View Full Version : Hand-holding a Linhof Technika (V and beyond)

Marco Annaratone
6-Apr-2009, 11:56
Is anybody out there still using a Linhof Technika hand-held, focusing with the rangefinder, composing through the viewfinder, playing with cams and lenses, etc etc? I'd like to know how practical it is, how painful it is to match cams and lenses (send both to the factory? True?), how accurate and/or bright the rangefinder is, etc

I am especially interested in how the latest models (from V and beyond) behave in this respect compared to, say, the III and IV. Has any progress being made in recent years in terms of ease of use?

Never used the camera, hence apologies for the very basic questions...



Mark Sampson
6-Apr-2009, 12:51
See the work of Frank Petronio on this forum. Some, certainly not all, of his pictures were done that way.

Joseph O'Neil
6-Apr-2009, 12:58
Not a Linhof, but occasionally I will still hand hold my Crown Graphic. I always focus on the ground glass, never liked/trusted cams on any camera. Your mileage may vary.

another option - a monopod, especially one with a quick release plate. Works good for me.

6-Apr-2009, 13:04
They can be rigged up to highly useable handheld configurations, but few of the later models were still sold that way.

Having the rangefinder cam and lens matched usually is not neccessary - in most cases, the cam and lens will match closer than your average focusing precision in handheld situations, and a factory match is only mandatory if you want to use the rangefinder as a high-precision focusing aid in studio and macro work.

Ed Richards
6-Apr-2009, 13:09
Cannot speak for the III. The IV and V seem to be about the same, with two important tweaks. As I have read, and stand ready to be corrected by Bob, with the V the back position relative to the rangefinder was standardized so that you could exchange lenses and cams between Vs. Thus the cam for a V only has the lens number, while the cam for a IV has the lens number and the camera number. Had I known this when I bought my IV, I would have bought a V and saved some money on camming.

The V also has a lever to raise the lens. This might be useful because with a 90mm you cannot get to the wheel on a IV because it jammed against the side struts.

Handholding is a possible, but is hard to justify because you quickly lose the benefit of the LF over digital with camera movement. The rangefinder is great even for stuff that does not move - a lot of my Katrina stuff was done with the rangefinder because I needed to work quickly, and some was done handheld as I walked through areas that had been flooded. If you use the sports finder, you can even use shift with the rangefinder. It is also nice when you want to compose and not behind a dark cloth, say shooting kids or dodging criminals on a not so good street.

Oren Grad
6-Apr-2009, 13:22
Including grip, multifocus finder and a small lens, and with a film holder inserted, the weight of a late-model Technika set up for hand-held use is somewhere up around 4 kg. Which is to say: it's very, very heavy for something you're going to hold up to your eye. It's in a different league even from a 4x5 Crown or Speed Graphic.

Getting a lens properly cammed for a late-model (V or Master) Technika is simple: send it to the factory (or to Marflex, if you're in the US) to be cammed. The only hassles are shipping it and waiting for it to return. IMO there's not much point in spending $$$$ on a high-end camera like a Technika only to throw away some of its quality to try to save a few dollars on a mismatched cam. Unless your time isn't worth anything at all, it's not even clear you'd save much, by the time you hunt for a cam in the right focal length, possibly reset the infinity stops, and test the setup to make sure it is indeed close enough for your intended uses.

Don Dudenbostel
6-Apr-2009, 16:50
I purchased a new Master Technika 4x5 in 1974 along with six lenses and cams. In the thirty years I owned and shot it I only hand held it a dozen or so times. It's quite heavy and awkward at best. Most of the time I tripod mounted it and used the cammed lens/VF/RF combo to tweak focus and composition if working with models or subjects that moved. I found I got better hand held results with my Fuji RF 6x9 cameras or a Pentax 6x7. On the other hand I had a Technika 70 prior to the Master with 53, 100 and 180 lenses that was much easier to hand hold. The combined RF/VF was a big advantage in the 70.

Frank Petronio
6-Apr-2009, 19:54
I used a Tech V, with a Marflex-cammed 150mm, grip, and multi-focal finder, handheld with fine results so long as I had enough light to shoot wide-open at 1/60th-second or faster. Sometimes 1/30th would work. The Linhof's weight helps steady it, at least until your muscles fatigue. I think the Linhof rangefinder mechanism is the same from the III on, or at least changed very little, so it is more a matter of maintenance and cleaning (even the Master Technika can be over 20 years old and need cleaning).

