the dark cloth in order to see the GG. Oh, and Sandor (the maker) claims that the bellows are IR friendly.

Lets face it, itís a box (bit quirky)Ö.and there are some mini warts. But, it sheds light onto film like all other cameras, eh ?. Donít expect any sexual appealÖ.though it may still appear to be porn :>). Being a field rig, it will fit into a backpack and my back will thank meÖitís roughly the weight of my Feisol tripod, which is superb. Iím looking forward to install a film holder and take this bad boy for a spin. Some day Iíll even use the acquired 4x5 redux back on some IR or color images. Efke and X-ray awaits.

http://vdscamera.com/en/kamerak/vds-5x7/

Let me know if I didnít cover somethingÖor you might be curious aboutÖ..and Iíll try (if I can) to answer your concerns.

Disclaimer: havenít shot any film with it yet.

~ More pics coming ~

Les

Leszek Vogt
28-Feb-2017, 14:18
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Front view (folded)
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Side view (folded)
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Bellows extended
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Rear view & GG

cp_photo
28-Feb-2017, 14:19
Hello, nice camera. I have been looking at VDS as a possibility. Did you buy your reducing back from them at the same time as your camera order? Is it matching in appearance?

Leszek Vogt
28-Feb-2017, 14:22
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Front view w/o lens
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Another view
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Another view w/Symmar-S 210mm lens
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Reduced 4x5 back/insert

Leszek Vogt
28-Feb-2017, 14:31
Hello, nice camera. I have been looking at VDS as a possibility. Did you buy your reducing back from them at the same time as your camera order? Is it matching in appearance?

Yes, I ordered the redux back with the camera...and yes, it matches. Check out the last pic.

Les

MAubrey
28-Feb-2017, 16:16
Beautiful!

cp_photo
1-Mar-2017, 11:43
Does the reducing back have a spring mechanism to hold the film holder in place? It looks like one has to remove the 4x5 viewing glass and hold the film holder in place using those knurled knobs?

Leszek Vogt
1-Mar-2017, 17:31
Not sure how the 4x5 redux is suppose to work. There are springs under those knobs, so I'm assuming the GG suppose to remain in place....working as designed. I may have moved it...and didn't test it with actual film holder (yet).

Les

Peter Collins
1-Mar-2017, 17:46
Love that ground glass, too.
Christmas in February!

Leszek Vogt
2-Mar-2017, 02:30
Ooopser, just got corrected by Sandor. With the 4x5 insert, one has to take out the GG and the knobs actually hold the film holder in place. One can also use Pola/Fujiroid or 6x9 or even 6x12 back the same way. There....now I know too.:p

Les

John Kasaian
2-Mar-2017, 07:28
Congrats on your new camera!

Jockos
18-Oct-2017, 10:49
Hi!

How are you liking your VDS so far? And - if I may ask - how are you carrying it with cassettes and lens? I was thinking it's a bit impractical that you cannot fold it with the lens attached..

Leszek Vogt
18-Oct-2017, 16:10
Haven't shot one image yet, but intend to shortly. Actually, I've loaded several film holders already, but I need bit of a break between projects around the house. Anyway, as Ken Lee (on this forum) suggested, I sprung up for a large "cooler bag", which was v. light and priced v. reasonably. Sooo, there is plenty of room for film holders, padded lenses, the camera and accessories. Hmmm, I might be able to fold it and keep the smaller lenses attached (ex. 150mm g-claron), but I haven't got to this point. I bought the rig with the idea of storing the lens/es seperately after I'm done....especially the Xenar 360mm :>).

Les

Cor
19-Oct-2017, 03:20
Man you must have been busy..such a nice camera, tempting ..but stored..and not used yet..must be nagging..hope you'll soon find the time !

Good luck,

Cor

Jockos
19-Oct-2017, 11:03
Haven't shot one image yet, but intend to shortly. Actually, I've loaded several film holders already, but I need bit of a break between projects around the house. Anyway, as Ken Lee (on this forum) suggested, I sprung up for a large "cooler bag", which was v. light and priced v. reasonably. Sooo, there is plenty of room for film holders, padded lenses, the camera and accessories. Hmmm, I might be able to fold it and keep the smaller lenses attached (ex. 150mm g-claron), but I haven't got to this point. I bought the rig with the idea of storing the lens/es seperately after I'm done....especially the Xenar 360mm :>).

Les

I can totally relate to that; we've been fixing up the kitchen and it's taken a huge effort. How big a lens do you reckon would fit when folded?

Leszek Vogt
19-Oct-2017, 11:36
Man you must have been busy..such a nice camera, tempting ..but stored..and not used yet..must be nagging..hope you'll soon find the time !

Good luck,

Cor

Indeed, v. nice camera. Hmmm, 1/2 year went with a flash. Went to Canada for 10 days and ended up at some secluded island (Cortes)....and that took 3 ferries to get there. Needless to say, that was an unexpected treat. Then Alaska for 3 weeks (don't have to sell that). Just as I land back here, one day later I'm on the road (1200 mile marathon) to LA to pick up my new truck canopy. Afterwards I meet with long time friends at Burney Falls (state park) and we camp there for a week. Yes, life in retirement may seem busy....tho someone has to do it :>)....and now I'm putting out fires on all these projects that require my attention.

