On-Axis vs. Base-Tilt; Rear Rise & Fall: Field Cameras

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Im going to acquire a 4x5 field camera, but as I have no experience in using them, I have to make my selection based on what I read (no one in this town will rent them, and I dont know anyone who uses one). My selection is narrowed to the new, metal Canham DLC or the Wisner (Technical, Expedition, or the Pocket Expedition). Since the Canham offers greater flexibility for wide-angle lenses and can handle equally long lenses, the only other factors I see involve the method of tilting the camera front and Wisners patented rising back. (Of course, there has been some negative discussion on your site about the lens boards for the Canham) What are the advantages/disadvantages of on-axis vs. base tilt for the front of the field view camera? Im under the impression that no refocusing is required when on-axis tilt is used, while its clear that refocusing is required if base tilt is used. Is this true, and if so, does it really matter when one is actually setting up ones camera to take a picture in terms of time saved or ease of composition? My questions about Wisners patented rear rise and tilt are similar: first, does one really do much of that in "nature" photography, and second, is it just a minor convenience, or does it really amount to something in terms of getting the photo that one wants? Thanks for considering these matters.

-- Timothy E. O'Sullivan (osullite@ix.netcom.com), December 25, 1997


You are correct, on-axis tilts require little, if any, refocusing or recomposing. I use a Wista SP which has on-axis front tilt and base rear tilt. Needless to say the front tilt is easier to use, however, once you're use to base tilt it isn't all that much slower.

The Wista does not have rear rise so I am not familiar with it but I can't say I have ever run across a situation where I wish I had it. Front rise is very important and the ability to drop the bed would be nice also. I ran across another photographer a few days ago who had just purchased a Wisner (sorry, don't know which one) and he was having trouble focusing with a 90...sounds like he needed a recessed lens board or bag bellows; kind of odd for a 90.

Stroebel's "View Camera Techniques" is an excellent source for comparing the various makes and models of view cameras. It also gives a very good explanation of the various view camera movements.

Large format cameras can be tricky to learn to use properly but once you've got it down you're gonna love it.

-- Mark Windom (mwphoto@nwlink.com), December 26, 1997.

I've never used a camera with rear rise, but its not something I've ever missed. At the distances at which field cameras are most often used, the effect of a rear rise can essentially be duplicated with a front fall. At closer distances, this is not the case, since dropping the lens changes the relative locations of the lens and the subject (as well as moving the image circle relative to the sheet of film), and thus changes the perspective. However, this is more likely to be an issue in the studio.

By the way, I would think that you would know all this, since you've been photographing with view cameras for almost 150 years. (Sorry--I guess everybody in the photography world must kid you about your name--I couldn't resist).

-- Rob Rothman (rrothman@riag.com), December 29, 1997.

Tim, I have base tilt on my 8x10 and I really don't mind focussing and tilting at the same time. I know that I wouldn't want to pay extra for axis tilt. And I agree with the rest about rear rise. I'm sure that Mr. Wisner has a good reason for incorporating it into his cameras but it can be accomplised by tilting the bed down and the film and lens plane back to perpendicular. It sounds like a convenience thing. The Wisner is a great camera. I bought my view-camera (ZoneVI) without ever having used one based on other's opinions, price and reading all the brochures and I am happy with it. If it were my money I would buy the metal Canham. But you won't go wrong with any of them. (my wife doesn't understand why something made out of wood cost so much).

-- Joe Alsko (joseph.alsko@aviano.af.mil), March 15, 1998.

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