the Linhof Technika III/IV

Compiled by Q.-Tuan Luong for the Large Format Page

A review of the Tech IV

By Q.-Tuan Luong

I have a 4x5 Tech IV. Functionnally, the differences with the current Master Technika are relatively minor, but I paid $1000 for mine, while a new MT will set you back $5000. While I think this might be a fair price for what it is, I feel it is too expensive for what it does.

When buying used, chose your model carefully. I would go at least for a IV since the III has many incompatibilities with the more recent models. Each more recent model has more features which make it more convenient to use. Also be sure to check the triple extension bellows which is kind of 'famous' for pin holes and cracks at the corners, mostly due to age and care, not so much on choice of material.

Before even using it, I could see why it is a favorite of many landscape photographers, among them David Muench, John Sexton, or Bruce Barnbaum. The workmanship, precision, rigidity, and feel of quality is excellent, especially compared to a wooden camera. The focussing has a unique smoothness. Even the lensboards are superior (they'd better be at $125) and snap in place with a very positive feeling that the third party lensboard don't exactly give. It is manufactured with the highest quality materials and precision in the German tradition which has produced Leicas. The Tech will fold up in a small and entirely self-protected package which looks undestructible. Note however that once I checked it in my luggage, the latch which is used to close the camera broke during transport. It is much faster opened and set up aligned than the wooden cameras. You just lower the bed and snap it in place, then pull out the front standard and you are set. If you had infinity tabs for your lens, you'd already be ready to shoot. When everything is locked, it feels much more solid. Although there are lighter cameras with more movements or range of usable lenses, the Tech is fairly competent. It will let you use 65mm to 450mm lenses and give you all movements but rear translations. The back is pretty full-featured. It has a revolving back with the international attachment system and a focussing hood which protects the ground glass.

The camera works perfectly for shooting straight with normal lenses. I suspect that it was what it was designed primarily for, since its basic design is very close to that of a press camera. When you need to use movements, or, worse, wide lenses, that's another story. I did not really enjoy using the Tech in the field for that reason.

The front movements are sort of limited, and the tilt is inconvenient to operate and therefore not so precise because of the weird zero-detent button that you need to keep pressed. To unlock the "technical" back, you also need a third hand. This back is mounted to four horizontal sliding rods with a ball joint on one end so the rear can be slid back more or less independently in each corner. You can also use this feature to focus, if you must, or to get maximum bellows extension. I didn't like the unique way it works, and personally find I can perform movements more precisely with two independant axis. The focussing hood was more a nuisance than a feature, since it gets in the way when using the lupe. I guess it was not designed to do critical work.

I work a lot with wide-angle lenses, and this implies awkward gymnastics. Even with a 90mm, a mild wide angle lens, the front of the camera will show up in the picture in vertical format. Therefore, you have to drop the bed. Since it is no longer horizontal, you have to tilt the front standard. When you focus, you have to use the rise (which is somewhat limited by belows compression) to keep the image centered. The rise knob is not easily accessed at short extensions. At that time I had a 58mm lens which I was not even able to focus. I learned that you needed an expensive accessory for that.

I understand that the Master Technika, with its top panel flip and its differently positionned rise knob would be a better camera for wide angle use. Some people don't ever use the rangefinder, and have it removed. This saves a little weight and bulk, and presumably diminishes bellows compression, giving you more movements.

The Technika has just enough extension to use a 450 lens at infinity. However, the Nikkor M 450 that I once had didn't fit on the camera because of the #3 shutter.

