Former Canham DLC Owners : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Why did you decide to sell your Canham DLC? Your experience may be very valuable to those of us faced with a buying decision, Thanks,

-- Charles Mangano (, July 24, 2000



I have only seen one or two used DLCs for sale in the past few years/months. I think this says a lot about a camera design.

After using the DLC for almost two years, in a wide variety of situations and applications, I don't think I'll ever sell mine. There's very little I'd change on this camera.

It's extremely light and packs easily. It's beautifully designed and crafted. It's strong, rigid and precise. It handles a very wide range of focal lengths with none of the typical compensatory contortions and adjustments needed with other designs I've owned/used, both flat-bed field and monorail.

There were other cameras I considered before buying the DLC, but they were either too expensive, too fussy, or not as full-featured as the DLC.

Good luck with your purchase decision. Sergio.

-- Sergio Ortega (, July 25, 2000.

I really like my DLC. For a field camera, even as a limited studio camera, I don't think it can be beat but since no camera is perfect I'll mention two aspects of the design that I wish were different: 1.) The design and placement of the levels; they are impossible to see without a mirror when the camera is at eye level. 2.) I wish the dentents for vertical on the front standard had a more positive click or feel.

-- Ellis Vener (, July 25, 2000.

Although I've never owned a Canham DLC, I've investigated it and played with a friend's. Personally, I'd be hardpressed to buy a camera that didn't have positive indents. It would really make it difficult to catch fleeting light on landscapes. Other than that major problem, the DLC sounds pretty great. What about an Ebony?

-- Howard Slavitt (, July 25, 2000.

Hi Charles,

I haven't sold my DLC yet, but may do so now that I've had the pleasure of using a Linhof Technikardan 45S. Neither camera is perfect, but the Linhof has a MUCH more precise feel than the Canham. As others have mentioned, the mushy detents on the front a rear base tilts of teh DLC are a pain, but what I find even more frustrating is the complete lack of detents on the front and rear swing. It's a royal pain to make sure everything is squared up on this camera, and not something you can do in a hurry. No problem on the TK45S, it has very positive locking detents on all swings and tilts. Things just snap right into place in the neutral positions when opening the camera. It is then left to me to decide if I want to use swing and tilt, and if so how much.

Also, on my DLC, things are always coming loose (knobs, levers, etc.) and I have to carry a set of allen wrenches in my pack to constantly re-tighten things in the field. Something you should not have to do on a camera that costs over $2000. To be fair, my DLC was one of the first ones built, so this may be better on newer models.

So, the DLC isn't perfect, but given the sub-5 lb. weight and the reasonably compact folded size, it is an extremely versatile camera that handles a very wide focal length range from ultrawide to super telephoto without additional accessories (which also helps keep the total system size and weight down). It's a good camera, and ideal for some users. It's just not, IMHO - for my purposes, perfect (then I haven't yet found any camera that is).

Without knowing your needs and preferences, I can't give any advice one way or another if the DLC would be a good camera for you. That's for you to decide.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, July 25, 2000.

As a field camera, the DLC is very capable. However, it doesn't come close to the ease of use or precision of a good monorail. In my case, unless travel weight and size are a very high priority when taking a particular set of photos, I usually take my monorail.

Others have mentioned the weak detents. This has never bothered me. There is a significant downside to strong detents. Try setting a slight angle of swing or tilt on a camera with strong detents. The standard tends to snap back to the detent position. Setting up the camera does take some time, but I've never considered it that much work.

The bellows on the DLC are interesting - they are very flexible. Many suggest it's a universal bellows which works with all lenses. If your working with a wide angle lens (90mm or less) with a large rear element, Canham tells you to just push the lens right through the bellows if you need to apply some movement. The bellows will indeed distort, but it applies significant force on the front standard and will tend to push the front standard slightly out of alignment. I believe Canham now makes an add-on bag-ish bellows for the DLC which might address this problem. It's unclear if the DLC will fold-up with the bag-ish bellows installed.

For a while, I was using the DLC to shoot architectural interiors. It felt like I was always fighting with the camera. The bellows with wide angle lenses was one issue, but in general the camera just wasn't that easy to operate in the cramped, akward positions that you often find yourself. You can make the DLC work in these situations; it's just not the optimal tool in my opinion.

-- Larry Huppert (, July 25, 2000.

WRT to Larry's comments about strong vs. weak detents...

I do agree that on some cameras, overly strong detents can make it difficult or impossible to make small adjustments. This is exactly the reason Keith Canham gave me when I asked him about the mushy detents on my DLC. However, this assumes a spring loaded ball and mating socket style of detent. In that case, when the ball is close to the mating socket, it naturally wants to jump right back into the neutral position.

There are other styles of detents that do not suffer from this problem. The other two cameras I am currently using (Linhof TK45S and Toho FC-45X) both have very positive detents on all swing and tilt movements, but both easily allow minute adjustments without the urge to inadvertantly jump back to the neutral position. The difference is that rather than a ball and socket style detent, these two cameras have detents that rely on much greater surface area. Hard to explain without close-up pictures, but in my experience, both of these cameras are a snap (literally) to get squared up, yet also a breeze to apply just a small amount of tilt or swing.

My main problem with my Canham is that at this point the detents on the front standard base tilts have gotten to where they are totally useless. They were weak to begin with, and given the fact that over the last 3+ years my camera has been folded and unfolded a few thousand times, I can no longer tell by the feel of the detents exactly when the front base tilt is on the neutral position. Combined with the fact that there is no other way to easily tell if the front base tilt is perfectly neutral, and the complete lack of detents on front and rear swings, it's basically impossible to get the camera perfectly square in anything approaching a reasonably expedient manner.