I also used it on a tripod whenever I was doing a more static photo.

After a year of using the Tech, I rationalized selling it because I wanted the money (!) and because a Crown Graphic is a lot lighter. The Crown has worked for me, I've owned several now and favor the latest top rangefinder model. The Tech rangefinder is more accurate than the Crown... but there are a lot of other variables to handheld focusing and the Crown is perfectly usable. And it is much lighter and easier to handle and pack. And a mint Crown with a nice 150mm Xenar can be found for about 10% of the price of a nice used Technika with the same lens.

On both cameras I found the wire frame finder easier to use the optical finders. The Linhof Multi-focal finder is a nice piece of gear but not really an advantage other than it is so... beautiful LOL. The Linhof ergonomic grip is wonderfully designed and made, and I liked using it, but it can add a lot of bulk.

If I were buying another Technika, which I would do while keeping the Crown, I'd just get a nice Technika IV and send it to Marflex for a CLA and custom lens camming. I don't mind pulling the front standard out to access the rise knob -- the knob doesn't break like the lever the later Techs use, and I think the front standard of the IV is a little more solid.

A cleaned and adjusted Tech IV is going to be better than a sloppy Master Tech IMHO.

Roger Vadim
7-Apr-2009, 01:19
A bit OT, but I shoot regulary handheld with my old Speed Graphic, and the RF is pretty accurate. the 127mm Ektar which came with the Camera is a quite good piece of glass, and translates to a 35mm in 135, which looks rather "street photography" if you use it right... focus is a bit of a hit and miss above F8, but that's more got to do with the subjects moving slightly.
Its really fun - becaus I'm often to lazy to schlepp a tripod around;)

7-Apr-2009, 04:03
May I buy into this discussion? Given that the Crown is handy and light, could I seek opinion on the viability of cam changes in the field., or does one limit oneself, for practical considerations, to just one cammed lens for hand held work.

Frank Petronio
7-Apr-2009, 04:31
I am unable to successfully change a cam in a top-rangefinder Crown Graphic. I think it is impossible. Seriously, I just can not grasp it (physically and mentally).

I've never been able to adjust the side-mounted rangefinders to be "right on" either.

Changing cams on a Technika is super easy (and because the cams are much larger, I think they are more accurate).

7-Apr-2009, 05:51
May I buy into this discussion? Given that the Crown is handy and light, could I seek opinion on the viability of cam changes in the field., or does one limit oneself, for practical considerations, to just one cammed lens for hand held work.

Crown cams can be easily changed in the field, but it's a little tricky and not an "on-the-run" process. Basically I've got to find a place to sit the camera down and work through the change, probably taking a couple of minutes if I don't drop either cam into the case.... The Super Graphic, OTOH, is a piece of cake, taking only seconds and can be done on the fly. The Technika is also a quicky.

Scott Whitford
7-Apr-2009, 06:15

Yes, I use my Technika V handheld with the optional sidegrip.

Mine is cammed for a f=150mm lens and I find the rangefinder to be extremely accurate.

I initially used a Linhof sports finder to aid in composing, but after a while I found that I could compose accurately enough without it.

Here's how I do it:

After checking focus with the rangefinder, I drop the camera down to chest-level so that I can check the bubble level located on the top of the camera. Again, I compose by "intuition" (sounds weird but you'd be surprised how accurate you can be with experience) and brace the camera against my chest while releasing the shutter. By timing my breathing I find that I can shoot down to 1/30s with great results. As Frank mentioned, the mass of the camera makes it very stable for slower shutter speeds.


David A. Goldfarb
8-Apr-2009, 09:39
I do it fairly often, both with my Tech V 4x5" and Tech V 23b, which both have cammed lenses. The main attraction of a Technika, for me, is the ability to go between handheld shooting press-camera style, and to have view camera movements when I'm using a tripod. I like this particularly for travel, so my handheld and tripod shots on any given trip are made with the same lenses, film, and format and that gives them a kind of unity of form. Changing lenses and cams and adjusting the viewfinder isn't as quick as changing lenses on an SLR, but it's quick enough for most situations.

Ed Richards
8-Apr-2009, 11:38
"The main attraction of a Technika...

Is that it is a wonderful piece of gear - what a Leica would be if it were made in adult size.

Marco Annaratone
8-Apr-2009, 16:13
Thank you all! You've been very helpful. Great thread.

