8x10 Bender?

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I'm so tempted to get an 8x10 you cannot imagine. I currently have a 2x3 graflex and I love the larger (compared to the 35mm) slide in the light table. I cannot help thinking about a slide the size on the light table :-). The type of phtography that I do is mainly outdoors. Usually not next to the car so a regular monorail 8x10, even if I had the cash to get it, it might be a bit too heavy. A field camera would be great but the ones that I've seen (used of course) are price prohibitive at this point. So I was thinking about a Bender 8x10. It's about $400, it seems light and I'm good with my hands so I don't think putting it together will be a problem. I would like some feedback from somebody that uses (used) this camera. I've read some reviews and the opinions are not consistent. Most of them are "Bender is great but ...".

-- Sorin Varzaru (svarzaru@bigfoot.com), December 29, 2000

Answers

Hi Sorin,

I built one and have used it for about a year. One thing you have to keep in mind about the Bender 8x10 (and other Bender kits, I suspect) is that feedback stetches out over time and Jay has made changes in the kit in response to comments.

I noted that comments about the lens board retention system were obsolete when I received my kit. The latching mechanism isn't what commenters had objected to. So, my suggestion is that if you see a comment that you are concerned about, call Jay Bender and talk to him to see how the kit may have changed in that aspect. I read the threads before purchase...and found that my concerns were allayed significantly by a quick conversation.

I've been fully satisfied with the 8x10...although I do need a more robust tripod & head for mine...which again would probably add some weight to the system. I would hesitate to use it in a stiff wind...but wind mitigation is something I think all 8x10 users have to deal with.

Bottom line, I'd do it again. The experience of building the kit gives you a lot of confidence in how the camera works. The instructions are certainly adequate, but if you do put some parts together in error, replacement parts can be had at nominal cost.

Get a BIG dark cloth, a solid tripod and enjoy.

Fred

-- Fred Leif (frederickl@aol.com), December 29, 2000.


I'd agree with the previous post. I built a Bender (4x5) nine years ago, and it's still going strong. I don't use it on a constant basis these days, but it still gets out to play a few times a year and it still delivers the goods. Building it isn't much of a chore if you aren't in a hurry - I'd recommend having a place you can use as a semi-permanent work table and work on the camera for an hour an evening for a few weeks. (There's a lot of built-in downtime in the construction process anyway because you're waiting for glue to dry before proceeding to the next step, etc.) I have no experience with the Bender 8x10 specifically, but the camera-building process in general was enjoyable and a valuable learning experience.

Having said that, if you're considering buying a used 8x10 and want something functional, lightweight, and reasonable (like around the $400 figure you mentioned) I'd look at the Kodak 2-D. My dad picked up one for $300 recently and it's a champ. Very functional design, tons of bellows draw (like 28" or so) and the darn thing is pretty light.

If you've got the time and the inclination, I'd build the Bender, but if not, you CAN get a decent 8x10 without breaking the bank. Either way, you're going to enjoy the heck out of those giant negs or chromes!

Have fun,

-- Mark Parsons (polar@thegrid.net), December 29, 2000.


I agree with the thought of purchasing an older camera. Many fine older cameras that need only a good cleaning and some minor repairs can be found for under $400.00

If you are considering a Bender camera, you must feel reasonably comfortable with your construction abilities. The mechanics of the older cameras are simple and easy to figure out, and the hardwood construction allows for easy re-fabrication of parts if needed.

So if you are interested in a "user" and not just a "looker" you might want to see what is available on Ebay. (P.S... Mark is right. The old Kodak 2D would be a wonderful machine to start with.)

Just one warning, Sorin, large format can be terribly habit forming.

-- Dave Richhart (pritprat@erinet.com), December 30, 2000.


I just built the 4x5 over X-mas break (in under a week!). It's not that difficult to build, you just need to have patience and the willingness to "measure twice, cut once." BTW, it was my first real woodworking project. I bought it for the same reason you state - I couldn't afford anything else. I also thought it would be fun to build my own camera, and I couldn't stand the idea of almost no movements if I got an old Graphic. I have not used the "latest and greatest" LF camera, but the Bender seems to hold its own. All things considered, you should get it if you arenít afraid of building a camera yourself. Itís also very light (comparable to my EOS system).

-- Erik Asgeirsson (erik2@mediaone.net), January 05, 2001.

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