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Thread: Wista 45 RF... or alternative for handheld RF work at open aperture?

  1. #1

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    Wista 45 RF... or alternative for handheld RF work at open aperture?

    I have a Zeiss Planar 135mm f/3.5 and am itching to use it handheld at max aperture. I understand the Wista RF has built-in cams for 135mm, 150mm and 180mm. Is this correct? Will the camera RF focus correctly by the very act of mounting any lens of these 3 focal lengths and it'll work? It sounds too easy and convenient to be true. I downloaded the Wista manual and it doesn't really go into it. I assume I'll have to set the infinity stop with the GG but is that all?

  2. #2
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    Re: Wista 45 RF

    There are two variables to control in a rangefinder mechanism - the infinity setting and the slope of the cam. You can adjust the infinity stops on the 45RF to accommodate the different flange-to-film specifications of the two lenses, but the slope of the cams is designed to match the respective focal lengths of the Nikkor W lenses. Although both lenses are marked with 135mm as their nominal focal length, the actual focal lengths of different lens brands or series within a brand may be different by up to a few millimeters. Ultimately you'll just have to test whether the focus is close enough for your purposes, given your typical working apertures, focus distances, enlargement factors, and print viewing habits. If it's off, but you tend to want to use the rangefinder for subjects closer than infinity, you may find that adjusting the infinity stop to something other than infinity will give you a closer match at your usual working distances.

    All that said, the fact that you want to work handheld at open aperture is not going to help - that can be tricky even when a rangefinder is in perfect adjustment. Again, you'll just have to try it to see whether it's going to work for you.

  3. #3

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    Re: Wista 45 RF

    Thank for your reply. I knew it wouldn't be this easy! Since I intend to use the Zeiss 135mm wide open the shallow dof likely won't cover any errors in the mismatched cams. I'll abandon this idea. Thanks again. Follow up question: from my research the next best option is the Crown Graphic RF but I understand the cams are hard to find. Are there any shops that can craft a cam to match the lens and the camera?

  4. #4
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    Re: Wista 45 RF

    Crown Graphics come in two flavors - side-RF version which can be adjusted for any one focal length at a time, within limits, and top-RF version that uses interchangeable cams. I don't know if anyone is currently cutting top-RF cams for lenses that were never factory-supported with cams when the camera was current. Perhaps someone else here will know.

    You'll find different views as to whether a Graphic side or top rangefinder in good adjustment is a sufficiently precise tool for working at f/3.5 handheld. Based on limited experience using rangefinder focusing handheld with a Graphic I'd say no, but I'm certain if you search you'll find users who say it works for them. Again, you'll have to try it. Perhaps before spending much money you can borrow a Graphic equipped with, say, the relatively common 135/4.7 Xenar and see whether you can achieve a good yield with that combination at open aperture.

    Finally: if rangefinder accuracy and precision are the primary criterion, there's always the Linhof Technika, though between purchase even of an older used one and camming that's certainly going to cost quite a bit more.

  5. #5

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    Re: Wista 45 RF... or alternative for handheld RF work at open aperture?

    Thanks again. I'll look for a clean Super Technika IV or V and send it and the lens off to Precision Camera for camming and CLA.

  6. #6
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Wista 45 RF... or alternative for handheld RF work at open aperture?

    Doesn't it all depend upon subject and subject distance?

    When handheld 4X5 RF was the News Press standard, they always used a flashbulb, even if not needed

    I believe they also shot fixed focus

    Additionally some cameras are easier to handhold

    Handheld 4x5- Razzle and Speed Graphic

    Handheld 4x5 Large Format Film Photography with Speed Graphic Camera-How To


    Somewhere I have the Navy Manual on shooting with Speed Graphic 4X5, it shows a non intuitive way to hold the darn thing. Look that up, I can't find it.
    sin eater

  7. #7
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    Re: Wista 45 RF... or alternative for handheld RF work at open aperture?

    The other option would be a Polaroid conversion, which depending on the model used for the conversion can offer the advantage of a combined VF/RF, so you can avoid the problem of staying in precise focus as you reposition from RF to VF. But I don't know enough about how the rangefinder mechanism works in the Polaroid cameras. Normally they're set up for a 127mm lens. It's common for the conversion shops to adapt other focal lengths as well, but I don't know whether in doing so it's possible to adjust the cam slope for sufficiently accurate and precise focus wide-open with a 135/3.5.

  8. #8

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    Re: Wista 45 RF... or alternative for handheld RF work at open aperture?

    I didn't give the whole picture in my original question but I am not looking for a camera for handheld use for that one lens only. The Wista RF is interesting because without considering the rangefinder focusing it is just a field camera and I can use my 72mm up to 450mm lenses in the field, but when I need to shoot portraits with a fast lens when GG focusing is not ideal I can use the RF for the 135 only without the need to getting it cammed but too bad it is not the right camera for me. I have settled on a Linhof IV, V or MT which matches my requirement. And I'll have to thank Bob Salomon for providing all these info on Linhof over the years for me to find them.

  9. #9
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Wista 45 RF... or alternative for handheld RF work at open aperture?

    Those Linhofs are nice but make sure you pay attention to camera shake. Maybe it is the stiff release on my Seiko shutters, but I found I could not hand-hold much below 1/250 with tripod-like results using a mechanical release on my shutters. I found the electric solenoid release almost essential for hand-held 6x9cm work with my lenses and shutters.

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  10. #10

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    Re: Wista 45 RF... or alternative for handheld RF work at open aperture?

    Quote Originally Posted by ic-racer View Post
    Those Linhofs are nice but make sure you pay attention to camera shake. Maybe it is the stiff release on my Seiko shutters, but I found I could not hand-hold much below 1/250 with tripod-like results using a mechanical release on my shutters. I found the electric solenoid release almost essential for hand-held 6x9cm work with my lenses and shutters.

    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	196906
    A quality, proper length cable release shouldn’t create this problem unless it is pulled taut. As that would transmit vibration.
    On the other hand, a solenoid can create vibration when it fires.

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