Not so with the TK45S. All swings and tilts snap into position with firm and audible clicks. The little Toho doesn't have the pleasant "click" of the TK, but it's still easy to tell when the movements are in the neutral positions. In fact, with the Toho, the rail section of the camera is transported with all movements in the neutral positions, so by default, everything is perfectly squared when mounting the camera on the tripod.

It's a bit ironic that these two monorail cameras, both of very unconventional design, I find faster and easier to set-up in the field than a folding field camera like the DLC.

Again, I must include the disclaimer that my DLC was a very early production model and has received fairly heavy use since I got it. Newer cameras may be better in this regard than my particular sample. Also, when I last spoke to Keith Canham on the phone, he said for a $25 service charge I could return my camera to him for a tune-up. I have neglected to do so, but now that I have another camera to use, I will take him up on this offer. Perhaps such a tune-up will help overcome my two biggest complaints about my DLC (mushy detents and things always coming loose in the field)


-- Kerry Thalmann (, July 26, 2000.

Since this is turning into a critique of the DLC, I thought I would mention the changes I'd like to see in future versions:

1. The rear bellows' metal frame pops out of the rear standard whenever the bellows is compressed (with short FL lenses) and the back is removed and rotated from vertical to horizontal. This is a pain. It then requires a third hand to put the bellows frame back into place and then return the back to its original position. The rear of the bellows should be permanently attached to the rear standard, not floating in place. If the camera does not require a bag bellows, then why not attach the bellows' frame to the rear standard frame?

2. The little round bubble levels are totally useless. They're located on top of the front and rear standards, making them impossible to see when the camera is at eye level. Ellis Vener's mirror suggestion should work, but I use a handheld bubble level to square up the camera. The DLC needs a better design/placement of the bubble levels.

Strangely enough, I've never had anything come loose or fall off my DLC, as has the previous poster, and I've hauled mine around quite a bit in the last year and a half. Perhaps this problem was solved in subsequent models.

Also, I find the detents on both the front and rear tilts to be perfectly adequate. It's not a problem to set up the camera in a neutral configuration when unfolding it. However, more positive detents might be better for some users.

Additionally, I don't find the lack of neutral detents at the front and rear swings to be a problem. The standards are at their neutral positions when their bases are parallel to the short mounting base below. This has never been a problem when setting up the camera since these swing adjustment don't have to be tightened or loosened when unfolding the DLC.

I do agree that this might not be the perfect camera, and that a pure monorail would likely better serve most LF users, unless weight and size is critical.

-- Sergio Ortega (, July 27, 2000.

I did not mean to start a round of Canham bashing. The DLC is a very good camera and a very innovative design. When I say it's not perfect, that's certainly not meant as an insult. I've used many top brand view cameras, and NONE of them are perfect for all of my needs. I currently use two cameras, a Linhof TK45S for general purpose field photography ("road kills" and short to moderate dayhikes) and a Toho for backpacking and longer dayhikes. If I could only own one camera, it would probably be the Canham DLC. For my needs, the TK45S is too heavy for backpacking and the Toho too limited for general purpose photography. The Canham is a good compromise between these two in terms of weight vs. functionality. So, you could say it took two cameras to replace the Canham.

Also, WRT to my comments about the Canham, I am only referring to MY PARTICULAR CAMERA. Mine was one of the first 12 DLCs made. I know there have been some improvements made (bellows sag strap, graduated scales) since my camera was made, and there are probably some more that I am not aware of. When I refer to things constantly coming loose (not OFF) on my Canham, I am referring to things that are held in place by set screws (knobs, levers). I believe Keith now uses either a different stype of set screw, or some type of locking compound (perhaps both) to prevent this. Again this may be isolated to very early production samples. I do need to send my Canham in for a much needed tune-up. I have neglected to do so (didn't want to be without it when it was my only camera, and haven't gotten around to it since). I reserve the right to make my final judgement until after Keith has had a chance to bring my camera up to current standards.

I do agree with Sergio's comments about the rear bellows frame falling out when switching the orientation of the back. However, rather than permanently attaching the frame to the body, some type of locking mechanism would be preferrable. I understand Keith now does offer a special wide angle bellows for this camera. So, for the heavy users of wide angle lenses, the bellows would still need to be changeable in the field.

I also agree with Sergio on the "uselessness" of the levels. I like to have the ground glass at eye level for ease of composition and focusing. With the camera high enough to allow me to focus and compose without bending over, there is no way I can see the levels without a step-stool or a mirror. I greatly prefer the levels on the TK45S. Not only are there independent levels for both axis, but I can actually see the horizontal rear standard level while my head is under the darkcloth. A small nicety, but being able to level the camera side to side, while observing the image on the ground glass is a nice touch.

Again, I'm not meaning to bash the DLC. It's a wonderful camera and a very innovative design. Just because it's not perect for ALL of MY needs does not mean I do not appreciate the thought and effort that went into the design. Like I said, there is no perfect camera for all of MY needs. I have also posted many positive comments about the Canham on the internet over the last three years. In this particular thread I was only attempting to answer the original poster's question - not trying to put down the Canham. It has many wonderful and unique characteristics, including a great combination of weight and useable focal length range not found on any other camera. Like I said, I've used many other cameras over the years, and they've all had their strong and weak points. And even though I am currently using the TK45S, I have also posted a couple negative comments about it as well (weight and tripod socket location). Perhaps my needs are too specialized, or I am just too darn picky. Perhaps it's just the engineer in me constantly trying to re-design everything I own. Whatever the case, I don't want my comments to come across as overly critical. Like anything else on the internet, take them with a grain of salt and make your own choices based on your needs, not the ramblings of some semi-anonymous know-it-all you've never met.

Kerry (aka: semi-anonymous know-it-all)

-- Kerry Thalmann (, July 30, 2000.

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