View Full Version : Slipping front standard on Calumet C401

27-Feb-2011, 09:04
I am evaluating an old, but good, Calumet which I believe is called the C401 == 26" pipe-style monorail view. All the detents and set screws and focus gears etc work. The bellows seems fine. I am working on a vanishingly small budget, and was given the front and rear cells of a 90mm f8 Super Angulon to rehabilitate.

Mounting this lens in a new compur #0 in a recessed board gives me enough coverage and play to use the lift and tilt enough to justify some effort in landscape and architectural photography.

The problem, which is appearing quite serious, is that the lens board and its mount, in the short bellows configuration, is not supported by the natural friction of the rack and pinion gear that elevated and lowers the lens relative to the focal axis. It is too stiff and heavy, or the rack and pinion arrangement is in need of some adjustment or repair. I suspect the latter. If I let the camera sit on its own, the front slips down in the standard of its own weight no matter how extended the bellows are.

I tried a shim with wood, afraid that metal might mar the guide opposite the actual rack and pinion gear. It lasted a few minutes, enough to take one exposure if the front lens board carrier is dead level with the front support. But that doesn't solve the problem of using lift to correct parallels...in fact it defeats the purpose of a view camera altogether.

I have a couple of weeks to evaluate this, and would prefer to find a fix on the hardware side that I could perform myself, because I got a good deal on the camera and it is otherwise in fine shape.

Any advice or pointers to common problems or service diagrams would be appreciated.

Thank you from a LF newbie.

27-Feb-2011, 09:08
Use the knob to adjust the height, then pull the knob outward. That is what sets the elevation in place and secures it. Do the reverse when you need to reset or return to the normal elevation. I believe a manual for this camera is available on www.butkus.com. Terrific series of cameras and I believe that Jose at Calumet repairs in Chicago still stocks some parts.

Peter Mounier
27-Feb-2011, 09:16
That rack and pinion gear you speak of does not hold its position with friction, but rather with an indent on the knob. The knob for adjusting the rise pushes in to unlock and adjust the rise. It should be on a spring that pushes it back out after the adjustment, and locks it in position.

Looks like Lenser beat me to the answer on this.


27-Feb-2011, 15:56
Well, you made my day. I get to keep the camera, don't have to disassemble anything, and can use it with the heavy glass.

Hope I can return the favor sometime.

27-Feb-2011, 16:37
Jeff, You are entirely welcome. This design has been around since at least the fifties, maybe before, and is a workhorse for sure. There just isn't a whole lot that can go wrong except that the rather thin rail is so tightly machined to fit into the collar slides for the standards, any damage to the rail can result in the inability to move either or both standards beyond the damage point, especially in the long rail version you have. That includes nicks or deflection due to dropping.

If you find the focusing getting stiff, this thing is almost pathetically easy to disassemble, so just take the rail off, use spray brake cleaner to completely clean residue from the rail and it's groove and the same applied with Q-tips for the drive wheels and collars on the standards. Then use a dry type of lubricant (sparingly) and let 'er rip.

The only thing remotely problematic with this camera is that you are too tight for much movements with wide angle lenses due to bellows compression (a recessed lens board is some help) and since you have to do wide angle with the front standard all the way forward, you've got a lot of the rearward projecting rail to fight under the dark cloth. The former is why they also made the wide angle version of the camera and the latter is just something you deal with.