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Wednesday, 24 November 2010


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I have and still use a Tachihari 4x5 which I bought in the very early 80s, I think. It's very similar to the Wista in terms of design and components. Was it a spin- or rip-off of the Wista?

Hi Mike,

Fun post. My friend has a Wista that he really likes a lot. He sometimes laments selling the 8x10 version.

And for those who might be interested. (And if you are, be careful. Your first LF camera often leads to a second, and perhaps even a larger format!) A used 210mm Caltar II-N is the same lens as the aforementioned Sironar, and is usually available at even lower prices. Caltars are made by Rodenstock, identical to the comparable Rodenstock lens, and sold by Calumet.

I used the 10x8 rosewood Wista and their metal 5x4 happily for many years after deciding to get out of the studio permanently in about 1992. I traded my Sinar Norma 10x8 7x5 5x4 system for the Wistas and never looked back. Lovely cameras, but in my case they didn't survive the change to digital.

I still own my cherry Wista but need to use it more. They are a joy to use.

I bought one of these in 1986 or so. Wonderful camera. It was looking through the Zone VI catalogs that made me lust after one. As a point of information, I believe the later Zone VI cameras were made by Wisner. Thanks for sharing this information!

(Quince goes really nicely with apple sauce, too - lends a pleasantly bitter tang amongst the sweetness.)

Nice shot Mike.

I think the Tachihara came first, because early Wista wood field cameras were relabeled Tachiharas, if memory serves. Then Wista came through with its own design, by the same guy who designed the Rittreck cameras. I believe the Wista 8x10 has always been made by Tachihara. I don't know anything about the history of Tachihara, however.


Better be careful with that--I believe the ins and outs of Caltars are considerably more Byzantine than that. Some are made by Topcon, I think. I can't quote you chapter and verse, but the info is out there.


My early Zone VI view camera was made by Wisner Manufacturing. It accepted a bag bellows.

"I believe the later Zone VI cameras were made by Wisner"

Wisner Classic's short and unfortunate association with Picker and Zone VI resulted in a very bitter and long-fought lawsuit most observers believed was instigated and largely perpetuated by Picker. Although Wisner won in the end--the correct decision, in my non-expert personal opinion--in some ways I think one could argue that Wisner Classic Manufacturing never truly recovered.


Well, hello! That camera is a like a long-time friend. It's instantly recognizable to anyone who has used one.

Alas, I don't use mine much these days. I still fondly remember when I'd put it in my backpack, strap the tripod to my bicycle's rack, and spend a day getting lost on back country roads.

BTW, the tripod pictured is an assemblage of a Gitzo ball head on a Leitz Tiltall tripod. I affectionally called my tripod a "Gitzall" - hoping for photographic luck.

In 1983 I started out with a demo Rosewood Wista with the 135 Sironar-N that folded up nicely inside. I also had a Rolleicord, an Olympus OM-1 and 50mm lens, and an Olympus XA. In hindsight I never really needed to buy or sell any other cameras -- that was an excellent kit that I could just as well repurchase and use today without missing a beat. I still print negatives from it and they're as good as anything since....

Picker certainly had his detractors. My experience with his products, and with his workshop and newsletters, was nevertheless very positive. Like all good teachers, he made complicated things simple, and required his 'students' to learn by doing the work; not by blindly accepting conventional wisdom. I fondly remember my Zone VI 4x5 and 8x10 cameras...beautiful and functional.

I just came back from an exhibit at the Phillips Collection in D.C., related to large format work. The gallery has a video here and a small demo of these type of cameras that may be of interest to some here: http://www.phillipscollection.org/exhibitions/truth_beauty/video.aspx

The initial production runs of Zone VI view cameras were made by Wisner. I have one, S/N 208, ordered new in 1986. Picker and Zone VI later took over production in their own facility, apparently using Wisner's designs. Thus the lawsuit that Mike mentions above. I don't remember when the production cut-over occurred, however.

My Zone VI view camera sits unused now, but I still love it.

Very nice! Thank you. I'd never seen those.

I recommended the book, however


"The initial production runs of Zone VI view cameras were made by Wisner."

No, the initial Zone VI cameras were Wistas. Then there was a brief period where they were made by Wisner to order, based on Picker's parameters and requirements, and then, after Fred and Ron had their falling-out, Zone VI started building its own in Newfane. If there were variants of the Vermont-built models I don't know what they are.

So there are basically three iterations of the Zone VI camera, of which the Wisner-built one was the second.


A side note: thanks for showing me they use quince wood for something.

The fruit is eaten solely in compote around here (or as a jam). Or country grannies put the fruit on top of cupboards so the whole room has a nicer smell.

Beat that, Wista. :))))

I guess my Calumet Wood-Field camera is a Wista, too.

I had to go back and check, but my Wista was purchased from Lens & Repro way back on 3/3/80.

The metal plate on the front of the rail just says "Field 45." I enjoyed using that camera a lot.

Maybe. Most Calumet Wood Fields were Horsemans or Tachiharas, but some might have been Wistas at some point or another.


Does yours look like the picture in our post? Because it might be a Tachihara. Wista relabeled Tachiharas before it marketed its own camera.


Tachihara 4x5 is also my first. The red camera is very beautiful by itself, I bought my first partially because it is so beautiful. For US$10 per slide shoot, I can only afford so many in the early 2000.

