Extra-Large-Format on Monorail

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Over the last few months I've been making platinum prints from my 5x4" Arca-Swiss camera. I would now like to move up to larger negatives. The obvious choice is a 10x8" back for the Arca.

However, and this may be daft, but I think I might soon wish for a larger format than 10x8". I could always buy a new camera such as a Lotus or Wisner, but I do like working with the monorail, and I've not yet seen a wooden field camera in smaller formats that I like the "feel" of.

Which brings me to my question... Has anyone tried to mount an extra-large format back to a monorail camera, such as an Arca or Sinar?

I could get a custome bellows made, and an extension rise for the front standard. I thought about a wooden camera back with a fitting to allow clamping it to the format carrier. I asked a wooden camera manufacturer about it, but they suggested buying one of their cameras... I know an 11x14 or 17x20 back for example will be heavy with the amount of glass involved, but is it possible???

I know I could make enlarged negs digitally or in the darkroom, but I prefer to work with in-camera materials even though the downsides of weight, size, and long focal=length lenses are fairly, er, large.

-- David Nash (nashcom@btinternet.com), June 22, 1999


Yes, it is possible; I have an 11x14 monorail (bought used through View Camera classifieds sometime in 1996 or 1997). The front standard and the monorail (and related parts) are all Toyo; the rear standard started out as a B&J 11x14 back and after significant modification and machining works quite well on the monorail (has tilt/swing/shift but no rise/fall). The whole apparatus works very well although the extenders added to increase the front rise are a little flimsier than I'd like for some of the larger 11x14 lenses (the additional rise needed for 11x14 vs. 4x5 will be one of first design challenges). Also, I'm not sure which Toyo was mined for parts but the front standard has a few plastic parts, one of which snapped during a snowscape shoot with a S-A 210 (weight + cold + plastic = trouble). I don't really shoot 11x14 anymore, so I'm probably going to convert the camera into a gonzo horizontal enlarger. But yes, if portability isn't a big concern for you, extra-large-format monorails are quite practicable. Good luck; maybe you'll get requests from others once they see yours and you'll become the Keith Canham of ELF monorails!

Feel free to e-me if you have questions....


-- Micah Marty (gobw@aol.com), June 22, 1999.

I am very interested in this question, because it was one that I asked myself about a year ago. I enjoy Panoramic images, and have a strong desire to use a 8x20 camera to make platinum images from. I looked around at the options and decided to try and build a 4x10 demonstration camera, based on the chasis of an older Calumet monorail camera. I have been very pleased with the results. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I plan to begin building the 8x20 in the fall. As to mounting or adapting a very large format back to an Arca or a Sinar, well.. I had to do a lot of cutting and sacrifice on the Calumet, it actually takes two 4x5 cameras to make one 4x10. Good thing Calumets are inexpensive... Sinars and Arcas, I don't think I have it in me to cut one up, even if its for a killer 8x10.

If you want to continue this thread, or see pictures of the 4x10 camera, feel free to email me.


-- Britt Leckman (Bleckman@email.com), June 23, 1999.

Years ago I saw an 11x14 Sinar P at Ken Hansen Photographic in New York City. You can have a custom back & bellows made for your Arca. You might even try contacting Arca to see if they can produce it for you. But for the cost you might be off looking at a Canham, Wisner, Lotus or Phillips. late in July there is going to an extra large (bigger than 8x10) workshop in Salt Lake City. The details may be in View Camera but I found out through talking with Keith Canham yesterday (they were building 7x17 cameras yesterday). Wisner, Canham, Lotus and Polaroid are all going to be there and it sounded like the staff& support to student ratio was going nearly 1:1.

-- Ellis Vener (evphoto@insync.net), June 23, 1999.

Old banquet cameras can be pretty cheap, especially in the UK where the ultra-format bug doesn't seem to have taken hold as much. They often have a simple clamp-on rotating back for which it would be easy to make a aluminium or wooden which mounts on your monorail. The large size of a big back will make it easy to apply large rotational forces to the rail clamp, so you might want to use two such clamps and a hefty right-angle bracket that spans them both. Unless you have a single long rail, you might also need to reinforce any joins with a sleeve or an extra clamp.

-- Struan Gray (struan.gray@sljus.lu.se), June 24, 1999.

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