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LF + Panoramic Back

robdeszan

Member
Hello all,
I've been badly hit by a panoramic bug again. I am completely new to LF even though I have been shooting film all my life (35mm & MF).

I am not a fan of sweeping wide angle panoramas, so I am looking at a camera that can offer a minimum of 135mm or 180mm (the latter being the preferred option) focal length as well. Furthermore, 617 is not particularly my cup of tea either and I am particularly drawn to 612 or 614/615. Furthermore (2), given the preference for longer focal lengths, the ability to focus on a ground screen is a must.

I am aware of the ShenHao panoramic backs which seem to tick all the above boxes (format and focusing on a ground screen between shots) but I am completely lost when it comes to choosing the right (light weight / wooden? / field?) camera, the choice is overwhelming to say the least... Would I need any other accessories to fit the back as well?

I would appreciate any advice from those who have used the back and could point out any gotchas I should be aware of.

Many thanks!

Best,
Pat
 
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anyone

Well-known member
Hi Pat,

I use a Horseman 6x12 back on a Chamonix C45f-2 wooden field camera and can recommend the combination. The back fits without any accessories.
 

MartinN

Active member
Yes, Graflock 6x12 backs are nice and calibrated to the LF cameras ground glass. If you want something luxurious you can consider the Sinar Zoom roll film holder, that can be slid under the ground glass, without removing it (like you have to with Graflock backs).
 

MartinN

Active member
BTW, I always prefer more compact cameras than a strictly old-fashioned wooden field cameras. The cheapest cameras are Graflex Crown Graphic and Speed Graphic. A step up is Toyo or Horseman metal field cameras. And on top Linhof Technica, but one should make sure with all cameras that they have Graflock backs, other are useless.
 

anyone

Well-known member
Be aware, the Sinar Zoom comes with the pitfall that it is rather large and heavy. I had one and sold it away because of that reason.

Edit: I now re-read your post, and am wondering whether you are looking for a camera that is panorama "only", or for a 4x5" camera that also shoots panoramic images? My post refers to the latter: a wooden, light-weight field camera that you can operate with 4x5" and the panoramic back. I have no experience with dedicated panoramic field cameras.
 
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MartinN

Active member
Like you probably know, the long lenses can be big and heavy. There are some telephoto 4x5 lenses that are smaller and require much less bellows draw. But the image circle is restricted to 4x5.
 

Shashin

Well-known member
I used a Horseman 6x12 back on a Wista VX 4x5 metal flatbed view camera. It is a really nice back. It is a grafloc and easy to mount and remove. I simply masked the ground glass on the Wista for framing. It is the same back used on a Horseman SW612, a camera I also owned. I never noticed a problem with film flatness.

BTW, the Horseman is a true 2:1 ratio; the film gate is 56mm x 112mm (note 6x6 is 56mm x 56mm). Some Chinese backs are not standard with one back I am aware of being 56mm x 120mm.

All of the 4x5 cameras I have ever owned could use lenses up to 300mm. I used 210mm on my Wista without any issues. I mostly used a 137mm Optar with the 6x12 back. The only wooden 4x5 cameras that might not work for you is a model designed for wide angle lenses as the extension is shorter. But a regular model should be fine.
 

robdeszan

Member
Thank you All for replying. Some good suggestions for both the camera types and backs. At least I know where to start!

And, yes, the reason for choosing a 4x5 over a dedicated MF panoramic camera is budgetary constraints...
I will be back should I have more questions!
 

Shashin

Well-known member
And, yes, the reason for choosing a 4x5 over a dedicated MF panoramic camera is budgetary constraints...
I will be back should I have more questions!
You might looks at this type of 4x5, which will give more a dedicated panoramic camera experience: DAYI Toyo 4x5

You might need to find a 6x12 optical finder and your lenses will need their own cone, but it might be a good option.
 

MartinN

Active member
I just picked up a Sinar Vario. Definitely a quality product. Seems to function perfectly and not that heavy. Even locks into place under the GG on my light Graflex Crown Graphic. Happy:)
 

robdeszan

Member
I am almost ready to bite the bullet on a 4x5 Toyo plus 6x17 but (bear in mind that I have not shot LF before) I am a bit concerned about shooting LF in more extreme conditions (I am talking mountains, wind, rain etc.). I have had lights on stands blown and blasted to smithereens in gentle wind, I can only imagine what a beautiful sail the bellows would make! While people have done it for over a century with even bigger cameras, I know, a dedicated 6x17's cone is a bit more streamlined and could be more resilient to gusty winds & vibration. What do you think?
 
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GregMO

Member
I shoot a lot of 617 along with 5x7 & some 4x5 & 8x10. I own a dedicated 617 (Gaoersi 617 shift) for the past 9 years. The 617 can be used in weather conditions (wind/ rain) I would never attempt with a bellows camera.
The helicord for lens mount/ focusing does have some limitations (closeness of focusing & no tilt movements), but is easier/ faster compared to a bellows camera.
I find the shift function to be very useful. Wider lens..ie 90mm allow for more shift then longer lenses due to the camera frame cutting off the image. (1 other aspect a bellows camera handles better).
 

