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Malefic 6x17 camera - experiences?

ggibson

Well-known member
I've been looking into 6x17 cameras as well. The Malefic seems to be a very affordable point of entry, but I have no direct experience with it. If you have access to a 3D printer and some skills, you might be able to make something similar. I'd guess these types of cameras have some significant limitations compared to more refined (and expensive) options, so it's probably worth considering what you need and what flexibility you require:

- Accurate focusing / grad filters - e.g. Linhof, Da Yi, or bellows cameras have ground glass to aid, others like the Fuji cameras may simply be more accurate with scales than Malefic
- Movements - some have Rise/Fall (mainly important for architecture), bellows cameras also have tilt/swing
- Lens selection - Malefic has a pretty limited range, other cone systems have wider ranges, bellows cameras accept the widest range
- Usability/ruggedness - changing film in the field may be more difficult with some options

One of the most affordable and flexible options I've come across is a 4x5 camera with a Da Yi 6x17 back and ground glass. Basically has most of the above benefits, and you'll be able to shoot 4x5 also.

I'd be really curious to hear more about the Malefic option though. ;)
 

anyone

Well-known member
The limitations in terms of focus are quite clear, but calibrating the camera to infinity focus should be at least straightforward. Combined with typical LF apertures starting from f16, I'm not that worried about focus. What I was worried about is film flatness.

I was able to collect some user opinions, one from a German large format forum, the other one from a friend who uses the camera (among a lot more expensive options like a Shen Hao 617). The latter actually recommended it to me in the first place.

The post in the forum was highlighting that there has been some additional work around the cone to get it completely light-tight. And focus adjustment was mentioned by both. My question about film flatness seems to be not an issue. I also asked for opinions on the Super Angulon 90mm / 8, and whether a center filter is needed, and also that seems to be not the case. Since I have the lens sitting unused in my camera bag (on my 4x5" I use the Rodenstock 90mm 6.8), I might just give it a try.

It seems to fulfill its purpose of making nice pictures.

Although I tend to agree that a 617 back on 4x5" might be the better choice, even though it's bulky and heavy. While the Malefic is also bulky (the film format is big in the end), it's not heavy. So possibly it's better to use when going for hikes.
 

ggibson

Well-known member
Funny enough, I happened across someone selling the Malefic Triplet on a local craigslist ad, so I scooped it up. It came with the lens cone for a Nikkor 90/8 but not the lens, so I purchased one on ebay which should arrive this week. The cones are measured exactly to each individual lens to hit infinity properly and match distance markings provided on the helicoid. Lens cones don't seem too expensive to purchase additionally, so I might buy a 150mm lens to use at some point (the longest lens that works with this camera, apparently).

I also wonder about needing to use a center filter on 90mm. May be ok with negative film, but more difficult with slide film. I guess I'll be trying it without initially.

Overall the camera feels sturdy enough to survive some hiking in a pack. It's incredibly light, which is very neat. I haven't had a chance to load film in it yet. I will probably start with some cheaper B&W film in case I mess something up with the first roll.
 

anyone

Well-known member
I'll be eagerly waiting for your experiences. I just got my Grandagon 90mm that I intend to use with the camera.
 

ggibson

Well-known member
Andrea, the owner of Malefic, just sent an e-mail stating that he will no longer produce the cameras himself. Here's the blog post:

https://www.maleficwares.com/post/dear-friend

A few months back, he started selling the .stl files needed to print the camera on your own, and he's continuing to make that available. So that's good news if you still want one. If you don't have access to a printer, there are 3D printing services (e.g. check out Treatstock) you can hire to at least build the parts for you. It will likely cost more though.

I haven't had time to shoot mine yet. I mounted the lens and measured infinity, which was around halfway between infinity and the 15m mark on the helicoid. Kind of odd since I expected the lens to be matched to the cone. I expect to shoot at something like f22 anyways though for a wide depth of field.
 

anyone

Well-known member
Bummer - without access to a 3D printer (and limited time) the camera won't be accessible to me anymore. Maybe I find a used one at some point of time.
 

jdphoto

Well-known member
I owned a Fotoman 612 and loved that camera. Incredible build and comes in 617 with the ability to flatten film plane by twisting on knobs prior to exposure.
 

anyone

Well-known member
Now it's here. Quite a large piece of gear, nice! I also adjusted to infinity (it was actually quite well aligned in my case), now looking forward to the first shots.
 
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anyone

Well-known member
Instead of film I inserted a sheet of paper with a red marker line. I then focused to infinity as marked on the cone, took another camera with 50mm lens focused to infinity face-to-face with the lens of the Malefic, and then turned the focusing ring of the Malefic until the red marker line was sharp.

Be careful with the tripod mount. Mine unfortunately broke out of the plastic today. Seems I have bad luck with tripod-related stuff these days ( see my thread for the Linhof 3D Micro). I was able to glue the tripod mount back in, but I will from today only use a quick release plate. First film shot, chemicals are getting the right temperature currently, curious to see the results!
 

anyone

Well-known member
The first roll turned out very well! Lovely large negatives. I‘m tempted to do contact prints.
 

ggibson

Well-known member
Aw, bummer about the mount. I saw someone else on flickr had posted about adding a tripod mount to the cone to have two points of contact. Maybe I need to look into that.

I did the infinity test as you mentioned. I found peak sharpness to be between 15m and infinity. Do you know of a way to adjust the helicoid so the markings align? Or is it just a matter of re-marking the different focus points? If I test 5m focus in the same way, will I be able to determine where the lens is focused to 5m?
 

anyone

Well-known member
It was actually not due to the weight, but the tripod screw seemed to be too tight, turning the mount apart while screwing it out.

On my camera, the focus marking are just printed on paper. I just glued a piece of tape over it and marked the new infinity point on it. I would guess that the distances between the markings (e.g. 10m, ...) follow some logic, so I'd just measure those and re-print + glue another scale over it.

Concerning the focusing alignment other than infinity: I do not know if the same method works, maybe worth trying?
 

ggibson

Well-known member
Gotcha, I thought of that, but wasn't sure if there was a better way.

Do you remember where you focused for your shot? And what f-stop?

Also, I'm curious how you found the framing with the viewfinder compared to the final image on film. I compared it to my Sony A7rII and the viewfinder field of view was close to 15mm (with some heavy barrel distortion). From my calculations, a 90mm lens on 6x17 is close to 19mm on 35mm format, so the viewfinder was quite a bit wider. Was that true for you?
 

anyone

Well-known member
My viewfinder has a mask for 90mm, which seems to be okay for arbitrary framing at infinity. I took one shot in my garden, and it was quite a bit off.
I focused to infinity and used f22. And I used a centerfilter for even illumination ... Which seems to be a must for my lens.

I'm surprised about the 19mm on 35mm format. The 90mm really doesn't feel that wide, nowhere as extreme as a 47mm on 4x5".
 

ggibson

Well-known member
It's somewhat hard to compare since the formats have different ratios, but here's the math:

90mm (focal length) / 170mm (film width) = ~.53

.53 * 36mm ("full frame" width) = 19mm (if you crop the height down to the same ratio)

Same calculations for 47mm on 4x5 (102mm x 127mm) put that lens at around 13-14mm, so your sense is correct that it's quite a bit wider.

My viewfinder is also labeled as 90mm with framelines for the 3 formats (mine is the triplet, so it also shoots 6x9 and 6x12... but who would do that?!? :p).
 

anyone

Well-known member
Bummer, the tripod thread broke again. I will need to think of a more elaborate fix this time - simply glueing it back in wasn't very sucessful. It was connected for a few days, then broke again.
 
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