8x10 Field Cameras

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I know this question has been asked periodically, BUT please bear with me.

I'm looking to upgrade from my somewhat clunky Wista 8x10 to a Wisner or Canham, Ebony, Lotus, Phillips, AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!

It would be a great help if you all could enumerate the best AND worst aspects of your respective cameras.

I shoot outdoors, with lenses ranging from 121 Super Angulon to 450 Nikkor M. Stability (rigidity), smoothness of use of metal parts paramount.

Many thanks,


-- Bill Marsh (redcloud54@earthlink.net), March 12, 2002


Bill, I don't have a personal experience with 8x10 (yet) but I've been shooting for years with a Wista SP 4x5, which is a metal field camera. Having had several wood 4x5's before that, I can say for sure that i'll NEVER go back to wood. My experience with wood field cameras is that there's not a 90-degree angle anywhere on them, especially with the rails racked out. My Wista, apart from being bombproof, is totally rigid and square. I'm considering getting an 8x10, and have been looking at the Toyo. It's expensive, and not as pretty as all the wood ones, but if you're after a solid rigid camera you might want to consider that.

~chris jordan (Seattle)


-- chris jordan (cjordan@yarmuth.com), March 12, 2002.

Bill, I use a Toyo 810MII field. I have not experienced all of the other field cameras, but my guess is, the Toyo is the ultimate tank. Very solid, very precise. Drawbacks are, very clumsy, no easy way to hold it, only geared focus, very heavy at 15 lbs with nothing on it, not backback friendly at all. If backpacking this camera great distances is your goal, I would strongly not reccomend the Toyo, but if you are shooting close to the car, or use a cart to haul the camera to the scene, then its a solid camera. I am quite surprised at the low weight of some of the new 810's, but I suspect you pay in rigidity. There is no free lunch at this format size, unless someone makes a titanium one. From what I have read on this list, Ebony users claim excellent stability with moderate weight.....

-- Bill Glickman (bglick@cascadeaccess.com), March 12, 2002.

Ditto with Chris. Go metal all the way. I purchased a Kodak Master 8x10 when I first got into 8x10 and love it. Its advantages - precise focus on brass geared tracks, it is compact and as light as the wooden cameras and it is very rigid when racked out. The disadvantages are the cameras are always in short supply as are the lensboards. Midwest overcame the lensboard issue with re-manufactured milled boards that quite honestly are better than the original pressed metal ones. The original bellows can easily leak a bit along the edge folds, but what can you expect for a camera that is around 40-45 years old. They can be easily replaced. The Toyo is a modern version of this camera. If you can find one, jump on it. I recently acquired another that was much more heavily used on the outside than my first one and I am in the process of re-furbishing it to original. Last night I completely disassembled the camera in about 40 minutes for a brass polish and cleaning before I re-paint it the original color and install a new bellows and ground glass. The simplicity of its design and the ease of operation is a pleasure. Locks down tight as well. The center rail in cross section looks like a similar interlocking design to my Linhof Technikardan rail. I shoot a 120mm SW to the Fuji 450 C. I think that the other names you mentioned - Canham, Lotus, Ebony and Phillips are great cameras as well, but I have no experience with them. When I looked at these names for my first 8x10 I about fell over at the price new. I got my first Master used for a price far less than these other names entry level 4x5. Maybe someone else will chime in with their thoughts.

-- Michael Kadillak (m.kadillak@attbi.com), March 12, 2002.

I can't claim a lot of experience with my 810MII, I just got it, but I knew when I took it out of the box, it was going to be with me for life, and unless I go crazy like Micheal Kadillak says, I'm keeping it.

A beautiful, elegant, well crafted tank, there's no give, no 'slop' anywhere, machining with bevels and curves and attention to detail. Dave Anton 'hipped' me to this camera, and I'm glad he did.

I have one humungous lens that takes a 95mm filter, and the first time I put it on the Toyo, no give, nothing, it's like the Toyo said, 'so it's a big fatass lens, so what?'.

Heavy, but I don't care.

-- Jonathan Brewer (lifestories@earthlink.net), March 12, 2002.

And don't forget the Gandolfi Variant 8x10, recenlty discussed on here...


-- tim atherton (tim@kairosphoto.com), March 12, 2002.

