View Full Version : light leak on wisner 45 technical?

MacGregor Anderson
27-Jan-2005, 20:24
I've been using a toyo 45cf for about a year and decided recently to upgrade. I bought a new Wisner technical mohagany. I liked the handmade wood design and the improved movements.

I just developed my first four sheets from this camera and the negatives show some sort of light leak. Hard to describe, but I'll try.

The shot was a vertical. The sun was partially blocked by trees and fairly low on the horizon, so it wasn't glaring straight down into film holder.

The negative shows a U shaped darker area with a distinct line at the top. It's a couple stops darker than the surrounding areas but not extremely dense. The upper right corner of the U is near the top of the frame and about center. It begins about 1/8 of an inch below the top of the frame. It covers about an inch to the left and an inch and a half down. The borders of the negative are perfectly clear.

So, the leak came from the bottom of the camera in the back, or somewhere in front of that?

Sorry, this may be impossible to figure out from the description.

Anyhow, the wood has me worried. The lens boards seem pretty tight, and the bellows to front standard seems pretty well connected. But nothing like you'd see in a metal camera. There are variations in thickness, and it's all wood on wood, no gasket material for a perfect seal. Lensboards were very snug at first but by the second or third time inserting them they had loosened noticeably. Is this normal for wood cameras?

I was also concerned because there are two pins designed to hold the front rails at full extension. One of these was higher than the other and caused the standard to catch when retracted. It's a little tick now that interupts the sliding of the standard but doesn't prevent it. Seems like something that would be caught in a very simple going over before shipping.

What next? Send back to B+H? Give up on wood? Or was it something I did?

I can try some more test shots tomorrow but I'm pretty discouraged right now. The cheapo Toyo worked right out of the box.


MacGregor Anderson
27-Jan-2005, 20:41
I uploaded a small scan of this to another site. I can provide a link but I haven't seen anybody here link to photos in the past and don't know if that is violating board rules in any way.

Rick Heitman
27-Jan-2005, 21:45
just my 2 cents. Are you sure that you werent using too wide of lens and maybe a little too much rise? Only questioning because I did it. Rick

Gem Singer
27-Jan-2005, 21:49
Hi Mac,

I took a look at the shot on the photo.net LF forum. From what I can perceive, it looks like the interchangeable bellows on the camera is not seated properly. Check to make sure that the bellows frames are properly attached to the front and rear standards.

Wood expands and contracts relative to the humidity. A slight amount of play between the lensboards and the recess in the front standard is normal.

You can call, or e-mail Ron Wisner directly (www.wisner.com). Explain your problem to him. He is best qualified to offer a solution to the problem.

MacGregor Anderson
27-Jan-2005, 21:57
I'm going to post the link to the scan of the neg just so anybody who is interested can see what I'm talking about better.

Hope that's ok. It's just a photo.net portfolio, and you'll see I'm an amateur and that there is zero commercial stuff going on.

Eugene, I'll do a bit of testing tomorrow and contact Ron per your advice. Thanks for that contact info.

http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=3071838 (http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=3071838)

Thanks again to everyone here. Hope I can return the favor one day.

MacGregor Anderson
27-Jan-2005, 22:06
Rick, sorry forgot to answer you. It was a 150mm lens on a 4x5. I did use some movements, but they didn't seem all that extreme to me. And I shot one of these at F64. The rest at 45. But who knows, maybe this camera has more movements than I'm used to, and since the ground glass corners aren't cut, I had to look for vignetting through the lens. That was a first for me.

The thing is, I figure vignetting would darken, not lighten the image.

There was a fair temperature drop from the truck to the outside, and I'm wondering if fogging on the lens could have anything to do with it. I just figure anything like that would darken the final image, not lighten it?

