The search of a good mid priced field camera : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm looking for a good mid priced field camera that allows adequate movement even with WA lens. IMO LF is all about movement. Schneider 72mm XL seems to be the shortest lens with extra coverage so I keep it in mind when choosing camera. I've looked at Toyos: AII, 20mm rise too limited, VX125, too expensive. Linhof Ebony same $$$ problem. Walker? ABS plastic for thousand of $$$? Now I'm looking at Wista SP/VX, looks like Japanese version of Master Technika; 58mm rise, impressive; bag bellow can works with lens down to 65mm, just what I need; 5.2lbs(VX, about half of a Calumet 45NX), acceptable. Now the question is: is there anything not so good?

BTW in a previous question I asked about linhof recessed board. I just found out Wista has its own better solution, quite smart design, a recessed board looks like a cubic frame, when combined with bag bellow will allow 55mm lens. For description and image check Expensive though. Whether it fits 72mm XL is still a question.

-- Aaron Rocky (, February 08, 2001


Aaron: I owned a Wista VX for a few years, and overall it was a nice camera, but I ultimately switched to a Toyo 45A. Two things to check out. The greater rise comes at the expense of no fall. Make sure a 72mm can be used with vertical compositions without dropping the bed. I also had trouble with some film holders not fitting in the spring back. The main culprit was grafmatic backs if I recall. I sold mine mainly because I wanted a bit more bellows draw without resorting to extra beds and bellows. The Toyo allowed me to use a 300M Nikkor more effectively than the Wista. On the other hand, the Wista was nice and light, and well made. The friction wheel for controlling lens tilt was a nice feature.

-- Glenn Kroeger (, February 08, 2001.

Both the front and rear of this camera can do 15 degree backward tilt. Will it solve the bed problem?

-- Aaron Rocky (, February 08, 2001.

It sure sounds like you want a Canham DLC to me. You can use down to a 58mm with no problems or need for a w/a bellows or expensive recessed board. Or out to a 720mm T-Nikkor without any extensions or hpyer long bellows. And it weighs 4.7 lbs. And it costs US$2300. Did I mention that a bright screen is builtin? Click here for Canham Specs. The only thing the Canham does not have is yaw free tilts but that isn't something you'll really need for most photography.

BTW most fast (/4 to /5.6) 65mms have a plenty large image circle for 4x5 work for much less $$$$ and without the weight and size hassles that come with the 72mm XL.

-- Ellis Vener (, February 08, 2001.

It sure sounds like you want a Canham DLC to me. You can use down to a 58mm with no problems or need for a w/a bellows or expensive recessed board. (the shortest I've used on mine is a 47mm Super Angulon XL but that was mounted in a recessed Linhof board.) Or out to a 720mm T-Nikkor without any extensions or hyper long bellows. And it weighs 4.7 lbs. And it costs US$2300. Did I mention that a bright screen is builtin? Click here for Canham Specs. The only thing the Canham does not have is yaw free tilts but that isn't something you'll really need for most photography.

BTW most fast (/4 to /5.6) 65mms have a plenty large image circle for 4x5 work for much less $$$$ and without the weight and size hassles that come with the 72mm XL.

-- Ellis Vener (, February 08, 2001.

And no "bed getting in the shot" problem either.

-- Ellis Vener (, February 08, 2001.

If that 72mm will be your most-used lens, I don't think the lunchbox-style cameras will be best for you. Ellis's favorite camera is only a few dollars more than the Wista you're looking at; if you're in the U.S. check out overseas or grey-market prices on the Toyo VX125; (I believe) Phillips is marketing a 4x5 now; and the superlight Gowlands are out there.

-- John O'Connell (, February 08, 2001.

Aaron: According to Wista, the VX can handle a 65mm without bed intrusion. If this is so, you are fine. The Canham DLC is a nice camera, but I think it is significantly more money than the Wista.

-- Glenn Kroeger (, February 08, 2001.

