View Full Version : Busch Pressman

Sean Galbraith
23-Nov-2008, 12:20
I'm completely new to LF, but am considering buying a Busch Pressman off a friend of a friend to get started. It seems to be in excellent condition overall, and I'm not concerned about the quality of the camera. Price seems to be in keeping with I would expect based on ebay etc.

My photographic area of interest is in interior architectural photography (of abandoned buildings, like the photo below). Currently, I shoot in the 20-35mm (35mm terms) angle range, and I'm a big concerned about getting similar width on the Pressman. I have access to an excellent lens rental shop here in Toronto, but they don't stock Pressman lensboards. I haven't been able to find a place online that currently sells them. Any suggestions?

Also, does this camera take any old 4x5 film holder? Or are there different kinds I need to be aware of.

I think that's it for now :-)



Gene McCluney
23-Nov-2008, 14:05
You will have to either find old Bush lensboards on the used market, or make your own. Manytimes you can make a servicable lensboard from flat stock (aluminum, masonite, etc.)

Your Pressman should take normal standard 4x5 double dark-slide film holders that have been standard for over 50 years now (or longer). There are plenty of used holders to choose from.

You are going to want a lens in the 75mm to 90mm focal length range to approximate the same field of view that you are now getting with your current equipment. You will also need a nice tripod and cable release for optimum quality, even though the Bush is a "press" camera and can be hand held..you really don't want to do this for fine quality.

Also, Press Cameras (in general) came with a lens in the 135mm focal length range, a slight wide angle in 4x5, and the camera rangefinder was calibrated to this lens, so you didn't have to focus on the ground glass for "candid" shots. If you put on ANY other focal length, you will HAVE to focus on the ground glass (image will appear upside down) and treat the press camera as if it were a field camera, opening up the lens to focus, then stopping down, setting the shutter and using a cable release to trip the shutter. With all that said, I have used my Super Graphic (a similar press camera) very successfully as a field camera with many lenses and achieved super results.

C Ille
23-Nov-2008, 14:10
I think a Bush Pressman is not adequate for interior architectural photography. You need a camera with wide angle bag bellows and ample movements.

Gene McCluney
23-Nov-2008, 14:16
I think a Bush Pressman is not adequate for interior architectural photography. You need a camera with wide angle bag bellows and ample movements.

The OP is now doing his photos with a 35mm camera. All press cameras have some rise, and some front tilt/shift. He is shooting abandoned buildings, not Architectural digest stuff. I have been very successful with a 90 Super Angulon on my Super Graphic with front rise to get what I need.

Brian Stein
23-Nov-2008, 14:24
Check which lensboard it uses: iirc there are two versions. DIY and other options have been discussed at photo.net http://photo.net/large-format-photography-forum/003ETd http://photo.net/large-format-photography-forum/00IZgw
The busch D is a nice camera (see http://www.xs4all.nl/~lommen9/Busch/page5.html for an apprecaition) but as a press camera it will have some inherent limitations which may matter to you. Super short lenses and lots of movements are not going to happen, but shortish lenses eg 90mm without much movement will work. Look over at graflex.org for discussion about this and more. This is definitely a try before you buy if you can.

Ivan J. Eberle
23-Nov-2008, 14:42
First thing that comes to mind about a Model D is that those lens boards are tiny, and that most modern f/5.6 or f/6.8 75mm-90mm's are too large in diameter to fit. You may be limited to using W/A lenses which are not multicoated, not sharp to the corners, the majority being 50+ years old. The relatively cheap f/8 Angulons that will, they'll be challenging to focus on the ground glass in dim interiors. Also, even if you could find a modern one that'll fit the board, will it fold up in the closed Pressman w/o having to remove it each time? If not, this negates one of the main advantages of a folder, namely rapid set-up.

Not sure what the minimum focal length is that will rack focus on the Mod D rails, but you'll probably also want to confirm this before plunging in. Also, what movements will you lose with a W/A or that become too inconvenient to use due to the camera design.

It's often better to work it out backwards from the lens you need or intend to use than the other way 'round.

