"World's lightest" 8x10 camera from Peter Gowland

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I just got a brochure from Peter Gowland stating he has just released the lightest 8x10 view camera. It weighs in at a incredible 4.5 lbs and sells for $1550. It has a 24" bellows (~600 mm), takes 5.5 inch Sinar-sized lens boards, has a 3-piece screw-together monorail, and an "L handle" for vert/horiz conversion (?). I'm not sure about the last part. See the photo on his web site (http://www.petergowland.com/camera/). It also accepts an optional rangefinder. I suppose the 3-piece monorail is for compactness when traveling, but I wonder how sturdy a screw-together monorail is.

As far as other lightweight, relatively inexpensive (<$2500) cameras: - Toho FC-810 ($2300, 6.6-6.8 lbs) - Bender 8x10 kit ($400, 6 lbs) - Tachihara? - Gandolfi Variand Level 2 ($2500, 8.8 lbs) - Any others that I'm forgetting?

Comments from anyone who owns any of these cameras would be much appreciated. I picked up a Bender with a 300mm Nikkor M for a decent price which has opened up 8x10 to me, but I'd like to know what others think of their cameras, especially their Gowlands. Sincerely, Tony

-- Tony Karnezis (karnezis@aecom.yu.edu), October 21, 2001


Tony three others I would add to the list:

Phillips Explorer (horizontal only)

Phillips Compact II (a little over 2500 but well under 3000 ... base price is 2600)

Wista (even with the increased prices since HP started importing still under 2.5K)

I uesd the Wista for years and was well satisfied with it except for its weight, I now use a Phillips Compact II and love it. It is relatively light weight and very intuitive to use. It is extremely rigid and handles all my lenses from 480 mm down to 110.


-- Ted Harris (slberfuchs@aol.com), October 21, 2001.

Ted, what 110 mm lens do you use? I was thinking of a wide angle and thought I'd buy either the Nikkor W 120 (barely covers) or 150. BTW, do the field cameras typically have ground glass protectors? How do people travel with their cameras without breaking the ground glass or bulking up their gear to prevent it from happening? I recall seeing a good, cheap suggestion from Kerry Thalmann's site--foam core.

And why would people buy a camera that is only good for horizontals? (I guess the simple answer is that they only shoot horizontals, right?) As much as most of my photos are horizontals, it seems like a lot of money to pay for a camera that's only good for one orientation. Just curious.

-- Tony Karnezis (karnezis@aecom.yu.edu), October 22, 2001.

Gowland's cameras are quirky and won't suit everyone, but that's a good price if ultra-low weight is your absolute most important consideration. Phillips lightweight cameras are very solid, more versatile, though more expensive and not as convenient to set up and take down as more conventional designs.

A camera with non-reversing back saves bulk and weight. To make a vertial, use the tilt on your tripod, just like a 35mm. Of course that interferes with camera adjustments but it's perfectly possible--I frequently do in with my 7x17 inch Korona a Ries tripods.

I pack my Deardorff 8x10 in a packpack (f/64) with the camera base at the bottom, then put filmholders in the outside pocket which lets the holders protect the groundglass. Works fine, I haven't broken a gg y

-- Carl Weese (cweese@earthlink.net), October 22, 2001.

Another good option for a lightweight, inexpensive rig is the Wehman. And it comes with a Plexiglass, unbreakable GG. Cheers, DJ.

-- N Dhananjay (ndhanu@umich.edu), October 22, 2001.

To answer Tony's questions:

1) The 110 I use is the Super Symmra 110 XL. Schneider's specifications of a 288 image circle are VERY conservative. It covers, barely, but it covers and is lighter weight than the Nikkor 120. Wheter or not it covers may depend on the design of your camera. I use a Phillips Compact II and Dick drilled an additional hole (as he is doing with frequency now he says) to handle the 110 and/or the Nillkr 120.