Emil Ems
9-Apr-2009, 11:07

I use an old Technika III camera with 90 mm Angulon as a cheap and very useful 6x12 camera. For both vertical and horizontal pictures I can use the old style wire frame finder, which works perfectly. Its main advantage is that it works also with lens rise (for architecture photos).

The Technika III is preferable to later Technikas for hend held photography for two reasons: (a) it is lighter than later cameras and (b), when raising the lens in wide angle mode, the rangefinder is still accurate, whereas in models IV onward the rangefinder is not usable any more (in the later models the lense moves forward when raised).

Whatever model you use, I advise strongly against using the handgrips (on the left or right hand side). Instead, grasp the camera firmly with the left hand on the left forward rim and put your right hand under the lense sled. There is a cable release on the righthand front (seen from behind) of the lense sled, which you can release with a right hand finger. Both elbows should be pressed against your chest and the camera should rest on your chest. In this manner, I manage exposures of 1/25 sec without problems and with excellent sharpness.

I hope this helps

Bob Salomon
9-Apr-2009, 12:32
The rangefinder on the later cameras with properly cut cams works correctly with 72mm and longer lenses.

9-Apr-2009, 23:21
I use a Technika IV handheld with a side grip, viewfinder, and a cammed 150mm Sironar-N that was cammed by Martin at Marflex. I think it is the best large format camera I have ever owned and I love it.

I don't think my Technika is really all that heavy for what it does and how well it does it. I also own a Crown Graphic, but I use the Technika more often because it is such a pleasure to use. Frank has had much more long days using a handheld, so I would seriously consider his words.

I am in the San Francisco area, so if you want to see one in person, let me know. I might be out using it.


David A. Goldfarb
10-Apr-2009, 07:16
I usually wouldn't use the rangefinder in combination with camera movements, because I would want to see the effect on the groundglass. I suppose there might be some situation where you would want to use front rise with a wide lens that requires dropping the bed and be able to check focus with the rangefinder, but it's not something that comes up often.

Maybe if you wanted to take a handheld photo of a building using a wire frame finder for framing with front rise, but with a wide lens, that's usually going to be close to infinity anyway, so it's scale focusable, and I'd usually use a tripod for that kind of shot, so I could frame more accurately and focus on the groundglass.

Ed Richards
10-Apr-2009, 09:34

I have used the wire frame and front rise, with the camera on a tripod, but focused with the rangefinder because it was not a place where I wanted to be behind a dark cloth. Not optimal, but workable.

15-Apr-2009, 09:52
I am using Master Technika 4x5 and occasionally using handheld to shoot, or better still shoulder supported shooting. I use Linhoff lenses with matched cam and using coupled rangefinder for focusing; I also use the handgrip with shutter cable for firing.

The setup is so heavy that there is little luck for shooting sharp picture handheld; the beast has to rest on my left shoulder and use my left eye for composing with the universal finder.

Brian Ellis
15-Apr-2009, 10:04
I haven't read the entire thread so if this is repetitive my apologies. When I last checked - almost 10 years ago - Marflex was charging $250 to cut and fit a cam. I'm not suggesting that was excessive, it's just what they charged. Before I paid that I'd do what I did, which was buy a cam for the lens I was interested in - a 150mm in my case - on ebay and see if it works. I think I paid about $30 for the cam and it seemed to work fine to me, at least I was able to properly focus with it. And if it doesn't work you're only out a relatively small amount of money and can even re-sell it if you want to. I should also add that even though in theory with a Tech V or Master you aren't supposed to need to send in the camera, just the lens, Marflex wanted me to send in the camera (a Tech V) as well.

15-Apr-2009, 13:32
There's more to the difficulty in hand-holding a Technika than just the weght. In fact at 6# (w/o lens) it is almost exactly the same as a Pacemaker Speed Graphic (one pound more than a Crown). But there is a problem with the balance and the shape, also, which makes a lot more awkward to hold. Some people seem to prefer the "anatomical" grip, but I removed mine and replaced it with the side strap, which helps a little im making it more ergonomic.
At any rate, while the Graphics are basically hand-held cameras which can be used nicely on a tripod, the Technika is realy a tripod camera which can be used hand-held in an emergency.