Gary J. McCutcheon
28-Jan-2005, 00:02
I have a Tech Field about four years now. Never this problem. Did all of the photos made have this same problem? We need to eliminate a film holder problem. I had a fogging problem on a roll film holder recently and it was the dark slide not seating completely. If you determine it is not the film holder, it could be that the film holder is not seating properly into the back of the camera. If there is a slight uneveness to the edge on the bottom of the camera where the film holder rests, light could leak in there. Make sure there are no little burrs of wood sticking up that don't allow the holder to seat properly.
You may want to do a test in the darkroom. Use a bright flashlight or light that won't get hot enough to damage the bellows and with the lights out and a film holder in place, light the inside of the camera from the lens side and examine the camera carefully in the back area and see if any light leaks out, either around the bellows or filmholder area. If you see light you've found your leak. The film holder must be in place for this to work. Next, go the other direction with the back off and the the lens on with cap on. Check the top, bottom, side, every inch. It could be where the bellows attaches or where it is glued. This should help eliminate some things and maybe find the problem. As far as things like screws loosening up and the slide levers needing tightened frequently, that's part of the game. I've had ZoneVI, still have a Wista, had an Ebony, still have the old 8x10 Deardorff and they all need attention with the screwdrive now and then. Keep one in your camera bag. I've had Sinar and still have a Toyo G and they needed tuning after enough use. Wood needs a little more loving and it is more loveable. I love my Wisner camera. Just personal taste, but it seems to do everything well.
Ron Wisner will love to help you solve the problem if you can't figure it out, hopefully it's an easy fix and won't require return to the factory. The Wisner factory is digging out of a big snow storm, but Ron is answering the phone. He's always been willing to help solve any problems. B&H is a good company and should exchange the camera with you for a different one if you can't find a solution. There is a solution, just depends on how frustrated you want to get and how much you want to learn along the way.
Good luck, hope this helps.

Photo on


John Berry ( Roadkill )
28-Jan-2005, 00:48
I agree with gary about film holder or not seated as the problem. I looked at the example. I have a wizner and I have no complaints at all with it. Do you hold the holder by the edge. I had a leak like that once caused by 1. the slide was out a little. 2. I picked up 4 holders at once squeezing on the dark slide. Looking at the example, if you had a light leak it would be on the bottom back half of the bellows. Looks to local to be coming from up front. I just took my back off and put a holder in it and I don't see an angle available to cause the problem and yet leave a clear section at the edge. John Berry

William Blunt
28-Jan-2005, 05:53
I have a Wisner 4x5 that will leak light if not careful when seating film holder. When holder is put in camera it can go past the slot where the ridge on the holder rests. I just have to remember to make sure holder is not slid in too far or push it back so it drops into the slot and seats correctly. A pain in the a$$ but the only problem with the camera.

Rick Heitman
28-Jan-2005, 07:09
Just saw the pic, and I am sure it is not vingetting. Go with the other answers

Gary J. McCutcheon
28-Jan-2005, 08:25

Please let us all know how this turns out. It is always good to know the solution to a mystery.


Tom Perkins
28-Jan-2005, 08:37
I agree with the suggestion that it is probably the way the filmholder seats, and it may be possible to test it by keeping a dark cloth all the way around the back when making an exposure. If you find that this is unacceptable in a new camera, it may be wiser to return it to the vendor for an exchange and let them hassle out the repairs with Wisner, as his is a small shop with lots of work and there can be some delays in getting your work done.

Kevin Crisp
28-Jan-2005, 08:57
I agree with the seating issue comments. It depends on the film holder, but on many cameras you can slide it straight in and it seeemingly stops and looks inserted but in reality the left edge of the holder has just caught the edge of the left side of the cut out in the back. The right side isn't down all the way and the film trap slot on the holder isn't in the groove. I've had this happen on lots of cameras including Canhams and Tachiharas. Film holders which are a bit worn are less prone to this. A bail back as on the Zone VI avoids this issue. Try rocking the holder a little bit and it will slide in. Make sure tripod head and all movements are good and tight or you'll disturb things when you rock the holder. Please let us know what it was when you know. Good luck.

MacGregor Anderson
28-Jan-2005, 09:17
Thanks for the responses. It probably saved me hours of fiddling. I will test the filmholder seating a bit later today and let everyone know how it turns out.

MacGregor Anderson
28-Jan-2005, 13:05
Just completed developing four test sheets from today. They were landscapes with mountains. Imagine my surprise when I saw a light duplicated mountain hovering in the clouds, a little out of focus. This area on the negative was about the same size as that U shape yesterday. Looking closely at yesterdays neg, I think I see some repeated image in the problem area.

So I went into the darkroom and shined a light from the back towards the lens with the caps on. Sure enough, a little pinhole in the wood on the lens board. I bought these new from B+H with the camera.

I tested all four lenses and there was a hole on one of the other boards as well. Like a pin had been driven through the wood.

The bellows connection was completely sealed. There was the faintest light at one edge of one of the flawed lens boards when a full sized maglite was shined at it from an inch away.

I then put on the back and put a film holder in place. Removed the lens and shined in that direction. There is a little bit of play in the film holder when it's in the groove, and unless it was perfectly centered there was a little bit of light evident on the corner between camera and holder. Not a lot, but it was evident.

Ok, obviously I need two new lens boards, or maybe I could just put a little putty or tape over the holes. But, should I be concerned about the seal with the holder, or is that relatively common? How perfect a seal do wooden cameras have?


Very strange.

