wisner rigidity questions

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There is a used Wisner Traditional 4x5 sitting in my local camera shop (Henry's, in Toronto)and after playing with it for a little while in the store I had a couple of questions the sales staff were not able to answer. The cosmetics of the camera are very good but it seemed a little less than rigid, even at moderate extensions. All my view camera experience is with an older Kardan 45S, and I know you can't compare the two, but I was surprised that the camera was as flexible as it seemed. To be fair, the various movements did seem to lock down securely, and the standards returned to their original position when after being wiggled (no slipping), it all just seemed overly prone to vibration.

My question is this: Is this a particularly floppy Wisner, or are all lightweight field cameras so delicate? How much flexibility is normal in a 6-pound camera when everything is locked down? I don't have anything to compare it to (and realize it is a difficult question to get a real answer to over the Internet) but I'm contemplating its purchase (having become sick and tired of carting around the Linhof on a bicycle) and fishing for feedback.

Also:I notice you can slip the rails out of their gears if you focus them too far forward or back. Is THIS a regular feature of the Wisners?

Thanks for any opinions you can give.

regards, s.

-- s. gregory (smg@netcom.ca), August 19, 2001


Hi S, I saw Henry's had that camera, and I was thinking about going down to look at it, but... I used to photograph with a friend who used a camera like that. I never heard him complain. But this spring I saw someone at a camera show in Toronto who had a Wista, a metal field camera. And I think they were about the same price. I was amazed at how convient the Wista's controls where compared to the older wood field camera types that I used. Last I knew, C.J.Hale Photographic Services, chale@icom.ca in Toronto also had some used field cameras. Good luck, David

-- david clark (doclark@yorku.ca), August 19, 2001.

While it may not be a dirct answer to your question, might I suggest that at 6 pounds there is no weight advantage over a Linhof Technika - perhaps that is what you should search for.

My limited experience with wooden cameras is that rigidity is just one of a vast raft of compromises to be endured.


-- Walter Glover (walterg@netaus.net.au), August 19, 2001.

That wooden field cameras are a bit rubbery is indisputable. I haven't tried an Ebony, which I'm told is an exception, but I do have and have used for a few years now, the very camera that you are looking at. I owned a Horseman FA previously, which is a fine folding metal technical camera. My reason for letting the FA go and sticking with the Wisner is that I can completely field strip, clean and reassemble the latter with a screwdriver and a miniature channelock plier out of the trunk of my car. I find this attribute of greater importance (ever get caught in a sand storm?) than it's rubberiness. When everything is locked down on a sturdy tripod, I doubt you will see a difference in the end result. This of course, assumes that your ground glass is properly adjusted. I know I harp on that excessively, but I do believe that much of the fussing out there about less than tack sharp negatives can be traced to either that or faulty technique. Just another opinion!

-- Robert A. Zeichner (info@razeichner.com), August 20, 2001.

Not that long ago I went through the same process of making a decision for my first view camera. At that time, Zone VI was great about putting you in touch with a local owner of their camera so you could get your hands on it and "feel" the controls. At first, I was attracted to the classic lines, the varnish, the leather bellows (Wisner). When I actually got behind one and had a chance to set one up, focus, lock down, insert a holder and take it down, it was surprisingly different than I expected. First, it was a bit heavier that I thought and when I applied light pressure to various parts of the camera to test for rigidity, it was more than a bit springy.

Recognizing that this exercise caused as much concern about large format as it did about the wooden field camera, I was fortunate to run into another large format user that was gracious enough to let me get behind his Linhof Technika. In the words of the late Harry Carey - all I could say was "Holy Cow". Solid, precise focus, compact and not that much heavier albeit more expensive. In about three weeks I went from one end of the spectrum to the other with no stops in between. I found other 4x5 metal cameras lacking in bellows (Toyo, Wista, Horseman) and was so torn that for an extended period I could not make a decision on which way to go.

Eventually, I discarded the thought of any wooden camera and departed from the through of the 4x5 in favor of a mint metal 8x10 Kodak master that was suprisingly close in price to the wooden 4x5. At the time I could not afford an enlarger and decided that 8x10 contacts would sequester my growth curve. It was a great decision and I have not looked back. I have continued on the same path of materials and acquired a Linhof Technikardan 45S and a Canham metal 5x7. The Canham sacrifices mobility and compactness in the back standard lock down, but I continue to shoot tack sharp images with a simple finger support technique when inserting and removing the holders. No big deal.