2) A second option is the SOM Berthiot Perigraphe f14 120. This is an amazing (albeit very hard to find) lens. Yes it is a very slow lens but the traeoffs are worth it! It is tiny, weighs about 300 grams in shutter. The coverage is amazing. It covers 8x10 with ample movements and I am told will cover 11x14. Most will tell you that it is an old prewar lens availabel only uncoated but thta is not correct. SOM still make these lenses or did until recently. Mine is of recent manufacture and coated.


-- Ted Harris (slberfuchs@aol.com), October 22, 2001.

It is possible that a newer Berthiot Perigraphe 120/14 might cover 11x14, but my old one won't. In the Ilex #3 shutter adaptation I have it just covers 8x10" with a little extra space and in barrel it leaves room for a bit more movement (maybe enough to cover 10x12" without movements). It's a lens I like a lot.

These scans won't tell you as much as a print, but here's a Perigraphe shot:


and I've posted some details from the same image here:


-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), October 22, 2001.

FYI, Peter Gowland could make a 3 lbs 5x7 camera with 20" bellows for a comparable price.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (qtl@ai.sri.com), October 22, 2001.

Tony -

I used to own an early model 8x10 horizontal-only Gowland, and still own a 5x7 ultralight and a bag-bellows 2x3 that he built to order for me. These days my working 8x10 is a Phillips Compact (7.5 lb.), with a Nagaoka (approx. 8 lb.) in reserve.

The larger Gowland Pocket Views do take 5.5" boards, but they do NOT fit Sinar boards, which are too thick. Gowland's own boards are just thin squares of metal (aluminum?) - perfectly usable, but not interchangeable with Sinar boards.

This new ultralight does NOT accept an optional RANGEFINDER, only an optional VIEWFINDER. There is no distance coupling of any kind. Knowing Gowland, I wouldn't be surprised if he could fit the viewfinder shoe to his other models too.

From the looks of the picture on Gowland's web site, the new camera uses some of the same lightweight components we settled on to keep the weight down in my 5x7. The Gowland cameras are tolerably sturdy, but rigidity is just adequate. There's a bit of sideways (actually rotational) play around the rail attributable to the coupling of the focus block to the rail. This could get to be a real nuisance if you have to tilt the whole camera to get a vertical picture. I would never do it with a heavy lens mounted. The multipart, narrow-stock rail is held together in my camera by a metal block tightened with a provided hex wrench; I'd say the rigidity of that arrangement is adequate with my 5x7 but might get iffy with a heavy lens and long rail on an 8x10. If you need to work with multiple rail sections, setup is slow and fussy. (The picture on the web site suggests that he may have designed the rails for this new camera to screw together directly, but the narrow gauge rail stock might still allow for some flex under a heavy load.) Also, you need to be constantly checking the camera to make sure the various locks haven't loosened and allowed anything to go out of whack, and there are no click stops or other indicators for an easy check of alignment.

Bottom line is, these cameras work and you can make fine pictures with them, but you have to be prepared to work slowly and very carefully.

Up until not all that long ago, the big Gowlands had the attraction of being pretty cheap relative to the competition. But I see that he's now jacked up his prices considerably compared to when I bought mine, so even that attraction is gone compared to buying a Tachihara or a used Wista (though at 10 lbs., these two are not ultralight).

If I were willing to settle for a horizontal-only 8x10 in order to keep the weight down as far as possible I'd turn heaven and earth to find a Phillips Explorer (5.9 lbs.) before settling for this or any Gowland.


-- Oren Grad (orengrad@world.std.com), October 22, 2001.

Just for the record, my 8x10" Gowland goes horizontal or vertical, but to switch you have to unscrew the four screws that hold the frames to the standards and flip the whole bellows/frames unit 90 degrees. It's not as handy as a rotating back, but it works, saves weight, and doesn't take too long once you get the hang of it.

All of Gowland's cameras are a bit different it seems. He keeps tweaking the design. If you buy a used or a new one, you want to be sure of what you're getting. In any case, Peter Gowland is great about updating things, and the prices for parts are very reasonable.

