Front tilt movement and Wista cameras : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread


I live in London, UK and currently use 35mm (SLR & rangefinder) and medium format (6x6cm) to photograph a fairly wide range of subjects, but mostly architecture and landscapes in both black & white (HP5) and colour (Velvia & Provia). My photography is for pleasure only and I don't have to satisfy paying clients.

For many years, I've been keen to explore large format and am reasonably conversant with the main issues. On the grounds of portability, I think a field or technical camera will meet my needs best and I have recently been comparing two Wista cameras - the DX (wooden) and the VX (metal). I preferred the VX for the following reasons (although the DX is very pretty and a lovely camera);

- much more robust - folds up into a rigid box with both front and rear protection - built-in viewing hood - geared rise movement - rack & pinion focusing - revolving international back

However, comparing the front tilt, the wooden VX gives 45 degrees forwards and 30 degrees backwards. The metal VX gives just 15 degrees either way.

For landscapes, I don't envisage a great deal of movements will be necessary, but front tilt will probably be one of the most used for depth of field reasons (Schiempflug). Without experience 'in the field' I don't know how much movement is typically needed though. Is 15 degrees limiting or more than adequate? The DX seems to have extensive movements, but I prefer the VX for the reasons given above. Any comments based on your experiences will be very much appreciated. Please feel free to comment on the VX/DX issues if you wish. Other suggestions also welcome.

Sorry for the long post and thanks for your time

-- Roy Mills (, November 21, 2001



I posed a similar question when I was considering getting the T/S adapter for my Mamiya medium format system, but ended up taking the jump to 4x5 instead. You'll be glad you did, it's a blast.

In my experience, you don't need that much tilt for landscapes. The wider the lens, the less you seem to need. I think 15 degrees would be plenty. Then again, you can also combine it with some rear back tilt, too.

-- Todd Caudle (, November 21, 2001.

Roy, Before plumping for my Ebony, i too thought that "more meant better". I can't foresee ever using more than about 5 degrees of tilt for landscapes!! More of an issue will be weight and stability. Check how stable both are when extended (fully) and remember that weight may be an issue as LF carries a mountain of additional paraphenalia too!!

-- paul owen (, November 21, 2001.

15 degrees of tilt is plenty. The more you tilt, the closer the wedge of sharpness comes to the lens' cone of view BUT the narrower it becomes. Conversely, 1 to 3 degrees of tilt forms a wedge the point of which is under you feet but by the time it reaches your subject it is a mile wide.

I don't know how these cameras compare as regards front rise. But sometimes landscape photographers need more (the more the better in this case) than they anticipate. If the subject includes, say, tall trees in the foreground you will need rise to keep them vertical. Also, if you want to exclude things in the foreground like fences or weeds, etc., rise will allow your camera to act like a periscope and see over the top of the unwanted foreground.

Another point while I am pontificating: you did not mention your favorite focal lengths. Will the 4x5 equivalent of your favorites draw the bellows out further than it will stretch on these cameras? Often, field camera don't do too well on that score.

-- John Hennessy (, November 21, 2001.

Roy, one thing is worth considering in the UK. My wooden Wista is beautiful but when I'm using it in public strangers keep coming up and start talking about it. Everybody assumes that it's old and quaint. I have forgotten to pull out the darkslide and messed up in many other ways just because members of the public are interested in the camera. I just wish that it did not attract as much attention as it does. It's worth considering a metal camera just for this reason. You might find a roll film back a good investment to start with considering the prices asked for 5x4 in the UK. Pete.

-- Pete Watkins (, November 22, 2001.

Dont let those books on LF fool you with their pics of a view camera turned into a pretzel! I would be surprised if you ever need more than 5 degrees of tilt. I have used both 4x5 and 8x10 for many years and I have found myslef in very few instances where I needed more than a few degrees. Also if you use the back tilt you will find that you can make better use of the near far relationship, since back tilt distorts the shape of the image. Good luck and enjoy your camera!

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, November 22, 2001.

Roy -

15 degrees of front tilt should be adequate. Based on my own experience snapshooting in the field, I'd be more concerned about comparing the two for amount of direct front rise. That's the movement I use most frequently, by far. I'd say 25mm of available rise from the centered position is the bare minimum for a 4x5 not to drive me crazy; 35mm is enough to be quite comfortable for my purposes.

Good luck...

-- Oren Grad (, November 22, 2001.

Roy, You'll only need 15 degrees tilt if you're doing close ups of angled scrabble boards, like they do in the LF books. I use the VX and have never need more than a few degrees of tilt either way - even when photographing Roman mosaics from one end. Indeed I've never run out of play with any of the movements. The tilt has no zero-indent and the friction lock isn't that tight so you do need to check it's zero'd before each shot but that quickly becomes second nature. otherwise the VX is great and reasonably bomb-proof. The geared rise works a gem provided you don't get your fingers caught in it!

Since you're in London, if you haven't done so already, I suggest you go and talk to Jenny at Teamwork (Foley Street) - she knows the camera inside out. You could always hire one of theirs for a weekend to try it.

-- Stuart Whatling (, November 23, 2001.

Thank you all so much for your helpful and informative responses. This really is a great forum. These replies have settled my mind about the front tilt issue, so I think I’ve decided that the Wista 45VX metal camera is the right solution to meet my needs. Just to address a few of the specific points you made…

John… Thanks for the ‘periscope’ idea. My favourite focal lengths in 35mm and 6x6cm seem to be the standards. I think standard lenses are neglected and I use 45mm (rangefinder), 50mm (slr) and 80mm (6x6cm). Another reason for the standard on the 6x6cm is that it came as part of a great package deal (free second back) and additional lenses are very expensive! I also like slightly long focal lengths (90mm on my rangefinder). I will probably go for 150mm on the 5x4” but need to think this through yet. The maximum bellows draw on the Wista 45VX (metal) is 300mm. I’ll get around to wider angles eventually.

John & Oren… The wooden 45DX has both front rise and fall. However, the favoured 45VX has front rise only, but a whole 56mm of it, so that should be plenty!

Pete… Good point. I had a conversation along similar lines with a friend last week. He pointed out that putting a focusing cloth over your head attracts plenty of attention for the same reasons, so a wooden camera AND a focusing cloth must be pretty difficult. This is another reason I like the 45VX – it has a fold out focusing hood. Not a replacement for a focusing cloth, but it can allow you to perhaps set up compositions etc. without a cloth in continual use. This is a big advantage to me.

Stuart… Thanks for the Teamwork pointer. As it happens, I visited them a couple of weeks ago to look into the wooden 45DX camera a bit more. One of Jenny’s colleagues (Lawrence) was very helpful and spent a good deal of time showing me the camera, and it was he who introduced me to the metal 45VX which I was unaware of until then. This quickly became the camera of choice. I bought my medium format camera from Jenny a while back. Good film prices too.

Further contributions welcome as I watch the forum regularly. Thanks again.

-- Roy Mills (, November 24, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