Lightweight 54 vs panoramic 612 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Backround: I currently use a Mamiya7(11) and prior to that a Pentax67. I am based in the UK. I walk and climb in Mountain ranges; sometimes for 1-2 months at a time (Pyrenees traverse this summer) and sometimes for one day stints. Intention: I want to move up to a larger neg, having been impressed by LF prints wealth of detail and depth of field. I want to use one lens of medium wide angle (say 90mm/110mm) but may well be interested in a wider angle lens later on. I would like to create high quality negs. I would like to use roll film for the long mountain traverses/expeditions. I want to increase depth of field beyond that possible with stopping down with my MF camera. Issues: My main criteria is weight. I would like the whole package (camera, lens ...)to be no more than 2kg (about 4 lbs) so a camera of approx 1.5kg (3lbs) or less would be ideal. Speed of setup would be important to me as well. Durability will also be a requirement. I like the compactness of the Linhoff/Horseman 6x12's but I assume that I will lose out on my depth of field issue and obviously wouldn't have the option to use 5x4 for my shorter mountain trips. Do I have to use a tripod? I have been used to balancing my Mamiya on rocks, ground etc. Are there viewfinders that can be used prior to setting up the camera? Any comments, suggestions, criticisms ?

-- Neil Pendlebury (, March 12, 2002


You might look into a Cambo Wide or a Silvestri camera, although I'm not sure of the weight or "tiltability" of either.

-- Matthew Runde (, March 12, 2002.

Have you considered using a Ebony SW45 or RSW? I use an SW45 and use it a lot for hiking. They weigh 1.5kg without lens and have an international back so you can use a 6 x 12 roll film back or 5 x 4 sheet film holders. Robert White has good deals on the RSW.

There is not a viewfinder as with the Horseman but the ground glass has a fresnel screen and is very easy to use.

The camera is a non folding design so is quick to set up. I havn't had any problems with durability.

You would definately need a tripod but not a heavy one. I use a Gitzo carbon fibre 1227 which only weighs 1.5kg and a giotto ball head when going up mountains.

Best Wishes

-- David Trumper (, March 12, 2002.

Unless you're planning to go to 8x10 and make contact prints, I don't think that you're going to do any better than the mamiya 7.

-- Wilhelm (, March 12, 2002.

Just to inform you, the difference in between MF and LF in terms of image quality is not that great. (At least not compared to the difference in between 35mm and MF.) At normal print sizes (say 11X14") it is very hard to tell if it is MF or LF. Now some clever guesses about what makes the difference. First, even with a quick LF camera, e.g. a Linhof Technika using rangefinder focusing, getting ready for the shot takes considerably longer time than with your Mamaya 7. This time required slows you down to being able to look at the scene with a different "attitude".
Second, the possiblility of processing each and every sheet of film in a unique way. With this comes the choice of film etc.
Third, and this is a real time comsumer, the ability to tilt, swing, shift etc. which makes you able to get "everything" sharp without resorting to f/90.
Fourth. Yes, a good tripod is very much part of a sharp picture, no matter what format used. I don't intend to chop your head of here, but unless you are willing to sacrifice something in terms of weight (i.e. tripod) and time (i.e. setup) you will not gain anything by moving up to LF. The Mamaya is a great camera, knowing its pros and cons. And if you are careful in the setup of the Mamaya it is tough to beat, even with a the best of 4X5" cameras. As I implied above, LF does have a "different tempo".

-- Björn Nilsson (, March 12, 2002.

Remember that with 5X4 any negative can become 6X12 with a pair of shears. With 6X12 you'll never have any more than 6X12. Alas, yes, tripod.

-- Jim Galli (, March 12, 2002.

An Ebony RSW, 75mm lens and a 6x12 Horseman roll film back mounted on a Gitzo CF tripod. All your requirements answered!!

-- paul owen (, March 12, 2002.

Dear Neil

I have shot for some years with the Fuji 617 (older version without the interchangeable lenses). This is a marvelous camera and accepts both 120 and 220 film. They are a bit more difficult to find an image with since you are using a view finder and not through the lens or a ground glass (the newer verision you can use a ground glass), but the images make it all worthwhile! Often, I use mine handheld and do not find any issues with doing so. If you can use a tripod, better yet, or at least a bean bag. I am always amazed at how many of my photos are the 617 versions-once you get used to thinking in that format you just seem to shoot more and more! The Fuji 617 is a bit bulky, but I can pack it in one of my backpacks. It has been with me through Europe, urban situations in the US and lots of backcountry in our Western states. I have even taken it while skiing - ok, groomed, easy slopes, and I worried about falling and having an imprint in my back!

Another camera which I have been recommending has been the Hasselblad Xpan which gives a nice image size and is certainly small enough to carry on long journeys. It gives very nice panoramic images and there are three lens choices available.


John Bailey

-- John Bailey (, March 12, 2002.


