View Full Version : Camera Rigidity

Erik S
17-Apr-2005, 17:35
I am just moving to 4x5 and am in the process of choosing my first camera. My interest is landscape photography ranging from grand scenics to more intimate scenes. I shoot primarily in the mountain back country where there is rarely a wind free day, often it is very blustery. I've been looking at cameras and have been considering the Wista DX rosewood, the Wisner Expedition and the Ebony RW45E. I'm leaning towards the Ebony primarily because of its known rigidity and universal bellows, but I would sure like to avoid paying that much for a camera right now! On the other hand, I would hate to be out in the mountains shooting only to find that many of my shots are softened or ruined by a less rigid camera. Is the difference in rigidity between these cameras significant enough that I should worry about it? Should I really spend twice as much and get the Ebony??? Any thoughts to help clear this cluttered mind would be greatly appreciated!

John D Gerndt
17-Apr-2005, 18:02
Carry an umbrella and defeat the wind.

Now you can buy the camera you want.


Will Strain
17-Apr-2005, 18:24
The smaller metal field cameras - ie. Horseman FA/HD, Toyo and similar - tho limiting somewhat in movements, are very rugged and pretty darn rigid. If you don't need extreme wide angles, or very long lenses they might be a good option.

Ted Harris
17-Apr-2005, 19:42
Also look at the Walker Titan's. Absolutely rigid and near indestructible. You can easily use a 90mm with the standard bellows and a 75 too but with hardly any movement possible. You can go out to 360mm with ease and to 450 but with somewhat limited movements. If yo need to go wider you can switch to the wide angle bellows. I used an Ebony RW for a short but intensive trial in the field (mountains, woo0ds, lakes) and was less than satisfied with its performance with the 75mm lens, it was fine at full extension but in no way was it as precise or rigid as the Horseman mentioned above; the Walker seems to be. Remember though thst a lot of this is subjective and that I have a distinct preference for the 'feel' of metal cameras. Finally consider the Canhams. If you do decide on a Wisner you are well advised tom buy it from a dealer who has checked it out thoroughly.

I also question why you are looking at rosewood and ebony options when they add to the price but not the performance. The Wista too is a fine camera but more limited than the others discussed. If you are not using lenses longer than say 240 rigidity in the wind should not be a problem.

Good luck.

Gem Singer
17-Apr-2005, 19:48
Hi Eric,

The Ebony RW45 is an excellent choice. Since you seem to be concerned about the price, get the Mahogany wood version and save $300 plus some strain on your back from carrying the heavier weight Ebony wood "E" version. Be sure to equip the camera with the universal bellows. The Ebony RW45 is a little more expensive than the Wista and quite a bit less expensive than the Wisner Expedition. However, any of the three cameras you mentioned would be capable of doing the job that you described.

Scott Rosenberg
17-Apr-2005, 19:52
erik... i spent the last 5 months field testing 4x5 cameras. i am by no means an expert on the subject, but have had first hand experience with the following:

- linhof technika
- linhof technikardan
- ebony rw45
- ebony SV45U2
- arca swiss f-line
- canham dlc
- canham woodfield

it is my opinion that the wooden cameras are not nearly as rigid as the metal cameras - but they're not designed to be. they were designed to be small, light, and rigid enough to take great pictures... and on these points, they are wonderful tools. the ebony SV45U2 is a fine camera to be sure, probably the finest wooden camera i've ever used, but it weighs about the same as my arca swiss, though it is less bulky to pack.

i'll not go into a whole lot of detail here, as my dream camera may simply not work for you. suffice to say i ended up with an arca-swiss f-line metric and am completely satisfied. i do a lot of hiking with my gear, so weight and bulk were concerns for me, but the arca is not excessive in either case.

if you want specific information, feel free to email me: scott@srosenberg.com

Eric Biggerstaff
17-Apr-2005, 22:45
I think any of the cameras mentioned in this email string are great chocies. I have used my Zone VI and Tachihara in windy conditions and they have been fine, but the key is to block as much wind as possible, so the suggestion of an umbrella is a good one. Also, don't forget the importance of a solid tripod and head for keeping the camera steady in a wind.


Alan Davenport
17-Apr-2005, 23:08
I agree that you'll need an umbrella. There is no camera made with an open bellows, which will not shake in the wind; you need something to shield it.

Ben Calwell
18-Apr-2005, 06:07

I have a Wista Rosewood, and it's a great camera for backpacking. Very light and easy to use. I bought mine in 1989, and it's still going great. However, from all that I've read, the Ebony RW45 would be considered a step up from the wooden Wista.

