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Friday, 11 September 2020


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I often think about my old Wisner 4X5 which I loved to photograph with but at time found very frustrating - just as I was ready the light would change or the wind would come etc. Eventually sold it for a Pentax 67.

A funny story about the Wisner - I had to send it for repair after setting it on fire!. I was out at Eureka dunes in Death Valley using a 450mm Nikkor (which covered about 11X14)for the first time . The sun was quite low at the time and I was photographing towards it. Look under the cloth as I focused, I noticed a cloud drifting passing on the ground glass - funny I thought there were no clouds at the time. De-focus, it disappeared. Focus and it reappear. That's when I smelt the smoke. When focused infinity the sun was focused off the edge of the ground glass and has started to burn the wood. In my haste to stop this I tilted the camera forward and the weight of the lens twisted the front of the camera. Cost $600 to fix - fortunately the insurance paid.

i wonder if anybody else has done that?

The camera you linked to is a Buy It Now, not an auction.

It still remains highly annoying to me that the two kinds of cameras I love using the most (TLRs and Large Format) have no real digital analogs. I suppose you could rig a TLR with a digital back if you had the money (yes my dream camera is a Mamiya C330 with a MF back) but the large format experience seems more or less undoable.

Wow. Isn’t that just fantastic.

I always loved my Ebony the most out of any camera I have ever owned.

How about a write up of Philip’s.

It is the one camera I wished I had bought when I had the opportunity to order a 8 x 10 explorer from him directly. I flew to NY to buy my large format camera. The guy at B&H talked me out of 8 x 10. Anyway I still have only shot a handful in tat format.

Philips were my dream camera. Just a thought.

So love your writing Mike. Tried to reply to your other post but lost the words on my phone and got distracted and didn’t write new ones.

You are better than the others that have gone by a long way. I learn from you. And from the community here.

So glad I can support you in a small way.

I owned (and used!) a 4x5 Nagaoka for some years back in the seventies. It was purchased at Helix Photo in Chicago. My first lens was a 90mm Wide Field Ektar, purchased at Darkroom Aids on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. And my second lens was a 150mm Caltar from Calumet Photographic in Bensenville, IL. Nagaoka does, indeed, appear to be the last man standing!

The Canham DLC45 is an intriguing foldable metal field camera made by KB Canham. Highly collapsible and super lightweight, meant for backbacking landscape photographers. Very elegant too, with an austere Bauhaus-style design.

Folding up the Canham requires a very specifuc series of simple steps that everyone gets wrong, everyone that is except Mr Canham. Result: crinkles in the bellows, in a very specific staircase pattern top down from the top of the front standard. Every copy I have seen has them, my own copy which I bought used had those crinkles when I bought it. Functionally the crinkles don't damage the bellows (which is made from some rubber-based material).

To me these crinkles are part of the look of this particular camera.

We need to bring back scanning backs for view cameras. That way, at least you could still use view cameras for reproduction, landscapes, architecture and still life - without having to resort to film. And the files were huge, like 750 MP. Does anyone still make them?

I have a 4x5 Toko view camera, which is a knockoff of a Wista, that I bought ages ago from Lens and Repro in NYC. The salesman showed me the sequence to close the camera — usually frictionless. If there is ever a bit of resistance I know that I am doing something wrong and restart the whole process (generally it’s because I left the focus rail extended.). I started using it again with the Covid emergency, documenting one of the last apple orchards in my area. There is nothing like a large format transparency.

I bought a Tachihara 4x5 (very similar to the Nagaoka) in 1982 and used it for ten years; it was my first 4x5. The featherweight Japanese cameras have a very subtle, beautiful hand-made 'feel' that is just exquisite.
I sold the Tachi to buy a 4x5 Zone VI, which I still use regularly. That's a fine hand-made camera; strong, beautiful and versatile. And while I have great respect for the people who built it, the Tachi (like the Nagaokas I've seen) have a jewel-like quality seen only in the Japanese cameras.
I'm glad that Nagaoka-san is still alive and making cameras, and wish that I could justify buying a new one from him. Thanks for telling the story here, Mike!

I'm intrigued that no-one has mentioned the Gandolfi Brothers. I've never seen one of their cameras, AFAIK, but there was a lovely short bit of archive BBC footage about them and their camera-making workshop. The firm lasted from 1885 to 2017, although Arthur, the last of the brothers died in 1993.

Another last man standing is Miyazaki Sadayasu (宮崎貞安) a one-man lens designer and manufacturer in Japan.

His claim to fame are tiny pancake M-mount wide angle lenses. His lenses are hand assembled one-at-a-time and are mostly sold in Japan. You can buy his lenses from Japan Camera Hunter and Map camera in Japan.

Not precisely bellows - but when I first bought a used Crown Graphic it took quite a bit of fiddling to figure out how to open it. Turns out that the bump in the leather at top front that looks like a bubble or other defect is actually the thing you press to pop open the front.

I sold my Toyo 45A several years ago (it was super solid and I really liked it) for the much lighter and more capable Chamonix 45N-2. The Chamonix is not quite as easy to use, but is around half the weight of the Toyo. As I aged the Toyo combined with a Zone VI "Small" tripod was just too much; the Zone VI was sold as well.

I should think the Chamonix would qualify as "hand made" though I'm pretty sure it's not by a single craftsman. It's a lovely piece of kit.

You must have seen Carroll's parody of Hiawatha about photography:

The description of the camera:

From his shoulder Hiawatha
Took the camera of rosewood,
Made of sliding, folding rosewood;
Neatly put it all together.
In its case it lay compactly,
Folded into nearly nothing;
But he opened out the hinges,
Pushed and pulled the joints and hinges,
Till it looked all squares and oblongs,
Like a complicated figure
In the Second Book of Euclid.

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