Alan

Member
I've used a Horseman 6x12 back on a Toyo 45a a lot, with 65-210mm lenses - highly recommended. Yes, it's a bit more vulnerable to the wind than a fixed-lens camera, but I've never had much of an issue. I generally wait for a lull between gusts to click the shutter. Using your body to shield the camera helps, as well as hanging your pack from the tripod (just touching the ground so it doesn't pendulum).

Even though it's heavier than a wood camera, I really like the Toyo for packing. It's pretty indestructible when folded, I don't use a case for it in the pack. First pic shows a 90mm on the camera for reference on bellows extension.

Toyo1.jpg Toyo612.jpg
 
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Shashin

Well-known member
A 6x17 back on a 4x5 camera is a bit complicated as you are limited to focal lengths. The 6x17 back is not at the cameras image plane, but extended behind it. I think 6x12 back work on 4x5 cameras much better.

Like Alan, I have used metal 4x5 view cameras in the wind. It can work very well.
 

anyone

Well-known member
In your original post you were mentioning that 6x17 is not your cup of tea. It's indeed a special format: the 3:1 aspect ratio is very wide and consumes a lot of (increasingly expensive) film. For my printing needs, I almost never need the resolution of such a large negative, although it is of course appealing as such and invites also for contact printing :) For this reason, I settled with a cheap(ish) 3D printed camera that of course has its downsides and is in a different league compared to the established cameras of this category like Linhof, Fuji, Fotoman, ...). Bulk is also a concern: these cameras with their dedicated lens cones are rather large.

Coming to your preferred solution, the 6x17 back on a 4x5" camera. I do not own such a back myself but looked in depth into it while ago since I wanted to attach it to my Cambo pancake camera (spoiler: still unclear if it would work with a non-bellows camera. In the end, it was too expensive to just try). The verdict seems to be that it is a bit of a workaround that will complicate the workflow on a bellows camera, but doesn't seem to compromise the results. As Will pointed out, you are limited to certain focal lengths, and you need to take off the original ground glass and use the one of the 6x17 back.

Now coming to the initial thought of using a 6x12 back: as mentioned before, I use two Horseman 6x12 backs, one on my Chamonix wooden field camera, and one on my Cambo technical camera. It's a very established way of shooting 1x2 panoramic images and works flawlessly, as Will and Alan wrote. I can just join in: works as it should. Martin's solution with the Sinar Zoom is in principle similar, with a little bit of a different design philosophy for the film back itself. In the end, I believe you should make up your mind what type of camera you want - in addition to the points made above, the question is about bellows / no bellows, with all their consequences for tilt/ shift possibilities, and specific panoramic camera or general purpose large format camera.

PS: Alan, what kind of strap do you use to fix the backpack to the tripod? Looks like a simple and effective solution which I never thought of to stabilize the tripod.
 
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robdeszan

Member
Thanks for your thoughts,

When I shot Xpan in the past, I used the 45mm and the 90mm. While I generally prefer telephoto takes on landscapes, I always felt the 45mm matched the panoramic format really well, wide but not too wide & without flattening the perspective too much,. Going through multiple shots on flickr taken with 6x17 or 6x12, this is purely subjective, I find that some of the longer focal lengths look too 2-dimensional, compressed, almost like frame crops at times. Perhaps it is the same effect I experienced with the xpan. In the context of 617, I have found the 135mm focal length to have the right amount of balance; on the other hand the 6x12 and a 90mm seems to work well to my eyes.

LF vs a dedicated panoramic camera is really a question of practicality at this stage. I am about minimalism these days (at least for personal work): one camera & one lens. A 6x17 camera with a single cone would work. None of them are point and shoots but the practicality of "whipping out" a camera in the field is certainly a factor for me. Never used lens movement so I will not "miss" them. :)

I need to study those ratios and focal lengths a bit more. I might go on a dedicated trip to try some digital panorama merging using either of those two focal lengths and panoramic ratios.

p.s. Actually, wondering about my preferences, I compared the FOV angle for the relevant panoramic ratios and focal lengths (available here).

90mm in 6x12 format is a 65° angle field of view
135mm in 6x17 is 64°
Xpan's 45mm in 6x6 is 65°

in 35mm terms 65° equals 28mm, which happens to be the most tolerable wide angle for me as well. That's a rather reassuring pattern there :)
 
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anyone

Well-known member
If speed is a concern, there is a world of difference between a fixed cone solution and a bellows camera - minimal setup time (for example for my Malefic 6x17 camera it is mounting on tripod, framing, exposure metering, cocking the shutter, taking the image - focus is most likely infinity/ hyperfocal on very small apertures) vs some setup time (on my Chamonix wooden field camera: mounting camera on tripod, mounting front standard, sometimes change to wide-angle bellows, rough composing and setting focus by adjusting the bellows extension, setting image movements, critical focusing with loupe, possibly under dark cloth, closing the lens, mounting film back, cocking shutter, removing dark slide, taking the image).

PS: there are some active people shooting panorama images in the fun with medium format film images thread)
 
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