View Full Version : When do YOU use a helical-focusing camera in place of a view camera?

John Schneider
3-Jan-2009, 00:11
I’m wondering how many people are using helical-focusing MF panoramic and LF cameras, and whether these are supplanting or replacing your view cameras. I lucked into a 55mm Horseman SW-612 cheap (relatively so), and I bought a 58mm Cambo Wide for a specific application. However, I find myself using both of these quite a bit in places where I would typically use a view camera, and where a view camera would usually do a better job. Mostly this is because with a growing family time is very limited, and it’s easier/quicker to grab the Horseman or Cambo Wide and the few needed accessories and go for a hike; plus I can take shoot more quickly and cover more ground in my allotted time.

One part of me feels like I’m being lazy, and by not using the best tool for the job I’m shortchanging myself (by having very limited movements, and being stuck with basically one focal length). So, I’m wondering how many have switched to a helical-focusing “point & shoots”; how many have merely supplanted their view cameras with one of these, and if so how the work gets divided up between the cameras.

3-Jan-2009, 00:15
My MF are quicker to use. Mostly the cameras are lighter then a LF. They often don't need a tripod. Have things like built in meters and autowinders. All things that lead to quicker easier photos. When quick and easy matters most why not?

Frank Petronio
3-Jan-2009, 00:47
I'm not lucky enough to have your specific problem with those great cameras, but I understand and have felt the guilt about not shooting with the "ultimate" format when opportunity presents itself.

Try to get over it. It's an artificial block that will hurt your photography and maybe even prevent you from making images at all. It's only a tiny leap in logic further to talk yourself out of making any photo at all because you have an excuse, "I really should be using the XXX but all I have is the YY camera so it's not worth it."

The same thing goes for mixing finished work from different formats and cameras in a final presentation or show. The only person you're hurting is yourself by not using your best images side by side -- film size probably shouldn't be the unifying theme between your images (or maybe you just haven't found a better theme to tie them together with?)

There will always be a better way to do something. You could take it to the extreme and be like that obsessive Gigapixel Project guy or that other guy who custom built the world's highest resolution camera, blah, blah, blah... Who cares? Their pictures still sucked.

Don't beat yourself up for taking a 35mm along when a medium format would have been possible; or shooting 4x5 when you could have brought the 8x10. You really never will know what prior decisions got you to the specific point where you took that particular photo, and maybe the extra pound that "one more thing" weighs or adds to the complexity would be the factor that causes you to miss the best moment. Because the best photos really aren't about the size of the camera, but they are about where you are standing and when you click the shutter.

When the UFOs arrive are you going to ask them to wait while you run back and get the view camera!? ;-)

Take a look at Andre Kertez's landscape photos done with a 35mm (albeit an old Leica) or the old paperback "Magnum Landscapes" -- they are elegant, lovely photos that will prove my point.

3-Jan-2009, 04:42
my 6x17 has helical focusing, it's reliable & accurate enough with my 75mm Super Angulon to be able to estimate the correct focus, and by careful choice of film I can hand hold it using a reasonable shutter speed and have sufficient DOF to cope with everything I shot with it so far. (That's in 18 months of use0.

However using the same lens on a 5x4 I really need to use some movements, usually front tilt, to ensure sharpness across my images. Helical focussing loses it's advantages once movements are used. In addition each lens really needs it's own calibrated helical regardless of the format.


3-Jan-2009, 04:53
My folding 6.5x9 and 9x12cm reflexes have helical focusing - and get used whenever I don't want to bring one of the big boxes. That said, the Mentors have (limited) movements, but no swing, so they can cover part of the ground of the larger reflexes or view camera - even beyond portrait and people.

Joe Forks
3-Jan-2009, 08:53
blah, blah, blah... Who cares? Their pictures still sucked.

hahaha Frank, I resemble that remark. I can take a crappy photo with just about any camera.

But really it reminds of a story about my Mother. I had given her a nice (IMO) framed print for her wall. She was getting on in age, and before she passed she wanted to know more about the making of the photo. She asked me point blank "Was that a lucky shot?" hahahaha

sorry to hijack the thread :)

David A. Goldfarb
3-Jan-2009, 09:32
The "compromise" I find I'm likely to make lately (particularly when traveling with toddler) is to shoot with my 2x3" Technika instead of a larger format. It's got rangefinder focusing, so handheld is an option for snapshots and candid portraits, and I can use it with a lightweight tripod and a ballhead with groundglass focusing, if I decide I've got time for view camera movements. I can shoot rollfilm or sheet film as needed or as is convenient. It gives me more than, say, a medium format folder or a single-lens wideangle camera, but less than the larger formats.

Richard Wasserman
3-Jan-2009, 09:52
I think Frank said it all.

3-Jan-2009, 13:46
When the UFOs arrive are you going to ask them to wait while you run back and get the view camera!? ;-)

I can't run, so when I seem em I just use the helical-focusing DSLR thats worn around my neck as a spot meter.

And Since I cannot run fast anymore I won't mention differences between the Graphlex XL and 45 as to avoid being beaten badly about the head. :p

3-Jan-2009, 19:37
I lucked into a 55mm Horseman SW-612 cheap (relatively so), and I bought a 58mm Cambo Wide for a specific application.

For me, I would classify those cameras as view cameras used with zone focusing. You can zone focus any view camera with a scale, it does not have to have a helical mechanism. My Horseman 4x5, for example, has infinity stops and calibrated distance scales for zone focusing.

I make a distinction between weather I am going to HAND-HOLD or use a TRIPOD. For hand held I zone focus or use a rangefinder, (like the Horseman VHR 6x9).

If I'm on the tripod, I almost always use GG focusing if it is available on the camera.

Glenn Thoreson
3-Jan-2009, 20:31
Since everything I do is for my own enjoyment, I use just about every kind of old camera there is. I built a 4X5 box camera with a 165 Tessar in a helical focusing mount. It's kind of fun to use and nobody can figure out exactly what it is. Especially the film holder "thing" and the focal plane shutter. "Is that a camera? How does it work?" That adds to the fun. The focus scale on the lens is in meters, and sometimes that throws me for a loop. The ground glass is in feet, though, so I guess it averages out. :D