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Thread: In Boston, trading in a Graphic for a Wisner...

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Boston
    Posts
    6

    In Boston, trading in a Graphic for a Wisner...

    I've been reading this forum long enough that I feel as if I already know many of you. Thank you for your help. I decided it was time to stop lurking, and introduce myself.

    I've been a professional photographer for a few decades, and once upon a time, (late '70s, early 80s) I was a camera sales clerk and a darkroom lab rat. I am now a designer in multiple media, including furniture, landscape, computer interfaces, and print. I make heavy use of the camera for artistic, research, and documentation purposes.

    For years, my primary cameras were Hassleblad, Alpa 6d, Nikon F5, and a Speed Graphic. I have an extensive collection of vintage point-and-shoots, folding, and box cameras. I have a 5x7 Premo Long Focus that I have never used. (I just bought some film for it.)

    I began to stray from the film fold in 1999 when I received my first digital Nikon as a gift. In the name of full employment, I eventually traded the Hassleblad & the Alpa for a D200 and an Epson 4800 printer. And most recently, I upgraded to a D700.

    For the last five years, I have only shot a few rolls of film -- until last month, when I hit a wall trying to express an architectural idea with a digital camera. Even the full frame D700 couldn't deliver the depth & clarity I needed. So, I dusted off the Graphic, found the focal plane shutter froze but the copal still worked... I got the job done, and fell in love again with large format.

    So, after spending lots of time reading this site, I made the plunge and "updated" my equipment. I am now experimenting with a 4x5 Wisner Technical Field camera, 150mm f5.6 APO-Symmar, 210mm f5.6 Nikkor-W, 90mm f8 Super Angulon, and a 300mm f9 Nikkor-M. I haven't posted these to my profile, yet, because they still are not my primary tools. But I hope they soon will be.

    Comments, suggestions, and questions are welcome. I look forward to sharing the journey!

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    3,877

    Re: In Boston, trading in a Graphic for a Wisner...

    Welcome to the forum from a former Bostonian.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Gulfport, MS, USA
    Posts
    874

    Re: In Boston, trading in a Graphic for a Wisner...

    Welcome to group therapy! That Wisner outfit should do just about anything you would need to do, especially in architectural or scenic photography...you'll find the 90mm SA a much-used lens. I still use a rail camera for most architectural work, but often wish I had a little more compact package; of course, I rarely run out of movements with the rail camera, and still sometimes use them to the max. Have fun with the new camera and shoot lots!

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Location
    Baraboo, Wisconsin
    Posts
    7,697

    Re: In Boston, trading in a Graphic for a Wisner...

    Wisners were excellent cameras and are one of the best buys in LF cameras I know of right now. I just sold a friend's 5x7 Wisner Tech Field with 4x5 reducing back, bag bellows, and many other accessories in like new condition for $850 on ebay, after offering it here for a little more and getting no takers. That's about 20% of its cost new. If you like large format cameras I think you'll really enjoy the Wisner.
    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.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Long Island, NY
    Posts
    246

    Re: In Boston, trading in a Graphic for a Wisner...

    I hope you did not ditch the Graphic. You may find that you like it better than the Wisner.

    I bought a Wisner a few months ago, broke it upon receiving it and had it repaired by Richard Ritter. While it was away for repair, I bought a Graphic and promptly returned it because I thought it foolish to have 2 LF cameras, even though the Wisner was out for repair. The Wisner is a fine item to look at, without a doubt. What I'm finding--now that I'm shooting with it--is that the front standard controls are very fiddly, particularly with larger lenses. Front tilt is a 3 handed operation because there's so much play in the controls. Richard suggested that I have a model prior to some quality control adjustments were made at the factory. I hope yours is better. The graphic was way more robust; I should have held onto it.

    Are you developing your own film and how do you plan to digitize it?

    Welcome,
    Bob

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Boston
    Posts
    6

    Re: In Boston, trading in a Graphic for a Wisner...

    Thank you all for the welcome.

    No, I haven't parted with the Graphic, yet. I will, though, because I've always wanted a simpler, but more technical camera. I don't use the view finders or focal plane shutter, and I need a wider range of movements.

    I'm too conservative to part with something that I can make work until I'm fluent with it's replacement, and this Graphic has needed nothing except a good cleaning. I have seen so much controversy around Wisner & his cameras that I confess I'm anxious about the decision. I'm a furniture maker, so certain repairs are possible to make myself if the need arises, but I really don't want the aggravation. So far, the Wisner seems to be responding well. Considerably lighter than the Graphic, it seems quite solid, and I love the range of movements. I do wish it had more positive stops when nearing the extremes of the rails, though. (learning curve)

    I'll be running lots of tests this week. I'll try to post my discoveries in another thread. While not perfect, the Wisner Technical seems to offer a good balance of versatility and weight that, on paper at least, should make it a good choice for the mix of landscape, studio, and architectural work I need to do.

