As a robotics engineer, I understand the desire for perfection. As an artist, I suggest you stay with the 35mm. Your upper and lower limits are...
amazingly far apart. So please do the best you can with 35mm (a format I gave up years ago) and keep your hair from graying by not trying to make 4x5 or larger what it cannot be for you.
tim in san jose
Where ever you are, there you be.
You are getting tons of good advice here. I'll just add a couple more things:
Before I start though, a question: You seem a bit reluctant to mention the model of camera you are working with... That might be useful to the discussion. Is there a particular reason you don't want us to know? Now to my comments:
First, if your front standard is really visibly way out of parallel with the back of your camera when in "zero position," there is something drastically wrong. You need a repair or a new camera. But, if it just looks like "maybe it might be out of whack if I agonize over it or feel especially paranoid at the moment," then it is likely just fine. As mentioned by several, a degree or two shouldn't make much difference.
Second, when using a lot of front rise with short lenses on many cameras, especially wooden folders, the compacted bellows will apply pressure to the front standard displacing it from parallel. You need to return the front standard to parallel; that's your job if you own a camera like that and the price you pay for size, weight and portability.
Third, I never rely on the parallelism of back and lens stage. I always check the alignment by checking focus and adjust the lens stage if needed (although often, it is in the correct position). Don't just focus in the center of the ground glass and hope (that's really bad focusing technique). Check the bottom and top of the ground glass to make sure your chosen plane is in focus top-to-bottom. If not, tilt accordingly. Then check both sides of the image to check side-to-side alignment. If they are out, swing accordingly. There you have it. That's basic view-camera technique and simply needs to be done when composing. The only other way to compensate for possible misalignment is to stop down more, usually more than necessary and more than is optimal for minimizing degradation from diffraction.
What I'm saying here, I guess, is that if you use a view camera, you need to accept the work you have to do focusing to make sure the image is properly aligned and focused. That's the price of having image controls.
And, I do think it is a great idea to spend some time with your camera and mark your own zero-settings. I've done this with all of mine. I would, however, not do it on the workbench with measuring tools. The first, step, however, is always making sure the grid on the ground-glass is properly aligned with the film position, which I do do on the workbench with measuring tools. Then I take my cameras into the field, find a modern well-built and obviously plumb building to use as a subject and then set up my camera and, using the grid on the ground glass, I find the right position for the back (the grid will not lie if you've spent the time aligning it correctly). Then, using my focusing technique, I position the front standard swings/tilts so all is in focus on the ground glass. I then mark new zero indicators if they are off from the factory detents or markings. You can note any discrepancies in level readings at this time as well and them if possible.
I've mounted levels on several cameras that came without them and used this technique as well. When the image is properly aligned to the grid, the back is in the right position. I shim and mount the levels so they read correctly.
I spent a few hours last night with the lens aligner, right angles, levels etc getting everything squared up and marking my own "zero" lines. That will have to do. To zero the front swing I put markings on the rails the front standard slides on (there is enough play for a few degrees rotation before locking it down) rather than on the swing adjustment itself. But I'm rethinking that now. Perhaps I should make the adjustments to the swing mechanism. Probably the same result in the end. The camera has good spirit levels on both standards so I think I will just have to use them more than I have in the past.
To address some of Mark's questions, I'm a stickler for detail in my prints - however I don't print 4x5 negatives larger than 11x14, and more often the prints are 8x10. So I have that working in my favour.
Doremus: The first view camera I had, and used for many years, was a Sinar A1. I bought it when I first got into LF in the early 90s and at that time Sinar was offering it at comparatively reasonable prices as an entry level camera. The camera I have now is a Walker SF. I didn't want to risk trashing a good name in error, and based on this discussion I have to conclude the camera is fine and my expectations of a field camera of this type (do-it-all, highly flexible) were simply too high.
I agree with everything that has been said here about technique, in particular good focusing technique which is critical to view camera operation. I suppose I'm just expecting a little too much "help" from the camera in making setup in the field as efficient as possible. Much of my photography is done at night under - let's just say not the safest - conditions. As practiced and fast as I was ever able to get with LF, I've always wondered if one of the high end cameras would in fact eliminate the usual need to, for example, check focus around the ground glass (not always easy to see under low light conditions) instead of just the middle when no tilts or swings were applied. All the checking and rechecking adds up.
I'm not sure there's a right answer here. Perhaps a dedicated camera for the more architectural/wide angle work. Perhaps a high end, albeit huge and heavy monorail that can do everything with more precision than a field/technical design. Or perhaps I just stick with what I've got and rely more on my eyes even when it is difficult to see anything.
That Horseman looks like an interesting camera. I have to admit I never really considered Horseman before. I've really only ever looked seriously at Linhof, Arca, Sinar, and the Toyo VX125.
Last edited by Michael R 1974; 09-28-2012 at 11:02 AM. Click to view previous post history.
I have to second IC's recommendation for using a laser and a reflector to dial in parallel standards. As a landscape photographer who likes to shoot horizons from high vantage points I know what it means to have your standards set straight. This is especially important if you're using aperatures larger than f22.
Not long ago I had my sinar overhauled by a well-known repair man who has the reputation for being the best sinar guy in the states. I trusted that he set up the zero detents properly and ended up getting burned when the negs came back from the lab. Turned out that the well-known repair man did not get things straight. When I returned the p2 to him I was shocked to discover that he could not measure or even determine that the detents were out. Eventually the camera came back with better, but no perfect, zero detents.
