View Full Version : Bender 8x10?

13-Mar-2008, 13:25
In the perfect world, I'd have a ready stack of cash to buy a Chamonix 8x10 to go with my 45N-1, but that's not quite possible at the moment. Nevertheless, I have a couple of lenses that will cover 8x10 and just bought some 8x10 film holders for a reasonable price. I've been looking at budget 8x10 cameras and find that many of them are boat anchors, best left in the studio or carted around by assistants. On a google search I found that Bender makes an 8x10 kit and it weighs less than 6 pounds. It sells for $430, so it's very affordable, but it's a monorail without geared focusing.

Has anyone built and/or used one of these cameras? Even though a monorail isn't ideal, the weight makes it reasonable for use as a field camera--yes? I appreciate that it'll take some work to put it together, but I have some basic skills and it doesn't look that complicated--a lot of sanding, gluing and drilling. Does this seem like a reasonable option or is there a better alternative for a lightweight, inexpensive 8x10?

Scott Kathe
13-Mar-2008, 13:58
I built the Bender 4x5 and loved the whole process. Using it was a different matter though. It takes a while to set up in the field and get everything squared. I've since tried a Crown Graphic and loved how fast it set up but they have NO movements compared to the Bender. Now I have a Shen Hao and use that exclusively, the poor Bender just sits in a bag waiting for a nice home. Now that I have more experience I would probably use the Bender if the Shen Hao wasn't so fast to set up in the field. 8x10s are so expensive that I understand the draw of the Bender and they are really light weight. If you want to get the kit you should be aware that Jay Bender doesn't get too may orders anymore so it may be a while till he gets enough orders to cut up the wood stock for the camera. If you want to pick up the postage both ways I could loan you my 4x5 and that might let you know what the 8x10 would be like.


13-Mar-2008, 14:59
Ok, I thought it looked like it wasn't too easy to zero out the movements. Thanks for your generous offer on trying the 4x5, but hearing your experiences probably conveys most of the important stuff. I assumed the kits were a stock item, but I'll have to check on that. I'm not in a big hurry on the 8x10, so maybe a little more research isn't a bad idea.

Mark Sawyer
13-Mar-2008, 15:08
I'd think an old Kodak 2d, Korona, or the like would be a better field camera, and nice ones seem to go by regularly for under $400. I have an 8x10 Kodak Master, but still use the 2d more often just because I like it.

13-Mar-2008, 15:14
About 25 years ago I bought a used 4x5 Bender (I think) fold up flatbed model. I made some very nice images with it but, like Scott, I found that using it was not particularly a pleasing experience. At the time I had not used anything better so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Since you have a 45N-1, you can’t hide behind rookie badge. If your purpose is to get a feel for working in the 8x10 format you might enjoy it, but if you are looking for a anything other than occasional use, I think you will be disappointed.

On the other hand, if the building process is appealing to you, you might like it. As I often tell people, “When the shutter opens, there is nothing between the subject and the film except the lens.” So if the camera is a cardboard box, is light tight, and holds the film and the lens in place, who knows how plain or fancy the camera is.


13-Mar-2008, 15:25
Jerome and Mark-- Thanks, those are good suggestions. Building the camera would be fun, but I'd like to have something very useable in the field. Maybe I'll just build a box camera out of foam core and gaffers tape to play with while I hunt for something more suitable.

Maris Rusis
13-Mar-2008, 18:07
I built a Bender 8x10 in 1989 when my Nagaoka 8x10 was stolen and I just could not afford a replacement. From start to finish the Bender took 2 weeks to complete but most of that time was waiting for the glue to dry from one straight forward step to the next.

The main challenge was accurate gluing of parts. Even with good clamping forces glue is slippery and causes joints to slide a bit before they set. If I were to do it again I would both pin and glue each joint so it stays accurate.

The weakest point of my bender was the back springs. They were only springy wire and film holders were never held strongly enough (particularly if the camera was pointed up) to absolutely guarantee no light leaks. Bender may have improved this part of the design in recent years.

In the field the Bender was OK to use and I sure appreciated the light weight when going on multi-mile photo-treks. The fact that I was then 18 years younger helped too!

Brian Ellis
13-Mar-2008, 19:55
I'd second Mark's 2D suggestion. Try to find one with the back rail extension and the sliding tripod block and you've got a great camera for about what the Bender would cost. Or if you don't mind being limited to medium and short focal length lenses you can do without the back rail extension. It doesn't have front tilt but it has back tilt and if you really want front tilt Richard Ritter can add it, probably for $250 (what he charged me a couple years ago).

Kirk Fry
13-Mar-2008, 21:47
The old gray Agfa-Anso 8X10 camreras are pretty good too. Check them out. I have one I like. They were at the time the number 2 camera back of the Droffs. More like a refrigerator than a Porsche. Unloved and undervalued, but very useful. K

Turner Reich
13-Mar-2008, 22:32
They are as precision as a rusty nail in a a rotted piece of wood. Get a used camera with some life left in it.