Brian Ellis
18-Apr-2005, 07:06
The principal culprits in strong wind are bellows extension, tripod, and connection between tripod and camera. Those things will solve or create wind problems more than the pure build quality of the camera or the materials used IMHO. I don't think the performance of any of the three cameras you mention in wind will be significantly different. If overall stability and precision in movements is important to you I think you should be looking at a Linhof Technika. I've owned two Ebony cameras, they were fine cameras but they weren't the equal of the two Technikas I've owned for sheer precision and stability (though they were better in some other respects such as ease of using back movements)..

Ole Tjugen
18-Apr-2005, 07:54
I have recently replaced my Technika III 5x7" with a Gandolfi Traditional 5x7", and feel that the two are about the same in terms of stability. The Gandolfi has no front swing, but it does have better front tilt. Max bellows extension is a bit less, but the minimum is less too - so I can use shorter lenses with more movements.

I have looked at Ebony, and handled two different 4x5" models. IMO, the Gandolfi is a far more rigid (and rugged) camera.

Doug Pollock
18-Apr-2005, 08:09
An umbrella and the AWB Enterprises Wind Stabilizer Kit. The kit connects the tops of the front and rear standards to make the setup solid. I use it on my Canham DLC45. It does require that you place one small screw hole in the top of each standard. (I'm not associated with the manufacturer except as a customer.)

18-Apr-2005, 09:08
Another wind consideration is how tall is the sail -- oops, I mean bellows. ;-)

As a rough guide, the bigger the lensboard, the taller the bellows. The taller the bellows, the better it will catch every wisp of wind.

Have you ever handled a monorail? In general they are easier to manipulate and a good deal more rigid. However, getting them in and out of the pack and assembled on the tripod is a drag. I found it impossible to judge between the two until I owned both, and then decided that usually I couldn't be bothered with the monorail, except for skyscraper architecture.

Two drastically different monorails that are fun to consider are the Arca-Swiss (deluxe) and the Gowland (minimalist). The standard A-S has a giant lensboard, and the Gowland has a small or (older models) tiny lensboard. The "field" model A-S (is it still available?), the one with the front standard stolen from the 6x9 model, and consequently with a tapered bellows, I think is the best choice for field work, and a very good choice indeed. Of course the smaller, the easier to pack, too.

What I personally use is a Walker Titan, which I find adequately rigid. I avoid using it with huge lenses, however, like my G-Claron 355mm, which strain its rigidity. That's really too big a lens for backpacking anyways.

Good luck,

Eric Wagner
18-Apr-2005, 14:53
I live in north-central Colorado near the Wyoming line and have had some experience with wind. My experience shows that camera choice can be important for success in windy areas.

I used a Linhof Technika from 1972 through 1975. The lightweight folding wood field cameras from Japan hit the market in the mid '70s and sounded like just what I needed to reduce my load. So I sold the Linhof and used a Nagaoka, Ikeda, and Zone VI Wista (in that order) from 1976 through mid-1979. Those cameras were returned for refunds as wood split, warped, or otherwise misbehaved in an arid climate. My only 4x5 camera from late-1979 through 1993 was a Toyo-Field 45A, an excellent, almost bullet-proof camera that I still own and use. I lightened my pack a little when I started using a Baby Deardorff for my hiking camera in 1994.

During that 30+ year period, the only images I have lost to wind shake were ones taken with the light field cameras in the 1976-1979 period. I used the same Tiltall tripod from 1976 through 1997, so the tripod was not a variable.

My feeling is that a rigid front standard is the key to beating wind as any jiggle at the lens will be magnified many times at the film plane. The Linhof and Toyo lock down solidly at the base of the front standard, and the Deardorff has a stout piano hinge the entire width of the front standard that, at least on mine, has no play at all. The cameras that caused trouble for me had a hinge at the base of the front standard that consisted of a pin through a hole in a thin metal plate and all exhibited a little slop at that point.

If I had to replace the Baby Deardorff and buy a camera for hiking, I'd get the metal Canham. It is lighter than the Toyo, has longer bellows, and I really like the way the front standard locks down. The Ebony may be just as solid, but I've never seen one so have no personal experience with it to report on.

19-Apr-2005, 07:25
A used Sinar F or earlier can be bought for $300 to $600. It works well & can be taken apart if you want for smaller storage. Not a 'field camera' according to some but used by many in the field without problems. A ton of movement & a solid camera.