View Full Version : Succumbed to long lens lust, now what? (ULF question)

John Schneider
30-Nov-2007, 14:10
Many years ago I sold my 36” Cooke Vb, which I never used (didn’t really fit on my Technikardan :)). About a year later I began to ponder ULF and regret selling the lens. So when a lot of process lenses came up on feebay recently, I bit.

Now I have three long Artars, a 35”, 47.5”, and a rather puny-looking 19” (plus a nice 24" RD I bought here). They’re gorgeous beasts, coated (which I didn’t expect, being pre-RD) and with great glass. Now the question arises, what do I do with them, other than raising pack mules to lug them around? I guess I’m locked ;) into looking for a ULF camera, but what sort of camera would hold these beasts (9 lb for the 47.5") and have sufficient bellows draw (certainly not my 2D)? I would think a metal Calumet C-1 would hold, but that weighs a ton itself for only an 8x10 neg. I don’t “see square”, so a panoramic or semi-panoramic format would be best.

Dave Wooten
30-Nov-2007, 14:48
Just some thoughts on my present solution,

I havent seen a 47.5 lens up close and in person so don t know the diameter involved,
The Wisner 8 x 10 and up will hold the others. The 5 x 7 Wisner board is the same as the 8 x 10 .

Also, I like the large Toyo boards, the 6 inch ones, they are pretty easy to come by. The Toyo G 8 x 10 will hold the large lenses you mentioned. Tracy Storer is designing and contructing an alternative lensboard front for my Wisner 14 x 17 utilizing the Toyo boards, enabling better use for Nikkor f/11 750 mm and up.
I have standardized to the Toyo boards and when possible, use the small 4" field boards and adaptor plates. Where the lens dia is too large, I use the 6 inch board.
On the large (6 inch) Toyo board, the Nikkor f 12.5 (890 mm) 35 inch lens handily fits , as well as Artar 24 f/11/ and the Nikkor 24 f/9.

The toyo 6 inch board has available adaptor boards down to the small graflex boards....so you can also use your large lenses with Toyo 4 x 5 rail cameras as they use the 6 inch boards and bellows are available to 1200 mm.

So if you did not want to go ULF, the Toyo 8 x 10 G with the 1200 mm bellows is nice. Toyo boards , rails, bellows and backs pop up on the bay quite often, are interchangeable and are reasonable. In many ways the assembly and set up of the Toyo 8 x 10 rail system camera is less cumbersome than that of some ulf folders.....I port mine on the 6 inch rail .:)

David Vickery
1-Dec-2007, 01:48
John, you've got the lenses to cover anything, and they are fantastic! You would be surprised at how inexpensive 14"x36" X-Ray film is. Do you have basic woodworking skills?

erie patsellis
1-Dec-2007, 07:06
My guess would be to build something like this:


(unless you would rather gift them to an underpaid, starving artist type, of course)


John Bowen
1-Dec-2007, 12:24

I would suggest you contact Richard Ritter at http://www.lg4mat.net/ulf.html Richard will custom build you a camera to your requirements. I have one of his 7x17s and just love it. Lots of bellows extension, the ability to change from horizontal to vertical without the need for a second tripod. If you require lots of bellows extension for your very long lenses, Richard can accommodate your needs....just ask him.

Welcome to the wonderful world of ULF.

erie patsellis
1-Dec-2007, 12:42
I would second the reccommendation of Richard Ritter, for those of us who can't even consider new (or used) then building is, of course, the only reasonable option.


John Schneider
1-Dec-2007, 14:49
Thank you to all for your suggestions. I hadn’t considered a Toyo G, and while that is only 8x10, it might offer a good starting point for a homemade 7x17 (or thereabouts) back. I could either use just the front standard, or with the rail and rear function carrier also.

I’ve seen Richard’s cameras, and they are impressive. As a grad student, however, they’re too expensive. I’ve done some cabinetry in the past, but I have no stationary woodworking machinery here. But, I do have access to a machine shop, so I can make most anything in metal, and I can mill smaller wooden and plastic parts just as easily. When I wasn’t satisfied with the precision of my 4x5 Gowland Pocket View, I rebuilt it part by part until only maybe 25% of the parts were original. That experience taught me that it’s often easier not to reinvent the wheel, and use existing designs as much as possible.

So having said that, I must also say that I like the design of Erie’s camera. That, along with some Toyo bits, might make a workable design. I’ll have to you posted as to how it progresses…

1-Dec-2007, 18:18
People, If I may suggest one thing once and for all. If you don't have 5000 dollars, don't think going ULF. Camera and lens is not only items that are expensive.

