Van Neck Press Camera

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Steve S, Sep 11, 2010.

  1. Steve S

    Steve S Member

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    I have just acquired a nice 9x12 Van Neck press outfit with 6 inch Ross f4.5 Ross Xpres, 4 inch f4 wide angle Ross Expres and 11.5 inch f5.5 Teleros lenses. While I am waiting for film to arrive ( I thought I would give Adox 50 a go) I wonder if anyone has any experience of using this camera and or/lenses. From the little documentation I have found it would appear that no two cameras were exactly the same as the company made customisation a selling point. However the design is based on the Goerz Anschutz with extra refinements. I would be particularly interested to know how the press man of the 1940s managed to focus his telephoto lens other than by having a damn good eye for distance. Although the camera has a glass focusing screen this needs to be removed prior to insertion of the plate so it would have been highly impractical for reportage.
     
  2. Steve S

    Steve S Member

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    Picture of Van Neck Press Camera

    Just a picture that might jog a memory or two
     

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  3. leighmarrin

    leighmarrin Member

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    Steve, very NICE camera! Never seen one before... I've used Maximar-type 9x12cm plate cameras with 13.5cm lenses, and was able to guess-focus most of the time, but a telephoto would be challenging. Regarding the ease of use for reportage, there were 9x12cm film packs available that held ten or so sheets, which would have been much faster than single-plate holders.

    Does your FP shutter still work? I've read that the German-style LF focal plane shutters don't seem to hold up as well as the Graflex. There are at least four or five slightly different types of 9x12cm plate holders: wonder which one yours takes? Hopefully it's the most common type which fits the Maximar/Avus/Reccomar models.
     
  4. Steve S

    Steve S Member

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    Yes, the focal plane shutter seems to be working well. It took me a while to work out how to set it though. Essentially the slit width is set first and this is the difficult bit as it involves depressing the shutter cocking knob during winding until you feel it disengage. It can then be set into one of several notches which adjust the slit width. Once this is done you continue to wind until the shutter is cocked. There is a separate small knob at the base of the camera which adjusts the shutter tension. By combining the tension settings with a particular slit width, a number of speeds are available to the user.
    The camera came with three single plate holders also marked Van Neck which were obviously made for the camera as they are a very nice snug fit. You could well be right about the film packs as both the focusing hood and the back are removable. Indeed the way the back attaches is very similar to the universal back seen on the Graphics and MPP cameras alhough it does not have the brackets to hold a roll film back. I think as long as any film holder will fit physically, then there is every chance that it will be held in place securely by the spring tension on the back. I would need to check this though.
     
  5. Steve S

    Steve S Member

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    Just another point about the plate holders. They do not slide in on rails like other plate holders I have seen. They just fit into the space in the same way as a modern Fidelity 5x4 holder would and are held in place under spring tension like a modern back. They are however of about the same thickness as traditional metal single plate holders.
     
  6. leighmarrin

    leighmarrin Member

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    Steve, a fascinating camera, and great that the FP shutter still works. So the ground glass slides off, but there are leaf springs that hold the plate holder in place? Are the edges of the plate holder grooved or plain? Should you want to find more holders, you might want to check the APUG Plate Camera forum, as there is a "sticky" there on the many variants of 9x12cm holders.
     
  7. Steve S

    Steve S Member

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    Thanks for the link Leigh on the 9x12 plate holders. I need to read this closely to check for possible alternatives. The edges of the VN plate holder are plain as in the pic attached. I also have an old Soviet grooved plate holder which appears to fit although my double plate holders are too thick for the back to close properly. I have also attached a picture of the back which shows the latch arrangement along the top edge. Unlatching allows the back to drop open, the GG to be removed and the plate holder to be dropped in. Closing the back causes to springs to clamp the plate holder in tightly and the latch stops the back springing open.
     

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  8. leighmarrin

    leighmarrin Member

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    Steve, is the latch the shiny rectangle in the bottom-center? Or is that just the release for the GG hood? The latch and springs sound like quite an improvement over the basic Maximar slide-off system so many plate cameras used. Using my 9x12cm plate cameras I've run into occasional light leaks from the felt light trip, but I think the springs on yours might lessen the chance of that problem. Great if they'll accomodate several of the other variant 9x12cm holders.

