View Full Version : Wisner Flight v. Wisner Pocket Expedition 4x5

Laura Lea Nalle
19-Apr-2005, 09:17
I have been reading through this website and have found a lot of invaluable information so far and have only scratched the surface. Thanks for providing this forum.

I am looking into the Wisner cameras. I have coveted them for quite some time and am now seriously considering making the investment. I am taken by the simplicity of the Flight and the comparable size/weight of the Pocket Expedition. I am curious if anyone here has tested both of these cameras or had enough experience with the Flight to advise on its simplified manual adjustments (compared to the fully geared, and at times complicated PE).

I have not really shot a field camera like these, my experience in mainly with a Calumet monorail in a studio. I am a part-time professional photographer while I work my way through grad school. I have a lot of experience in small and medium format and a modest amount of experience with large format. I am an avid solo camper/backpacker/hiker/nature person, and I frequently travel to Big Bend and other spots around Texas with my Hasselblad and Nikon F5 in tow. I am looking for a 4x5 because I have become pretty serious about landscape photography and large format seems only a natural progression. My priorities in a 4x5 are weight (or lack thereof), ease of use, wide angle capabilities, and adjustments suitable for serious landscape photography in diverse places.

So basically I want to know, are the simplified manual adjustments on the Flight a fair trade for ease and speed of use? Will I be missing out on the Wisner patented gear features found on the PE and no rear rise on the Flight? I've read reviews on the PE, and they seem to have quite a fan base, but they are admittedly difficult and cumbersome for many people to use. Would someone who has experience with one or both of these cameras help clarify the tradeoffs between the two and how this might affect their practical ease of use in the field.

Thanks ahead of time,

Will Strain
19-Apr-2005, 10:21
I use a wisner traditional - whose movements are similar to the flight's.

For landscape work, I find them to be more than sufficient. When I'm doing architectural work is the only time that I miss the gearing and rear moments more.

I don't know how the Flight's bellows are - but if you regularly use anything shorter than a 90, I would get the bag bellows - on the traditional, there is a lot of extra bellows that gets in the way of WA moments.

Robert Skeoch
19-Apr-2005, 10:37
I haven't used those cameras but I do own a 8x10 tech. that has the geared movements and the back rise. I would give them up to use the much simpler and lighter trad. model.
I do love the camera though. Just so you know. If I was buying over again I would get the trad. model. Especially in 4x5 ... the weight difference isn't that big a deal because the cameras are all light.
-Rob Skeoch

Gem Singer
19-Apr-2005, 11:11
Hello Laura Lea,

Before you decide on either of the two 4X5 Wisners you mention, make sure they are available. There is a waiting list for new ones and very few previously owned ones in the used market place. Both cameras will handle the job that you described. Go for the best deal you can get on a 4X5 Wisner, or choose a wooden camera that is lighter weight and less expensive, such as the Ebony RW45. If I were trekking around in Big Bend, I would be using a Toyo 45AII, or a similar metal (not wood) folding flat bed field camera, such as the Wista SP.

19-Apr-2005, 11:20
The Flight is a nice basic camera. Not much to go wrong on it. You will like its simplicity for your stated requirements. I would not hesitate to buy one except that you will have to wait the usual times to be custom built as I don't believe dealers generally stock this model. I'm a Wisner ULF dealer and I don't know any others that do but it would be worth it to check around. If you like I can inquire for you.Emile/www.deleon-ulf.com

19-Apr-2005, 13:19
Although I've found it intriguing, I've not actually used a "Flight". I have had a 4x5 Pocket Expedition. My initial impression with it was that the front standard hardware was much too "twiddly" and more trouble than it was worth. I had Wisner company exchange the "pocket front standard" for what they call their "simple front standard", which is the same front standard as on the Traditional model. In doing so I was able to retain the virtues of the Pocket Expedition including the top rear focus and the Deardorff style geared rising lens board. In my estimation I arrived at the best of both worlds combining the simplicity of the Flight with the versatility and light weight of the Pocket Expedition. The exchange of the front standards was a simple direct swap with no special modifications needed. Wisner company was very accommodating and made the exchange for only the cost of shipping in spite of the fact that I had bought the camera used from another source. And since it used off-the-shelf parts they were able to accomplish it in two weeks time (believe it or not...). The camera was a joy to use and was indeed remarkably light. I recently sold it, but only because I'm using 5x7 and larger. Wide angle lenses are easily accommodated. A 75mm was usable even without a bag bellows unless extreme movements were required. I still have photos of that conversion which I can email if you like.

