View Full Version : Wisner ULF Modification?

Michael Kadillak
28-Jun-2004, 18:43
A while back I remember reading a response to a post where someone (Dan Smith?) made mention to someone that performed a modification to the Wisner ULF camera where he may have made an improved back attaching system in lieu of the pin and slot connection current on my 11x14 camera. Every time I set up this camera I am scared to death that one or both of the slots will come lose and the back will come crashing to the ground. None of my other cameras have such a rickety system to hold the back to the top of the camera.

Anyone have similar experiences and/or know how to sequester this fear?


Michael Kadillak
28-Jun-2004, 22:15
Thanks for the information Dan. I will call him tomorrow.

George Losse
29-Jun-2004, 07:35

I know your fear all too well. A few years back I was on day two (a Sunday) of a 10 day shoot. I set up the 8x10 on the tripod and lifted the camera up onto my shoulder. The next thing I heard was a crash that I will never forget. The back released from the camera and hit the ground.

After a couple of minutes and a few choice words. I was able to pick up all the pieces of the ground glass and one of the pins that came out of the back in the fall.

I didn't travel with a back-up ground glass. I had never broken one before. It was a Sunday morning, So I figured I would loose at least two shooting days even if I got something shipped in overnight. I went to a hardware store in the next town and bought some frosted tape and put the 38 piece jigsaw puzzle back together. I did continue with the trip with the patched glass.

I have noticed that the vibration of riding in my vehicle has caused a number of the screws to loosen up on my cameras. Now before I'm headed out I regularly go over the camera the night before to check for loosened hardware. In the 8 years since the "crash" only one problem with one of the two screws coming off of the top latch.

I would recommend the upgrade that Dan mentions. I am about to change my latches out for a more positive locking type of latch from another older back. It's just one of those projects, I haven't gotten to yet on the workbench.

Francis Abad
29-Jun-2004, 08:00
Michael, Dan and George: thanks for the heads-up. Up until now I took it for granted that the pin-slot combo would always be reliable, having had no problems (YET). My Wisner 8x10 was purchased in 1996. Are the latest 8x10s, 12x20s etc. better designed to avoid this potential disaster or are they still made the same way?

Francesco (www.cicoli.com)

Michael Kadillak
29-Jun-2004, 09:05
I had a 12x20 back made for my 11x14 Wisner last year and it has the same pin and slot as is on the original camera. As a result, I would conclude that the design has not been modified yet. George's comments let me know that in fact these unfortunate events can take place. I do not feel that it is to much to ask that when you are in the field, the last thing you should be thinking is if the slots are both in place so that the back of the camera will not drop off of the camera.

No other camera that I currently use has this adverse potential (Toyo, Canham and Linhof).

George Losse
29-Jun-2004, 13:56
Francesco and Michael, When I had the problem my Wisner 8x10, it was about a year and a half old. In the 7 or so years since that day, I have just made it a regular practice to check the hardware to make sure that nothing was getting loose.

I never had the problem with my 8x20 back for the camera. I only open up that back a couple of times a year when I'm in a location where I need to insert the holder from the other side of the camera.

This Spring for some reason, one of the two screws came loose from the sliding bar on the top of the 8x10. That was almost a problem, but I saw it happening. I'm working on fixing this problem with a more typical spring with a hole type of locking fixture as I had on my first 8x10 camera. I'll let you know how I make out with the modification.

I understand why they use the sliding lock design. It faster and simpler to use under the cloth. The trouble is it needs some kind of a positive lock to it. If the screws get loose, the back will come loose.

Gary J. McCutcheon
29-Jun-2004, 21:38
I have both Wisner and Wista designs and owned an Ebony for a short period. All have the slider lock. The Wisner is different in that the slider moves across a pin. The Wista and Ebony both have a lip that rests behind the back and is pressed against the edge of the back. Both of these designs press the back tight against the body making good positive contact to avoid light leaks. I did not own the Ebony long enough to experience this problem. I've had the Wista long enough to know that the screws can loosen on it too. The slider then moves too freely and could be a problem. I noticed this happening on the Wista several times and anticipated the problem. I always carry a small screwdriver in my case or bag and check the tension often. It is not just a wood camera issue, I carry screwdrivers for my hasselblads all the time. Screws loosen on them too and if a lens gets jammed (not an often occurrance, but three or four times in 26 years on assignment is enough) you can unlock a lens with a broken shutter, remove it and continue on with a good lens. Wooden cameras require a little more care and zen if you will. The slider is probably a design to make changing the back convenient. If the screws are snug, the slider is snug. I'm not defending this design as much as seeing the reasoning behind it. I would be interested in hearing about other designs. I do have an ancient Deardorf and it has a pin and a springy metal clip with a hole. It simply snaps in. If the pin comes out or spring clip are loose a similar problem could result. I actually make it a habit to check out all of my equipment before I use it, that includes my Hasselblads. I make a good living with them and before I shoot each day, I'm not exaggerating at all, I run them through a check. I fire them, make sure the backs are tight, I look through them with the back off and fire them and if something seems suspicious, I inspect them further. Once I found a shutter blade hanging loose blocking my exposure, several times I found loose backs that could cause light leaks, and several other little things on these complicated machines. One of my Blads was knocked over in the studio once and the camera landed on it's back. Scared the bajeebers out of me. I picked it up off the hardwood floor. I thought the lens would be cracked from impact or the back dented at least. Nope, the body was split open. If it had been wood I suppose it would have either cracked, repairable with wood glue, or blown apart, still possibly repairable. Thank God for backup bodies and insurance. The reason I didn't keep the Ebony was that, although a sturdy camera, it was still wood and metal, I found loose parts on it, realized it too had to be maintained just like my Wista and Wisner, and because I maintain these cameras regularly, they both are as reliable as the Ebony, and almost as rigid. I have never produced a poorly focused or fuzzy image with these two cameras due to the cameras' fault. The Ebony also had a problem with the rear titanium swing shift plates being uneven. The result was a wobbly back. Ebony would have fixed it, but I realized then and there that I did not need another camera. Love the one you're with. Sorry for the ramble, but it all seemed relevant some how.