Thoughts on Canam 5x7 wood vs metal and 6x17 back

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Don Dudenbostel, Feb 5, 2008.

  1. Don Dudenbostel

    Don Dudenbostel Member

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    For those with experience with the Canam cameras I would appreciate their thoughts on the 5x7 / 4x5 wood camera and the all metal versions. Also if you have any comments on the 6x17 back it would be appreciated.

    For those who have used a variety of field cameras please give your opinion on other models. My primary interest is 5x7 with lenses from 72mm xl SA to the 720 Nikkor Tele. I know this covers the full range but this is the spectrum of lenses that I use. I currently have a Shin Hao and like it and will keep it and a Sinar Norma 4x5 with a 5x7 interchange kit. The Sinar is tops but a little bulky and heavy for field use particularly in 5x7. I owned a Linhof master Technika for about 30 years and loved the camera. I also had a Baby Deardorff 4x5 and a very early 5x7 Deardorff. My 8x10 that i've used over thirty five years is a Deardorff. As you can see I like the Deardorff cameras but they're not particularly good for wides. Like a fool I sold the Baby D. and the Techniks a few years ago when i thought there was no need for film again. Wrong, I'm back using film 100% for my art and documentary work and only using digital for my commercial work.

    Your thoughts are appreciated!
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    My first thoughts are why 5x7. Modern 5x4 film is so good if you enlarging, and you also shoot 10x8 why bother

    As for 6x17, I'm glad I bought a 6x17 camera forget messing around with backs for LF cameras, just go the whole hog, the results are amazing.

    Ian
     
  3. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I'm not a Canham user, I wish I were. Perhaps I should write and see if he will give another Keith a break! But two comments:

    Ian, I use a 5x7 GG even with 4x5 because I find the framing more convenient, especially for ultrawide when I am getting near the image circle. It's a bit like "seeing around" your composition with a rangefinder- some people love it, some people don't care. I often frame in 5x7 even if I'm shooting 4x5 and then switch to the 4x5 back for taking. Also, I think there is something very special about 617 and it's nice to keep that option open without having to use some enlarging contraption. I like 612 as well, but 617 has something special about it, and it needn't be done with rollfilm, one can argue for two stacked pano frames on one 5x7 sheet rather than a pricey 617 roll back or separate camera. My parting shot is that 5x7 gives two formats in one compact package- when traveling, it's very nice just to have the 4x5 back there and do quickloads with that, while going to 5x7 for other things. Anyway I am sure that you know all these arguments very well, I am just saying....

    Second comment, which I admit is equally unrelated to the fine Canham gear: if you can afford the metal camera (in terms of cost and portability) then my feeling is that metal will almost always give better stability. Particularly if you are looking at big long lenses and process lenses and such, the metal 5x7 seems like the better option to me.
     
  4. mark

    mark Member

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    Ian,

    4x5 and 8x10 are too square. The 5x7 format just feels better to most. I have all three and prefer the shape of the 5x7.
     
  5. Michael Kadillak

    Michael Kadillak Member

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    The reason that you use 5x7 is because of the wonderful proportions and the fact that it is large enought to be effective as a contact print. The camera is not excessively larger or heavier than 4x5 and many of the lenses that one would use for 4x5 also cover quite nicely.

    I have used the Canham 5x7 wood and metal and like every camera each has their strength and weaknesses. It I had a hankering for 6x17 and wanted to shoot wide angle lenses I would probably opt for the metal camera as it is pretty easy to use toward these objectives. The rear standard on the metal camera locks down from the bottom rear axis and if used correctly, will make marvelous images. I will point of that you need to remember that this is NOT a Linhof. At the same time it is also about 1/3 the weight and Keith designed certain compromises in his cameras.

    The wooden model is also a great camera with some counterintuitive controls
    that once learned, are with you going forward.

    I would suggest that you get on the phone and talk directly to Keith on the phone as he a great asset in the process of making the right decision for you. I have several of his cameras and enjoy them all.

    Cheers!
     
