Info on Busch Pressman Model D 4x5 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello out there...I acquired a lovely Pressman Model D several years ago that was in brand-spanking new condition. Really, it looked new. OK, okay, so I'm congratulating myself a little too much. Here's the rub. This camera did not come with any rangefinder or view piece. It did come with a 162mm Wollensak Raptar, very clean and functionally perfect, and fitted with a flawless black metal lens cap lined in purple velvet. An amazingly sexy little lens cap. But I digress. My quest is to find a rangefinder and a viewfinder that will allow me to use this camera as a handheld press camera would be used. Any suggestions on where to look for any such accessories? I'm also interested in hearing from any Busch Pressman owners about their cameras, specs, instructions, stories that begin: "Dear Busch Pressman, I never thought it would happen to me....," general tips, modern lens usage.

By the way, I've had great success hand-making lens boards for this camera. Its quite easy. Let me know if you need help making one.

Regards to all, James

-- james pineda (, April 25, 2001


I'm just a rank amatuer, but here's my honest story.

(Dear Mr. Busch Pressman) won't believe this, but I used one of your very old press cameras for several months as my first view camera. It took some great photos, one of which I have sold a couple of copies of through a local exhibit. The old rangefinder was so dusty I couldn't see through it, so I just used the viewfinder and the scale focus marks and indicator on the focus rail. This worked pretty good. In all honesty, I really can't picture people using this beast hand-held. I guess the old press photographers didn't have alot of choices. So I've always used a tripod. After a while I started using the front movements a little and got to the point of realizing the value of using the ground glass for focus as well as the usefulness of movements. About the same time I was really starting to have fun with your Pressman, the doctor pulled me off my medication and I went out and bought a wooden field camera and a few modern lenses with good coverage. Then, the old bellows on the pressman started having light leaks that ruined some really nice shots, so I sold it. So, Mr. Pressman, I would appear that your $200. press camera actually ended up costing me about $2000. I don't really regret it and sometimes, late at night after a lot of pizza, wish I had another one.

-- Roger Rouch (, April 25, 2001.

Dear Busch Pressman,

I really wish I hadnt removed the rangefinder from my Pressman D back in 86. I was young and foolish and thought it was uncool of my first 4x5 camera to be sporting such an appendage. And yet, I swore I wouldnt throw it out or lose it, because I knew that someday I would want it back on there, being an heirloom and all. That day has come and I cant find it. Now I think back on that day in 1996 when I had to move quickly and had too much stuff, and a friend and I (thanks Kath!) took her 55 Chevy pickup full of 1500 lbs of my junk to the Intalco incinerator in Ferndale Washington. Please, Mr Pressman, tell me I didnt accidentally leave my rangefinder in that 1500 lb pile somewhere. I still remember driving away slowly, sadly, and seeing in my rear view mirror the unspeakably sad sight of my old hockey helmet sitting on top of the pile of black ooze, waiting to be incinerated. The horror, oh, the horror....


-- Wayne (, April 26, 2001.

You might try to find an "as is" Pressman and canibalize it for parts. I recall seeing one at the Ken Mar web site. Second, you could solve the viewfinder problem with a twin wire loop system or an old viewfinder from a Speed/Crown Graphic. For Graphic parts, I would try Midwest Photo or Stephen Shuart. There is also an extensive web site on the Speed/Crown cameras.

The rangefinder is a bit more difficult. My guess is that you will have more difficulty "coupling" a rangefinder than actually finding one. If I were undertaking the project I would set up a series of stops on the bed of the camera which corresponded to the 165mm lens focused at infinity and a set of guide marks of that for closer work. Use the ground glass to set up the stops (or guide marks) and simply move the lens to the approximate mark when shooting. Unfortunately, you will have to learn to judge distances. Hope this is helpful.


-- Dave Willison (, April 26, 2001.

I actually removed the rangefinder from my Busch--it was practically useless, very dim. It may still be lurking in a drawer somewhere.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, April 26, 2001.

Well...thanks guys. Your technical advice and stories are greatly appreciated and enjoyed. Here is part of my own experience with this gem. Now this camera has been very good to me...Several years ago, immediately after purchasing my Model D, I jetted off to Africa with my wife. Did I say that this was the only only camera that I had taken? And that I had never used a 4x5 before? (Shameless self- promotion). Well, I did in fact learn many practical lessons on traveling and wrangling this format. The most important 2 being that there is no such thing a one-size-fits-all format and that film hygiene is paramount. Luckily, my wife wisely packed her 35mm. Between the two of us, we had a camera for every occasion where needed. As far as film hygiene goes, well, in a nutshell, I did get much better at keeping my camera and film holders clean as the trip progressed. I did learn to use this camera as a handheld by the last leg of our trip in Africa, and continued to do so later in Europe. The quality of the resulting photographic images was pretty good. Additionally, I've discovered that it's pretty easy to work relatively quickly and discreetly to take photographs with this camera in public places, it is light weight and has a smaller profile than most press cameras. This definitely came in handy in the Paris, where virtually all of the heavily photographed monuments, museums and other public spaces are policed by zealous attendants who are instructed to stop any photographer who has "professional-looking" equipment and does not have a permit to work that site. My goal in wanting to add and sync the rangefinder is to reduce the complexity involved in taking the camera from "at-rest", (closed), to a fully extended and ready to shoot state. I'd rather be thinking about what I want to photograph, rather than get too wrapped up in double- checking my setup laundry list. Any further suggestions would be appreciated.

