View Full Version : Back Movements on 7x17

Kerry L. Thalmann
7-Nov-2005, 14:58
Another 7x17 question...

Inspired by a response in another thread, I again call on the wisdom of the 7x17 (and larger) shooters of this forum for further advice.

Due to the typical long lead times and high cost of 7x17 cameras, unless a great deal on a pristine used camera falls in my lap, I am considering building my own camera. Keep in mind that while I'm reasonably handy, I'm no master craftsman. So, I'd like to keep the design as simple as possible. To that end, I am considering building a camera with NO, or very limited, back movements. The inspiration for this idea is Patrick Alt's Alt View 410 WA. This is a non-folding 4x10 camera with a rigid back and only rise and tilt on the front. Due to the fact that it has no movements and doesn't fold up, the result is a camera, that is very light (although not exactly compact) and extremely rigid.

In my case, I would have the full compliment of front moves (rise/fall, tilt, shift and swing).

So, all you 7x17 shoters, which back moves to you use, how much and why. If it's just due to the fact that you can't reach the front standard controls when using long lenses, would you still NEED rear movements if you limited yourself to using shorter lenses.

In the 4x5 format, I use back tilt quite a bit. In 4x5, I'm not a huge ultrawide and back tilt for the "looming" foreground kind of guy, but I do use it on occasion. I have found on 4x10 - a format with similar aspect ratio to 7x17, I use rear tilt a LOT less often, and probably could get by without it and rely solely on front tilt if I had to.

Keep in mind, I only shoot landscapes and in 4x10 (and 7x17), and I only shoot horizontals - no vertical panoramas for me.

So, with those constraints (horizontal landscapes with no really long lenses), could you be happy with a camera that had NO back movements? If not, what is the minimum compliment of rear movements you would find acceptable?


Christopher Perez
7-Nov-2005, 15:25
Hi Kerry,

I tend to use lots of rear tilts and swings. This is due to several factors, including the reach to the front standard (it's too far away to make micro adjustments). Also, I find the narrow DOF of even 300mm lenses is enough to demand swings/tilts to bring an image under control.

If you'd like to try the idea out, let me know. My 7x17 Korona is light, easy to use, and might give you a few ideas on how to proceed. I even have a couple boxes of old out of date HP5+ you could experiement with if you like.

Oren Grad
7-Nov-2005, 15:29
I could be very happy with a 7x17 with no back movements, so long as I had at least a couple of inches of direct front rise available. If that weren't possible, I'd want both rear and front tilts available as a workaround to get enough front rise.

Oren Grad
7-Nov-2005, 15:33
The Korona forces the use of rear tilts and swings because it doesn't have them in the front, unless one has a modified camera. If I were designing a camera from scratch and could have swing and tilt on only one standard, I'd put them on the front.

Christopher Perez
7-Nov-2005, 15:37
The larger the camera the more difficult it is to manipulate front swings/tilts from behind the ground glass. I'm wondering if this isn't why Korona did what they did. Anyways, it works v.well for me.

7-Nov-2005, 16:18
You are going to need lenses with super coverage if you plan on using only front moves as the front movements eat up coverage faster than the back. Protars and Computars come to mind. Best, Emile/www.deleon-ulf.com

Janko Belaj
7-Nov-2005, 16:22
I think that some rear movements will be useful if your lens have somewhat limited coverage... Back tilt first came to my mind - as I'm shooting landscapes, I have found that small amount of perspective degradation (or accent?) isn't that bad if I can use back tilt for long(er) plane of sharpness without catching lens vignetting...

Oren Grad
7-Nov-2005, 16:32
The fold-down front rail with rise/fall in front and swing/tilt in back was a very common design for wooden cameras of the 1900-1930 era right down to the smallest formats, like my quarter-plate Ansco. And although the Ansco is really just a souvenir for me, I do use that design routinely in my 6.5x8.5 Eastman No. 2.

Swings and tilts on the rear are just a bit fussier because they change the image geometry and many subjects require a corresponding movement on the tripod head to correct it, while movements on the front standard let me get what I want directly with a single correction. Not a show-stopper by any means, though - the Korona can be lots of fun to use, and it's definitely more fun to carry than most other 7x17s.

On the Koronas and other old cameras with this design, the rear standard does tend to be pretty spongy, although that's primarily because of the way the rear standard rides on the focus rail, not because of the mechanics of the swing and tilt movements.

The most rigid rear standard I've ever seen on a wooden camera is that of my 8x10 Phillips Compact. The rear standard has tilt only. It's mounted with a hinge along the base and secured with a diagonal strut, and when the knobs on the strut are tightened the rear standard is like a rock - it might as well be part of a solid casting with the bed. Kerry, if you're thinking of building your own, it might be worth a look at the 8x10 Compact design for ideas - it's an amazing combination of mechanical simplicity, light weight, and rigidity, and offers all front moves together with the rear tilt.

