View Full Version : differences between Zone VI 4x5 models

Darin Cozine
13-Dec-2004, 20:56
Apparently there are a wide variety of zone vi cameras made. I read that the first were made similar to the wistas. I have seen tachiharas that were marketed as zone vi. And a local camera store in Sacramento is selling a zone vi with a brass plate marked 'made for zone vi by ron wisner'
(camera arts on 57th and h st.)

So is there a web site that shows the differences between the various zone vi models? I have read conflicting reviews of the zone vi, and perhaps the different versions have created much confusion.



J. Wolfe
13-Dec-2004, 22:36
There were several iterations of "Zone VI" cameras. I'm not an expert, but here are at least some of them:

1. There was a Wista that was private labeled as a Zone VI.
2. Wisner made a Zone VI camera for a short period of time until Wisner and Picker parted company.
3. Picker then manufactured a modified version of the Wisner design himself.
4. After Calumet bought Zone VI in 1990, they continued to sell the Picker manufactured version for a period of time.
5. Calumet then came out with the Zone VI Ultralight.
6. As far as I know, all versions of the Zone VI are now out of production.

Richard Ritter had an article in View Camera Magazine about a year ago about the history of Zone VI cameras. Wisner responded with his version in a subsequent issue.

I'm sure others can fill in other aspects of this history.

Kirk Gittings
14-Dec-2004, 00:13
I have had a couple of them. The made by Wisner ones are the best in my opinion.

Chris Mallison
14-Dec-2004, 07:57
"6. As far as I know, all versions of the Zone VI are now out of production."

Calumet in Chicago still sells the Zone VI Ultralight. I bought one in September. They may have a few other models, and various parts. Mine is a very usable, compact, lightweight machine. Not super rigid, but at the price and weight, a good compromise for me. Lenses from 65 to 450mm.

Frank Petronio
14-Dec-2004, 08:29
In the early 1980s, Picker and Zone VI sold the Wista modified with a better bottom plate. The Wista had a stupid bottom plate-tripod mount, and Fred fixed this with a simple metal plate drilled for a tripod screw. For awhile, you could buy just the bottom plate to retrofit into a Wista wooden camera. My first camera was a Wista and I used his bottom plate - it was an excellent camera, better built than the Tachihara and not as heavy as the Wisner versions.

Gem Singer
14-Dec-2004, 08:30
Hi Darin,

There is no Zone VI website that I'm aware of. However, having followed the Picker-Wisner war since 1984, I can tell you that Fred Picker's original 4x5 wooden flat bed folding field camera was probably made by Tachihara, in Japan (cherry wood and chrome plated metal). Picker sold it as the Zone VI camera but was not entirely happy with the design of the camera. He then met with Wisner, and had him design a camera that incorporated his own ideas. That camera carries the nameplate "Built by Wisner Classic Mfg. Co., for Zone VI Studios". It's probably the one you saw at Camera Arts, the earliest Picker-Wisner model (mahogany and polished brass?).

When Picker and Wisner had their falling out, Picker began to manufacture his own cameras. They were made by a local furniture manufacturer in Vermont. The camera looked like the Wisner version, but it wasn't built identically. For example: Picker improved on the way the metal fittings were attached to the wood. That was the first model built completely by Zone VI (either mahogany or walnut, with brass fittings). When the brass began to show tarnish, and buyers began to complain, Picker then began to gold plate the metal fittings to prevent tarnish. Calumet marketed that model for Zone VI for a while. The gold plating sometimes peeled off of the brass metal. Calumet eventually bought out Picker, and he retired shortly afterwards.

Soon after Calumet bought Zone VI, they re-designed the metal fittings and began making the Zone VI cameras with lighter weight black anodized aluminum. They eventually discontinued the walnut, and now only offer the camera in mahogany. That camera is the one Calumet sells today, the Zone VI lightweight model.

So Darin, what does this all amount to? If you aren't planning on purchasing a new Zone VI camera from Calumet, look for a previously owned Zone VI camera that is in excellent condition. Make the best deal you can make on the price. You can tell the approximate age of the camera from the materials that were used to build it. However, an older model camera, in excellent condition is still better than a newer model has been abused.

Gem Singer
14-Dec-2004, 09:00
Please excuse my "senior moment". The first Zone VI cameras were made by Wista, not Tachihara. I have Tachihara on my mind. I should know better than to try to write before I have my cup of coffee in the morning.

Brian Ellis
14-Dec-2004, 11:27
Eugene - Remember your mother telliing you that coffee was bad for you? Here's tangible evidence that she knew what she was talking about. You were right the first time, before you had your coffee. The very first Zone VI cameras were in fact Tachiharas according to Richard Ritter in his View Camera magazine article about the history of the Zone VI camera (January/February 2003 issue).

Gem Singer
14-Dec-2004, 13:36
Thanks Brian,

I'm glad to find out that my memory is not completely gone. I never did purchase one of Fred's cameras (I purchased a few of his other gadgets, however). My first 4x5 wooden field camera was a Calumet Woodfield. I believe that particular camera was also made by Tachihara. I didn't keep it for very long. The first time I saw a Wisner Tech field, I traded the Calumet for one. A few years later, I purchased another, newer Wisner Tech field. A few years after that, I sold both Wisners and bought a metal Toyo 45AII. Another story. I won't get into that one here and now. (the coffee, and breakfast, really helps the brain to function better).

Gem Singer
14-Dec-2004, 16:13
P.S. Take a look at the camera that Anthony is marketing under the Fine Art Photo Supply label. Look familiar? (www.fineartphotosupply.com).

Darin Cozine
14-Dec-2004, 16:24
Thank you Eugene!

I ended up buying a Zone VI, vermont model with brass fittings. I was originally looking at a Tachihara or Shen Hao, but this one had some extras included at a good price. Anyway, I think I will try to publish more detailed info on the web. Do the articles from view camera have info published on the movements, extention, etc?


Gem Singer
14-Dec-2004, 16:52

Is it made with walnut, or mahogany wood? Calumet still sells new mahogany lensboards for the Zone VI cameras. K.E.H. (www.keh.com) frequently has previously owned Zone VI lensboards for sale, in both walnut and mahogany. The stats. for the Zone VI camera are almost identical to those of the Wisner Traditional model that are published on the Wisner website (www.wisner.com). Enjoy your Zone VI camera. You made a good choice.

Brian Ellis
14-Dec-2004, 20:03
Eugene - I looked at Anthony's web site. Very clever. He says it isn't a Wista, it isn't an Ebony, it isn't a Wisner, it isn't a Canhm, etc. etc. Of course he never says what it is - a Tachihara.

Michael S. Briggs
14-Dec-2004, 21:21
I too remember the Zone VI camera before Zone VI had cameras made in the USA as a modified Wista. I owned one for several years and believed it to be very similar to the Wista DX, with an improved tripod socket.

The resolution to the Tachihara / Wista debate is in the Jan/Feb 2003 View Camera article by Richard Ritter that was cited by Brian. There were two cameras relabeled by Zone VI before they designed a camera with Wisner. The first was a Tachihara, which R. Ritter says was sold from about 1978 to 1980. This was followed by a Wista, sold by Zone VI from 1980 to 1985. So item "1" in the Jay's numbered list should be split into two cameras: a Tachihara, then a Wista.

Calumet's latest paper catalog still lists the Zone VI Ultra Light, along with pages of other cameras and LF lenses. So LF photography isn't dead at Calumet!