View Full Version : A steady 8x10 camera for long and heavy lenses?

Jerome Wu
11-Apr-2005, 09:20
Hello everyone:

I have been shooting 4x5 for a couple of years (with Sinar f1) and am preparing to jump into 8x10. As I know, monorail 8x10 are usually heavy and huge, so I would consider wood foldable cameras firstly. I was thinking about canham wood 8x10, which is not too heavy and the price is acceptable, before I consider the lenses that I'm going to use. But after knowing I will use apo-symmar 360mm (or apo-sironar 360mm) and possibly 480mm and 600mm lenses, I am not so sure if canham's structure is steady enough for heavy lenses (around 3-4 lbs) and long bellows extension. I know for sure that the ebony 8x10 is quite steady but the price is way beyond what I can afford. Wisner 8x10 was one of my option, but the delay and uncertainty of deliver time problem will be a headache. So, could anyone who has been in 8x10 recommend a camera that balance between weight, portability, steadiness and price?

the following features are preferred:

1.It will be better if foldable since I shoot mostly outdoors.

2.I will expect the camera capable of using 600mm lens steadily.

3.Sinar or Linhof type lens board are preferred since all my lenses use these two types of boards.

Thanks a lot!


George Stewart
11-Apr-2005, 09:38
I've been shooting Canham's 8x10 (wood) for about 10 years now with lenses as long as 1200mm. The camera is not the sturdiest one out their but fine for field work. I've shot using a 600mm Apo-Ronar in an Ilex #5 shutter (read heavy) and gotten sharp results in strong wind. There is a 1/4-20 threaded socket under the front standard that will accept a second tripod or other support. Recommended.

Steve Hamley
11-Apr-2005, 09:55

I've used Canham, Deardorff, and Ebony.

First, none of these cameras are as rigid at around 600mm as a 4x5 at full extension. They're not floppy, but they do tend to "sing" like a tuning fork when racked out, so you want to let things settle a bit before tripping the shutter.

Second, this is one case when weight is your friend. The heavier the camera, the less rigid the camera has to be and the less prone to vibration. Obviously this is a tradeoff, since the Canham and Ebony are usable on the Gitzo 1348 and Kirk BH-1 (my 4x5 setup), while the 'dorff is happier with the Ries when it's extended far enough to use a 19" or 24" lens.

Finally, a Fujinon 600mm C lens is quite light, and if this is the long lens, heavier lenses in the 360mm - 480mm range should be manageable with almost any field camera, since a 360mm lens really doesn't extend an 8x10 much over a normal 12" lens. I've had a 360mm f/4.5 Heliar the Deardorff and Ebony without a problem, didn't have it and the Canham at the same time.

Nearly all 8x10 field cameras are certainly usable with a 600 Fuji C and a 19" Artar, bellows length to accomodate of course. You might check with Jim at Midwest, he occasionally has used Ebony 8x10s at a "resonable" price.


11-Apr-2005, 10:13
Take a glance at the "Wehman 8x10" thread for comments on that camera by myself and others. As it is made up of solid metal U-shaped plates, the base is about as rigid as it can be. If the 30.5" bellows is sufficient for you, it is worth consideration.

On the other hand, if you can get used to working with a less rigid camera, the Canham is longer reaching, has more movements, and is overall a more sophisticated and beautiful design. You get what you pay for.

Both are compact and lightweight and have good reputations.

And, of course, there are monorails and then there are monorails. Both Gowland and Toho make monorails that travel relatively well. They require some disassembly to stow in a backpack, but once you get it back together you have a monorail, with its various advantages. Would you really rather have a monorail? Then check out the Gowland at petergowland.com, and the Toho at badgergraphic.com. I have both a 4x5 Gowland and a 5x7 Toho. The Gowland is quite fiddley, but absurdly lightweight and compact. The Toho is much more substantial, and consequently heavier and bulkier. Neither is perfect: the Gowland is nearly impossible to square up; Peter told me not even to try. The Toho is a little tricky to focus, as it can shift as you tighten it down.