So I use my versalab from the drkrm. to set the standards before shooting big landscapes with my sinar 5x7 and a 150mm lens at f16. And no, you cannot see the minute amount of fall-off from perfect focus in the ground glass when you're stopped down let alone wide open (unless you're lucky enough to have a grainless bosscreen) so being able to mechanically determine that the standards are zeroed is essential to critical focus.
Interestingly, this a thought I've been having for a while now. I'm using a Cambo SCII and not too happy with using it and short lenses (generally a 90mm in my case). I'd be interested in what you may learn to be a better camera platform for short lenses. Interestingly, though, my limited experience with shooting architecture has pointed me toward less assistance from the camera markings/detents for alignment/adjustment and almost total reliance on the ground glass image. I always like to start from a zero-zero position and put in movements from there, but that zero-zero position seems to only need to be approximate in most cases.
Originally Posted by Michael R 1974
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Originally Posted by Michael R 1974
I don't mean this in a snarky way but, sincerely, if you are not happy with the Sinar and Walker Titan SF, you will not be happy with any of the others either. I've personally owned probably twenty view cameras of all makes now, including a Sinar F2 and a Walker SF45. None of them were perfect. They all have something to dislike about them. However, my only complaint about the Walker was the weight...it was, very simply, far and away the best, most rigid and accurate of the lot. The only camera that has ever even come close in terms of rigidity and accuracy was an old Sinar Norma...there was an old Toyo 45G monorail that was pretty good too....but, seriously, the Walker, is way better than most. I regret selling mine. (If you want to sell yours, please drop me a PM ) Unless your Walker fell off the top of the car while you were doing 65MPH on the freeway or something...I just cannot imagine anything seriously wrong with it that would cause any trouble. Frankly, I think you should probably toss 4x5 and just shoot 35mm...life is short.
Last edited by BradS; 09-28-2012 at 11:27 AM. Click to view previous post history.
I think Brad is making a great point here Michael, your comments/complaints seem to me to be about "the nature of the typical LF beast".
Originally Posted by BradS
Seems to me that you might be happier shooting an RB/RZ with a 50 and then using an enlarger with movements rather than a camera with movements.
Theres more than one way to skin a cat.
Last edited by markbarendt; 09-28-2012 at 11:01 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
frotog: Not being able to really see the slight focus falloff (especially under low light conditions) is exactly what I'm talking about, and why camera alignment is (or should be) important.
BrianShaw: It's a tough call. Early in the year when I was researching the Walker cameras, it took me quite a long time to decide whether to get the SF or the XL. The XL is made for wide angle work. It has a fixed back, plenty of movements on the front (same as the SF) with a generous amount of rise, etc, and is a non-folding design (which I actually prefer to a folding camera). This would be a little easier to align, but in the end you'd still have to check the front. I decided on the SF because I wanted a more versatile camera. I find back tilt often useful in landscapes, and I don't only use wide angle lenses (the XL won't really take a lens longer than 150-180mm). I think for hardcore architecture and/or super wide angle work perhaps something like a Cambo Wide might be an interesting option. But these are really special purpose cameras in my opinion. A more flexible high-end monorail is probably a good bet for really precise all-purpose work. The Arcas seem really good.
BradS: I was never sure if the A1 was as precise as the higher end F and P models. I had no way of knowing, but I guess it was probably as good. The Walker is indeed rigid and strong as hell, which is one of the things I liked about it.
BradS/Mark: That was the point of the thread. Not having owned many different LF cameras it is difficult to know if the flaws I observe are in fact the nature of the beast or are unique to a particular camera/make. Not knowing that makes it tough to decide whether or not it is worth the money to eventually "upgrade" to one of the higher end cameras. I love large format film, so if it is the nature of the beast, I'm ok with that - although I still think in general these things should be more precise for the money they cost. Essentially I'm trying to figure out if it's worth exploring cameras which might make things a little easier, balanced with the cost involved.
May I suggest that, if you do decide to try another camera, hold on to the Walker (or, sell it to me). I really do not think you'll find a better camera in terms of rigidity, dimensional stability and accuracy. Don't bother with an Arca Swiss...it is a nice camera...but, based upon what you've said here, I really believe that you would find it quite disappointing.
The Sinar F2 was a very nice camera but, it is not in the same league as the Walker in terms of rigidity. The F2 seems quite fragile in comparison. It was also less convenient to use with short focal lengths than the Walker. The Sinar really needs a bag bellows to make effective use of even a 90mm. I had a bag bellows for the Walker...and never used it. No need.
It is funny. After all these cameras...the one I have settled on and absolutely love is a Canham DLC45 and the only camera that I truly regret selling is the Walker SF45. They are worlds apart.
Brad, some surprising (to me) things in your post.
First, although I agree the Walker is pretty rigid, even in the front standard when fitted with my whopper 90mm XL, I'm quite surprised you're saying the F2 was less rigid. I'm assuming you mean there was more "flex" in the standards since they are base-supported? All the Sinars are similar in that way, but is a P more rigid, or basically the same thing?
What specifically would I find disappointing about an Arca - say an F-Metric or M-Monolith type? The factory alignment/detents are out?
I looked into the Canham DLC2 when I was researching the Walker. Some people had reported rigidity issues, particularly with the back. No idea if that is correct or not. I had a hard time making that decision because the DLC and the Walker are really the only field cameras in that price range with that much flexibility. As you correctly pointed out, considering the Walker is a folding field camera, it is surprisingly easy to use with anything from a 90 to a 400 without even changing the bellows or using a recessed board. I purchased the recessed board and bag bellows, but even with a 72mm XL I don't need the recessed board.