From my experience.

p.s. Today, I'm very grumpy. I had a date last night, invested 200 dollars and came out nothing. Waste of money.:mad:

erie patsellis
1-Dec-2007, 19:08
I don't know, build your own camera and holders, shoot lith film and use older process lenses and a packard shutter/hat/lens cap and it's quite affordable. Lith film may not be for everybody, but it is capable of some wonderful tonality (e.g. Jim Galli's well received portraits are predominantly shot on Arista APHS lith film). Tripods are easily modified, perfect, perhaps not but workable nonetheless.

It just comes down to dollars versus sweat equity. Given the equipment available over the last 100+ years, and the results obtained, I can't agree with you Peter, if for no other reason than it comes down to how resourceful a person is willing to be.
Yes, I do have some reasonably nice equipment now, but I didn't pay anywhere near market value for it. In some cases, it was running across a killer deal and flipping it to get something I need, in others buying non working equipment and repairing it. If someone has the motivation, why not encourage them?

If shooting LF or ULF (or any artform, for that matter) just came down to $$$, there'd be a whole lot less real art and artists. Like anything else, it is easier if you have the money, but impossible, no, not by a long shot. Want state of the art? You will pay big $$$.

Then again, most of the images that are considered the pinnacle of the art form the last 100+ years were likely taken with equipment most people like you would consider "unclean" or unworthy, not of suffiecient quality to even consider. Take it for what it's worth, not meant as a personal attack, but in reality that very elitist/rich boy toy attitude is what turns off a lot of people to not only ULF, but LF and in fact film photography on the whole. I do everything I can to show people that any film photography is affordable, given enough resourcefulness, not if you don't have XXX dollars don't bother.

How many teenagers/20 somethings have much more than a few hundred dollars to spare? Probably not many, yet I have 3 young adults I'm mentoring in both MF and LF photography. Is their work somehow less worthy because they're using an old press camera and a 50 year old lens? From my perspective, an art form is a personal epxression. Whether it's getting their feet wet and seeing if it's something they have a true interest and passion in or a passing fad is immaterial to me, if they are truly expressing their artistic vision.

Perhaps the bigger question, and one that doesn't seen to be asked very often, is "What are you doing to promote traditional photography to the unwashed masses?" Promoting traditional photography goes far beyond exhibiting and the like, it's easy as an artist to get into the exhibit or perish ratrace. Personally, I feel that IF you are a comitted artist, there is a certain amount of spreading the knowledge, if you will, that must take place, or traditional photography as an art form will become even more of a niche than it already has become.

What is the harm in somebody, through hard work and overcoming the financial obstacles (by whatever means, including using less expensive materials), in shooting ULF? Or has it become a country club of sorts? Where only the beautiful, wealthy people can play?


p.s. Having $200 to spend on a date (which you refer to as an investment) tells me that either:
a) To you, money equals power, and view those around you as people who can be bought (hint: $200 would buy you a hour or two with a pro, no dissapointments or failed expectations)
b) You view a social engagements (and somebody's company) as an "investment"
c) You have more money than sense

erie patsellis
1-Dec-2007, 19:18
btw, I might add that I got my pilots license the same way, couldnt' afford it, but changing oil, fueling aircraft and anything else that I could find paid my way. I managed to end up in a partnership simply because I could maintain the airplanes, and until last year, when I moved, all I ever paid for to fly was fuel costs. Some people will find a way, no matter what, if it's that important.



Rob Vinnedge
2-Dec-2007, 09:54

It sounds like you're well fixed for lenses, now, but I have a very good specimen of a 36" series VB with perfect glass.

PM me if you are interested. I can send you photos and price.

John Kasaian
2-Dec-2007, 10:16

I don't know what ULF format you're considering, but if 12x20 is up for consideration,
IMHO that 24" is a tad too long to roost on a F&S 12x20 Banquet if you're looking to buy an "experienced" ULF camera. The 19"er is limited in coverage for 12x20.
A reasonably priced ULF camera to look for is an 11x14 B&J, providing some film holders come with it.
FWIW, If you want to do ULF on the cheap, go with a pinhole--shoot paper negatives.!

Emile J Schwarz
1-Jan-2008, 10:36
Just saw the picture of the home built camera. Assuming that the camera in the background is a C1, it must be huge! Do you have any pictures of your groundglass setup and your film holders, and/or their plans? I have an Argyle 20x24 stat camera that i'd to build a back and film holder for. Would like to try using it for studio still lifes and portraiture.

erie patsellis
1-Jan-2008, 11:11
I am working on flimholder designs, I'm trying to design one that can be easily built with simple woodworking tools. PM me your email and I'll send you some pics.

To keep the size issue in perspective, the lens mounted on the camera is a 360 Componon, the front element is roughly 4 1/2" in diameter.


Brian Bullen
1-Jan-2008, 12:10
Erie, I'd be interested in photos as well. I recently received an 18"x24" back and holder and would love to rig this up somehow. I'm especially curious how you've designed the focus for the front standard. Thanks Erie.