Jonathan - The sanity comment was in jest and not personal. I am sure that you will have a long standing relationship with your new 8x10 camera and lenses. My problem with this format is a good thing. I started near the road shooting in a nearly experimental mode to the point where I have found 8x10 so damn appealing that I think that I am still a strapping 20 year old college student with stamina to burn. Concurrently I have visions of being able to utilize it in the middle of a remote Colorado or Montana Wilderness only to be brought back to the reality of where a few less pounds of pack weight can mean a big difference to the person (me) doing the packing. Seriously, the balance between stability, weight and functionality is a difficult subject to come to grips with. And then I read about W.H. Jackson in the late 1860's packing a 12x20 and glass plates on his back into the Tetons and the difficulties he overcame for the results that started the process of creating the National Park system as we know if today. Kinda makes you appreciate the dedication of the early Western photographers to the mission at hand.

-- Michael Kadillak (m.kadillak@attbi.net), March 12, 2002.

Loosen up Michael, I know you were joking, of course now my wife was reading your post while I was reading it and she said 'see, see, I told you, even they know'.

-- Jonathan Brewer (lifestories@earthlink.net), March 12, 2002.

I to am looking, and the Ebony SW810 looks very nice although out of my price range. Check www.robertwhite.co.uk or www.badgergraphic.com

-- Wayne Crider (waynecrider@hotmail.com), March 12, 2002.

Isn't the bellows on the Gandolfi a bit short (if I read the specs right)?

Thanks to all,


-- Bill Marsh (redcloud54@earthlink.net), March 12, 2002.

Bill.....RW has a great price on the 810MII

-- Jonathan Brewer (lifestories@earthlink.net), March 12, 2002.

Yes, the Gandolfi Variant has shorter bellows ext. than some of the others - closer to the Phillips

-- tim atherton (tim@kairosphoto.com), March 12, 2002.

I use a Wisner 8x10 expedition and really like it. Compared to some (e.g., old Zone VI), it's lighter and more compact. Movements are smooth, lots of bellows, lots of movements, nice to look at.

Good luck. Love looking at 810 screen, it's like TV! (Only upside down and backwards!)

-- Jay wolfe (bigbad810@hotmail.com), March 12, 2002.

the Canham 8x10 or the Arca-Swiss 8x10FC.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), March 12, 2002.

I have a Canham and love it. Despite being at the light end of the 8x10 choices it is VERY sturdy/solid/tight unless you're at max extension and rise in a breeze. Smooth movements, very nicely made. easy to set up/take down. I looked for a while for a used one to come on the market-no such luck. Fits great in an F64 backpack.

Good luck


-- Alan Barton (cherylannschieber@worldnet.att.net), March 12, 2002.

I currently use a Toyo 45AII. Great little field camera. I was thinking about eventually stepping up to 8x10, but after I saw the Toyo 8x10 field at a store in Seattle, I don't think I'll be picking one up anytime soon. Big, heavy, and mucho bux.

4x5 is the ticket for me for now.

However, the Toyo 8x10 did look solid as a rock.


-- Ken Miller (andawyr@hotmail.com), March 12, 2002.

Ellis, someone pointed out the relatively measley rise on the Arca Swiss 5x7 and 8x10's, and I no longer consider them for the move up from 4x5.

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@yahoo.com), March 13, 2002.



Your right that there is no rear rise on the Arca 8x10 but there is full rear shift(100mm)/swing(+/-45deg)/tilt(+/-30deg) and front rise fall(40/60mm) shift(100mm)/swing(+/-45deg)/tilt(+/-30deg).

I think that compares pretty well with other 8x10 cameras especially at about 9 1/2 pounds and rock solid.


-- Jim Bancroft (bancroft@cox.net), March 13, 2002.

Regarding the Arca-Swiss: there is also a piece called "Extender for front format frame 8x10" (part number 069000). With this accessory you get the full raise of the front format frame (100mm). Regards, Wilfried.

-- Wilfried Kruse (ossi@prodigy.net), March 13, 2002.

I like almost everything about my Deardorff 8x10 - solid, smooth, easy to open and close, good bellows extension, plenty of movements, etc. My one minor nit is that front rise and front tilt are controlled by the same locks, which isn't a real problem but I've always thought that each movement should have its own lock so that you can move the thing you want to move without moving the thing you don't want to move. My one major complaint is the weight (about 12 lbs). 8x10 has become my favorite format but when I add three lenses and three or four film holders, plus the usual other accessories and tripod, it really isn't practical for me to hike any significant distance with it. If I were doing it over again, and I might, I'd make low weight my first priority and look only at cameras weighing in the 9 pound or less range. I'd sacrifice a lot in the way of movements for a three or four pound weight saving. I'd probably start with the Phillips though when I checked last he was talking about a year for delivery. I don't know what other 8x10 cameras there are in that weight range but I'd give them serious consideration if there are any.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis60@earthlink.net), March 13, 2002.