New Pocket Expeditions are expensive, but they do show up occasionally on the used market; probably much more so than the Flight.

Scott Rosenberg
19-Apr-2005, 13:58

while i managed to miss the cameras you are considering, i did recently work my way through many 4x5 field cameras. though i can't advise you on the wisner, as i've heard too many horror stories about the company to consider becoming a customer, our end-use is quite similar... solo camping / backpacking. i also live in texas, so it seems as though we're on similar ground there too.

after using a technika, technikardan, ebony rw45, ebony sv45u2, canham metalfield, canhan woodfield, and arca-swiss, the camera i ended up with is an arca swiss f-line metric. it's not that much larger than any of the woodies, weighs almost the same as an ebony sv45u2, but is far more precise and rigid. plus, it's all metal, which is something i think is a good thing in a field camera. if i was going to buy a wood camera, it would be the canham, but i wanted metal, and so and happily getting on with my arca.

i know this isn't going to get you any closer to an answer, just wanted to let you know that there are some very good alternatives out there for the same money should you decide to open up the field a bit.

i'll not ramble on here about my likes and dislikes with all of the cameras i tested, but if you want more info, feel free to email me off the forum: scott@srosenberg.com

good luck,

Bruce E. Rathbun
19-Apr-2005, 15:46
I have used all of the Wisner models except the flight. My impression of the Pocket Expedition was that the camera was a tad on the flimsy side. As far as the additional movements go, unless you point the camera down the rear geared axis tilt does no good. In addition the front rise was rather stiff to use. The traditional model is the best bet for using. Never once have I run out of movements on any of my Wisner models. My 8x20 is a technical model and I would gladly give up the extra gears to save on the overall weight. Even on a 4x5 the movements would not matter that much IMHO. Maybe give some thought to the traditional model. Easier to find as well. Whatever model you get be sure to find it ready to go. An order from the factory will take some time. There are many good dealers like Emile that often stock the 4x5 traditional models. Good luck with you search.


Brian Ellis
19-Apr-2005, 20:59
Why not consider a Tachihara? Unless you need the longer Wisner bellows the Tachihara should have all you need for landscape photography (and most other types as well), weighs about the same as the PE maybe just a tad heavier at 4 lbs but still very light, is very simple to operate, costs about a third of the Wisner cost, and should be immediately available from MidWest Photo Exchange, Adorama, and other dealers.

Gary J. McCutcheon
19-Apr-2005, 21:16
I've had a Wisner 4x5 Pocket Expedition for a year and a half. I love it as much for it's complexity as for it's simplicity. If you learn the correct way to set it up, it is actually simple and relatively quick. One of the keys is to learn to set up the front standard to neutral and then use the geared front tilt for even the slightest movements. Very precise if handeled with skill and care. The geared rise on the front board is a must for use of wide angle lenses. I use a 65mm lens regularly with the top rear focus is racked forward all the way. The front standard must be tilted back and leveled. I use a bubble level or angle finder for precision (good idea with most wood field cameras). With the standard bellows in place, I am able to get plenty of rise and fall by raising the front lens board. It works well and is an amazing feature for wide angles that was adapted from the Deardorff concept.
The flight is essentially a PE with a simplified front, as on the TF and Expedition. When Will had his PE modified he actually ended up with a Wisner Flight. The Flight has the same rear as the PE, that means the rear top focus for easier wide angle work, but the front is the standard base tilt, shift and rise/fall.
This camera is so light it may give the impression of being flimsy. It is not. I've owned many 4x5 field and monorail cameras and have used many more. This camera for me is the most fun I've had in a long time and I shoot all day long with a Hasselblad. Now that is simple. If fiddly frustrates you, get the Flight. The fiddly just doesn't feel fiddly to me. I know the camera now and can set it up quickly. If you decide to purchase one I'd be happy to give you pointers if you chime back in or get my e-mail.
If you purchase through Emile deLeon, he will work with Wisner to get you a camera in a timely manner. You can purchase directly through Wisner, but may need to make frequent phone calls to check on progress. If you are lucky enough to find one of these cameras used and can see it in person, do so. I was fortunate enough to play with mine before purchasing at a camera store new. I have a TF that I bought used and enjoy it too. Good luck and remember to enjoy your photography.

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