Field Techniques for Technical Cameras – Lenses and Accessories

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    Topic: Field Techniques for Technical Cameras – Lenses and Accessories Read 166 Times
  • Anders Vinberg
    Anders Vinberg
    Silver Member
    Posts: 2
    Medium Format
    on: February 28, 2022 at 11:48 pm

    Fantastic article, very educational. I’m not using technical cameras (I use Fuji GFX100) but I’m thinking of going there. Partially because I love my Leica Q2 Monochrom, and the only monochrome options are Leica M and Phase One. And the kids have their own jobs by now…

    Dave Chew
    Dave Chew
    Silver Member
    Posts: 64
    Re: Field Techniques for Technical Cameras – Lenses and Accessories
    Reply #1 on: March 1, 2022 at 10:34 am

    Hi Anders,

    Thank you for the comments; I am glad you found it helpful. I wish it was easier to demo and experiment with them. The best option is a good dealer that offers several options. Second is to find a photographer friend who has one, but chances are that friend won’t have several for you to compare. At least you would get some understanding of how you get along with them in the field.

    I do hope that the next few articles communicate a bit of that: what to expect when using them in the field.

    Dave

    How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! - John Muir
    https://www.davechewphotography.com
    Find legacy Schneider-Kreuznach Apo-Digitar lens data here: https://www.davechewphotography.com/skdata/

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by Dave Chew.
    Benoit Malphettes
    Benoit Malphettes
    Participant
    Posts: 12
    Re: Field Techniques for Technical Cameras – Lenses and Accessories
    Reply #2 on: March 2, 2022 at 3:32 pm

    Dave, great article. thank you for taking the time to write it.

    I use my Combo technical camera for my still-lifes:  https://www.cambousa.com/benoit-malphettes

    Benoit

    Dave Chew
    Dave Chew
    Silver Member
    Posts: 64
    Re: Field Techniques for Technical Cameras – Lenses and Accessories
    Reply #3 on: March 2, 2022 at 3:57 pm

    Hi Benoit,

    Thank you for the comment. You are very welcome; I am glad to have the opportunity to write about this topic. What wonderful, creative photos on that Cambo page!

    Your comment in the text resonated with me: “When I started my still life project I quickly became very frustrated with being stuck with a camera that only knew fixed parallel planes. I felt like I was working with a shoebox.”

    That mirrors my feelings of liberation when working with technical cameras. I am sure there are come carpenters who feel a nail gun frees them to work better, while others feel an old hammer frees them. I think it is important to find the tools that work with you, no matter what those tools are.

    Ciao,

    Dave

    How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! - John Muir
    https://www.davechewphotography.com
    Find legacy Schneider-Kreuznach Apo-Digitar lens data here: https://www.davechewphotography.com/skdata/

    Michael Scarbrough
    Michael Scarbrough
    Participant
    Posts: 2
    Re: Field Techniques for Technical Cameras – Lenses and Accessories
    Reply #4 on: April 3, 2022 at 4:31 pm

    Dave, terrific article with a wealth of information. I especially appreciated the equipment journey you described, past equipment used, and how you’ve arrived at your current gear selection.

    Will your upcoming article(s) include any discussion regarding tech camera choices?  My personal background is in large format film. Having used Sinar, Linhof, and Arca Swiss cameras in 4×5 and 8×10, I  developed a preference for some version of an on-axis lens tilt, but would love to hear your thoughts on the factors leading to your camera choice. Looking at the differences between Cambo, Alpa, and Arca Swiss tech cameras, a significant difference seems to be how they each provide for tilt/swing, whether base tilt or axis tilt, and the unique focus system for Arca Swiss. While personal choice will ultimately determine what provides the best workflow for each user, can you provide feedback on the considerations that ultimately led to your choice and what may be applicable for others considering purchase of a tech camera?

    Thanks again for sharing your experience and wonderful images!

