View Full Version : Starting 8x10 view camera

1-May-2009, 11:09
I'm wanting to get back into LF film work. I'm wanting to do 8x10 contact printing.

My heart says get an 8x10 Deardorff but my pocket says, "See what the other options are."

What are my other options in 8x10?

Steve Hamley
1-May-2009, 11:22
A lot depends on whether you want to carry it or not. The cheapest option is a used monorail if portability (carrying it on your back in a pack). A Sinar Norma would be an excellent choice, as would a Cambo/Calumet.

When talking about vintage field cameras, the most important thing in my mind is to get one that's not heavily worn and has all it's parts, including a good bellows. Most can be repaired or refurbished by people like Ken Hough (Deardorff), Richard Ritter, Alan Brubaker, etc, but it's time consuming and not very cost effective versus waiting for a "tight" camera.

In other words, as a user camera, I'd rather have a "tight" Kodak 2D than a loose Deardorff, and so on.

Other vintage field camera options are Kodak 2D or Eastman #2 (make sure they have the extension rail and tripod block), Agfa Commercial or Universal, or Century.

Newer options with more movements would include a used Tachihara, Wista, Shen Hao, or Wisner. The next step up in price might be Chamonix (if you can find one) or Canham.

Cheers, Steve

MIke Sherck
1-May-2009, 13:10
There's also my favorite, the Wehman (made in Illinois.) I have no idea whether or not this year's run is sold out or not. WWW.WEHMANCAMERA.COM


John Kasaian
1-May-2009, 13:29
What Steve Hamely says.

A 'dorff is truly one of the great 8x10s. Whether or not you can find a good user at a reasonable price is a toss of the dice. You might also look for a Century Universal (which in a way out-dorffs a Deardorff) and the Ansco Universal, which certainly did the job for Ansel Adams. There are also new camera, but I think even the cheapest of these will run you lot$ more than many Deardorffs, Centurys, or the Agfa.

Happy hunting!

1-May-2009, 13:58
By all means investigate thoroughly Richard Ritter's new 8x10 field camera. More expensive than used. Lighter than my 4x5 field camera. Mike Castles in Dallas owns one. I'm sure he would let you kick the tires. Don't pick it up unless you plan to be forever spoiled. It is a really really good camera.

Good luck!

Frank Petronio
1-May-2009, 14:15
The Dorffs always seemed over-priced for what they are.

The monorails are the real value in 8x10.

John Kasaian
1-May-2009, 15:09
For reasonably priced vintage 8x10s don't rule out the Kodak Master View. A very nifty camera but if it breaks you'll need a tig welder and a machinist.
When A 'dorff breaks all you need is a bottle of Elmer's & some duct tape :)

Steve Hamley
1-May-2009, 16:20

Deardorffs are what they are - a piece of classic Americana. Like Adams, I didn't care for the waay some of the movements work (the front tilt/rise for me), although a "tight" one works and a "loose" one will drive you crazy. Yeah, that's what did it.

I can quote Jim Galli who said a Deardorff is like a '34 Ford, it looks like a million bucks standing still.

I had a nice Chicago 'dorff I regret selling, and was using it in Elkmont in the Smokies one winter day on an equally pretty Ries. I was setting up the composition, and a young woman walked up to me and said "I love your camera", and walked off! Almost no other camera can do that FWIW.

Cheers, Steve

1-May-2009, 16:54
Look for a used Cambo if you are planning not having to carry it too far. They are an excellent value and have all the movements you could ever need. They are also cheaper than a lot of 4x5s, can handle most any lens, and there are accessories galore.

If you need lightweight you are going to have spend and if you are spending I would suggest a Chamonix.

Mark Sawyer
1-May-2009, 23:22
I think you really have to play with a camera for a while to see if it fits you. I have a beautiful 8x10 Kodak Master, but am just as happy with my old 2D, which I use more often. I don't particularly like the Deardorff's, but others I respect love them.

And while I don't like the 8x10 Burke & James, it was my first choice for 11x14.

Ultimately, the camera is just something to put between the lens and the film holder to keep the light out...

kev curry
2-May-2009, 00:12
Chamonix Camera 8x10 six minute exposure


2-May-2009, 05:46
Ultimately, the camera is just something to put between the lens and the film holder to keep the light out...