The other reason to use the Tech would be for its presumed hand-holdability. However, in practice, besides the depth of field issues, the camera is just too heavy for me to hold comfortably in spite of a very good anatomical grip. The camera alone is 6lbs and half. Think of the weight of a 300/2.8. Besides, the fact to have no meter and a rangefinder separate from the viewfinder does not help. Speaking of what, I have found the eye relief of the viewfinder so short that with my glasses and on a wide setting I can see only two thirds of the field. Maybe the latest model is better, but it costs $1400. Moreover, the cost of having a cam cut by Marflex to match a single existing lens with your Tech IV is almost the same as buying a Speed Graphic. According to Linhoff, with the Tech IV, each cam has to be cut for your specific camera and lens. It's only starting from the Tech V that cams become interchangeable among cameras. For hand-held operation, it would make sense to use the Grafmatic, which let you shoot a sequence relatively fast. However, in vertical position its dark slide would block the viewfinder.

Nowadays, it stays at home (like many Leicas I've been told). In all fairness, I've become hooked on the 5x7 format and prefer to carry a 4x5 reducing back rather than another camera. The 11 lbs of a 5x7 Tech are not looking too attractive. If I use 4x5, that would be mostly to save weight, and then I would prefer a lighter 4x5 camera with less gymnastics involved for wide-angle use.

Details on operation

By Alan Heldman

I received a e-mail from someone who has a Tech IV with a little problem. Here was my reply, which is long, but which may help others who are trying to get familiar with the Technikas. Later models vary slightly from the IV, but not much.

Ok, let's find your wobble. I've got my IV sitting in my lap as I type, and we'll walk through the whole thing.

Open the lid and clock the base into place. I assume you find it to be absolutely rigid.

With your left hand press back on the bed rail where it says Linhof, pushing it towards the ground glass and simultaneously pushing down on the black detent button ner the bed which is the nearer of the two to the ground glass.

Slide that upper channel of the bed rail all the way back, an inch or so. This creates a rail without a gap, onto which the lens standard can be pulled.

Now, and only now, squeeze the two black buttons together which are just below the front standard, and draw it forward onto that rail. Continue pulling and squeezing til its about halfway out onto the rail or is stopped by a pair of bed stops. At that point, when you stop squeezing, it should be REALLY rigid. If it's not rigid, the first thought is that those springs you''ve been squeezing must be loose, or one missing, which is crucial but an easy fix. On mine it takes strong fingers to squeeze them.

Then you can push down the detent you used before and realign the bed rail flush with the front of the bed; or you can take it out much further forward, as for a long lens. If you then find that there's wobble which seems to be loosenesss of the bed rail itself, visavis the bed casting, rack it all the way out, about four inches, and you'll see some screw heads which attach the rail assembly to the main casting. If they're not all there, and all tight, you've found your problem, which again should be a cheap and easy fix. While you're there, push the forward detent and extend the triple extension rail, and see if it's rigid. Mine's as rigid as if it was all welded. Look UNDER the bed rails, and you'll see various other screws, including some on a brass gear rack. Those should all be there and should be tight. My bed is in the triple extended position as I am typing now, and it is absolutely rigid.

Because the machined surfaces which slide aganst each other are made of a good hardened alloy, to such good tolerances, with such long mating surfaces, i would guess it's almost impossible that play could develop between the acting surfaces themselves. In my experience the only problem that can occur is that someone put some lubricant on them which has gotten gummy, which causes the opposite problem. If this happens, I'd remove any old gummy lubricant, and I doubt the need to replace it with any new lubricant, personally.

Assuming that the bed rails are all as rigid as I say, and that you've not found your problem, then the wobble must be in the front standard. We've already talked about the main pair of squeeze buttons which allow you to slide it, and which must release with good pressure when you let go. Near those buttons are the two little levers which, when released, allow side to side and swinging movement in the front axis, separately. They should be locked, of course, and conceivably could require a little adjustment to take up wear after many years. But mine don't permit any wobble even when in the full unlocked position.

I see no way the rack and pinion front rise could get wobbly.

The front tilt is a little quirky, and almost takes three hands, and is counter-intuitive because one knob that looks like it wants to be turned is actually only a push-in button; unscrew the upper RIGHT knob a turn or so, til it stops. then push IN on its twin on the left side (you can turn it forever and nothing will happen) and you've released the front standard to tilt up and down. Use the RIGHT knob to lock it into whatever position you like.

