View Full Version : Zone VI ultralight - good upgrade from Wista DXII?

Yuri Saniko
8-Feb-2005, 23:26
Will Zone VI Ultralight (current model, from Calumetphoto.com) be a good choice to upgrade my Wista DXII cherry? Main reason - i want to use lenses longer than 240mm.
Also, i like Wista's ability to use 65mm lens without bag bellows, looks like Zone VI can do it too.
Any advice, any experience with Zone VI Ultralight?

michel legendre
8-Feb-2005, 23:46
I guess the 58mm will fit that normal bellow as I did try a 65mm Nikkor yesterday and I still have around 1 cm before the bellow gets fully compressed. I easily focus at infinity with the 65mm and have the possibilty to apply some movements.

I confirm the normal bellows max. extension is around 20" , not 22" and this is not limited by the action of a stiff bellow but by the rail extension.

Hope it helps


Yuri Saniko
8-Feb-2005, 23:56
Thanks a lot guys!
Michel, was you able to use 65mm lens with flat lens board or recessed lens boar?

michel legendre
9-Feb-2005, 00:26
Flat lens board. That was easier than expected I could say
I don't think you can find any recessed or extension lensboard from Zone VI.

Mark Sampson
9-Feb-2005, 05:33
I have the previous (non-ultralight) Zone VI 4x5. It's provided good service for 13 years now. But you should get the bag bellows- lenses shorter than 150mm are more comfortable with them. My shortest lens is a 75mm and I can't imagine using it with the standard bellows. And watch out in cold weather- both sets of bellows are plastic and stiffen up below freezing.

9-Feb-2005, 06:52
Don't forget to check into extension boards for your Wista. They may solve your long lens problem. If you go that route look for used ones at Midwest.

Yuri Saniko
9-Feb-2005, 06:54
Will extention board make camera less rigid at full extention?

Zone VI specs:


"...Standard 22" (56cm) removable bellows accommodates up to a 19" (48cm) Dagor, or 450mm Nikkor M Series lens and down to a 58mmXL Schneider Super Angulon at infinity focus..."

Gem Singer
9-Feb-2005, 07:07
Hi Yuri,

Before you make the decision to purchase a Zone VI, take a look at the Ebony RW45 with the universal bellows. It's in the same price range as the Zone VI, will handle the same set of lenses that you mention, and does not require a separate bag bellows for the shorter lenses. It is smaller and lighter weight than the Zone VI. The Ebony is available at Robert White in the UK and Midwest Photo Exchange in the US.

Gem Singer
9-Feb-2005, 07:21
P.S. Yuri,

The Ebony uses the same lensboards as the Wista. The Zone VI uses different lensboards or the use of a lensboard adapter (an added expense).

Yuri Saniko
9-Feb-2005, 07:23
Hi Eugene,
Ebony RW45 looks good and i'm sure it is very well built camera, but it has only 340mm bellows extentions. ( Zone has 22" bellows, ~558mm)

MIke Sherck
9-Feb-2005, 07:31
Eugene, the RW45 is described as having shorter bellows extension (340mm, 410mm with the standards all flopped out,) than the Zone VI's 22 inch (559mm.) The Ebony is a nice camera, granted, but the original post said they had the same need I do -- they like longer lenses and the RW45 may not have enough bellows. Other Ebony cameras have longer bellows but they're significantly more expensive.

Ted Harris
9-Feb-2005, 08:35
The Zone VI Ultralight is going to start to feel somewhat unstable as the extensions get longer and longer. There have been threads both here and at photo.net speaking of the camera's lack of rigidity so I would be careful. I have not used one in the field, just handled it in the store.

Unfortunately there is no universal camera. I have not found a truly lightweight flatbed design that will accommodate lenses from 65 to 450. You can do it with the Tohoor the Gowland loghtweight monorails but I suspect rigidityis also an issue here at the longer extensions. Two solutions I know work, at least in part are:

1) The Walker Titan SF gives you a 'real' maximum extension of 430mm + an additional 43mm using your tilts. I use a 360mmlens on this camera with absolutely no problems and a 450mm using the tilts. The 450mm Nikkor M doesn;t require much in the way of tilts to use. Like any camera extended out this far there is less rigidity that wne compacted but it is still solid and rigid in reasonably calm conditions. I also use a 75mmlens with the standard bellows. Yes, I have more movement with the 75 and the bag bellows but have enough for normal landscape work with the standard bellows. Mike Walker says you can use a 65mm with the standard bellows but you will be extremely bellows limited in terms of movement. I don't work with anything wider than 75 so can't comment. Changing the bellows takes only seconds.