    Michael

    Dave Chew
    Dave Chew
    Silver Member
    Posts: 64
    Re: Field Techniques for Technical Cameras – Lenses and Accessories
    Reply #5 on: May 1, 2022 at 12:44 am

    Hi Michael,

    First, I apologize for missing your post for so long. I thought I subscribed to all the relevant threads but I missed doing that for this one. I was not planning on more detail associates with camera choice, but perhaps I should. I think there are a few areas that could use more discussion:

    1. As you point out, how tilt is applied in each system and the associated advantages of each approach.
    2. The type and amount of movements that can be done with each system. I touched on this a little, but this is so important it could use additional focus.
    3. Packaging: Weight, space, design, extra parts, accessories, etc.

    Since you brought up tilt, I will add a bit here and start with the three primary helical systems. None of the helical-based systems do true axis tilt. I will orient “x” along the length of the lens and “y” vertically. All three systems (Arca/Alpa/Cambo) tilt at the “y” centerline vertically. Because the adjustment knob is at the top, a lot of people think Alpa tilts from a hinge at the bottom of their tilt adapters but they actually don’t; they tilt on the center line “y” axis just like Arca and Cambo. There is a hinge point in the center of Alpa’s T/S adapters about which the adapter tilts and/or swings. All Cambo’s lens mounts tilt in a similar way. Arca’s tilt that is built into the body is also hinged around the lens axis. So from the standpoint of this “y” axis, all the systems are “axis tilt” not “base tilt.”

    I believe all the bellows-type systems discussed (Arca-Swiss, Cambo Actus, Linhof Techno) can be Axis tilt in that the tilt is designed around the lens board centerline. The tilt mechanism is down below near the base rail, but they are designed to rotate about a radius origin in the middle of the lens board. I think Arca’s default is base tilt, but you can get the optional Orbix for axis tilt.

    None of the helical-based systems tilt along the “x” axis lens centerline; they are all behind the lens to some degree.  Each of the “big three” tilt around different points on their helical systems. Cambo is closest to what would be the “x” axis “lens board” centerline since the tilt mechanism is relatively close to the lens elements. Alpa depends on the lens; shorter lenses are about the same as Cambo, while the longer lenses can be pretty far from the lens elements. Arca-Swiss, being in the camera body, is the furthest away. If axis tilt is important factor, then I would suggest a bellows system since none of the helical based systems have true axis tilt. This has never bothered me too much. Again, the closest helical system to axis tilt would be Cambo. There are two good pages that delve into the details of axis vs base tilt here:

    https://www.largeformatphotography.info/how-to-focus.html

    https://lensnotes.com/articles/principles-of-view-camera-focus/

    For me, the biggest differences in tilt between the helical systems are:

    1. Alpa cannot tilt Schneider lenses wider than 60mm because there is no room for the TS adapter. If you need to tilt with wide Schneider lenses, then Alpa is out.
    2. With Cambo, you have to purchase the tilt shift mount with every lens; this adds cost and weight. With Alpa, you need to purchase the 17mm TS adapter and make sure all your lenses are purchased with the short-barrel (SB) mount version. With Arca-Swiss, you get it for “free” in the camera; no additional accessories needed.
    3. With Alpa, you do have the option to tilt or swing the back as well as the lens by simply moving the TS adapter to the back of the camera.

    You asked about my specific choice: I don’t shoot wide that often so this Schneider limitation was outweighed by some of the other features Alpa has that were more important to me.

    Dave

    Edit: Cleaned this up a lot from the original post; it was late last night!

     

    How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! - John Muir
    https://www.davechewphotography.com
    Find legacy Schneider-Kreuznach Apo-Digitar lens data here: https://www.davechewphotography.com/skdata/

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 4 days ago by Dave Chew.
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    Michael Scarbrough
    Michael Scarbrough
    Participant
    Posts: 2
    Re: Field Techniques for Technical Cameras – Lenses and Accessories
    Reply #6 on: May 1, 2022 at 12:27 pm

    Thanks so much Dave for your thoughtful and detailed reply. Even though I have extensive experience with multiple large format film cameras, each with its own system to optimize perspective and depth-of-field, I can’t assume that experience will translate directly to “tech” cameras with their many differences from traditional large format cameras, and thus am most grateful for your insights, sharing your experience with this series of articles.

