Just wondered if anyone had some first-hand experience or opinions on the Eastman Commercial View Camera. This is the one that ws made from magnesium alloy and produced in the late 30's through early 40's.
This camera was basically a metal version of the wood 2-D. You want to have the 2nd bellows that attaches in place of the lensboard to get front tilt. Better for long lenses... there was a recent profile of this camera in "View Camera" magazine.
They are a great camera. Fairly light for its vintage. They also used an additional extension bed that allows for longer lenses or macro images with normal lenses. You really want the extra extension. I don't know if I would buy one with out it.
The one I have I modified the front standard to allow for tilt. The extra bellows that provided for tilt is hard to find. i think I have seen one of the tilt mechanisms on EBAY in the last couple years.
I like mine alot. THe weight is light and the camera is very stiff. I do mostly portraits with this and I do not miss the tilt. If you can get one do so. You cnan get the tilt belloews later or make one.
Excellent camera: light, rigid, compact (for 8x10) with a good set of movements. Lots of well-thought-out and useful features like self-locking geared front rise and spring-loaded knobs. Will fold with a lens in place. Handles lenses from 120mm to who-knows (about 30-inches of maximum draw). Ansel Adams used one with the front standard modified to add tilts; the one I owned was similarly modified. As has been mentioned, make sure to get one with the extension rail and the sliding tripod block unless you are sure you want to use it only with short lenses (and are not interested in macro work). You can bolt the tripod block to your tripod head and think of it as a "quick release."
With regard to movements, the stock version has front rise & fall and shift, rear tilt and swing. (The wooden 2D does not have front shift.) By combining these movements you can duplicate any missing movement--for example to duplicate front tilt, you point the camera downward, tilt the back to vertical and raise the front standard. For this reason, while front tilt (or swing) might be a convenience, it's not a necessity; I would not heasitate to buy a Commercial without the modification or the futzy front tilt device (which I think would be hard to use with wide lenses anyway). You see them going for very good prices sometimes on Ebay.
I sold mine to buy a Masterview, but I think the two cameras are pretty close in terms of functionality. The Masterview has the advantage of no loose parts, but the Commercial is probably a bit more rigid at long extensions, and you can adjust the location of the tripod support vis-a-vis the front and rear standards. While I'm sure others would differ, I'd prefer a Commercial over a Deardorff (which is usually far more expensive, and, in my limited experience somewhat "sloppy" in comparison) or certainly a Calumet C-1 (which is a good deal heavier and feels crude next to the Commercial).
i gave up on 8x10 a year ago because of age and health. however i found imissed those big negs. my local camera store, which never has large format, suddenly had a cmmercial view...front tilt bellows..ext rail...tripod sliding mt...couple of holdersand two new lensboards....200 bucks. needless to say i sprained my wrist getting out the checkbook. no lens and i sold all mine so i am trying pinhole stuff and having a great time. this camera is a better user than my old wisner tech. i'll never sell it, frank ferreira
Wow! It's nice to know others feel the same way about their Eastman Commercial Views. It's not as well known as the Deardorff or its sibling the Master View. I wasn't aware that there were so many (as in more than me) Eastman Commercial View users particpating in this forum. I too have one, and I wrote a short review of the camera for View Camera that ran in the Jan/Feb 2003 issue.
Although I've had the good fortune to use a LOT of current 4x5 cameras and even several new 5x7s, my personal experience with cameras 8x10 and larger has mostly been confined to older models (Deardorff, Kodak 2D, Century Universal, Eastman Commercial, Calumet C1, Burke & James). I have never pursued 8x10 with the same vigor as 4x5, 5x7 or 4x10. So, I could never justify the expense of a new 8x10 (although I admit I've often felt the urge to buy a new Philips or Canham 8x10, they are just so darn nice).
My assessment of the Eastman Commercial has been reinforced by the comments in this thread. About a year and a half ago, I was looking for a reasonably priced 8x10, that wasn't too heavy, that I could use for shooting 2-up 4x10 on 8x10 film. I bought an 8x10 Eastman Commercial of eBay. Like Frank's, mine came with the front tilt/swing bellows accessory, the rear extension rail and the sliding tripod bracket. And although I paid substantially more than Frank (you got an AMAZING deal), I still felt I got a heck of a lot of camera for the money. For most of my 4x10 shooting, I favor lenses in the 165mm - 360mm range (210mm being my most used focal length), which the Eastman handles with ease. I do shoot as wide as 110mm and as long a 450mm, and I recently purchased a 600mm Fujinon C, which the Eastman handles easily with the rear extension rail. It will focus my 450mm Fujinon C at inifinty without the rear extension rail. And since I generally prefer rear tilt, I often leave the tilt/swing bellows and the extension rail behind when hiking with the camera and three or four lenses. Depending on the configuration, the camera weighs between 9.9 and 12.5 lbs. While certianly not as light as a new Philips, that's not bad for an all-metal 8x10. For comparison, the Calumet C1 weighs between 14 (magnesium) and 18 (aluminum) pounds. Unlike many of the older wooden cameras I have used, the 8x10 Eastman seems to have held up quite well over the years. Everything about mine still operates quite smoothly and locks down as tight as when it was new. The metal construction makes it quite durable. And although it isn't as attractive as a beautiful mahagony or cherry wooden camera, it has kind of a cool retro look (IMHO). This camera must have been considered quite high-tech when it came out in 1937 (Behold, the camera of the future).
In any case, it has served my needs well for my 4x10 shooting. Now that I have a decent assortment of lenses capable of shooting 8x10, I may even try it shooting an occasional sheet in the intended format. I'd still really like to have a 5.5 lb. Philips Explorer, but as they are not available new and quite rare and expensive on the used market, the Eastman will do quite nicely for now.
I've enjoyed mine. The light weight and rigidity makes it an excellent choice. My only issue is that I have a hard time finding lens boards. Standard 6x6 boards are too big by an eighth of an inch in my experience. Anybody have source or any suggestions re the boards?
One of the reasons I Like mine is that it does have a sort of retro, machine age look. I polished mine up, made some custom aluminum lens boards with epoxy black on the back. I will agree with the post that it is a much better camera then a Deardorf or Calumet.
Wow, what a response! More info in this thread than I've been able to get anywhere else. I was especially interested in the comparisons to the Deardorf and Calumet. Seems like the Commercial is a pretty good deal. Thanks to everyone.