By Jason Sanford Greenberg © 2001 for the Large Format Page
|Caveat: It is very difficult to find much information on these cameras. I have collected what I have found readily available on the web and through speaking with salepeople and paruseing the shelves in New York. If you find information which is missing or incorrect, please contact me.|
About six months ago I purchased a 6x9 Linhof Technika IV. My choice was based upon three considerations; First, that I wanted a camera which I could hand-hold; Second, that this camera would have ground-glass focusing and basic movements; and Third, that this camera accept roll film. Basically, I was looking for a Technical camera. I considered, momentarily, using a Speed/Crown Graphic 23, but realized that the limitations (only one 'cammed' lens, no back movements) were not acceptable.
After examining what appears to be the only two candidates, the Linhof Technika and the Horseman VR, I settled on the Linhof. While the Horseman had marginally better front movements, It felt 'cheap', not having that attractive over-engineered snap which is so Linhof. After working with the Linhof and getting to know its many limitations (more on this below), I feel I gave the Horseman short shrift.
I chose the Technika IV over the V for two reasons. The first being purely financial, I purchased a Technika IV, 6x7 and 6x9 backs, anatomical grip and three cammed (1960s vintage) lenses all in excellent shape for several hundred dollars less than the price of a used Technika V body alone. The second reason I chose the Technika IV is that it has a single built-in rangefinder and viewfinder, which I found more convenient. The 6x9 Technika V, like all the Technika 4x5 models, has a rangefinder mounted on the side of the camera, and a optical view finder mounts on top. In retrospect, the increased front movements of the Technika V now appear more attractive, as does the crystal clear optical-finder, as opposed to the yellowish finder on the IV.
There are only two differences between the 6x9 Technika III and IV, both minor. The III is usually dressed in a Black Leatherette, while the IV in Brown. The release for the back (ground glass or roll back) on the IV has one lever, the III has four buttons. In either case, both are easy and quick to release.
Rangefinder / Optical finder on the Technika is accurate and easy to use. It has a manual parallex correction, and uses snap on viewfinder masks for different lenses. Like all rangefinders, focusing is not accurate for anything closer than a meter with the standard lens. For close up and critical focusing, focusing must be done on the ground-glass. While I find the Technika's range/optical finder satisfactory for my needs, I should be clear that it is NOT as accurate, clear or simple as on a Leica or the new Mamiyas. The range/optical finder is a bit yellow, which I find distracting, and it is not always obvious to me where the borders of the lens are - moving ones eye about will result in small differences in the frame. Rangefinder focus, after I made the rangefinder alignment works very well. The ground glass focusing is very accurate, however it does not work well with 6x9 roll film backs due to a difference in 6x9 sheet-film and roll-film sizes (see comment).
The 6x9 Technika IV came with two different optical finders, the "N" and the "B." The N(ormal) was, at widest, 65mm, intended for a 65mm Angulon or Super-Angulon. The B(iogon) rangefinder was intended for the 53mm Zeiss Biogon or Super-Angulon. The B cameras have a clearly printed "B" below the serial number on the accessory shoe found on the top of the camera.
Optical finder Masks are very difficult to find in the correct size and shape. They were manufactured for either the N or the B viewfinder. Masks for the B viewfinder have an engraved "B" on the bottom edge, while mask for the N rangefinder were either unmarked or had an "N" printed on them. They were cut in three shapes: 6x6, 56x72 and 6x9 for the following focal lengths: 53mm (B only), 65mm, 65-105mm (N only), 95mm, 100mm, 105mm, and 180mm. It is, of course, possible to use tape on the rangefinder (at risk of leaving residue) or over larger mask. I taped over a 65-105mm mask which came with my camera to make a mask for a 80mm lens.
the 6x9 Technika IV are well built, and are remarkably easy to
change and rotate.The cut-film back has a 58x82 mm ground-glass
focusing screen with a 1 cm grid, and a black rectangle marking
56x72 mm. I believe that a Beattie focusing screen is made in
this size, however the Boss is not. I am not clear if the Linhof
"Super Screen" is made in the 6x9 size. The 90°
viewing hood, which snaps on to the rear of the ground-glass (make
sure it will fit your back - there are a number of different mounts!)
is, IMHO, fairly useless due to a "hot-spot" unless
you have some sort of fresnel lens (e.g.; Beattie or Linhof) on
the ground glass. The Roll film backs are very well built and
appear to hold the film quite flat. I have however, heard that
occasionally the spacing becomes a problem. They come in three
One of the real and in my mind unforgivable failures in design is that the ground-glass focusing back will not work properly for the 6x9 roll back. The focusing back is cut for the international standard58x82 (erroneously called 6x9) cut film holders. The 6x9 roll film however measures 60x86 mm, making the focusing back too small. Since I do not use cut film holders with this camera I am planning to built a correctly sized ground glass focusing back by dissecting and machining an old Cine Rollex to 60x86 mm, and attaching a boss-screen to it.
