Bob Shell: Zone VI One of Best LF Cameras? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I paged through the recent Photo Techniques and happened to see an article entitled Best 25 Cameras (or something) written by Bob Shell and another author. I checked for LF, and they had listed about three cameras, the Graphics press camera, the Sinar-P, and the Zone VI. They might have had another camera listed, but it wasn't a Wisner.

So, is this the best that the authors can do in the department of discriminating choice? The Zone VI has never compared to the workmanship and the beauty of a Wisner. This is especially true of late, given what I consider to be the poor workmanship of the Zone VI "Ultra Lite" cameras. I don't wish to insult any who may have purchased an Ultra-Lite, because I suppose that they have a certain functionality to them. But, I saw both the 8x10 and 4x5 versions at Calumet this summer, and they are definitely not in the same league with the Wisners. The bellows aren't as long or as good, it's not put together as well (kind of loose), and you get the feeling the black anodized metal parts would scratch just by looking at them hard. It's not a camera that I would buy. And, consider that it was Wisner who originally designed the Zone VI camera! One can also consider other advances that Wisner has made to LF photography, some of the giant format cameras that he's made, the 20x24 polaroid, his championing of older, lighter-weight lenses, the convertible plasmat series of lenses, etc.

I think that it would be cheritable to suggest that this choice was made out of ignorance, because I don't think that's the case. Certainly, the choice is misleading. Perhaps the best category in which this choice falls is comical.

P.S. I don't own a Wisner.

-- neil poulsen (, November 07, 2001


Isn't Bob Shell more of a 35mm and medium format type anyway? Andre

-- Andre Noble (, November 08, 2001.

Take in consideration, that all medias (print or electronic) are mainly governed by economical issues and not so much by "truth". Calumet p.e. is a big company, so it might be deadly for the publisher to not have them buying pages for adverts. Most writers and editors are not as independent as they believe (even without bad intention and I do not want to impute any bad intention in the case of Bob Shell). Camera reviews are like the stars given to restaurants and Hotels, in my eyes.

-- Urs Bernhard (, November 08, 2001.

In order for a national publication like Shutterbug to stay in business, one has to realize that there are certain marketing requirements. 1) Your audience is the aspiring amateur. 2) You need to fill a monthly publication so it is required that you gloss generically over every possible photographic subject to appeal to the masses in every edition. 3) You are in the business to make money so knee pads and Chap Stick are always close by and 4) If you want to see quality photographs, you are in the wrong place.

We all know that anyone that takes Bob Shell seriously as an objective purchasing reference point probably has more money than brains. Someone once told me that knowledge is where functionality meets reality. Eventually, the cream always rises to the top.

-- Michael Kadillak (, November 08, 2001.

I'm surprised that my article stirred up so much emotion from some.

I did not include Wisner even though Ron Wisner is a friend because I have not had extensive experience using his cameras, and was trying to confine myself to cameras I had such experience with. My original list was much longer, but the magazine only wanted 25, so I had to pare it down.

In answer to someone else's query, yes I am more of a 35mm and medium format user, but I own and use the Crown Graphic pictured in the article, a Toyo 45G monorail, and an old Eastman 2D 8 X 10, in addition to the Zone VI (originally built by Wisner, BTW). I don't use the big cameras nearly as much these days because fewer jobs require them.

As to my photography, well everyone is entitled to their opinions and I don't expect everyone to like my work. I see no point in personal attacks over differing artistic opinions, though.

Best wishes to all,

Bob Shell

-- Bob Shell (, November 08, 2001.

I support of Bob's reply, I thought it was a good article. The idea of this annual list is to stimulate thinking about a wide variety of camera types and call attention to overlooked cameras or features and their advantages. I thought Bob did this well. I have also seen published work of his that was quite good, but realize that most of his images published in Shutterbug were included in an article about a piece of equipment and were intended to illustrate a point, not to represent his best work as a photographic artist. By the way Bob, you have me thinking about Alpas!