I just spent the weekend in Northern Spain trying out my new gear - Ebony SW23 (1300g), Horseman angle viewer (320g) & 6x9 RFH (350g), Gitzo G1128 (1150g) with Linhof Profi I ballhead (270g), plus lens. Using an angle viewer means shorter and thinner tripod legs are OK - I often find myself using only 1 or 2 leg sections - 1 or 2 feet tripod height, which is not really a problem since I am looking down into the viewer. This combination is extremely lightweight - carrying the camera + viewer + lens + tripod singlehanded while negotiating rough terrain is no problem at all, as well as handheld composition work. An angle viewer forces/helps me to rethink composition, bringing me closer to the ground, allowing for near/far compositions with WA and extreme front tilts. The downside is cost. Most of the above applies to the SW45 as well, but sheet film and holders is heavier to carry and a larger angle viewer required by 6x12 RFH will be a little heavier and bulkier. Check out Australian photographer Nick Rains' review of the RSW45 for some insights:

As an experiment, I am trying stitched panoramas using shift (rear shift plus opposite camera shift to keep the lens fixed) which should yield 56x160mm format, but this technique is quite limited for moving subjects like clouds.

Last summer I bought a used Fuji GSW690 rangefinder which has great optics, but I am so used to front tilts that I found the lack of DOF unbearable in many cases, so I can see why you feel that you need an alternative to the Mamiya.

-- Åke Vinberg (, March 12, 2002.

Canham DLC.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, March 12, 2002.

Neil, I've been on a similar quest myself, but in my case I'm looking for something between my 35mm and my A-S monorail that will be easy to travel with when the tripod just can't go along. Finding something with the larger neg and shift capability is way more expensive than I had ever dreamed.

I've been looking at the Cambo Wide (the new DS is 3.7lb with the 47mm lens on it), the Silvestri (although reviews say it's not hand-holdable), the Horseman 6x9 or 6x12, and some of the Fuji rangefinders. Ebony also just came out with a Finesse, but it's so new I can't find any real info or pricing on it.

My ideal setup (were price no object) would be the Cambo -- super-light, lateral and vertical shift, lenses from 38 - 72mm, and takes anything from rollfilm backs of 6x45 to 4x5 sheet film. From what I've read it is very hand-holdable, but also has a tripod mount. It has a viewfinder that attaches to the top. Robert White carries them.

Interestingly enough, I had recently concluded that I wasn't going to get what I want for a reasonable price so I'm renting a Mamiya 7(II) this weekend to see if that comes close enough (I'm desperately after that larger neg for my travel photos).

Good luck and please let me know what you decide and why.


-- Jennifer Waak (, March 12, 2002.

If you are serious about using only one lens, then an obvious choice would be the Linhof Technorama 612PC II. I recently struggled with the decision between the 612PC and the Ebony 23S. The decision boiled down to the need for telephoto capability (given my particular project). If it weren't for that, I would have definitely gone with the 612PC II. It has perspective control, a 1:2 aspect ratio, the ability to use both 120 and 220 film, and is compact, portable and light. The only downside is that it is not a rangefinder; nor does it have a groundglass for fine-focusing. These issues can be overcome though with practice. If you are looking for something similar to the Mamiya setup, then checkout the 612PC II.

-- L. Wolfe (, March 12, 2002.

Another option might be the Toho that Kerry is fond of.

-- Ed Candland (, March 12, 2002.


Common misconception: Camera movements do not increase depth of field (only reducing the diameter of the aperture does). Camera movements (specifically tilts and swings) allow you to change the plane of focus. In the three dimensional world in which we live and photograph, with large format cameras and comparatively long focal length lenses, it is very often necessary to combine both camera movements (to best locate the plane of focus) and stopping down (to f22, f32 and sometimes beyond) to get the overall sharpness desired.

That said, depending on how wide you plan to shoot with this 6x12 camera you seek, you may, or may not, need tilt and swing movements. If you're only going to be using ultrawide lenses like the 38mm or 47mm Super Symmar XLs, you may be able to get by without tilts and swings simply by stopping down and focusing at the hyperfocal distance. On the other hand if you plan to do a lot of shooting with longer lenses (110mm, 150mm, etc.) you may find these movements indispensible. I guess only you can answer that. Others have already mentioned the 6x12 Horseman and Linhof models. So, I'll toss out a couple more options:

If you think you might need swings and tilts, as Ed mentioned above, I am fond of the Toho FC-45X when weight is a concern. If you follow the link Ed provided above you can read ALL about this camera (in excruciating detail). Executive summary: My slightly modified camera weighs 2 lb. 12½ oz. and handles lenses from 47mm XL - 500mm telephoto (300 - 360mm non-telephoto) with full movements on both standards. To get decent rise/fall, and shift with the lenses in the 47mm XL - 65mm range, you will need the Toho Eccentric Lens Panel.

