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Thread: Gimbal Head and Large Format Photography?

  1. #1
    tgtaylor's Avatar
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    Gimbal Head and Large Format Photography?

    For the past month I have been seriously considering a project requiring a telephoto lens with a medium format camera. For about half that time I envisioned using a 600mm SMC Takamur 67 lens on the Pentax 67II with a Gimbal head but came to the conclusion that the 400mm SMC Takumar, which I already have, with a 1.4 rear converter giving an effective focal length of 560mm would be the better choice - both financially and optically. So I ordered just a Manfrotto 393 Gimbal head and instead of the 600mm Takumar 67, because they were priced so reasonable, a 400mm Pentax FA EDIF for the NII which, without a rear converter, gives almost the same FOV as the 67 Takumar with the rear converter but is also auto focus. Today I had the opportunity to scout the shooting location with the NII without the head and it looked good. Panning around with the camera set on auto, the typical exposure on ASA 100 film seemed to be f8 @ 350/sec.

    And then it struck me: The 4x5 Toyo Robos should easily mount on the gimbal head and with a 760mm Apo Nikkor lens, which I have and in a shutter, and would give about the same FOV as the 2 medium format cameras and lens as mentioned above. Has anyone shot LF using a Gimbal head that would care to comment? My tripods are a Gitzo G1500 and Manfrotto 475B.

    Thomas

  2. #2
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Gimbal Head and Large Format Photography?

    You might want to go over to APUG, Thomas, and note my comments on how I rigged up a very solid mount for the 300EDIF P67 lens. There's a lot of pushback from people who have never actually worked with these lenses, as usual. But it basically involves unitizing the camera thread mount to a second lens ring mount using a machined and epoxied piece of phenolic/maple-hardwood bar, then this being bolted directly atop the platform top of my larger Ries wooden tripod. This should work excellent for a 400EDIF too; but older Takumars don't have a built-in lens ring and will need further improvisation. A 600 might be tricky. Astrophotographers have found dedicated Pentax teleconverters a better option, which would give you an equivalent to 600mm with the 300; but I never cared for teleconverters because you need to stop down quite a bit. I also own a 760 Apo Nikkor, but haven't tried it on a view camera, since my 600 Fuji C is far more convenient. But since you're in this area, and I'm out on Pt Reyes quite a bit in summer, at least till backpacking season, we could arrange to meet, and you could see my own P67 setup in long lens usage, that is, if you don't mind some hiking. I really need to get my knees in shape pending mountain trips. Afterward, in Autumn, I can unwind a bit. I also have a Nikon adapter for my 300EDIF, which is a fun wildlife combination. And I also own an older 300 P67 lens which is fine for black and white work when I don't want to risk road travel with the much more expensive EDIF version. A lot of good ideas are on widefield astrophotography sites, but not if you need a tripod you can carry. Their idea of a tripod is often a big towed trailer with an astronomical clock drive system built in, or even a stationary mini observatory dome somewhere in the desert. ... I do know someone who specialized in telephotography using Apo Nikkor lenses on a Toyo G 8x10 camera, but with 6x7 or 35mm cameras in the film position. He's in his mid 70's now, but he was once a dealer for Pentax gear as well as telescopes, so did interesting things putting them together. He's also local - lives Albany, and still maintains a website: Tele-scapes.com.

  3. #3
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Gimbal Head and Large Format Photography?

    I looked up your specs. The Gitzo 1500 legs looks OK, maybe the Manfrotto legs. But I wouldn't waste your time on a gimbal head unless it's built like a Sherman tank.

  4. #4
    tgtaylor's Avatar
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    Re: Gimbal Head and Large Format Photography?

    Thanks for the offer Drew - I don't plan on doing any hiking with my set-up but perhaps we could meet one day for coffee at a Peets or Starbucks with our gear. I'll PM you my contact information and we can communicate further off the forum.

    In the meantime I upgraded the rear converters for the 67 and 645 to the newer grey ones. I only had one before, the older 2x T6 for the 67 and I now have both the 1.4 and 2x for both cameras. The 2 focusing screens I have for the 67 - the standard matte and split image matte, works with the 67 lenses I have and their screens. I don't have any focusing screens for the NII other than what came as standard with the camera and can't readily see how you would change it out. The 67 screen is easy to swap out but the are scarce and expensive on ebay. The 645 NII screens are plentiful and about 1/3 the cost of the 67 screens.

    The Manfrotto 393 is solid. Here is a typical online review: https://www.richardpeters.co.uk/manfrotto-393-review/. It will also work with my Pentax spotting scope: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ...ing_Scope.html

    Got to head off to work - I'll PM you whe I get back.

    Happy 4th!