I too looked at Pressmans because they seem so well engineered and machined. But after 50+ years everyone mentioned how the leather pieces are subject to decay and light leaks. Too, they didn't seem nearly as wide-angle friendly as the Meridian 45B I ended up buying.

23-Nov-2008, 15:30
I own a 4x5 Busch Pressman and it is my only folding 4x5 camera. I have 90mm Angulon, 135mm Symmar & 203mm Ektar lenses for it. I have always been able to find a lens board when I needed one. The Busch is quite handy and well built and so it gets a fair amount of use compared to my monorails. The down sides are that the movements are quite limited, offering no front swing and no rear anything. I also find the front tilt very difficult to use since the lock is not quite reliable.

The lens board and the opening behind it are quite small. Also since the back is not removable you do not have the option of attaching the lens' rear cell through the camera's back after mounting the board. This means that any lens would have to have a rear cell diameter less than about 58mm. That may exclude a lot of modern wide angles. Modern wide angles will not be able to stay mounted with the camera closed. My 135mm Symmar just fits with the camera closed.

I would suggest that if you are a wide angle architecture specialist you would probably be better off starting with an inexpensive monorail. I have a 4x5 (square rail) Calumet on a 12 inch rail with a bag bellows that although bulky is extremely versatile. There is also the older round rail Calumet CC-402 "Wide Field Camera."

By the way, I see a lot of Busch cameras, with an ordinary press type lens, posted on eBay for somewhere north of $400. I can not believe that too many sell at those prices though.

Good luck.

Sean Galbraith
23-Nov-2008, 16:50
Pardon my newbie talking... but why do I need a large degree of movement? I haven't needed it before to get parallel lines (when I've wanted them). Most of what I shoot isn't more than, say 5 or 10 degrees off the horizontal. Macros or small objects aren't my thing usually.

The points regarding the front opening and wide angle lenses are well taken and appreciated. I'm also looking at a Toyo field camera, but will also have a look at monorail systems. Weight and size is definitely a concern, as sometimes I've been known to have to run fast if spotted somewhere I'm not supposed to be. :-)

My budget is around $900CDN or so (forgot to mention).

23-Nov-2008, 17:34
Not an unreasonable question.

Consider the photo you posted. At a similar scene you might decide that the ceiling is uninteresting and you wanted more floor in the foreground, with movements you could shift the lens down or raise the back to give you more floor and less ceiling. (If you tilt the camera down, the vertical lines will converge.) With the Busch Pressman you would have to drop the bed and then tilt the front back into vertical. You might then need to add some rise to the front to undo some of the fall. The maximum amount of fall available depends on the length of lens.

Another time you might turn the camera so that only the right hand set of windows were in the photo. Because of the longer focal length of the large format lenses, you have much less depth of field. By swinging the lens to the right you could align the plane of focus to coincide with the wall of windows to keep the whole line of windows in focus. The Busch does not offer any capability to swing the lens.

The problem is aggravated by the older wide angle lenses which fit the Busch camera such as the very common 90mm/6.8 Schneider Angulon. The problem is that they have very little extra coverage beyond the minimum required to cover the 4x5 format. Shifting, swinging, tilting, raising or dropping with these lenses can make the corners of your image unacceptably dark or soft.

You should be able to get a monorail camera with a lens or even two for the budget you named, but don't forget that you may also need film holders, lupe, meter, tripod, focusing cloth and maybe some darkroom equipment.

23-Nov-2008, 17:37
Are you sure that you want to go Large Format? For a lot less you can get Perspective Control lenses for your 35mm camera.

Ivan J. Eberle
23-Nov-2008, 18:26
Another thing that strikes me with what you're already doing already with 35mm and those ultrawide focal lengths is that you're going to be using MUCH smaller apertures to obtain the same near-far depth of field effect, which will almost certainly require a substantial tripod. So the difference in weight between a monorail and a press-type camera is only incremental, perhaps not as great as you may be thinking. It's also going to make you a lot less surreptitious in abandoned buildings to be slinging a tripod over the shoulder with a camera mounted.