You don't say whether you intend to take you camera with you into the field, or just stay near the car. This is of high importance, IMHO.

The reason is that you need to determine how 'portable' your camera needs to be. That is, are you looking for a 'field' camera.

If you are looking fo a true field camera, some of those you mention are fine choices (Canham, Ebony, Philips).

I have a Canham 7x17 (esentially the 8x10 with a larger back and bellows). It is a very good camera, but at full extension (36") it is not the most stable beast out there. However, you indicate that your longest lens will be a 450mm. If this is the case, then the Canham will be quite rigid at that extension, but certainly not as rigid as an 16-18# metal camera. In my opinion, the weight savings more than compensate for the slightly reduced rigidity.

Keith Canham makes cameras that are 'rigid enough' as I call it. He doesn't build a camera that is the absolute in rigidity, so that he can save on the weight. You have to remember, these cameras are like large kites, and even the most rigid camera is going to suffer from vibration, etc. in a wind, simply because of the bellows. So, Keith makes his cameras 'rigid enough' for use in the field. In my opinion, this is the right way to design a 'field' camera.

I also have a Phillips 8x10. This camera may be the best balance of weight and rigidity in the 8x10 market. I think Dick Phillips has hit on an ideal camera design for the field. It is much more rigid than the Canham, and is lighter! However, it only has a 26" (or 21" if you get the Explorer) bellows. Since you mention the 450mm as your longest lens, then this should not be an issue. The normal 8x10 (the Compact II) will accommodate a 600mm at infinity plus a little.

Dick's cameras are a bit unusual, because he effectively has reinvented the view camera, using movements and other design innovations that I have seen on no other camera. So, it does take a bit to get used to. For field work, it's everything that I want in a camera, and is, in my opinion, the best 8x10 field camera offered. There's a reason they don't show up used too often, and also a reason that you have to wait a year to get a new one.

I wrote the review of the Phillips 8x10 Explorer that is on QTL's LF homepage, you should look at the review to get an understanding of how the cameras work. I have recently ordered an 8x10 Compact II to replace the Explorer, because I have changed my use of the 8x10 and I shoot more verticals than horizontals with that camera now. If you are primarily a horizontal shooter, than the Explorer is a wonderful camera and is almost as light as many of the 4x5's out there!

Good luck on your decision. If you have any Phillips of Canham questions, you can email me directly. But, both Keith and Dick are very approachable people, so you can also call them directly.


-- Michael Mutmansky (mjmlighting@adelphia.net), March 13, 2002.

I have a wisner traditional 8x10, I got it as a dela witht he 4x back and the bag bellows. I am very satisfied. I like the long bellows draw, I beleive this is the longest draw, I have no problem with a 600 fuji for portrait. The camera is very stable when extended and locked. I like the big knobs. The interchanable bellows are a real boon!. I can use a 150 ina flat board but then I am just off the focus tracks, I can do it but I decided to make a recesseed board fronm a calumet recessed board that I cut down tofit the 5.25 opening. The fresnel lense is a big help in fast focusing. this is a 10.5 lb camers , the metal is anodized aluminum instead of brass. I also have Sinar F2 and the Wisner is easier to set up and use, The Sinar is the studio king but I do like to take the Wisner out for long strolls in the country. I think that anyone would be pleased with this camera.

-- ED (zeke@idirect.com), March 13, 2002.

You have probably had more responses to your question than you can use, but I have and continue to enjoy an Ebony SV810U. I have an extensive review of it on this site. If after reading that, you have more questions, I'd be happy to discuss them by email. After much looking around and comparing, I thought (and think) that this is the best option currently available in 8X10. It is not cheap, though.


-- Nathan Congdon (ncongdon@jhmi.edu), March 13, 2002.

I was just cleaning up the huge pile of papers on my desk and came across an interesting little brochure... If you like the idea of teh Kodak View 8x10 metal field, you can of course buy a new one in the format of the Hoffman 8x10! Not cheap though (+ Hoffman "handmade" metal film holders, vacuum film holders, the 4x5 Hoffman Master view and all sorts of odd little gizmos)


-- Tim Atherton (tim@kairosphoto.com), March 13, 2002.

