Where have all the 2x3's gone?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Ross' post the other day asking people's opinions about switching from 4x5 to 6x9cm (2x3in) made me wonder, "What happened to the 2x3 cameras?"

Toyo used to make the 23G, but no longer. I've seen pictures of, and heard of, a Galvin 2x3, but can't find anything that indicates that it is still made. (Where do Galvins come from anyway? Did they make other formats?)

It would seem to me that with the continual improvements in film emulsions - higher speeds and smaller grain - that photographers would have a tendency to move to smaller formats for the reasons that Ross mentioned, and more, such as smaller, less obtrusive, cameras. So why are the 2x3's disappearing instead of have more introduced? (Of course, I know some of us think, "If the film is that much better, just imagine the detail I can get in 20x24" now!")

If I'm going 2x3 then I want a 2x3 camera to get the advantages of smaller size and weight, and a bellows and mechanical design designed for the shorter focal lengths. (a 90mm pushes the useful lower limit on my Toyo 45A, which is about a normal field of view in MF.) About the only new thing I can find that is dedicated 2x3 is the Technikardan, and at $4000+, that quite a big bite to take.

-- John H. Henderson (jhende03@harris.com), February 21, 2001


John: The 2x3 size never was as popular as 4x5. I have owned a couple of cameras in that format over the years, and sold them both after a year or so. In my case, I found that there was not really that much of a saving in size and weight, and if I were going to carry that much, I might as well get the advantage of the bigger 4x5 neg. Also, lenses are a lot easier to come by for 4x5, and some of the 4x5 lenses can work on 5x7 and 8x10 cameras. I made a few good images while using the 2x3, but I prefer the bigger neg. and bigger ground glass. The smaller size just doesn't measure up overall to the larger sizes when all things are taken into consideration.

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alaweb.com), February 21, 2001.

John: Although in the US, 6x9 isn't as popular as 4x5, in Europe and Asia, the format is alive and well. Ebony makes an entire line of 6x9 wooden field cameras and Arca-Swiss makes an entire line of exquisite 6x9 monorail cameras. These tend to be overpriced in the US. For example, and Arca-Swiss 69FC is over 3K in the US, but that same money will get you the camera, binocular viewer, lensboards and roll- film back from Robert White.

While I like 4x5, I prefer 6x9. Bigger is not always better. As they say, it is not the size of the camera, but how you use it. I like longer focal lengths for image compression. That is much easier to do on 6x9 with smaller, lighter, faster lenses and alot less bellows cross section to catch wind. Overall, I get sharper results on images due to the inherent DOF advantage and less wind vibration. Use of a binocular viewer mitigates the "size" advantage of the 4x5 groundglass.

I would qualify this opinion to be aimed at color transparency work. For B&W, I still see a definite difference between 4x5 and 6x9 at print sizes of 16x20 or larger.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (gkroeger@trinity.edu), February 21, 2001.

Hi John

Horsemann has also a 2x3 camera. But I prever also the bigger 4x5 negs and if these quality is not needed then I take a MF camera or the 6x9 or 6x12 back on the 4x5 Arca or Horsemann! Good light!

-- Armin Seeholzer (armin.seeholzer@smile.ch), February 21, 2001.

John, I seem to remember reading somewhere that the Galvin cameras were made in the USA by Jim Galvin. I understand that they were made in small numbers, probably why they are not a common camera!! I recall that he also made even fewer 5x4 cameras, but I may be mistaken. On the subject of this format, as I mentioned in reply to the earlier posting, after using 5x4, 6x9 screens are just so small in comparison with 5x4, that the only benefit in using rollfilm is the wider choice of film.My 6x9 outfit weighs about the same as my 5x4, so there is no advantage here. But as I shoot 99% black & white, I will be concentrating on 5x4! Regards Paul

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), February 21, 2001.

The Toyo 23G was always a special order item in the U.S. and it's been out of production for a decade or more. According to a price sheet I have dated June, 1990, the list price for it -- $1,790 -- was the same as the list price of the 45G! On the other hand, it _did_ come with a carrying case as standard whereas the case for the 45G was an optional extra. Still, at that price, it's easy to understand why it was never a very big seller (mine is No. 85 and although neither the factory nor the U.S. importer could -- or perhaps, would -- tell me the total that had been made, I'd be surprised if it were more than a few hundred, if that). Galvins were made by Jim Galvin, hence the name, and were available in both the 2x3 and 4x5 formats (the latter of which are fairly uncommon these days). It's a lightweight monorail design that's quite similar to the Gowland Pocket View, although slightly heavier and IMO, better designed and made, not to mention quite a bit more rigid.

One factor I suspect may cause a minor resurgence in the 2x3 format is the increasing interest in digital backs ... why use a bulky and heavy 4x5 when the small size of the imaging sensor used in digital backs is effectively throwing away 2/3 (or more!) of the image that's available to a film user? Worse still, this has the effect of multiplying focal lengths of lense by 60% or more and must be compensated for by the use of lenses that are much wider than normal.

Of course, 2x3 users aren't exempt from dealing with these issues, but owing to their cameras' smaller format, the magnitude of these effects is proportionally reduced. Add to that the ability of adapters so the same back that fits your 'blad or Mamiya also fits your view camera as well and a 2x3 becomes more attractive still...

If you want to leave your options open, as many suggest, shooting with a 6x9 back on a 4x5 camera is probably the best compromise. For those who don't shoot b&w, have their own darkroom or prefer their prints any larger than 16x20, shooting 6x9s with a 6x9 camera makes a lot of sense. And if digital imaging technology doesn't come up with larger size sensors quickly, the industry may well respond with a handful of new cameras designed around the 6x9 format from the start.

