Experience with 4lbs Zone VI 4x5 camera

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I want to get a lighter 4x5 field camera and have narrowed it down to the Wisner Expedition/Pocket Expedition or the Zone VI. I would prefer one which be easy to use with a 90mm and bag bellows. I hear raves about how pretty the Wisners are but I'm for more interested in value and how the thing takes pictures over how it looks.

Any one have any experience with the new Zone VI or the Wisners; any thoughts? Responses would be most appreciated.



-- Todd Tiffan (newhope@4dv.net), November 13, 1999



I owned the regular 4x5 Zone VI (the Wisner model) for years. I sold it earlier this year and got the Canham DLC.

The new lightweight Zone VI is the same design as the regular version. They are pretty, well made and very durable cameras, but they have their limitations when using wide angle lenses.

The reason I switched was due solely to the problems I experienced using wide angle lenses with the Zone VI. The same obsersvations may be made of the Wisner design.

The Zone VI works well with normal to longer lenses (about 135mm and longer). When using lenses shorter than 135mm (in my case, 120mm, 90mm, and 75mm) the Zone VI requires the user to: 1) base-tilt the entire front standard to the rear, to achieve the shorter focusing distances necessary with these wide angle focal lengths, 2) rotate the camera bed downwards in order to clear the front of the bed from the lens' angle of view, and 3) then raise and axis-titlt the front lens panel to re-orient it parallel and center it to the film plane at the back. These movements are difficult to describe, but, do it once and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

Not only are all these compensatory camera movements fussy and time-consuming, they also make the camera much less stable and prone to movement and vibration. Also, the bag bellows is necessary to achieve the above set-up and have any camera movements available. All in all, not the most efficient way to make an image in the field.

I won't tout all the advantages of the Canham when using WA lenses (I'll let Ellis Vener do that; he's the main reason I use the DLC now), but you would be much better off using a camera design that allows the use of these short focal length lenses without having to compensate and re-orient the entire camera to achieve the required lens-to-film distances, and change over to a bag bellows.

Hope this helps. Good luck, Sergio.

-- Sergio Ortega (s.ortega@worldnet.att.net), November 14, 1999.

I know you haven't asked about the new Phillips 4X5, but I am so pleased with mine I thought I would stick my two cents in. The camera is light (4 to 4.7 lbs depending on options), very solid (it stays where you put it), has the option of a combination bellows that allows 18" extention and use of 75 mm lens with no bellows change. The international back option comes with a Horseman back and a fresnel. It is a joy to focus. The camera cost from about $1600 to $1800 depending on options. Unlike the Pocket Expedition this camera takes about ten minutes to learn how to make it work. The Canham was a close second choice for me. However, I thought it was a bit expensive for its construction and the Phillips seemed more solid and definately smoother. I also like the front axis tilt better than the base tilt on the Canham. Get your hands on any camera you are interested in before you buy it.

-- Paul Mongillo (pmongillo@thurston.com), November 15, 1999.

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