What you are asking for may not be made, depending on your definition of "mid priced". Keeping costs lower means compromising with extremes in features in the cameras as well as with micrometer like precision. If you want all the movement, look at a Sinar, Linhof, Arca-Swiss or similar heavy duty camera that can be used for anything. If you want the field camera style, plan on giving up the full movements. The design won't permit it in most cases, at least not in a camera that is not top of the line and priced that way. You might look at some of the older camera designs from the turn of the Century and see if they fill the bill. The early Kodak cameras had a nice "Geared rear axis tilt" feature as well as front rise & fall and the ability to get the standards close enough to use a 72XL. They are inexpensive and easy to get. You are looking at the classic trade off game of trying to get everything you need, or want, in one package. It may not be possible if your wants are too big.

-- Dan Smith (, February 08, 2001.

My Toyo 45A bellows gets really angry just trying to push the extent of the rather limited rise and fall with a 90mm. Of course, I could get a recessed board, but I don't think that will solve the problem entirely.

You seemed concern about amount of rise and fall and want to use this 72mm - if that is the case, I'd look for something with more flexible bellows or bag bellows, as well as more rise and fall.

I was photographing the shuttle launch last night (absolutely GORGEOUS! - just after sunset and the shuttle climbed into the direct sunlight causing an orange glow on the exhaust plume), and had the bellows all crinkled with the 90mm just trying to get the horizon near the bottom of the image.

-- John H. Henderson (, February 08, 2001.

I'm in acordance with Ellis and John. I'm a novice and last weekend I tasted a 72XL with my Canham. This lens has a big image circle, much bigger than the circle formed with the corners of the format in extreme movements. I draw in a paper the circles of the 72XL and the 75 "normal", and the circle that the corners of the format "draw" in extreme movements. The 75mm exceed the capacity of the camera in rise/fall, and is moreless the same in lateral shifts. Focusing to a near subject, the circle grows, and the also capacity. The capacity of movements with the camera focused to infinity are limited by the bellows compression (to one inch moreless in the DLC45) when you use this wide angle lenses. That's the reason because I think that a 75mm works better with field cameras (without a bag bellows, of course). The 72XL is a monster. I don't recommend it for my camera. Another topic is the rear element. If the front of the bellows isn't wide enough, it can limit too the movement. I disagree partially with Ellis, when he said that you can use a 58mm with no problems with the Canham, because the same reason. You can use it with a limited capacity. The compression of the bellows would be bigger with this lens, unless you choose a recessed board like he does (I understand now why he has the Linhof front). He is one of the users that convince me with the Canham. I'm so happy with the DLC. Not yaw free is not a problem to me.

-- jose angel (, February 09, 2001.


One thing thet you must remember with a lens like the Schneider 58mm XL is that it barely has the image circle to cover a 4x5 at infinity. This means that you will not be able to put the lens into any real strong rise or shift without losing coverage anyway.

I recently purchased a 58 XL, and I think the DLC has absolutely no problem with it (with the normal bellows), because the camera doesn't have to be able to provide much movement at that focal length. The lens has coverage for about 4 mm of movement, if I remember correctly, and the DLC can provide that without any problem.

The 72 XL is another story, however. I suspect you are right that the 72mm lens is difficult to use to the edges of the IC on the camera with the normal bellows. Remember, there is a bag bellows available that will eliminate the problems. I use a 'normal' 75mm and at times wish I had the bag bellows to free up the front standard a little bit. I still get the shots, though.

I don't believe that there are many, if any, field cameras out there that can handle the 72 XL with full movements without the bellows getting in the way. There are a few possibilities that may, the Phillips 4x5 with the combination bellows, and I believe there is another maker that is doing a combination bellows (Walker? Gandolfi? I can't recall). Remember, many field cameras start asking for a bag bellows at about 90mm or less even without movements.

As such, I think the DLC is possibly the ideal field camera for this type of lens, because it easily handles short lenses without dropping the bed, or using indirect movements, and with the bag bellows, is able to provide complete control without interference. Now, if it only were yaw-free...


-- Michael Mutmansky (, February 09, 2001.

I'm glad to hear this about the 58mm! It would be my next step wider than the 75 (in a future when I stuff my pocket). Well, I have my small diagram in front of me. For those who could be interested, if I'm in the right way, the 72XL (focus to infinity) let rise a DLC45 about 25mm in good conditions (up to 40mm in a inestable and forced position) and fall 25mm. You could shift right or left about 25mm also, (up to 31mm with the front, adding 9,5mm more shifting also with the back in the same forced situation). The diameter of the format is 153mm. The circle of the 72XL let you up to 49,5mm of rise and 43,5mm of lateral shift. The circle of the SA 75 permits 32mm of rise and 27mm shift. Swing/tilt don't improve the capacity. Hope this helps.

