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  1. #1

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

    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. #2
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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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. #3
    keithwms's Avatar
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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.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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  4. #4

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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.
    Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI

    So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004

  5. #5

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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. #6

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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. #7

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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. #8
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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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. #9
    jeffzeitlin's Avatar
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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. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by frotog View Post
    I'd either get in better shape or buy an f series monorail for about half of what Canham wants for his hobbyist piece.
    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!

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