No, definitely it is not. Were it the only and the main function of a camera you could put there just a shoe box, couldn't you...:)

Frank Petronio
2-May-2009, 06:15
Chamonix Camera 8x10 six minute exposure

That's Porn!

Ken Lee
2-May-2009, 07:35
When it's all said and done, 8x10 photography weighs a lot - because of the film holders and tripod - no matter what camera you use. You might say that a monorail adds only a little more weight to the total, than a field camera.

But a monorail provides all view camera features, and they are easy to work - as opposed to most field cameras, with which you often have to... fiddle. Also, monorail camera are ready to use: they don't require folding and unfolding. Depending how you carry them, you can leave a lens on them too.

When I use field cameras, I almost always wish I had the real thing with me instead. However, when I have a monorail, I never wish I had brought a field camera. To me, that's telling.

2-May-2009, 07:53
The same logic can be used for the 4x5 format too. Thinking of Arca Swiss, I never looked back.

Chris Strobel
2-May-2009, 08:43
Also don't discount the Calumet C-1.It was used by Brett Weston, Cole Weston, Kim Weston, and is still used today by world class landscape artist Christopher Burkett.I bought one on the auction site for $250.00 with 2 lens boards, 4x5 back, 2 film holders, and a Nikon process lens.After a day of cleaning and detailing it is mint like new.It was my intention to learn 8x10 with it then move on to something better, but well over two years latter I still like using it, and even bought a second one as a spare and for parts if needed.Its very easy to use, very intuitive, and things just stay put and don't move after adjustments, even in mojave gale force winds.Just don't expect to do any hiking with it as its heavy.Its a work out of the back of your SUV kind of affair, or baby jogger for walking around.Here are a few pics, brett weston working with his magnesium C-1, Christopher Burkett and his wife on a shoot with Aluminum C-1, and finally the first photo I ever took with my Aluminum C-1......................C




Mark Sawyer
2-May-2009, 09:31
No, definitely it is not. Were it the only and the main function of a camera you could put there just a shoe box, couldn't you...:)

Well, the shoebox is a rather extreme example, but if it kept the light out and held the lens and film steady, could you tell the difference in the final print?

My point is that while we often talk of a certain aesthetic look from developers, films, papers, and certainly lenses, there is no "Deardorff" or "Chamonix" look, and all other things being equal, work from a crappy old Korona will be identical to work from an Ebony or Lotus... :eek: And maybe it's just because I've had it forever, but I really prefer the simplicity of my old 2D over "newer and better" cameras.

So the choice comes down to whatever camera feels best design-wise (and kharma-wise), and comes along at the right price in the right shape at the right time.

Then again, if someone is going to be successful in 8x10, it's a long term commitment, and one should get the "right" camera. DSLR's and such come and go, but your first 8x10 could well be a lifetime companion...

Daniel Unkefer
2-May-2009, 09:50
I owned an 8x10 Deardorff for a while, ended up selling it. Have always preferred the Sinar Norma 8x10, especially once I get it deployed, in the field. It's like comparing the Apollo Moon Buggy, to the Model T. However, some may prefer the Model T. Ansel Adams used the Norma, he's listed as a user, in one of my Norma brochures.

2-May-2009, 11:04
Well, the shoebox is a rather extreme example, but if it kept the light out and held the lens and film steady, could you tell the difference in the final print?

My point is that while we often talk of a certain aesthetic look from developers, films, papers, and certainly lenses, there is no "Deardorff" or "Chamonix" look, and all other things being equal, work from a crappy old Korona will be identical to work from an Ebony or Lotus... :eek: ...

Of course I could tell the difference and you too could. Why? Because it's not just to keep the light out and to hold the lens and the film steady (notice how you already started to add to the qualities of the box that was there just to keep the light out...) It's also about to be able to move the standards in a specific way (rise, fall, swings, tilts, focusing -and that for both standards), to keep their positions tight in one way when using the other ways, to have easy controls of all these movements and precision in them too...
The final print is a result of all these qualities, otherwise nobody would care to create them on the camera in the first place. Surely, a final print that is half that sharp as it could be doesn't tell you - your tilt was not exact, your registration is a way off, your focusing is crappy, etc. It just tells you - something is wrong with your camera, with your photography. Does it then mean the registration, the precise tilting, the camera construction qualities don't count?
Your reasoning, so often trumpeted by amateurs, means to judge a camera abstracting from its construction requirements and technical pitfalls which are there for a good reason. Ultimately it's just complete nonsense in the same class like a generalization of a car being a box on some wheels etc.

