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Thread: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

  1. #11

    Join Date
    Jun 2020

    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    I went through the decision earlier this year. I see the pros and cons as follows:

    Wooden folder:
    - lighter to carry
    - less durable
    - slower to set up
    - can buy one brand new for a reasonable price
    - wider range of movements

    Metal folding technical camera (Toyo/Wista/Horseman/Linhof Technika):
    - heavier
    - More robust
    - More precise movements
    - Limited choice if you want a brand new camera and these are $$$$$$
    - reasonably priced on the used market.
    - super fast to set up especially if you can fold a lens into the camera.
    - Linhof cameras from past 50 years are still made and can be serviced.

    I ended up buying a Linhof Super Technika from 1968 from a Linhof dealer. The camera was fully serviced and has new ground glass and bellows, so essentially the same as buying a new camera.

  2. #12

    Join Date
    Aug 2004

    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    100% spot on! ∆

    i find weight is more important to me since i enjoy taking my camera backpacking.

  3. #13

    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    North of Chicago

    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    After spending a lifetime in an antiques business I certainly have an appreciation for fine wood. That said, I much prefer metal cameras for their precision and just general feel when I use them. They make me happy... And isn't that why we're all doing this arcane activity?

    Richard Wasserman

  4. #14
    Alan Klein's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    New Jersey was NYC

    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    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?

  5. #15

    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Bow, NH

    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    I've had the Canham 5x7 wood and Canham 5x7 metal cameras. The metal camera weighs less than the wood one, by a little bit. I kept the metal one because I liked how it functioned. That's what it comes down to - a personal preference.

  6. #16

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Asheville NC

    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    One factor not mentioned above is what sort of crowd you will draw. In my experience I would frequently have people come up and ask about my wooden Zone VI; usually along the lines of how old it was. When shooting my SINAR or Technikardan I may have well been invisible, which I preferred.
    Bill McMannis

  7. #17

    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    Goes directly to print image goals.

    If you're hiking and demand a light weight camera and all that, the better choice is likely a wood folder as that variety of camera can be made light weight, remarkably durable/rugged with endurance to harsh weather conditions. Outdoor images often do not require high precision of camera movements or a large variety of lenses. The defining optics and images made will be images made often at distant focus with close ups (life size) at times and the common image goal of all elements in the image in focus nudges take apertures to f22 and smaller. This combined with smallish optics near normal with modest deviation often results in smaller full aperture optics, tolerance to camera mis-alignment, film that is not complete flat in the holder and ....

    Having owned-used wood folders in the past.. not for me. Don't hike, don't do or seek the outdoor nature foto thing.
    Of the folder cameras used, the fave remains Toyo 810M (metal folder) converted to a Sinar front frame by a whole lot... for it's precision of camera movements, stability, durability, ease of use and all those things wood folders do not offer. Linhof Technika IMO is WAY over priced for what it is. Having owned and used various 4x5 & 5x7 versions, the design is simply too limiting in too many ways.

    The all time fave remains Sinar system after rounds with Arca Swiss, Toyo, Linhof and similar. Given the image goals of no hiking, no traveling miles from the vehicle and all that. Coming from a history of studio table top/product image making, Interior/Architecture, Scientific/Industry, portraits using BIG lenses at larger apertures in barrel, image making and all that from decades ago using the Sinar system, it continues to do what is demanded from a view camera system with zero issues in every image making need-situation. Limits on optics is near zero, camera precision is excellent, camera stability is excellent when properly supported, few if any limits on bellows or total length of the lens to image recorder distance, well supported for parts and add-ons. Sinar Norma is not so heavy with a set of small optics that allows it to be portable enough.

    All goes back to what your image making goals are, what optics are required to achieve them.. then decide on camera and a support system (tripod & tripod head or similar) to meet the image making goals.

    There is no single ideal camera-lens-film and all related for all LF image making needs and goals.

  8. #18

    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    Sinar Norma can do this:

    Reinhart Wolf photographing "Castles in Spain" with 8x10 Sinar Norma and 1000mm Apo Ronar.

    Also here his famous book "New York" :
    “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
    ― Mark Twain

  9. #19

    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    Interior image, 5x7_13x18cm Sinar Norma, bag bellows, Schneider 72mm f5.6XL, Sinar Pan/tilt on modified surveyor tripod, Agfa APX100_13x18cm..

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Taking aperture was f16 due to exposure times needed. Very small camera movements were use to hold focus at the coffee table to end of dining room. There is minimal geometric distortion if and when camera movements are properly applied to increase areas that can be held in focus at the largest possible taking aperture. Camera with lesser precision and stability would make life a LOT more difficult to apply small and precise camera movements then demanding the camera to remain in correct alignment allowing the use of the largest reasonable taking lens aperture possible.

    How might this image be made using a wood or metal folder view camera?


  10. #20
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Phoenix, AZ

    Re: Metal vs Wood cameras - advantages/disadvantages

    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.
    Rod Klukas
    US Representative
    Arca-Swiss International

    Digital Camera Solutions including R-series Technical Cameras, Large Format View Cameras and Ballheads. 480-755-3364

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