View Full Version : Zone VI cameras - differences between models?

13-Dec-2006, 18:28
Speaking of Zone VI cameras, I have only brief descriptions but no images of two Zone VI cameras. Could someone please help me with basic specs/features?



To expand a little - I am trying to decide between a new Shen-Hao and possibly a used Zone VI or Wisner or similar wood field camera. I don't know much about Zone VI or Wisner other than the fact that most everybody is singing them praises and that they have longer bellows than a Shen, which is something I'd like to have. I would also like to stay within $600-$800 budget and get a new or ex+ camera.

Thank you in advance.

Eric Biggerstaff
13-Dec-2006, 19:12

I have one of the Zone VI cameras with the gold plated hardware, mine is made from the Black Walnut. Prior to this I used a Tachihara for 12 years and loved it, still use it in fact.

The Zone VI is an upgrade to my Tachi in that it allows me to use longer lenses, is a tad bit more solid (ok, maybe more than a tad),has the option to change bellows to a bag, and the bail back is a feature I like. Mine was made before Calumet purchased Zone VI.

The only draw back I see with mine is the gold plating can / will pit over time. It is just not a sturdy plating, but it is pretty to look at. I also like the larger knobs on my later version as compared to the skinny knobs on the earlier models, but this is not a big deal.

I have never used a Shen Hao but many on this forum really like them and it is a heck of a camera for the price ( as is the Tachihara). I think you cannot go wrong with either camera you are looking at and if you buy one and don't like it, you can sell it for what you paid on the auction site as cameras are in demand at the moment.

I purchased my Zone VI used on eBay for about $400 and have replaced the bellows for $125. I also had Richard Ritter give the camera a tune up which was about $50 bucks. These are good things to do if you buy a used Zone VI. I don't mind spending this on the camera as I am still under current market price and I think this camera will be with me for many, many years of enjoyable use.

Hope that helps a little.

John Bowen
13-Dec-2006, 19:53
You'll come to love the large knobs (on the Zone VI with the bail back) if you spend much time photographing in the cold with gloves on.

David Karp
13-Dec-2006, 20:14
There was an article a little while back in View Camera that explained the differences between the 4x5 Zone VI cameras. I think Richard Ritter may have been the author.

14-Dec-2006, 01:00

Thanks for the information. It is precisely the gold plating and all the "pretyness" that turns me off somehow. I prefer the more muted look, something like Canham. I know that the look doesn't a camera make, but I still have to look at it every time I use it, so it is a factor :)

Much bigger dilemma is "new or used" one. I tend to prefer new, especially when it comes to technology, and even more so the wood camera. On the other hand, I would like to have longer bellows draw for longer lenses and/or closeups. Both Zone VI models I mention are listed at KEH, the one with bail back even a little higher than my budget...

I guess I will have to take my time deciding, but I think I will lean toward the Shen in the end.


I see your point, but believe me, I try to spend as little time as possible in the cold, especially the sort that requires wearing gloves. That's why I live in SoCal - Cold starts at 60 F here (that's +15 C for our Northern neighbours.). :D

Bruce Barlow
14-Dec-2006, 05:45
I helped Richard Ritter build the first 1,000 Zone VI cameras after Wisner stopped making them. There are many subtle engineering things that Richard changed to make the camera more durable after Wisner (such as using screw inserts rather than screwing into wood - you won't see it, but your camera will be longer-lasting for it, and having focus stops so the front rail doesn't go overboard with your expensive lens attached if you rack the focus a tad too far). So I'd vote for a Zone VI-by-Ritter.

Ah, I miss the old days of staying until midnight at Zone VI gluing bellows to plastic bellows frames. Contact cement is such a wonderful high...

14-Dec-2006, 06:41
Simple put both cameras on a tripod and push then over. I did that to a Zone VI camera see my video. www.circleofthesunproductions.com It did not break on the first try or the fifth. And it had a lens on it. I have seem the Shen-Hao and worked with it. I would rather drop and break a Wisner or a Zone VI in the field. They are eraser to field repair.

I am trying to pry a Zone VI out of the hands of a friend. His blew over in Scotland and broke the box that held the back and the frame to hold the lens. He was running down the stream picking pieces of his camera out of the water. That night he glued it back together and went out photographing the next day. Time for its second rebuild.

Richard T Ritter

Eric Biggerstaff
14-Dec-2006, 09:21
That is a good point, I too had mine blow over last year and it didn't even nick the wood. Just kept on going! It really is a well made camera.

Drew Bedo
14-Dec-2006, 11:11
The article by Mr Ritter appeared in the Jan/Feb 2003 issue of View Camera. It is a good read and will help anyone figure out which Zone VI model is which.

Mark Sampson
14-Dec-2006, 11:58
See my post in the other thread about what happened when my Z-VI went down. Warranty or not, don't let that happen to you!