Wisner cameras

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by GWalls, Dec 26, 2017.

  1. GWalls

    GWalls Subscriber

    Messages:
    50
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2009
    Location:
    Hurricane. Alley
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Hello,
    I have seen on several web sites that Wisner camers don't seem to be very popular. Is there some real problems with the cameras or were the problems more related to the lack of customer support and just bad service. They seem to be well built cameras. Good or bad? Would like to know more about them. Anyone know the size of the lens board for a Wisner 8x10 or any other brand that will fit? What would be the minium focal length lens for the 4x5 and the longest lens for a 4x5?

    Wanting good general info about the Wisner cameras.

    Thanks
    George
    .
     
  2. mrosenlof

    mrosenlof Subscriber

    Messages:
    200
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2010
    Location:
    Colorado
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    There were some issues with Ron Wisner as a businessman around the end of the company's existence.

    The cameras themselves get generally positive reviews. I've only briefly fondled a 5x7, and my 30 second review would be positive. But really all I did was turn a focus knob and smell the bellows. The technical Tield models seem to be what I see most, mostly on the Bay. I don't think they're particularly light. You won't get support from Ron, but I think Richard Ritter can take care of any repairs that might be necessary.
     
  3. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    24,201
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    paswonquitte
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    hi george
    i don't own a wisner so i really have no dog in this fight
    but what i remember from all the internet gossip 10 years ago is
    spot on what mike said .. mr wisner wasn't the best of business men but he tried
    to do good
    ... a LOT of people bought his cameras and loved them others bought them
    and contacted richard ritter, a repairman in vermont to tweak them to be better.
    the last thing i heard about mr wisner and his cameras ( he made a 4x5 SLR that was pretty cool too )
    was that someone was travelling to the far east and there was a problem with their purchased camera
    it was sent to and mr wisner for repair and he met the customer in the airport with a fixed + perfect camera
    and a box / boxes of film as a send off for a great trip. sounded like a NICE GUY.
    a couple of years ago i was supplying someone with an estimate outside of marrion mass, so i attempted to
    find the wisner studio/workshop and was told he no longer made cameras. always regretted not meeting him
    he sounded like an interesting, charismatic and talented person..
     
  4. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    10,090
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Toward the end of his business, Ron Wisner would over-promise and under-deliver to the point that many customers would expect to re-ship whatever they took delivery of directly to a master technician (like Richard Ritter) to have the camera set right, and sometimes have to wait a year for that privilege (taking delivery of a flawed product). At this point, buying a used Wisner is probably a safe purchase as any of the problematic cameras would have been remedied by now. If you're looking at a 4x5 or other (relatively) small size camera, those are probably ok - the real issues were with the ULF cameras that were basically custom one-offs.
     
  5. rorye

    rorye Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,214
    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2004
    Location:
    San Francisc
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I have a Wisner 4"x5" and 8"x10", both the Technical Field model.
    I bought the 8"x10" from Ron about 2001, the 4"x5" used a couple of years ago.
    The 8"x10" lens board is 5 1/4" square, the 4"x5" is 4" square.
    The cameras are beautiful and when they work a total pleasure to use. Sadly my 8"x10" has a few stripped knobs which make it hard to tighten things down. Also I dropped it once and had to rebuild the extension. When I bought it Wisner promised lifelong services on it but that fell by the wayside when he closed shop. Of course my rough handling is probably responsible for the issues.
    The 4"x5" runs smoothly. I can't speak to the minimum focus but I comfortably use a Nikkor 450mm on it, more draw than most field cameras.
    One of my favorite things about Wisners are the beautiful leather bellows, they really are nice.
    All in all I would definitely recommend a Wisner. I'm actually building a couple of cameras based on the 4"x5" but in walnut with black aluminum metalwork, but that's another topic.
     
  6. Doc W

    Doc W Subscriber

    Messages:
    764
    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2009
    Location:
    Ottawa, Cana
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Almost all of the criticisms of Wisner were from a business standpoint. The cameras are wonderful. I have owned a 4x5 Technical Field for more than a decade and it is a fine camera. I would recommend it.

