Gowland cameras?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Jarvman, Nov 27, 2007.

  1. Jarvman

    Jarvman Member

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    I'm possibly looking into a 4x5 view camera i can also shoot 6x9 with. I've been looking at Gowland cameras and they look sturdily built, no frills and inexpensive. Is it right to think I can get a whole camera and a lensboard for just over $1000. That seems like a fantastic deal to me. Too good in fact. What are the lenses like, what brand? Are they good quality? Also what are the difference between regular and bag bellows?
     
  2. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I bought a Gowland Pocket View new in the early 80's. It was marketed by Calumet and was the simplest (and lightest) of the many variations it came in. Two 6" rails, only swing and tilt for the back, all the movements in the front. About 2.5 pounds with a 150mm f5.6 Caltar IIN mounted on it. Mine has a bail handle and I have used a Calumet roll film holder (6x7) with it for color work.

    Many variations, as I mentioned...I think it depended on what parts Mr. Gowland had lying around. He made versions with all movements, various types of backs, 6"/8" rail and two 8" rails. Mine was originally set up to have all the movements loosened and tightened with an allen wrench...I replace some with knobs. The cameras can get up to 3.5 pounds or so w/o lens if it has a heavier back, 16" bellows and big knobs.

    It is a camera one either loves or hates -- I love mine. No indents, for example. Not a precision instrament, but a very useful tool. I have backpacked many times with it (11-day solo trips into the Grand Canyon, for example) and bicycle toured for 6 months with it in NZ.

    Not extremely sturdy -- the trade off for being light-weight. But sturdy enough. The bag bellows would be for use with wide angle lenses -- unless you plan on using 90mm and shorter lenses all the time, a standard bellows would be better. The standard bellows should handle a 90mm easily...might even be able to handle a 65mm, but I am not sure.

    Usually the camera comes w/o a lens -- add that to your cost. Occasionally I see a used Gowland Pocket View on eBay, but not often. Used, you should be able to pick one up with a lens for $1000 or less.

    Anything I missed?

    Vaughn
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I own an 8x10" PocketView and have owned a 4x5". If you're a flexible person who can adapt to the quirks of the camera for the sake of compactness and light weight, it's a great camera. If you're the sort of person who likes detentes and geared movements, it's not for you. You can definitely find a used one with a lens in your price range. Even the new cameras aren't so expensive. Take a look at www.petergowland.com and click on "cameras" for the current options.

    I used to like the 4x5" particularly to use with another camera. A 4x5" Gowland with a light tripod, a couple of small lenses and filters, and a folding rangefinder made a great ultralight travel kit. I also liked bringing the Gowland with my birding kit (Canon New F-1 and a 600/4.5) for landscapes and macros between birding opportunities. It fit in the side pockets of my ScopePak.

    Vaughn, you missed the best part of owning a Gowland--Peter Gowland (hurry up, though--he's in his 90s). He loves to help out people who use his cameras, and if you get a used one, he'll upgrade it or fill in missing parts very affordably, if you need. I was shocked the first time I had ordered a couple of lensboards and odd parts and he called me up personally to clarify a few details. A real mensch.
     
  4. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    David, I had to call him once -- my bellows had come unglued from the front standard and I wanted to know what glue he recommended. Unfortunately, he was busy packing up for a shoot and I did not talk to him directly...but I talked with his wife (I assume) who relayed his answer to me. This was about 15 years ago, I think.

    Vaughn
     
  5. walter23

    walter23 Member

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    Can't believe he's still cobbling together cameras at 90+ yrs. Would love a pocket view, but my $600 shen hao was an expensive purchase by my standards.
     
  6. Ted Harris

    Ted Harris Subscriber

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    Peter is great, so is Alice. Several years ago I "adopted" them as my parents :smile:. Unfortunately you will be hard pressed to find a new one. Last time I was at their house he only had one Pocket View. H e does have some wide angle Gowlandflexes around and refurbs old cameras when the come his way.

    BTW, if I am as healthy at 81 as he is at 91 I will be ovrjoyed.
     
  7. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    I've got a Gowland Aerial I bought from Peter but I think his monorails are fantastic for what they are---light wieght, basic (not much can go wrong on a Gowland) and straightforeward--there's no need to consult a manual as everything is just "out there." They aren't Sinars or Linhofs, but they were never meant to be. Being light, they are more sensitive to strong wind, but OTOH they generally don't require some mondo tripod for support either(even the 8x10 aerial! I had it on a Tiltall Junior ---designed for 35mm---a few months ago and it did just fine, thank you! Of course the wind was still) Its hard to imagine going wrong with a Gowland unless you're into geared movements, neutral detents, and all the bells and whistles of uber cameras---in which case a Gowland will probably drive you nuts!
     
  8. Jarvman

    Jarvman Member

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    What do you mean by geared movements? This is my depature from 35mm and it's overwhelming! I've looked at so many different cameras.
     
  9. nick mulder

    nick mulder Member

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    Geared movements are when you just have a knob in which to turn to achieve your tilt/swing/rise/focus etc... On the Sinar at least I know that they are built in such a way (worm gears i assume) that they dont even need locking off.

    On a Gowland it looks like the same set up as my home-built view cam - you simply loosen two knobs on the side which then allow you to move the standards (rise and tilt) or one below which gives you shift and swing and probably focus - once its all nice in the GG you tighten them again, which can be a bitch to do all at once under a hood with a portrait subject who is moving a little (with my little experience at least).

    With a geared system you generally have an extra hand free to do another job at the same time than you would with a simpler system.
     
  10. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    On the Gowland you've got one pair of knobs that controls rise/fall and tilt and holds the lensboard in place, one knob for shift and swing, and one for focus. Some versions have movements front and back, some only on the front. It's manageable once you get the sequence down, but you have to get a feel for how much to loosen the tilt knob to change lenses (very loose), how much for rise/fall (somewhat loose), how much for tilt (almost tight), and locked down. With a Linhof or a Sinar, you can do any movements in any order without changing your other settings.

    I found it helpful to mark the neutral settings on the camera rail, and I use a Suunto Tandem clinometer-compass to make sure everything is level and square.
     
  11. Frank R

    Frank R Subscriber

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    I had a Calumet Gowland until last year. I agree with all the other comments here. It is ultralight and great for backpacking.

    But I think you may want to start with a more conventional LF camera. There are plenty of them out there. Unless you really need it for backpacking, I would not recommend such a specialty camera as your first.
     
  12. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i don't have a gowland, but i almost bought one :smile:
    it wasn't a rail camera, but a gowlandflex tlr .
    i found it on eBoo and it was missing a handful of
    things, so i called peter up, spoke with him ...

    what a nice guy!

    if i had bought the camera, he would have saved me the trouble
    of searching for the lenses, and all it might have been missing ...
    at way less than buying new or even used ( through keh or this site's classifieds )

    i wish i had bought it, if not to have a gigantic camera and a piece of history but
    to be part of his family :smile:

    john