Ed Richards
16-Apr-2009, 06:33
I think one's perspective on shooting handheld with the Technika is shaped by hand size and arm strength. If the anatomical grip fits you and you have the strength to deal with the camera, it is very comfortable to use - at least for the first few hours. There are Vikings who even shoot handheld with a 5x7 Technika.:-)

Frank Petronio
16-Apr-2009, 13:55
A monopod is a nice compromise

David Callard
11-Sep-2009, 19:19
I have a rather unusual problem handling my Technika. I have a prosthetic metal left elbow joint and I have been advised not to lift weights over 5 kg with it. I am left handed so this adds an additional problem. The camera is fitted with the L/H grip which is of some help, but I would really like a RH one as well so that I can share the load between both arms. I will only be using the camera on tripod but it is the task of getting it there that poses the problem! I have been unsuccessfully searching the web for one for some time. I am wondering if anyone in the forum might be able to point me in the right direction? I would be very appreciative for any help.

11-Sep-2009, 19:57
I've been hand held for 99% of all shots with an old HD 2x2 format camera. At an appropriate aperture I can easily see 4X5" film getting exposed for beautiful shots pending the light conditions and film.
Maybe I missed something in the thread?

I remember going to Costa Rica and shooting on hikes.
100% humidity, cloudy but hotter than a $#@!
Point is I got off some great shots in F 5.6 to F 11.0 without blur.
Depends on film and what is in the view.
I remember a shot on a native passion vine flower in the middle of dense forest.
Velvia 50 ASA and who knows what aperture I used...
But I captured a few flying insects and a flower in perfect focus by kneeling down and supporting the camera with my waist, leg, etc,...

It can be done.:)

11-Sep-2009, 21:30
I recently got a crown graphic camera. It was in great shape. I have been looking for a handheld 4x5 option. It has worked great. The side mount rangefinder does not have cams it can only be calibrated for one lens. I found directions to calibrate it online and have found it quite accurate. I do agree that using a monopod does help greatly but even without it I have gotten some nice and sharp images with it handheld focusing with the rangefinder.

Bob Salomon
12-Sep-2009, 04:23
I have a rather unusual problem handling my Technika. I have a prosthetic metal left elbow joint and I have been advised not to lift weights over 5 kg with it. I am left handed so this adds an additional problem. The camera is fitted with the L/H grip which is of some help, but I would really like a RH one as well so that I can share the load between both arms. I will only be using the camera on tripod but it is the task of getting it there that poses the problem! I have been unsuccessfully searching the web for one for some time. I am wondering if anyone in the forum might be able to point me in the right direction? I would be very appreciative for any help.

You can order one from a camera sore, it is normally a special order. Unlike the lrft grip the right one does not have a strap or a cable release.

12-Sep-2009, 08:25
I use my 6x9cm Horseman hand-held all the time for outdoor landscape photography. Though, with the usual ISO400 films, it is right on the limit. That is to say, to be nearly as sharp as a tripod shot (and take advantage of the larger format vs 35mm) the shutter speed needs to be around 1/250. That puts the f-stop around 11 in the sun. Open wider than this and some of the lenses lose sharpness in the corners. Go to a slower shutter speed and image movement can show up. BTW this is for landscape type stuff. For candid people photography there will be less concern with corner sharpness and shadow detail.

If you are going to do 4x5 in, then it will really be on the limit; at f11 you may be two stops wider than what you would use on a tripod. Since the camera weights more, maybe you can get by with a slower shutter speed. Wide lenses also make things easier and an electronic shutter release stabilized my camera a lot vs the mechanical release.

Emil Ems
13-Sep-2009, 01:44

I would recommend you to try to hold the camera without a grip. I hold mine with the left hand wrapped around the rim and the right hand supporting the front from below. I also hold the cable release with my right hand and release it from that position. Since you are lefthanded, you should wrap your right hand around the right rim and support the camera from below with your prothesis, if possible. There is no great weight to support. I rest the camera firmly on my breast, on which it fits nicely, when looking through the viewfinder (you may wish to move the finder slightly backward for this. This position will certainly be much more stable than holding the camera with the right-hand grip, which I also own. An alternative, also less stable, is to put the camera on monopod.

Hope this helps

David Callard
14-Sep-2009, 17:34
Thanks Emil. When my arm recovers from the latest surgery I'll give that a go. I'm sorely tempted to go wood but the ones I like don't have a graflok back which means I wouldn't be able to use my 6x12 Da Yi back, among other things. Anyway thanks again.:)