Linhof Kardan Bi, 45S etc models : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I am trying without success to find comparitive information online regarding Linhof Kardan models like the Kardan Bi, the Kardan Color 45S etc.

Can anyone advise me where I might find such information online or elsewhere?

Thanks in advance

Andrew Watt

-- Andrew Watt (, August 22, 2001


Call us if you are in the US.

800 735 4373

-- Bob Salomon (, August 22, 2001.


The era of chrome and cream view cameras! I used Kardan-B 10x8's for years - what a joy.

Kardan Color 45S was the budget model in the Linhof Monorail range with axis tilts only. According to the brochure I'm referring to Linhof claimed 'high wide-angle efficiency citing 53mm at the short end with optional bag bellows. With fixed front and rear riser posts the camera was very rugged and rigid. There is no fine focus control, all focus is acheived by friction drive on rail.

Statistics: Front Rise: 78mm (3 inch) Back Rise: 60mm (2.25 inch) Swing about vertical and horizontal axis unlimited (restricted only by bellows) Basic Rail: 450mm (17.75 inch) Weight: 3900gm No specification is given for lateral shift although it was incorporated,

The Kardan-B (Bi) derived it's name from the facility of base and axis tilts, affording great flexibility and, at a pinch, achieving longer bellows draw without adding a rail extension. The camera could be upgraded to 5x7 & 10x8.

Statistics: Front & Back standard rise: 78mm (3 inch) extendable to 163mm (6.5 inch) with extension rods Front & Back lateral shift: 85mm (3.33 inch) expandable to 135mm (5.25 inch) Front & Back axis tilt and swing: unlimited (restricted only by bellows) Front & Back base tilt: 180 Basic Rail: 320mm (12.5 inch) Extension Rails: 320mm (12.5 inch) Front & Back fine-focus range: 56mm (2.25 inch) Maximum bellows with 3 rail sections and auxiliary standard and bellows: 1000mm (39.5 inch) Weight: 3800 gm

Looking up this data has given me a very nostalgic start to the day. If you can acquire one of these cameras that's been cared for and maintained you will have a fine bit of kit to last a lifetime.

Cheers ... WG

-- Walter Glover (, August 22, 2001.

Having used most of these camera in my professional career, my opinion is that the Linhof Bi system, is in my view, one of the finest view cameras ever produced. Perhaps that is why they still bring premium prices on EBay. Sorry Linhof didn't continue to produce it, but it probably had to do with a management change in Munich. No, it's not a light "Balsa-wood" view camera, but it is one of the most intelligently designed, precision view cameras ever produced. IMHO.

-- Richard Boulware (, August 22, 2001.

I can only comment on the Bi, as that's what I've been using for about 4 years now. The camera is a fantastic piece of engineering- rock solid, easy to use, and very nice to look at. I originally learned about it in an original review in an old photo magazine from 1969 (think it was 1969). I've been very pleased with it with just a few exceptions. I've recently started using a 90mm lens on mine and really can't see it being used with anything much shorter than that. You might be able to pull off a 75mm with a recessed lensboard,but just barely, I think (don't take my word for it, though, as I haven't tried it). Also, and this is becoming a bigger problem for me, you can't use a Polaroid back in the horizontal position without fogging, as it hits part of the rear standard and this prevents it from seating properly. From what I understand, there is or at least was some sort of back extender being made for the Bi, though were one to use this it would certainly make the use of wide angle lenses harder. This isn't really an issue if you don't use Polaroids, but I'm using them more and more, not to mention wider lenses, so some time within the next six months or so, I may be switching systems (ahem, if anyone's interested in my Bi, email me around December).

It's limitations considered, I still agree with Richard in that the Bi really is one of the finest view cameras ever made. I feel fortunate to have one. It's a joy to use and pretty convenient to carry into the field, if you don't mind the weight. All in all, if you're considering buying a Bi, I say go for it- in all probability you won't be disappointed.