  6. Don Dudenbostel

    Don Dudenbostel Member

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    Thanks for everyones thoughts.

    The reason for not lugging the 8x10 very often is simply size and weight. I still take it out but not as much as when I was 25 years old. 35 years later the thing seems heavier and larger. It's not just the camera but the lanesa, tripod and a case of holders. Also I gave my 8x10 enlarger away eight years ago when I moved my studio and went digital. Now I have less space and a great 5x7 Durst enlarger and love it.

    As mentioned I like the 5x7 aspect ratio better than the 4x5/8x10. The 3x1 aspect ratio of 6x17 is a pleasing format to me. I have a 6x17 fuji with the fixed 105mm and have shot that for about 12 years. I just find the 105 too limiting and want longer glass on it. A 5x7 is the only option really unless I deceide to spring $7k for the Ebony 617 (very unlikely). IMO the 5x7 is like three cameras in one. I have the option of 5x7. 6x17 and 4x5 with plenty og bellows for any of my lenses.

    Now it comes down to wood vs metal. I'm a traditional kind of guy and metal just doesn't seem right but then I'm not too old to learn new tricks. One thing I do like about the wood camera is the ability to interchange backs like 4x10 which seems very appealing. I don't plan to get another 8x10 enlarger but I can scan the negs and digitally print. Many options.
     
  7. frotog

    frotog Member

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    I have owned both the wood and the metal canham's. Although I have not used either camera w/ the 617 back, I can say that the wood camera feels sturdier than the metal. After having used a lotus 57 and a Phillips I can't recommend purchasing either of the two Canhams. Lack of detents, zero points and a generally inferior build and design would definitely leave me reconsidering if I were back in the market for a 57/45 field. I had serious lens stage/film stage alignment problems with my wood camera (and large repair bills from kbc who never figured out the problem to my satisfaction ultimately telling me that I should just stop my lens down and not ask so much from the camera!) subsequently giving up on this camera once I got a sinar p2 monorail. Camera weight is obviously not as big a concern with me as much stability, control and ease of use. If I was one of those photo-backpackers who worries about an extra 5 - 10 lbs I'd either get in better shape or buy an f series monorail for about half of what Canham wants for his hobbyist piece.
     
  8. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I've been shooting for about 2 years now with a Canham 5x7 woodfield. I'm sorry frotog had the problems with his that he did- I have had none of the sort. Once you get over the hump of learning the controls on the Canham, it is just fine and dandy for field use. I even went so far as to add the 5x12 back to mine. THAT is a very nice format and proportion. I find the 3:1 just a little too long and skinny- the 5x12 is a 2.4:1 which is just enough more square. My Canham has been rock solid, easy for a user to maintain and adjust in the field when needed (I bought mine quite used, and had to adjust the tension on the locking mechanisms - all it required was a single hex-wrench).
     
  9. jeffzeitlin

    jeffzeitlin Subscriber

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    I too shoot with the Canham 5x7 woodfield and love it. I have had a number of LF cameras Ebony - Deardorff in sizes from 4x5 - 8x10. I find the 5x7 a perfect format for my needs and the Canham easy to uses and very stable. It lets you do what you want to do without hassles. Also, I use the 6x17 back - again easy to use and very nice to have in the field. For the woodfield it slides into the cut film holder position with the ground glass guard in place - works great. I can honestly say I am a true Canham fan and thinking about a 7x17 or 5x12.
     
  10. Michael Kadillak

    Michael Kadillak Member

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    How many American camera makers do we have that you can you pick up the phone and talk directly to the owner at a moments notice to kick the can or secure service? Keith Canham will be the first one to tell you that in the LF camera making business there is no perfect design or there would only be one camera manufacturer. Are any of his cameras perfect? No. But they are an excellent compromise of weight, functionality and stability. That said there will always be Linhof at one side of the weight and stability equation and at the other end there will be cameras like the Toho and many price and options in between. The beauty of this mix is that we are very fortunate to have a vibrant selection of LF cameras to chose from. If a Canham does not work for you that is fine. But these cameras are far from deserving of your "hobbyist piece" addage above. Many professionals use these cameras daily across the globe to make simply marvelous images.

