View Full Version : Any Canham ownwers in or around Vienna?

Michael Nagl
21-Dec-2008, 13:54
Dear Colleagues,

I consider replacing my heavy 8x10 monorail with a Canham, but I am never again going to buy a camera that I have not laid hands on - the only time I have done this I found myself in posession of a camera that was poorly constructed and sloppily built.
Well, since the nearest retailer of Canham cameras is about one thousand kilometres away (Paris), here´s my question: Is there anyone in or around Vienna who would sacrifice an hour or so to let me check out their Canham?


Walter Calahan
21-Dec-2008, 14:28
Sorry Michael, I'm not far from Vienna, Virginia, USA, but nowhere near Austria.

I own a KB Canham lightweight wood 8x10 camera. A good friend, a retired National Geographic staff photographer, owns the KB Canham traditional wood 8x10 camera.

They are very well made.

I have a picture of me with the camera on my web site: http://www.walterpcalahan.com/Cheers/Info.html

I'm quite happy with the Canham, which I bought used. My buddy, Jim Blair, bought his new. He likes it as much as his 5x7 Deardorff he bought in college while a student of Harry Callahan (no relation).

Michael Nagl
21-Dec-2008, 15:36
Thanks Walter,

I know you are happy with your Canham (which looks cool on that photo - suits you, man!), yet still I am like the Doubting Thomas - I have to experience it.
By the way, does the normal bellows allow significant movements with a 150mm lens?


Michael Nagl
21-Dec-2008, 16:08
...and if I´d get to see a 4x5 I´d be happy as well -- I guess it´s basically the same camera. Jürgen?

Walter Calahan
21-Dec-2008, 21:06
I recommend a bag bellows for anything shorter than 240 mm. Many times I use the bag bellows with my 240 mm.

The normal bellows is long enough to work with my Nikkor 1200 mm. I don't own a 150 mm, but I do have a 165 mm. The normal bellows with the 165 mm would restrict 'significant' movement.

I can understand you 'Doubting Thomas' viewpoint. An 8x10 camera is an expensive investment. I hope you find someone local who can show you a Canham. No camera is perfect for everyone in every situation.

One thing I can tell you about Keith Canham is he stands behind his workmanship. A friend bought a used 5x7 wood camera. Something delaminated on the groundglass holder. Keith replaced the part free of charge even though it was a used camera.

Michael Nagl
22-Dec-2008, 15:15
And is it possible to fold the camera with the bag bellows?

22-Dec-2008, 21:43
The 4x5 and 8x10 are about the same designs but of course the metal versions differ from the wood versions. I have a metal 4x5 and I like it. The camera is very versatile with a great bellows and great movements. However, it might be an acquired taste. I decided to get mine after a "hands' on" session at a conference where Keith Canham had some samples. But the camera is a bit "fiddly" with a number of knobs so you need to develop a disciplines process (in progress for me) to zero movements etc. or you might leave something loose or slightly out of alignment. The back is a little "springy" which is unsettling to some but it rights itself and no problems. The camera is relatively light and compact for its format and is great for backpacking.

I agree with your plan to handle something before you buy. However, I just bought my first Arca sight unseen and I am delighted with the quality. A completely different animal than the Canham but heavier and bulkier.

David Karp
22-Dec-2008, 21:47
I seem to remember reading somewhere that you can order a Canham traditional with the "super "bellows" used on the metal cameras. If I am right, this allows you to use wide angles and long lenses with the same bellows. Drop Keith Canham an email and ask. I don't have a Canham camera, but have spoken to him on the phone. He is very helpful and a nice guy. He might be able to contact a user who lives near you, and ask if it is OK to give him your email address.

Juergen Sattler
22-Dec-2008, 22:16
Michael, I live in Scottsdale, AZ - sorry, not anywhere near beautiful Vienna. The reason I deleted my first post was because I was answering your questions, but based on the 4x5 metal model, which I own. But that has very little meaning for the 8x10 wooden version. sorry.

Scott Davis
23-Dec-2008, 12:42
I'm Walt's friend who had the wood field 5x7 that had a problem. I bought mine used from Midwest Photo, and what happened was that one side of the back that slots into the retaining clip on the rear standard split off (it was old wood, and I think it was one of the earliest 5x7s Keith made, so he has since improved the design so this won't happen again). I contacted Midwest, and they called Keith. Keith drop-shipped me a replacement back, and asked that I send him the old one in return, when I got back from my trip to Argentina. The only cost I was out was the return shipping for the old back.

I'll put in another vote for the camera being terrific - I liked it so much that I went ahead and got a 5x12 modular back for it as well. This is one of the great things about the Canham product - the platforms are standardized, so it is possible to unclip the bellows from the front standard, unlock the rear, and slide the rear off to put on a comparable back for another format - 4x10 and 5x12 backs are available for the 5x7, and 7x17 and 8x20 backs will fit the 8x10.

All this being said, I'd highly recommend getting your hands on one before you buy, and playing around with it a bit. The interface (control knob design and positioning) are different than what you may be used to, and you'll have to see if it is something you can live with. I've adapted quite well to mine and am very happy with it. Some people love it, some hate it.

Perhaps the Paris dealer might be willing/able to loan you one for a week on approval?

Tim Povlick
23-Dec-2008, 13:26
Add another vote for the Canham. I recently acquired the 8x10 traditional (not lightweight). I have looked it over closely and can't see any flaws in the design. After several months and field trips I still think it is well thought out product. It handles heavy lenses (Schneider APO Symmar L 480mm) no problem. I checked the distance from ground glass versus distance to film plane and the GG matches exactly where film plane is.

I find setting up the shot (tilts etc.) to be easy. My starter Arca Swiss model A (?) was more difficult.

_ .. --
T i M

Michael Nagl
23-Dec-2008, 14:21
Thank you all for your contributions, especially the idea with the "super bellows" sounds very promising. I make practically all my pictures with a 150 or 240mm lens and I don´t think that I would want to change the bellows every time I fold the camera. Other than that, the Canham sounds perfect, even more so as my most used movement beside front rise is rear shift (left/right).
Another question, as it does not look like I´ll find one to play with: When I try out different movements I want my camera to be easy to re-zero, and I don´t want to have to come forth from under the darkcloth for that, I want to be able to get that done by feel. (A thing I love about the Linhof - those detents that work well at all temperatures, never sticky, never loose - mmmh!) How does the Canham (the wooden one) behave here?

Walter Calahan
23-Dec-2008, 18:04

I'll have to see if I can close the camera with the bag bellows to see if it will close. I'll get back to you soon.

Michael Nagl
1-Jan-2009, 12:18

and while you´re at it, could you please check the maximum extension with that bag bellows?