Though it's also true that so long as the important subject matter exists in only one plane, camera movements can greatly help with the near-far thing and at wider apertures--even with a lens nearly wide open, and consequently with faster and perhaps even handholdable shutter speeds, unfortunately this probably won't work so well with small and light older design lenses that require stopping down to f/16 or f/22 for sufficient sharpness, of the type you might be restricted to with the Busch Mod D front standard having only a 58mm opening. Ground glass focusing and swapping out film holders is also nigh impossible w/o using a tripod as well.

So, for all those reasons, a press camera isn't ideal for architecture.

Heck, the way things stand right now, these days a whole Sinar F outfit incl a bag bellows and a couple of pro lenses might not sell at auction for even as much as your budget. If a monorail proves too bulky, technical field cameras are also good for a lot of architecture.

The key here and the reason why I picked a Meridian was for the back movements as well as front swings and the revolving back. Wista metal field cameras, Technicas, MPPs, Meridians (less than your budget, somewhat rare and collectible--took a year of looking to find mine) and perhaps a few wooden field cameras that may be beyond your budget have these moves, that can pull the converging lines and perspective back after a tilt or swing. Too, back moves alone allow swing and tilt movements of a fashion with lenses that have a smaller image circle (limited coverage as mentioned by aduncanson above) without vignetting.

Gene McCluney
23-Nov-2008, 19:12
Some press cameras, such as a Crown Graphic or Super Graphic have quite large holes for the rear of the lens to go thru. Didn't know about the Bush. I work with f8 super-angulons all the time (65mm and 90mm) and with a dark cloth no problem to compose, focus and shoot. For an teensie 90mm, there is the Graflex Optar 90mm f8. An itty bitty lens that is sharp if you don't shift too much.

23-Nov-2008, 19:14
I had a Busch briefly; I thought it was a super cool, beautiful camera ... and then discovered that all the lenses I wanted to use where just too big to fit on the thing!

Sean Galbraith
23-Nov-2008, 19:59
Are you sure that you want to go Large Format? For a lot less you can get Perspective Control lenses for your 35mm camera.

Definitely. 35mm just doesn't have the resolution I'm looking for anymore.

Sean Galbraith
23-Nov-2008, 20:08
Thanks, all. I've pretty much decided against the Pressman.

KEH seems to have some pretty affordable monorail cameras. Just need to figure out which one. There's a good price on an Omega View 45E in Ex condition that looks promising.

24-Nov-2008, 08:40
You can get a good used monorail very cheap on ebay or probably on the sales forum here (a Cambo / Calumet or Toyo, for example). I use my cambo in the field with no problem, but a press camera in a backpack or messenger bag is a lot easy to carry up multiple flights of stairs, or to carry a long distance from your car. I think the Pressman got a bit slammed here. It's actually a very capable little camera, smaller than a Linhof or Toyo (I've owned all three), and with focusing capabilities not easy to find on newer cameras (GG, user-adjustable rangefinder (I have the Vue-Focus), sportsfinder that works pretty well for fast shooting). I've used mine handheld a lot, too. As for the lens limitations, you simply have to know what will fit. The Pressman will take a 90mm f/8 SA, most of the 135-150mm lenses, the 240mm Fuji A, and if the bellows are in good shape will focus the 300mm Nikkor-M to about 30' (I've done this -- not making some theoretical statement based on bellows draw). New aftermarket lensboards are readily available from Midwest Photo (they have them in stock drilled for Copal #0 and #1 most of the time). There is no front swing, but enough rise, fall and shift to aid in basic image corrections (the back has no movements). For the price, the Pressman D is one of the best press/field cameras out there, and the construction is quite good. Although I use my monorail more, I still find the little Busch a useful image-making tool.

24-Nov-2008, 09:58
...The Pressman will take a 90mm f/8 SA, most of the 135-150mm lenses, the 240mm Fuji A, and if the bellows are in good shape will focus the 300mm Nikkor-M to about 30' (I've done this -- not making some theoretical statement based on bellows draw).