    Cheers!
     
  11. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    Just curious why you think the Deardorff isn't a good camera for wide lenses... I regularly use it down to 90mm without a recessed lensboard and have used a 47mm on mine with a recessed lensboard.
     
  12. panastasia

    panastasia Member

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    I'm a MF photographer, almost totaly, and I use a small 2x3 view camera when I need more control.

    When I have thoughts about working in LF I think of 5x7 as the best jump from 2x3. 4x5 jump from 2x3 seems to be more like a 6x4.5cm jump from 35mm - although the difference in quality is noticeable, I prefer something more extraordinary - therefore, it's 5x7 or larger for my satisfaction (w/o enlargement).
    My 2 cents.
     
  13. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    "My first thoughts are why 5x7. Modern 5x4 film is so good if you enlarging, and you also shoot 10x8 why bother"

    The reasons for 5x7 over 4x5 have to do more with aspect ratio, and size of contact prints than with film quality. 5x7 contact prints are a wonderful size for viewing at reading distance. They also don't require such a large mat and frame when on the wall. The greater length to width of the image makes them more pleasing to many people.

    I own and use just about every size of sheet film camera from 2 1/4x 3 1/4 to 7x17. My favorite is 5x7 and it accounts for 75-80% of all my images.

    As an aside, I also sell more 5x7 prints than all other sizes combined. Something about easier to display on the average living room wall.
     
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  15. panastasia

    panastasia Member

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    I'm curious, how does your 5x7 camera compare in weight to the RB67 (6-8LBS) less tripod?
     
  16. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    The Canham wood field weighs the same as the RB67. Body only is 6 lbs, add in anywhere from .5-2.0 lbs for the lens.
     
  17. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Panastasia, regarding rb67 weight versus 4x5 or 5x7 LF, I think weight is kind of moot for me because the times that I take the rb out for field stuff is when it is windy and I have to leave the large-bellows cameras at home!

    The rb lenses are, of course, much heavier than the comparable LF lenses. So, I find that a typical LF kit with three lenses comes out way lighter than would an rb with three! But, boy, sometimes the rb is the only thing I'd use. Windy weather, low light... rapid shooting on roll film, or sheet for that matter.
     
  18. Don Dudenbostel

    Don Dudenbostel Member

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    There's no one format that i favor over another. I pick the camera to fit the need. 35mm to 8x10, whatever works for what I'm doing. Personally my feeling is I use the largest neg and slowest film, within reason, that I can use under the particular conditions I'm shooting under. Weather, people and light are certainly factors and now that I'm almost 60 weight and distance I carry it is too.

    Thanks for all of your thoughts. I've about settled on the Canham 5x7 wood.
     
  19. panastasia

    panastasia Member

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    I hear that!
    Me too!

    The camera sounds interesting, I'll need to consider one, also.

    "The Flying Camera", thanks for the weight comparison.
     
  20. Don Dudenbostel

    Don Dudenbostel Member

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    Wanted to say thanks again. I finally settled on the Canham and found a deal on a used one. I debated springing for the Ebony or getting another 4x5 special Deardorff. Just before i was going to order the Deardorff i checked eeeebay and found a real deal. It's a minty Canham wood with a 4x5 and 5x7 back plus a bag bellows and 2 boards. It also has the GG protectors for both and a bunch of 4x5 and 5x7 holders. Didn't need the holders but the price was right. I picked it up for $2200 which I thougt was a very good price.

    One other factor that influenced me was the ability to use the 6x17 roll back. I'll probably pick one up later this year. Also the ability to interchange to 4x10 and 5x12. Probably won't go 5x12 but the 4x10 is attractive.

    Thanks for your help!
     
  21. Ted Harris

    Ted Harris Subscriber

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    You won't be sorry. I've been using a Canham 57/45 Wood for over ten years. I find it solid and rigid. I generally refer to it as a metal camera in a wooden box.
     
