If you were designing a camera

Discussion in 'Ultra Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by barryjyoung, Mar 9, 2007.

  1. barryjyoung

    barryjyoung Member

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    Hello:

    I am currently prototyping a wooden 7x17 field camera with the idea of manufacturing it and other ULF sizes based on this design for sale.

    The baseboard and focus mechanism is complete and as near as I can tell an original design. What I need to know is what is most important to you as ULF users. My main concerns throughout the design process have been rigidity, light weight and beauty. For this camera those have been fine goals. Those of you who have been shooting large cameras for a long time no doubt have a good idea of things you would like to see in your next camera. I hope that you will share them with me.

    These are some of my main questions.

    1. Would you buy a camera made from aluminum or would you only buy a wooden camera?

    2. What is more important rigidity or light weight?

    3. How important is it to you that the camera is beautiful? Is it a tool, or a showpiece or both?

    4. What features can you live without? What features can you not live without?

    5. Would you pay twice as much for a camera that had graduated movements and detent stops?

    6. Do you use triple extension bellows often enough to add 50% to the price?

    7. Synthetic bellows are less expensive and more weather resistant than leather. Would bellows material be a deciding factor in your purchase and do you think there should be a choice?

    8. Do you REALLY need rise and fall on the back? $$$$$$

    Please just holler out what is important to you even if I have missed it.

    Thanks for the help folks.
     
  2. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    Aluminum is fine
    A balance between rigidity and light weight
    Beauty gives pride of ownership
    A field camera (as opposed to a studio camera) doesn't need detents.
    Absolutely desire triple extension
    Synthetic bellows is preferred
    No rise and fall on the back, but full swing and tilt on back. Ample
    rise and fall on front.
     
  3. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    I am probably not your target audience being only an occasional user of 5x4" 'miniature' format but here are my thoughts:

    I would prefer wood over aluminium for using in cold weather although aluminium would be stronger (what about wood veneered aluminium?!!)

    As Phototone says, a balance between rigidity and weight.

    I would never use triple extension myself but I think it would be desirable to many others.

    I too would prefer synthetic bellows.


    Steve.
     
  4. philsweeney

    philsweeney Member

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    Hi Barry,

    I have been thinking about building a 7 x 17. I probably would just copy my 8 x 10 Wisner. I would want the camera to be as simple as possible and rigid even at the cost of some extra weight. No gearing necessary. Triple extension (my korona does not get it). Front rise, center swing and center tilt (I hate base tilt on front standards like on the sinars - so unintuitive), and shift. Rear swing and tilt (I can live with base tilt here and center tilt would probably complicate the camera). I have also thought about bulding an 8 x 20 with 7 x 17 reducing back. I'd like to be able to use a 30" lens on 7 x 17! I probably would design the rear standard for S & S holders.
     
  5. barryjyoung

    barryjyoung Member

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    Thank you, all good input.
     
  6. barryjyoung

    barryjyoung Member

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    I understand and we feel very much alike. Thanks Steve.
     
  7. barryjyoung

    barryjyoung Member

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    Thanks Phil: I like hearing that gearing is not necessary. I have heard both ways, but personally I feel it makes the camera unnecessarily expensive, heavy and delicate. S&S holders are awesome.
     
  8. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    1. Would you buy a camera made from aluminum or would you only buy a wooden camera?
    Wood can be nice looking... but I like the idea of aluminium for lightweight and rigidity.


    2. What is more important rigidity or light weight?
    Preference would be on rigidity.

    3. How important is it to you that the camera is beautiful? Is it a tool, or a showpiece or both?
    to me, this is a tool I could care less how it "looks" or if its pretty. If it works instinctively and flawlessly Im all for it. Function over form.

    4. What features can you live without? What features can you not live without?
    I could live without vertical orientation, rear rise/fall/shift. necessities: front rise/fall/tilt. Rear swing/tilt. WOuld be nice to have front and/or rear shift. But Ive made do without them so not quite a neccesity.

