View Full Version : Zone VI 4x5 Field: Function v Myth....

7-Apr-2008, 10:07
Developed my 1st 4x5 negs on Sat. They are stupendous. Now, I'm already craving a nice folder. I am interested in a Zone VI Field I've seen. It's mahogany w/ balck anodized fittings. The seller assures me it was made Zone VI and is not one of the several permutations of this camera. So, firstly, what is the value of this camera w/ two matching lens boards in Mint condition? What features does this camera offer that make it worthwhile? would I be better served by purchasing a Shen-Hao? ANy users of the Zone VI able to comment or offer caveats?

7-Apr-2008, 10:08
Developed my 1st 4x5 negs on Sat. They are stupendous. Now, I'm already craving a nice folder. I am interested in a Zone VI Field I've seen. It's mahogany w/ black anodized fittings. The seller assures me it was made Zone VI and is not one of the several permutations of this camera. Can this be correct? Did Zone VI ever produce their oen cameras? So what is the value of this camera w/ two matching lens boards in Mint condition? Is it over valued due to the Zone VI mythology? What features does this camera offer that make it worthwhile? would I be better served by purchasing a Shen-Hao? ANy users of the Zone VI able to comment or offer caveats?

7-Apr-2008, 10:24

My understanding is that Zone Vi did produce many of their own cameras after splitting with Wisner. Richard Ritter has been mentioned many times on this forum as being the go to person since he once was with Zone VI and services them now.

If you go to Cameraeccentric.com and open their info section, scroll about half way down (on the left) to find a copy of the old Zone VI catalog. If you click on it, it will open to the full catalog including a large primer about the Zone VI Classic camera.

I have used the camera for about 15 years and am still thrilled with it. I use it for many of my architectural assignments as well as some of my studio needs. It is my choice for all of my field shooting when I am out for pleasure. Light weight and very, very reliable.

I would check what they have been going for on ebay to get an idea of current market value. In mint condition, it should still hold it's value quite well. Also check KEH.com in their large format section. First click on 'camera store', then open large format and look for folding cameras.

Calumet sells the light weight version, so you can check the current retail of that version on the Calumet site. Jose in their repair department still has parts for the Classic version including bellows frames, knobs, etc.

The only other wood folder I've owned was the very old Toko, so I can't help with comparisons except to say that I don't feel the need to upgrade.

Good luck.


7-Apr-2008, 10:25
I was always under the impression that Zone VI cameras were generally undervalued in the market. This seems especially true of those NOT essentially mechanically identical to the contemporaneous Wista field camera. I think the only ZoneVI cameras that might be considered over valued are the very early ones but, these are rare and, in any case, the one you describe is not oen of the early ones.

By the time Calumet took over the brand, the Zone Vi wood filed cameras sold at very reasonable prices new too. The one you describe sounds like it may be one of the later models sold by Calumet and marketed as the "Ultra Light".

Eric Biggerstaff
7-Apr-2008, 10:28

Both Richard Ritter and Bruce Barlow who worked for Zone VI and who built their cameras are regular contributors here and I am sure will chime in.

Zone VI did build their own cameras and they are very nice. I have a black walnut version and it is VERY well built and solid. They can be a bit heavy but not horribly so.

Bruce and Richard may correct me here but I believe the versions made with the black anadozied parts were made after Zone VI was purchased by Calument and are the light weight version. I understand they are nice but I have never used one.

A folding field camera is, well, a folding field camera. They all function basically the same. I used a Tachihara for many years prior to getting the Zone VI and it still is a great little camera. I think it comes down to what features you want and need. I like my Zone VI as I can use lenses longer than my 300mm and it is just very solid. The pre-Calumet versions are still selling used in good condition for upwards of $900 so they seem to be holding their value well. Also, it is nice to know that Richard Ritter has parts and can repair them in the event damage occurs.

Not sure if there is a Zone VI mythology, perhaps there is and I just don't know it.

Alan Curtis
7-Apr-2008, 10:35
I've owned a Zone VI 4x5 since the late 80's. I waited months to get mine due to difficulties, I believe that were out of Zone VI's control. The wait was worth it. I really like it. I'm sure there are cameras that others also like as much as I like mine. I've found that the view camera movements my camera has are more than adequate for my landscape photography. It is really a pleasure to use. I think you would enjoy it. I've heard complaints about the weight, which I find to be silly, my wooden tripod weighs much more that the camera.