Also, on the subject of readyloads: To bad I hadn't discovered readyloads by that point...which brings up another good point, the weight saving benefits of using readyload film and a single light weight holder versus having to lug around a large number of standard film holders. When I made the switch, it saved me pounds of pack weight. Of course, I've just used my last box of B&W...when, oh when will Kodak deliver the single sheet B&W, or for that matter, any B&W readyloads? Oh, the humanity!

Last, but not least. Any suggestions on tripods/heads? I'm looking for something to use in both an urban and outdoors setting. It must be easy to travel with, compact when collapsed, durable, light weight, and easy to set up and level. Not too much to ask, now is it?

Ok, this is really the last: I'm looking for a new backpack for the 4x5, lenses, polaroid back, film, accessories, tripod, etc. Comfort and a small size are highly prized features....

Thanks for your attention...James

-- james pineda (, April 26, 2001.

I want the RF for the same reason. I'd like to have something thats a little easier to set up for quick work, like handheld portraits, than my other 4x5 or 8x10.

For packs, I like the Kelty Redwing. Its not a "photo" pack so it doesnt have all the things you might want, but it also doesnt have the price. I think mine was $69 from REI. Well worth looking at, unless you've got lots of money to toss around (in which case my address is....)


-- Wayne (, April 26, 2001.

Dear Mr. Pressman, I bought a wonderful condition Model D at a garage sale several years ago for about $75 ( but without a lensboard). It's been sitting on a shelf ever sence waiting for its own special lensboard. I have made a few for a Meridian 'B' (basic 4"x4" board and lighttrap step). But I have never seen a Bushman board to work from. I would sure like to see your instructions on making a lensboard. Thanks.

-- Beau (, April 26, 2001.

what I started to say but didnt finsih was: Ed if you need a home for that dim RF and the original poster doesnt want it...

-- Wayne (, April 26, 2001.

Hey, Back Off Wayne!

Its Mine, Mine, MINE if Ed doesn't want it! sorry, I guess I've been hanging around my 20-month old to long. I really gotta get some grown up friends...


-- james pineda (, April 26, 2001.

Whoa...easy big just set down that baby formula reeeeeeaaaaalllll slow before somebody gets hurt....

-- Wayne (, April 27, 2001.

I have a Busch Pressman myself that doesn't have a lensboard and I thought I might make one, but I don't know very much about it. If Mr. James Pineda could tell me something about it, it would help.- Benny Drinnon

-- Benny Drinnon (, June 28, 2001.

Hi all, Lens boards for the Pressman are a snap to make. Go to a hobby shop and get some .015 aluminum stock (like 4 inches wide). Cut out a piece the shape of the board holder opening and a second piece about 2 and a half inches across with the same rounded corners and a projection on the top edge about a half inch long and a quarter inch high. Fold the projection 90 degrees in a vise, epoxy the two pieces together, slip the board in the camera and mark the projection with the hold-down screw, and drill a small hole on the mark. Spray with flat black enamel. Presto, one blank board that looks like an original.

-- Chauncey Walden (CLWalden@worldnet.att.nat), June 29, 2001.

Hi all,

I just picked up a Busch Pressman model D and am trying to figure out how the rangefinder is supposed to work--are the black dots supposed to move or is the whole frame supposed to move into alignment with a non-moving image (kind of like a Leica) or what? Also, the shutter only seems to work on the 'B' setting--any recommendations for a place that can fix it? Thanks a bunch!

-- Nikki Recob (NickRecob@AOL.COM), March 16, 2002.

Nikki: The fact that the dots are black is probably a bad sign. Which rangefinder is it (Kalart or Vue-Focus)? I have the latter, and the spots are transparent yellow, allowing the images to be aligned and still visible. Since your shutter needs servicing anyway, find an older camera repair shop that can do both. The rangefinder may simply need a cleaning. You didn't say where you were...

On another note, for those of you with lots of BP experience, can the 1970's Rodenstock 127 Polaroid lenses be used with a rangefinder calibrated for the original 127 lenses (Rodenstock or Kodak Ektar)? I would guess so, but I don't think the newer lenses are the same formula, despite being the same focal length. Would it matter?

-- Paul (, April 18, 2002.

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