-- David Rose (, November 08, 2001.

While at Photo Expo in New York last week I came across Photovision, a new magazine produced in Colorado. They seem headed in the right direction, ie, they exclude "digital imaging" as irrelevant to "photography." In the Sept/Oct issue, the editor asks, "why are there no articles on using pyro developer in Digital Photography magazine?" There's also a review of the Lotus 5x7 view camera.

-- Arthur Gottschalk (, November 08, 2001.

I second Arthur's suggestion to check out Photovision. The character of Photo Techniques appears to have changed markedly over the last several years. While some earlier contributors remain, much of the editorial content has shifted. My subscription will lapse at its next expiration date. Photovision, View Camera and Camera Arts are, in my opinion, top choices in US photo magazines.

-- Sal Santamaura (, November 08, 2001.

I'll make two comments here, first about the 25 "best" cameras. I've read these compendiums in past issues and concluded long ago that the choices are so personal that if you selected 25 different reviewers you would get 25 very different lists. Even among afficionados of Leica's for instance, you'll get folks who like M3's and others who like M4's and even others who will go with M6's. There are scillions of cameras that are never mentioned, some of them representing major turning points in the development of photographic equipment. I doubt many reviewers even know of some of them. What difference does any of it make? Maybe to a camera collector this is important, but for me and I suppose many others who actually make photographs with their cameras, what turns you on is the only thing that matters. Whatever gets the job done. Now, my second comment: I subscribe to both Photo Techniques and View Camera. I read them pretty throughly and have noticed changes over the years that don't necessarily please me. But, I wouldn't give up on either of those magazines because I value the writings of guys like David Vestal and the teachings of people like Howard Bond. I'd rather see no ads to be truthful, but I'm also a realist. Without advertizers, we would all be balking at the outrageous cost of each issue. With ads and the sometimes biased reviews (what review isn't?) we still get a good deal of useful information, quality writing for the most part and decent reproduction of the images.

-- Robert A. Zeichner (, November 08, 2001.

We rarely know the truth of others...but we do project(onto others) our fears and faults(our blind spots)... throwing them around ....better to look at ones own weak points and strengthen them than to hurt/criticise another... through ignorance of the other persons truth/life and their place in the world.

-- Emile de Leon (, November 08, 2001.

This thread has degenerated to the point that it would probably be in my best interest to just skip it, but in an effort to turn it around, here goes...

WRT other people's images. I've had my work called calendar crap by one fellow in one of the newsgroups. I've also had people whose opinions I respect (they are, after all people of impeccable taste and boundless intelligence) fawn over my work to the point of embarrassment. Moral of this story - as the late Ricky Nelson once crooned:

"I learned my lesson well. You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself."

So true.

WRT to PhotoVision and other photography magazines - let me first disclose that I have written for both PhotoVision (the Lotus review Arthur mentioned above) and View Camera. I don't intend this as a commercial plug for either magazine, nor am I a spokesperson for either. This is just all just personal opinion.

I believe for a photography magazine to be successful (where success is determined by continuing to stay in business), they can take one of two approaches. The first is to appeal to the least common denominator and attract as many subscribers and advertisers as possible. This is the approach employed by Popular Photography and Shutterbug. For anyone affiliated with either publication, that is not meant as a put down, just a way of saying they cover an extremely broad range of topics with the goal of getting a little something for everyone in most issues.