MacGregor Anderson
28-Jan-2005, 13:09
And...as I closed the camera up the screws that hold down one of the brass springy strips popped out. The camera was carefully aligned for closing (I'm being very careful with it given the problems and possibility of return) and it was just normal pressure that puts the pin in the hole on the strip to keep the camera closed. The wood is stripped.

Suppose I could put in a drop or two of glue in there so they will hold, but I'm getting more and more nervous here. This was a lot of money for me to spend, and while I expected a bit more TLC would be required with a wooden camera I hadn't expected major issues in the first two days.

Gem Singer
28-Jan-2005, 14:51
Hello again Mac,

When I owned my two Wisners, I frequently needed to repair stripped screw holes by plugging them with pieces of hardwood, pointed- end toothpicks. Then, I re-tightened the screws. When that didn't work, I replaced the small brass wood screws with slightly longer and/or fatter ones. The interface between the metal hardware and the wood seemed to be the weak link of the Wisners. However, I've never heard of a genuine Wisner wooden lensboard leaving the factory with a hole in it, other than the hole for the shutter. Since you bought them new from B&H, they should replace them. I'm glad to hear that the problem wasn't something that needed to be corrected by sending the entire camera back to the factory.

MacGregor Anderson
28-Jan-2005, 16:53
Thanks Eugene. Either somebody sabotaged these boards, or else a worm got em. They are very smooth holes with no splintering on either end. Easy to plug up so I wouldn't even have to send them back. Maybe the wood came to their factory this way and nobody noticed.

My main concerns are:

a) does the two little screws popping out so soon and under very normal use indicate the wood is somehow bad in this camera? I can fix this easily, but wouldn't want to be comitted to a camera where parts pop off at regular intervals because of some unseen wood defect.

b) just how tight should a one year old fidelity film holder fit in the back? Is any sign of light in that seal under extreme circumstances (a mag light in pitch black an inch away from the seal) going to be a problem? My darkroom isn't perfectly light tight, even for tray developing. It's close, but not perfect. Never found this to be a problem. Maybe I'll test with lens shut and darkslide out for two minutes or so on a somewhat bright day. Develop that against a totally unexposed piece of film and see if there is any noticeable fogging. I have tested my Toyo 45cf with the flashlight and there was absolutely no light leakage.

In most cases I'd just send something like this back and try something totally new, but Wisner seems to have an excellent reputation and I'm not averse to some fiddling. I bought my Dad a little wooden dinghy a few years back and he wouldn't replace it with fiberglass for any amount of money, even if it does take special treatment. I like this wooden camera a great deal. Just want it to work properly without overwhelming hassles and repairs.

Todd Wright
28-Jan-2005, 17:29
You can always get a third preson to look at the camera. I had my car stolen along with the camera in the trunk I ended up with a used Wismer camera. First thing I did was send it off to be repaired. It had an on again of again light leak . I sent it to Richard Ritter he found the problem and repair it also did some tweeking on the camera. Haven had a problem since. Fast turn around was well worth the cost. Also had a bail put on they are wounderful. I have then on all my camera now.

William Blunt
28-Jan-2005, 17:36
There should be no light leakage where the film holder seats or anywhere else. I once bought a used 8x10 camera and when it arrived from the dealer the back was so warped the holder would rock side to side and light leaked everywhere. When I called the dealer and told him about it he told me all cameras leak a little light even new ones. My reply was "bullsh..." and sent camera back for a refund of my money. Even my old used cameras are light tight. All new cameras I have purchased are light tight, even the 4x5 Wisner if I make sure film holder is not slid in too far and past light trap. I would return the camera for a different one, a new camera shouldn't need repairs.

MacGregor Anderson
28-Jan-2005, 18:53
Thanks. I've tested and retested the leak around the filmholder. No amount of fiddling with position changes it.

The holes in the lens boards are just bizarre, but not something that would cause me to give up on the brand on their own.

The screws popping out of the top are too disconcerting to let go.

I'm sure most of these cameras are very finely built and don't have these problems. But I'm not interested in a long back and forth process now that my confidence is shaken.

I will be returning this to B+H as soon as they reopen and starting over from scratch.

If anybody has any suggestions for a folding field camera with good movements, around this price range feel free to email me. I'd love the help. I might spend a bit more if I have to, but nothing over $2500. I'm not interested in used equipment after two bad purchases from two reputable houses of lenses said to be in near perfect condition.

I shoot mostly landscapes and nature shots, but I'm finding the CF movements rough and constricting. I'd like to keep it at 6lbs or a bit less. Sturdy build and smooth operation in movements is very important to me. Lenses right now run from 90 to 300, and while I might expand in either direction a little, I'm not looking for extremes. Wood or metal is fine.