    I use a 90mm Scheider Super Angulon and it is a bit of a wrestling match with the regular bellows to get any movements at the focal length. I have a bag bellows for the 90mm and it can take even shorter lenses but I never use anything shorter. For a few years, I have been pondering the idea of getting a shorter bellows that would allow me to use the 90mm and a 210mm without swapping bellows. My bellows can take much longer lenses but the longest I use regularly is the 210 (rorye, above, says it will take a 450mm).
     
  7. andrew plume

    andrew plume Subscriber

    Messages:
    71
    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2006
    Location:
    UK
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I always felt that RW over-committed himself i.e. he brought on too many new models etc too quickly and just couldn't handle all of what was necessary, unless I'm wrong Ebony came in and filled the space when RW stopped producing and there seem to have been few if not any complaints about that Company. I bought a 4 x 5 Traditional in 1998 (or thereabouts), it was a fine Camera but had a persistent locking problem with one of the rear nuts. It always loosened when the film holder was inserted, I got over this by always removing the back before inserting the holder. I sold the Trad a few years back. If anyone is seriously considering buying a 4 x 5 Wisner, my suggestion would be to keep an eye out for a Zone V1, on which RW (unless I'm wrong) designed his own version. Fortunately I was able to pick up an outstanding condition Zone V1 a couple of months ago

    Yes, Richard Ritter is the go to man for Wisner repairs

    Andrew
     
  8. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

    Messages:
    6,015
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    The cameras were more pretty than functional. The light wt versions look downright flimsy. I ended up with an 8X10 Phillips and 4X5 Ebony. Glad I did, since I encounter a lot of weather and need maximum stability. When wt is less an issue I shoot Sinar monorails. But Ron's rude or imperious attitude didn't help his cause.
     
  9. sepiareverb

    sepiareverb Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,070
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2007
    Location:
    St J Vermont
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I shot an 810 Techical Field camera for about ten years, never found it in the least bit flimsy, in fact it was quite solid. I have since switched to a Canham because it has T style knobs instead of round ones. I had a hard time getting enough grip on the round knobs and often struggled to loosen something (bad hands from too much power tool use). Besides that I could have happily used it forever. I quite liked that odd rear standard bottom forward tilt movement when working outside.

    That Wisner made a lot of negatives, and I was reluctant to let it go, but one phone call to Keith Canham was all it took to make up my mind. He has since had the camera back for a small repair due to the extremely low humidity we get every winter after a summer of extremely high humidity. Wood can only move so much it seems.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2017
  10. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

    Messages:
    6,015
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    The Technical model was downright heavy by modern standards. I do a lot of backpacking, but also have painful hands. Keith Canham is a very helpful person. I've always admired his walnut 5X7.
     
  11. Patrick Robert James

    Patrick Robert James Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,492
    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2012
    Shooter:
    Med. Format Pan
    I've read a lot of things about Wisner cameras. I thought about getting a technical field because of the bellows draw, but the lack of a graflok back, the red interior of the bellows, and the weight turned me off, although I guess not all cameras have red bellows inside.

    I'd second Canham. I've met the man and seen his "factory" which is really just a building by his house in Az. Super nice guy and the cameras are fantastic.
     
  12. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    10,090
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Another certified Canham fan here. I own three of them - a 5x7, a 5x12, and a 14x17. And I can absolutely attest to the quality of his customer service in addition to the quality of his construction. I know I've told this story before elsewhere, but I'll repeat it here.

    I bought a used Canham 5x7, with an early serial number (low three-digit). I was planning to take it with me to Argentina. I was probably the third or fourth owner of the camera, which was probably a decade old at that point. I had several weeks before the trip, and was out field-testing the camera to get myself used to its controls, when a piece of the back flange that connects the film gate section to the rear standard split. With the help of a woodworker friend of mine, I made a field repair to the split just in case, but then I called Jim at Midwest Photo where I had bought the camera. He called Keith, who express shipped me a replacement back with the only request being that when I got back from Argentina, I sent the broken piece back to him. He covered a repair under warranty on a ten year old, four-owner camera.