The second approach is to have clearly defined limits on the topics you cover and cover them as thoroughly as possible. This is the approach used by both PhotoVision (no digital - only traditional photographic processes and materials) and View Camera (only large format). Although I am not anti-digital in anyway, I actually applaud PhotoVision's very up front no digital policy. Not because digital is evil, but because it clearly defines the limits of what I can expect to find in every issue of PhotoVision. Like creating a good image, publishing a quality, niche market photo publication requires a clear understanding and a strong emotional attachement to your subjects. From day one, View Camera has limited their subject coverage to topics dealing specifically with large format photography. They cover several different sub-disciplines and topics within the broader context of large format photography, but ALWAYS large format. They've been in publication what 12 or 13 years now? Obviously, they're doing something right. By clearly defining the scope of topics they intend to cover, I think PhotoVision has also charted a course for success. I really believe the market can support several different top notch photography publications, as long as there isn't too much redundancy in the topics they cover. There are already many publications devoted to digital image making, including the very fine P.E.I. and Photoshop User. By choosing to exclude digital image making and concentrate on traditional processes, materials and techniques, rather than compete with them, PhotoVision has carved out a niche that they can cover better than the digital pubs. Just like View Camera carved out their niche covering lare format photography very successfully back in the late 1980s.

WRT the 25 Best Cameras - like taste in images and photography magazines, we all have our personal preferences. I know my personal top 25 would be vastly different than most who read this forum. Some may even scoff, but I say let them. It is the diversity of opinions in this forum that makes it worthwhile. If we all liked the exact same gear and the same kind of images, we wouldn't have much to talk about - and we certainly wouldn't learn anything from each other. Might as well sit in a corner talking to ourselves. Not much fun in that.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, November 08, 2001.

You know, I wrote this post kind of late at night, and it was supposed to be comments on the "choice", not comments on the individual. But, that last paragraph, "I think that . . ." falls into the latter category. I apologize for the strength of the comments in that regard.

-- neil poulsen (, November 09, 2001.

I guess if I critizise Mr. Shell my post is going to be deleted, so I will only comment on the choice of the best camera, I agree with Neil the choice of a Zone VI as one of the best cameras for field photography is laughable. One only has to look at Wisner, Canham, Gandolfi, etc. All cameras within the same price range to see that Zone VI is definitly not the best. In the past I have seen some of these "Best Cameras" lists previously published in PT and with some I agreed and some I did not, but this is the firts time I found only one camera I thought was worth it fo this appelative. Michael:

I think my post was deleted before you read my response, I agree with you, the cash flow management is important, but I was unaware that PT was in such dire straits, if they are going to dumb down the magazine to increase sales, then maybe they should lower the price also. I think we all agree that Shutterbug was a much cheaper magazine geared towards the trading/sales of items, I find it hard to find a reason to equate the previous Editor of this magazine (Shutterbug) as a credible source of photographic technique for which I should pay a premium price. As to subcriptions, I have recently moved to Mexico, and wanted to subscribe to View Camera, from what I understand they don't take out of the US subscriptions anymore....So I guess my one and only choice will be Photovision.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, November 09, 2001.

My, what depth......not. The guy that gets chosen to do the Pirelli calendar each year picks the 12 ladies he thinks are the most beautiful. Next year (if they survive) Photo techniques will do yet another article about the 25 best cameras written by someone else and their choices will be all wrong too.

What is it with Zone VI that everybody hates so much? I think the root of the problem may be that you "intensely dislike" Fred Picker. Does that mean everything that says Zone VI is trash?

I've made hundreds of pictures with a Zone VI camera that please me immensely. It is a viable choice for those of us that can't run with the big $ boys and have to settle for second hand, second best. I paid about $600 on Ebay. My God I wish I had $5600 to plop down for a 5X7 Ebony. At least I'm wearing my Zone VI out using it, unlike most of the doctors and lawyers that can and do buy the Ebony I'm wishing for. Talk is cheap. My respect is for the people pounding the dirt making good photographs even if they have to use something as hideous as a Zone VI. BTW, a couple of screws have at different times loosened up on the Z VI. I tightened 'em back up. So what's the big deal? Fred Picker?

-- Jim Galli (, November 09, 2001.

Fred Picker has nothing to do with this, since he has not owened this company for some years now, our objection was to picking a camera who is obviously not one of the best.....specially compared to the many other fine cameras with comparable price. I agree with you Jim, you are out of your depth.....

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, November 09, 2001.

