Kodak commercial view camera

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by matthew_stanton|2, Sep 25, 2002.

  1. I have just seen a kodak Commercial view camera which is for
    sale at around $200 U.S. in a camera store here in Australia.
    The bellows are a bit patchy but seems to be in quite good
    working order otherwise and is exceptionally light and folds to a
    relatively compact unit. The only problem is that it does not have
    a ground glass or any lens boards.

    I have seen a new 8x10 ground glass advertised for sale
    on ebay for $30 U.S. it is said to be the standard thickness of .06
    inches. Does any body know if this thickness ground glass
    would possibly be suitable for such a camera? I have absolutely
    no idea. Also I wonder if i will have a hard time finding suitable
    lens boards. Perhaps they are the same dimensions as the
    master view camera ?

    I am new to 8x10 photography and would like to make the
    transition as affordably as possible to start with. Any information
    that can be provided would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. I'm sure the glass will work. There is some "play" in the thickness of glass that can be used.
    Lensboards are easily self-made, so I wouldn't let that be a determining factor.
  3. The 8x10 "Commercial" view camera is a magnesium version of the old wooden Eastman 2-D. IIRC it uses a 'standard' 6" square lensboard. (Been awhile since I used one). Any groundglass should fit.
  4. 1.5 mm (~0.06") seems about right for a ground glass. Most cameras I've used would appear to accept up to 2mm thick glass without a problem. It's when you start trying to force 3mm window glass into them that there's a risk of damage.
  5. Matthew,

    If this is the Eastman Commercial metal 8x10 that Mark Sampson refers to, it's an extremely capable camera and a steal at $200 if it is in decent shape. As you note, it's very light and compact for its size and stability. That Adams guy used one (although the front standard on his was modified to permit front tilt--there's a good Dorothea Lange picture of him with the camera). The biggest drawback of the camera for most people is that it has no front tilt, probably the movement that landscape photographers use most. But you can get to the same place indirectly by pointing the camera down, tilting the back standard to vertical, and raising the front standard. Because (unlike the earlier Kodak 2D) the Commercial also has front shift, you can also duplicate front swing (by combining front shift and rear swing). Check to see whether it has the extension rail and the sliding tripod block. If you're missing the extension rail you will have only about 17 inches of bellows draw (as I recall), which means you will be unable to use long lenses and will limited in your ability to do close-ups. The sliding tripod block is a major convenience, but not a necessity. As mentioned, the camera takes standard square-cornered 6x6 lensboards, which are readily available (including new from Midwest Photo Exchange). I bought one of these as my "starter" 8x10 a number of years ago thinking that I'd "upgrade" eventually to a better known camera, like a Masterview or Deardorf. I've decided that I like the Commercial better than either of those cameras, and I've been very happy with it. Mine was also modified just like Adams' was, so I like to think they may be long-lost twins.
  6. For a thumbnail-sized version of the Lange photo of Adams & the Commercial, see http://www.museumca.org/exhibit/exhi_adams.html. There's another Lange photo of just the camera in the Oakland Museum exhibit which really shows it off.
  7. Chris,

    This particular commercial view also has front tilt. So maybe
    we're talking long lost triplets here. I haven't checked about the
    tripod mount or the extension rail but will have to make another
    visit to the shop today to find out. I had almost given up on being
    able to afford a decent portable 8x10 camera so i'm quite excited
    about this discovery.


    Matthew Stsnton
  8. Stephen Shuart (www.stephenshuart.com I think it is) can make a ground glass and lens boards for almost any camera. You might check with him about this particular camera to be sure but an 8x10 camera for $200 in decent shape would almost always be a very good deal even without the ground glass and lens board.
  9. Matthew
    you can make a ground glass (and lensboards) quite easily, I wouldn't bother getting one in from the States. Use 2mm glass, the same that's in picture frames, a piece that size will cost you less than $5. Get 2 or 3 pieces as spares, just in case.
    You can use either fine grinding paste, sandblast with fine grit or go to a sign writer and get the "sandblast look" film they use on glass (not sure what it's called but you've probably seen it around). Any of these methods will work ok, some better than others depending on what you use.
    Lensboards can be made from plywood, go to a joinery shop and get 5 or 6 made or if you have a table saw you can easily make them yourself. Measure the opening in the camera and cut the plywood to this size minus a little bit of clearance. Lower the saw blade to cut the rebate on the back of the board, I made 4 blank boards this way in less than 30 minutes. Stain with the appropriate stain to get the colour you want.
    I'm in NZ and you can't buy anything LF here, so have to make a lot of stuff, but that's half the fun of LF anyway.....you try making new parts for a F5!
  10. I vaguely recall reading something about some Eastman Commercial cameras either being manufacturered with front tilt or retrofitted. Beware that there was a front-tilt adaptor, sort of an extension-lensboard thing with scissors struts on the sides; while it "worked" it gave rise or fall while it tilted, changed the focused distance and was generally less that wonderful, so be sure the camera you're looking at doesn't just have one of those things fitted.