    Another time, I wanted to modify the camera. It had the front standard built for Linhof Technica boards, but I wanted to mount an antique lens whose flange was too big to fit a Technica board, but would fit nicely on the Toyo 110mm square boards. The Toyo boards are the new standard for the Canham 5x7 field camera. I called Keith - we spoke directly on the phone, and he walked me through my options and was able to help me figure out the least expensive and fastest way to modify the camera to fit the lens (he sold me a different front standard to which I transferred the metal hardware for attaching the bellows and the lens boards). And I had the new front panel on my camera within a week of my talking to him on the phone.

    I'm absolutely sold on Canham cameras.
     
  13. Sponsored Ad
  14. andrew plume

    andrew plume Subscriber

    Messages:
    71
    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2006
    Location:
    UK
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    +1 from me too Scott, I owned a 5 x 7 woodie, absolutely terrific and the movements were amazing

    regards

    Andrew
     
  15. OP
    OP
    GWalls

    GWalls Subscriber

    Messages:
    50
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2009
    Location:
    Hurricane. Alley
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Thanks for all the info on the Wisner cameras.

    Now, where would I look for a used 4x5 Canham. None listed on ebay. I see a few Ebony cameras but they seem to have gotten priced way out of the norm. Can't afford to go paying 3K plus for a camera. A Wisner might just be the one I can afford.
     
  16. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    10,090
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Be patient- the Canhams do show up on Ebay from time to time. Also try Midwest Photo, Quality Camera in Atlanta (call them and ask for Jeff - (404) 881-8700 ), View Camera Store in Arizona, Badger Graphic in Minnesota. Best bet is to call each of them on the phone and ask a sales person about what they have in stock and what they are expecting to come in. Sometimes these things change hands without ever being advertised.
     
  17. Sal Santamaura

    Sal Santamaura Member

    Messages:
    3,121
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2005
    Location:
    San Clemente, California
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  18. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    10,090
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  19. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

    Messages:
    6,015
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    The cost of Ebony was justified. They had a stash of old cured true pattern-grade Honduras mahogany (very dimensionally stable), as well as heavy ebony, shaped these machine-shop style (moreso than anyone else), and uniquely employed machined titanium hardware (strong and light - way superior to either brass or anodized aluminum). But not perfect. I hated and removed the odd fresnel which attracted condensation; the gearing is not as smooth as the helical gearing in diecast cameras like a Technika or Horseman FA, and the varnish had a few bubbles in it (not good if that happens to affect precise seating of the film holder plane, but easily corrected). But undoubtedly the most rigid and stable line of wooden folders in relation to weight. I just strategized my own purchase to when the dollar was especially strong against the yen.
     
  20. Keith Pitman

    Keith Pitman Subscriber

    Messages:
    269
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2004
    Location:
    Pine Junctio
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Wisner had a Graflok back. Not stock, but available. I have one.
     
  21. Sal Santamaura

    Sal Santamaura Member

    Messages:
    3,121
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2005
    Location:
    San Clemente, California
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yes, I wasn't suggesting he isn't. My post was intended to clear up that Badger's in Wisconsin, not Minnesota. :smile:
     
  22. sepiareverb

    sepiareverb Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,070
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2007
    Location:
    St J Vermont
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The 45 Canham is the same as the 57 with the exception of the back. Backs are interchangeable on these two cameras. A want to buy ad here or on LFF could drawn one in.
     
  23. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    10,090
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My bad! Sorry :smile: From the mid-Atlantic, both are equally far away and equally frozen, so they're easy to confuse :D
     
  24. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,528
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2004
    Location:
    California
    Shooter:
    35mm
    The "wooden" Canham 5x7 can be purchased brand new. They're still being made. Incidentally, there is no such thing as a 4x5 wooden Canham, what is sold as a 4x5 is actually the 5x7 with a reducing back.
     
  25. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,528
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2004
    Location:
    California
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I smell bullshit...possibly, born of sour grapes. Please try to separate your feelings toward the man from the objective facts regarding the camera...
    There is plenty of evidence that contradicts the "more pretty than functional" claim.
     
,