The real problem with article seems to be its title. The author has indicated above that he only included cameras that he had "extensive experience with" in the 25 best. If the article title (including the reference to the article on the cover of the magazine) had read "My 25 Favorite Cameras Of All Time, by Bob Shell" (or something of that sort), then I think there would be a lot less criticism of the article. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the publisher to ensure that the title of the article is accurate with respect to its contents.

-- Michael Feldman (, November 09, 2001.

I'm not trying to defend the choice of the Zove VI as one of the "25 Best" cameras. It was Bob Shell's choice and I'm sure he's perfectly capable of defending that choice should he feel the need to do so. However, there has been some inaccurate information posted in this thread that I feel needs correcting - purely for the sake of accuracy. Mostly with respect to how the Zone VI stacks up against other cameras in the same price range. Specifically:

"One only has to look at Wisner, Canham, Gandolfi, etc. All cameras within the same price range to see that Zone VI is definitly not the best."

Of the cameras mentioned in the quote above, only the Wisner Traditional at $1495 is close to being in the same price range as the Zone VI Ultralight - currently $1295 at Calumet. I have no doubt that the fit and finish on the Wisner is superior to that of the Zone VI Ultralight. However, it also weighs 2 lbs. more. If someone is looking for a camera in the same weight class as the Zone VI Ultralight (4 lbs.), the most comparable model from Wisner is the Expedition at 4.4 lbs. and $2195.

The least expensive Canham, the DLC is $2300 - $1000 more than the Zone VI. And although the Gandolfi Traditional is a BEAUTIFULLY made camera (it really is), it is a double extension design priced at $2500 for the base model with no shifts or swings. Adding shifts and swings to the front standard brings the cost up to $3100.

I'm not claiming in any way that the fit and finish of the Zone VI Ultralight is even in the same league as any of these other cameras (based on my experience, it is not), but come on, let's be fair and compare apples:apples here. All of these other cameras cost more than the Zone VI. In most cases a LOT more. For the price of a Wisner Expedition, a Canham DLC or a Gandolfi Traditional you could get the Zone VI and at least one REALLY good lens - possibly two (or more). To say the Zone VI isn't as "good" as these other cameras isn't really a fair comparison when you also consider price. This definitely appears to be a case of "you get what you pay for". I don't think it's any small coincidence that the quality of the fit and finish of these cameras goes up pretty much in proportion to their prices.

Again, I'm not claiming the Zone VI is the "best" choice for anyone in particular or even a "best buy". That's up to each individual buyer to decide. We all have our own needs to consider when buying a camera - and one important consideration is how much we can afford to spend. Taking this to the extreme, is the non-folding Shen Hao as "good" as the non-folding Ebony. In absolute terms, of course not. But if you've only got $500 to spend on a camera, and not $4000, the Shen Hao may be the "best" choice.

Again, this is not a "pro Zone VI" argument I am presenting. Merely a "pro accuracy" argument.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, November 09, 2001.

Kerry, I dont think Shell was talking about the ultralight, if anything when he got his camera the ultralight did not exist, as he stated he has had this camera for some time. So when you call my data inacurate it would serve you to read carefully, of all these cameras in their middle of the road configuration the price difference is of a few hundred dollars around the $2500 range. In addition I could also point out if we are going to pick just the examples that best fit our points that Tachihara and Sheng Hao are much cheaper than the ultralight with equal if not better construction. As a last point I checked Badger Graphics price for a Gandolfi VArian level I and found the price to be $1290 dollars, well within "your" price range for the zone VI. So Kerry in the future when you call someone else's data inacurate please make sure YOURS is.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, November 10, 2001.


No Zone VI 4x5 camera has ever sold anywhere near the $2500 price point. The most I've ever seen them listed for is $1495. If Bob Shell got his Zone VI several years ago, he probably paid something around $900 which is what I paid when I bought the one I used to own (right after Calumet bought out Fred Picker). Of course, if that's the case, perhaps the Zone VI Bob Shell owns is also of higher quality than the current models. All that's a bit irrelevant for anyone looking to purchase a new camera at this time, since the only current Zone VI model is the Ultralight.

