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Thread: Help With New Camera Selection

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Asheville NC
    Posts
    155

    Help With New Camera Selection

    Hello everyone,

    I am in the process of replacing my second LF camera. Currently I use a Zone VI, but I have found it less solid than I prefer. The front standard wobbles. I also find I need to make frequent repairs to the camera. I also am tired of having to switch between the wide angle and standard bellows when working. A camera with a universal bellows would be nice.

    Previously, I used a Sinar F+. That camera performed well and seldom needed work, but I found it too cumbersome to use in the field. It also had the problem of switching bellows from standard to wide angle.

    I do some architectural work and as much landscape photography as I can squeeze in. While on occasion I may work out of a backpack, I typically drive to where I want to photograph and work within walking distance (a mile or two) from the tailgate of my car.

    Currently, I am looking at four cameras. The first is the Toyo A45II. Next on my list are the Ebony SV45TE and the SV45U2. Finally ( a long shot) there is the Linhoh MT 2000.

    The Toyo appears to be a lot of camera for the money. I really like what I read about the Ebony SV45U2, but I do not know if the asymmetrical tilts warrants the $1000 premium over the very nice SV45TE. The Linhof sounds as solid as a tank, but it seems the accessories are far more costly compared to the other cameras besides costing a bit more to begin with.

    I considered a Wisner, but it seems too similar to what I currently have.

    I plan on purchasing new later this month. Any comments on these four cameras would be appreciated. Also, am I overlooking a camera that fits my needs?

    Thanks! Bill McMannis
    Bill McMannis

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    No. Virginia
    Posts
    363

    Help With New Camera Selection

    I'm just wondering. A few years back I played with the lightweight Zone VI by Calumet at the New York show. It was a rattletrap. I did buy an older, used Zone VI. For the extra two pounds I have a very tight camera. What type of repairs do you find you are doing? Mine seems fine. What are the weak spots?

  3. #3
    Octogenarian
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Frisco, Texas
    Posts
    3,528

    Help With New Camera Selection

    Hi Bill,

    I recently went through a similar decision making process. However, I went from a wooden 4X5 Wisner Tech Field to a metal Toyo 45AII. After using the Toyo for seven years, I finally realized that I was really a "wooden field camera guy". I sold the Toyo and went back to a 4X5 wooden field camera, the Ebony SV45TE.

    Price was no object. I could have purchased the SV45U2, but came to the same conclusion that you did regarding the extra $1000 for the asymmetrical tilts. However, if you desire to use wide angle lenses shorter than 90mm, the optional wide angle bellows is still necessary, unless you opt for the universal bellows. That will enable you to use lenses down to 65mm without the necessity of changing to the wide angle bellows. I bought the optional wide angle bellows.

    The Toyo 45AII had numerous limitations on the bellows length, use of wide angle lenses, and the movements it offered. It's not the greatest camera for architectural photography.

    If you are a "metal field camera guy" by all means purchase the Linhof. If you are a "wooden field camera guy", don't hesitate. Get the Ebony.

    As usual, I recommend calling Jim, at Midwest Photo Exchange (www.mpex.com). He handles new, and used, Ebonys and Linhofs, as well as a large assortment of lenses, including Fuji lenses. He is knowledgeable, reliable, and has very reasonable prices.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Posts
    9,472

    Help With New Camera Selection

    An Arca Swiss Discovery with the leather wide angle bellows allows you to work with lenses up to 180-210mm, and is in the middle price range. It is very well made and lots of people backpack with them.

    You can find nice Linhof Technicas IV and Vs for around $1000 to $1500. You loose the wide angle abilities of the MT 2000 but you could find a wide angle focusing device for $250 or so...

    The Toyo is not sexy but it is a reliable workhorse. Another similar camera to consider is the Wista VX or SP - metal body, geared tilt and rise, good fresnel and hood - in fact it is better in many ways than the Linhof. I used mine (an SP) with lenses down to 65mm without a bag bellows or theactrics (just a recessed lensboard.) It was always smooth and solid. Only drawback is a shorter bellows than the Linhof.

    Have fun with your quest...

  5. #5

    Help With New Camera Selection

    I'm a "metal field camera guy." I considered a Toyo but ended up going with a Wista VX (or SP, whichever model has the microfocus on the back). It got the nod over the Toyo because it had center tilt as opposed to base tilt. I purchased it used from Midwest and am very happy with it. It is extremely solid and the gearing is very smooth. It doesn't have a fresnel, but I wanted it without. Definitely worth a look if you're considering a metal field.

    Chris

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    La Luz del Oeste, Albuquerque NM
    Posts
    524

    Help With New Camera Selection

    What is the max extension of the Wista SP/VX?
    Peter Collins

    On the intent of the First Amendment: The press was to serve the governed, not the governors --Opinion, Hugo Black, Judge, Supreme Court, 1971 re the "Pentagon Papers."

  7. #7

    Help With New Camera Selection

    Not sure. I haven't used anything longer than 180 with mine. Check the B&H website. I think they have all the specs listed.

    Chris

  8. #8

    Help With New Camera Selection

    I have two cameras with asymmetrical tilts and I wish they all did. It is a real boon for architectural subjects. You won't know how great it is until you actually try it. It is probably not that important for landscapes....

  9. #9

    Help With New Camera Selection

    Chris - a fresnel is standard on all metal Wistas. Did you remove yours?
    Tha max bellows on my VX is just a hair short of 300mm. I can use a 300mm lens with it and focus to infinity and down to about 15ft, but the bellows is definitely stretched at the extremes and doesn't leave much room for movements. I ended up selling the 300. I would say you can comfortably use a 240 or even a 270. On the short end I had no problem using a 75mm, and supposedly it will take a 65 as well. It doesn't have front fall, although you can drop the bed and use the fairly generous front rise to position the lens - not as convenient, but works.
    It is very solid and smooth, making it a pleasure to operate, and it folds into a solid brick (with lens mounted and GG covered), which is great when you want to throw it in a backpack and not have to worry about anything getting scratched or bent etc.

    Guy
    Scenic Wild Photography

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Asheville NC
    Posts
    155

    Help With New Camera Selection

    Thanks for all of the suggestions.

    To answer Jim's questions regarding my current Zone VI. I bought mine used from Jim at Midwest. He reports mine is from the late 90's. It is the heavier version with gold plated hardware. I have had difficulties with the bale mechanism for loading filmholders. Being a wooden camera, I do not want to over tighten. The set screws come loose every few weeks. When this happens, there is not enough force holding the filmholder in place and I get light leaks. These screws are difficult to get at in the field so I find I should inspect these on the bench before they cause problems. My other difficulty was with the lower metal tab that holds the lensboard in place. As I said above, I bought the camera used and I suspect a previous owner would only open the upper tab and pop out the lensboard with the lower tabl closed. As a result, the metal bushings in the wood on the front standard stripped from the wood. I extracted the bushings and epoxied them in place. My repairs on this should last forever, assuming the photographer opens both tabs when removing lensboards.

    Perhaps I have all of the repairs behind me now. I still do not like the way the front standard flexes and I see no way to fix that.

    Thanks for the Wista suggestions, I will look into them. I do like the idea of wood camera, so right now I am leaning towards the Ebony SV45TE.

    Thanks again, Bill
    Bill McMannis

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