Thanks again. Hopefully one day I'll be able to help someone new here as so many have helped me.

If anyone ever wants info on Central Oregon, or if there are any fly fishermen out there that want info on Oregon fishing, I could certainly start to pay back my debt there.


MacGregor Anderson
28-Jan-2005, 20:31
Picking on me? Not at all. I'm truly grateful that people here took the time to work through this problem with me. I probably deserve a lot of flack for many of the questions I asked, but nothing here was the least bit abbrasive. It's a really fine community on this board. Reminds me of the fly fishing site I frequent. And the answers on that other site were also helpful and instructive. Couldn't believe I avoided the typical nasty jabs there. I think the Large Format community is a breath of fresh air and this site proves it every day.

Gary J. McCutcheon
28-Jan-2005, 20:39
Dear MacGregor,

Good to here you found the problem. Sorry it is the camera and boards. The holes in the boards almost sound like sabotage. No this is not a conspiracy theory. Send the whole thing back and either get your money back or a new near perfect camera. I know you can get one because many of us out here have Wisners that do what they were built to do. There are many excellent 4x5's out there, you may want to try another brand. Few have the features of the TF, but if it is such a fight to get one that works the way it should you may need to look and re-evaluate. Bruce's Field Camera Store sells Wisner Cameras and he would check out the camera thoroughly for you before he ships. You might give him a call 212-807-7788. I've only called him once to see what he had in stock and he does stock a number of Wisner cameras as well as Ebony, Linhof, etc.

Good luck and let us all know how this turns out.


Gem Singer
28-Jan-2005, 20:42

Give Jim a call tomorrow (Sat., between 10AM and 2PM Eastern time) at Midwest Photo Exchange (www.mpex.com). Explain your problem to him. He can outfit you with an Ebony within your price range. Mention that you obtained the referrence from this forum. I can assure you, that both the quality of the service and the price will be well worth your while. I hope that B&H is willing to give a full refund on the obviously defective Wisner they sold to you.

By the way, my wife and I lived in Bend for three years during the early 1980's. We fly fished the Deschutes, the Metolius, the Fall River, the Umpqua, etc. Great place to live, hike, ski, fish, and photograph the scenery. However, in those days, it was not an outstanding area for making a living.

Gem Singer
28-Jan-2005, 21:01
P.S. You may want to consider the Toyo 45AII. It has more movements than the Toyo 45CF and it uses the same lensboards. Jim often has hardly used 45AII's at very reasonable prices.

MacGregor Anderson
28-Jan-2005, 21:22

I'll do that. I looked at that Toyo and almost went that route. Something more "romantic" about the wood camera got me.

I practically live on the Metolius. I'm in Sisters, off in the woods a couple miles out of town. Fish that river all the time. Big blue wing olive hatch yesterday just above the hatchery at the "idiot hole." Size 14-16, WAY bigger than the usual 18s and 20s. Slate grey in color. A spinner fall just after that. Noon til two was dry fly fishing at it's best. You know they stopped stocking the river a while back, and it's all wild fish now. I got one nice redside yesterday. If I hadn't been roll casting across fast current it might have been a couple fish. Catch and release only on that river now, fly fishing only down to bridge 99. I've only been here 2 years, but they tell me it's a major success story in wild fish management.

The job market here is still what it was pretty much. "Poverty with a view." I left a big city career at age 31 to find a better place to live, found this part of the world at 33, and have had two great years exploring. It's crowded now compared to the 80s, and many of the locals have moved off to Idaho. Property prices are growing like Manhattan. But to me, this town of 1000 people is just perfect.

Thanks for the info and ideas. If you ever come out to visit, I know locals on every river you mentioned and would be glad to help you out with hatches, etc.

Gem Singer
29-Jan-2005, 06:51
Hi again Mac,

The wife and I hung around Sisters as often as we could (in the early 1980's). I remember a great pizza restaurant in Sisters. Sisters was the llama capital of the USA. Do they still raise them there? If we could have made a decent living in Oregon, we would probably be living there now. You are fortunate to be able to live in such a beautiful area of the world.

Since you like wood cameras as much as I do, take a look at the Ebony cameras. They are a work of art in fine wood and titanium metal. The low priced RW45, with the universal bellows, would be the ideal camera to use in the field in your area of the world. See Kerry Thalmann's article in the latest issue of View Camera. Jim usually has the RW45 in stock, or can get one for you, quickly.

MacGregor Anderson
31-Jan-2005, 14:05
B+H was quick and helpful in providing return info. I've done a lot more research since this started and talked to a number of people and have come up with a couple options that should work better for me. No need to detail them here, but I do want to thank all of you once again for the very helpful advice, emails, and support.