View Full Version : Why *that* field camera?

Bruce Watson
7-Oct-2009, 10:56
For the film format of your choice, what was the prime motivator that caused you to buy your current LF field camera (or your favorite if you have more than one)? I'm talking deal breaker here -- the one thing it had to have before you'd even consider it.

It's only fair that I go first. Low weight is my biggest consideration right now. So I've got a Toho. It's not pretty. Ergonomics aren't the best but aren't the worst either. But it's really light and it has full movements on both ends. So I'm happy with it.

So what's your number one "gotta have it" for a view camera?

Robert Hughes
7-Oct-2009, 11:08
It was the one available when I wanted to get one.:)

Oren Grad
7-Oct-2009, 11:11
I voted for "low weight". It's not quite a deal breaker, in that I won't choose the lowest weight option if it's not at least decently rigid and reasonably unfussy to use. But among criteria, I'd say that low weight carries the most... uh... weight. :)

7-Oct-2009, 11:13
I voted 'easy to operate', really meaning 'easy to set up'. Less hassle = less passed-over opportunities.

Scott Davis
7-Oct-2009, 11:19
I picked my field camera for a reason not listed above: versatility. I have a Canham wood field 5x7 - I got it at the time because of the combination of virtues it has: relatively light weight, movements, bellows extension, takes Technica lensboards, modern/traditional aesthetics, and most of all, the ability to transform the camera into other formats. I have a 5x12 back and bellows for it that I can change the camera with in under 5 minutes, using only one hex wrench. I'm also looking in to ordering a whole-plate sized back and bellows for it as well.

Jim Rice
7-Oct-2009, 11:32
Well it certainly wasn't low weight. I own a C-1 (magnesium, thank God). OTOH it's very intuitive to use, has plenty of bellows and, to my own warped aestethic, cute. The deal-maker, however, was that I could afford it.

7-Oct-2009, 11:40
Low weight is my vote. That's why I got a Gowland Pocket View- it's basically low weight sacrificing everything else. Although it has a decently long bellows and can do just about any movements you want, but usability is tough with combined tilt and rise, no levelling indents, but you get used to it.

7-Oct-2009, 12:28
For me, the ability to focus the rear is a make or break. I will never buy another view camera that does not have rear focus. I voted movements - seems the closest to my personal requirement.

Don Dudenbostel
7-Oct-2009, 12:48
There's no one single answer. It's a balance of many things.

7-Oct-2009, 12:50
None of the questions was really appropriate, it's a combination.

I'd second BradS comments for 10x8 etc, but that's not important to me with 5x4.


Acheron Photography
7-Oct-2009, 12:56
For me it was the cheapest camera I could bear to use. That's partly aesthetics, partly personal ergonomics and partly performance. Something that wasn't stable, had fiddly controls that I could not adjust precisely, or didn't have a wide range of movements wasn't tolerable. That got me an Arca Swiss. Your mileage will almost certainly differ.


Ron Marshall
7-Oct-2009, 12:57
Three things: weight, bellows, movements.

Kirk Gittings
7-Oct-2009, 13:08
Three things: weight, bellows, movements.

As per my Phillips 4x5-those three assets and one more RIGIDITY.

Bruce Watson
7-Oct-2009, 13:32
Poll is interesting, not least for what it's missing.

I've read a bunch of posts over the last six years or so of people going on about how beautiful this or that wood field camera is. Ebony cameras seem to bring this out in some owners for example. Yet no one, not one person, has voted for the aesthetics of the camera. At least not yet. What's up with that I wonder? Which is, of course, why I started this thread. :D

7-Oct-2009, 13:46
The aesthetics actually mirrors the ergonomics to some extent and so a well designed camera looks and works better. Altough there are a lot of exceptions :D


7-Oct-2009, 13:56
My priorities were:

something rugged that I could toss in a backpack;
easy to set-up / take-down;
relatively versatile

I ended up with a Technika and am happy.


7-Oct-2009, 14:00
It was the one available when I wanted to get one.:)

Same here, when I got my 8x10, so I voted "Pie". Full-featured, wood, available at a price I could afford (used)...Zone VI

My 4x5 was bought for its low weight, packable, and adaquate movements for landscape (Gowland Pocket View).


Ole Tjugen
7-Oct-2009, 15:03
What if it's "all of the above"?

With the exception of price, all of those are reasons why I chose the camera I did - the Carbon Infinity.

7-Oct-2009, 15:43
Bellows, and movements, and weight, and...

Michael Wynd
7-Oct-2009, 17:46
I'll second Robert Hughes, but the ability to handle awide range of lenses was a very close second.

7-Oct-2009, 17:56
Ease of use. However, I have a B&J 8x10 and it's not the easiest to use. In the front, it's not possible to change rise/fall without messing with tilt and vice versa. I like its ability to focus from both ends- front and back both have geared focus.

I'd like to get something that was lighter and easier to use but the price is right on the B&J- I own it.

Dave Jeffery
7-Oct-2009, 23:02
I studied a majority of the 4x5 cameras and decided I was willing to carry some extra weight in order to have all the features that might be needed. One feature that seemed important was to have a lot of shift so I could shoot two frames and stitch them together, which I do not use at all now as there are other means.

Someone mentioned that spending some extra money to buy a good quality camera was a good investment as the camera would last for a lot of years and perhaps a lifetime of shooting so price was not all that important. My list got boiled down to an Arca Swiss and when I called to place an order for one I asked if there were any other cameras of that quality and the Ebony cameras were mentioned. After studying the Ebony 45SU it has the non-folding design which is fast to set up, it has assymetrical focusing, lots of movements and the correct bellows for landscape photography. These features changed my mind and I bought the 45SU having never owned a view camera and having never seen an Ebony camera prior to this.

