View Full Version : Sinar Norma 5x7

Ben Calwell
26-Jan-2004, 13:47
My fellow enthusiasts,

I once again look to you for guidance. I'm thinking of trading a Linhof Tech III 5x7 for a Sinar Norma 5x7. I miss the precision of a monorail, plus the Linhof has limited movements compared to the Norma. And I understand the Norma is lighter than the Tech III. I know that the Norma won't be as easy to tote around as the Linhof, but I never venture very far from the car anyway. I shoot mainly landscapes, urban scenes and still lifes. I've already corresponded off forum with a 5x7 Sinar Norma owner, and he gave the camera high marks. Does anyone else out there have experience with Normas, particularly the 5x7? I've never used one -- what are the camera's strengths and weaknesses? I've read comments in the archives, but they mostly address 4x5 Normas. Thanks in advance for your advice.

Frank Petronio
26-Jan-2004, 14:24
I haven't had the 5x7 but I have owned the 4x5 and used the 8x10. They are great cameras, as is your Linhof. The thing to watch out for is mainly some ham handed user over tightening the geared focusing knob and lock lever mechanism - I had plier marks on mine, and the insides get worn and progressively looser. The nice thing is that they can be adjusted back into spec, unlike many newer cameras. Properly adjusted, the standards lock securely with a single finger's pressure. Some people just keep over tightening and it only makes the problem worse, so that they have to start using pliers to loosen the standards, etc. Watch out for rental, catalog and school based cameras - lots of abuse. Anyway, I hope yours isn't that bad! Sinar in NJ or Bob Watkins at Precision Camera Works can adjust.

Otherwise, the things that are hard to find are replacement knobs, bubble levels, and the small caps at the tops of the standards. You can go without them for the most part. Some people have cast new knobs from epoxy or replaced them with off-brand knobs or clamps. Finding the metal bellows lens shade clips is difficult - they are not set at the same angle as the modern plastic clips (these allow you to use your spare beat up bellows as a compendium lens shade). Replacement 5x7 bellows may be hard to find, but they are on eBay sometimes. If you ever find a beat up Norma, it may be worth it to buy it for parts and resell whatever you don't want. The Norma rail clamp is better than the modern version for field work (lower and lighter). Really the whole camera is better than any of the modern Sinars, especially the F series. Prices are all over the place - Glenn Evans and Lens & Repro want $2000 but they sell on eBay for ~$500 all the time.

Steve Hamley
26-Jan-2004, 17:22

I had a 5x7 Norma at one time and there's nothing wrong with it except that maybe the bellows draw is a bit short compared to most 5x7 field cameras. I originally intended to adapt a 6x17 back to it, and used a 4x5 reducing back. Everything Frank said is true, and it's a beautiful camera - truly a classic. I do mostly field work so the reason I sold it is that it is hard to carry and I wanted an 8x10 field camera. More movements than you can ever use and reasonably lightweight for a rail. Mine was a black camera with all the caps and levels, and may still be at Midwest if you're interested.

Actually, I sort of miss it even though I never used it a lot; it was a pleasure when I did use it. If a nice one came along, I might be tempted, and I'd certainly go for the 5x7 rather than the 4x5. More versatile and IMO, better looking with the tapered bellows.



tor kviljo
27-Jan-2004, 01:48
It is a absolutely beautiful camera!! I have the Norma 5x7 & 8"x10" (both bought VERY reasonably as well-used conversion-sets at MXV camera in UK http://www.mxv.co.uk/) The standard bearer for the 5x7 is the same as for the 4"x5", so just getting the 4"x5" accessory frame ("U" bearer + format frame) + bellows & You have a complete 4"x5" also. Due to the 4"x5" (actually 5"x5") front frame resting nicely on the bellows & inside the frame of the 7"x7" rear bearer (making a 5" - 6" thick sandwich of both standards + bellows attached (I use bag-bellows all time - works as cushioning when packed down), the 5"x7" is easily backpackable when slid off its rail, or when slid onto 6"rail & tripod-block removed (I let it sit on tripod head). Build quality is better than on my Snar P/P2 - only surpassed by the best Linhof, absolutely rigid when tightened. It's a medium heavy but perfectly backpackable camera of excellent rigidity & compatible with nearly all Sinar stuff except (sob) the newer Sinar-Copal (with DB adjustments on rear on side) shutter (interfering with right U-bearer). A big ground-glass lifting handle + insert guide for cassettes helps avoid disturbing the set-up when adjustments is made = very well thought out camera


Bob Eskridge
27-Jan-2004, 11:45
I have a 5X7 Norma with regular and bag bellows. A very smooth operating camera! I have enjoyed using it. Everything from a 90 lens to a 480 lens has been used on it.

Supposedly, the levels are still available from Sinar. My horizontal ones are good but the vertical ones need replacing but I never shoot vertically anyway.

I compared my Norma directly with my friend's 5X7 Tech III. The Norma is lighter (9 1/4 lbs) and actually faster to set up, in my opinion, if the lens is left mounted. On a 12" or 18" rail it fits upside down in a custom case I made from reinforced cardboard. An 8 1/2 inch rail would be perfect to store the camera on but would have to be custom made. Extra extension rails are easy to add as needed.

I am in the process of building a lightweight intermediate standard that will join the bag bellows with the regular bellows for extra long lenses. However, a 480 works fine in the field with the 18" rail without needing this standard for everything but close focus.