G Benaim
13-Mar-2008, 23:17
Consider also the magnesium Calumet C-1, about 13 lbs, 32in bellows, usually under $400, super solid, all the movements you'll need. How heavy is the Bender?

14-Mar-2008, 07:08
Thanks for all the suggestions. I've started hunting for a good 2D package or a Korona and am also keeping my eyes out for some of the other cameras mentioned. The Bender is only 5 1/2 pounds, but I also had some concerns about its rigidity.

14-Mar-2008, 07:48
Although I did not compare the construction of a kit camera with my project, it did seem that restoring an old camera gave a very usable, high-quality end product.

Repairing some broken wood pieces and making some new brass pieces on an old view camera seemed like a lot less work than making a whole camera from scratch.

David Vickery
14-Mar-2008, 10:15
Barry, here are a few of my Opinions for you to consider:
With the Bender kit you will get a known good bellows--and it is a good quality bellows. This is something to watch out for on any used camera. You also get adaptability. You can easily modify the kit in a lot of ways. It doesn't have to be on a monorail. You could add better focusing with some rubber grommets and dowels from the hardware store. Its rigidity and precision depends on the person finishing the kit.
If light weight is a serious requirement then Agfa cameras shouldn't even be considered. They are big and heavy. They are really studio cameras. Their bellows tend to degrade in a way that they become stiff, and if still usable may apply pressure on the two standards.
The Burk and James line of cameras were built for the price conscious at the time and are probably the least rigid as a group. The B&J film backs are well made and durable, but the cameras as a whole tend to have been well used and will require work to get them in usable condition. Rigidity and weight will be issues with B&J's.
The Kodaks and Koronas tend to have been well used as well and do suffer from lack of rigidity and holey bellows and as someone else has already pointed out, no front tilt on most of them. I would not want an 8x10 camera without front tilt unless it was designed and built strictly for architecture. But they are fairly light in weight compared to most older cameras, but not compared to the Bender.
Refurbishing an old camera is definitely a viable option if you can find the right buy. I have done it and would not discourage anyone from that option.
In short, I like the Bender because it is unmatched in light weight and price, it is easily modifiable, and it comes with excellent cherry wood parts and a good bellows.

14-Mar-2008, 11:58
David--Thanks, those are helpful points to consider. I'm reasonably handy, but I don't do much woodworking and have very few woodworking tools, so I don't think I could easily come up with an improved design. I haven't completely ruled out the Bender, but I'm not encouraged by the fact that no one on the forum is using one.

I'm going to look at a camera tonight-- a wood/brass Kodak 8x10 the owner doesn't seem to know too much about, but he says it's in working order. I guess it would be a 2D--were there other Kodak models? The lack of movements isn't ideal, but it seems like this would be a good way to see if I like 8x10 as a format. Any things to look out for when evaluating the camera? Obviously, I'll be taking a close look at the bellows and making sure the hardware is functioning.

David Vickery
14-Mar-2008, 13:07
Well, despite anything that I have said, the Kodak 2D style camera can be a great way to get into 8x10 photography for little money! The lack of movements will not be that big of a deal--certainly not a big enough problem to prevent you from going ahead and getting into 8x10 photography. You can learn a lot and make some excellent photographs with that camera.

I suggest that you take your tripod and a flashlight and set the camera up on it and put the light inside the camera to judge the condition of the bellows. As long as the bellows are pliable you can live with some pinholes. You would simply wrap your dark cloth around the bellows when exposing the film. Look for cracks in the wood. Look at the joints to make sure that they are still reasonably good. Try to assess the amount of play in the front and rear standards when the camera is set up on your tripod, if possible. I think it is The View Camera Store that sells a little kit that you can use to make these type of cameras more rigid when set up ready to take a photograph.
Take a close look at the film back---you can tell how much use the camera has had by how much wear there is in the film holder area. Lots of use isn't necessarily bad, abuse is bad though.
Black Gaffers tape works well to fix holes in the bellows and holes in the front standard. Sometimes people would drill holes through the front standard for the air hose that goes to Packard shutters. Holes in various parts of the camera are obviously not good, but many times they can be covered with the tape. It is light tight and sticks pretty good.
Kodak made a lot of 2Ds. The other fairly common camera that looks like the kodak are the Gundlach Koronas. Either one in the 8x10 size will be fine if in good condition.
What price are they asking?

14-Mar-2008, 13:29
Thanks, I've got my checklist now. The owner is asking for $325 for the camera, a couple of holders, and a mystery lens. It hasn't been used in 10 years, but he said it was working before he put it away.