-- David Munson (, August 23, 2001.


i don't know why you are having trouble with wide lenses. i used mine with a 65 on a flat board without problem. i had the spacer so polaroids were not a problem, even with the 65. which bag bellows are you using?

i had a bi for several years. i have yet to see a better made camera.

-- adam (, August 23, 2001.

As to availability"

Any parts that mount to the rail. Extension rails (B only), intermediate standard, rail clamps, are no longer available new.

Anything that mounts directly to the front or rear standard are the same as the accessories for the current Kardan E, GT, GTL and are available. These include lens boards, compendiums, ground glasses, fresnels, viewing aids, focusing aids, etc.

-- Bob salomon (, August 24, 2001.

Hmmm....nevermind about the wide angle thing. I just set up my Bi with a 90mm and there's plenty of room to go shorter. Don't know what I was thinking when I made that post....downside of posting late at night after a long day, I suppose.

-- David Munson (, August 24, 2001.

Andrew, I've been using the Bi-Kardan for quite a long time... built like a tank and after a mile or so hike, seems to weigh about the same. I use a 75 Grandagon on a modified recessed bellows... I took the bellows part off and now use just the leather "bag". The Grandagon allows for about 1 to 1.5 cm shift before vignetting. I have the extender for the back that allows for Polaroid use in the horizontal mode. A couple or so years ago I went on a search for a second extension rail and an 8x10 rear standard.. both of which turned out to be scarcer than hens'teeth, so I bought a B & J 8x10 at but fraction of the price I was expecting to have to pay for a "conversion" set up.All I have to figure now out is to find a way to allow me to safely and securely attach my Linhof board mounted lenses (small) to a B & J wooden board.


-- Ken Sinclair (, August 26, 2001.

"I took the bellows part off and now use just the leather "bag""

You have a very old WA bellows. It has been a bag only for more then 10 years.

-- Bob salomon (, August 26, 2001.

Walter wrote: The camera could be upgraded to 5x7 & 10x8.


Thanks very much for the comparative figures for the Kardan Bi and Kardan Color 45S. Those were really helpful.

What is needed (in time) to upgrade to 5x7 or 8x10? Is the only thing retained the tripod mount and the rail? To upgrade are new standards, bellows and lensboards needed?

It has been really interesting to read your enthusiasm for the Kardan Bi and that of the others who replied. For those who gave up the Kardan Bi what were the factors/pressures that caused that? Fashion? Something technically more fundamental?

Thanks again to all who replied.

Andrew Watt

-- Andrew Watt (, August 27, 2001.

"What is needed (in time) to upgrade to 5x7 or 8x10? Is the only thing retained the tripod mount and the rail? To upgrade are new standards, bellows and lensboards needed? "

For 5x7 just the ground glass frame is changed by sliding the 4x5 one off the rear standard.

For 810 a complete 810 standard is required as well as more rail.

In both cases, of course, the appropiate new size bellows is required.

To convert to 57 the current GT 45 to 57 conversion should work but that would not be true for 810.

-- Bob Salomon (, August 27, 2001.

Linhof has several cameras with base and axis tilts.

The B is one but it is not yaw free as both tilt points are abaove the swing point (unless you rotate the camera 90)

The GT and GTL also have dual tilt points as does the M679 and M679cc and these are yaw free as the lower tilt point is under the swing point of the standard.

-- Bob Salomon (, August 27, 2001.

i searched for a couple years for an 810 conversion and never found one, as have many others. i heard stories they come up once in a while but i got tired of waiting. i picked up a sinar 810 p in great shape for about the same as the conversion would have been.

i sold my bi because i ended up using my tk45s for most things and the sinar came with a 4x5 conversion. i had no use for a third 4x5.

i like the bi very much but it is an old, out of production camera and sometimes this means hard to find parts and accessories. if you have any specific questions you can contact me privately.

-- adam (, August 27, 2001.

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