7x17 Camera Suggestions

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I am thinking of buying a 7x17 camera, and I would like suggestions regarding which one to buy. The three available are from Wisner, Canham, and Lotus. I am know Wisner's cameras well, but I have heard mixed feelings regarding Canham and nearly nothing about Lotus. I have heard that the Canham is shaky, does not lock down well, has screws that come loose, and has a bellows that tends to rip off the standards. I have also heard that it is very well made with great attention to detail. Any comments from Canham, Lotus, or ULF Wisner users? Which 7x17 should I buy?

-- William Marderness (wmarderness@hotmail.com), April 18, 2002


Don't forget Ebony!! They offer a custom design service and would probably be able to build a 7x17 - the ultimate ULF camera? Regards Paul

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), April 18, 2002.

Phillips, also.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), April 18, 2002.

And don't forget old cameras. I prefer to use Korona and Folmer&Schwing oversize (7x17 and 12x20) cameras and wouldn't replace them with modern cameras even if I won the lottery.

Wisner is the most traditional in design, but they are usually heavy and over-featured for some tastes. He makes a 7x17 on the 5x7 chassis that is light weight and relatively inexpensive though. The Canham is equally well made and has a full feature set, but is much more high-tech in design approach. The Lotus is designed a bit like a Canham crossed with with a piece of Danish-modern furniture, and is also well executed. It's really a matter of personal taste which of the modern cameras you will prefer.

-- Carl Weese (cweese@earthlink.net), April 18, 2002.

Act quick! There is some 7x17 film for sale on eBay.

-- Alec (alecj@bellsouth.net), April 18, 2002.


Phillips does not make 7x17 cameras. He does make an 8x16 camera, however. If you like the 8x16 format, then I believe that is the best camera made right now.

I have a Canham 7x17, and I only have two significant complaints about it. The lack of captive knobs is a problem, IMO. I carry the camera in a bag that I fabricated with a velcro enclosure, inside a backpack. On my most recent two week trip, I had to search inside the bag four times for one of the knobs that managed to unwind itself off the camera. I have not lost any parts yet, but I imagine that I will someday. I purchased some spare parts from Canham last year so that a loss won't put me out of business while on the road.

The other complaint I have is that the camera does not lock down 'rock solid'. Well, this is not really much of a complaint, because I do believe that the camera is built rigid enough to work in the conditions that the camera should be able to work in. With such a large camera, you have to consider that it acts very much like a kite in the wind. The bellows on any camera of this size will catch enough wind to cause movement, even if the camera is rock solid.

Even with it's limitations, I consider is a very good camera, and superior to the Wisner and the Lotus, both of which I have had limited exposure to before I purchased the Canham. At the moment, I do not believe that there is another camera out there that I would exchange it for.

However, if Phillips were to make a 7x17, then I would buy that camera in a heartbeat, as I consider his design to be superior to any other camera for ULF cameras. I have been trying to get Richard to make a run of 7x17 cameras, without success. Eventually, I hope he will get enought requests for one that he will make a batch. If he does, then mine will be the first one in the group. So, if anyone wants a Phillips 7x17, contact him and ask about availability... maybe he'll get enough calls to decide to make a run.


-- Michael Mutmansky (mjmlighting@adelphia.net), April 18, 2002.

I dont have a 7x17 but have 2 12x20 one a FS and the other a Korona, the FS I keep stashed as it is really nice, and the Korona I stripped it, cleaned all the parts and refinished, it looks better than the FS now and it is tighter than my Gandolfi 8x10. and I only spent $1200 for it. I am using the remaining $4000 I would have had to spend in with Wisner, ot Canham to buy lenses, holders and film. I suggest you do the same, they come up once in a while on E bay, just be on the look out. As a matter of fact I saw a really nice FS 7x17 that went for $1500 just two weeks ago. Good luck!!

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (rossorabbit@hotmail.com), April 18, 2002.

