Cambo Legend: a quick review

By Fred Whitlock/Maplewood Photography for the Large Format Page

To celebrate our move into a new studio we decided to order in a new view camera. We chose the Cambo legend PC because we thought it represented the best buy for the money in a camera suited to our style of photography. This short review is offered after only two days with the camera in the studio. We're still not used to it so it provides initial impressions without the patches that time and experience provide.

The Legend PC is a 4X5 U frame monorail view camera with base tilts. It sells for around $2600 at Calumet. It weighs a little over 17 lbs with a lens attached and comes with a split rail of 10" and 6" for a total of 16" of rail. Calumet offers an extensive line of rails, rail extensions and other accessories for the camera. All movements except for the base and axial tilts are geared. Base tilts and shift are locked with levers while all the other movements are locked with knobs. It is equipped with plenty of levels and lots of movement. It also sports a rotating back.

Our first shoot with the camera was a tabletop product job of telephone devices, most of which were photographed around 1:1 and the legend handled that with no problem at all with a 210mm lens. We weren't able to keep it level and use rise and fall to cover the subject. We inclined the rail and then used the base tilts to return both standards to perpendicular (there are bubble levels for this purpose as well.) Since base tilts produce no yaw, the camera, at this point, behaves just like a level camera. You can make other movements and expect them to behave like they would on a level camera. Very fast and convenient. A tabletop shooter should not enter the studio without base tilts. In general the feel of the geared movements was excellent even for a camera yet to be broken in. The neutral position detents are obvious and easy to feel (except for the detents on rise and fall which were not so obvious.) Basically the camera is easy to use and quite fast.

Nits to pick? Yes a few. Rise and fall are adjusted with knobs and then locked with larger knobs on the same shaft. Shift, however, is adjusted with large angled knobs and then locked with levers. When reorienting a subject in the ground glass you need to deal with two significantly different types of controls and locks. The control that looks like the rise and fall controls is actually the swing control. I got confused often. Intuitively I reached for the swing control when I wanted shift. I'll get used to it in time but it seems awkward. My other small problem was encountered when mounting lens boards. The sliding catch that locks lensboards in place also locks the bellows in place. I usually had to fumble a little with the bellows each time I changed lensboards.

The final thought we had at the end of two days of shooting was that the Cambo Legend PC is an excellent value in a high quality studio view camera. Others might argue that the Sinars and Linhofs have better fit and finish or feel better, but they are twice the price and up. I can't think of a camera in this price range that has the features, speed and feel of the legend PC. We'll get accustomed to its idiosynchrocies. We'll get the job done as well and as quickly as we would with a Sinar or Linhof. We'll use it quickly and profitably for years to come, we believe. It's a fine rugged camera at a terrific price.

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