8x10 Kodak Century...

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I'm curious about how usable the (ancient, circa 1900) Kodak Century 8x10 is. Which movements is it capable of, front & rear, & what the maximum extension of the camera is? And how heavy/rigid is it?

I would of course prefer a 'dorff or a Kodak Masterview, but they're out of my price range. I recently turned down a B&J rail (too heavy, short bellows), and I haven't come across a good enough Calumet aluminum/magnesium camera (bellows, missing rail hardware) to consider purchasing. I've considered the Bender kit, but for about the same price a mint Century with two lenses, case, extension rail, and probably some film holders might be worth investigating.

The camera will be for contact prints only, and I have no intention of getting more new glass for it than a 450mm Nikkor M to share with my 4x5 down the road. I'll need front tilt & 30" of draw at the minimum, with tilt on the rear a plus but not essential. Is the Century worth looking at?

-- John O'Connell (boywonderiloveyou@hotmail.com), April 25, 2000


I don't know the Century line that well, but as I recall they have no front tilt, just front rise and rear tilt & swing. David Clark, out in Washington state has made some nice portraits with a Kpdak 2-D and it has about the same moves. He has posted here, ya might try e- mailing him. Stieglitz did o.k. with one.

In the meantime, check out this page:


-- Sean yates (yatescats@yahoo.com), April 25, 2000.

Was this a camera designed for use with plates or sheet film? It might make a big difference in how sharp your results are!

-- Robert A. Zeichner (razeichner@ameritech.net), April 26, 2000.

Most of these cameras are more or less the same design and I'd be surprised if you found one in mint condition with two lenses, a case, and some film holders for the price of a Bender. However, you probably can beat Bender's price with one. I don't think you'll necessarily end up with a more useful camera, though. Are you sure it has front tilt? Also, what kind of photography do you do? If you are sticking to the studio I suspect one of these cameras will be just fine. But they are kind of wobbly for field use, at least the battered up ones. (And most of them are battered up.) One thing about this kind of photography is that film costs at least a buck and a half a pop. If you botch twenty or thirty exposures a year to light leaks, wobble, and misaligned things it will only take a few years to make up for the cost of a used deardorff or Calumet. I'd get the Century, try it out, and if you like the format, scrape together the funds for a more sturdy camera. That's what I did, and I'm happy with my decision. You are right about the lenses - stick with junky ones nobody else wants and spend your money on film.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents.

-- Erik Ryberg (ryberg@seanet.com), April 26, 2000.

Well, I think I will eventually succumb to composing in the full output size, but probably not with the Century.

The Century II appears to be nearly identical to the Kodak 2D. It has the same freestanding front standard with geared rise. The focus is geared front and rear. It's got geared rear tilt, but not much, and I believe it had swing (didn't try it). I loved the little brass knobs.

The max extension is about 20" without the extension rail. The extension rail attaches to the back, balances the camera on a tripod, and lets the thing rack out to about 30-32" -- if the bellows lets you. The bellows on the camera I looked at didn't seem long enough to span the full distance, which was OK because the way a 100 year old bellows creaks doesn't inspire confidence.

One killer for me was that the front standard was pretty rickety even on this mint example. It'd be fine for the studio but not in a breeze. The other killer was that the lenses were not going to suit my needs, as I knew I'd need a long normal at least --- and that 1896 Dallmeyer of 9" wasn't going to be long enough. So the outfit savings wasn't a big deal.

I'll probably end up picking up lenses (~14" and ~20" in barrels) and holders when I find a deal, and then buy the camera last. Bender or Calumet here I come!

-- John O'Connell (boywonderiloveyou@hotmail.com), April 27, 2000.

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