Jim Galli
7-Apr-2008, 10:44
I think your reference to mythology may be over rated. I haven't noticed a cult forming around these cameras. I've owned 2 Z VI's, a Wisner, and a Nagaoka. I was searching for the perfect camera. So I had one of the walnut Z Vi's and decided I'd be better served by a Nagaoka because of weight issues and back packing etc. The Nag drove me nuts with it's limitations. No bag bellows, short normal bellows, teensy knowbs, etc. So I sold it and bought a mahogany Z VI outfit. Later a Wisner camera was available cheaply so I sold the Z VI and bought the Wis. Bottom line, the Zone VI was better quality and more user friendly than anything else I tried. I sold the Wiz and just used the Deardorff 5X7 with it's 4X5 back for a time, then the other day I got one of the Christmastime Chamonix' 4X5's. It'll be my keeper. I only use 4X5 on occasion anyway. Turned out the old Kodak 2D 8X10 was to be my most used camera. It's my old broke in pair of shoes now.

7-Apr-2008, 10:51
You guys are really increasing my "need" for the ZV. Jim, do you feel the Chamonix is any way superior to the ZV?

7-Apr-2008, 10:59
Just checked Calumet. Didn't see any wooden folders listed.

Kirk Gittings
7-Apr-2008, 11:03
I don't own the Chamonix, but I do own a Phillips which is similar in design and had a couple of versions of the ZVI including the one manufactured in house. The black anodized one though is definitely of Calumet manufacture, which are now discontinued. The advantages of the Phillips design is lighter weight and more rigidity at the small cost of being slightly slower to set up and align. I used ZVI's successfully for many years.

To my mind the only ZVI's which have any mojo are the ones made in house by Ritter et al. I suppose that is why I can't sell mine.

Eric Biggerstaff
7-Apr-2008, 11:09

you may want to delete your second post on the same subject

7-Apr-2008, 11:31
I agree with Eric about the non existence of a Zone VI myth:-)

I had mine Zone VI for almost twenty years. It was love at first sight when I saw it in the camera shop. Other folders and monorails have come and gone since but the Zone VI is still the winner to me. Others are either too cute, too crude, too fancy/expensive, too bulky(case with most mono rails). It has plenty enough of everything I need, that is doing both commercial and little bit of personal works. The only reason it's not being use more often is because of larger format I am using these days.

I think a good user Zone VI is of particularly good value these days, I think I have seem them go for as little as $500-700 body alone.


7-Apr-2008, 11:40
I should add that I played with the Chamonix, both the 45 and 810, when I was in China last summer, it's everything what everyone have said about it so far. I found the 45 to be a little too cute, in ways that is small and daintily cute. I know this is entirely a personal preference and since the camera was designed to be light weight. But as Alan said, once you factor in everything else you need to haul into the wood, a few extra lbs is not that big a deal.

7-Apr-2008, 11:48
Sorry, I hadn't checked Calumet lately to know that they had dropped the camera. Unfortunate!

My love affair with it continues as well as several other products they made.


7-Apr-2008, 11:54
I've seen them, I think, for $700 or $800. If it was much more than a Shen Hao or Tachihara I'd just get one of those instead.

Nice thing about the Shen Hao is you can easily buy new, inexpensive accessories made for it (like the bag bellows, $99 at Badger). You might be SOL for awhile if you need a bag for the Zone VI.

I guess the major advantage of the Zone VI is longer extension. Shen Hao and Tachihara extend to about 12 or 13", the Zone VI has rear extension too if I'm not mistaken.

EDIT: I just looked on ebay and it appears that Zone VI had more than one type of camera made for them. Right now there's one that looks kind of like a Tachihara with fancier hardware, and another that the seller claims is made by Wisner that has a double extension bed for long extension. So in light of this I'd say it really depends on the specific camera. The single extension one has a buy it now of $850 or so, the double $1050.

Jim Galli
7-Apr-2008, 12:04
I like the Cham better than the Z VI. Very light and compact and the finish is truly gorgous. Never forget that the guy standing next to you with a $56 gray Burke & James can get as good a picture with his old boat as you will with the fancy camera.

7-Apr-2008, 12:05
Ok Eric. I sure will.

7-Apr-2008, 13:05
I don't know anything. However, I do have one point of pricing reference:

In a camera store in Houston there is a Zone VI camera with walnut or mahogany finish, brass fittings and a very nice engraved brass plate either on or below below the front standard which says in part, "Zone VI ...Made in ... VT, USA". I can't remember for sure, but I think it was Rutland, VT. Normal and bag bellows, 2 lens boards. Through the glass case the camera looked new to my untrained eye. $1,150 as I recall. Maybe $1,050. This shop has been known to negotiate on price.

I hope this helps.

7-Apr-2008, 13:45
I'm afraid you've fallen into the Large Format trap. Its worse than quicksand I suppose. Good luck trying to get out. :)
You'll need to get all the other goodies like bags, cases, tripods, backs, etc, etc......

