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Rigidity of Canham JMC 10x8 vs other 10x8 field cameras?

Noah , Nov 04, 2005; 05:15 p.m.

I have been shooting with the all-metal Canham JMC 10x8 camera for about 7 months now. While I absolutely love the slow, methodical working process and the detail from shooting with the big camera, I'm not sure how much I like the camera itself. It bothers me that it doesn't seem as stiff as it should be. The rear standard, especially, seems to sway towards the front and back pretty easily, as in when inserting a film holder, etc.

I have not been unhappy with the results, but have noticed a few random negatives that don't seem as sharp as they should be, and I always focus carefully with a loupe and I use a huge gitzo tripod with majestic geared head.

I guess what I am asking is this: to people who have used or seen the canham, how does it compare to other 10x8 portable cameras? I'm not interested in a wood field, but other cameras I was considering are the arca swiss f-metric and the toyo 810mII. I shoot mostly in the field, but usually not far from the car. I don't mind a camera that weighs more than the canham, but I want to feel confident in the camera's stability. However a full studio monorail would be too big. To a lesser extent, I would also be happy if the movements were a bit more precise, but mostly it's stiffness I'm interested in. I've never used any other 10x8 cameras, so maybe all of them are similar and I should just stop complaining and keep the canham. I shoot mostly color fine art work, portraits, suburban landscapes, etc. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Responses


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Jonathan Brewer , Nov 04, 2005; 05:40 p.m.

Toyo 810MII is what you've described, the camera camera is a tank, and will hold some big heavy lenses.

'It bothers me that it doesn't seem as stiff as it should be.'..................................NO problem as long as this is you complaining about the camera and not your wife complaining about you, :^0.

Brian Ellis , Nov 04, 2005; 05:40 p.m.

"I'm not interested in a wood field,."

Too bad. The two Deardorffs I've owned have been rock solid.

Michael Kadillak , Nov 04, 2005; 08:38 p.m.

This subject comes up rather frequently with Canham cameras and I feel that many forget the thought process that went into purchasing the camera. You have a 9.1# 8x10 metal camera that is designed to be light weight and comfortable be take into the field. There is some "elasticity" in the pure sense of the word but it is uniform fore and aft and easily dealt with. Learn to open the back and insert a film holder with equal and opposite finger pressure and the process is highly effective and completely fool proof. If you think that this is a Linhof where you can get away with forefully jamming the holder home I can promise you that you will have problems.

I have had the opportunity to take this camera through its paces in the field and like any Canham product, it performs its intended task effortlessly when used properly. Its owner tells me that he has shot countless images with it and has never lost a properly composed image due to camera vibration or lack of stiffness.

As a reference point, I own the Toyo 8x10 MII that tips the scale at nearly 13#. Yes, it is very rigid, BUT it is 43% heavier than the Canham. As a result, it is a great truck/car camera but it will not go far off of the beaten path for obvious reasons. If you are modifying your objectives to eliminate any 8x10 shooting off of the road or only a short distance away from a road then by all means sell your Canham and get a more secure platform for making 8x10 exposures.

My personal recommendation is to continue to use your Canham as seven months is hardly breaking it in. It is a fine instrument that will make fine photographs for many years if used properly. I suspect that your random negatives that showed a lack of sharpness are your fault and not the camera.

Cheers!

Lee Hamiel , Nov 04, 2005; 08:53 p.m.

I second Brian - why not consider a wood field?

Many a great image has come from these big guys.

Otherwise I would go either Arca-Swiss or Linhof.

Noah , Nov 04, 2005; 11:12 p.m.

Thanks for all of your answers so far. To those who suggested a wood field, I can't tell you for sure why I don't want one, they are certainly beautiful and sometimes works of art in their own right. I guess I really like the feel of a precision instrument that seems more technical. I know that a view camera is really just a light-tight box, but I think it's natural to do your best work when you're comfortable with your equipment. I'm sure some wood cameras are are very sturdy, but the ones I've played around with just don't excite me.