Eric Leppanen
11-Apr-2005, 10:47
The Wehman 8x10 is reputedly a stable foldable platform for longer lenses. Here is the thread that CXC is alluding to:

www.largeformatphotography.info/lfforum/topic/501627.html (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/lfforum/topic/501627.html)

I use a Fuji 450C and 600C and Nikon 800/1200T with my Ebony 8x10 and Gitzo 1325 tripod. With the relatively slow films I prefer (Provia 100F, 100VS, TMAX 100), I find it necessary to use provide additional camera support to ensure getting sharp pictures. With the 600C and 800T, I use a Bogen long lens support arm to support the front standard, and with proper "wind management" (i.e., waiting for the wind to die down so that all bellows vibration is gone) I can usually get sharp pictures with any speed of film.

With the Nikon 1200T (if you ever elect to go this way), life gets more complicated. When using this lens, I use the Bogen arm to support the front standard, plus a second tripod to support the rear standard. But even with this setup, camera shake in even slight wind can be a problem. To consistently get sharp pictures, I use faster films; either Provia 100F pushed one stop, Kodak 400NC, or Tri-X/HP5+ have worked fine for me. The Nikon is a moderate contrast lens, so pushing Provia doesn't block up the shadow areas very much, and the color is a bit more saturated.

With my 450mm lens, I can usually get a sharp picture without any supplemental support.

For the 600C, I suspect that use of a long lens arm such as the Bogen will largely equalize the stability of the various available field cameras (Ebony, Canham, Wisner, etc.) without need for a second tripod. It then comes down to which camera is available to you at the best price.

11-Apr-2005, 11:50
Size/weight and stability/bellows extension are an inverse proportion. If you want the best weight or size, get something like Canham's JMC810. If you want long bellows and great stability, a Sinar, or any other good monorail-type camera, will be your best bet.

Now you just need to find a compromise.

As to Wisner, all of the complaints that I have heard were from people who lived outside of North America/Eurpoe and/or were not able to be contacted by Ron.

Michael Jones
11-Apr-2005, 12:07
The only camera I know that meets your spec that is a Phillips. Rock steady, light and uses Sinar boards.


Steve Hamley
11-Apr-2005, 13:14
When I talked to Dick Phillips, he stated that the Compact II was essentially maxed at 24" and the longest really usable lens was about 450mm -480mm. I chose an alternative because I did want to focus a 24" lens at least a bit closer closer than infinity.


Jeff Dyck
11-Apr-2005, 14:11
Hi Jeremy,

I am using a Toyo 810M (pretty much the same as the current 810MII), and have always been satisfied with the stability it provides with big lenses (I have a 360mm f6.8 Symmar-S and a 500mm f5.5 Tele-Xenar which are both real boat anchors at about 3.5lbs each). I purchased the Toyo because I got an excellent price, but would not hesitate to recommend it to someone else. The big arguement against it always seems to be the weight. I have heard mention of bellows draw from some, but you can focus a 600mm to a "reasonably close" distance, which is fine for my uses. The difference in weight between the 810M and a wood field like the Canham is undoubtedly a few pounds, but if you are using lenses like a 360mm APO-Symmar, weight can't be that big a consideration! (I would suspect that the difference in weight between a 360 Fujinon-A or even a 355mm G-Claron and a huge plasmat like the 360mm Symmar must be almost a couple pounds by itself!). Point being - if stability is your criteria for selction, and you want to shed some weight, there is more than the camera itself to consider.


P.S. I am also standardized on Sinar boards. Fortunately the Toyo-View boards are a bit bigger than the Sinar ones and a Toyo -to-Sinar lensboard adapter is readily available

11-Apr-2005, 16:15
In terms of lensboards, www.bromwellmarketing.com will take any lensboard you got and make it into a converter-to-Technika. Assuming it is big enough, of course. I did this with one of my Wehman boards, works fine. And they stock Sinar-to-Technika converter boards.

There are many, many complaints about Wisner's untimely delivery local to the U.S., as a search of this forum will reveal. If at all possible go through a store, or, ideally, locate an already existing camera to purchase.

Jerome Wu
12-Apr-2005, 02:59
Dear All:

I feel much appreciated for your generous suggestions and advices. To be frank, my large format experience is very limited to a used sinar f1 4x5 monorail, which happened to be available from our local dealer. My longest lens on 4x5 is 240mm which brings no problem at all for a metal monorail 4x5, steadiness or bellow length.

I know 8x10 is a different story. And, my motivation for finding a wood foldable is that my f1 monorail is difficult to fit into a backpack without decomposing a bit. So, I actually carry it in a pelican case without decomposing it to prevent me from breaking parts while assembling them in the field. (Sometimes, I do envy the portability of my friend's 4x5 wood foldable in the field...)