Kerry L. Thalmann
7-Nov-2005, 18:06
Thanks for all the great responses. It's been very helpful. Please keep them coming.

Emile and Janko - thanks for your comments regarding lens coverage and back movements. Coming from smaller formats, where my lenses usually have plenty of coverage, I overlooked this issue when drafting my original question. It's certainly something to consider. I do admit I use rear tilt a lot on my 4x5s - mostly because I'm used to it and all my cameras have it.

Chris - thanks for your insight and the offer to take your 7x17 Korona for a spin. If I ever have a weekend where I don't have 50 other things going on and it's not pouring down rain, I may take you up on it.

Oren- thanks for your input and your comments on the Phillips design. I have always been a big admirer of Dick Phillip's designs. You can tell his cameras are designed by someone who actually uses them and understands all the trade-ofss. He seems to give you everything you need and nothing more. This results in cameras that are a joy to use, but are as lightweight and rigid as physically possible. Specifically, I always liked the back tilt only design of the original 8x10 Compact. As you state, it provides a large degree of back tilt, but with absolutely no compromise regarding rigidity. I've always thought if I was to build an ultra, ultra light 4x5 camera for backpacking, it would employ a similar set of movements to the original Phillips 8x10. Perhaps a a design with back tilt only and full moves on the front would be the best compromise of simple design and usability for my needs.

The only ULF camera I have ever owned was an 11x14 Kodak 2D. Like most of the contemporary cameras, it had generous direct front rise/fall (geared no less) and rear swing and axis tilt. It seems like most of these older cameras put the angular movements (swing and tilt) on the rear and the linear movements (rise/fall and shift) on the front. Separating the movements in this manner probably made the cameras simpler to build while mantaining decent rigidity. As Emile and Janko observed, this was probably also a by-product of an era when many of the most common lenses didn't have the most generous coverage.

As far as operating the controls on the front standard, based on my experience with 4x10, I predict the 240mm and 355mm focal lengths will be my most used on 7x17. I should have no trouble reaching the front standard controls when using those lenses. I will, however also be using 450mm and 600mm lenses on this format. My arms are longer than average, but still operating the front controls and observing the ground glass simultaneously may be a bit problematic with the 600mm. That's easy enough to verify though. I have a lens board on the way that will let me use the 600mm on my 4x10. Once it arrives, I'll mount it up and see how it works. If my reach is too short, rear movements may be the best solution (other than a pair of Inspector Gadget arms).


Bob Eskridge
7-Nov-2005, 18:21
Kerry, there was an excellent article about Chris McCaw and his do-it-yourself 7X17 camera in the July/August 2002 issue of View Camera Magazine. One of the most inspiring articles I have ever read. Inspiring for a person like me who spends more time thinking about equipment than he should.

A combination of McCaw's design and Ritter's should give you the extension you need and still be compact and light and easy to build.

7-Nov-2005, 18:25
One of the reasons I had Ron build my 8x20 in the expedition model was the geared rear axis tilt. I love that feature and have it on both the vertical and horizontal backs. It's nice dialing in the back tilt with geared movements and not having to come out from underneath the dark cloth to do it. And it's smooth, especially with that tall 20" vertical back, you can dial it right in. It is one Of Mr. Wisners" more ingenuous designs. Granted it is not necessary but nice. I got use to using it on my 8x10 pocket expedition after I bought it. At the time I didn't know of this little additional knob on the rear standard. I bought the 8x10 used and for a good price. I was just lucky because at the time I was new to large format. Boy have I learned alot since. But I guess I will put up with alot to get the features I want. I salute you for even considering trying to take on the task of building an ulf camera. For me it would require taking time away from my shooting and printing. and that's not an option for me. To put it simply, and as you may already know what I mean, I don't wrestle with these huge cameras because I so much as want to....I do it because I have to. ( a personal thing). If you decide to tackle this , Please keep us updated to the progress. Because as all of us ULF'ers are afraid to admit, we do have some what of an equipment fetish or we would have never made it to ULF. Good luck.

Kerry L. Thalmann
8-Nov-2005, 00:24
Bob - Yes, I remember the article and portfolio by Chris McCaw. I really enjoyed it at the time. Thanks for reminding me. I'll go dig out the issue and re-read it for inspiration.

Robert - My original 4x10 was a Wisner Tech Field and one of the best features of that camera was the geared back tilt. I doubt if I'm up to anything that sophisticated.

