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Thread: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

  1. #21

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    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    I'm the polar opposite of Bernice

    My main concern is weight and portability. Still, I need enough movements to do architectural work in close quarters in cities as well.

    My compromise (all camera choices are compromises) is a lightweight wooden camera with compact lenses. Everything else, including the larger wooden folders, is just too heavy and bulky. I hike, carry my camera on my bicycle and travel internationally for work in European cities. The smallest and lightest kit I can carry that can get the job done is what I need.

    That said, over the years I've accumulated a few cameras (six in total now, at last count). However, I use two of them for 95% of my work, so I'll address these:

    The workhorse in my kit is a beat-up Wista DX that gets carried outdoors on long day hikes, in slot canyons, scrambling up and down scree slopes and through underbrush, etc. The Wista DX fits my outdoor/landscape needs well is still fully-featured enough to use for the occasional architectural shot (lots of front rise is a problem though... crimped bellows even with the 90mm on a recessed board). I carry it in a lumbar pack along with four compact lenses. Smaller lenses fold up in the camera, which saves space.

    So, I can carry the DX, a 90mm Nikkor f/8, a 135mm Plasmat, a 203mm Ektar and a 300mm Nikkor M (this latter on a top-hat board) plus 4-6 filmholders, meter, cloth, tripod and filters easily, have both hands free for scrambling if need be and have the whole kit (plus water bottle) weigh in at just over 20lbs. I've used this combination for years now, everywhere from Death Valley to Arizona's slot canyons, to the Pacific Coast to Alaska and Yukon glaciers and it has performed superbly for me. I can go even lighter if I need to, swapping out the 90mm Nikkor for a 100mm WF Ektar and using Mido holders instead of regular ones. But, I don't do extensive backpack trips anymore, so don't often need to pare the kit down this much.

    Still, when working lightweight in the city and carrying my kit in a backpack, the above kit has some drawbacks. Having a camera that accommodates shorter lenses with lots of coverage is really, really nice for architectural work, especially in the closer quarters of European cities. Also, carrying the camera in the field pack ends up being less comfortable for me than having the kit in a more versatile pack. Plus, when photographing my home city of Vienna (where I lived for 30 years), I almost always carried my kit on my bicycle. And, when traveling, say to Italy, Hungary or the Czech Republic, I always ended up on foot in cities, dependent on the public transportation. So a small and lightweight, but versatile kit was needed.

    My "city kit," therefore, is a modification of my outdoor field kit. It gets carried in a rolling carry-on/backpack combo (basically, a backpack with wheels and retracting handle). Instead of the Wista DX, I carry a Wista SW, basically a DX with interchangeable bellows. I carry the standard bellows, but use it rarely in cities; most of the time the wide-angle bellows is mounted, which accommodates lenses up to 210mm. My lens kit is different too. The 135mm Plasmat gets swapped out for a 135mm WF Ektar (need that coverage in the city!) and I exchange the 300mm for a 240mm Fujinon A lens. I add the 180mm Fujinon A too a lot instead of the 203mm Ektar, but often take a small 210mm lens as well, so my final lens choice is: 90mm, 135mm, 180mm, (210mm) and 240mm. With the wide-angle bellows I can easily use all the coverage that my Nikkor 90mm f/8 and 135mm WF Ektar have to offer.

    In Vienna, I strapped the tripod onto the luggage rack of my bike, shouldered the backpack and just cruised the city in search of subjects. When traveling to other cities, the backpack became my carry-on. Once at my destination I walked and rode the public transport with my pack on my back or rolling alongside me (on smooth surfaces only! I rattled knobs and screws off a camera once by rolling it too far on a rough, cobbled street. Reassembly took me a while...). Again, the kit is light enough to carry all day, small enough to be able to be carried in close quarters on public transit and easy to travel with.

    I could do none of the above with a metal folding camera or even one of the larger 6-lb-plus wooden cameras like the big Shen Haos or the late model Zone VI. They are simply too heavy.

    FWIW, I own a late model Zone VI and take it with me on road trips in the States. It lives in the car and gets used rarely; only when the subject is close to the car and I need to use the 450mm lens.

    My two monorail camera live in the house and get used for still-life and tabletop work. I never take them into the field anymore. It's sure nice to work with them for close-up work though. A folding camera just isn't suited for macro work.

    Sorry this got so long, but hope it helps.

    Doremus

  2. #22

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    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    Excellent contrasting comparison...

    Again, there is NO ideal camera for all LF image making needs. The choice of camera should be driven by your specific image goals and what is required to achieve these print image goals.


    Bernice


    Quote Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder View Post
    I'm the polar opposite of Bernice

    My main concern is weight and portability. Still, I need enough movements to do architectural work in close quarters in cities as well.

    Sorry this got so long, but hope it helps.

    Doremus

  3. #23

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    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    I've done the wood thing . . .

    For example, I had a 4x5/5x7 Deardorff for 4x5 film. It was a fun camera to use, but it just didn't have the wide-angle capability that I wanted. Even for landscape, the bellows would be packed so tightly for even a 120mm Super Angulon, the the interior of the bellows would reflect light (as flare) back onto the film. In fact, any kind of wide-angle photography becomes cumbersome with wood cameras. I sold it.

    I had a Burke and James 8x10 with the extension that worked well enough on my (since sold) Linhof huge tripod with a crank driven column that was over 2 inches in diameter. Not entirely the fault of the camera, the whole thing was really unmanageable and incredibly heavy. So, I sold the Burke and James and now use a carbon fiber (Feisol 3372) tripod.

