View Full Version : Strength of typical 4x5 ground glass - protection for air travel

Brock Nanson
28-Nov-1998, 21:06
I use a Sinar F 4x5 camera and am about to take it overseas. If absolutely nece ssary I could pack it in with my carry-on items, but that is not desirable! I c urrently use the camera with the wide angle bag bellows only, and have found I c an collapse it into a short package, on an extension rail. I have put an extra lens board over the ground glass (it clips into the film back piece perfectly an d a blank on the front standard. In other words, I am confident that the glass won't be broken by penetrating objects.

My question is, how strong is the glass in it's mounted position? Is it likely to survive inside a bag that is being tossed around by Bagage Manglers? If pack ed in clothing, would it survive these deceleration forces? I would be interest ed in hearing about real life adventures/misadventures relating to this question .



Sean Billy Bob Boy yates
29-Nov-1998, 00:47
In 1994, was that the year the whole O.J. Simpson mess started? I was over-seas from the time he drove around L.A. in his white Bronco till just before the end of the non-civil (un-civil?) trial. I flew to Tunisia via O'hare & Orly. Then, after about a year, I flew back.

Both times I flew with my Wisner 5 X 7 and it's 4 X 5 reducing back as carry-on. Got some weird looks from the inspectors at the X-ray machines, and once or twice a request to open the bag, but I got those on domestic flights as well. The 5 X 7 back had Ron's wooden GG protector and the 4 X 5 back had a Calumet plastic GG protector. My carry-on bag was a $25.00 Chinese canvas backpack that I had added foam rubber to and wrapped the camera in my darkcloth, a home-made blue cotton affair. No problems what so ever.

I was actually more concerned about Customs. Most of my lenses at that time were foreign made, not to mention my light meter, tripod and various other items. Suppossedly they can insist you pay a duty fee on any non U.S. manufactured items entering the country unless you register it with them before you leave. You have to fill out a form with make, model, serial # etc. well in advance. As it turned out, that was never an issue. Can't say what things are like now with increased security everywhere. Keep that in mind.

Last spring, or late winter, February, March? I flew to Massachusetts from O'Hare with my Calumet C-1. I don't know if you've seen one of those or not, but they are massive! 18 lbs and built like a bank vault, very simple, no gears at all, everything is done with friction. Cast aluminum. I put two pieces of heavy cardboard held together with gaffers tape over and under the GG in a cheap imitation fo the Calumet protector. The cameras focusing track/extension folds up against the GG totally protecting it, or so I thought. They managed to break the GG without harming the cardboard, or anything else.

Now, admittedly I had not done the best packing job imaginable. It was in a suitcase surrounded by clothes, boots, etc. I think I assumed that the daggone thing was unbreakable. But it does weigh 18 lbs and so naturally more effort is required to lift and throw, so it had more velocity or inertia or whatever...

My suggestion is, if you don't carry it on - REMOVE THE GROUND GLASS AND PACK IT SEPERATLEY. Take it with you as part of your carry on. I cannot afford a good airline quality case like a Halliburton or a Calzone or Anvil and even if I could, I've never been real happy about the idea of letting THEM, handle my gear. I ordered a new GG from Steve Shuart in PA. It came UPS in a cardboard box tightly wrapped in foam rubber. No way, unless they deliberatley ran over it, could they have damaged it. It was light and securely padded. Could've been a package of note book paper for all they (U.P.S.) knew.

How hard is it to uninstall a SINAR GG? I've never seen one. You could either take the back off or remove the glass itself and wrap it in foam rubber, clothes or both. Ron Rosenstock regularly carries a Deardorff to Ireland from MA, and has been to India etc. He wrote an article several years back for View Camera Mag, about his practices, you can order a photocopy of it. Kenro Izu carried a 16 X 20 Deardorff to Angkor Watt several times. Can you imagine the cost of a replacement GG for that?

Whatever you do, GOOD LUCK!!!

Ellis Vener
30-Nov-1998, 03:30
It is almost but not quite as strong as the exterted lateral force that breaks it. With that warning in mind... 1.) Remove groundglass and carry this and your lenses and your film on board.

2.) Get a Calumet GG protector to protect both sides of the GG.

3.) Set a spare GG preferably already mounted in the frame, before you go so you can test the alignment before your trip.

4.) Pack your camera, since you don't want to carry it onboard, in a Lightware c ase.

David Nash
30-Nov-1998, 11:06

I've travelled on a number of European airlines (British Airways, Lufthansa, SwissAir, Quantos etc) with my 5x4" Arca-Swiss monorail, which is similar to your Sinar F1.

Having seen what some baggae handlers do with luggage, I wasn't happy about letting them loose with my camera equipment, but I had too much gear to carry on-board.

I thought about using hard cases, but they were a pain to transport to/from the airport, so I settled for my Lowe Pro Super Trekker AW (that's the big rucsac with an external tripod carrier lashed to it).

I kept the camera built up, with the bellows compressed as tightly as possible - the rear lens element sits off the groundglass in this position. I then wrapped the whole camera in bubble wrap (big bubble variety) and packed it tightly in a compartment in the backpack so that it didn't rattle around. All the other gear, darkslides, meter etc were in other compartments, and the film changing bag and dark (focusing) cloth were tucked in around everything.

When checking in, I asked that the bag be marked as "Fragile!" and a label was put on the bag. Some airlines will carry such items out to the cargo area instead of chucking it down the chute, and will make sure it's not buried under everything on the plane.

As I say, I've travelled all round Europe and as far away as Singapore with this case. The only damage I've incurred has been a dent on one of my tripod legs. I think the grounglass is fairly resiliant.

Whatever you do, amke sure you've got plenty of insurance!!!

I once had a 35mm camera system stolen by a baggage handler - it turned up three years later after police raided his home and found amongst other things, 40 cameras. The air companies don't want to know if anything is lost or damaged.

To repeat, do not put anything you really value in the hold. I looked upon my camera as replacable, but I;ve sometimes travelled with a guitar which I would NEVER let out of my sight..