Every person that purchases a camera needs to look carefully at their personal requirements as per the images they expect to shoot. Some do not need the extra bellows, for others it is critical. I would strongly recommend getting your hands on several cameras including a wooden camera to really get a feel for what YOU find with operating it. Each opinion that we offer you on your question within the context of this forum brings with it a user bias that is based upon divergent personalities as much as on the job experience both good and bad. Take as much of it (or as little of it) as you find appropriate and let your instincts be your guide. The most important thing is to get out and make photographs. Enjoy!

-- Michael Kadillak (m.kadillak@home.com), August 20, 2001.

If you've got something going on that's going to overcome that vibration threshold, you're not going to take pictures anyway.

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@sierra.net), August 20, 2001.

A biased answer. I have owned a Wisner 4x5 Technical field for 13 years. I have never found the "rubbery" quality to be a problem. My iamges are shrp, people like them enough to buy them. I shoot almost exclusively landscape and some architecture--the latter with exposures in the minutes. So far so good. Bob

-- Bob Moulton (bobmargaretm@home.com), August 20, 2001.

I have a Wisner 4x5 Traditional Field and have no complaints. I have not shot in heavy wind (over 20 kts) or severe conditions, so I can't comment on extreme conditions, but the camera is more than capable of holding film and lens in place relative to one another. The ability for the extentions to come off the focus gears is seen as an advantage by some. It permits the addition of a larger back (I think I saw someone with a 6x10, but I can't remember the exact dimensions), and I've also seen someone who reverses the front standard to put the lens closer to the film, although I have not problem getting them close enough for my 65mm SA.

Anyway, everyone will have his (or her) opinion about rigidity, et al., but the Wisner has been proven to take perfectly sharp photos when proper technique is used. It is much more rigid than the Wistas and Zone IV's that I have handled (admittedly a small number).

The movements on the Wisner exceed the coverage of any of my lenses (Nikkor 90 SW f8 is probably my greatest coverage lens), although I would invest in the bag bellows, as the standard bellows are constricting with wide angle lenses.

-- Andrew Cole (laserandy@aol.com), August 20, 2001.

"s", get yourself an Ebony and put all worries behind you!! Regards Pau

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

Thank you all! I spent a little more time with the Wisner, with all your comments ringing in my ears, and gained some confidence in its build and rigidity. It is a wonderfully made camera. I would love to be in the market for an Ebony or a Technika or a Canham (the 8x10 will need to wait as welll), but can't afford it at the moment. The Wisner seems like it will be a perfect companion for my trips out of the studio, formerly a dangerous and unpleasant ordeal with the Kardan strapped to my aching back.

Now I worry about the way the front standards rub against the bellows while it is being folded. Any tricks? Or just exercise caution?

As one of my more youthful friends might say, you all rawk!

regards, s.

-- Stephen (smg@netcom.ca), August 21, 2001.

Folding the Wisner involves a little trick to avoid undue wear and tear on the bellows. Rack the front focus out about an inch or so and loosen the front standard locking knobs before flipping the front standard down into the camera. Bring the front rise up as you fold the front standard in. This keeps the ends of the front standard frame from rubbing on the bellows quite so badly. There is still a little rubbing, but nothing major.

-- Andrew Cole (laserandy@aol.com), August 21, 2001.

A little late but I would like to add my 2 cents worth. I own 3 Wisner Cameras, 2 4x5's and one 8x10. All are Tech Field all were purchased used(for a small fraction of New) one 4x5 went through hell before I purchased it, and the other 2 showed no use at all. All three preform as represented and all have been used and abused since I purchased them. I will admit that they all Feel like MUSH when in use(the 8x10 seems like it's made of jelly when extended) but I have NEVER had a problem making Great in Focus Exposures. And when I do have a problem it's because I'm to damn lazy to get out a Heavy Tripod. Most people seem to have problems with set up an folding the cameras(I know I did and yes I worried about the rubbing of the leather) but one call to the factory brought a very prompt return call by Mr. Wisner and with his explanation and some use, it's as easy as setting up the Old 2-D, just wish I could leavethe lens in place like the 2-D. I do recomend the purchase of a Bag for Wide lens use, it just makes life easy. I have read a lot of negative info on Wisner response but I have not had anything but very quick and helpful responses for parts,sevice and just general HELP. And NO I do not own stock. I wish I did as I plan to purchase a 5x7 and 8x10 before the end of the year. If you have any specific questions drop me a line I'll try to help.

Best of Luck(I hate making purchasing dissisions),


-- R.L.(Mac)McDonald (rmacsteam@aol.com), August 24, 2001.

Wisner is not a publicly traded company so don't worry about the stock...:-))

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (jorgegm@worldnet.att.net), August 24, 2001.

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