Also, I should clarify that when I say I might BUILD a 7x17 what I really mean is a might ASSEMBLE one. I'm not the type to re-invent the wheel. In the past, when I've tackled camera construction projects, I always borrow parts from other camera and combine them together, with a few pieces I make (the fewer the better) to get the combination I desire. If I attempt anything with 7x17, it will most likely be a similar amalgamation of bits and pieces from various donor cameras and custom made parts. For me, it seems like a more effecient and cost effective means to an end.


Jay DeFehr
8-Nov-2005, 05:04
Hi Kerry.

I'm building a 14x17 camera for location portraiture, so while my needs are far different from yours, I too am being forced to decide which movements I need, and where. My two most critical design features are extension, and rigidity, especially at the front standard, which will have to support some very big, heavy lenses at long extensions. The only front movement I've sacrificed to rigidity is swing. I will have tilt and swing on the rear. I haven't decided yet, wether I'll make a 7x17 reducing back, or just use a half-mask with my 14x17 back. I'm a big fan of reducing backs, and have a complete set for my Deardorff, from 3x4-8x10, but the expense of ULF holders will factor heavily in my decision making. Good luck with your project.


8-Nov-2005, 06:58
but the expense of ULF holders will factor heavily in my decision making

Silly question from me: Is the 7x17 film holder size standardized (I think not)? It would seem that one has to tie his design to a ULF film holder's designer/maker's choice of dimensions. Given the awesome expense of that particular part, I would be tempted to dive into designing holders I could make myself.

That said, and given the long lenses for ULF and the kind of work done with it, it seems that only modest rear movements are needed; guestimating 12 to 15 degrees of tilt & swing, max.

8-Nov-2005, 07:34
I use mostly rear tilt and swing. Rear tilt because its easier, and I can focus at the same time (basically). The 'distortion' with rear tilt is minimal and rarely objectionable. It also solves possible vignettng with front tilt, which even with a 12" dagor, is not the easiest thing in the world to manage. Because of the wide angle of view, I use swing quite a bit as well. I would sorely miss these two options. Plus, its really easy to do on the phillips with the focusing knob right there.

Kerry L. Thalmann
8-Nov-2005, 11:14
Thanks again for all the great responses.

I did an experiment last night with my 4x10 camera. I racked the bellows out to 24" (which is about 1.4" longer than I need to infinity focus with my 600mm Fujinon C) and tried adjusting the front standard movements. My arms are long enough to do this and still observe the ground glass. It is a stretch and puts my face closer to the ground glass than I'd like. It would be really dificult to adjust the front tilt and loupe the groung glass at the same time.

For this reason, and concerns about lens coverage when using front movements, I'll probably compromise and at the very least include tilt on the rear standard, and possibly swing. This seems like a good compromise.


David Flockhart
8-Nov-2005, 16:15
Regarding movements there is a beauty to a certain simplicity. I've been using a modified system for my 8x20 and 11x14 for several years and it works well. It is a Sinar P system that I mount those cameras onto. All the movemnts that one could desire at there.

I just received an old Korona 7x11 in like new condition that has only swing and axis tilt on the rear. The front has only rise and shift. Yet by tilting the camera I can emulate front tilt. I know that it is a compromise but it does make the adjustments very easy and within reach without scrunching my nose on the ground glass.

John Banister
9-Nov-2005, 11:29
I don't know that it would result in a camera that you'd want to use, but it seems to me that you
could maximize ease of construction without sacrificing movements by constructing a rear format frame and the corresponding bellows for a monorail camera. The movements would all be provided by the function carrier and it wouldn't cost too awfully much to get a machinist to make the dovetail (or other appropriately shaped piece of metal) to match the clamp that holds the rear frame on a piece of metal that you could then screw to the bottom of the frame you make.

Kerry L. Thalmann
9-Nov-2005, 17:24
John - I don't know that it would result in a camera that you'd want to use, but it seems to me that you could maximize ease of construction without sacrificing movements by constructing a rear format frame and the corresponding bellows for a monorail camera. The movements would all be provided by the function carrier and it wouldn't cost too awfully much to get a machinist to make the dovetail (or other appropriately shaped piece of metal) to match the clamp that holds the rear frame on a piece of metal that you could then screw to the bottom of the frame you make.

Perhaps something like this:


That's my 4x10 ARCA-SWISS/Lotus hybrid (I call it a Lotus-Swiss). It works great and is a joy to use. When I first envisioned assembling a 7x17, that's exactly what I had in mind - only super sized. Then, I became seduced with the simple, sturdy and ultralight design of Patrick Alt's non-folding Alt View 410 WA.


As Patrick's 4x10 is almost two and a half pounds lighter than my 4x10 Lotus-Swiss, a 7x17 based on Patrick's design would no doubt be substantially lighter than a 7x17 monorail based design. But, then again, the monorail would offer full movements front and rear. I guess there's no free lunch. If you want to cut weight, you have to give up something.