Jim Noel
7-Apr-2008, 14:08
One of the first Zone VI was a copy of a Wisner, but not made by him.

7-Apr-2008, 15:43
Arrghhh.....I'm getting gaaassssyyyyy

7-Apr-2008, 15:56
You know, something that concerns me...and I don't know if it should....is that I would to try making 5x7 contact prints at some point. The shen-hao system becomes all the more attractive. The 5x7 model apprently weighs the same. The ZV purchase would be kit w/ lenses, bag, other accesssories. And I already have two fuji lenses that I could use w/ the Shen. If I do buy the ZV, I'll need to seel off the lenses to help w/ the new purchase. Also, Ritter tells me the camera is indeed a Calumet model. Side question: Which are the best viewing screens? I've the Beattie Intenscreen is 2 stops brighter than the aperture. Those beatties are quite expensive at B&H as well.

7-Apr-2008, 15:59
I have a friend with a Zone VI made by Wista (very short period) and there are others I've seen that appear to have been made by Tachihara. It seems there are several makes of Zone VI cameras because like Calumet, they re-branded and re-badged cameras made for them.

Speaking of, Calumet also rebadged Tachihara cameras and called the Calument wood field cameras.

I would not pay more for a Zone VI camera than its basis sells for.

You're going to have to do some research on the various Zone VI models to make sure you get what you want. Or you could just make your life easy and buy a Tachihara or Shen Hao or get on the waitlist for a Chamonix.

David Karp
7-Apr-2008, 16:11
There was an article in View Camera Magazine that laid out who made which Zone VI cameras, and when. Many were made by Zone VI, not by outside suppliers.

Also, for those who do not know, Calumet did not always own Zone VI.

John Bowen
7-Apr-2008, 17:16
I purchased my "built in Vermont" Zone VI used about 5 or 6 years ago. I couldn't be happier with the camera. Nice long bellows for long lenses or close-ups, very stable and rigid. I liked it enough to purchase a Zone VI 8x10 3 years ago :-)

Renato Tonelli
7-Apr-2008, 17:50
I've resigned myself to shooting 4x5 (5x4) instead of what I really craved: 5x7 - what lovely proportions... but all my darkroom gear was/is 4x5. I foresee a dilemma here.
On another note: Jim is correct about not needing a fancy camera. I wish I had never sold my Nagaoka (another tiny regret). It was great for backpacking and yes, its limitations and flimsy knobs were frustrating. You could lock down the camera with a vise-grip and it could still come loose as soon as you inserted the holder. Maybe what I regret is the mere pittance I sold it for. Oh the shame of it.

Eric Biggerstaff
7-Apr-2008, 18:10

I too have been bitten by the 5X7 bug, and like you my darkroom is geared toward 4X5. As I do not scan and print digitally, I am pretty limited to making 5x7 contact prints. But, having worked in the 5x7 format for several months now, I can safely say that I have learned to REALLY like smaller contact prints. They are just plain fun to make and look at. So, if you ever find an inexpensive way to get into 5X7 go for it.

7-Apr-2008, 19:04
Eric.....that's all the encouragment I needed...Shen-Hao here I come!

7-Apr-2008, 19:05
Does Chamonix make 5x7 w/ available 4x5 back?

7-Apr-2008, 20:25
Chamonix will make any size camera with any reducing back. You just have to be prepared to wait a bit. The Chamonix is lighter than the Shen Hao, so a Chamonix 5x7 would probably weight the same as a Shen Hao 4x5.

Hugo Zhang
7-Apr-2008, 20:27
Hi BigSteveG,

Currently Chamonix has a few horizontal only 5x7 cameras at their factory. Well, there are actually 5x8 horizontal cameras with 5x7 backs. The factory can make a 4x5 reducing back for you, but you will need to wait for a few weeks for that. They plan to make some real reversible 5x7 cameras later this year if you can wait.

Maybe you should consider a 8x10 camera with a 5x7 back. Just skip the 4x5. Seriously.:) Or better yet, a 8x10 with a whole plate and a 5x7 back. You will be settled for a long time until you get bitten by the ULF bug.

Louie Powell
8-Apr-2008, 04:35
Developed my 1st 4x5 negs on Sat. They are stupendous. Now, I'm already craving a nice folder. I am interested in a Zone VI Field I've seen. It's mahogany w/ balck anodized fittings. The seller assures me it was made Zone VI and is not one of the several permutations of this camera. So, firstly, what is the value of this camera w/ two matching lens boards in Mint condition? What features does this camera offer that make it worthwhile? would I be better served by purchasing a Shen-Hao? ANy users of the Zone VI able to comment or offer caveats?

