View Full Version : Experience with 4lbs Zone VI 4x5 camera

Dick Clark
13-Nov-1999, 18:22
I want to get a lighter 4x5 field camera and have narrowed it down to the Wisner Expedition/Pocket Expedition or the Zone VI. I would prefer one which be easy to use with a 90mm and bag bellows. I hear raves about how pretty the Wisners a re but I'm for more interested in value and how the thing takes pictures over ho w it looks.

Any one have any experience with the new Zone VI or the Wisners; any thoughts? Responses would be most appreciated.



Sergio Ortega
14-Nov-1999, 13:56

I owned the regular 4x5 Zone VI (the Wisner model) for years. I sold it earlier this year and got the Canham DLC.

The new lightweight Zone VI is the same design as the regular version. They are pretty, well made and very durable cameras, but they have their limitations whe n using wide angle lenses.

The reason I switched was due solely to the problems I experienced using wide an gle lenses with the Zone VI. The same obsersvations may be made of the Wisner d esign.

The Zone VI works well with normal to longer lenses (about 135mm and longer). W hen using lenses shorter than 135mm (in my case, 120mm, 90mm, and 75mm) the Zone VI requires the user to: 1) base-tilt the entire front standard to the rear, t o achieve the shorter focusing distances necessary with these wide angle focal l engths, 2) rotate the camera bed downwards in order to clear the front of the be d from the lens' angle of view, and 3) then raise and axis-titlt the front lens panel to re-orient it parallel and center it to the film plane at the back. Th ese movements are difficult to describe, but, do it once and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

Not only are all these compensatory camera movements fussy and time-consuming, t hey also make the camera much less stable and prone to movement and vibration. Also, the bag bellows is necessary to achieve the above set-up and have any came ra movements available. All in all, not the most efficient way to make an image in the field.

I won't tout all the advantages of the Canham when using WA lenses (I'll let Ell is Vener do that; he's the main reason I use the DLC now), but you would be much better off using a camera design that allows the use of these short focal lengt h lenses without having to compensate and re-orient the entire camera to achieve the required lens-to-film distances, and change over to a bag bellows.

Hope this helps. Good luck, Sergio.

Paul Mongillo
15-Nov-1999, 12:57
I know you haven't asked about the new Phillips 4X5, but I am so pleased with mine I thought I would stick my two cents in. The camera is light (4 to 4.7 lbs depending on options), very solid (it stays where you put it), has the option of a combination bellows that allows 18" extention and use of 75 mm lens with no bellows change. The international back option comes with a Horseman back and a fresnel. It is a joy to focus. The camera cost from about $1600 to $1800 depending on options. Unlike the Pocket Expedition this camera takes about ten minutes to learn how to make it work. The Canham was a close second choice for me. However, I thought it was a bit expensive for its construction and the Phillips seemed more solid and definately smoother. I also like the front axis tilt better than the base tilt on the Canham. Get your hands on any camera you are interested in before you buy it.

Doug Webb
11-Jan-2010, 13:42
I bought a used Wista Wood Field camera for 400.00 and love it, very light weight, of course it is not in perfect shape, also it doesn't work with lenses longer than about 210 to 240mm at most, which is not a problem for me. Not all Wista cameras have allowance for interchangeable bellows. Check out the features you want and look into a used dealer like KEH to find a Wista in nice shape in the 600.00 to 700.00 range. Obviously not the camera for everyone, works well for me.

MIke Sherck
11-Jan-2010, 14:30
I owned a Wisner Technical Field in the past and own a Wisner-made Zone VI now; neither works well with lenses shorter than a 127mm Ektar, or my 125mm Fuji. Newer "lightweight" Zone VI cameras seem to do better in the short lens department (I believe that the bellows material is thinnner than the leather Wisner preferred,) but I don't know if that extends down to 90mm or not.


11-Jan-2010, 15:01
I have owned and used my Zone VI for about fifteen years. Much of what I do professionally is architecture done with the Zone VI and wide angle lenses ranging down to 58mm. I use the bag bellows and have found no appreciable problems with the occasional need to tilt the camera downward, re-level the standards, and raise the lens back to normal height relative to the back when using the 58mm. This is to avoid having the bed appear in the foreground of the image. Be sure to move the lens forward to it's limit before moving the back up to focus. That also limits having the bed be in the image.

With my 90mm and longer lenses, I have never needed to drop the bed for anything other than the rare need to lower the lens beyond the usual standard limits to include low foreground elements in the image.

I started learning large format with a Crown Graphic back in the sixties. Exactly the same techniques (created by dropping the front bed) were needed with extreme wide angle lenses with that camera, so the Zone VI techniques came easy. In fact, I think the Zone VI is actually a much more flexible and user friendly camera than the Crown, and than any of the several excellent monorail cameras that I have owned.

Great engineering, light weight, easy to pack and stow, and very easy on the eyes.

The bag bellows interchanges easily and is a necessity for anything shorter than the 90mm and is highly needed with the 90mm for any extreme movements. The standard bellows will not compress well for use with really short lenses and will not allow hardly any movements when compressed without causing alignment problems between the front and rear standards.

As to longer lenses, One of my favorites is an old Caltar 215mm convertible which is still usable with the standard bellows when set up for the (approximately) 360mm set of cells. At that range, it won't focus very close, but at distances does a great job. The 210mm and 240mm ranges do wonderful work with anything from landscapes to head shots and still life distances.

Great camera.

11-Jan-2010, 15:06
11 years and two months-
do you reckon he got one?

11-Jan-2010, 17:18
Doh....Why don't I ever look at the dates??????

MIke Sherck
11-Jan-2010, 17:22

Louie Powell
11-Jan-2010, 18:57
Is there are record here?

11-Jan-2010, 20:29
IT LIVES!!!!:eek:

Drew Bedo
12-Jan-2010, 08:37
I am using a vintage Zone VI, the Wisner model. It is petite and lightweight. this is the camera with a single focus knob and 12 inches of total extension.

My whole 4x5 kit goes into a largi-ish 35mm camera bag. Lensees used are 210mm, 150mm and 90mm. My 90mm is a Nikor W f-8. I tend to shoot table-top set ups and still lifes. Haven't run into problems with the 90 .. Maybe I'm not using much inthe way of movements. Could be that I.m not focusing at infinity with it too, so no problem compressing the bellows. This model doesn't interchange bellows . . .so no bag.

I'll have to look at these issues with my kit now.

Brian Ellis
12-Jan-2010, 11:06
Doh....Why don't I ever look at the dates??????

Probably the same reason I sometimes don't - because there's something too weird about an 11 year old thread appearing near the top of the front page. IMHO there should be some limit on how long ancient threads can be resurrected, at least those that involve buying and selling equipment.

12-Jan-2010, 11:31
"the new Phillips 4x5" should have tipped me off.

12-Jan-2010, 12:11
Some questions seem to persist.

12-Jan-2010, 17:04
11 years and two months-
do you reckon he got one?

because there's something too weird about an 11 year old thread appearing near the top of the front page.
Hey, come on guys, do the maths. It's only 10 years and 2 months; we're only in 2010!:D


...wonder if he did get one....

12-Jan-2010, 17:31

Brian Schall
12-Jan-2010, 19:41
Do you realize the word 'Doh' was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2001.

Long Live Homer!!!