    --Leigh.
     
  9. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Fomafoto sell 9x12 film and postage to the UK is quite reasonable & fast, not sure if Matt at AgPhotographic has 9x12 in stock.

    You need film inserts for the plate holders ideally, I have been trying to get some new ones made (in the UK) but my usually source for metal parts doesn't work with steel thin enough. There's nothing complex.

    Your plate holders appear to be reasonably standard but there are rather a number of variations. It's rather hit & miss buying them as usually sellers don't show the dimensions etc very well.

    Great camera, looks very nice & fairly unusual.

    Ian
     
  10. Steve S

    Steve S Member

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    Hi Leigh,The shiny rectangle is as you say just the release for the viewing hood. The latches are on the top edge and are not too obvious. Once released they allow the back to drop down on a hinge. I have attached another picture showing the back open and the GG partially removed, so that the plate can be inserted. This should make the whole operation clearer.
    Ian, I have ordered from AG Photographic and there is a slight delay at present on 9x12 size film. These VN holders seem to most resemble the Linhof type but are slightly longer being 100mm x 150mm. I was thinking that I would use some thin rigid plastic, slightly thinner than the original glass plates to line the holders and ensure flatness.
     

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  11. Matt_Bigwood

    Matt_Bigwood Member

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    Hi Steve, I recently got hold of a working VN with a Ross 6in f/4.5 lens. The shutter curtain has some pinholes which need attention, and I've managed to get some adapters to use cut film in the plate holders. I was lucky enough to have a lesson from a retired press photographer who used one in the 1950s and he showed me how to set the various shutter slit widths and tensions.

    I was surprised that the back had to be unclipped each time to insert the slide - not as easy as the 5x4 sprung backs.

    Mat
     
  12. Newsman

    Newsman Member

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    Hello Steve, just found your post about a VN. Hope you don't mind a comment or two. I have three or four including an unusual 'boxed-in' version without bellows. The VN was my first professional camera and taught me a lot, especially covering news. With a single plate you only had one chance so it had to be right, first time, every time. Distances were by judgement and so was exposure. If there were six jobs to do they were usually done on six plates, with maybe an extra just in case. Adding a flashgun brought a whole new avenue to explore: a Phillips PF60 could light a street,providing it fired. Usually it was necessary to lick the contacts on the base. Never was sure if this was a technical advantage or just the result of a session in the Star Inn, in Westgate Road.
    If I can help you with further research (although my knowledge is rather limited) please ask.
    regards
     
  13. Steve S

    Steve S Member

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    Van Neck Update

    Hi Newsman,
    The VN has developed into a bit of a project for me since my initial post and I have been trying to find as much as I can about both the cameras and the company. There is a review of the camera in the BJP Almanac of 1934 which is very complimentary and it would seem that the new VN Press had improved features over the 1933 model.They were very impressed with the speed at which plates could be changed and its robust construction. For such a popular camera though information is scarce both regarding the cameras and the company history.
    I now have two earlier models of the camera in addition to the later model that started this thread and no camera is exactly the same. I also have the remains of a boxed in version too. This has no lens and the shutter winding knob is missing.See Pic. I would be keen to know what lens your boxed in version carries and any views you have on why the boxed (or fixed front) version was developed.Particularly do you think this was a model in its own right or always a conversion from a bellows camera. As you can see the lens mount on mine would appear to have housed a longer than standard lens which suggests it may have been for sports use.
    I haven't been in 'The Star' on Westgate Road for years!!
    Cheers, Steve
     

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  14. Newsman

    Newsman Member

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    Hello again Steve. The boxed in VN I have has a f4.5 Tessar 15cm and seems longer than yours and tapers. Needs some work doing on the blind but otherwise good condition. The only instruction manual I have ever found ran to all of two small pages with a price list on the back.
    regards
     
  15. K.L.

    K.L. Member

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    V.N.

    High Steve .I used this model of V.N. camera while working on a newspaper in Wales in the 1960,s It was a good training ground for estimating distances and exposure. I had a screw on compure shutter for electronic flash when the back blind was fixed open. I only used the telephoto lens a few time just to get pictures if I couldnot get near.This was the ground glas screen as described. I regret I have not got this model but I have the baseboard model I moved onto before going on to 120 roll film then 35mm