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Thread: differences between Zone VI 4x5 models

  1. #1

    differences between Zone VI 4x5 models

    Apparently there are a wide variety of zone vi cameras made. I read that the first were made similar to the wistas. I have seen tachiharas that were marketed as zone vi. And a local camera store in Sacramento is selling a zone vi with a brass plate marked 'made for zone vi by ron wisner'
    (camera arts on 57th and h st.)

    So is there a web site that shows the differences between the various zone vi models? I have read conflicting reviews of the zone vi, and perhaps the different versions have created much confusion.

    Darin

    www.cozinephoto.com

  2. #2

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    differences between Zone VI 4x5 models

    There were several iterations of "Zone VI" cameras. I'm not an expert, but here are at least some of them:

    1. There was a Wista that was private labeled as a Zone VI.
    2. Wisner made a Zone VI camera for a short period of time until Wisner and Picker parted company.
    3. Picker then manufactured a modified version of the Wisner design himself.
    4. After Calumet bought Zone VI in 1990, they continued to sell the Picker manufactured version for a period of time.
    5. Calumet then came out with the Zone VI Ultralight.
    6. As far as I know, all versions of the Zone VI are now out of production.

    Richard Ritter had an article in View Camera Magazine about a year ago about the history of Zone VI cameras. Wisner responded with his version in a subsequent issue.

    I'm sure others can fill in other aspects of this history.

  3. #3
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    differences between Zone VI 4x5 models

    I have had a couple of them. The made by Wisner ones are the best in my opinion.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    "Vocation to Solitude -- To deliver oneself up, to hand oneself over, entrust oneself completely to the silence of a wide landscape of woods and hills, or sea, or desert; to sit still while the sun comes up over the land and fills its silences with light." Thomas Merton

    KIRK GITTINGS
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  4. #4

    differences between Zone VI 4x5 models

    "6. As far as I know, all versions of the Zone VI are now out of production."

    Calumet in Chicago still sells the Zone VI Ultralight. I bought one in September. They may have a few other models, and various parts. Mine is a very usable, compact, lightweight machine. Not super rigid, but at the price and weight, a good compromise for me. Lenses from 65 to 450mm.

  5. #5

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    differences between Zone VI 4x5 models

    In the early 1980s, Picker and Zone VI sold the Wista modified with a better bottom plate. The Wista had a stupid bottom plate-tripod mount, and Fred fixed this with a simple metal plate drilled for a tripod screw. For awhile, you could buy just the bottom plate to retrofit into a Wista wooden camera. My first camera was a Wista and I used his bottom plate - it was an excellent camera, better built than the Tachihara and not as heavy as the Wisner versions.

  6. #6
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    differences between Zone VI 4x5 models

    Hi Darin,

    There is no Zone VI website that I'm aware of. However, having followed the Picker-Wisner war since 1984, I can tell you that Fred Picker's original 4x5 wooden flat bed folding field camera was probably made by Tachihara, in Japan (cherry wood and chrome plated metal). Picker sold it as the Zone VI camera but was not entirely happy with the design of the camera. He then met with Wisner, and had him design a camera that incorporated his own ideas. That camera carries the nameplate "Built by Wisner Classic Mfg. Co., for Zone VI Studios". It's probably the one you saw at Camera Arts, the earliest Picker-Wisner model (mahogany and polished brass?).

    When Picker and Wisner had their falling out, Picker began to manufacture his own cameras. They were made by a local furniture manufacturer in Vermont. The camera looked like the Wisner version, but it wasn't built identically. For example: Picker improved on the way the metal fittings were attached to the wood. That was the first model built completely by Zone VI (either mahogany or walnut, with brass fittings). When the brass began to show tarnish, and buyers began to complain, Picker then began to gold plate the metal fittings to prevent tarnish. Calumet marketed that model for Zone VI for a while. The gold plating sometimes peeled off of the brass metal. Calumet eventually bought out Picker, and he retired shortly afterwards.

    Soon after Calumet bought Zone VI, they re-designed the metal fittings and began making the Zone VI cameras with lighter weight black anodized aluminum. They eventually discontinued the walnut, and now only offer the camera in mahogany. That camera is the one Calumet sells today, the Zone VI lightweight model.

    So Darin, what does this all amount to? If you aren't planning on purchasing a new Zone VI camera from Calumet, look for a previously owned Zone VI camera that is in excellent condition. Make the best deal you can make on the price. You can tell the approximate age of the camera from the materials that were used to build it. However, an older model camera, in excellent condition is still better than a newer model has been abused.

  7. #7
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    differences between Zone VI 4x5 models

    Please excuse my "senior moment". The first Zone VI cameras were made by Wista, not Tachihara. I have Tachihara on my mind. I should know better than to try to write before I have my cup of coffee in the morning.

  8. #8

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    differences between Zone VI 4x5 models

    Eugene - Remember your mother telliing you that coffee was bad for you? Here's tangible evidence that she knew what she was talking about. You were right the first time, before you had your coffee. The very first Zone VI cameras were in fact Tachiharas according to Richard Ritter in his View Camera magazine article about the history of the Zone VI camera (January/February 2003 issue).
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  9. #9
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    differences between Zone VI 4x5 models

    Thanks Brian,

    I'm glad to find out that my memory is not completely gone. I never did purchase one of Fred's cameras (I purchased a few of his other gadgets, however). My first 4x5 wooden field camera was a Calumet Woodfield. I believe that particular camera was also made by Tachihara. I didn't keep it for very long. The first time I saw a Wisner Tech field, I traded the Calumet for one. A few years later, I purchased another, newer Wisner Tech field. A few years after that, I sold both Wisners and bought a metal Toyo 45AII. Another story. I won't get into that one here and now. (the coffee, and breakfast, really helps the brain to function better).

  10. #10
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    differences between Zone VI 4x5 models

    P.S. Take a look at the camera that Anthony is marketing under the Fine Art Photo Supply label. Look familiar? (www.fineartphotosupply.com).

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