View Full Version : Zero Dents What does it mean

13-Jan-2007, 08:19

I am new to Large Format Photography and am still in the need to get a camera. Can someone answer what does it mean for a camera to have Zero Dents?



N Dhananjay
13-Jan-2007, 08:24
A damaged camera on eBay...

Jokes aside, you probably mean zero detents. As you are probably aware, view cameras typically have movements. The zero position is typically used to describe the condition when no movements are used and everything is completely square (i.e., film plane perpendicular to lens axis etc). Some cameras often have detents at the zero position, so that after you have used any movements, when you bring the camera back to the zero position, you can feel/hear a small click at the zero position. The camera would then be described as having zero detents.

Cheers, DJ

13-Jan-2007, 08:27

I am new to Large Format Photography and am still in the need to get a camera. Can someone answer what does it mean for a camera to have Zero Dents?



Hi Dale,

Zero detents are for the purpose of setting or resetting the camera tilts, swings, and possibly shifts to the zero positions by feel. When the camera is level and the zero detents are set this is/should be the original set-up position to take advantage of the lens capabilities for projection onto the film plane. Additionally, if things get a bit "out of wack" meaning things are not working the way the photographer wanted, he/she can then reset the camera to the original position via the zero detents.


John Kasaian
13-Jan-2007, 08:28
It hasn't been dropped? Or that there are detents that help you restore the adjustments on the standards to the "zero" or neutral position. Whether or not this feature is helpful or merely a crutch is up for a debate. Precision cameras like Sinar and Arca and Linhof offer these features on some high end models. I prefer simply to "eyeball" it---I like using my eyes when photographing as I notice a substantial improvement in my pictures when I do! ;)

13-Jan-2007, 08:33
Hi John,

Even my Toho Shimo FC-45X field monorail camera has zero detents. Maybe others think it a crutch, but I find them useful; they are useful for the purpose of centering the lens to make the most out of camera movements if needed. :)


John Kasaian
15-Jan-2007, 22:04
Hi Rich :)

Its not that I don't see a legitimate use for detents. If one wanted to duplicate a shot I think they'd be very useful, just not vitally neccesary, but that is my own observation and I freely admit that I could very well be full of beans about this. Having never used a camera with zero detents, I never missed not having them or even thinking to myself on occassion that I'd wish I had the option.

OTOH some people swear by them. Perhaps it could be a need, either real or imagined, for precise measurements that make the option so attractive to so many. I don't know about that, only that for me they aren't neccesary and if I had a camera with zero detents I could see how I would lean towards eventually trusting the detents over my own vision, in which case it would be a crutch (for me anyway)


Bob Gentile
15-Jan-2007, 22:23
"... If one wanted to duplicate a shot I think they'd be very useful..."

I'd imagine they would. But -- as with you -- my ol' B&J doesn't have them, so I've never missed them.

John Kasaian
15-Jan-2007, 22:57
I agree with you Bob, but it just occured to me that those of use who shoot old woodies have a lot of cabinetry to look at while we're setting up---it makes it natural to set things up squarely. On a metal monorail, particularly the newer designs with "L"s or round standards or base tilts there may not be the readily available visual cues older cameras offer, so detents may have a useful purpose in that scenario.

I can't imagine needing one on a wooden field camera though and I don't recall having them, or missing them, on a Calumet C-400 series either.

David A. Goldfarb
16-Jan-2007, 02:49
I have cameras with and without them, and I agree that they are handy. On some cameras, though, the detent can be strong enough that it's hard to set a very slight tilt close to the detent.

Bruce Osgood
16-Jan-2007, 09:13
I would like to add that when the camera is returned to zero detents it can then be closed.

John Kasaian
16-Jan-2007, 23:35
But Bruce, can't you just look at the thing and be able to tell if its going to close or not? :)

Ralph Barker
17-Jan-2007, 08:17
Although I've generally found detents to be handy for quick initial setup, it's also easy enough to get by without them, I think, by simply squaring the standards to the base. (I have a small $5 plastic triangle with bubble levels on the base and altitude for this purpose.)

But, a real "zero dents" camera might mean that the owner was young and strong enough to actually carry his cast-iron Calumet 8x10, rather than dragging it on the ground. ;)

Neal Shields
17-Jan-2007, 09:19

Most field cameras don't have to be returned to zero position to close.

They just have to be there to close them without damage.

Note all the old graflex press cameras with broken rail guides.