View Full Version : Why is it called a view camera?

Bob Burman
19-Jun-2005, 23:20
Just wondering...

Why is a view camera called a view camera? Because the image can be viewed through the focusing screen? What then, pedantically, would be a view camera with a digital back?

Sorry for the nitpicking :-)

Daniel Morgan
19-Jun-2005, 23:34
When you put the film back into the view camera you can't see out of the back either so..... whats the difference?

Alan Davenport
19-Jun-2005, 23:42
Why is a view camera called a view camera?
I expect you'll get some serious attempts at answers (this isn't one of them) but I also suspect most, if not all, of the answers will be WAGs. You'll need to build a time machine and go ask someone who knew.

Because the image can be viewed through the focusing screen?
I doubt it. All 35mm SLRs have a focusing screen where you view the image, and they aren't called view cameras.

What then, pedantically, would be a view camera with a digital back?
Uh... a "view camera with a digital back?" Digital view camera? Variable geometry digital camera? Right now, you start with a camera from one manufacturer, then go looking for a digital back from somebody else. So there isn't really a term for the combination. Maybe someone will decide to sell such an animal; then if they come up with a catchy name (or corner the market) we'll all use their name for it.

Maybe we'd all better be working on the answers to the tough questions we'll be fielding in a few years. "What was film, Grandpa?"

Janko Belaj
20-Jun-2005, 02:26
Well, old members know that my english isn't the best one, but I think I can help in explaining the meaning of name "the view camera" just with translation from terms I know in Croatian and German (and I think I have seen those in English as well, but I'm not quite sure right now) - view or technical camera's real name is "optical bench" and more descriptive name is "camera for direct viewing" (I'm not sure for spelling on the second term). I think that you can now easily explain why abbreviated name is just "view camera"... (wow, spelling checker had nothing to do... now just to find some grammar and sentence checker... ;-))

Bob Salomon
20-Jun-2005, 04:40
"Maybe someone will decide to sell such an animal;"

They do.

Sinar had sold backs for their cameras.

Linhof owns Anagramm and mates backs with their cameras like the M679.

mark blackman
20-Jun-2005, 06:24
AFAIK, it's called a view camera because the image on the ground glass is *exactly* the image that will fall onto the film (unlike a SLR, TLR or rangefinder). The term 'technical' camera usually indicates a particularly generous amount of movements (back swing/tilt etc) - unlike the 'field' camera that usually has a lesser set.

Scott Rosenberg
20-Jun-2005, 06:44
from the cleveland museum of art glossary:

View camera

A large camera, so-called for the ground-glass viewing screen located on the same plane as the film. This screen, which receives light directly from the picture-taking lens, reveals precisely what the film will record. The typical view camera has four basic structural parts: a bed, the support on which the other parts rest and move, historically a dual track framework although most modern view cameras are monorail; the front, which has various mechanisms that support and allow adjustments to the lens; the back, which has the same freedom of movement as the front but incorporates a ground-glass viewing screen that moves out as a unit to accept a film holder and hold it in place; and the bellows, made of pleated leather or rubber-coated canvas, which provides a light-tight connection between front and back. Instead of bellows, some early view cameras were simply two boxes that could slide into one another.

Alan Davenport
20-Jun-2005, 07:48
Sinar had sold backs for their cameras.

Bob, I shoulda known that if anyone had that answer at hand, it would be you. Thanks.

All they need now, is a catchy name. :o)

Emmanuel BIGLER
20-Jun-2005, 09:17
"View Camera" seems to be typically English or American-English for certain kinds of large format [still] cameras.

French terminology refers to "chambre photographique" "chambre grand format" "chambre technique" or simply, " chambre" like in camera [obscura]. In French, "caméra" only refers to a movie- or cine-camera.
German refers to "Großformat" or "Fachkamera" the latter meaning 'Professionnal camera'.
Strangely enough, neither German nor French refer to anything like 'view' except in jokes like 'chambre avec vue'.

A real question is : since all serious porfessionals are supposed to be "moving to digital", for how long large format cameras will still be "professional" cameras !! ;-);-);-)

Daniel Morgan
20-Jun-2005, 09:53
They will still probably use some sort of view camera with a digital back for the movements, won't they?

20-Jun-2005, 12:20
Getting back to the original question, my personal WAG is that the term "view camera" came into use when cameras began to be built expressly in forms which allowed them to be taken outdoors for the making of "views". Their predecessors were what we now call "studio" cameras (the huge, floor-mounted beasts with built-in stands) but 'way back when they were probably just called...cameras. Other variants---"detective", "miniature" and "folding" cameras---came along later.

I base this suspicion mainly on the memory of old photographs, and collections, titled "View of <location>" or "Some Views of <exotic location>" .


John Kasaian
20-Jun-2005, 15:44
On July 29, 1882 Vittorio Sella made a panoramic mosaic of 13 30x40cm glass plates from the summit of the Matterhorn. After portaging the camera, tripod, 13 glass plates and Dallmeyer lens up to the top, a member of a Swiss Army expedition (testing out a newly designed pocket knife) who summited at about the time Vittorio was setting up his camera inquired if the camera was in fact, a Hasselblad (at that time Hasselblad was engaged in making trendy heliograph devices, and the climber suspected Sella might be engaged in some sort of espionage, since Cervinia is on the border between Switzerland and Italy where a lucrative trade in black market goat bells exists to this day) Vittorio, gasping for air after all that physical activity replied in a thick italian accent: "No, Its a (whew!) camera. " The Climber mistook (whew!) for "view" and in the following years during the popularity of 12x20 banquet cameras, the (whew)/view nomenclature was indelibly associated with what we now commonly call view cameras.