Wisner cameras

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darinwc

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I had a Zone VI 4x5 "made in Vermont" which I believe is the precursor to the Wisner.

Zone VI had some various manufacturers build their cameras.

It was big and heavy for a 4x5 field camera and a little crudely built compared to my Shen Hao or a Tachihara. But it would easily accommodate the 14 inch Artar I had at the time with 16 inch bellows draw. You could actually get to 19 inches if you tilted the front standards forward. Though at that length the bellows is maxed out and difficult to work with. The ShenHao barely gets 12 inches.

On the other end though, the Zone VI was limited. It would take a 90mm lens with the standard bellows but you really could not get any movement. There are bag bellows available. But if I remember correctly there were still some limitations because the "box" of the rear standard was not cut wide enough at the base to allow the front standard to retract all the way into it.

One nice thing about the Zone VI / Wisner is the rear focus. This makes it very easy to focus when taking close ups. The ShenHao and similar cameras only focus using the front standard.

Everything I have said is in regards to the Zone VI.. I understand Ron Wisner made small improvements to the design over the years. So the small complaints I had about the Zone VI may have been resolved.

I think the design would lend itself better to larger formats than 4x5. 5x7 and 8x10 Wisners are probably much better to use.
 

TheFlyingCamera

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I had a Zone VI 4x5 "made in Vermont" which I believe is the precursor to the Wisner.

Zone VI had some various manufacturers build their cameras.

It was big and heavy for a 4x5 field camera and a little crudely built compared to my Shen Hao or a Tachihara. But it would easily accommodate the 14 inch Artar I had at the time with 16 inch bellows draw. You could actually get to 19 inches if you tilted the front standards forward. Though at that length the bellows is maxed out and difficult to work with. The ShenHao barely gets 12 inches.

On the other end though, the Zone VI was limited. It would take a 90mm lens with the standard bellows but you really could not get any movement. There are bag bellows available. But if I remember correctly there were still some limitations because the "box" of the rear standard was not cut wide enough at the base to allow the front standard to retract all the way into it.

One nice thing about the Zone VI / Wisner is the rear focus. This makes it very easy to focus when taking close ups. The ShenHao and similar cameras only focus using the front standard.

Everything I have said is in regards to the Zone VI.. I understand Ron Wisner made small improvements to the design over the years. So the small complaints I had about the Zone VI may have been resolved.

I think the design would lend itself better to larger formats than 4x5. 5x7 and 8x10 Wisners are probably much better to use.

I think those observations about the Zone VI are confined to specific versions - the original was basically a glorified Tachihara or some other Japanese compact 4x5. Then there were the Wisner versions with the longer bellows draw, then there were the Zone VI Ultralight versions with something approaching 18 inches of bellows, very light-weight, and the front and rear standards could be pushed quite close together. IIRC they took a proprietary lens board. I know the Zone VI 8x10 Ultralight had a proprietary lens board (I had to make one of my own for it and it was a pain because the flange for it was beveled).
 

DREW WILEY

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No BS, no sour grapes, Brad. I've hauled view cameras over 10,000 miles in those mtns above you - literally hundreds of backpacking trips in all kinds of weather, and much of it off-trail. I have a pretty good feel for what looks durable and what doesn't. I also know a thing or two about the metal alloys used in such cameras.
 

BradS

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Well Drew, I reckon I've owned my shared of large format cameras (and cars and radios and small format cameras too for that matter) and I've wandered around in them hills a little bit too....

Tell you what, I think I still have a Wisner or three packed away around here. Why don't we meet somewhere...maybe walk about in them hills or have coffee/beers/burritos/donuts in some mutually agreeable local establishment. You can lay hands on an Wisner tech field and a Wisner Expedition, expose a few sheets of film. Maybe, you can share some stories about places you've been and the stuff you've seen and photographed...I'd be honored and I think you'd find the Wisner quite capable and far from "flimsy" (although, I admit, it is way too heavy for anything further than about 100 yards from the car).
 
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GWalls

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Okay, it' a little heavier then some of the newer Chinese made cameras. But I am also seeing it has a longer bellows, more features. So, is it worth it for probably less then two pounds. From what I am seeing round a Wisner can be had for 900.00, an Ebony for about 2k and a Canham will be right about 3k if you can find a used one, 3500 for new. But are they any lighter. And I have read a lot of first hand reports of Ebony problems in high humity ares with wood swelling up. I need to take breaks anyway, im 74 years old. So, how do you carry your equipment for the hiking trips. Are they just day hikes?

I don't have mountains but the ares where I like to go are at least a mile from my truck. Low country similar to what you see in a lot of Clyde Butchers pictures. A lot of swamp type areas. I would need to pack everything I might need one time in and out. I can't camp due to being on CPAP machine at night . Suggestions for a pack to carry all this camera, tripod, two lenses and about 6 film holders?

