View Full Version : Robustness of LF Lenses for Landscape Photography

25-May-2007, 17:16
Having recently abandoned 35mm digital for LF, I'm curious about the robustness of LF lenses exposed to the elements. I suppose I've been spoiled previously using all Canon L-Series lenses which were weather sealed....seriously weather sealed (not just marketing hype). On the one LF lens that I own, I notice the copal shutter cocking mechanism looks like a weak point for penetration of rain, dust etc. How serious an issue is this? As well, how do these mechanical shutters handle low temperature? I make an annual winter pilgrimage out to Banff and Jasper where it is not unusual for the temperature to plummet to -40 degrees centigrade. Is shutter accuracy going to be an issue?

~ Jeff

Walter Calahan
25-May-2007, 17:48
No, an LF lens shutter is not sealed like a Canon L-Series lens. I suggest a large umbrella super-clamped to a light stand to shield you LF system if you find the need to shoot in the rain or snow. Dust is a different matter all together.

Mechanical shutters will slow down in the cold. What's nice is you can pre-fire them a couple of times to warm them up, but best to test the speed accuracy before actually shooting. At -40°C, I'd stay inside cause that's a dangerous temperature.

Enjoy the adventure.

25-May-2007, 17:54
I too am new to LF.

I think the lenses are going to be the least of your worries.
How about wind and rain and snow on the bellows? How will a bellows handle -40 ?
What about the film holders?

What kind of camera are you using?

Gene McCluney
25-May-2007, 17:56
There isn't a lens/shutter on the market new or used for LF that is weather sealed for the shutter part of the lens. You just have to adopt a more careful approach to your photography to reap the benefits of the large negative.

Gene McCluney
25-May-2007, 17:58
Also, if you have to worry about the accuracy of your shutter speeds, then perhaps you are not stopping down enough. Stop down enough to where you can count the exposure off, with the shutter set on B. One-thousand-and-one, One-thousand-and-two, etc.

Glenn Thoreson
25-May-2007, 19:31
You can have your shutter serviced and lubed with arctic luricants, or left dry. Regardless, they do slow down, and if not really clean, even stick. It's pure mechanics and the nature of the beast. People use them in arctic conditions and get great photos, though. Myself, I'm too old to be out there when it's that cold, and it gets that cold here. 40 below is 40 below on either scale. Brrrrr!

Scott Knowles
26-May-2007, 05:35
Like this ( http://www.laytoncamera.com/ewtest.html)?

26-May-2007, 05:37

Check this thread for some info on cold weather shooting:


26-May-2007, 06:29
Cheers everyone for the feedback. What a great forum!

David - Congratulations as well on discovering LF. My only regret is I did not make this move 10 years ago before I took all those landscape trips with 35mm and medium format:o I just bought the Arca Swiss F-Field with geared orbix from Rod Klukas at Photomark. A top drawer individual to deal with (as are most people involved with LF). I had a brief experience with the Ebony SV45TE and decided it just was not the right tool for me for reasons beyond the scope of this thread. I have no doubts the AS will handle any conditions thrown at it, but the lenses do look somewhat delicate when compared to their DSLR counterparts. Good question about the bellows. They are quit pliable and softer than a babies bottom right now, but what happens to those oils at -40.....I don't know for sure, but I know my skin is certainly uncomfortable. Film holders at -40 is also a great question. Certainly the lack of humidity could be considered a problem in that static charge could be created when removing the dark slide. So far I am using Fidelity holders (plastic, not metal) and am shooting strictly chromes. I also have a Fuji Quickload holder and some "just expired" RVP 50. Perhaps this system would be less susceptible to extreme cold? I guess polaroids would be out of the question....have been having some fun with the 545i and 55P/N as a learning tool, but I suspect the chemical reaction for processing would come to a grinding halt at -40.