Mr. Big -

The camera you describe is the Zone VI Lightweight - the giveaway is that the metal parts are annodized aluminum. It was designed and manufactured after Calumet acquired Zone VI, but its technical specification (bellows draw, movements, etc) are about the same as the last model built during Picker's ownership when the metal was gold-plated brass.

I have had a Zone VI Lightweight for about six years and I like it very much. Obviously, the functionality of wooden field cameras is fairly basic, so preferences between various brands is probably based as much on emotion as it is on actual performance factors. The Zone VI design is noted for its generous bellows draw and movements. Whether you need the full range of movements and bellows that the Zone VI offers is another matter - I rarely use everything that it has to offer, but there are times when its reassuring to know that I can push things a bit further with that camera than I could with another brand.

The Lightweight (with annodized aluminum) is lighter in weight than the prior model (gold-plated brass). The finish on the mahogany is lighter in color, but that's purely cosmetic. Frankly, I thought the gold-plated brass was a bit 'loud', and prefer the understated appearance of the black aluminum. Having the camera a few pounds lighter is fine, but when you put it in a pack with a couple of lenses and some holders, that difference becomes very small. The Zone VI Lightweight is less rigid than the original model (aluminum versus brass - duh) but its rigid enough.

Calumet discontinued the Zone VI field camera two years ago. At the time, a new camera sold for $1495, and undrilled lens boards were $40 (IIRC). So a used camera in very good condition, with new board, might go for $1000. Before you commit, take a good look at the camera. The most obvious signs of use will include some minor scratching of the finish. Be sure to carefully check the bellows - its possible for careless folding of the camera to result in abrasion of the bellows, and signs of wear might indicate that the camera has been used carelessly.

8-Apr-2008, 05:53
One of the first Zone VI was a copy of a Wisner, but not made by him.


The first 128 camera sold under the name Zone VI Classic was a joint design between Zone VI and Wisner. Wisner did not keep up to his side of the deal and Zone VI was forced to make the cameras. Wisner did not design the camera. See how to build a camera news letter. Written by F Picker and edited by R Wisner.

Joseph O'Neil
8-Apr-2008, 06:18
I have been using the walnut, Made in VT version for 6 months now. I also use a Tachihara. A few observations.

The Zone VI and the Tachi are very different animals. The Tachi is lighter, better suited to backpacking, but has less of a range of movements overall.

The Zone VI is much heavier, more movements, less suited to backpacking, but better, IMO, for architechual use or when you have big, heavy lenses. So I personally do not accept the arguement to get a Tachihara in stead, as I use both, and would not rid myself of either.

I think the build quality on my older Zone VI is better than the new Shen Haos. Never seen a Chamonix in person, so cannot comment there.

Price, IMO, depends on quality and cindition of the camera. Mine, although used, was almost like new. Some others I have seen are very beat up and abused, so in that case, you are better off with *any* new camera. For example, I bought a new Tachihara because in my limited exposure, any used ones I had access to, either on Ebay or nearby in person where so beat up or worn that it was nuts to buy used. I spent only an extra $100 on a new camera that had a sound bellows and all parts there and working.

If you think a $100 is a lot, yes, it is, but I can tell you the cost of replacing missing parts, replacing or repairing a worn bellows, etc, etc, will cost you a lot more than $100. So take a good look at the camera in person, inspect it will, before you decide
good luck

8-Apr-2008, 10:53
Thanks for your sound advice. I think I will wait a bit and not jump the gun as I was going to do. I intend on using the camera for landscape and portraits primarily and do not need an over abundance of movements. I may start looking into the cham.

Alan Rabe
10-Apr-2008, 11:36
I have a Zone VI mahogony with brass that I purchased in 89, serial 2123. going up for sale. I love the camera but I got a new chamonix, lighter and smaller, and I can't justify having both. It is in excellent condition, no light leaks. Only the brass is tarnished. It will come with a copal 0 and a copal 1 lensboard. It also has a Satin Snow gg and a clamshell gg protector.
If anyone is interested drop me a line. Sunday it goes on ebay, But I will let it go here for $600. I even still have the shipping box it came in.

Eric Biggerstaff
10-Apr-2008, 11:50

Lovely camera, I am sure you hate to see it go.

YOu might want to start a new thread however.

Alan Curtis
10-Apr-2008, 11:53
Obviously once Zone VI got into production themselves they made quite a few camera's. Mine was shipped to me in June 88, serial #752. Great camera.

Alan Rabe
10-Apr-2008, 12:00
Eric, I used it on the trip to Chaco, It has been a great camera and if the Chamonix had never come around I doubt that I would even look to replace it. I put in the for sale section also.