Later found that I can do b/w development in bathroom and then start to get my first 8x10 and then second one. Later buy a studio for b/w and 8x10 slide development. Large format is quite expensive as a hobby.

At this moment, I cannot help myself to wonder again whether it can be used in Kuwait. The question just sticked this morning.

I really should get one of those.

It looks like a beautiful camera, would love to give that a spin some day.

"I really should get one of those."

Wait till my next post before you do.


A great camera, happy anniversary, happy memories - ah the eighties:) Wista, SX70, Minox 35 GT.. Thanks for the reminder Mike. Another " Wista weak point" was the flimsy base plate. I had a metal shop buddy machine me a solid steel plate 5/16" thick with tripod socket that screwed into the base frame x 6 points. I also removed the rear swing and rise mechanisms - landscapes -my use - only really needed rear tilt. Those mods tightened everything up a lot. Wish I still had it.

I don't think any of the Yasutake Wistas had back rise. They all have swing as far as I know, and many have shift as well. I know that some users bolted together the two sliding metal metal plates that allowed the shift and swing, for greater stability. I personally think the camera could have been improved by the elimination of those movements from the start, but buyers often engage in specsmanship and simplifying the camera might have adversely affected salability. Two very common flaws of modern view camera design are excessive movements and excessive lightness, both driven by marketing concerns.


I've never owned a Wista, but I had owned a Tachihara 4 x 5 which I had for 17 years ( its had the "Field 45" on the top ), I still have my Tachihara 8 x 10 though, beautiful camera and a joy to use.

Hi Mike,

Definitely, a Caltar II-N is the equivalent of a Rodenstock Sironar-N or APO-Sironar-N. That one is easy. It is not to be confused with the 210mm f/6.8 Caltar II-E, which is also made by Rodenstock and is a three element lens which is the equivalent of the 210mm Rodenstock Geronar. I believe that both of these lenses are still available new from Calumet.

Topcon did make a 210mm f/5.6 for Calumet. that was a Caltar HR. At the same time, Rodenstock made a 210mm f/6.8 Caltar HR (which was also the equivalent of a Geronar)!

We should not forget the Ilex Caltars and the Series-S Caltar (both made in the USA by Ilex), The Type S and Type Y Caltars, which were made by Rodenstock, the Caltar S-II and W-II series which were made by Schneider (and equivalent to the Symmar-S series or Super Angulons, as the case may be), or the Caltar Pros made by Komura, or the Caltar Pros made by Schneider (which were Tessar-type designs identical to the Schneider Xenars - of which the 210mm f/6.1 Caltar Pro is a very nice option as a lightweight lens for a field camera like a Wista). I am omitting a few Caltars from this list, but enough is enough.

Confusing, yes. But for sure, the 210mm Caltar II-N is a Rodenstock Sironar-N or APO-Sironar-N (both were the same lenses, Rodenstock just changed the name along the way, I think when they introduced the APO-Sironar-S lineup).

I have a 210 Caltar II-N which mostly serves as a moderately short focal length on my Whole Plate camera, a 210 f/6.1 Caltar Pro which shares time on my 4x5 Walker Titan SF and my ARCA Swiss Discovery, and a 210 Caltar II-E, which was the first LF lens I purchased and the only one bought new, which lives on my Crown Graphic. (I know, I know, three 210s: its a sickness. I also have 2 180s and a 240!)

My source for all this Caltar madness is a well done article by Kerry Thalmann on Caltar lenses in the May/June 2003 issue of View Camera Magazine.

Mine was a secondhand purchase and the previous owner did manage to crunch the bellows slightly. This has had no effect on the light tightness. The guys at the shop where I bought it gave me a lesson in folding, emphasizing the need to loosen everything off first (however it took me quite a while to apply the same principles to a Shen Hao 5x7 which has a few quirks of its own.

The base tilt at the front end of the Wista took some time to become adept with, and I'm still a little cack handed with this technique.

With a small lens which may be left on when folding (it came with a Rodenstock 150) it really is a compact field camera.

Regards - Ross

The early Zone VI Wista-made cameras had a sturdier baseplate substituted for the original flimsy one. I also think Fred did away with the rear swing on those models.

And you can shoot it in Kuwait.

Mike, you're right about the Wista being the first Zone VI view camera. I skipped it because there was never any pretense about its being anything other than a private labelled product, not manufactured by Zone VI, in other words. I said the initial production runs...

BTW, I learned a lot about photography from Fred Picker, his publications and products in the 1980's. From the point of view of a customer, he was quite good. One just needed a good "bluster" filter...

I agree with Rob: that's a beautiful shot.

I had a metal-bodied 4x5 Wista for several years in the late 80's until about 1990. Actually, I had two of them. The first one was stolen, along with a lot of older Nikon F gear. I think I still have the instruction book. Being poorly translated, it is a giggle to read. Like Mike, I had to sell mine along with my Leica gear due to financial necessity.

If I remember correctly, over the time I had both of the cameras I owned 75mm, 135mm and 210mm Schneider lenses, a 210mm Rodenstock lens and 300mm and 400mm Fujinon telephoto lenses. The short bellows required telephotos if you wanted to use long lenses.

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