Advice on LF cameras

Ian Grant

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Registered User
Hi Ken,

Always interesting to me how LF photographers wind up with the gear s/he uses. I started with 4x5 way back in 1979 when I bought my first outfit; a modified Wista/Tachihara from Zone VI Studios along with all the fixins to practice LF photography. I used that happily for years until I invested in 8x10 and wanted to use my 300mm lens with both cameras. Being that my 4x5 only has about 12.5" of bellows draw (yep, I still own that camera!), I could only focus pretty much at infinity and it wasn't the sturdiest beast racked all the way out. Later on, desiring an even more portable and lighter setup I bought a Toho FC-45X which reportedly had nearly 15" of bellows draw. I thought...hmm...could make pretty good use of the 300 with that extension. Well...it does extend to that length, but not easily and the bellows is about as taut as a snare drum at that length! :D

Therefore, even years and years later I really didn't have a 4x5 setup that would allow me to comfortably use that 300 and I kind of resigned myself to that fact. Then, a recognizable name (and fairly major camera guy) on one of the forums here (USA) listed a sorta Arca-Swiss F line camera for sale. I say "sorta" because it had the highly desirable telescoping monorail, brand new long bellows, and front/rear format frames of the F line, but base controls from the B era. It also had the desirable (to me) 4x5 rear standard, but 6x9 front standard. Anyway, long story short I bought it and couldn't be happier! It allows me to use the 300 with ease, and with extension rail and that long bellows I can even use my Fuji C 450mm! Don't have much extension available beyond infinity with that lens, but it's usable if I need it. I eventually bought a bag bellows for it which allows me to use my 75mm with ease. Yeah, that's another great feature that I never had...interchangeable bellows. And, to put a bit more "frosting on the cake" the camera weighs in at only 5.5 lbs!

I've always heard the Sinar's were great cameras--never owned one myself--but over the years I've used and/or played with a few other monorails and not a one comes even close to the Arca-Swiss. If I'm not packing the 8x10 (my usual format), then the Arca-Swiss comes with me every time!
Like you I bought a 300mm to use with my Wista in the late 1980's, in my case a 300mm Nikkor M, small light and in theory practical, and I was planning to move to 10x8 as well although that finally happened overv20 years later. I probably only used it twice, at full extension the bellows act as a sail, and the camera is too unstable.

I still had my De Vere monorail camera so in theory could have used that, but it wasn't practical out in the landscape where I'd often be out many hours on foot away from my car, working from a backpack. It was maybe 5 years ago I bought an ex military 14" (420mm) f5.6 telephoto lens at a flea market, coated it's almost certainly made by Dallmeyer. After calculating and making an aperture scale I used this on a Speed Graphic as the lens has no shutter, it's great for specific shots but was still not practical to use with my Wista.

About a year later I saw a Schneider 360mm f5.5 Tele Xenar for sale on a Forum at a good price, and I'd dealt with the seller before so I bought it. It's a lovely lens to use with the Wista, very practical because it needs little bellows draw as the flange focal distance is only 214mmm. For the first time I'm working on a project where I really need to use longer FL lenses on my 5x4 and it was the Dallmeyer 14" telephoto that opened the way.

Ian
 

KenS

Active Member
Registered User
Ian
I have a 400mm Apo-Ronar that I 'salvaged/saved' from off the big graphics unit at the University when they went 'all digital'. (They were going to put it in the garbage) I keep looking for a decent front mounted shutter to 'replace' the hand-held "black hat' that I used under the watchful eye of my mentor that he used to use those many years ago. Unfortunately front mounted shutters seem to have gone the way of the "Dodo bird'.
I'd really like to use it for both my 8x10 B&J...and my Linhof... It IS such a 'sharp' lens (especially for close-ups), It would be a shame to just 'dump' it.