You didn't ask, but as long as I'm in this deep: There are very useful BACK movements, which tend to get ignored in the "Graphics are just as good" hysteria. Loosen all four of the truncated-cone knurled knobs just forward of the film plane. Then, using all three hands, press in HARD on the sort of rectangular shaped knurled buttons on the sides, and simultneously push back. You will suddenly have a back which is more than an inch further out than it was, still connected to the bellows, and connected to the main frame by four cylindrical rods. It is capable of being twisted in any position you like, including diagonally. I find it to be a VERY useful way to get some additional depth of field in the common situation of a landscape with foreground detail in the bottom half of the negative, rather than using the much more fiddly technique of adjusting the front standard for that purpose.

I have no idea how old mine is. It has tan leather and is #68931. I had it for years before someone told me it was a IV. I've found several cammed lenses through the years. The cams have the same serial number as the lens. They are a whole lot quicker and easier to focus with, using the rangefinder, than ground glass and loupe, especialy with small-aperture short focal length lenses. I also recently got a new 150 Apo Symmar and had a custom-made cam made for it, which came back with the same serial number as the new lens.

The multifocus parallax- correctable accessory viewfinder is a joy even if you don''t own the camera, as it allows you to select your point of view and appropriate lens before even taking the camera out of the bag.

I read somewhere that John Sexton and some of his sycophants have ripped the rangefinders out of Super Technikas to save a few ounces. If true, that''s in the same ball park as the rock music druggies who tear up Martin guitars on stage, especially since Linhof MADE Tecknikas without rangefinders for the few oddballs who wanted them that way. Sexton's work is boring but I sure hope the story is not true.

With this outfit, by far the weak link in stability is the tripod/ballhead area. I swear by the big Linhof quick release plates, using the larger screw size, and any of several big ball heads. But REMOVE the rubber anti-scratch pad, to permit metal to metal contact.

Differences between models

Bob Salomon from HP Marketing

The Super designation was used from the III and later and the terms Super and Technika are essentially interchangeable. In all of the factory serial number listings that we are supplied with rangefinder models can have either designation.

As a point of refrence the III was introduced in 1946 and discontinued in 1956.

Technika III = no forward lens tilt, different lens board, ground glass, and cams (none of them are longer available or intercahageable with the latter versions) than all later models, weaker drop bed, u shape lever to pull out lens.

Technika IV, V. Master. Master Technika 2000 = all take the current accessories, lensboards, ground glasses, etc. all have forward and rear lens tilts.

III and IV have small knob behind front standard for lens rise

V, Master and Master 2000 have lever in front of front standard for lens rise [NdE: much easier with wide lenses ]

Iv has more movement than III, V and Masters more than IV

Master and Master 2000 have lift-up flap on body housing to allow more lens rise.

Master, V, IV and III can take lenses to 75mm on the focusing tracks and require an accessory focusing device for 65 and 58mm lenses. The III also requires a wa device but they are no longer available.

Master 2000 has built-in wide angle focusing ability and accepts lenses as short as 45mm with no additional accessory.

III, IV, V, Master have built in rangefinder and accept optical finder. Master 2000 has no rangefinder aND accepts an accessory electronic, IR, rangefinder with LCD frame viewfinder built-in.

III and IV have unzeroed ground glass so camera and all lenses necessary for camming, Later ones only lens is needed (except for the new Master 2000). It is the ground glass position that varies from camera to camera. On all III and IV models for accurate focusing over the entire focusing range the cam MUST be matched to the lens and the camera body. These cams are not interchangeable between any other III, IV, V or Master. On the V and Master all backs have the same position so then your answer is correct and the cam only needs to be matched to the lens and cams are interchangeable between any V and any Master Technika (not the Master Technika 2000 which does not use cams.

If you have further questions call me at 201 808-9010 x 15, I have been the Linhof Product manager since 1979.

More information

Instruction manual for the Tech IV:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 All in one page

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