Asthetics were of absolutely no concern to me regarding my purchase but once I opened the box the new camera was really amazing! I love hardwoods for their natural beauty and Ebony wood is one of the nicest IMHO. Also, being a bit of a gear head, the strength of the titanium was also impressive and the movements were very smooth. I'm sure other cameras movements are nice as well but having the titanium on titanium it's pretty hard to imagine doing much better for quality.

As I had previoulsy seen many programs about the fine art and craft of metalurgy in Japan, which often showcases the making of the long knives for cutting tuna, sushi knives, and also what are probably the most beautiful swords in the world, the fine craftsmanship and beauty of this camera jumped out at me and won me over unexpectedly. I really appreciate and admire the effort and choice of materials that are used to make this camera and I think that perhaps this is the Ebony bug that others get as well, which Bruce was expecting to hear about.

People that don't work with wood and tinker with machinery much might not be so inclined to appreciate as much the high quality and the camera might not have the same appeal. Perhaps for some it may as well be made of malamine and aluminum. I have no doubt at all that an Arca Swiss, or Linhoff, is also very finely machined and very well made and many people like the fine gearing that the Arca's have. Perhaps it is the use of ebony wood that gives the impression that the Ebony cameras seem to be more hand crafted, rather than a machined product.

As this is my first view camera my opinions are not objective at all. There are lots of great cameras for many various reasons and there are a number of people on this forum that sold their Ebony cameras, and of course others have switched to them. Mostly I wanted to make mention of the asthetics of the camera and Ebony bug as I experienced it although it did not play a part in the purchase decision process.

Buying and learning to use a new Ebony camera turned out to be an unexpected and very enjoyable aspect of starting out in large format photography.

Five grand and it's yers : )

Have fun!

Joakim Ahnfelt
8-Oct-2009, 01:35
I miss the option stability. I bought my first Field camera, an Wista, because it had the right price and low weight. Today some 15 years later i would focus on stability (more weight) if I where to buy another one.

Sascha Welter
8-Oct-2009, 02:00
My first and only view camera (meaning *my*, i.e. that I own) was tossed in my lap. Dunno if that makes "price" the main point :-) From that point on I learned to love that old Arca's advantages - but if it had been a different camera, I'd probably have learned to love that camera's advantages in turn.

In the past I've extensively worked with Sinar's (I think P or P2, don't remember what was the difference) in the Studio and didn't like them much. We called them "rubber ducks", because you could bend and swing them so much (not meaning the parts that are supposed to swing). That old Arca is a different beast. Maybe I should put "rigidity" in highest priority then, because the camera taught me how good it is to have that.

The Sinars had those fancy dials to set diaphragm and time, along with "geared everything", which in a commercial studio setup (aka "factory") I should probably have appreciated. Instead I didn't give much about it. Sometimes you forget about the best features, because they're there.

8-Oct-2009, 12:49
8x20-Korona... Weight; 8x10- Century Universal... Weight.

8-Oct-2009, 15:17
First one was a Wista and was available at a price I thought I could afford with a couple of lenses and a few bits and bobs.

Second, was a Speed Graphic with lens because it was very reasonably priced.

Third, was a 5 x 4 Gandolfi Traditional because I wanted one and because I used to live near the factory in Peckham London SE

Fourth, was a Deardorff 10 x 8 because I wanted it and it came with lens, film and dd slides.

Think I will have to stop as I seem to be a collector now....

nn :)

8-Oct-2009, 15:33
I don't believe my last purchase of a view camera was based on any single criteria but on a global evaluation of the features, most important of which would be size and weight, bellows draw, extent of movements, ease of use, and rigidity. Price is also a consideration because I view equipment as a tool and don't see any reason to pay a Mercedes price if a Toyota will do the job.

Now, once I own a view camera and put it to work in the field I develop likes and dislikes that make me want to keep the camera or sell it. So I can usually identify with more specificity the reason(s) why I would chose to get rid of a field camera than the specific reason why I would buy it. My major dislikes are lack of ease of use or the fact that the camera lacks rigidity. Of course, my concept of ease of use may differ very much from that of someone else so hands on experience is the only way to know if a specific camera will meet your needs.

Sandy King

David Karp
8-Oct-2009, 16:23
I bought my Walker Titan SF because it could handle lenses up to 450mm as well as my 75mm, it was reputedly very rigid (it is), it offered the movements I wanted, and because I could afford it to boot. It was a good choice.

8-Oct-2009, 16:50
Oh God.

I use an Arca, but I've always been jealous of those compact folders.

So I have a field camera on the drawing board,
and I know that there's no single deal breaker, even with a blank page-
everything is a compromise.

That said, the opinions presented here are very valuable...

and btw, I voted for ergonomics-

Rodney Polden
8-Oct-2009, 17:47
Three things: weight, bellows, movements.


What if it's "all of the above"?

With the exception of price, all of those are reasons why I chose the camera I did - the Carbon Infinity.

Ron and Ole, I'm with you. Except that for me it was the 8x10 Century Universal, best described as Ahead Of Its Time. And still, 75 years later, Ahead Of Its Time. Imagine if everything was made as well as that.

Diane Maher
9-Oct-2009, 05:45
For me, it was a combination of weight, ease of use, and most importantly, fit the way I shoot, or I guess the last is considered to be ergonomics. :D

Ivan J. Eberle
9-Oct-2009, 05:54
Foremost, I didn't feel like throwing thousands of dollars away in a sinking market when I was just getting into large format, and so many others were getting out.

Following closely in priority, I wanted something that would protect my lenses from road rash by folding up with them inside, and yet not be hamstrung with limited moves.

I have 2 Meridians now-- a 45B and a 45CE.