    I currently use a Phase One XF system and greatly miss the ability to creatively manage depth-of-field and perspective, but am reluctant to give up a reasonably good viewing and focus system for the alternatives available with a tech camera. My use case, similar to yours, is primarily landscape photography in wild places, often in rain here in the Pacific NW. The small LCD screen on the IQ4 is a big compromise in my estimation, and alternative viewing/focus aids for tech camera users are not field friendly either – battery consumption, etc. The fact that many users like yourself find a way to make it work and have chosen this approach suggests I can to, but I’d have no incentive to accept the compromises necessary except for movements, and perhaps weight. In addition, the precision demands that a 150 MP back requires from a camera and other limitations that bellows systems struggle with lead me to remain on the sidelines for the moment as I sort through options. There is no perfect camera, so we adapt to the best tools we have available. It’s about the image, not the camera.

    One of the dilemma’s a prospective user of a tech camera has is making an informed choice with very limited access to the short list of dealers capable of providing a hands on side-by-side comparison. For most of us, and I live near the Seattle area, there are no local dealers who can do this. I’m a fan of Capture Integration in Atlanta; Steve Hendrix and Brad Kaye have served me well in providing information and servicing my Phase One XF system and IQ4 back. But short of making a trip to Atlanta or spending a significant sum renting all systems simultaneously, it’s challenging to make that choice. You’ve been down that road, so thanks again for sharing your knowledge! Great articles, Dave!

    Michael

     

    Dave Chew
    Dave Chew
    Silver Member
    Posts: 64
    Re: Field Techniques for Technical Cameras – Lenses and Accessories
    Reply #7 on: May 1, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    Focusing is indeed a very different experience vs large format film. I have very little experience using large format; just a few trials and tests. The simple act of zooming in and out seems so much more cumbersome that positioning a loupe around the screen. I don’t know if it really is, but it feels that way. That tiny screen definitely doesn’t help. As one of my fellow photographer friends likes to point out, the screen on the IQ4 is like 10 iPhone generations old. Crazy P1 didn’t upgrade it at some point. They must have placed a 100,000 unit order 12 years ago and are still burning through them.

    From my perspective, I don’t think of focusing with the technical camera as being more difficult than on my Sony a7r cameras. I’ve used an XF but never owned one. Aside from my original Monochrom, I haven’t used an optical viewfinder in a while. I may just not know what I’m missing. On the other hand, the only time I open up a file and say, “Crap; I missed focus on that one,” is when I was trying some thing sketchy with tilt or I totally forgot to focus. Unfortunately the latter happens usually once during a shoot!

    Capture Integration is wonderful, but I agree trial and experimentation is the crux problem for those who want to learn more. There are many things unique to each system that we users accept and/or take for granted that someone new to the cameras can’t possibly anticipate. For example, I don’t think twice about taking off the back to rotate it, while others hate the thought.

    I don’t know anyone who is an expert at all the systems except for maybe Steve or Brad. I know Alpa intimately and Cambo pretty well, but struggle with details on Arca-Swiss. Lack of a website doesn’t help either.

    I have thought of getting some people together to do a series of videos specific to technical cameras. Fireside chat sort of things like what Kevin did with On the Rocks, Tim Parkin or the two guys at Leica Miami. I know plenty of Cambo users, but I’d have to find an Rm3di user. It’s just that the interest is probably pretty low vs the amount of work involved. A zoom format might work too. Equipment would have to be available so people could see how things set up and work.

    If I could get Steve and Dave G to be interested… You know they used to support a workshop where people could try out equipment. Maybe something like that but virtual that featured actual users. We users could use our own equipment while CI fills in the gaps with their involvement.

    More ideas than time, I’m afraid. Regardless, I’d be happy to get on a video call with you or anyone else who wants to see some hands on details. I’ve got a few Alpa’s and a Cambo Actus lying around.

    Dave

    How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! - John Muir
    https://www.davechewphotography.com
    Find legacy Schneider-Kreuznach Apo-Digitar lens data here: https://www.davechewphotography.com/skdata/

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