    With my most recent wood camera, a Deardorff 8x10 with front swings, I finally gave up on wood for good. Let me say, that camera was a show piece. It was practically new, even though it's manufacture was in the late 1940's. (I converted it to front swing with a genuine Deardorff upgrade kit.) It was very tight. But even at moderate extension, it was too wobbly for my taste, and was prone to vibrations. And if used in the field, it wouldn't take long before that beautiful wood finish could be ruined. So, off it went to the auction block.

    Metal rail cameras give me exactly what I need. I tend to photograph architecture, landscape, and fine art and use super wides down to 75mm for 4x5. I like and need the bellows interchangeability that rail cameras offer. I currently use a Sinar F 4x5 with certain customizations that I made.

    https://www.photrio.com/forum/thread...camera.172997/

    With these, it becomes very convenient and compact to use in a backpack. Rail metal cameras are also much more precise and versatile than woodies. And, the whole kit didn't cost me much more than $500.

    For 8x10, I had a bit of luck. I had an old-style, Oschwald era 4x5 Arca Swiss that was an intermediate model between these older cameras and what's sold new. Then, along came an Oschwald era 8x10 conversion kit for $399 on EBay, and I pounced. I probably spent a total of $800 or so, and I have a fabulous 8x10 camera that weighs less than the Deardorff 8x10 that I had. it works fine on my CF tripod.

    I know that metal rail cameras can be heavy, and woodies can be ridiculously light-weight. (Too much so.) But realistically, with a little creativity and patience, my user 4x5's have all weighed less than 8lbs. My Sinar, as a balance between weight, capability,and convenience, sure hits my sweet spot for 4x5. I've found the same scenario to be true for 8x10 as well.
    Last edited by neil poulsen; 1-Nov-2020 at 13:08.

  4. #24

    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Klukas View Post
    Somewhat agree with what has been said. But you forget us. Arca-Swiss has cameras that collapse quite small and are often lighter than wood. Especially in 8x10. In addition, some metal cameras are much more precise than many wood cameras.

    Sinar Normas were manufactured by Arca Swiss.
    “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
    ― Mark Twain

  5. #25

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    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Klukas View Post
    Somewhat agree with what has been said. But you forget us. Arca-Swiss has cameras that collapse quite small and are often lighter than wood. Especially in 8x10. In addition, some metal cameras are much more precise than many wood cameras.
    Of course, this is the case. I have a 4x5 conversion for my 6x9 Arca that really makes for a nice camera, and if traveling, I can take both.

    I also enjoy using the Sinar F. At home, I find it convenient to have two separate systems and not convert the Arca back and forth.

  6. #26
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Klein View Post
    I just started with 4x5 this year and bought a 4 or 5 pound Chamonix 45H-1. It's made of wood (teak I think), aluminum and carbon fiber. Plus whatever the bellows are made of. I don't take it out in the rain or when it's even wet. Do I have anything to worry about? How do other's handle their Chamonix cameras?
    https://www.chamonixviewcamera.com/cameras/45h1
    Wipe it dry and put it away. I have had a waterfall shift and come straight down on me and wood 8x10. A little time in the sun and it was as right as rain.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  7. #27

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    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    One more point about the functionality and why I kept the 5x7 metal Canham camera - I also use the Canham 6x17 rollfilm back which works "best" on the Canham MQC metal camera. Using that rollfilm back on the 5x7 wood body was just not as optimum as on the metal body.

    Here's the rollfilm back on the Canham MQC.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  8. #28
    Alan Klein's Avatar
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    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    Wipe it dry and put it away. I have had a waterfall shift and come straight down on me and wood 8x10. A little time in the sun and it was as right as rain.
    I contacted Hugo who reps Chamonix about my 45H-1. It's made of teak wood, carbon fiber, and aluminum.

    Here were his responses which actually make me feel more confident about taking it out in inclement weather.

    1. What are the bellows made from? A: waterproof fabric.
    2. Can I use the camera in rain or mist? A: Yes and wipe the water off after each use.
    3. How do you keep in clean? A: Use a dry cloth to wipe your camera clean after use.
    4. What about the knobs and wheels. Could they rust? Should some oil or other lubrication ever be used to protect them? A: They should not, but it will not hurt if you put some light oil after long use.

  9. #29
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    It's not really a wood vs metal contest. Metal itself has different connotations : diecast components vs CNC anodized aluminum, for example. Then there's mainly polymer cameras, like the former Walker ABS models and first CF entry years ago, the Carbon Infinity. 3D printing will inevitably add to that list. Then there's wood that isn't really wood in a traditional sense, but made more lightweight, moisture-resistant, and dimensionally stable. My Phillips 8x10 was the first (or nearly the first - I own serial no.009) example of a modern laminate camera, specifically a custom ply of fiberglass and epoxy-impregnated cherry veneer layers. Now Chamonix uses an analogous concept, but a wood/carbon fiber composite.
    Which is best? I can't even make up my own mind. I have a full Sinar monorail setup, including a classic Norma; love it. Have a composite wood 8x10 Phillips folder, already mentioned; love that too. Also use an Ebony 4x5 folder, beautifully made of genuine mahogany and machined titanium hardware, one of the best wood cameras ever. But I can't own em all. Ain't got no Arca made by Mizz Norma in the back of some Swiss soup kitchen.

  10. #30
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    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Klein View Post
    I contacted Hugo...
    Yep -- what I said...just don't do what I do! Practicing Waterfall Zen with one's 8x10 is not recommended.

    So far the Chamonix 11x14 has been well treated, more or less. Since I have gotten a pack for it, I have carried it in precarious places, but so far no lightning storms, high winds on sand dunes, or that sort of thing. The Zone VI 8x10 is a different story...even bought used, it was a beauty when I got my hands on it about 25 years ago. Alas...
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

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