    5. Would you pay twice as much for a camera that had graduated movements and detent stops?
    No, would seem unneccesary to me.

    6. Do you use triple extension bellows often enough to add 50% to the price?
    This would be nice but not required.

    7. Synthetic bellows are less expensive and more weather resistant than leather. Would bellows material be a deciding factor in your purchase and do you think there should be a choice?
    Synthetic all the way. Easier to care for and maintain. One thing Id love to have (especially if the bellow are long) is the hook/loops to pull the bellow out of the way.

    8. Do you REALLY need rise and fall on the back? $$$$$$
    Not in the least if it costs alot more.

    All in all, my point of view is that these cameras, especially in ULF are tools and I use them as such. I dont take much consideration for how the camera looks or whether its pretty, I like when they work instinctively/intuitively and function flawlessly.

    I have both a 12x20 and a 7x17 folmer & Schwing banquet cameras. They are good looking cameras but I enjoy working with them because they are well built, I have modified them to meet my needs and function well for me and allow me to instinctively work with them to free up my mind to concentrate on making the images Im passionate about making.

    Hope that helps barry.
     
  9. Colin Graham

    Colin Graham Member

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    I'll echo what everyone else has said. I like a lot of back movements, swing, tilt, shift, rear focusing...although I have rear rise on me newest camera I've not once use it, and that really complicated the rear standard. Also, alot of banquet shooters like verticals, so maybe give some thought to a design that won't stress too much when you tilt the camera on its side, or have a reversible rear standard of some sort. The only gears I need are for focusing, synthetic bellows are great, lots of front rise/fall, swing and shift are nice. I'd be very interested in seeing an aluminum ulf, but hard to say how much I'd like it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 9, 2007
  10. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    1. I'm fine with metal cameras and wooden cameras.

    2. Rigidity and light weight should be balanced. The Wisner 11x14" is too heavy at 30 lbs., but my 15 lb. American Optical 11x14" isn't rigid enough.

    3. I like a beautiful camera, but wouldn't buy a camera on for its appearance.

    4. I like the option of rear and front focus, front rise/fall, shift, tilt, and swing, rear tilt and swing. The rear standard should slide forward for use with wide lenses.

    5. I don't need geared movements. Detentes are nice, but simple levels and zero markings are fine as well. Scales for tilt/shift angle would be nice. It wouldn't be hard, I think to have asymmetric tilts on a flatbed camera, and a scale would make it possible to measure the tilt on the rear standard and transfer it to the front standard like on a Sinar. On the other hand, I can just use my clinometer-compass for that purpose (no magnetic parts, please).

    6. I don't see the need for triple extension on a panoramic format camera, but on an 11x14", 8x10" or camera I might use more for portraits and still life, I like triple extension.

    7. Synthetic bellows are fine.

    8. Rise, fall, and shift on the back make the camera less rigid and/or heavier, so I can do without them on a field camera.
     
  11. Oren Grad

    Oren Grad Subscriber

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    1. Would you buy a camera made from aluminum or would you only buy a wooden camera?

    Would consider either.

    2. What is more important rigidity or light weight?

    I want both, and Dick Phillips has demonstrated that that's not an unreasonable demand.

    3. How important is it to you that the camera is beautiful? Is it a tool, or a showpiece or both?

    Tool aspect is more important, though a tool that's well designed for its function will often be beautiful.

    4. What features can you live without? What features can you not live without?

    Want: lots of front rise. Modest amount of tilt and swing, doesn't matter whether it's front or rear standard. A way to focus very wide lenses without getting the bed in the picture. Anything else is nice but not essential.

    5. Would you pay twice as much for a camera that had graduated movements and detent stops?

    No.

    6. Do you use triple extension bellows often enough to add 50% to the price?

    No.

    7. Synthetic bellows are less expensive and more weather resistant than leather. Would bellows material be a deciding factor in your purchase and do you think there should be a choice?