Gene - I tend to stop down usually between f/22 - f/32 after I have made my movements in order to minimize the focus spread. I judiciously loupe the GG checking all areas when stopped down (if feasible). So far, no issues with sharpness or DOF. Sometimes I will come out from under the cloth and if possible try to position myself at what i beleive to be the intersection point of the film plane, lens plane, and subject plane just to make sure my standards look like they are in the right ballpark for intersecting my choice of subject plane. Still having a bit of trouble coupling tilt and swing, but I'm sure with practice I will be able to establish an efficient workflow. For shutter speed, I tend to prefer T mode as opposed to B. I'm using a Timex stop watch with a large display which actually counts down and then chimes when the programed time has elapsed (it also has Indiglo which is an added benefit when programming the exposure time in dim light). Because it chimes at the end of the exposure it means I can observe my subject (to make sure nothing blows) instead of the watch itself.

26-May-2007, 08:00

One more link related to cold weather and large format:


Not sure what the status of this camera is - seems like there was a thread a while back related to the delay of production.

26-May-2007, 08:41
Might I suggest the little chemical hand warmers. I have both the disposable kind and the kind that you boil in water to revitalize them. I throw them in the backpack when it is cold and it heats up all that iron and glass since the backpack has a fair amount of thermal insulation. When I take a lens out I lay one of the packs on the lens for composition and give a little time without the pack for the lens to stabilize thermally before the shot depending on ambient temp.


Frank Petronio
26-May-2007, 09:38
The real answer to inclement weather is to use a camera that you don't really care about, like a $200 Crown Graphic in good condition. You can drop it in the snow, get it soaked, etc. and not worry. The least weather-proof camera is the most expensive one that you baby.

I really doubt anyone could tell whether you made a picture with a $200 Crown and Xenar lens or a $5000 Ebony - best of the best set-up.

Lot's of people have a beater, just like bikes and cars.

John Kasaian
26-May-2007, 09:52
Have your shutter lubed with K-Y. Really. It'll act as a lubricant under the most frigid conditions :D (I can't believe I wrote that!). At least thats what a Photography Prof at CSUF told us. IIRC Bradford Washburn used kerosene as a cold weather lubricant but I think that would be an issue with some shutters. You could always use a Fairchild K-17 aerial camera---if you can hang it out of a B-29 at 30,000' and take photos with one, Banff shouldn't be a problem. ;)

27-May-2007, 16:03
While on the topic of robustness, I might as well ask what other forum members are using to repair light leaks in bellows. I'm sure at some point, usually on an expensive trip, this will happen. Either the glue will let go or a puncture will eventually occur. Any advice for a field repair kit? What do you consider the most relevant tools to take on a long trip? Please don't say a spare GG ($$$):eek:

John Kasaian
27-May-2007, 17:54
Light leak repairs---gaffer's tape. For long term repairs ---the goopy stuff from Equinox Photographic (for pinholes only though!) FWIW I find swiss army knives invaluable.I have a nifty little Leatherman Micro somebody gave me but the Swiss Army knives are the ones I use the most. Why plural (knives?) One has a #2 slotter phillips that works like a charm on #2 phillips screws. My other Swiss Army Knife has a corkscrew (why dosen't the U S Army have corkscrews??)
My Field Repair Kit:

Roll of gaffer's tape in a zip lock bag (a handy item in its self!)
Roll of duct tape (actually this rides in the truck)
Swiss Army knives for slotted and #2 phillips screws, slicing salami and opening the wine.

Another handy item:
A black shower curtain

If you're paranoid about breaking your gg, make or buy a gg protector. If you're really anal about breaking your gg, take along a piece of plexiglass or lexan sanded to support an aerial image as a replacement. :)

Scott Knowles
28-May-2007, 17:38

One more link related to cold weather and large format:


Not sure what the status of this camera is - seems like there was a thread a while back related to the delay of production.

John has notified people with deposits the status of the production, and asked that we not really say much as he and the new company have to sort out the details and timelines for the production. I personally expect to see mine sometime this year. After that I don't know, but I hope more people place an order to have an excellent field camera and see the work on this camera continue.

28-May-2007, 21:44
The real answer to inclement weather is to use a camera that you don't really care about, like a $200 Crown Graphic in good condition.

I tried a Superspeed Graphic which I cared about but wasn't overly concerned about. No luck. But then again it was probably way too cold too.