View Full Version : In praise of my old clunker

7-Dec-2006, 20:38
On a recent trip to America I purchased a good condition Calumet c400 with a 26" rail from a member of this list.

I had read before getting the camera that it was a heavy beast and a bit of a dinosaur to use -- well nothing could be further from the truth. The camera weighs 8 Ibs and that is only marginally heavier than my Shen.

Yes it doesn't fold so transprting it involves a bit of bulk and that could be a drawback for some however the bag I have made for it holds my backpack for my lenses and the 4x5 camera so while there may be some extra bulk it is all quite contained.

I set up the camera on the tripod and put the backpack on and off I go with the camera and tripod as a unit over my shoulder. If I was considering kilometres of hiking [which I wouldn't:)] then I would probably use the Shen. A kilometre or two from the car is fine with the camera on the tripod over the shoulder.

It certainly is not as heavy as some people make out and at 53 I'm nowhere near as strong as I once was yet I can carry it as well as my Shen. I would like a folder for 5x4 that had similar features as the Calumet especially the bellows draw. My friend has a Canham 5x7 with a 5x4 reducing back and about 30" inches of bellows so that is approaching the ultimate all round camera for me.

The real advantage for me is the bellows draw, 22". Close up work or the use of longer lenses is now very easy. I recently purchased a most amazing 19" Red Dot Artar in a shutter and can use it happily on this camera. I built an extension for the lenses and can use this lens up to 26" of exension. At that extension the camera is still rock steady.

One disadventage is the difficulty using a 90 mm WA but it can be done. Another is the length of bar behind the ground glass when you are under the dark cloth. For the first couple of times you bang into it but you adapt.

Initially I hated the axial tilts for focus but this camera is beautifully designed to make that style of focussing a no brainer. Everything about the camera looks primative compared to modern monorails yet everything is extremely funtional.

I hadn't considered a monorail for landscapes as since my first use of 5x4 nearly 30 years ago all of my cameras have been folding metal or wood field or press cameras.

If you are contemplating a versatile camera with only a few minor limations then the old Calumet is a brilliant camera. A great way to get started and I bet you don't get rid of it even if you "upgrade".

I'm keeping mine.


Jim Galli
7-Dec-2006, 23:33
Well said Steve. I feel exactly the same way about my old 2D. While others scoff and sniff, I just make pictures. It's like an old pair of shoes to me.

8-Dec-2006, 01:25
Well said Steve. I feel exactly the same way about my old 2D. While others scoff and sniff, I just make pictures. It's like an old pair of shoes to me.

I'm not certain if it has anything to do with the age of the camera but for some reason it seems to love old lenses. :)

The Verito and the Velostigmat are fitted to the 4x4 lens boards Jim and seem to like the camera.

Getting the Velostigmat on the 4x4 lensboard was a definite challenge as the retaining ring is just a tad larger than 4x4.

Frank Petronio
8-Dec-2006, 06:39
Don't do this to it...

8-Dec-2006, 11:16
I certainly didn't see you having any problems using it when I was there. :D You seemed to really enjoy that camera, and that is all that really counts.

Ernest Purdum
8-Dec-2006, 11:34
These were very popular as photography school cameras and for good reason. They stand up well and allow familiarity with all the movements. I still think they are highly to be recommended as a first LF camera.

Yours is the long focus version which you have obviously found desirable for your work. I used to use one like it for product photography with a 300mm lens and it was very nice for that purpose. I could get really close to the smaller items.

I can't find the pertinent catalog just now, but I am fairly confident in remembering that your model number is CC401 and that the original CC400 has a bellows draw of 16". There is also a special wide angle model, CC402, which is quite pleasant to use with short focus lenses.

Bill Koechling
8-Dec-2006, 11:40

I bought mine around 1972 at Calumet in Illinois. This is before Calumet had "stores". They were manufacturers of stainless steel darkroom sinks at the time but offered the camera and other photo equipment in their catalog. I was given a tour of the factory before picking up the camera and was told that the employees were all excited because Ansel Adams had just been in hours earlier to take the same tour I was taking. He too picked up a C400 and later praised it as a wonderful camera.

I enjoyed mine as did Ansel. You will too.

Bill Koechling

Ben Calwell
8-Dec-2006, 13:59
That was my first view camera, and I still have it. I've always thought it was a great camera and quick to set up in the field.
Just hoist it out of the case, and if you've got a quick release plate on the bottom, slap it on a tripod, rack out the bellows, and you're ready to shoot.
I bought mine new as a package with lens, case, loupe and darkcloth from Calumet in 1982.
For me, the only pain was using it with wide angle lenses. I had to use a recessed board for my 90mm, and in my case, I used a pencil to reach in and set the aperture (my fingers are too big to squeeze in and reach the aperture lever).
Other than that, a great camera.

Ernest Purdum
9-Dec-2006, 17:06
This same camera was also sold as the B&J "Orbit". I notice one on eBay if anybody's interested. It's listed at $75.00 or Buy it Now at $125.00. It appears to be the 16" bellows length and is black. It closes tomorrow morning. The number is 270063635850

Jim Rice
9-Dec-2006, 18:17
Also sold as the Kodak Master View. I used one for years and never fully adapted to my Wisner "upgrade". A very intuitive camera.