View Full Version : Wisner rear geared axis tilt advice needed

john borrelli
25-Sep-2017, 21:45
I have owned a 4X5 Wisner Pocket Expedition for a while but I have not used it that much. I have been using a digital camera but I hope to do more LF. The odd thing I notice using this camera, and I have never understood, is why sometimes when I use the rear geared axis tilt in landscape photography for near-far landscapes, it works wonderfully and yet other times, the movement does not seem to affect the plane of focus at all. During these times, I then use the front geared axis tilt and it works wonderfully. The front axis tilt seems to work all the time but the rear tilt only seems to work most of the time. My workflow involves leveling the rear standard and then the front standard. I then focus on the near and then use the rear tilt on the far. I believe the camera can be used in this way and when it works it is a very smooth process. The front geared axis tilt knobs are a little more fiddly to work with in comparison. I donít mind switching back and forth between rear axis tilt and front axis tilt but would like to understand the issue a little more, and so I would very much appreciate any advice.

Keith Pitman
25-Sep-2017, 22:14
I think you've got it backwards for the rear standard: Try focusing on the far and then tilting for the near:

"Focus on the far; tilt for the near; fiddle with the focus until everything is clear."

26-Sep-2017, 12:52
I think you've got it backwards for the rear standard: Try focusing on the far and then tilting for the near:

"Focus on the far; tilt for the near; fiddle with the focus until everything is clear."


john borrelli
26-Sep-2017, 22:06
Thank you for your comments. From the LF forum homepage, under How to focus the view camera:"Some people prefer to focus on the near with the knob and on the far with the tilt. This might work better with axis tilts...” I interpret this to mean that both focusing on the far or focusing on the near can be used. In the past I have focused on the far and tilted on the near, I have also focused one third or a little more in to the scene and then used rear tilt to bring into focus the far and near. And yet, there have been times when the rear swing (NOTE:I MEANT REAR TILT NOT REAR SWING,SORRY FOR THE TYPO AND ANY CONFUSION)did nothing while front axis tilt did work.
I was wondering if the Wisner rear axis tilt works more consistently by tilting the camera down toward the foreground and then tilting the rear up to a more perpendicular position. However, although some use this technique, particularly with wide angle lenses, I tend to level both standards first and then begin the focus-tilt procedure.

Doremus Scudder
27-Sep-2017, 02:37
First, if you are successfully tilting the back of your camera (i.e., if the tilt mechanism is doing its job and not broken), then you are definitely affecting the plane of sharp focus. Something is happening, maybe just not what you are expecting. You just need to figure it out. If your front tilt does the job, there's a way the back tilt will do the same thing as far as focus plane is concerned. Keep in mind that tilting the front forward has a similar effect to tilting the back rearward. When you tilt the back rearwards, the plane of sharp focus tilts in the opposite direction; when you tilt the front forward, the plane of sharp focus tilts in the same direction, just to a greater degree.

What tilting the back does that front tilt doesn't is to change perspective on the ground glass; it's the position of the ground glass in relation to the object being photographed that determines the relative sizes of near-to-far, converging parallels, etc. So, be aware that when you use rear tilt you are a) repositioning the ground glass, therefore changing image rendering and b) repositioning the plane of sharp focus as well.

As far as whether to focus on the far or the near first when using rear tilt: it really depends on what kind of tilt mechanism you have. It is nearly always better to focus first at the bottom of the ground glass (usually, but not always the "far") if you have base tilts. With axis tilts, I focus on the middle and then bring both extremes into focus. With asymmetrical tilts, you focus on the reference line that has the tilt axis running through it (can be near or far) and bring the other into focus. In any case, even with asymmetrical tilts/swings, you will likely have to do a couple of iterations to get the plane of sharp focus positioned precisely where you want it.

If you have base tilts and focus first at the top of the ground glass (the "near"), you will have to refocus more to get the near focus point back into focus, and be able to really see where the far focus point is, than if you focus first at the bottom of the ground glass. (Logic tells you that with base tilts, the top of the ground glass will move more than the bottom when you tilt.)

Keep in mind that there are a lot (maybe a majority) of situations where tilting the plane of sharp focus doesn't help much. Even a "near-far" landscape doesn't always benefit much from tilt if there are foreground objects that don't lie in the plane after tilting (e.g., trees).

Except for the (for me) relatively rare, flat "near-far" shot, I find my best use of tilt is twofold: First, to reposition the back so that the image rendering is different. For instance, I'll tilt the back rearwards from parallel to get foreground objects to appear larger or to get verticals to converge slightly or vice-versa. Second, I find that even with architectural shots, I can often optimize focus spread by tilting very slightly (usually the front, so as to maintain a parallel back position). This is most helpful when I have a bit of foreground in front of a building or facade; I can position the near position of the plane of sharp focus to include a near, low foreground object and the top of the building. The "far" is then usually the spot where the building meets the ground.

Hope this helps,


john borrelli
27-Sep-2017, 08:33
170275 Thank you Doremus for your analysis. Your contribution to the forum has always been much appreciated. Well, here is a photo of my camera for anyone reading this thread. The small round knob just below the front standard is for the front geared axis tilt and the single round large knob just below the rear standard is for the rear geared axis tilt. The rear tilt can go up to 25 degrees backward. The issue is that after I level the camera, front standard and rear standard. I will focus and then use the rear tilt and yet, during some of these times, I can not perceive any difference in the image after using the rear tilt. I then re-level the rear standard and use the front tilt and the front tilt changes the plane of focus as expected. The front axis tilt always seems to work in the expected way but the rear tilt sometimes changes the plane of focus in the expected way and sometimes seems to have no effect. And as I have mentioned, I have experimented during these times when there has been no effect tilting the rear standard to then try focusing on different points in the scene and the few times I have done this there was still no expected effect tilting the rear standard. I will continue to review your comments Doremus and to try varying the focus points the next time I observe this issue with the rear geared axis tilt to see if there is any effect that I am missing. (I JUST NOTICED IN MY PREVIOUS POST THAT I USED THE TERM SWING MISTAKENLY, THE WORD SHOULD HAVE BEEN TILT AS I HAVE JUST NOW EDITED.)

Doremus Scudder
28-Sep-2017, 02:23

Just make sure that the back is actually tilting when you turn the tilt knob. If it is, and you are moving the back out of parallel with the front standard, you are definitely moving the plane of focus. The effect is there, whether you are seeing it or not; you just need to observe more carefully; it may not be what you expect.



john borrelli
28-Sep-2017, 16:12
Yes, I will look carefully. Up until now, I immediately went to front axis tilt. Thanks again, Doremus