If you are looking for a lightweight field camera this is not it though! It weighs in at around 6.5 pounds. However, doyou really want a lightweight field camera with a lens mounted in a #3 shutter hanging from the front standard? I have used lenses in a #3 shutter with the Ebony RW45 and they worked fine BUT you had to be very very sure you were locked down totally tight because you were stressing that standard. This problem partially disappears with with heavier cameras. There are other filed cameras that havve similar capabilities in terms of bellows and rigidity (e.g. the Gandolfi Traditional and Variant Level II).

2) Use a camera that is designed primarily as a 5x7 but has a readily available 4x5 reducing back. Again there are several in this category but I'll speak to the Canham T57 wood camera since that is the one I use. With about 700mm of extension you are not even beginning to push the capabilities of this camera with a 450 lens, thus there is little question of rigidity issues when operating at infinity since you are only somewhat more than half extended. Even fully extended I find this camra to be rock solid. Changing fro the 5x7 to the 4x5 back is as simple as rotating a back from landscape to portrait mode and takes seconds. I have used the 75mm with the standard bellows and, like the Walker, it works fine although full freedom of movement calls for using the bag bellows which takes seconds to install (perhaps a tiny bit more fiddly than the Walker becuase of the front bellows catch design). Here, weight and size are the issue. It is a bigger footprint since it is designed for 5x7 and in the 6.5 pound range again.

Again, there really are no universal solutions but there are several good tradeoffs and if you aren't backpacking for long distances or for several days then the additional 2 to 3 pounds of camera weight shouldn't matter, especially when you consider the weight of those long lenses you are considering.

Gem Singer
9-Feb-2005, 08:40

Using an Ebony 34mm. extension lensboard, I was able to focus a Fuji 450C at infinity on the Ebony RW45. I could have focused even closer by adding a second extension tube. Add up the cost of the Zone VI lensboards that you would need to purchase. Compare the total cost to the amount you can save by continuing to use your Wista boards, and you will realize why I recommended the Ebony RW45 over the Zone VI lightweight.

Yuri Saniko
9-Feb-2005, 08:41
I'm going to use 14" f/9 Goerz Artar with new camera, not some heavy lenses in Copal-3.
My current longest lens with Wista is 240mm, and often it is not enough.

michel legendre
9-Feb-2005, 09:28
Hi Yuri,
I’m one of the rare Zone VI Ultralight user around.

A little more than a year ago I bought mine almost new(out of the box) from an individual.
I had few lensboards, a bag bellow and a fresnel for 1100 USD, plus shipping . I bought more lensboards with different ‘hole sizes’ (There was a sale of lensboards made in a cheaper type of wood)
I was after a light camera with a long bellow. I tought about few other brands like Wisner, Ebony and Canham etc… I also tried/tested something that looked like a Wista DX andt I really liked it. I finally decided to keep looking at a camera with a longer bellow…
I looked at the used market for months before I found my Zone VI.
For the prize I paid I’m very happy . This is certainly an under rated camera.
I still find this camera lacks a bit of rigidity but the construction is very well done and the movements are more than I need for my landscape photography. Every knob and movement is very easy and fluid…
I regularly use an APO-RONAR 360mm copal-1 and the camera easily stand the weight and the bellow ext. With that amazing long bellow capacity I think that camera is not that effective with short lenses …I use a 90mm and often have to change the bellow(to put bag bellow on) but I never use any wider lenses on it. I expect to use longer than 360 without serious problems.

If you pay 1500 usd without bag bellow , no fresnel, no lensboard I don’t think it is the best buy you can make.
Think of the Ebony already mentioned , go and check for the Wisner exped or other one.
If you could find a Canham on the used maket…MMMM



Mark Sampson
9-Feb-2005, 09:36
Yuri, a 14" Artar should work fine on a Zone VI camera. With any view camera, you should be suspicious of great claims about bellows capability. If you have to base-tilt the front standard forward, and then axis-tilt the lensboard back, with the focusing track all the way out, to get the required extension, then you're very likely to have stability problems. No matter what the ads say, or who makes the camera. It's awkward at best... For the record, stretching my camera as far as I dared, I could not focus a 19" (480mm) Artar to infinity. A 16-1/2" Artar might work, but I haven't yet cobbled up a board to hold the Alphax shutter that lens sits in. I once rented a 500mm Nikkor-T that worked quite well, can't afford one of those though.