    Thomas

  5. #5
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Gimbal Head and Large Format Photography?

    I use a flip-up magnifier on my 6x7. The 300EDIF is so bright that it doesn't really need it; but since it has no positive stop at infinity, I tend to use it. I imagine the ability to focus beyond the infinity mark is related to usages for this lens beyond ordinary visual light. But I love its close-range ability. I can stand clear across a road and home in on some little detail and get it in crisp focus without getting run over. I have no experience with the 645 camera. But like I already hinted, Francis Sakamoto is in the area and really knows the topic of turning Pentax camera or Pentax lenses into telescopes, plus Apo Nikkor applications. In the meantime, have fun. I often go scouting with a small camera to find good LF subjects, but yesterday wanted the extra weight of a full view system in my pack for sake of a good knee workout on Mt Tam, and ended up spotting subjects I want to return to in a few days with MF gear, including the 300EDIF. I can still load up the pack enough to get a good workout. Maybe one of these days in Fall we can meet in a parking lot somewhere at the Marin Headlands, chat a bit and show each other our tripod strategies, then each go off and do our own thing. But over the next month I really do need to concentrate on getting in shape for a long Wyoming backpack.

  6. #6
    tgtaylor's Avatar
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    Re: Gimbal Head and Large Format Photography?

    I also use the flip-up magnifier on my 67II as it provides for critical focusing. As far as I am aware, the focus on all Pentax telephotos go slightly beyond the infinity mark on the lens to allow for the atmospheric effect when using a telephoto lens. Yesterday I took the 645 w/1.4 rear converter mounted on the gimbal head out to the bay to photograph commercial shipping and recreational boating activities. All subjects snapped into focus slightly in front of the infinity mark on the lens. Next I'm going to take the 67 with the 2x converter and then the Robos with the 760mm lens. It was breezy on the bay yesterday but the wind had no effect on the gimbal which I had mounted on the 475B. I need to get a rubber eyecup for the 645 (I have one for the 67) so that I can read the data off the screen and probably a leveling head (?) to make leveling easier. The 393 works smoothly when positioning the lens vertically or panning but requires perfect leveling to keep the horizon perfectly level when panning. I'll probably order something like this https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ...e_Folding.html to use when I'm out on the bay photographing. A light breathable windbreaker provides comfort from the cool wind gusts and protection for the arms from the sun.

    Thomas

  7. #7
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Gimbal Head and Large Format Photography?

    Looks better than what I've got - an upside-down 5-gal bucket to sit on. The problem with long shots with teles is always intervening atmosphere. Even at high altitude you have to be wary of heat waves. I got a nice shot of Sevehah Cliff from across Convict Lk last summer with the 300EDIF. The top 2/3 was precise, but the bottom 1/3 looked out of focus even though it wasn't - just heat waves on darker rocks at lower altitude. I cropped the print. I've been atop that cliff looking down too, with 4x5 - that is an incredible view, about a 4mi walk from the end of the Jeep road to the upper trailhead.

  8. #8
    tgtaylor's Avatar
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    Re: Gimbal Head and Large Format Photography?

    Yesterday I went out with the 67 w/2x rear converter for an effective focal length of 800mm. However the wind was too strong - gusting to 40+mph so after 2 exposures I packed it up and spent some time checking out alternative locations that offered protection from the wind and found one. In many ways this new location is much better in that in addition to providing protection from the wind it sits out further in the bay which means that I can probably get away with using the 1.4 rear converter on the 67 and surely on the 645. This morning I mounted the Robos on the 393 and it works thanks to the camera's tall mounting block:



    It's shown with the 760 apo-nikkor and a 900mm bellows.The camera and lens balanced at the location shown and should balance when stretched out but I forgot to bring the extension rail so will have to wait to confirm that. The reversing front standard allows for a little more extension on the front which means that I can pull back a little on the front and max out the back to compensate somewhat for the weight of the lens.

    Thomas

  9. #9
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Gimbal Head and Large Format Photography?

    Acratech makes a "long lens head" similar to that which looks interesting. I once made something similar myself, but prefer my less adjustable but more secure own current method. It's nice how our round-rail monorail systems are so easy to balance in the linear direction. I shoot Sinar. The wind has been horrific here the past three days; downright cold too. I'm going to try for a sheltered canyon on Tam in a day or so, but with MF gear this time. My own 760 has an integral lenshood which I'm unable to remove. It seems to have been the primary lens for the massive 22 ft long copy camera I cannibalized, and the only Apo Nikkor among the set that looks less than pretty; that is, the finish on the barrel has dulled, and apparently there is some corrosion on the shade threads. But the glass itself is in good shape; and the price was right (free).

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