Movements are where the 6x9 Technika IV really falls short of being a truly excellent camera. For lenses longer than 95mm (or with more than 95mm of bellows draw) the movements are acceptable and most movements, with some thought and creativity, can be achieved. However, with wide angle lenses movements are severely curtailed, as they are 'imprisoned' inside the camera box.
Front Shift Rise and Drop: With a standard or telephoto lens, the camera has, depending on the bellows extension, between 25 and 50mm of front rise, which, for 'field-work' should be sufficient. The camera has no front left or right shift, however on a sturdy tripod the camera can be turned 90 degrees, and (after rotating the back) the front-rise becomes front-shift. Front fall however is negligible and, of course, what I really miss. A very small amount (15mm with a 100mm lens at infinity) can be achieved by dropping the bed and then tilting the lens backwards 15 degrees. The longer the bellows extension, the more drop. I have been trying to figure out some means of putting a tripod mount on one of the sides or top, which would allow the camera to be rotated in a way which would, like the front shift, allow for the necessary movement. Note that the knob which engages the front rise is difficult to reach, and quite stiff.
Front Tilt: The camera has a built in 15 degree backwards-tilt, achieved through turning a small knob underneath the lens. A 15 degree front tilt can be gained through dropping the focusing bed, and then using the front rise to zero the lens.
Back Movements: The back of the Technika can be adjusted to allow for a 20 degree tilt in any angle. While the gymnastics to do so are not easy, the movements are very useful. To engage the back, the four small knobs on the back are loosened, then the two buttons on the left and right side of the back are depressed, then the back is pulled in the necessary direction, and the knobs are tightened. Back movements allow for 20 degree left/right swing or backward/frontward tilt. However, with some thought and a spirit level these movements also allow for a 20 degree front swing or tilt. In combination with the front tilt, one can achieve other movements.
|Front Movements for Standard Lenses||Front Movements for Wide Lenses||Back Movements for all Lenses|
Backward Tilt: 15 degrees
Forward Tilt: 15 degrees
|20 degree Rear Swing left
20 degree Rear Swing right
20 degree Rear forward Tilt
20 degree Rear backward Tilt
Lenses: The camera originally came with one of three standard lenses: The 95mm Linhof (Rodenstock)Technikar f/2.8, the 100mm Zeiss Planar f/2.8, or the 105mm Schneider Xenotar f/2.8. According to Schneider's web site, there was also have been a 100mm Schneider Xenotar f/2.8, though I have never seen one. There are also a number of older standard lenses, such as the f/3.5 Xenars, floating around. All three lenses are reasonably sharp and contrasty, and all are very fast. However, none allow much in the way of movement. My 105mm Xenotar will only rise about 15mm without vignetting with the 6x9 roll back. If you plan on using movements, you will need another lens.
All modern 4x5 lenses will theoretically work with the 6x9 Technika, however make sure they fit; I purchased a new 80mm Super-Symmar XL intending to do double duty with this camera and a 4x5, only to find out that the front element butted up against the front tilt knob, and thus wouldn't sit correctly. Newer wide angle lenses may well be overkill for use on this camera; using a new 90mm wide angle lens as a 'standard' lens will not only be very heavy, it will also be less sharp then a modern 'plasmat' lens. Fuji, Nikon, Rodenstock, and Schneider all manufacture a 100mm or 105mm 'standard' Plasmat lenses (respectively: CM-W, W, Sironar-N and Symmar-S) which are (usually) faster, lighter, sharper and much cheaper then wide angle lenses. At ~72 degrees of coverage, these lenses are more than sufficient for the limited movements of this camera. Horseman may also manufacture a standard size lens.
There are no modern wide angle lenses manufactured specifically for size negative (Horseman might make one, any comments?). The camera originally came fitted with one of three wide angle lenses: The 53mm Zeiss Biogon f/4.5, the 53mm Schneider Super-Angulon f/4, or the 65mm Schneider Super-Angulon f/8. The Biogons are difficult to find and very expensive, and I have heard on a number of occasions that the 53mm Super-Angulon was, like the 120mm, a very poor quality lens. Another lens to consider is the earlier 65mm Angulon f/6.8 which came on the Technika III. I purchased one for cheap, and am very happy; it is quite sharp, but a bit low in contrast. Its 110 mm circle of illumination is tight for 6x9, but this doesn't effect me, and I really like its tiny size. On the other hand, the 65mm f/8 Super-Angulon has nice movements with a 6x9 negative (155mm image circle) and is reasonably contrasty. I have yet to do resolution testing on these lenses. Note that both these lenses came on a recessed lensboard with a Copal 00 shutter. It is important to remember (see above) that front rise with any lens shorter than a 95 mm is cut short by the frame of the camera, thus purchasing a brand new 72mm Super-Angulon XL for use with this camera would be a bit foolish.