Thanks Guys
 
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Bob Carnie

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I own a Wisner made for Fred Pickers company, I believe there were just over 100 made... It is really pretty and has lots of shiny knobs, I got four lenses fitted for it and have never used it.. I will but right now its a pretty nice showpiece.

I never plan to trek with this camera like the Mountain Man Drew, but I plan to do some still life's and maybe a few cityscapes on colour film for tri colour printing...

I have been using a simple studio camera for my work to date and I think if I put this unit on a tripod all the cool kids in town will come up and want to see how it works.
 

DREW WILEY

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Thanks, Brad. Since I'm now a certified geezer, and already sold my own place in the hills, I pass through your area mainly in summer. I did manage about a 100 mi trek in the Kings Can area a few months ago. There is another LF shooter in Sonora (actually Columbia) who has seen me with a Phillips 8X10 and Ries tripod - purchases I'll never regret - headed up Blue Can to the crest. But at my age I now mostly use a little Ebony 4X5 folder at high altitude. Frankly, I'd rather be in the mtns with a pinhole cardboard box for a camera than be exercising in some stinky gym like a rat on a treadmill.
 

BradS

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<snip>..... how do you carry your equipment for the hiking trips? Suggestions for a pack to carry all this camera, tripod, two lenses and about 6 film holders?

Thanks Guys

I have a LowePro "Mini Trekker Classic" backpack for short hikes with a small 4x5 kit. From the factory, the bag comes set up with dividers arranged for a 35mm SLR outfit but the dividers are held in place with Velcro and are pretty easily re-arranged so that the bag accommodates a small 4x5 field kit. It fits the camera, two or three lenses, dark cloth, a light meter, a notebook, +3 reading glasses (for focusing), filters, cable release and a two or three film holders, and not a lot else. This is suited to short day hikes dedicated to photography. I carry the tripod in my hands or get one of my kids to carry it and if I want to carry more film holders (as I often do) I can carry ten in a small insulated bag that is intended to carry a six pack of cokes. Incidentally, on such a hike, the difference between a six pound camera and a four pound camera is inconsequential.
 

DREW WILEY

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Funny how gravity is largely a function of time - Einstein's unpublished fifth law, or something like that. Three lbs weighs more than it used to. My nephew just sent me a family picture of them at Wanda Lk, largely still frozen. Now that his older son is 17, he wanted to replicate the trip I took him on that age over Lamark Col and up Goddard Divide, etc. In that instance, it was the third time I went up there hauling an 85lb pack with a Sinar in it, trying to get exciting light over the Enchanted Gorge. Tied ourselves to a ledge barely wide enough for the tripod itself, but finally got the light I wanted - color at sunset and B&W in the morning. Even though I was carrying 12 holders, those were the only two shots I took the entire trip, which next took the loop down beautiful McGee Can into Evolution Valley, then over the crest again (I have photographed those places on other trips). Gosh. Now I weigh backpack content like it was benzotriazole.
 

nogirs

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Sorry to be a little to this conversation, but I do rarely see or hear anybody talking about Wisner cameras. I have two; one is a 4x5 field and the other is a little heavy for long bikes, but is a 3 in 1. Meaning it can be either a 4x5, a5x7, or a 6x10. I wish I knew where to get more info on my cameras as I really enjoy using them and sometimes they even mAke some nice images.(wouldn't have anything to do with the user now would it?). Have used some other large formats (not a lot) but the 4x5 is fine for bikes, not any heavier than the others I briefly before purchasing and using mine. Enjoy and thanks for the information about Mr Ritter.
 

Zelph

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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.

The problem with Ron Wisner was not "around the end of the compayy's existence" - it was an ongoing problem for years that finally forced him to close shop.
He would deliver cameras that were not ready for use. Clark Partridge, a Wisner dealer in Utah had to take every one to a custom woodworker for complete check to fix minor problems and often completely re-finish the camera. Ron would promise delivery dates and take payment and not make the dates. When asked he would say "It's ready and will be shipped today" and weeks to months later after numerous calls it would finally arrive - with the finish still wet.
Repairs sat paid for for months and even years. Ron liked the money but apparently did not like the work.

He could make a good camera but operating as he did was dishonest and cheated people.
 

Kodachromeguy

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He could make a good camera but operating as he did was dishonest and cheated people.
I recall many people saying the same about Fred Picker (also known as Pricker) from Zone VI. He promised lifetime warranty but then refused on some excuse or another. But some of his equipment was very good, and he did a lot to re-introduce photographers to the benefits of large format photography. His earlier Zone VI bulletins were very helpful, with hints and suggestions.
 

DREW WILEY

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Fred P. could sure bark like he owned a patent medicine wagon, but he also had some excellent products I'm still using, and would love to see his Brilliant Bromide paper revived. The warranty defaults came after he sold Zone VI to Calumet, who didn't keep the contracts going with the actual subcontract mfg.
 
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