View Full Version : Let's talk about Wista!

Uri A
12-Aug-2011, 06:08
Hi kids,

Is anyone here knowledgeable about Wista cameras? I've Googled the hell outta them and the website is either in Japanese or full of 100px images and bad copy... frustrating!

I would be interested in knowing the features of the latest/greatest 4x5 model, esp in how it compares to a Linhof Master Technika.

If you are trying to help this thread I would really appreciate factual conversation rather than a "Ford vs GM" style discussion :)

Bob Salomon
12-Aug-2011, 06:10
I have answered this before on the forum but if you email me at bob@hpmarketingcorp.com I will send you the comparison sheet of features and specs between Linhof and Wista since we are the distributor for both.

Uri A
12-Aug-2011, 06:27
Thanks Bob!

Will email you now. If you can direct me to that thread that would be great! I did try searching ...

Many thanks!

mike rosenlof
12-Aug-2011, 07:15
There are wood Wistas and metal Wistas, all are folders. Every now and then an older monorail Wista shows up.

I have a 45SP. Metal folder with geared "micro swing" on the back. What would you like to know about it?

Bob Salomon
12-Aug-2011, 07:39
Thanks Bob!

Will email you now. If you can direct me to that thread that would be great! I did try searching ...

Many thanks!

Just emailed you the chart. It does include wood Wistas as well as Linhof Kardan and TK cameras.

Noah A
12-Aug-2011, 11:21
My first 4x5 (other than the monorails I used in college) was a Wista VX. I worked with the Wista for almost a year for a few projects and I put a few hundred sheets of film through it. I found it to be the best of the line since I didn't need the microswing rear that the SP offers.

It's a very sturdy, solid little camera. Definitely the kind of camera you can throw in the back seat of your car or in a backpack and not worry about. It folds with some lenses mounted, for example a 150 Apo Sironar S (as does the Linhof Technika).

I eventually sold the VX and now I shoot with a Linhof Technikardan and a Linhof Master Technika 2000. For the sake of this discussion I'll limit my comparisons to the Technika, since the TK45 is an entirely different beast.

You can read about the specs in the literature so I won't get into that.

There were a few main problems that bothered me with the Wista. First, there is vignetting caused by the revolving back. This can happen with Linhofs as well--with both cameras it gets worse as the lens gets longer (or as the lens gets farther from the film plane). But with the Wista, the corners were clipped even with a 150mm lens and with a 210 it really started being a problem. I don't print my film edges but it bothered me to crop into the frame to get rid of the vignetted corners. With my Technika at 210 I can barely see a tiny bit of corner vignetting, but it's really only visible in the cutout area at the top of the film holder, and therefore it's not really in the frame. Even for printing the film edge it would look fine.

The main problem for me was the limited front rise I could achieve with wide and medium-wide lenses. I use a 90/4.5 Grandagon and a 115 Grandagon. The wista has a fairly deep body that's shaped like a box. The top part of the box would interfere with the bellows and push it into light path, especially when shooting vertical format. The bellows itself is pretty flexible, and there is a bag available which is nice, but even with the bag bellows, the body will get in the way.

That's why I switched to the TK45, though I later wanted a more portable option so I added the Master Technika. The Masters (though not the earlier techs) have a flap on the top of the body to allow more front rise. This works nicely. And even without unlocking the flap, the Technika seems to allow more rise than the Wista due to the size and shape of the camera and bellows. No folding box metal field camera that I know of can max out the movements of a 115 grandagon, but the Technika does pretty well.

Neither of the cameras have front fall. With the Wista the best you can do is to drop the bed and tilt the lens back to vertical. This works, but since the tripod socket is on the bed, it means you have to re-level the camera. At the time I was using a ballhead so this was a major annoyance. With a geared head it may be less of a pain, but it's still not ideal.

The Linhof has an extra tripod socket on the body, so you can drop the bed without re-leveling the camera. In addition, there is a tripod socket on top of the camera so you can mount it upside-down in order to achieve front fall.

The Wista has interchangeable bellows, which is a huge plus over the Linhof. If you want to carry a spare or a bag bellows it's no problem. If you destroy your Linhof bellows you can change them yourself, but it requires tools and is ideally done in a shop, not in the field. I much prefer the Wista setup, though the actual bellows is nicer on the Linhof.

The Wista, at least the VX, is a bit simpler than the Technika. It doesn't have the back movements of the Linhof but since I've never used those, I like the clean layout of the controls on the Wista.

Hope this was of some help. You should try to get your hands on both if you really want to see what will work best for you, though I know that can be difficult.

Frank Petronio
12-Aug-2011, 12:34
I've had the Wista woodie and SP as well as the Linhof Technika IV and V. For normal photography with popular, reasonable lenses, 90mm to 210mm, they are all going to be excellent, high quality cameras that are capable of the best results.

Where the Wista falls short is in bellows extension. It also has a lighter - but sturdy and well designed - build quality compared to the Technika - which is rock solid.

Where the Technika falls short is that it's a bit heavier and usually more expensive than the Wista.

Both cameras are finished well and their used price should reflect the condition of the bellows, cleanliness, extras, etc.

You can add rail extensions and a longer bellows to the Wista VX and SP (also a bag bellows) but these are fairly expensive and can drive the total price into Technika territory.

This is a pretty good summary of older Technikas: http://www.cameraquest.com/techs.htm

None of these camera are ideal for architecture or extremely wide angles, perhaps with the exception of the newer Technikas that Bob mentions, which have improvements made for wide angle focusing and movements. However the compact Technikardan or some of the other system monorails will always have a greater range of movements because of their design, and they probably make a better choice if your work leans that way.

