Wisner Pocket Expedition

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I am new new to large format photography, but from the limited experience that I have playing with a Linhof Technika, and exposing 50 sheets (mostly Polaroid) or so, I think I might grow to like this hooby quite a bit. The light weight (less than 4 lbs) field cameras such as the Wista DX are quite attractive to me in terms of compactness and light weight.

I haven't seen too many comments regarding the Wisner Pocket Expedition whose specs on paper seem quite attractive, although the price at around $2500 is quite steep.

I would appreciate comments from experienced owners/users, especially in comparison with the Wista DX II.


- Phong

-- Doan huu Phong (phong@doan-ltd.com), February 05, 1998


Check out the latest issue of View Camera magazine. There's a whole review of the Wisner Pocket Expedition camera there.

-- Robert Ruderman (ruderman@seanet.com), February 05, 1998.

I generally don't believe in anonymous posts, but this question (and first response) raises an interesting issue that I couldn't address AND sign my name: the large-format community is really quite tiny, close, and generally friendly. Everybody basically likes and tries to help everyone else, and there is very little bad blood (except between Ron Wisner and Fred Picker, but that was years ago!). The editor of ViewCamera magazine is apparently quite a good friend of Ron Wisner's, which partly explains why Wisner's name is all over most issues of ViewCamera and may or may not be why the reviews of his cameras found there tend to be rather, um, affirming (the other reason may be that Ron's cameras simply are that good, and no one denies that he knows what he's talking about with respect to large-format).

In answer to Phong's question (and he may not be in the U.S., making it hard for him to pick up the latest issue of ViewCamera), the jury is still out on the Pocket Expedition, not because there's anything wrong with it but because it's only been available for a few weeks and only a handful have been sold so far--and view camera users know it takes a long time to really get to know a camera. So you may want to put off buying one until it's been put through its paces for awhile, although in fairness I should note that Wisners are valued quite highly by their users--in other words, the track record looks promising. If you like his other cameras, you're not likely to find this one lacking. My only specific advice is to actually at least see and touch an example of any camera before you buy it, and remember that most good 4x5 field cameras all weigh within a pound or two of each other so weight usually isn't THE main deciding factor when buying.

I am an acquaintance of numerous people in the manufacturing, publishing, and selling realms of the aforementioned friendly view camera community, which is why I'm uncomfortable signing my name. Sorry; I hope you understand.

-- A member of the LF community (Tossingcomments@you.com), February 09, 1998.

Thanks for the comments.

Upon Robert's suggestion, I picked up the current issue of View Camera and read the review. I do not know of the reviewer (Gene Kennedy), so take his comments with some guarded caution. I do appreciate that the review does not read like a press release from the manufacturer, and mentions a few (minor) features that could be improved. I also notice that there are two other articles related to Ron Wisner and his products. One is a discussion among View Camera, Ron Wisner and Roger Hicks regarding old and new lenses; the other article is on "Wisner Covertible Lenses" [sic]. As a (anonymous) Member of the LF Community commented, Wisner has a presence in View Camera.

I actually am in Massachusetts, as is Wisner, and conceivably may arrange for a visit to Ron Wisner to actually see and touch and play with the camera. Meanwhile, I would still appreciate any comments from experienced users.

Compactness and light weight (less than 4 pounds, more or less) are two important attributes to me. I like my Linhof Technika very much, but would consider a lighter, more compact 4x5 camera.

- Phong

-- Doan huu Phong (phong@doan-ltd.com), February 09, 1998.

With respect to the question of comparative weights of field cameras, it's true that all of them are within three pounds or so of each other. However, the heavier field cameras (six pounds and up) generally require heavier tripods. When I owned a Linhoff Technikardan (about 6 1/2 pounds) I considered it necessary to use a Gitzo tripod (I forget the model number) and a Gitzo ball head. The combination weighed, if memory serves correctly, about six pounds. With a 3 1/2 pound camera (a Tachihara) I believe I can get away with a Bogen 3021 tripod and an Arca Swiss small ball head. That combination weighs about 3 pounds. Thus the weight savings from going to the lighter weight camera and lighter tripod is about 6 1/2 pounds. That translates to a big difference when you've been hiking for a while.

-- Brian Ellis (beellis@gte.net), March 12, 1998.

I have always been interested in lighter LF cameras, but for somewhat different reasons than Brain (see previous comments). I find that it is not just the overall weight that matters but the concentration on weight within the camera. Right now I use the metal Wista SP and/or the Linhof IV. When you put any of these two cameras into any bag, or back pack, there is a definite shift in the center gravity. It is not just a problem with weight but concentrated weight. There are many camera bags that can easily carry 20 pounds of gear but cant carry my Linhof. It is not just a matter of space but that of weight distribution. I would love to have a LF camera light enough to be carried in a fanny pack but I have not yet to seen a fanny pack strong to carry my linhof without serious sag and shape distortion. The Metal Canham is a candidate but since it doesnt have a linhof front standard my lenses would not be interchangeable which is another story.

-- Pat Raymore (PATRICK.F.RAYMORE@KP.ORG), March 17, 1998.

As to weight.... A LF camera has weight only until you decide what to do with it... Then it evaporates into a view and eventually resulting in a slight noise of the shutter, giving you what you aimed for....

Regards, JohnD

-- WFPA (wfpa@johndesq.com), March 18, 1998.

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