Wiggly 4x5

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I just recently took my 4x5 off the shelf, where it had been sitting for several years (ok, a decade or more). I had forgotten just how wonderful it is to have some control over perspective and the plane of focus, plus the ability to process each shot as needed. Not to mention the joy of printing big negs. To those people who want to make the plunge, at least beg or borrow a LF camera and try it. OK, the problem (always is one, isn't there?): I have a nice Tiltall tripod and a Bogen 3001. With either one, camera shake is a significant problem. The usual 12" cable release doesn't isolate the camera enough, and wind is a big problem. I also seem to end up on carpeted floors alot, and don't want to jam spikes through them. What (portable) tripods do people use for LF? Is a reasonable amount of care always required to avoid shake (except for those huge studio stands), or do some tripods provide a really rigid support? Does anybody still use pnumatic releases?

-- Conrad Hoffman (choffman@rpa.net), December 20, 2001


First I would check the camera itself. If the camera is not rigid enough or not well positioned on top of the tripod a $1000 tripod won't improve your situation much. I have a Wista DX that came with the old tripod mount positioned just below the rear standard. Shake was a major problem until I replaced the camera bottom plate with a new one having the tripod socket in the center of the camera. In addition I purchased a Kirk LP-35 long arca-swiss type plate allowing me to slide the camera/lens combo on top of the tripod in order to postion its center of gravity just above the tripod. Shake is no longer a problem except from wind. Gitzo makes very tripods as well as Bogen. I like my Gitzo carbon fiber tripod (G1348) and Arca-Swiss B1 ball head, they are expensive but worth it.

-- Georges Pelpel (gpelpel@attbi.com), December 20, 2001.

Conrad, Try and check out the Gitzo carbon fibre range. I use the 1349 and it is amazingly lightweight yet very stable.

regards paul

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), December 20, 2001.

I've got the GITZO G1329 w/ G1370M head for my 4 x 5. I was struggling with an old Slik till someone recommended Robert White. Then the price didn't look TOO bad.

-- Mark Wiens (mark@wiens.com), December 20, 2001.

One thing that might help is to lean your camera bag or some weight against one of the legs to help steady it. I find this works better than hanging something from a center column, for me. For wind shake, block the wind. Dark cloth held up, flexfill reflector held up or some such may help. On the cable release, get a longer one.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), December 20, 2001.

Expanding on Dan Smith's response, you can also put a hook from the center column and actually hang your bag from this hook, this will increase the ridigity of your tripod. I use a Gitzo 1548 with a 1570M head and I love it, it is perfect for both my 4x5 and the 8x10.....but not cheap....

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (jorgegm58@prodigy.net.mx), December 20, 2001.

Something is very wrong. The Tiltall should be like a rock for any 4x5 camera I know of. If it's shaky there's something loose. The vibration pads for the head are available for a couple of bucks from B&H. There just isn't a better tripod for 4x5 (even the carbon fibre jobs are only a pound and a half lighter).

-- Wilhelm (bmitch@home.com), December 20, 2001.

Some good suggestions, and Wilhelm's statement is what I originally believed. My Tiltall is the original one made by C.M. Marchioni and is very solid. The camera, BTW, is an Omega View 45E, which I think is a Toyo. Big diameter monorail. The problem seems to be resonance. IOW, there doesn't seem to be any mechanical loss in the system, so when the camera starts vibrating, it takes a long time to stop. I'm not talking a lot here, but if I can see it on the ground glass, so will the film. I do keep the center support centered so the camera is balanced. One clue- I just discovered that the felt ring at the bottom of the column is a bit loose- that may be part of the problem.

-- Conrad Hoffman (choffman@rpa.net), December 20, 2001.

Bingo! Just replaced the lower felt ring and the system is much less prone to vibrate. It appears that ring does more than just keep the metal parts from rubbing- it's the lower bearing for the center column. The technical details for old Tiltall owners- the post is 1.250" diameter, the hole is 1.333". You need a piece of felt at least 0.042" thick, or a tad more, so it loads the center column nicely. I used two strips of thinner self adhesive stuff to get up to the right thickness. Ah, the joys of older equipment. Thanks all!

-- Conrad Hoffman (choffman@rpa.net), December 20, 2001.

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