"In addition I could also point out if we are going to pick just the examples that best fit our points that Tachihara and Sheng Hao are much cheaper than the ultralight with equal if not better construction."

I was not picking examples that best fit my points, I picked examples that were closest in forma and function to the Zone VI from among the brands you listed. Obviously comparing the Zone VI Ultralight to the Tachihara and the Shen Hao is not apples:apples. The Tachihara and Shen Hao are double extension models with much shorter maximum bellows extension than the Zone VI. Whether or not they are of equal or better in construction than the Zone VI is debatable, but one thing is not debatable. They are both double extension models with much shorter maximum bellows draw than the Zone VI. If you're goal is using a longer lens like the 450mm Fujinon C, neither of these other cameras comes close to handling this lens. The Zone VI does. Again, I'm not trying to say the Zone VI is a "better" camera, just that it has certain capabilites that these other cameras lack and that's why it costs more than they do.

"As a last point I checked Badger Graphics price for a Gandolfi VArian level I and found the price to be $1290 dollars, well within "your" price range for the zone VI."

First, it's not "my" price range for the Zone VI. I do not sell this camera, Calumet does. The price I quoted of $1295 is "their" price that I obtained from their web site. Second, if you read what I wrote, the price I quoted was for the Gandolfi Traditional - the Gandolfi model most similar to the Zone VI in terms of weight and function - not the Gandolfi Variant. It's a beautifully made camera, but has a shorter bellows draw than the Zone VI, weighs more and has fewer movements. Is it better built? You bet it is. For the price, I would expect nothing less.

Like the Tachihara and the Shen Hao, the Gandolfi Variant Level I has a much shorter bellows (313mm maximum) than the Zone VI Ultralight. It also weighs nearly 70% more than the Zone VI Ultralight. I don't dispute that the Gandolfi is a better built camera, but for someone looking for an ultralight, long bellows camera, it is neither. To get maximum bellows draw equivalent to the Zone VI Ultralight, you'd have to go with the Variant Level II at $1795. Again, I'm not arguing that this is not a better built camera than the Zone VI - it better be. It costs $500 more and weighs nearly twice as much.

"So Kerry in the future when you call someone else's data inacurate please make sure YOURS is."

Every piece of data I presented in terms of prices and other specs is accurate for the models I listed. You may disagree all you want, but that doesn't change the facts, Please, go back and reread what I wrote and feel free to point out any factual errors in the data I presented.

All cameras are a series of compromises. I've tried to stress over and over that I'm not making any specific recommendations with regard to the Zone VI Ultralight. I'm just trying to present an accurate picture of where it fits on the price/performance curve compared to other field cameras. There is a reason it sells for less than other triple extension long bellows models. That reason is that it's not up to the same level of quality of cameras costing several hundred to over a thousand dollars more. There is also a reason why it sells for more than a Tachihara or a Shen Hao. It is a triple extension model capable of handling longer lenses. When comparing different makes and models of cameras, it is important to look at all the variables of price, function, weight and quality. That's all I'm suggesting.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, November 10, 2001.

>No Zone VI 4x5 camera has ever sold anywhere near the $2500 >price point. The most I've ever seen them listed for is $1495. If >Bob Shell got his Zone VI several years ago, he probably paid >something around $900 which is what I paid when I bought the >one I used to own (right after Calumet bought out Fred Picker). >Of course, if that's the case, perhaps the Zone VI Bob Shell >owns is also of higher quality than the current models. All that's >a bit irrelevant for anyone looking to purchase a new camera at >this time, since the only current Zone VI model is the Ultralight.

Actually, I paid $ 500 for the camera since it was a demo used at some trade shows. I paid a lot more for the Schneider lenses I use on it. I also replaced Fred's lens board with one from John Mitchell which uses quick bayonet mounts for faster lens interchange. I've had the camera something like 11 -12 years.