Ken
 

Alan9940

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Registered User
Ian,

If I had your knowledge of lenses, perhaps I could have made other choices in the longer focal lengths. But, I simply made my purchases from what was available new and from advice of other photographers. My first normal lens for 8x10 was a 305mm Schneider G-Claron. It’s a fine lens, but when I moved to lighter weight 4x5 I needed something smaller and more compact; went with the 300mm Nikkor-M. I adore that lens and has become my personal default at that focal length. Recently, I picked up a Fuji C 450mm which is lovely on my 8x10 and useable on my Arca-Swiss. Btw, one of the reasons I’m so enamored with the Arca-Swiss is that it provides extreme functionality in a camera that collapses on to a 15cm rail making it as portable as any folding wood field camera. Weight-wise it’s actually lighter than, say, a Wisner Technical Field. I mention that particular camera because it’s also highly flexible.
 

Ian Grant

Active Member
Registered User
Ken, my Gitzo front mounting shutter fits my 360mm Apo Ronar CL which is larger front diameter than my 360mm Apo Ronar (No rear cell), and 480mm Apo Ronar. The CL is the same lens optically but in a more dimensionally stable barrel for critical use in variable temperatures. These Luc style front mounting shutters are rarer in the medium to larger sizes and you are limited to a single speed as well as B

I've a shoe box of restored Thornton Pickard roller blind shutters and as many more in restoration just needing new curtains and re-assembly, plus a few more I've not started on at all. It's sometime since I checked what I have in terms of sizes and type. There's front mounting and "Between Lens", the latter designed for fixing to a lens board and having a removable front panel, so you can use with different lenses. Not all have a Speed Indicator, and there's also the less desirable Snap Shot type. It'll be 2 or 3 weeks before I know what I've got spare.

The French photographer I bought my Tele Xenar adapted focal plane shutters from Speed Graphics for some of his lenses - I bought the left over parts. Essentially he stripped the cameras completely just using the rear part of the body that housed the shutter cutting the front away, I've not seen the results but it's easy to do. He then used the shutter housing attached to a lens board and made a panel for the front to take different lenses. The smaller quarter plate Pacemaker Speed Graphics aren't worth much so quite cheap and gives a shutter with speeds from 1/10 to 1/1000.

Ian
 

KenS

Active Member
Registered User
Ian..
My is bad.. memory wise that is.

Just went down to the darkroom to 're-look' at that Apo Ronar. Turns out it is 'actually' a 480mm.. It is currently mounted on a plywood "mount' for use as a nice WA with my 8x10 B&J 'woodie...(I can forward a Q&D iphone image)'then I was somewhat surprised at 'other stuff I found in the box... a couple of 5x7 film holders (and I don't have a 5x7 camera)... and five (5) Graphic film-holders with full complement of plenums (in good condition) that have not been used since I 'retired".... I never did feel 'good' using them 'outdoors'... or... even when 'working' at Ag Canada's Research Center.
I cant't even remember when,'how' or 'why' I acquired them

Ken
 

Ian Grant

Active Member
Registered User
Ian,

If I had your knowledge of lenses, perhaps I could have made other choices in the longer focal lengths. But, I simply made my purchases from what was available new and from advice of other photographers. My first normal lens for 8x10 was a 305mm Schneider G-Claron. It’s a fine lens, but when I moved to lighter weight 4x5 I needed something smaller and more compact; went with the 300mm Nikkor-M. I adore that lens and has become my personal default at that focal length. Recently, I picked up a Fuji C 450mm which is lovely on my 8x10 and useable on my Arca-Swiss. Btw, one of the reasons I’m so enamored with the Arca-Swiss is that it provides extreme functionality in a camera that collapses on to a 15cm rail making it as portable as any folding wood field camera. Weight-wise it’s actually lighter than, say, a Wisner Technical Field. I mention that particular camera because it’s also highly flexible.

I could have done with the same knowledge of lenses I have now 30 years ago :D I would have bought a Telephoto for the Wista instead of the Nikon M and it would have cost me a lot less,

When I moved up to a 10x8 camera it came with a board the previous owner had used with his 300mm Nikkor N plus a lens he said was useless as it had separation, - a coated 12" Dagor with decades of dust carefully cleaned to the edges, 2 minutes cleaning and it was obvious there was nothing at all wrong with the lens, the shutter needed the pneumatic slow speed damming piston cleaned and lubricated for smooth slow speeds, not bad for a near 65 year old shutter when I received it and it's still smooth and accurate 15+ years later. The 300mm Nikkor M now sits on a Linhof/Wista style lens board for use on my second Agfa Ansco 10x8 and my 7x5 Kodak Specialist 2.