Drew Wiley
2-May-2009, 11:06
With so many good options out there, I think the Dorf is overrated and overpriced,
and overly heavy, even if you can find one for sale still in good condition. And I've
always thought of the Wisners being overly cute in relation to their actual functional
durability. I guess a lot depends on whether you want a nice-looking piece for
Antiques Roadshow or a practical camera that will take punishment. If weight is not
the issue, a modern Sinar or Toyo G (basically a copy of the Norma) are good buys at the moment.

Frank Petronio
2-May-2009, 11:46
I can't imagine backpacking w 8x10 and really being able to shoot, even if you went superlight you still can't carry enough holders to really shoot effectively (unless you are one of those hour per shot extra-nervous kind of guys.) Being limited to 10 sheets or so would really suck.

2-May-2009, 12:06
what is your price range? will you be carrying it? what kind of movements will you want to use?

actually, the price of deardorffs have been dropping steadily. you can geta fairly good deal now...better than ever before.

for price:
kodak 2D or similar should be about 200-400. make sure to get an extension rail with it and good bellows.
calumet C1 heavy. plenty of movements. 200-350 range. usually you can get one to two reducing backs in that neighborhood.

mid price:
deardorff 1200-1600. you know the drill
wisner and similiar. neg of this is the small lens boards (i think it is the wisner that takes the 5 and a bit inch lens boards.
century universal. only 1/2 pound heavier than a chamonix. plenty of movements. my camera of choice. 600-1200. by far the best value.

top end:
chamonix for me this is the best camera. a bit pricy but an awesome camera. i owned one for a year. plenty of movements, light, sexy. simply awesome. $3300+

have fun.


Daniel Unkefer
2-May-2009, 16:26
I never backpack with an 8x10 to a new site, only to those where I have photographed previously, usually having worked an area over throughly with 4x5. Then I will come back with the 8x10, hopefully when the conditions are exactly what I desire. I normally don't make a lot of exposures with the 8x10, although I sometimes make a dupe (or bracket a bit), if it's a great shot. It's not a format for exploratory photography, at least for me. An old Zone VI white bag filled with 8x10 plates does it for me. I've never run out of film so far.

John O'Connell
2-May-2009, 22:41
One issue in picking out an 8x10 is knowing how much bellows draw you'll need. If you think you'll need more than 32" of draw, your options are really limited.

Daniel Unkefer
3-May-2009, 07:42
How's this for bellows extension? The 8x10 Sinar Norma is infinitely extendable:

Brian Ellis
3-May-2009, 08:59
It's hard to suggest a camera when you don't say what you'll be using it for. Studio? Get a monorail, least expensive and made for studio work. More movements than you'll ever need in the field but nice for product photography and interior architecture. Field with long hikes (i.e. all day or overnight)? Look for a light weight (relatively) wood field camera. I can't think offhand of a light one that would cost less than a Deardorff (Century Universal maybe but they're had to find and may end up costing about as much as a Deardorff). The Wehman is in the same ball park as a good Deardorff and weighs roughly 4 lbs less (Deardorff 12 lbs, Wehman 8 lbs). Walking around town and shorter hikes? Deardorff would be a great choice but for less money you can likely pick up a Kodak 2D or any of the other older 8x10s (e.g. Korona). Kodak Masterview is also a good choice for this kind of use but they'll cost about the same as a Deardorff I think.

I've owned 2 Deardorffs and 2 Kodak 2Ds. I liked the 2Ds but I'd buy one only if it has the rear extension and sliding tripod block as mine did. Many of the used 2Ds you see on ebay are missing these two accessories that I think are critical unless you plan to use only short focal length lenses. One problem with the 2D is that it doesn't have front tilt, which may not matter to you but it's my most-used movement. Richard Ritter added front tilt to one of mine and it worked great but will add several hundred dollars to the cost of the camera. It's also a little bit of a pain to dig the extension out of the back pack and install it on the camera every time you want to use a longer lens.

The Deardorffs were my favorite 8x10 by a wide margin. They're well made and very solid (assuming they've been taken care of), reasonably long bellows extension, simple to use, nice to look at, convenient little gadget for using front rise that AFAIK no other camera has, all in all a great camera. My only minor quibble was the lack of separate controls for front rise/fall and tilt.