    Synthetic is fine.

    8. Do you REALLY need rise and fall on the back? $$$$$$

    No.
     
  12. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    1 & 2: Having had both wood and aluminum cameras, I will avoid a wood camera if possible. In the large sizes, they are just not rigid enough. Most important for me is rigidity, and a strong front standard large enough to accept larger lensboards (at least 140mm square).

    3: A well designed tool is a thing of beauty.

    4 & 8: I could live without back rise.

    5: I find graduated movements very helpful, and yes, I would pay more, but not twice as much! Graduated scales should be fairly easy to incorporate. Detent stops are not necessary. Geared movements are not necessary.

    6: Triple extension is not necessary for me. On a 7x17, I don’t need more than 36 inches, and could probably get by with 34 or so.

    7: Synthetic. I would not need a choice, but the basic bellows should be of high enough quality to last.

    Concerning the holders, S&S now makes a version compatible with the Canham style, and the only major difference that I could see between the original S&S version and the Canham style is the t-dist. So perhaps you could design the back with shims that could be changed to get the proper t-dist for the holders
     
  13. argus

    argus Member

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    I like wood.

    2 extra pounds for more rigidity would be no problem.

    Working with a nice camera is better. You would not ride an ugly bike because it lighter?


    No

    What would be the range of usable lenses on both standard and tripple extention?

    Synthetic is fine for me.

    Not at all.




    G
     
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  15. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    1. Would you buy a camera made from aluminum or would you only buy a wooden camera?

    Wise use of both.

    2. What is more important rigidity or light weight?

    light weight by a small margin. maybe 55:45

    3. How important is it to you that the camera is beautiful? Is it a tool, or a showpiece or both?

    Both. But I think an excellent design elegantly made is always beautiful. I think the Phillips camera and some of the Chinese wood knock-offs that used his idea are beautiful. All-thread and cabinet hinges along with other stuff I can buy at Home Depot is NEVER beautiful. It doesn't have to look like a Folmer & Schwing to be beautiful. Simple is always elegant.

    4. What features can you live without? What features can you not live without?

    One that everyone seems to forget is a lens board area large enough and strong enough to put a lens with an interesting signature on. I'd like to use a 19" Heliar on my ULF please. I'll likely get voted down on this one as big lens surfaces seem to detract from looks. 7" lens panel and some STRENGTH would be enough. The Wisner camera is a joke here. It gets nervous with a copal 3 shutter.

    5. Would you pay twice as much for a camera that had graduated movements and detent stops?

    NO

    6. Do you use triple extension bellows often enough to add 50% to the price?

    YES

    7. Synthetic bellows are less expensive and more weather resistant than leather. Would bellows material be a deciding factor in your purchase and do you think there should be a choice?

    Synthetic is fine. They should be tight enough for infrared film.

    8. Do you REALLY need rise and fall on the back? $$$$$$

    NO!
     
  16. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    Here, Here!!!
     
  17. mammolo

    mammolo Member

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    Barry,

    I just ordered a 14x17 and I have been playing with a 20x24, so consider me a highly motivated ULF-er!

    ----

    1. Would you buy a camera made from aluminum or would you only buy a wooden camera?

    I do not care about the material, aluminum is fine.

    2. What is more important rigidity or light weight?

    A compromise between the two.

    3. How important is it to you that the camera is beautiful? Is it a tool, or a showpiece or both?

    An ugly looking thing is not going to help _my_ creativity :smile:

    4. What features can you live without? What features can you not live without?

    I can live without geared movements, but not on a 20x24 camera. A long bellows is a must. Length depends on format of course. A 16x20 camera should have at least 1200mm bellows.

    5. Would you pay twice as much for a camera that had graduated movements and detent stops?

    Detent stops are a necessity, and I would not like to pay more for them. I will not pay twice as much for graduated movements but again I am dubious that you can come up with a truly usable 20x24 without some geared movements.