Ian
 

KenS

Active Member
Registered User
Ian..
My is bad.. memory wise that is.

Just went down to the darkroom to 're-look' at that Apo Ronar. Turns out it is 'actually' a 480mm.. It is currently mounted on a plywood "mount' for use with my 8x10 B&J 'woodie...(I can forward a Q&D iphone image)'then I was somewhat surprised at 'other stuff I found in the box... a couple of 5x7 film holders (and I don't have a 5x7 camera)... and five (5) Graphic film-holders with full complement of plenums (in good condition) that have not been used since I 'retired".... I never did feel 'good' using them 'outdoors'... or... even when 'working' at Ag Canada's Research Center.
I can't even remember when,'how' or 'why' I acquired them

Ken
I could have done with the same knowledge of lenses I have now 30 years ago :D I would have bought a Telephoto for the Wista instead of the Nikon M and it would have cost me a lot less,

When I moved up to a 10x8 camera it came with a board the previous owner had used with his 300mm Nikkor N plus a lens he said was useless as it had separation, - a coated 12" Dagor with decades of dust carefully cleaned to the edges, 2 minutes cleaning and it was obvious there was nothing at all wrong with the lens, the shutter needed the pneumatic slow speed damming piston cleaned and lubricated for smooth slow speeds, not bad for a near 65 year old shutter when I received it and it's still smooth and accurate 15+ years later. The 300mm Nikkor M now sits on a Linhof/Wista style lens board for use on my second Agfa Ansco 10x8 and my 7x5 Kodak Specialist 2.

Ian
OOPS.. the 480 is NOT a wide angle for the 8x10 .. My 250 is the semi-WA on the 8x10 B&J

That being 'corrected' I think it might be just the time to go and have my 'after-lunch' nap to 'clear up' my brain cells... or what is left of them
Ken
 

Ian Grant

Active Member
Registered User
Ian..
My is bad.. memory wise that is.

Just went down to the darkroom to 're-look' at that Apo Ronar. Turns out it is 'actually' a 480mm.. It is currently mounted on a plywood "mount' for use as a nice WA with my 8x10 B&J 'woodie...(I can forward a Q&D iphone image)'then I was somewhat surprised at 'other stuff I found in the box... a couple of 5x7 film holders (and I don't have a 5x7 camera)... and five (5) Graphic film-holders with full complement of plenums (in good condition) that have not been used since I 'retired".... I never did feel 'good' using them 'outdoors'... or... even when 'working' at Ag Canada's Research Center.
I cant't even remember when,'how' or 'why' I acquired them

Ken
I have items like that usually acquired as a box of bits, and you only remember the best items :D

480mm is more of portrait lens on a 10x8 camera, it's the equivalent of a 75mm on a 35mm camera. My own 480mm needs the front element polished, but it was very cheap. My 360mm Apo Ronar CL has the normal iris diaphragm but also takes Waterhouse stops, this leads to an interesting quuestion . . . . . .

Could a Process lens with the additional facility to take Waterhouse stops be used like the Rodenstock Imagon which uses diffuser disks with more than one hole ? Maybe someone who's worked in the Graphics field can explain the different shape stops that were available for some Process lenses.

Ian
 

David M

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Registered User
I seem to remember being told that the shapes were to generate different kinds of half-tone dots, but this is a very old memory indeed.
 

Ian Grant

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David. you're right, I checked last night and the shape of the Waterhouse stop was used to control the dot shape for printing. so you had Square, star, etc.

1587

I think it would be quite easy to make some interesting Waterhouse stops for these lenses.

Ian
 

David M

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Registered User
There's more to halftone printing than meets the eye. The intention is that problems don't meet the eye. Presumably the dots are now generated digitally and a great deal of old expertise is being replaced by a new and different kind of expertise.