Yes, the mental nagging continues, but....

Les

williaty
9-Feb-2018, 22:29
Did you actually use the camera yet?

Jockos
20-Feb-2018, 02:36
I got mine yesterday, have not had time to try it out yet. Can confirm that a 180 Fujinon A fits mounted when folded!

174997174996

Jockos
20-Feb-2018, 02:36
And it's very light: 2.7 Kg with the lens mounted!

cp_photo
11-Mar-2018, 13:25
I'm very interested in the VDS cameras and would love to hear more about your experience using yours!


And it's very light: 2.7 Kg with the lens mounted!

Jockos
12-Mar-2018, 01:25
The weather in Sweden has been perfect for photography the last couple of weeks; unfortunately I caught influenza, so I've only had the camera out once..

What I can tell you so far, is that you get what you pay for. It's not a high end camera, and I think it reflects in the build quality. It's got a lot of small imperfections, some might say it's because it's hand made, but I think it reflects time/money spent.
For instance, you can see markings in the wood form improper handling and the bellows are not glued on 100% straight. I have some experience gluing bellows myself, and it takes time and patience to get it straight. If it was a camera that cost much more, I'd expect 100% straight, but not so much for 1200Ä.
https://thumb.ibb.co/hDERV7/IMG_20180312_073533.jpg (https://ibb.co/hDERV7) https://thumb.ibb.co/kz89iS/IMG_20180312_073706.jpg (https://ibb.co/kz89iS)
I got double tripod mounts (for free), so that the arca plate does not twist, and so that the plate can be used as a rail to move the camera. Unfortunately the holes are not aligned, so the plate is not straight. This is the sloppiest part of the whole camera, and I would gladly have paid the actual cost of getting it done properly.
https://thumb.ibb.co/emS23S/IMG_20180312_073604.jpg (https://ibb.co/emS23S)

The corners does not have finger joints, I don't know enough about woodworking to tell what this will mean for longevity.

Usage with normal (slightly wide to normal) lenses is great, the camera is stable and easy to adjust.
For long lenses, I think it gets a bit wobbly, because only one of the screws are locking down the base. I've not yet shot with the 400 tele, just played around with it at home.
For super wide angles, you have to do some acrobatics with the front standard. I think 135 is the limit, below that you have to start tilting the standard backwards.
It's very hard to use the 90mm super wide in "portrait" mode, because the base tends to get into the picture. Using it in "landscape" mode seems much better. Mind you that I've only tried it out a few times at home.
Flipping the back requires loosening two thumb screws, which is quite fiddly compared to any other LF camera I've ever owned before. It locks down tightly though.

Folding it requires some practice - the front standard fork wants to dig into the bellows - but I think this will become easier with use.

The back and the Ä30 lens plates are made from stained plywood, not the same as the rest of the camera. The plates are kind of pricey for being two plywood squares with holes in the middle, in my opinion. I guess it's to prevent warping of the sensitive back.

The ground glass looks very hand made, with micro chippings at the edges and hand drawn grid (thirds). Works pretty well, and it's easily replaced with two screws.


The synthetic cloth bellows are also easy to replace, very nice if you plan for bag bellows in the future. It can be taken off in about three minutes.
The whole camera is very easy to strip, I took it apart and waxed the wood while on sick leave. It's equally easy to assemble again afterward.
Most of the screws go straight into the wood, rather than into a threaded insert, which may affect longevity of the camera. I would have likes the ground glass and bellows screws to have inserts, as you'd want to remove these regularly for waxing.

This might seem like a negative review, but I'm actually very positive towards this camera so far. The weight, and the price are the main selling points - a new chamonix 5x7 is more than twice the price. Just want to be honest about what to expect.


Regarding the price: the shipping is a complete ripoff. I paid 80Ä, and it was shipped with a 35Ä economy service. No fancy packing or anything to justify the cost.
The delivery date was later than promised, with no prior warning of the delay.



Now if I could only find a nice backpack to carry it!

Leszek Vogt
14-Mar-2018, 17:19
Hey ya all,

Finally had a chance to take my 5x7 VDS for a real test (only 4 shots). My main concern is light leaks....and hopefully finding none.

I used two lenses: 360mm Xenar F5.5 and SA 121mm F8 and Ilford FP4. While mounting the lenses I found plenty of slop in the lens boards....YES the $30/piece type, where I had to shim the upper front from moving. The gap was 0.027 according to my calipers. I was able to use the 121mm (with some difficulty), but it would have been better having a recessed board. Haven't done sheet film since my days at UNLV around 44yrs ago.

I've exposed the film at max aperture opening on both lenses...and at either ISO 80 or 100....just to see how the film performs vs what's written on the FP4 package (125). Also exposed two shots at conventional exposure (F22-32) and longer shutter.

Hope to see and share the results here next week.

Les