NOTE: Be VERY skeptical of manufacturer's published weight claims - especially for so-called "lightweight" and "ultralight" models. I have weighed actual samples of several leading (and in some cases VERY expensive) 4x5 models and have found most to weigh SUBSTANTIALLY (in some cases >25%) more than advertized. My Toho FC-45X, on the other hand, came in at 1/2 oz. lighter than advertized as I received it. The 2 lb. 12½ oz. weight listed abve is the actual weigt of the camera as I carry it in the field complete with ground glass protector and tripod quick release plate.

If you want to go even lighter, Toho makes the FC-45Mini model that weighs between 700 and 880g depending on how it is configured. I haven't used this camera, but you can see the specs at: and

It is horizontal only and has NO movements. However, if all you need is rise/fall and shift, you can use the Eccentric Lens Panel to get up to 15mm of displacement in any direction. From the specs, it looks like ti will handle lenses down to the 38mm SA XL. To me, this camera is the functional equivalent of the Horseman and Linhof 6x12 shift models, or the Cambo Wide, but without the ability for hand held photography (not an issue for me since I ALWAYS use a tripod, but it may be an issue for you). It is also cheaper and lighter than these other cameras and can accept a wider range of MUCH less expensive lenses. Basically, if you want movements, you'd have to buy an Eccentric Lens Panel for every lens. At $225 each, these are not cheap, but combined with standard, off-the-shelf large format lenses, it is still a LOT more affordable than the dedicated helical mounted lenses for the Horseman, Linhof and Cambo. Especially if you plan to eventually use more than one lens. Plus, you have the option of picking the best LF lenses to match your needs from all four manufacturers (maybe something like a 38mm Super Angulon XL, 55mm APO Grandagon, 90mm f8 Nikkor SW set). The point being you are not locked into a dedicated mount with lenses from a single manufacturer.

One odd "feature" of the Toho models is the method used to switch between vertical and horizontal orientation. Without going into details here (see my web site review), this operation on the Toho FC-45X takes about 25 - 30 seconds (compared to ~5 seconds for a more conventional 4x5). With the Toho Mini, you have to flop the whole camera on it's side for verticals (like a 35mm, or in this case, the Horseman or Linhof 6x12s). I'm not sure what your shooting style is, but if you will be primarily shooting horizontals, this may not be an issue at all. And for the occasional vertical, it's no big deal. Of course, unlike the Horseman and Linhof dedicated 6x12 models, either Toho will also allow you to shoot 4x5 should you desire.

For the roll film back, you might look into the Shen Hao 6x12 back. I currently have one and can verify that it easily fits my Toho FC-45X (I haven't tried in on a Toho Mini, but it SHOULD fit that model as well). This back is of rather crude design by today's standards, but part of the beauty is in the simplicity (not much that can go wrong). It uses a window to read the frame numbers off the paper backing on 120 film (so it won't work with 220, but then neither does the Horseman 6x12 back). The other attractive feature of this back is the cost - only $350 new.

For a tripod, I use a modified (center column hacked off) Gitzo 1227 with a Velbon PH-253MG magnesium ballhead. This combo weighs about 3 lb. 4 oz. and is about as light as I'd recommend for this application (although, the Gitzo 1127 might also be adaquate).

The Toho cameras are VERY unique. I love my FC-45X for backpacking The more I use it, the more I appreciate the cleverness of the design. The further I carry it, the more I appreciate the lightweight. When the Toho Mini first came out, I was baffled about the intended application for a horizontal only 4x5 camera with no movements. Once I had the Shen Hao 6x12 back and the Toho Eccentric Lens Panel in hand, it all made sense. It's a poor man's tilt and shift 6x12 camera that accepts a wide range of affordably priced, lightweight lenses. I have no idea of you would be happy with either of these cameras (they are not for everyone). I'm just tossing out this information for your consideration.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, March 13, 2002.

Just to say thankyou to everyone who contributed to this thread. Very much appreciated.

-- Neil (, March 14, 2002.


If depth of field is an issue, you have to stick with 35mm or the equivalent or you must have tilts or swings.

Have you tried the panoramic adapter for the Mamiya? It uses 35mm film with a double-wide exposure. You could use the 7 II's 43mm and 50mm lenses and those should provide quite reasonable depth of field-- you can't get more without going to 35mm or using tilts/swings.

Before you conclude that the detail is not adequate, I recommend thinking about a few things: 1. Get a first-rate drum scan and then get a Lightjet print made from the scan by somebody who knows what they are doing. You can get a heck of a lot out of 35mm. I have seen 4 X 6 feet prints made from 35mm and they look stunning.

2. I think for your described usage, there are few better choices than the Mamiya 7 II--it can shoot 120/220 and 35mm film (in double- wide). Skip the larger format, and instead get a small lightweight carbon fiber tripod (eg Gitzo 1128) and develop perfect technique with it. Perfect technique (rock steady, appropriate focus point) on 35mm film, especially double wide can produce excellent results.


-- Lloyd Chamber (, March 14, 2002.

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