Personally, I've got my fingers crossed that Toyo's engineers come up with a scaled-down 2x3 version of the VX125. When they do, I'll whip a credit-card out of my wallet so fast, the plastic will melt... ;^)

-- Jeffrey Goggin (audidudi@mindspring.com), February 21, 2001.

I've heard, and suspect it's true, that 2x3 isn't such a good format for a view camera. The image's smaller size makes movements harder to see & interpret than on 4x5, and the movements themselves would have to be smaller in absolute terms (number of mm or in.).

But even if this isn't a problem, not much sheet film is available in this size. If I'm going to work with a view camera, I want the advantage of sheets. (Custom developing for each image, if needed, more stable base, less chance of damage because of thicker base, etc.)

So to get a variety of emulsions, you'll have to use roll film for 2x3.

As for aspect ratio, I like 2x3 better than 6x7, 4x5, 8x10, etc. It's close to how I see.

-- Charlie Strack (charlie_strack@sti.com), February 21, 2001.

Actually John, as surprising as it might be these cameras are experiencing a new springtime, they were almost annihilated after the 70's and they irreversible decline was sped up by the disappearing of the 2x3 cut film, however, the digital era has brought back many of them actually creating some new offspring like the Linhof and the Rollei, the digital back are octually very small and a camera like this can fit them very well especially if you think about it using it this way. Panta rei! Everything flows (and apparently is drifted back again!)

-- Andrea Milano (milandro@multiweb.nl), February 21, 2001.

Galvin cameras have been out of production for at least fifteen years. Jim Galvin still supports them, though. He's a nice fellow, if you ever need to deal with him. He advertises in View Camera Magazine.

I agree, the small screen is a little difficult if you're used to 4x5. A brightscreen and some kind of magnifying hood would make it a whole lot easier to use.

-- Kevin Bourque (skygzr@aol.com), February 21, 2001.

The Arca Swiss 6x9cm FC camera is $2800.00 at Badger Graphics.

-- Ellis Vener (evphoto@insync.net), February 21, 2001.


Linhof Technikardan 23S Linhof M679 cc Linhof Super Technika V 23b

But none can shoot 612, a popular roll film format. But 45 cameras do.

A 45 TK or Master Technika or the Wista 45 cameras are not that much larger then a 23 camera.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), February 21, 2001.

John, at last count Ebony produce four 2x3 cameras.

I came into LF via the 2x3 format. I started with a Photox, a nice cherry wood folding camera which I still have but only as a show piece. Regards,

-- Trevor Crone (trevor.crone@uk.dreamcast.com), February 21, 2001.

I'm not doing a commercial for Glen Evans, but on his site http://www.photomall.com/gevcam.htm he has a 6X9cm Plaubel Peco Jr., a 6X9cm CALUMET/CAMBO 23SF, and some Cambo 6X9cm standards (these might be used to convert a 4X5 Cambo, I'm not sure). Maybe some other things; I just took a quick look at his list. Used 2X3 view cameras are out there, but I suspect most dealers know they are rare and price them accordingly (certainly their right to do so), probably a lot more than a similar 4X5 camera. I remember reading George Tice, known best for his urban landscapes done with an 8X10 camera used a 2X3 on occasion (a Cambo I think). Finally, mention was made of the uncommon 4X5 Galvin. I can confirm the existence of at least one - I bought it new approx. 15 years ago, and resold it after a couple of years.

-- Leonard Robertson (leonard@harrington-wa.com), February 21, 2001.

George Tice has a 23 Technikardan.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), February 21, 2001.

I picked up a 1954 Zeiss Ikonta 2x3 folder with a Novar 105mm lens for $125. This is truly a great camera. No problem with the lens. It folds flat and is a joy to carry. Less bulk than my Contax SLR, although more than my Rollei 35. Perfect for 11x14 prints. 16x20 and up I prefer the 4x5.

-- Mark Stevenson (marks@cwo.com), February 22, 2001.

I just sold a ca. 1943 Mamiya 6 folder on eBay. 6x6, though. But no movements or interchangle lenses.

Of course, there are still going to be advantages of 4x5 and other formats, but it just seemed to me that many trends in photography would lead to a popularity in the smaller format. Ross mentioned several advantages, such as availability of scanners for up to 120/220. (Then there seems to be a big gap to get similar quality from 4x5). Another one is availability of processing. I do my own 4x5 B&W, but no one processes 4x5 color locally.

OK, so there is not a big weight and size savings going from 4x5 to 2x3, but I would still imagine that a camera built for 2x3 is going to handle the wider lenses for the smaller format more easily.

The answer I've heard to the disadvantage of roll film not being able to do individual-fram processing is to have multiple holders for different compressions and expansions. Of course, that might be expensive, but is a solution.

I didn't expect to start so much discussion.

Maybe we can get a resurgence in 2x3 if we can convince all of MF photographers of the merits of movements. (Now I wish for rise and fall in my 35mm camera. Don't think I'd want to try to juggle more than that, but I would like some rise and fall.)

Saw Bob Salomon at PMA. Didn't talk to him as he was very busy and I was trying to see 800 booths in 2 hours. He seemed plenty nice.

-- John H. Henderson (jhende03@harris.com), February 22, 2001.

Just as a matter of interest, Horseman have recently released a 6x9/6x7 version of their SW range of panoramic cameras. I have yet to see one but I understand it is a scaled down version of the SW612 pro, and has rise and shift movements and is fitted with rodenstock lenses in helical mounts up to 90mm. Regards Paul

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), February 22, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