12-Aug-2011, 13:49
Uri, based on a quick glance at your website, you won't need extensive movements, if your work continues in that direction.
Metal Wistas have a lot of movements for a field camera, probably more than you will need.
As Frank said they are solid, durable and well-built, with lots of available options; and as Noah said, they are not without their quirks.
Overall, well worth the money, and should last a lifetime.

Uri A
12-Aug-2011, 20:44
Hi Noah, Frank and Ari,

Fabulous feedback! THANK YOU all, especially Noah (double especially after me dicking Noah around on a sale of said Tech 2000 and him still writing an essay for me).

It's those little quirks that can make all the difference and which you cannot discern from a catalogue. For me the Tech 2000 has one major and one minor quirk which drive me KeRaAyZeeee in regular use, so I was wondering whether the Wista would be a better hoss for me:

Firstly the self-zeroing front tilt with pushbutton lock drives me nuts: in deciding on a plane, I will go past zero, or very close to it, many times and the thing just pops itself into lock every pass! The button is quite firm so I feel it's moving my frame every time I have to push laterally to unlock it... total over-engineering IMHO. Does the Wista have this 'feature' as well??

Secondly (this is anal I'm warning you!): the front rise/fall ratchet with the little flippy cube ... dunno - it's minor and I know it's the worlds finest engineering yadda yadda, but maybe I'm just more of an intuitive guy and want to go up and down many times before I decide and flipping the cube.. feh. But OK this is minor.

On the plus side for the T2K, the tripod plate on the bed would be pretty terrible, both for use and packing, that's for sure: well said Noah.

Ari, thanks for looking but the website is just my commercial work (mostly shot on digital). My personal work is mostly normal or wide, but not super wide (90mm max), so bellows extension is not an issue for me, but the vignetting at 210 is something I'll look into (I think Ive shot about 5 sheets at 210 in my whole 4x5 career). Microswing just confuses me and adds weight, so that's a plus for the VX...

More thinking to do! But thank you all for the knowledge.

Happy shooting :)

Frank Petronio
13-Aug-2011, 05:48
I forgot what the tilt is like on the Wista but I understand about the strong detent on the Technika, perhaps it could be removed?

As for the rise on the Technika V and later models, I agree it is an odd design and if forced, teeth can break off the track. The Technika IV has a simple wheel-knob that is more intuitive and robust. Not being able to afford a new Technika, I like the IV a lot and it seems the best value, especially if you find one with already cammed lenses and budget for a CLA and new bellows.

I think the Wista has a wheel-knob for rise as well.

The corner vignetting on the Wista is pretty minor, it is there but unless you contact print 4x5 or something odd-fancy, it's a non-issue in real life.

13-Aug-2011, 07:40
The corner vignetting on the Wista is pretty minor, it is there but unless you contact print 4x5 or something odd-fancy, it's a non-issue in real life.

Absolutely true.
And, to add to the question of the rise knob, the Wista is capable of extreme rise, but I find it's easier, when using the bag bellows, to "pre-rise" somewhat before attaching the bellows.
The controls in that part of the camera are small and better-suited to those with more delicate fingers.

Noah A
13-Aug-2011, 08:40
URI--No worries about the MT...I totally understood the situation. I found a great local deal so I didn't have to worry about shipping or customs issues.

I wanted to make sure I wasn't too harsh on the Wista. The corner vignetting is annoying but really I'm being fussy about it and it's not a big deal as long as you don't print full-frame with the film edges, in which case it looks bad in my opinion. I'll attach some samples for you to see. If you rarely shoot with a 210 I'd say it will be a very minor issue for you. I use the 210 quite often, and often with a lot of rise which makes the corner problem worse.

I actually prefer the linhof rise lever, but it's a matter of personal opinion and I could see how some might find it fiddly. It took me a few days to get used to but now I prefer it, mostly because the wista geared knob needs to be locked with your other hand, since the locking knob is on the opposite side of the camera. With light lenses you may not need the lock but I needed the lock with heavy wideangles. I like that I can use the linhof lever with one hand.

I do prefer the tilt on the Wista. For me it's less of a concern because I don't use tilt all that often, but if you do the Wista wins this one.

This may be something that could be helped with a CLA, but the focus on the MT2000 is more snug and feels more well damped than on my Wista. With the Wista, if I didn't lock the focus right away, it would shift. With the Linhof I often don't even use the focus lock since it stays where I put it, which makes focusing much easier.

As for the tripod socket, I left an arca plate attached, though it's a bit awkward since the wista has a round raised section where the tripod mount is. I never did find a round arca plate. A universal plate works fine in practice. The only problem was re-leveling when I wanted to drop the bed.

Let me put it this way--if the Linhof didn't exist the Wista would be my favorite metal field camera. The limited rise on the Wista meant it could work for about 70% of my photographs. The MT2000 with its extra bit of usable front rise (before the bellows cuts into the frame) can work for about 90%.

When I got my TK45S I sold the Wista. Had I been smarter and kept it, I probably would have continued to use it as my more portable kit for when extreme movements weren't needed. But after getting hooked on the TK's excellent engineering and build quality, I figured I'd just get the MT2000 for that purpose and be done with it.

Frank Petronio
13-Aug-2011, 09:44
Once you've seen both it is easy to see that the Wista is a copy of a Linhof but with Japanese construction techniques - folded instead of cast parts, the sort of engineering that saves weight and cost - rather like their export cars in the 1970s.... And in many ways this is good engineering versus Linhof's uncompromising craftsmanship. You can tell both camera designs were made by photographers.

All of this assumes you value compactness, rigidity, and build quality - don't need extreme movements like a hardcore architectural or studio photographer - and are willing to carry 2-4 lbs more than the ultra-light toothpick-wood field cameras or a Toho.