  22. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    Well said Michael. I have only used the Canham 4x5, and I must agree with almost everything that has been opined. All cameras have pros and cons. Keith has built his camera to be as light weight as possible, and to allow the use of as many lenses as practical without the use of a bag bellows. One must get used to the controls, and such controls must be carefully locked before the film holder is inserted ( as is the case with all LF cameras of course ). Of the controls that are more prone to be over looked I have found the lever controlling rear swing to need checking regularly or a small bit of play will make the edges of the negative a bit soft. However the camera is quick and easily set up and collapsed, has more movements that most of us will use, and is certainly cost effective. Indeed, that auction site almost always has a selection of Canham cameras in good condition, and serious money can be saved. Moreover, Keith himself often answers the phone, and is available to help and advise.

    Edwin
     
  23. Don Dudenbostel

    Don Dudenbostel Member

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    Now the wait for it to arrive. Hopefully tomorrow will be the day.

    It seems as though the negative comments have been from folks that don't have much experience with LF. Most all the experienced users are very pro Canham. The Canham company sounds much like the old Deardorff company in Chicago. My 8x10 is a rare one that there were only 5 made. It originally has a no FS model and i wanted to add the front swing standard. I called Deardorff one day (back in the mid 70's) and Jack Deardorff answered the phone. I told him what I wanted to do and he explained that there were only 5 cameras in a transition that had the correct dimensions and they knew where three of the cameras were. I measured the camera on his request and shure enough I had number four. I sent a check for the parts and after a couple of month they hadn't come. I called again and jack answered the phone. He explained that the metal parts had come form the plating company but weren't up to their standards. He said they should be back and shipped in a couple of weeks. He was correct and the parts arrived and fit like a glove. About a month later I received a call from Jack asking if everything was to my satisfaction and I said it was. Jack then said I will now deposit your check. What a great company that would wait untill the customer is satisfied fegore depositing the check. Sounds like Canham is in the same class. Not many companies like this today.
     
  24. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    Let us know how you do, and your experience with your new Canham! Regarding the negative comments....I read on APUG once that many negative comments regarding equipment, film, chemicals, etc. were thought to issue from those who have never used the equipment or materials being criticised...

    Edwin
     
  25. sanking

    sanking Member

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    On the other hand some negative comments emerge from extensive experience with the equipment and materials. I have owned ( and used) several Canham cameras, including 7X17 and 12X20 wood models, and metal and wood 5X7. Therefore, you should assume that my comments are based on use.

    With respect to the metal versus wood 5X7, I would recommend the wood version. The metal 5X7 has many wonderful features, but it also has a couple of flaws that are very undesirable.

    One of the flaws is the single lock down feature on the rear that holds the back to the base. Another is the method in which the levers tighten down. If you don't tighten down enough, the bed moves. If you tighten down too much, you ruin the mechanism. On the other hand, the camera is very light, with almost unlimited movements, and has a great bellows. It is also very intuitive in use, i.e. you tighten down levers on the front to lock the front, and levers on the back to lock the back.

    The 5X7 wood Canham, by contrast, is not very intuitive at all. You tighten knobs on the rear and rack from the front, or tighten knobs on the front and rack from the rear. On the whole I would classify it as a very quirk camera that demands a lot of practice to use optimally.

    Good thing is that the 5X7 wood Canham locks down very easily, has a wide range of movements, and great bellows draw.

    On a range of 1-10, I rate the metal Canham 7.5, the wood version about 9.0.

    Sandy King
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 19, 2008
  26. frotog

    frotog Member

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    Sorry to have gotten under your wig Mahler_1. I thought the OP wanted honest opinions, even if they run afoul with the fan club. But clearly once you've ponied up several grand for a camera this is no longer the case - at least for the time being.

    It's entirely possible I got a dog and that not all of his cameras are as poorly put together as mine. It turned out that the front and rear standards diverged 7/100th's of a degree from parallel - something that can be disastrous for critical focus at large aperatures...especially for landscapes enlarged really big