View Full Version : An experience with 6x17 cameras

Cesar Barreto
11-Nov-2008, 19:40
There has been a lot of talking on the last few days about panoramic cameras and as I had the chance, me and a partner, to travel 45 days shooting with 3 different cameras, I thought it could be useful to offer some lines about this experience.
(As I'm not a native english speaker, I hope you forgive me some mispelling or lack of clarity).

My partner has a new Linhof and a single 90/5.6, a superb lens on a very beautiful camera. There isn't much to say about this camera, as it's possibly the best known of the crowd, but in comparison there will be some interesting thoughts about it.
I had just bought a Da Yi camera, wich came with cones for a XL80/4.5 and a small Nikkor 150/5,6. This model offers ground glass focusing, interchangeable backs and I asked for a zoom viewfinder, wich covers from 90 to 270mm. And I was also carrying a big and old Tomiyama Art-panorama 6x24 camera, a workhorse set with a trustful Nikkor 120/8.

During this job, we were shooting the whole estate of Ceará, in Brazil northeast, including every kind of landscape, from sand dunes to waterfalls, windy beaches to almost desert places, and also urbans sceanes, industries, raves and so on. Most of the time we were nicely shooting with cameras set on tripods, but on lot of occasions we had to climb on the top of the car, on walls, towers, use boats or whatever came on hands for specific shots. So we were trully testing our skills and equipment.

The Da Yi camera proved to be a delight on everyday use, wich doesn't mean it's perfect, far from it. But it handles so good, that many times I actually did prefer to shoot on handheld way, trusting loosely on the viewfinder. I say loosely because it doesn't cover 80mm lens and also shows some distortion, but during action shots, it was rather welcome.
Most of the times, however, I did prefer to use the ground-glass, mainly because that's the only way one can frame with some precision after using a bit of shift. It should be noticed that this camera just has a rise option, but if one needs it's possible to use a tripod socket wich fits over the camera to work with it upside down. It's a clever solution and works fine, meaning just a couple of minutes to set the trick.
Long ago I had an old Linhof camera and just like what happens when using the Art 6x24, I miss lens movement a lot.
Setting the glass view-finder is easy and fast, but although it comes with a collapsible hood, I still found necessary to use a dark-cloth. Changing to film back is also fast and I think that's a most welcome option. Most of the time I don't need and neither want to spend 4 or more frames (it can also be used with 6x12 and 6x14 formats) on the same scene or without careful focusing and framing.
My Art-panorama has a ground-glass wich can be held on place with fingers, but once the film is on place, ciao! It cames with a infinity stop set for the 120mm lens and a focusing knob, wich makes things easier, but as I've been using also a 90mm for 6x17 format, I had to disable those things and just trust on the glass viewfinder.
There's some to say about the cones wich came with Da Yi camera. They both work, but care should be taken about the infinity stop set on the focusing ring. After careful checking I found they need some correction, wich happily meant only a simple matter of loosing 2 or 3 screws and setting a new stop.
I had some trouble with light bouncing inside the camera or the cone itself while using the wide-angle lens, something I still have to find out and fix with some baffling device.
Another serious issue came when I discovered that the minimum focusing distance with the 150mm cone is a huge 5 meters (bye-bye,so long, farewell macro-photos!). With the 80mm adapter it's a bit shorter at 2m, but still too far for my taste.

At this point, I should say that I favor bellows instead of cones. The Art camera uses conventional Linhof plates, with just a round cut on the base to allow room for the focusing axis. Changing lenses is easier and carrying more then 2 cones can be a burden, not exactly on weight but on space it takes on one's bag.

So, if I had to select the best camera I would keep two! But possibly neither of those three (or maybe, if I just can set better cones for the Da Yi camera).

Linhof cameras are fantastic, so precise and well built, but can be heavy and will never be cheap. New models with shift controls are appealing and wish I could afford one with a couple of cones. But...
The chinese beauty shows its charm mainly on your bank account, but can be a nice working companion on the field. Not so strong and built like a jeep, but if feels good on hands and make beautiful pictures if you take care. It's versatility is a must, depending on accessories of course, but I wish every camera had the same.

Now I'm curious about the new Shen-Hao, because I think it offers most of what I need on a camera and also it fits my way of shooting. Will that be the third one?

Well, I hope it can be useful to someone.

Cesar B.

12-Nov-2008, 04:36
Cesar, thank you for you report.


Bob Salomon
12-Nov-2008, 14:25
Linhof cameras are fantastic, so precise and well built, but can be heavy and will never be cheap. New models with shift controls are appealing and wish I could afford one with a couple of cones. But..
Cesar B.

Few errors. All Linhof Technorama 617 S models with interchangeable lenses accept the new Linhof shift adapter.

The lenses that mount to the shift adapter - 72mm, 90mm and 110mm have no cones.

The lenses that do not mount to the shift adapter - 72mm, 90mm, 110mm, 180mm and 250mm do have cones.

in other words, Linhof offers two different 72mm, 90mm and 110mm lenses. One without cone for the shift adapter and one with the cone for use without the shift adapter.

The ones without cone are in special Linhof 617 lens boards.

13-Nov-2008, 02:35
I did two long jobs with a Seitz Roundshot and chucked it for a Tecnorama 6x17 because 6x17 is the limit for publication. Having used that, I went looking for a Tecnorama 6x12 because even 6x17 is too much. A 6x12 back on an a Cambo got me through a year because at least it shifted. Now now I'm down to (or up to) 5x7 box camera with fixed shift and a 120mm lens. And Happy.
The Linhof Tecnorama was a b**ger to load and wind. Easy to miss the start and screw up a roll. Biggest problem was getting the ND wedge filter in the right position for a given f stop. I ended up always using the same stop. Short lenses are a mistake - there not much on film except foreground. YOU DO NEED SHIFT because the camera is level. I was using PCNikkors on the Seitz to get shift. I've even hired a telescopic platform to get off ground level. So think shift before you buy.

Cesar Barreto
13-Nov-2008, 03:09
Agree with you Christopher and I bought Da Yi camera mainly for this shift option.
Also the possibility of using both ground glass and direct viewer made the decision easier. But as I'm so used to view-cameras, being also adicted to 5x7' cameras, I think the option for a 6x17 adapter sounds very reasoble.

13-Nov-2008, 03:46
I get a lot of good use out of a second-hand Imacon 'Photo' scanner (6x18). But despite the better definition of roll film, I find that a sheet of 13x18 (5x7) gives a better panorama because you can adjust the horizon up, down and straighter. 13x18 fits in the Imacon holder.

Cesar Barreto
13-Nov-2008, 04:50
I understand your reasoning, but here in Brazil it's almost impossible to work in color with 5x7' format and I only use it for my personal b&w projects. Roll film is much more practical and cheaper, being able to scan it with Nikon 9000ED and stitching two frames.

13-Nov-2008, 04:51
I know this doesn't belong in the main forum thread, but if any of you might be interested in a 6x12 Noblux swing lens camera as an alternative I may have just the thing. I will post it properly one of these days.