I suspect that the creative use of non-round holes might have been more fully explored by the pinhole community.
 

JimW

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The dots were not generated by the aperture/iris in the lens. The film was placed on top of a piece of film onto which was already printed a printed screen of dots. The dots then showed onto the film, and voila a tonal range. Pre and post flashing were available as a tool to calm down the highlight values....
Enough woffle. The industry moved on decades ago, and now there is computer to plate, thus removing he need to use process lenses. I have an Apo ronar 480mm, and an Apo Nikkor 610mm. Each WAS worth many thousands of pounds when new, and now whatever you can get for them if the buyer agrees.
Those waterhouse stops look like a good experiment though. Process lenses had those gaps in them to place VERY specific filters in the light path. With these filters you could create a 4 colour set to produce a full colour print. But I'm sure you could create a stop to suit. I think Reinhold Schalbe on his website shows a similar shape to a process lens configuration - with the slot in the barrel.
http://re-inventedphotoequip.com/Data.html
 

Ian Grant

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Registered User
The dots were not generated by the aperture/iris in the lens. The film was placed on top of a piece of film onto which was already printed a printed screen of dots. The dots then showed onto the film, and voila a tonal range. Pre and post flashing were available as a tool to calm down the highlight values....
David didn't say the shapes of the Waterhouse stops created the dots, however they were used to alter the shape of the dots, that's available in data-sheets for some process lenses. There's a 1900 Penrose Patent with a variable Waterhouse stop for Process lenses.

I've seen modern Process lenses in wooden cases with the square Waterhouse stops, I think Nikkor.

Enough woffle. The industry moved on decades ago, and now there is computer to plate, thus removing he need to use process lenses. I have an Apo ronar 480mm, and an Apo Nikkor 610mm. Each WAS worth many thousands of pounds when new, and now whatever you can get for them if the buyer agrees.
Those waterhouse stops look like a good experiment though. Process lenses had those gaps in them to place VERY specific filters in the light path. With these filters you could create a 4 colour set to produce a full colour print. But I'm sure you could create a stop to suit. I think Reinhold Schalbe on his website shows a similar shape to a process lens configuration - with the slot in the barrel.
http://re-inventedphotoequip.com/Data.html
There's a variety of Waterhouse stops available in sets for Lomography lenses, their Petzval etc, some look similar to the Imagon's diffusers, I'll try making one in the next few weeks, a central hole surrounded by a series of 8 smaller.

Ian
 

David M

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Registered User
Thank you Ian. I've seen screens that were ruled lines rather than dots.
I believe that the screen was not in close contact, but slightly separated, like an unsharp mask. Unsharp dots were projected onto a very contrasty material and the size of the dot was generated by the amount of light in the dot. Only the centre would register where the light was dim and the penumbra would not register.
All this is dredged for distant and possibly blurred memories. Any errors are all mine.
The OoF disc's blurred shape would have been altered by the diaphragm. I believe that elliptical dots were helpful in avoiding moiré patterns. Some printing was done with more than the standard four-colour set. More colours produce more problems to solve.
I think we've even moved beyond computer-to-plate. We have a newsletter printed commercially as computer-to-paper.
If we have any retired printers reading this, perhaps they'd like to correct us.
 

JimW

Member
Registered User
I seem to remember being told that the shapes were to generate different kinds of half-tone dots, but this is a very old memory indeed.
Perhaps I misunderstood 'generate'.
I believe that the screen was not in close contact, but slightly separated
Can do, but there was a right and a wrong way up for the half-tone sheet to already give this effect.
I think we've even moved beyond computer-to-plate.
Yup. Computer to press, imaging the plate on the press. Sort of worked.
Best use of a process camera now, is to turn it into an ULF camera. 16x20 inch paper negatives by this August, if all goes to plan! Then IF I can get it all to work well, PERHAPS some film. Plenty of practice with the paper first, though.
 

David M

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Registered User
!6x20"! Excellent.
There's just time to get your order in for Ilford's annual batch of real LF film. The deadline is 28th May. I very much doubt that film will be cheaper next year.
 
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