Telephoto lenses are easier to find. The camera came with a Schnieder 180mm Tele-Arton f/5.5 or a Zeiss Sonnar 180mm f/4.8, both of which are reasonably sharp and contrasty. Neither has much in the way of coverage. Of course, any 150mm or 180mm Plasmat will work fine on this camera. The 180mm Tele-Arton works with about 110 mm of bellows draw at infinity, while the Plasmats will be the same as their focal length. Since the camera is a triple extension, this isn't really much of a problem, unless you are trying to hand-hold.
Note that lensboards for the 6x9 Technika III and IV are identical and are very difficult to find. The newer lensboards, for the Technika V, will not fit properly, though it may be possible to machine them so they fit.
Shifting between cammed lenses is a complex and painful process, especially with wide angle lenses, which is similar to the Technika 4x5.
Purchasing Linhof equipment: Prices tend to be outrageous, there is however considerable variation. One very high end used camera dealer in NY was selling a body and two lenses in great condition for $1,400. Another store of less repute was selling the same set up but in poorer condition for $2000. Some equipment, no matter how much you are willing to spend, is very hard to find, such as finder masks and 6x9 roll-film backs. A good option is to search on eBay, quite a bit of Linhof equipment goes on auction, and occasionally a good deal can be found only however if you are very patient. I have seen Body and Lens combos selling for anywhere from $650 to $2400. I have also see things sell on eBay which I have never seen elsewhere, like 220 roll-film backs.
Conclusion: CameraQuest's praise "if Leica made a 4x5 Rangefinder, it would be a Technika" is, in many ways, very true although this is, in my mind, not necessarily praise. The camera has the sturdy, over-engineered German design of the Leica M-series. However it also has many of the flaws of the Leica rangefinders: it is a very inflexible tool which is limited to what those brilliant German engineers decided, almost 80 years ago, was necessary. If you need flexibility and movement, the Technika is most certainly not for you. On the other hand, if you are a large format field photographer who uses only uses standard to long lenses and are looking to 'down size', the Technika may be right. With some imagination and mechanical skill this camera can become a very useful tool.
Camming Lenses: In order for the rangefinder to work, all lenses must be cammed. This is camera and lens specific, since (as I understand it) unlike the more modern Technikas, the distance of the ground glass was never zeroed. Thus, a cam from a different camera or lens will, mostly likely, not work. However, on my camera, the 65mm Angulon I purchased separately works just fine with the cam which came with the camera - this may just be good luck. Note that cams have the serial numbers of the lenses engraved on the front, and the serial number of the camera on the back. Camming Lenses is expensive (about $200/lens) and only a few places are able to do it. In the US only Marflex (Pine Brook, NJ, 973 808 9626) regularly does this. The way it works is that they take blank three sided cams and cut them down to match the specific lens and camera. As I understand it any lens between 53mm and 180mm can be cammed.
on the Technika are notorious for light leaks. I think this is
usually a factor of age and usage rather than poor quality. The
original bellows were remarkably thin and flexible which, I would
assume, leads to light-leaks faster than thick and inflexible
bellows. New bellows can be easily made for the Technika for about
$125. I had mine made by Camera Bellows in the UK and was quite
happy with the result. I have also heard good things about the
Western Bellows Company.
Camera Bellows, Units 3 - 5
Western Bellows Company
Rangefinder Alignment: When I purchased my camera, I found that the rangefinder was slightly mis-aligned. To repair this (only suggested for the mechanically inclined, I take no responsibility if you mess up your rangefinder) I placed the camera on a sturdy tripod, made sure the correct cam was in place, and that it was focused on infinity. Then, I removed the three screws around the viewfinder (two sides and bottom), removed the viewfinder 'hood', carefully removed the 12 pieces of plastic which were holding the two glass lenses. CAREFUL! if you break the lenses you are screwed - put a towel under the camera. (NOTE: Your camera may have more, less, or no plastic pieces, Linhof may have used some other method of holding your lenses in place) Now comes the tricky part which I can't help with. You need to align the two pieces of glass so that the focus is aligned both horizontally and vertically: move them around until everything is nice and neat. Now, use the pieces of plastic which were originally used to align these lenses to hold them in place. Carefully reassemble. I also used this moment to clean the inside of the viewfinder. An easier way might be to focus the camera on a target (perhaps a "x" or a "+" shape) close by rather than at infinity, and then align the rangefinder - but I never tried it this way.
CameraQuest's page on the 6x9 Linhof Technika IV (http://cameraquest.com/lint369.htm)
Robert Monagahan's page on the 6x9 Linhof Technikas (http://www.smu.edu/~rmonagha/mf/linhof.html)
I have also greatly benefitted from conversations with salespeople and perusing the shelves at the following New York camera stores (no endorsements intended): Adorama, B & H, Camera Traders, Ken Hanson Photographic, Lens and Repro, Photo Care, and Wall Street Camera.
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