This is great information. I have not had a chance to try the 90/8 SA in particular (I like the idea) and so was simply advising further investigation before purchasing. There is one last consideration that keeps me from using my Pressman on some occasions. It lacks a Graflok back (so does the Calumet CC-402) which allows use of a wide variety of inexpensive roll film holders in formats up to 6x12. Your only real choices are the Calumet roll film holders which are rare, costly (and some say suspect) in sizes other than 6x7.

Good Luck

25-Nov-2008, 13:59
I can verify Paul08's experience.

I use a Nikon 90/8, a 135/5.6 Sironar-N and a Fuji A 240/9 on my Bush Pressman. Don't even have to drop the bed to use the 90. Lensboards are available from Midwest but the one I purchased was too thick and had to modified some to mount on the camera plus needs some work to mount a 180/5.6 Sironar-N.

With the flat board the Fuji 240 can focus to only about 13 - 15 ft or so. So some sort of extension would be handy.

Swing can be accomplished by turning the camera on the side.

The Meridian B has the same built-in focusing mechanism for wide angle lenses as the Linhof 2000 series and is excellent in that regard.

I have just competed adding a Graflok back to my Pressman. A lot of work! I lost the rotating back feature but added a tripod hole on the side for the rare occasions when a vertical photo is called for.

Grafmatics worked on the original camera but now the back can be removed competely - using the Graflok slides to hold the Grafmatics.

I found that the Calumet roll film holders would not fit on my Pressman - too thick.

25-Nov-2008, 14:51
Nice to hear from another satisfied BPD owner, Bob. It may not be the ideal "only" LF camera, but it's a great compliment to a monorail (or medium format gear, if that's what you normally work in). You wrote:

"I found that the Calumet roll film holders would not fit on my Pressman - too thick."

Is that with the new modified back? I only ask because the Calumet C2 I just sold does fit my BPD with the original rotating back (although it's a tight squeeze -- I had to be careful to really lift the whole back away from the body, not just the edge like you normally do). As a plus, the Rollfilm holder can be used like a grip.

25-Nov-2008, 15:19
I had and sold a Calumet C2n back. The old/original Busch Pressman back would not accept the C2n holder at all - and I tried. It is possible that the C2n plastic body is different from the C2. It would accept the Grafmatics however.

Both the C2n and the Grafmatics have a ridge on the sides that allow them to be mounted on a camera with a Graflok back using the locking slides after removing the ground glass/hood assembly.

25-Nov-2008, 21:54
My old all metal C2 fits my Busch Pressman with no problem, but has just a millimeter to spare. It would not fit my father-in-law's spring back Speed Graphic, for which I bought it.

I have other medium format choices (but not for portrait length lenses) and have personal problems with the 6x7 format so my C2 gets next to no use.

Jeff Bannow
26-Nov-2008, 08:34
I used my press camera (speed graphic) very successfully in many abandoned sites around the Detroit area. I can't even imagine carrying a monorail around and through some of those places - 30 minutes of walking and crawling, climbing 15 flights of stairs, etc. A press camera will fit into a backpack easily. I used a 65mm lens by dropping the bed on my Speed Graphic - something similar is probably possible on the Pressman as well.

If you decide against the press camera, I'd look at a field camera instead.

29-Nov-2008, 00:32
IIRC, yes the 90mm f8 Super Angulon will fit (barely) on the Busch Pressman, but I remember that the standard had to be slightly off the edge of the rail if you are dropping the bed. I think it will work better if you have the rail in the standard position, but then you may get some of the bed in the frame. If you are using rise or a roll film holder, there is nothing to worry about. However, nothing shorter than 90mm will mount on the camera using the focusing rail.. you can however mount it on the inner rail, but there is no method to focus it, so you have to push/pull it which is not fun.

Regarding the front standard. Tightening up some of the screws will help in its ove3rall ridgidity. And if its a little wobbly using the tilt, dissasemble the front standard. There is a pressure plate under the base that is kinda weak. Add a filler using a peice of plastic or metal and it will work alot better.