    The real acid test for this camera will be in how resistant I am to using it outdoors. It is a little too pretty, too precious for me to imagine risking it outside in marginal weather. If I don't get past that, then it won't be able to serve it's primary purpose!

    I'm blessed with a great lab (Color Services in Needham) that will handle my developing for the near term, and they have excellent digitizing services. I have a pile of darkroom equipment, (4x5 Chromega enlarger, JOBO CPP) but I haven't fired it up for years, though I probably will during the blizzard tomorrow!

    I was dismayed to learn that E-6 kits were discontinued. (Are there small batch alternatives?) But I've learned that I can still find the B&W chemistry I like, so I'll probably start with that once I'm sure I'm handling the camera well.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Posts
    9,477

    Re: In Boston, trading in a Graphic for a Wisner...

    http://4photolab.com is Edgar Praus's fine mail order lab for color and B&W. Most people are shooting color neg C41 rather than E6 transparencies, especially for architecture. I am sure there is still a C41 pro lab left in Boston somewhere, but given the driving and all, sometimes mail order is still more convenient and Edgar's quality is second to none.

    Not to belabor your camera choice but at some point you might enjoy trying a monorail with a real bag bellows, unlimited movements, and robust construction. They are quite a bit easier to manipulate than a field camera and very inexpensive these days, like $300 for a decent Sinar F. Granted they don't fold up as small or look as pretty but they were the tool of choice that professionals used for the kinds of jobs you are trying to do.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Location
    Baraboo, Wisconsin
    Posts
    7,697

    Re: In Boston, trading in a Graphic for a Wisner...

    I was a little surprised at Bob's message since the one I sold seemed to be built very well and everything worked well. Maybe there was a big difference in quality of construction between earlier cameras and later ones. The one I had came with a card on which each person who worked on the camera - e.g. the woodworker, the glue master, the wood finisher, the metal finisher, etc. - signed off on their area of responsibility and then an inspector assigned a serial number and signed off on the entire camera, which I thought was a really nice touch. As Wisner got into financial difficulties maybe he didn't go to the same degree of care as he used to.

    I didn't have that card when I sold the camera but I do now. Unfortunately I can't find the name and address of the buyer. If he or she happens to participate here he or she can send me an email message I'll mail them the card.
    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

    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    630

    Re: In Boston, trading in a Graphic for a Wisner...

    Hi, Dawn:

    Welcome to LF and to the forum. I have an 8x10 Wisner that I purchased new directly from Wisner in 1993 and it is very well made. I use it for 99 percent of my pictures, and it has never failed me.

    My only suggestion regarding large format is to encourage you to keep with it. First experiences with large format can be discouraging, but you will reach a point where you'll prefer it to anything else.

    And feel free to join our "Red Bellows Society" on Facebook:

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=121802762979

    It's an informal, slightly tongue-in-cheek group of photographers who own cameras with red or reddish bellows.

    And if I could jump in on Frank's message about 4x5 monorails -- when I used 4x5, prior to moving up to 8x10, my camera was a 4x5 Sinar Alpina, a monorail. I loved that camera, and carried it through a swamp in Michigan for years making pictures. Mud in the spring, overgrowth of greenery in summer, and ice and snow in winter -- the camera and accessories were easily portable and a joy to use.

    As much as I love my 8x10 Wisner, if I were to return to 4x5, I'd get another Sinar Alpina in a heartbeat.
    Last edited by William McEwen; 28-Dec-2010 at 10:18. Reason: Correct subject/verb disagreement!

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Boston
    Posts
    6

    Re: In Boston, trading in a Graphic for a Wisner...

    Thank you for the encouragement and suggestions. I will be backpacking some, so I didn't think a monorail system would work well for me. I might try renting one, though, and see how that goes. Monorails seem so rugged. I am surprised by how anxious I feel about taking this wood camera outdoors. I'd love to hear how weather affects those of you with wooden cameras. I was never concerned with the Graphic outside.

    Inventing some statistics, I'd say my location mix is 20% studio, 65% near car/short walk, and 15% trekking in the swamps and mountains. My subject mix is 20% product/still life, 5% portraits, 15% architecture, and 60% landscape (from macro to infinity and beyond...)

    Early thoughts on the Wisner -- So far, so good. It has all the movements I need, so far. Some of the front movements are fussy, but once locked in, seem to hold well. I wish the front standards were beefier. They feel fragile. The rear movements are dreamy. Using a 90mm without bellows is possible, but with very little movement left. I'll probably go looking for a bag bellows soon. The camera design is such that the bellows will be astonishingly easy to change in and out. Finally, because of wood movement no doubt, not all lens boards fit alike. Some required a small amount of tweaking to seat properly. I think I will carry a chisel and some super glue with me in the field. ;-)

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