MIke Sherck
9-Feb-2005, 09:48

I played with an Ebony RW45 last summer and was really impressed: the build quality of the Ebony's is first rate. They are very solid little cameras and I'm sure that one of the more expensive models with greater extension would have been perfect for me. Alas, they are out of my price range. I'm an amateur, not a pro and not selling photographs, so the budget is a major factor.

Since I'm getting older and my eyes have never been the best, I find that lenses with apertures in the f/5.6 - 6.8 range are much easier for me to use than the f/8 or smaller ones. Thus, I'm happy to make the weight trade-off to get something in a #3 shutter with a wider aperture than one of the spiffy little "backpackers" lenses. The problem is, as I'm sure you've experienced yourself, hanging a 2 or 3 lb. lens in a Copal 3 shutter off the end of a lightweight cantilevered front standard is just asking for trouble. They aren't designed to do that. I've pretty much given up on finding a newish, lightweight, low-cost 4x5 that has the bellows extension I need (480mm x 1.2 for less than infinity work = 576mm.) At one time I thought I could get away with using a 360mm as my longest lens; experience has shown me that 450-480 is really what I need. Thus, I may be stuck with my old 5x7 B&J for the rest of time... (Before the detail-oriented start comparing apples to oranges -- the B&J has a longer than standard bellows and a non-original but functional extension rail.)

On the other hand, I'm looking into the Wehman 8x10. At 8.7 lbs it isn't all that much heavier than my B&J; it has lots of extension, my existing tripod and head should be fine, and I can move into contact printing 8x10 negatives, which is something I've wanted to do for some time (I've contact printed 5x7 for some time but I'd like a larger print.) With bonus time coming up in March, maybe I can stretch things enough to afford one of those. We'll see. The other alternative, as has been previously pointed out in this thread, is to look into a newer 5x7 camera which, while it may not be lighter than my B&J, ought to be more rigid, perhaps a little less bulky. We'll see. As Ted pointed out, it's all about compromise. :)

Yuri Saniko
9-Feb-2005, 09:55
So I will need bag bellows for 90mm and shorter lenses?
So Calumet is wrong with camera description? (It says "Super Angulon 58mm XL with standart bellows")?
http://www.calumetphoto.com/ctl?PAGE=Controller&ac.ui.pn=cat.CatItemDetail&ac.item.itemNo=ZN1000"]>http://www.calumetphoto.com/ctl?PAGE=Controller&ac.ui.pn=cat.CatItemDetail&ac.item.itemNo=ZN1000 (http://www.calumetphoto.com/ctl?PAGE=Controller&ac.ui.pn=cat.CatItemDetail&ac.item.itemNo=ZN1000"[url=)[/url]

ronald moravec
9-Feb-2005, 10:13
110 can be used with the zone 6 without a problem. 90 requires you tilt the front standard back and tilt the lens down so the axis is level again. Infinity will focus. Little or no movement is possible as the bellows are very compressed. I bought the bag bellows.

michel legendre
9-Feb-2005, 10:19
Yuri if you give me a day or two max, I 'll make a test with a 90 mm(I can actualy focus at infinity without much movement with the regular bellow...I'll be more precise on this) I will test a 65mm Nikkor(it's all I can get for now) and I tell you.
I'm not regularly using wide angle lenses on this camera , this explain why I don't know that much about it's capacity to endle this.

The 22 inches bellow ext.(as stated in the Calumet description) is a bit exagerated as I have been able to extend to 20 in. max for a close up image made with the Apo-Ronar 360mm even with tilts... maybe after few months of use the bellow's suppleness will improve that feature.

So I'll be back to you on this.
Keep on


Mark Sampson
9-Feb-2005, 10:30
Yuri- based on my experience with a 75mm lens, a 65mm will fit, perhaps the 58 will too. But with the standard bellows you won't have any movement at all. The standard bellows just aren't that flexible. I must say that working with the standards inside each other is not a lot of fun, but it's possible. I've been doing that for a long time. The w/a bellows are a big help when using 135mm and shorter lenses, and required for any kind of architectural photography.

Bob Salomon
9-Feb-2005, 10:32

Wistas can use longer lenses by using their Extension lensboard Set or their extension bed and bellows.