    6. Do you use triple extension bellows often enough to add 50% to the price?

    I do not think this is a clear-cut question. Triple extension of what? If you refer specifically to a 7x17 my answer is no. Larger-sized cameras need at least 1200mm of bellows. Call it triple or quadruple that's what I would need.

    7. Synthetic bellows are less expensive and more weather resistant than leather. Would bellows material be a deciding factor in your purchase and do you think there should be a choice?

    Synthetic is just fine.

    8. Do you REALLY need rise and fall on the back? $$$$$$

    No, I do not, and I believe that no matter how smart you design the movements in the back having them does compromise rigidity.


    This may not apply to a 7x17, but an issue I care about is how STRONG the front is and how TOUGH the mechanisms in the front are. Very heavy lenses will end up being used. Think an APO-Ronar 890mm, for instance. I think that most of the ULF cameras being manufactured today do not take this into the necessary consideration. Again, this may apply solely to beasts like 14x17, 12x20, 16x20 and 20x24, but you said you were considering manufacturing larger cameras as well.

    One more thing: if you could provide your customers with a solution on how to carry the camera you would certainly get some advantage over the competition that is pretty much ignoring this problem, leaving it to the creativity or desperation of the customer :smile:

    Good luck and do keep us posted on your progress!!!!!!!
     
  18. Daniel Grenier

    Daniel Grenier Member

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    Barry. I now have a 7x17 Wisner with all the bells and whistles (incl rear rise). Here are my answers to your query absed on my experiences with it.

    Good luck.

    1: Either/or.
    2. Both. (emphasis on rigidity).
    3. I wouldn't buy an "ugly" camera (nor date an "ugly" woman :wink: )
    4. Rear rise I can do without. Have to have full frontal movements (incl. shift)
    5. Not a chance.
    6. On 8x10 yes. On 7x17 no.
    7. Makes no difference to me.
    8. Nope. Not at all.
     
  19. Scott Peters

    Scott Peters Member

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    I agree with everything Daniel said above, except, I am not as particular about looks. I would however like, focusing like the phillips and a bail back like the phillips for loading holders. Rear tilt is important on 7 x 17 as you can't reach the front, so smoothness here is important to me. I like everything about the phillips except the abilty to do verticals which requires tilting the camera on its side...not something I do often...
     
  20. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I have been reading through this thread with interest, which may seem somewhat strange, given that I don't even shoot LF, much less ULF.

    With that in mind, I do have a suggestion. My perspective flows from the fact that I am both left handed, and I have limited strength and dexterity in my right hand.

    Whatever design choices you make, try to make them in a way that doesn't penalize people who are left handed.

    If an adjustment or control is important, it should be as easy for a left handed person to use it, as it is for a right handed person.

    If possible, adjustments and controls should be usable using one hand only, and either hand at that.

    If you are preparing prototypes, you may want to have them tested by both right handed and left handed photographers

    Now if I could just convince the manufacturers of smaller cameras to follow these same suggestions...

    Matt
     
  21. barryjyoung

    barryjyoung Member

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    scootrmm:

    It helps a great deal
    Thank you very much.
     
  22. barryjyoung

    barryjyoung Member

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    I have read with great interst everything that has been written in this thread and thank all of the contributors for their time, their insight and their experience.

    I see two things that I need to modify in my original design. The large cameras I will be making will have a large and robust front standard made for large and heavy lenses. I need to come up with a way to move the back forward for wide lenses. These are two shortcomings that have been avoided due to your input on this thread.

    I also see that a cameras beauty is second to its functionality in ULF. That gives me the freedom to design with materials other than brass and wood.

    Thanks to all of you.
     
  23. George Losse

    George Losse Member

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    1. Would you buy a camera made from aluminum or would you only buy a wooden camera?

    Doesn't matter to me.

    2. What is more important rigidity or light weight?

    rigidity - I don't back pack, I use the Jeep to get closer to my subject.

