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