-- jose angel (, February 09, 2001.

Try going to and see it his 4x5 will fit the bill... just a thought if your handy.

-- Scott Walton (, February 09, 2001.

Aaron, as usual when posting a broad question like this you are about to receive tons of opinionated contributions, the do's and dont's , the pro's and con's. The only thing is prioritize and look at the different qualities of each camera and your requirements. I seem to have understood that price and wideangle capabilities are your priorities. Wista VX is a good camera I have owned one for 3 years and sold but liked it all the way. it isn't a Japanese Linhof, the only similarities end at the metal constuction, the rotating back, and the lens board; but all the rest is radically different. The Wista has wideangle capabilities which are different from the Linhof and I don't intend to discuss the merits of both. Suffice to say that it is true that the recessed lens board is very good but as someone else said if making vertical shots you might just photograph the base of the camera.It can happen from 75mm under(I have some 6x12cm shots with the nice endbit of the camera in it, both pinhole and regular lens!). The camera is poorly reppresented around the world and accessories are pricy and difficult to get. The Wideangle bellows aren't cheap and extension rail or bellows are a real rarity and very expensive. The revolving back of the Vx has a funny prong which you are led to believe that is the lever to enable the rotation-wrong- the thing has no purpose on the VX but only applies to higher models the VX has only click stops in four position.The spring loaded back has a feature which only comes handy if you use a Prontor shutter and that otherwise sits in the way of some film or Polaroid holder actually pushing the holder out of place! The Walker is heavy, but it is a fantastic camera, what you apreciated in the Wista , the recessed lensboard is the same as in the Wista and the bag bellows are very good. it comes in two models a standard and a wideangle. It is incredibly sturdy! You cam be rough to this camera and it will still love you. Do not dismiss the ABS it looks very army-like but it is great. Photographers are feticists so we go for nice things instead of functional things, but if reason plays any role in the choice, Walker is the one. Now if you want extended camera back movements then you might consider other cameras too. The Shen Hao is good but not yet finished(the metal parts are very sound but lack the perfection of the stainless steel of the Walker) the way that some other cameras are. The wideangle capabilities are O.K. and I know the company is working on improving it. The wood is beautiful teak, the back movements are very good and certanly good value for money. I sell them at the moment and I am using one, will articulate more on this camera as I experience it in the field. regards BTW. Canham is great too and although I know little about them speaking to the owner at the last three Fotokinas and having been fiddling about his cameras has been real fun,very well made too!

-- Andrea Milano (, February 10, 2001.

Another thing about the Yaw-free movements. If you really think you need them(most people don't and they certanly don't need them in field photography). You can obtain a pretty good yaw-free camera jut tilting the camera on the side and in so doing thasform vertical in to horizontal movements and if your camera has axis tilts, voila' you have Yaw-free movements. Curious about it, try it! In reality since cameras arewn't made to be used this way the movements might be less than confortable but Hey! it is yaw-free isn'it!

-- Andrea Milano (, February 10, 2001.

Aaron, look at the Gandolfi Variant line. I do not own such a camera, but from what i have seen, I would buy it if I had to do it today. When I checked last, they were sold at a reasonable price, with more precise movements normally expected from a field camera. They can be upgraded, too.


-- Lukas Werth (, February 10, 2001.


I own a Gandolfi Variant Level 3 4x5. It is a great camera for studio, but NOT an ideal camera for field work. Yes, it's certainly not cheap or mid-priced. The camera is really designed for 5x7, like the Canham wooden 4x5/5x7. It's rock solid any way you put it, controls are very positive, zero indentations are clearly marked, but it's big and heavy: 8.9 lbs without lens. You can check its specs now at the Gandolfi website: DO you pay an additional ~20% VAT in EC when you buy a Gandolfi there? Cheers!

-- Geoffrey CHen (DB45TEK@AOL.COM), February 10, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