    3. How important is it to you that the camera is beautiful? Is it a tool, or a showpiece or both?

    Beauty helps it hang and the house, but means nothing to the photography.

    4. What features can you live without? What features can you not live without?

    Live without- Rear Rise, Geared rails on every extension.
    Not live without - Tripple extension,give me as much bellows as possible, more then one tripod mounting hole

    5. Would you pay twice as much for a camera that had graduated movements and detent stops?

    ?

    6. Do you use triple extension bellows often enough to add 50% to the price?

    If I had to pay 50% more for tripple extension I wouldn't, I'd buy another camera that had it at no extra costs.

    7. Synthetic bellows are less expensive and more weather resistant than leather. Would bellows material be a deciding factor in your purchase and do you think there should be a choice?

    Just as long as there is enough bellows, doesn't matter what its made of.

    8. Do you REALLY need rise and fall on the back? $$$$$$

    I have it on my current cameras and have used it inlandscape work maybe once in the last ten years. And that was to try it. For a studio monrail type of camera, I wouldn't live without it. When I was doing that type of work I used it all the time.
     
  24. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Enough extension to use 600 mm.

    The Ability to focus from the back.

    Lots of front rise.

    A "standard" lensboard large enough to hold the heavier lenses....i.e. The large toyo boards, they also have the step down adapter board using the smaller Toyo field camera boards....Toyo also has an adaptor board that fits the graflex boards. I like the little Toyo field camera boards better then the linhof as they are a bit beefier in the width, gives me a scotch more room on the 600 fugi etc...

    Richard Ritter is constructing an adaptor board for my Wisner cameras that will accept the small toyo boards...The omega boards are the same and quite inexpensive....

    As to rigidity and light weight...look at the Wisner 7 x 17 Tech....mine is about 12.5 lbs and meets all the above requirements...has many wonderful movements....you might find you use them in the "studio" as you get older and more feeble and begin to shoot still lifes etc..

    Also for 7 x 17....a 5 x 7 back is nice....you can also shoot 7 x 11, no problem and use your existing film holders.

    As George mentioned always include 2 mounting screw inserts....this is where a new idea would be nice....a better mounting system so the camera would nt turn....I put a second bolt in the place provided to stop this....the majestic head is slotted and allows the use of 2 mounting screws...If you can build a "Better Wisner or Phillips" at a better price, I think you d be in the ball park...used Wisner s are out there at @ 2500 and in pristine condition.

    I do like a beautiful camera.

    Here in the desert the heat is a factor on metal....I have insulating pads on my Majestic tripod legs....metal is hot and cold to the touch, also metal explansion can be a problem. Although I like the large metal toyo boards, I had a small problem getting the lensboard out of a Canham 11 x 14 camera here in the desert...(wonderful camera) ... the metal expanded enough that we had to remove the back and push the lens board out from the rear....metal to wood...I have both leather and synthetic bellows, I like the synthetic....bellows weight and sag have to be dealt with and the lighter the bellows the better...

    I would base the 7 x 17 on a good 5 x 7 design.

    Good luck Barry and keep up the good work!

    A tripod head would be nice....one designed for the camera...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 11, 2007
  25. spongeboy

    spongeboy Member

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    I really like Kerry Thalmann's "Franken"-Arca 7x17 conversion and I (personally) might one day start there if I decide to go anywhere near that format....(having accumulated a variety of spare older Arca bits (form 4x5s and 5x7s...) that could be modified like Kerry's. I like the lightweight but solid engineering elegance of the Arca type design. It really works well for me.

    A bit off topic: If anyone were to machine nice 4x5 standard frames from aluminium to replace the old plastic ones I'd be interested....
     
  26. robsoe

    robsoe Member

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    A 7x17 camera which one can change the orientation of the back from horizontal to vertical and vice versa easily would be nice. I think it would need a back that can be attached to the focusing base on either the long or short side (field changeable) and a higher front standard to accommodate the vertical orientation.