I usually shoot not too far by my car, within 15-20mins of walk. Regarding the long lens, I am not sure if the APO-Tele-Xenar 600mm will actually benefit from the shorter bellows extension, better optical quality and brighter ground glass, compared with Fujinon-C 600mm. I also notice that the triple lens weight and double price will be essential issues to be considered.

According to your inputs, I guess a 8x10 wood foldable will need extra stablizing support with long lenses while a monorail 8x10 may not. So, the total weight might be almost no difference (wood + extra support vs. metal monorail). But 8x10 wood foldable benefits from backpack compatibility (is that true?)

I am trying to digest all the great info that you offered, thanks a lot!


Ted Harris
12-Apr-2005, 11:02

If youy live in or near a large metro area where you can rent some 8x10 gear I strongly suggest you do so before making a major in vestment. It is a quantum leap from 4x5 to 8x10 not jsut in terms of the size, price and weight of the equipment but alos in terms of the price of the film, the setup time, depth of field issues, etc. For years I shot 4x5, 5x7 and 8x10 spending most of my time with 4x5 and 8x10. Recently I have reeveluated 8x10 realizing that I was shooting less and less of it over the past 3 years and have refocused my efforts on 5x7 where the equipment is only marginally larger than 4x5. One of the major issues you need to think about (IMO) is the way you workwith th elonger lenses. With your bellows cranked out over 600 mm the distance from behind the darkcloth is just toooooooo long todo any adjustment to the front standard unless you have very very long arms.

Just a few more things to think about. The results from 8x10 and larger can be breathtaking but you do want to be sure you know what you are getting into.


Eric Leppanen
12-Apr-2005, 11:49

The advantage of using a foldable field camera with supplemental long lens supports (versus a heavy studio-type monorail) is that it is scaleable. The monorail will be heavy all the time, even when using short to medium lenses, whereas the field camera will be much lighter except when you need to carry the additional supports. And yes, an 8x10 folding field camera can fit in a camera backpack (the Lowepro Super Trekker and f64 extra large seem to be the most popular). When using short to medium lenses, I can comfortably take my 8x10 on short hikes (up to several miles) with several film holders in my backpack and carrying the tripod by hand. With the monorail, you'd have to stay close to the car.

As Ted says, 8x10 is a huge step up bulk-wise from 4x5, and I strongly agree that if all possible rent or borrow a sample 8x10 system first before taking the plunge. 8x10 is definitely only for a very dedicated camera buff or professional. The film holders are large, the backpack and/or carrying case you'll use is large, the tripod and tripod head have to be substantial, and ice chest or other storage container for storing your exposed and unexposed film will be large. On photo trips, you may fill the entire trunk of your car with camera gear! The stability problems are greater, and lens coverages (unless you pay big bucks) are smaller than 4x5. Unloading, cleaning, and reloading a bunch of 8x10 film holders after every shoot can be a drag. But the negs are breathtaking, and there is still no solution around (digital or otherwise) that provides a comparable capability (cost effectively) to 8x10 film.

Ken Lee
12-Apr-2005, 13:06
Why not replace the lenses: Their weight is at the root of your problem, no ? If you don't want to replace them, just add some light-weight equivalents to your collection, or build a second tripod onto the camera to give extra support.

Tony Karnezis
14-Apr-2005, 01:42
The Kodak Master 8x10 fulfills your criteria 1 and 2. From what I know, Paula Chamlee uses lenses longer than 24" on hers with a bellows that's longer than the standard one. The standard bellows easily takes a 24" lens, but the lens boards aren't Sinar or Linhof type. I had Grimes make me an adapter to take Linhof boards. Just a thought.

Tony Karnezis
14-Apr-2005, 18:43
Ted brings up a good point. Unless you have really long arms or rear focus/movements, you will have to come out from under the darkcloth to make many adjustments. The Kodak Master has geared rear focus and extensive rear movements (except rise). Which of the cameras mentioned above has rear focus or rear movements?

Ole Tjugen
15-Apr-2005, 03:32
I think the Gandolfi Traditional will fulfill all your requirements - at least my 5x7" one does. If I were to buy another camera today, it would be a Gandolfi Variant...