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Thread: My first field camera

  1. #1
    Wayne venchka's Avatar
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    Cool My first field camera

    I knew that if I ever touched a real filed camera I would buy it. Sure enough, last Saturday I bought one of Mr. Picker and Mr. Ritter's creations. A spakelly clean, made in Vermont, gold plated hardware Zone VI field camera, 4x5 model. My first two 4x5 cameras were Speed Graphics. I still have the second one. The Zone VI is my first "real" field camera.

    For the last week I've been "practicing" with the camera at home. No real photographs yet. A few observations and questions...

    Folding is easy enough. Not as quick as the Speed Graphic. Not unpleasant.
    Unfolding is just about the same effort as folding.
    Here's the rub...
    I'm used to cameras having lenses and film planes locked parallel to each other. OK, so a view camera permits movements. I wanted that. I bought a field camera. However, the Zone VI camera doesn't have any way of starting from a square, plumb and parallel condition. The lensboard lacks detents to align with the front uprights. The detents on the rear standard aren't square with the bed. I have to get a level out and fiddle with everything to make the lens & film more or less parallel. Are all field cameras like this?

    At the time of purcase, I had a choice between a Nikon Nikkor-W 180mm f/5.6 and a Caltar II-N 210mm f/5.6 lens. I've always had a soft spot for Nikkor optics so I bought the 180, Nikkor-W in a Copal #1 shutter. Checking the shutter on a friend's homemade shutter tester reveals that 1/125 = 1/100, 1/250 = 1/198 and 1/400 = 1/212. Is this within the tolerance of the shutter? Of course I have no way of knowing if the Copal #1 shutter with the Caltar lens was any better.

    All in all, I'm glad to have a camera with all the proper movements. Heck, I have to use them before I can take a picture with zero movements. I am wondering if a bit of grey gaffers tape will hide some of the sparkle. Did Mr. Picker make a camo model?????????

    Ok, enough rambling. I'm going out in the morning with both 4x5 cameras. It should be interesting.

    I forgot the picture of the camera.
    Wayne
    Deep in the darkest heart of the North Carolina rainforest.

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  2. #2
    Scott --'s Avatar
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    Re: My first field camera

    Ooh - aaah. Very nice. Congrats.

    Scott, formerly from Beaumont

  3. #3
    Wayne venchka's Avatar
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    Re: My first field camera

    OK, I'm feeling better already.
    Wayne
    Deep in the darkest heart of the North Carolina rainforest.

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  4. #4

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    Re: My first field camera

    Wayne,
    I've used that exact setup since 1992. It's a fine camera;you'll get used to the front standard, with a little practice. My practice is to set up the bed level, and set the back up using the bubbles. Then set up the front by eye. (Although it's my current wish to have a field camera that starts out aligned.) The Nikkor-W 180 is a very sharp lens, and the shutter is within tolerances. (In 25+ years with large format, I've never used 1/400 except to see if it worked.) The mahogany and gold-plating just attracts onlookers; you'll get used to that too. Calumet did make, later, a lightweight version with black-anodized hardware, if you must have that look. In any case, have a great time with your new camera!

  5. #5
    Wayne venchka's Avatar
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    Re: My first field camera

    Thanks Mark! Now I'm really feeling better. Strong endorsements from happy users always means a lot to me.
    Wayne
    Deep in the darkest heart of the North Carolina rainforest.

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  6. #6
    lenser's Avatar
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    Re: My first field camera

    Hi, Wayne.

    I've got the twin sister to yours with which I shoot architecture all the time plus whatever else strikes me.

    I have no trouble with the detents on mine being square. The rear ones are square with the bed and when the front standard is set in the upright position (and also square with the bed), the lens board becomes square when aligned with the uprights which sort of snaps into place.

    The only time I am out of square is when I use a seriously wide angle lens which requires dropping the bed to avoid seeing the rails in the image. Then, I reset the back with the built-in level and tilt the front back toward the camera back to get the lens into focusing range, raise the lens into the right composition and visually reset the tilt of the lens board to match the angle of the rear standard. Once in awhile I will use an angle finder if I feel iffy about the perfect alignment, but usually do well with just eyeballing the front lens board tilt.

    One hint: If you go with wide angle lenses shorter than a 90mm (and its best to have even with the 90), buy a bag bellows. It allows for much more flexibility in the movements and more compression between the lens and film planes.

    After Calumet bought out Zone VI, they introduced a model with black anodized hardware. It toned down the glare factor but in my mind took away the glamor of the camera. Not really a big deal, but I like the 'historical' look with the gold plating, not the workman-like look of the black hardware.