My early 8x10" was clearly designed to use the thinner lensboards that the previous poster mentioned, but when I ordered three lensboards about a year or two ago, they were thicker, like regular Sinar lensboards, so I filed some indentations at the attachment points, and they work that way on my particular Gowland and can still function as Sinar boards.

My 8x10" and the newer designs have knobs and levers and don't require a hex wrench in general, which the earliest versions needed.

Agreed that that metal block arrangement is one of the things I'd like to redesign on the camera, both so that it holds the rails more sturdily and provides more surface contact with the tripod head. The current version looks like it might be somewhat improved. The newer standards also look sturdier than mine, and he now makes a full-movements rear standard, which I don't have (just tilt and swing on the rear on mine).

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), October 22, 2001.

Tony: Another vote for the Wehman 8x10. At 12 pounds it does weigh more, but it will survive the day (week?) in your back pack. As for the ground glass, the front base extension swings up and completely covers the back of the camera when folded.

-- Bob Krantz (krantz@alaskalife.net), October 23, 2001.

I picked up a Gowland 8x10 over the summer and I've been using it as a portrait camera with a 355 G Claron. The regular Gowland appears to have a thicker rail than the new ultralight version, and the front standard holds the 900g lens in place without causing me concern. (Rigidity is in the eye of the beholder, and I doubt I'm the most critical.)

I pack my stuff in a mid-sized Gregory backpack and wrap the camera in my focusing T-shirt. Film holders shield the ground glass nicely in my opinion. A Bogen 3236 is overkill for it but that's what I have, so I use it.

-- John O'Connell (boywonderiloveyou@hotmail.com), October 25, 2001.

I carry my Gowland on day trips in a knapsack designed for laptop computers. Haven't broken a groundglass yet.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), October 25, 2001.

What is the deal with that man/woman holding the "beast" camera at the bottom of Gowland's camera page (http://www.petergowland.com/camera/)??

-- Terry (tcdvorak@aol.com), October 27, 2001.

The man/woman looks like a pasteup, but the 8x10" TLR is real. Last I checked, Lens and Repro (www.lensandrepro.com) had one for about $6000.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), October 27, 2001.

The mock-up is just a play -- Gowland made his mark as a fashion photographer and Peter was making light (no pun intended) of the fact that the camera the composite model is holding weighs over 30 lbs. You need to look like Ah-nold to carry the darn thing.

-- Donald Brewster (dpbrewster@prodigy.net), October 29, 2001.

Peter Gowland's ultralight 8x10 metal view camera, that he calls the LITE, is a design he made originally for me and for which I had input in evolving. I wanted the lightest 8x10 possible for backpacking the camera into wilderness areas. The weight criteria I wanted was 5 pounds, if that could be managed (it seemed unreachable for awhile during development), but somehow Peter exceeded that parameter by bringing the weight in at about 4.5 pounds for a camera equipped with a 5.5" lensboard and that could be used both horizontally and vertically. The substantial weight reduction, over every other 8x10 design, enables this camera to be used in places and situations where a heavier camera - frankly put - would not make it (at least it would not make it on my back!). For example, I can think of a number of specific day trips or backpacks in the Adirondack Mountains that I could realistically accomplish alone and without 'Sherpa' help with this camera - because of its weight - that I simply would not do if this camera did not exist (I would then 'downscale' to 4x5 as the format of choice). My specific 8x10 has a custom feature of a zero position for the front standard that I also have on Peter's 4x5 - this aids efficient use. The 8x10 Gowland Lite is a specialized piece of gear with its own niche use. It is NOT ideal for general large format photography but shines where light weight is the most important criteria. Peter has said that he would only make three of these cameras (two others - besides mine - since the cost of designing and machining of the totally new parts used in this camera made more economic sense in a limited run batch than to make only one). So it could be that there will be only two other LITE's around. I do look forward to perhaps someday meeting and comparing notes with these other owners .. deep in the wilderness.

-- John Burnley (oreamnos1@fnol.net), November 02, 2001.

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