New Cameras Learning Old Lens Tricks

[Michael H] tipped us off about this guide to using view camera lens parts with DSLR cameras and lenses. We weren’t familiar with the term ‘view camera’ but we certainly recognize the accordion-like bellows that define that type of camera. The idea is that modern cameras with their fixed lenses miss out on some types of shots. Why not work out a way to get the best from both old and new?

The concept behind the view camera is that there are two plates connected by the bellows. One plate holds the film and shutter, the other holds the lens. The two can be adjusted for focal length but can also be set at an angle to each other. This modern adaptation uses an adjustable frame to hold the two plates in position. Custom connectors were made by attaching lens rings to the plates. It’s pretty much the same connection technique as we’ve seen when trying to mate cameras with lenses from a different maker.

13 thoughts on “New Cameras Learning Old Lens Tricks

  1. The Lensbaby will get you similar tilt shift control for your photos if you want something ready made. I expect this view camera contraption has more flexibility about positioning though. It certainly has better lenses involved as you’re using your regular ones.

    1. Lensbabys get you a slightly different look. No matter what aperture the Lensbaby is using, you always get a circular distortion. View-cameras can get you a flat distortion in either horizontal or vertical (or angled if you tilt the camera). Plus, some view-camera can also do perspective control, moving the lens to the side, something the Lensbaby can’t do.

  2. “One plate holds the film and shutter, the other holds the lens” This is actually wrong. The shutter is usually integrated into the lens. It doesn’t have a focal-place shutter, e.g. like an SLR.

    1. It gives him a larger range of tilt and shift movements and also the ability to swing and rise, on both ends of the camera, the lens end and the sensor side. Even with a DSLR T/S lens you can only tilt and shift on the lens which while useful is far more limited than this view camera can do.

      It’s something you get if you have that specific need though rather than a general purpose thing.

    1. Some of the old lenses were pretty good but they were made for a different image size.

      Modern camera lenses are pin sharp over only a very small area the size of the very small image sensor of (most) modern cameras. The lenses for a 4 x 5 camera have to be as sharp as possible over the 4 inch by 5 inch image area. The science of lens design is full of trade-offs and so each lens is optimised for a particular purpose.

      I tried to get the most from my old 4 x 5 camera and lenses by adapting a flatbed scanner as an image sensor – so far my mechanical skills are very far from sufficient but I think others have succeeded.

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