All said, I will probably be selling the camera soon ---as soon I can finish converting a B&J Press to 5X7. It will serve my particular use almost as well.

Mont Teague
21-Jun-2005, 12:54
I have a Sinar Norma 5x7 Expert Kit (1963) that I have been using in the field for 17 years. The car carries it to the location I am going to work, and then I just carry the camera on the tripod (Gitzo 410R) over my shoulder, case in one hand, and a camera bag with holders the other the other shoulder. I do this at Mt. Rainier N.P., up-hill every year that there is a flower display, and some times with no display, and I'am 55 years old. This camera has been from the Canadaian Rockies to the Pacific coast to the Southwest. The camera itself is very light in weight, 8 1/4 Lbs without a lens, but, with an 18" rail. Use a lighter tripod than mine, the camera does not need such a heavy tripod. I have owned a 4x5 Calumet, 4x5 Wista field, 4x5 Linhof Technikardan, and a 4x5 Sinar Norma Expert Kit. I like the 5x7 the best. The 4x5 Norma is a better choice if you are going to use color film. 5x7 color film is getting expensive.

This camera will do everthing you would ever want it to do on any photographic task. My system has a 4x5 reducing back in an attatchable bag on the case. In the case (which is the Sinar case) I carry 4 lenses, the bag bellows, extension bellows, intermediate standard, 18" rail, light meter, filters and an extra 12" rail. I do alot of close in work, which is why I use a monorail camera. I have had as much as 40 inches of bellows extension on close-up work out in the field. The Sinar Norma is the best there is, no matter what the format (4x5, 5x7, 8x10), I have used them all, it is strong, stable, lightweight ( only the Arca Swiss is lighter), and expandable. And it will not break. My camera has never failed me.

As regards to spare parts, they are out there. The bubble levels and focusing gear are avalible from Sinar, as are many other parts.

My advice, buy one.

Daniel Unkefer
13-Oct-2010, 15:21
I'm restoring this 5x7 Norma back, to join the 4x5 & 8x10 Normas in the studio. Needs a new bellows, but could be usuable as-is, with a bit of work lighttighting it. I'll probably send it to the UK for a new bellows, in a bit.

The lens is a fully-restored vintage 360mm Sinar Symmar convertible in a Sinar Norma aperture controlled mount. It's fully automated with the Sinar Norma Shutter, works incredibly fast and easy, from the rear of the camera.

Richard Wasserman
13-Oct-2010, 16:43
Very nice Daniel! I have a Norma with 4x5, 5x7, and 8x10 backs and it's the most wonderful camera I've ever used. What tripod do you have yours on? I use an older Linhof Twin-Shank and it's just great, relatively light weight and extremely solid.

Frank Petronio
13-Oct-2010, 17:43
For people who don't know, Sinar made a mechanical system with their shutter that would close and stop down the lens automagically whenever a film holder was slid into the back. It depends on robust springs and cables and it works very well, it is ideal for portraits because it eliminates the extra step of stepping in front of the camera and adjusting the lens controls before shooting.

Just slam the holder home and fire at will.

It's an amazing system that sells for pennies on the dollar now because it is truly a studio type of camera. You wouldn't back-pack with this.

Linhofs are built better, Arca's look sexier, but Sinar really figured out how people work!

Daniel Unkefer
13-Oct-2010, 18:54
That's a Foba C40 tripod, specifically designed by Sinar for the 8x10 Norma. It's perfectly matched, and not too heavy. When I hike outside with Norma, I use a Zone VI lightweight (wood). Just throw the whole thing over my shoulder and a soft bag on the other shoulder, and I can go for miles (and I have). Carried 4x5 Norma to the top of the Great Sand Dunes in southwest Colorado. When I got to where I wanted to be, I was glad to have Norma with me.

14-Oct-2010, 00:12
Hello My 4x5 Norma is enclosed in a backpack (designed to hold rope for climbers) with a set of lenses (90 F:4.5 ; 120 f:5.6 / 150 f:5.6 / 210 F:6.3 ) a spotmeter a BlackJacket, wide angle bellows a set of extension rail, loupe, notepad...
On the side of the bag is the Manfroto 55 with the 2D Sinar head...
I must admit I've bought a trolley with inflated wheels to carry the gear as I'm getting older ;-)

John Conway
14-Oct-2010, 14:55
I have a Norma 4x5 with bag bellows that I have used as my wide angle camera a 90 mm lens. I found the camera at my friends antique shop. It was a great find,in the original case with many accessories, owners manual and extra boards. I love it.

Bruce Barlow
15-Oct-2010, 04:13
I have an 8x10 Norma with 5x7 and 4x5 reducing backs. Big, heavy, and worth it. The 8x10 bellows are long enough for my 19" Artar, which is a fun lens to use on 5x7.

These days, however, I've cut my camera weight in half with my Richard Ritter 8x10 and 5x7. But I'll keep Norma, I couldn't stand to sell her. I'm sure I'll still use her.

Daniel Unkefer
17-Oct-2010, 11:24
This one is 8x10, I do have a 5x7 Reducing Back for it. Another way to do 5x7, this one has the 5x7 Sinar Norma Metering Cassette, Sinar Norma Shutter, 8x10 Norma Bag Bellows, and 165mm F8 Sinar Super Angulon, with Special Norma Automated lensboard. It also couples with the Sinar Shutter, enabling rapid-fire precision control of the camera and lens, from the screen viewing position. This one also has a Broncolor probe for reading spot meter flash at the film plane. Great for interior shooting.