wood field in the sultry South ?...re: humidity

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I am looking to purchase a wood field camera like the Lotus or Wisner. I live in New Orleans and the camera will have to deal with our extremely high humidity. I want to do environmental portraiture. The camera will go from air-conditioned car/home to humid swampy outdoors...quite often many times in one day. Is humidity an insurmountable concern for wood cameras ? Should I instead go with a metal field like the Canham ?

Should I ahve the same concerns with a wooden tripod ?


-- john david pope (jdpope@fastband.com), June 04, 2001


John, Woody cameras may not suffer at all, as wood usually is pretty well treated and varnished. But you should be quite careful about condensation on lenses and, even worst, sheet films on holders. Here in the tropics, those things happen quite often. Good luck.

Cesar B.

-- Cesar Barreto (cesarb@infolink.com.br), June 04, 2001.

See http://www.clydebutcher.com/. I'm guessing that if it's not a problem for this guy, it probably won't be for you.

-- Chris Patti (cmpatti@aol.com), June 04, 2001.

Bucher uses an 8x10 Wisner, and he takes it into the deepest humidity. I have used a 4x5 tech.field for about 12 years in wet climates, some quite humid, with no problem. You might email your concern to Ron Wisner; he can tell you about his mfg. technique zand perhaps put your fears to rest.

-- Bob Moulton (bobmargaretm@home.com), June 04, 2001.

If you can get a copy, take a look at ViewCamera, November/December 1994. This article has a round table discussion featuring Wisner, Phillips, Canham and Bender. Page 34 has a series of items on how each manufacturer selects wood and how each deals with the stability issue. As Wisner notes, there is no way of excluding moisture from wood. Even a heavy coating of varnish will only reduce moisture by roughly 50% compared to untreated wood. As a result, wooden viewcamera makers use a combination of approaches including: (1) selecting old growth woods and lumber with low shrink ratios, (2) kiln drying, (3) allowing wood to stabilize over time in controlled conditions, and (4) treating wood with protective coatings such as Danish oil or epoxy. After the wood is selected (often by hand), stability is further enhanced by choosing the right grain and the right type of joint, including finger joints and dovetails. In addition, many cameras are made by laminating wood together in layers to increase strength. I hope this allays some of your concerns.


-- Dave Willison (dwillisart@aol.com), June 04, 2001.

I've used wooden view cameras for the last three years in the South Carolina low country. No problems with cameras but you might have to let the lens come to temperature before you put it on the camera (a minute or so should do it). As far as a wooden tripod, again no problem. But if you are using it along the coast and you're getting into the surf you will have to rinse it down with fresh water and lube up the moving parts every now and then.

-- lyle allan (lallan@worldnet.att.net), June 04, 2001.


I have taken a Lotus Rapid field to St. Thomas. No problems at all, while my Nikon F3 and Sekonic L-508 failed. What I learned: take a mechanical camera such as Nikon F2 and a non-battery dependent meter such as Sekonic M398 if you are going to humid places, at least as backups. Cheers,

-- Geoffrey Chen (DB45TEK@AOL.COM), June 04, 2001.

Nawlins? Humidity certainly didn't bother Clarence John Laughlin none - he used a Korona. What about Bellocq? I kinda doubt he had anything to choose from BUT wood.

-- Sean yates (yatescats@yahoo.com), June 04, 2001.

as far as camera go that can resist anything in terms of humidity the Walker Titan beats it all, it is made of ABS and stainless steel cannot beat this conbination, I would be more concerned about the lenses though but I am sure that a good dose of silca gel can prevent most damages. Good luck

-- andrea milano (milandro@multiweb.nl), June 05, 2001.

It's really not a problem.I'm in Miami, Florida, and I have used nothing but wood field cameras for years, a series of Tachiharas and now for several years a Wista DX II. All outdoor photography, winter and summer, in some of the worst possible heat and humidity conditions. The only problem, as someone has cautioned, might be condensation on a lens taken from air conditioning and not allowed to warm up to ambient temperature. If you remember to look at the lens before your first shot, you'll see it if it's there, and then it's just a matter of waiting a few minutes. But as to the wood, don't worry.

-- Dick Deimel (Bbadger@AOL.com), June 05, 2001.

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