If anybody is interested, I heard from Fred not too long ago and he is not doing well. His health is frail and he is unable to get out and photograph as he used to so love, nor go fly fishing. While many don't like Fred, I've always liked him and we became friends.

I was pleased to see that one person writing here actually understands that the vast majority of my photos which run in Shutterbug are not intended as shining examples of fine photography, but to illustrate points about the equipment being tested. Also, I never had the last word on photo choice, and nine times out of ten the photo run was not the one I would have selected.

I actually make my income about half and half from writing and half from sales of images through agents in a number of countries. I also do a lot of assignment photography for magazines outside the photography field, things like environmental portraits, product shots, and general commercial photography.

Anyway, I was rather surprised at the amount of posts generated by my camera choices. I didn't expect blanket agreement, but I did expect respect for my choices which were based on my own experience. As someone said here, give the assignment to 25 different photographers and you would get 25 different lists.

Wouldn't life be boring if we all made the same choices?

Bob Shell

-- Bob Shell (, November 11, 2001.


Exactly, had PT called the article "Bob Shell's pick of the best 25 cameras" I would not have had a thing to say, but when the article is titled "the 25 best cameras" I think I am entitled to disagree....... Of course the other obvious response is that I could have bought a Mercedes 10 years ago for 20000 dollars, or maybe less if it was a "demo". So if we are going to talk prices lets stick to "retail" over the counter prices not special deals.


Yes I may disagree all I want and I do, I distinctly remember seeing Zone VI cameras in the $2000 dollar range, unfortunatelly I don't remember the year so it is a worthless pursue to continue arguing with you, on the other hand you NEVER specified the Gandolfi model you were refering to....and even at a double extension I would take the Variant Level I over the Zone VI triple extension, what good is triple extension if the camera is unstable?

Bottom line is in the past years there was an effort in this article to include cameras that had quality, stability, decent price range, and wide appeal. This year I feel it was more of a "personal" choice. In any case I guess this will be the last of me on this topic since I certainly don't plan to go and buy any of these choices....

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, November 11, 2001.

"I distinctly remember seeing Zone VI cameras in the $2000 dollar range"

For the 8x10, but never for the 4x5. I have a pretty good selection of Zone VI and Calumet catalogs dating back to the 1970s, and in none of them is the Zone VI 4x5 ever anywhere near $2000. I paid $985 for one with the gold plated hardware from Calumet in February, 1992. In the 1998 Calumet catalog, the last year for the gold platerd version, the price is $1395. When the Ultralight was introduced, it was priced at $1495 and is currently available for $1295. No matter what different models from the same manufacturer may, or may not, have sold for in the past, the price for the Zone VI Ultralight today, as I type this, is $1295. For the sake of those currently considering a purchase, that's the only relevent number.

"you NEVER specified the Gandolfi model you were refering to...."

Sure I did. Here's exactly what I wrote:

"And although the Gandolfi Traditional is a BEAUTIFULLY made camera (it really is), it is a double extension design priced at $2500 for the base model with no shifts or swings. Adding shifts and swings to the front standard brings the cost up to $3100."

"even at a double extension I would take the Variant Level I over the Zone VI triple extension"

That is certainly a valid choice, based on your own preferences. Let me stress for the umpteenth time that I am not lobbying for, nor recommending the Zone VI Ultralight for anyone in particular. Nor, am I defending Bob Shell's 25 Best list. We all have different needs and preferences. When someone asks me to recommend a camera, I always ask them how much the can afford to spend, what lenses they plan to use, what and where they like to shoot, etc. And even then, I don't TELL them to buy anything in particular. I merely suggest a few possible options they might want to consider. Personally, I wouldn't buy a camera as heavy as the Gandolfi Variant Level 1 that that is not capable of using my 450mm Fujinon C. But again, that is purely personal choice based on my needs and preference. It doesn't mean I think it's a bad camera, or a bad choice for someone else. It's just not the right combination of price, capability and weight for MY particular individual needs. In this thread, I have not been trying to dictate, or even recommend what anybody else buy. All I tried to do was set the record straight WRT to pricing.