Michael, I totally agree that some of the less-sharp photographs were my fault. And I don't expect to recklessly jam the holder into the camera. But I guess it comes down to confidence in my equipment and knowing that everything stays locked down where I put it. I'm not ready to dump the canham yet (I probably wouldn't sell it anyway, I'd keep it as my lightweight alternative), but I'm just looking into some options. By the way, I want a camera that can fold up and fit in a reasonable size case, but I rarely work too far from the car, and I'm in good shape and don't mind a heavy camera. The idea of a finely machined tank of a camera would suit me, I think.

Of course I would also take a look at any other camera before I get one, so that's why I posted this question, to get an idea of which reasonably portable cameras would be stiffer than the canham.

The Arca Swiss cameras seem to be ideal for me, and I'll have to take a look and try to use one, but has anyone here actually used the 10x8 version? I have concerns that the mechanisms that are very sturdy for 5x4 format might be pushed to their limits with 10x8.

The toyo 810mII might be the answer for me, and they have deals for students which make the prices more reasonable. I should have mentioned this before, but another feature I like is quick set-up. If anyone has used both, I was wondering how quickly the toyo (or arca swiss) sets up compared to the JMC?

By the way, my first lens was a 360/6.8 APO-Symmar, which is quite heavy, and I just added a 240 Sironar-S, which has become my favorite and is slightly lighter. I don't plan to add any more lenses since these to work well for the way I shoot. Normally, I just carry the camera and one of the lenses in a backpack, along with a messenger bag full of a few film holders.

Roger Hicks , Nov 05, 2005; 03:50 a.m.

ANY camera flexes to some extent if you push it hard enough. The important point is whether it always comes back to the same point. I've not shot with Canhams but I have played with them quite a bit (I prefer Gandolfis -- as you say, you work best with a camera that suits you) and I'd be pretty confident that they're precise enough.

Cheers,

Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com)

Steve Hamley , Nov 06, 2005; 03:22 a.m.

Noah,

I had a Canham 8x10 wood field camera and felt the same way - lots of "flex" in the rear standard. But the camera took as sharp a picture as anything I've used before or since. I've ended up with a used Ebony which I like better because of the more conventional controls at + 1/2 lb over the Canham, but it isn't any "sharper" as far as cameras go.

Everyone, including me seems to criticise the Canham rear standard rigidity, but I have yet to hear of a real complaint that it causes unsharp pictures.

Steve

Noah , Nov 06, 2005; 01:17 p.m.

Maybe there is something wrong with my camera. I was shooting with the camera again yesterday, and I noticed that if I apply slight pressure to the rear standard, it will move and it will NOT move back into its original position once I let go. The front standard is more solid, but it can also move under pressure and not return. And yes, I'm sure everytihing is tightened down and set up right. I'll give Keith a call, the best part about Canham cameras is his good service and extensive knowledge. The fact that it is a small company with great service was one of the major selling points for me. I've heard some people had good results by switching out the plastic washers for metal or composite ones that will hold tighter.

Also, so as not to seem like I'm speaking ill of the camera, I have made over 300 color negatives with this camera, and only a handfull have not been sharp. This is a fine working record with any camera of any size. If you're looking for a super-compact 10x8 camera with good movements and great bellows, this would be a great choice. For what it is, it is amazing. But for me, I tend to prefer equipment that is a little beefier and more solid- feeling, even if it is at the expense of some weight. I normally shoot not far from the car, and my tripod is so heavy anyway a few extra pounds worth of camera is nothing to me. Thanks again for all of your advice...

Jonathan Brewer , Nov 07, 2005; 12:42 a.m.

Listen...............I'm a woodworker, I love wood, wood cameras are beautiful,..............................not only that, they have/will last a couple of hundred years, I don't knock 'em, cuz they're great, but I got an all metal Toyo MII because I wouldn't get wrapped up in the camera, as opposed to just going ahead and using it.

This is rigid, machined metal, there isn't going to be anything falling off, there isn't much give after you lock everything down, there isn't really much to do to maintain it although I make sure I store this camera and my other gear around plenty of 'Dry Out',.......so that if getting something like an 810MII gives you peace of mind, get it, you are going to do better work w/the camera you feel the most comfortable with, and since you've already got another camera, you'll have the best of both worlds and it sounds like this is what you want anyway.


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