14-Mar-2008, 13:51
I purchased an 8x10 Bender with a lens and 5 film holders for $365.00 on ebay, wasn't thrilled with it, sold the camera and lens on ebay and then purchased a very nice B and J Grover 8x10 with a 14 inch lens in very good condition. I like the B and J although it is on the heavy side, but so am I. You can find one without a lens for $300 to $400.


David Vickery
14-Mar-2008, 14:22
Barry, let us know what the lens is. It sounds like you may be getting a good deal if it is really in working condition. Mystery lenses are always exciting!

Tony Karnezis
14-Mar-2008, 15:00
I agree with Maris and David--it's a very good camera because of its light weight, great bellows and adaptability, but the rear springs holding the film holder in place could be stronger. I have a Bender 8x10 that got me into 8x10--as long as you don't use it looking up, you're fine. And even then, you can use a clamp to be sure there isn't a gap to let in light. It's rigid enough for use with lightweight lenses like a Fujinon 240/9 or Nikkor 300/9 (what I used on it). I wouldn't recommend anything in a Copal 3.

I bought mine pre-assembled, and the person who did it didn't do anywhere near as good of a job as I did with my 4x5. That said, it really works just fine, and boy is it LIGHT. My Kodak Master 8x10 is a tank in comparison. I can lend you mine to try out, with a Copal 1 board, to see if you like it. Just pay shipping both ways, that is, unless you want to buy it. pm me if you're interested.

Tim k
14-Mar-2008, 15:26
Barry, I picked up a 4x5 bender at a garage sale, and I have had a lot of fun rebuilding it. Just ditch most of the lower stuff, and make a few new parts with a bit more wood in them. After some messing around its pretty stable now.

14-Mar-2008, 19:33
Tony--thanks for the kind offer, but I've just become the proud owner of an Eastman Kodak 2D. :) It was a funny deal with the owner asking me to make an offer without much information, but we settled on $325 and he said I could examine it and then make up my mind. He keeps mentioning it may be a collectable--which is what every antique dealer says when trying to sell a broken junker. So I fight traffic and get to his house and he's rooting around in his basement for the camera. "I can't find it!", he says. "It was in this box", and he points to a big box filed with crumpled newspapers. He thinks it could be in his storage room across town. I'm just laughing because it's so funny and I tell him no problem--give me a call if you locate it. He starts offering me all sorts of photo stuff because he's moving and I leave with a set of Ansel Adams books, a copy of Stroebel, a 16"x18" Porta-Trace light box, and 9 developing trays. He keeps trying to give me stuff and refuses to take any money, but I manage to make it out without taking anything else.

I hop in the car and get back in traffic and 10 minutes later the phone rings--"I found it!". I turn the car around around drive back and he takes me downstairs and opens his freezer--The 2D is inside! The freezer is turned off and in use as a storage box. He pulls out the 2D and it looks pretty decent. Definitely a user, but in good basic shape and the bellows looks completely intact. A homemade groundglass and a homemade lens board. The sliding base plate is included (yay), but there's no back track :(. Three Lisco Regal II holders and three folmer graflex wood holders. A few sheets of TMAX 100 that expired in 1994. A Horseman lens spanner, a cable release, and a horse blanket. So he had mentioned a lens, but had no idea what it was. I figured the mystery lens was a junk box lens with a clapped out shutter, but the mystery lens is like the mystery date--dud or stud. He unfolds the 2D and pops off the lens cap--and the eye of Sauron is staring back at me-- a mint 240mm Schneider Symmar S f/5.6 in a Copal#3 shutter. :)

Mark Sawyer
24-Mar-2008, 17:47
Hey, Barry ~ just looking back in on the thread and wanted to say congratulations! The lens alone was more than worth it, and I bet you'll grow to love the old 2D. It's a great camera, and one you can use for decades. (I've always thought a great piece of advice for aspiring 8x10 photographers is "buy a camera you like, because your first 8x10 camera may well be your lifetime 8x10 camera." My first 8x10 was a 2D in the late 1970's. Still going... :)

Jim Fitzgerald
24-Mar-2008, 18:06
Barry, congrats on the 2D. You got a great deal. Like Mark said the lens is worth the price of admission. I had the parts of a 2D at one time and they became my 8x20! It is "The Beast #1". Great hardware, gears and racks. "The Beast #2" is the 11x14 but I'm building it from the leftover wood from the 8x20 I built. New brass and some Deardorff hardware for this one. The 2D is a great camera and you will love the 8x10 format. Contact printing is fun too.


24-Mar-2008, 21:10
Thanks Mark and Jim! I really like the 2D--it seems like such a simple honest, well-designed camera. A few more movements would be nice, but it seems like a very useable camera. I'm replacing the dodgy ground glass and bought and am cannibalizing a salvaged front bed for a rear bed. I'm really looking forward to contact printing and maybe getting into some Pt/Pd printing. Jim-- I wish I had the tools and the skills to piece together a ULF camera, but the 2D should keep me busy for a while.