"what good is triple extension if the camera is unstable?"

Well, it's better than a double extension model, IF you intend to use a 450mm lens. Of course, "unstable" is a subjective term. And while there may be some set of circumstances where the Zone VI Ultralight may not be rigid enough to get the desired image with a 450mm lens, there will be a LOT more circumstances where it is. Under NO circumstances, will you be able to use a 450mm non-telephoto lens on a camera with 313mm of bellows. Like I said previously, all field cameras are a set of compromises. Ones that cost more and weigh more tend to be more rigid. And, ones that cost more tend to be better built. No surprises there. The Zone VI Ultralight is the least expensive triple extension model available, and also one of the lightest. Again, comparing it to cameras that either cost $500 to over $1000 more and/or weigh 50% - 100% more misses the whole point of where this camera fits into the scheme of things.

The general tone of this thread started off hostile, and seems to be stuck there. Everything from attacking other people's work to challenging their credibility. Do we really need such behavior? Is it really helping any of us become better photographers, or contributing anything positive to the online large format community. Jorge, if posting the correct selling price of the Zone VI Ultralight offended you, that was not my intent. I was just trying to set the record straight.

Although I've used many of the cameras discussed here, I don't currently own any of them and have no plans to buy any of them in the future. For the remainder of this thread, I'll refrain from further subjective assessments and stick to facts that are easily verifiable. Obviously, terms like quality and rigidity fall under the subjective heading. So, here's a list of the cameras discussed here in terms of price, maximum bellows extension and weight - purely objective measures. These are not my numbers, but are culled directly from manufacturer and dealer web sites. If anyone has a problem with any of these numbers (other than boneheaded typos on my part), please contact the manufacturer or dealer directly. I'm just the messenger. For further specs on any of these cameras, please see the sources referenced. For subjective opinions, you're on your own from here on out.

As of 11/11/2001...


Zone VI Ultralight - $1295; 19 - 22"; 4 lb.


Wisner Traditional - $1495; 20.5"; 6 lb. Wisner Technical - $1795; 23"; 6.5 lb. Wisner Flight - $1950; 19"; 3.48 lb. Wisner Expedition - $2195; 20.5"; 4.4 lb. Wisner Pocket Expedition - $2495; 19"; 3.6 lb.


Gandolfi Traditional - $2495; 18.7"; 4.95 lb. (for front swings and shift, add $600)

Gandolfi Variant Level 1 - $1295; 12.3"; 6.38 lb. Gandolfi Variant Level 2 - $1795; 19.1"; 7.48 lb. Gandolfi Variant Level 3 - $1995; 19.1"; 8.80 lb.

Tachihara 45GF Wood Field - $650; 13"; 3.74 lb.

From (price from Badger Graphic)

Shen Hao HZX45-II $625; 14.17"; 4.84 lb.

Note: The max. bellows spec for the Zone VI Ultralight is a bit confusing on the Calumet web site. I actually measured 17.5" with both standards in their neutral positions and 20" combining front base and axis tilts. The maximum extension for the Gandolfi Traditional and the Shen Hao are also given using combined front base and axis tilts.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, November 11, 2001.

Photo Techniques runs this "25 Best Cameras" article once a year. I've always assumed it's really intended just to foster a little interest and discussion, not as a serious attempt to name the 25 best cameras. I say that because the list changes almost totally from one year to the next. There have been many different large format cameras included in different years. Obviously the large format cameras themselves aren't changing every year and new ones are rarely introduced. So if one was the "best" large format camera last year, it almost certainly would remain the "best" for years to come, but that doesn't happen with this list. If anyone was serious about selecting the 25 "best" cameras, there might be one or two additions and deletions each year if something really significant happened to hit the market in the preceding year, but in general the list would pretty much stay the same, which this list doesn't. So I'd just take the list in the spirit in which I think it was intended, as a fun discussion not as a serious compilation.

-- Brian Ellis (, November 13, 2001.

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