I don't own any of these cameras but a friend has a Lotus 7x17 and I've played around with it some. It is a beautiful camera and seemed rock solid to me. He's very pleased with it, he travels all over the world with it and has never had any problems that I know of. He's also spoken very highly about the Lotus factory people and their willingness to do some custom things that he wanted. If I were buying a camera in this format I'd buy the Lotus without looking at anything else.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis60@earthlink.net), April 18, 2002.

I use the Canham 7x17, and I really like it. It is reasonably lightweight, and I find it as easy to use as an 8x10 after a little practice. I got mine used and saved enough money to get a decent number of filmholders. Also be aware that with these ULF cameras it is easy to spend as much on filmholders as you spend on the camera. Be sure and budget that part !

A previous post mentioned the rigidity issue. This can be a problem with any of these cameras that have a large surface area created by the bellows. Alan Brubaker sells a wind stabilizer kit (www.filmholders.com, I think) that is a great accessory for any big camera. It really tightens them up in windy conditions. I consider it essential to have around just in case the wind kicks up.


-- Clay Harmon (wcharmon@wt.net), April 19, 2002.

I feel very comfortable recommending the Canhams to anyone. I have bot h the 7x17 and 12x20 and they are solid and stable for a camera of that size.

The canham has a socket under the front standard so that the Bogen long lens brace can be installed... this adds ridgity to the front standard when using longer lenses. There are also sokets on top of both standards so that you can increase ridgidity. Optionally you have a socket put on the left side of the rear standard so that a monopod can be used when doing a vertical.

I cannot speak about it the other brands mentioned (besides Korona which is how I got started on this), but I can say that the Canham is very well thought out, designed and built.

-- Steve Nieslony (sejn@pacbell.net), April 21, 2002.

Be advised that if you buy a Wisner in any of the unusual formats and will rely on them for film holders, that they are very unreliable in manufacturing them. I have been waiting for over a year and a half to 4x10 film holders and have received numerous promises of delivery dates. To their credit, they loaned me two old Graflex holders, although one half of one of these leaks and is useless. Regardless, make sure you get film holders when you buy the camera so you can actually make negatives!

-- Keith Pitman (kapitman@msn.com), April 21, 2002.

There are a couple of LF cameras on E bay now. One a 7x17 the other a 11x14. Both of them with a little elbow grease can make very nice cameras. BTW the 7x17 is advertized as an 8x20, but the guy later rectifies his mistake.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (rossorabbit@hotmail.com), April 23, 2002.

Clay is right, the AWB wind stabilizer is a good idea. I used it several times on my last trip to help 'settle down' the camera.

However, the AWB wind stabilizer has got to be the most unrealistic product ever designed for field use! When I purchased mine, I discovered that AWB essentially expects you to either leave the swivel attachments on the camera permanently (which is not possible if you want to close the camera up), or use a jeweler's screwdriver and mess around with a bunch of *very small* screws while in the field.

That is a recipe for loosing all the little parts in the grass, and believe me, the screws are small enough that there is *no way* to find them once they fall...

So, I ended up modifying the kit with some parts from the local hardware store so that no tools are required for use, and there are no small parts to lose in the grass. The Canham 7x17 comes with a 1/4-20 socket on top of both the front and rear standards, so you can screw directly into these to stabilize. (But not without modifying the AWB kit a bit).

Finally, has anyone noticed that you can't use all the aluminum stabilizing rods at the same time? For some reason, AWB felt it necessary to finish the ends of all the rods. So, there are two 'left end' rods, one 'middle' rod, and one 'right end' rod. Now I can't imagine the rationalization that created this arrangement. It certainly didn't come from a person that uses a camera in the field, because you will always have one rod that is not able to be used! It also means that the rod assembly is not long enough for the Canham at full bellows extension, when the stabilizer is needed most.

Arrgh. Enough of my rant. While the AWB wind stabilizer does work, I think it was poorly designed and executed.

I do occasionally use a Bogen long lens support under the front standard, if I'm using a long lens, and this does help lock the thing down quite well, but I don't find that I need to use it often. The camera will settle down on it's own, as long as there isn't a strong persistant wind.


-- Michael Mutmansky (mjmlighting@adelphia.net), April 25, 2002.

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