    Regarding the shutter speeds: Speeds will change over time due to lack of use, lubricants getting gummy, springs relaxing and other reasons. A good CLA (Clean, Lubricate, and Adjust) will give you back the optimum performance. I strongly recommend Carol Miller at www.flutotscamerarepair.com. She is extremely good and accurate and supplies a chart with the actual measured speeds once the CLA is done. Her prices are also extremely reasonable!

    She often has a bit of a waiting list and may be a bit behind due to some recent health issues, but well worth the wait.

    By the way, her links on her web site have an amazing amount of resources available for other services and information.

    Good Luck.

    Tim
    "One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude." Carl Sandburg

  7. #7

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    Re: My first field camera

    That camera sure is a beauty!

    Quote Originally Posted by venchka View Post
    I'm used to cameras having lenses and film planes locked parallel to each other. OK, so a view camera permits movements. I wanted that. I bought a field camera. However, the Zone VI camera doesn't have any way of starting from a square, plumb and parallel condition. The lensboard lacks detents to align with the front uprights. The detents on the rear standard aren't square with the bed. I have to get a level out and fiddle with everything to make the lens & film more or less parallel. Are all field cameras like this?
    I haven't used this camera, so my comments are general. Field cameras use different methods to get squared up, and the nicest of them square up pretty well. Detents on the arms that hold up the front and rear standards should make them parallel (square with the bed is ideal, but a bit off makes little difference in practical use). On some cameras this can be adjusted. Here again, if it is close enough to parallel, you may never know it from the results.

    Alignment of the front frame with the uprights can be mechanical, or by visual check or touch (use your fingertips to feel that the front frame is aligned with the front standard uprights). I've used each type, and they all worked.

    How close is close enough? Depends on your lenses. Shorter lenses need things to be more parallel. Frankly, I'd be surprised if this turned out to be an issue for you with this camera. Unless it seems way off, I'd set it up once using the detents, and parallel it using my level and only the front standard center tilt. Then I'd feel the edge of the front standard meeting the upright, and make a mental note (like "align straight with edge" or "little wider gap on top" or "little wider gap on bottom"). Then I'd set up that way, and likely seldom (if ever) use the level again.

    Quote Originally Posted by venchka View Post
    Checking the shutter on a friend's homemade shutter tester reveals that 1/125 = 1/100, 1/250 = 1/198 and 1/400 = 1/212. Is this within the tolerance of the shutter? Of course I have no way of knowing if the Copal #1 shutter with the Caltar lens was any better.
    Standard service tolerance is between a sixth and a third of a stop, but in fact, your shutter may be much more accurate than these numbers indicate. These shutters time the duration they are completely open, discounting the open/close time (those big blades take a millisecond or so to open or close). Your 1/400 speed is around 2.5 milliseconds. If the tester is pretty sensitive, you could be measuring time from when the shutter just begins to open, adding another 2 milliseconds, giving you a speed reading of 1/222 second for an extremely accurate shutter.

    If that has already been figured in, then you might need a CLA on the shutter. If it hasn't (maybe even if it has...), go enjoy your camera. You'll know pretty soon from the results if your shutter (and your parallelism) is off by too much. I expect you'll be really pleased with the results from this camera and lens just as they are!

    Later,

    Clyde

  8. #8
    Wayne venchka's Avatar
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    Cool Re: My first field camera

    Quote Originally Posted by Clyde Rogers View Post
    That camera sure is a beauty!



    ... go enjoy your camera. You'll know pretty soon from the results if your shutter (and your parallelism) is off by too much. I expect you'll be really pleased with the results from this camera and lens just as they are!

    Later,

    Clyde
    I plan to do just that.

    Once again, all the good hints, help and encouragement are what I like about this and the other Forums I participate in. Thanks!

    One more thing I forgot in the original post:

    Zone VI bellows extension. I've seen several numbers thrown around. Last night I measured my camera. From film plane to front of lens board is exactly 17 13/16". That's the real number.
    Wayne
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  9. #9

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    Re: My first field camera

    Congratulations. Great lens. Beautiful camera.

    Now go out and make pictures!
    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

    http://www.walterpcalahan.com/Photography/index.html

  10. #10
    Wayne venchka's Avatar
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    Re: My first field camera

    I am. I am! I shall! Tomorrow morning. I loaded all my holders last night. 30 sheets of HP5+. I'm ready!
    Wayne
    Deep in the darkest heart of the North Carolina rainforest.

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