Bill, with all the money you'll save by buying an old Deardorff, you can get yourself a pack mule to haul all your stuff around. The best of both worlds! Good Luck!

-- John Kasaian (www.kasai9@aol.com), March 14, 2002.

Thank you all for your help.


-- Bill Marsh (redcloud54@earthlink.net), March 14, 2002.

Another vote for the Canham 8x10. I've had mine for a little over a year and am still in love with it. The longest lens I have now is a 450mm and the camera has no problems with rigidity, even when focused closely. Of course, I shield it with a large golf umbrella when it's windy.

The Canham design really shines when using wide angle lenses. The bellows is pretty flexible - I've had no problems when using my 120mm and 159mm lenses.

I also have the Canham compendium shade. It's quite light, easy to attach, and very effective. I have the optional fresnel lens and find it is provides good eveness of illumination without being too course.

Once you practice a little, the Canham is a snap to set up and take down. When folded, the camera fits perfectly, along with five film holders, into the inner case of a Tenba PBH backpack.

The quality of the fit and finish is outstanding. The support Keith Canham provides his customers is also outstanding.

My only real complaint (a very minor one) is that the levels are mounted on the top of the rear standard and are visible only from the top. At the tripod extensions I tend to use, the levels are usually too high for me to see.

-- Rick Moore (rickm@gethen.com), March 14, 2002.

Hi Bill, as others have said, if you are thinking of going 810 in metal, consider the TOYO. I have been using it for a few years, and although it may be on the heavy side, it is a VERY solid camera. Movements are very precise. I put mine in a Big LOWE Pro pack and I can hike with it quite comfortably. All moements lock down solid. I use mine with a massive wide angle and the lens stays where I put it.

-- Dave Anton (daveanton@shaw.ca), March 15, 2002.

I bought recently an used Toyo 810MII, and I am very glad about this camera . Strong, steady, fine crafted, very rigid, a bit heavy but with a backpack no big problem . I have also a MF system weighting 22 lbs (bodies,lenses,backs), compare with Toyo : 26 lbs with only 1 lens (of course, you have to choice the lens before to go to field). The main difference is the heavier ballhead/tripod, 12 versus 6 lbs .

-- Luc Regnier (hassy@free.fr), March 16, 2002.

"Bill, with all the money you'll save by buying an old Deardorff, you can get yourself a pack mule to haul all your stuff around. The best of both worlds! Good Luck!"

I've posted this link before, but here goes - (fits with all those "backpack" threads too) - "The Photograper's Assistant" (as the caption says: http://www.photoartssantafe.com/

-- Tim Atherton (tim@kairosphoto.com), March 17, 2002.

"I'm looking to upgrade from my somewhat clunky Wista 8x10 to a Wisner or Canham, Ebony, Lotus, Phillips, AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!"

Wisner has a questionable reputation where service & backing its product are concerned. Lotus is too delicate for regular field use. Ebony too darned expensive. Philips is excellent & reflects the qualities & ideas of its designer and leans towards wider rather than longer lenses. Canham reflects the qualities & ideas of its designer & generally takes longer lenses well.

A solid used Deardorff will last another 50-100 years or more and will still be in demand.

If you are purchasing a brand new camera go with Philips or Canham. Both makers will talk candidly about their excellent gear and the desigh philosopy behind them. I know both would rather have you purchase something else if their way of doing things won't suit your needs. Both are worth doing business with, make good cameras & stand behind their products.

In the used market Deardorff still sells well and can be found on tripods with some pretty good photographers under the dark cloth. If at all possible get to a place like Quality Camera in Atlanta, GA and get a hands on session with different cameras & see what feels best to you before buying. Will save time & money both.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), March 17, 2002.

Ebony 810SU

A non-folding 8x10 camera with asymetrical tilts and swings with at least 600mm of bellows extension (for use with Fujinon C 300mm, 450mm and 600mm lenses) and interchangeable bellows for wide angle lenses.

Okay, it doesn't exist now, but maybe with some prodding . . .

-- E Rothman (erothman@hotmail.com), March 18, 2002.

I have had a Philips Compact II for 5 years now and you would have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers before I would ever part with it. Simply a joy to be in the field with.

-- John D. Romano (flamingo@tampabay.rr.com), April 12, 2002.

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