    Check that the extension rail is present. While it isn't essentially the lack of it will dramatically limit which lenses you can use.

    There's a sliding rail/platform that's nice but not necessary.

    Carefully check the tripod-thread holes in the bottom of the camera and/or the rail platform; the threads are easy to strip and you may discover that the only ways to attach the camera to a tripod head are to drill and tap the holes for a 3/8" thread or through-bolt a QR plate to it.

    The lensboards are six-in square-corner; I had a local sheet-metal shop make up several from aluminum. They could've simply been cut out with a hacksaw but the shop's laser cutter gizmo made them very nice.

    I liked the camera OK except for the lack of direct front tilt; that eventually led me to other cameras.
  11. Matthew:

    I'd be very interested to know about how the front tilt is implemented on the camera you're looking at.

    With regard to John Hick's points: I agree that the tilt adapter made for these cameras is "less than wonderful." But if you don't like it, you can simply remove it (it's just mounted on a lensboard and attached to the front standard like a lens). Also, stripped tripod thread holes are not a disaster: The threads on the tripod hole of my camera's sliding tripod block are weak, but I simply replaced the mounting screw in a Bogen hex quick release plate with one long enough to protrude through the bottom of the sliding tripod block and put a nut on the end. It holds very solidly. In fact, I would recommend this even if the threads are OK.
  12. chris,

    As far as i can tell it is set up much like the front tilt
    system on any regular view camera with a screw system to
    fasten or loosen the front standard in the appropriate position. It
    is not an adapter system. I didn't think to check the thread
    yesterday when i went in to put a deposit on it but if there is a
    problem it sounds like it can be overcome. There is a sliding
    tripod/ mounting block that slides into position on a rail .
    I,m not sure if it has the extension rail however which concerns
    me a little bit. It has two rails which fold down when you set the
    camera up. The total bellows extension seems to about 50-60
    cms. I was hoping to use something like a 300-360 mm lens
    so maybe i will have some problems in the close up range.
    Hmmm. Also the front standard seems to have a little bit of play
    in it and is not completely rigid when properly fastened so i may
    have to get a bit of work done on it.

    It turns out that it cost only $150 US not $200 so i am willing to
    put a bit of money into it. hopefully it will be worthwhile.

    Thanks again,
  13. > As far as i can tell it is set up much like the front tilt system on any regular view camera with a screw system to fasten or loosen the front standard in the appropriate position. It is not an adapter system.

    That sounds ok rather than the scissors adaptor thing I was referring to.

    > I didn't think to check the thread yesterday when i went in to put a deposit on it but if there is a problem it sounds like it can be overcome.

    Sure. I simply replaced the 1/4" thumbscrew in a Bogen QR plate with a roundhead machine screw and put a washer and self-locking hex nut on the other side.

    > There is a sliding tripod/ mounting block that slides into position on a rail . I,m not sure if it has the extension rail however which concerns me a little bit.

    Ideally there should be a separate rectangular-shaped extension rail. If there isn't and you really want one, I've seen a few of them come up for auction on ebay. I _think_ you'd be ok with a 300mm lens but I no longer have the camera to look at or measure. I used a 250mm lens.

    > Also the front standard seems to have a little bit of play

    I remember mine being slightly wiggly if I wiggled it but it was ok if untouched.

    > It turns out that it cost only $150 US

    IMHO that's a real steal.
  14. I just measured the extension on mine. It's 44cm (a little more than 17 inches) without the extension rail, about 75cm (30 inches) with the extension rail. Without the rail you'd probably be OK with a 300mm and even a 360 for non-close up shots. I have a 250mm which never requires me to use the extension rail. If you don't have the rail and want to do close up work, you're going to be limited to using short lenses. A 150mm with enough coverage for a 4x5 will work at 1:1 of course.

    By the way, I would not describe my front standard as wiggly, so that may be fixable.
  15. There is definitely no extension rail for this camera, I got out the
    tape measure and it is only 17 inches extension. The good news
    is that when i returned today i discovered with other eqipment
    that had been traded in a 10" commercial ektar lens that is
    clean, has been serviced and all the shutter speeds seem o.k.
    for about $180 U.S. It seems as though this may be the ideal
    focal length this camera without the extension rail. It is not the
    wide field version but i can live with that ( at least i hope i can ),
    My main concern is that i can actually at last almost afford to
    shoot 8X10.

    I am a photography student and i am about to begin the final
    year of my fine arts degree, this present opportunity has has
    been my dream since i first started making photographs 6 years
    ago. It seems like the time has finally arrived.

    Thank you all for your invaluable advice.
  16. I have had some problems with one of these cameras. There is some kind of gasket that fits in the back where the film holders slide in. The gasket on my camera was quite worn, and began coming up in some places. The result was much fogged film when used in direct sunlight. The gasket fits into a groove about three sixteenths of an inch wide and an eigth an inch deep. I tried to glue some felt in there but it snagged and tore out when the film holder went in. Eventually I glued a fat shoestring in there with five ton epoxy. Still, I am not too confident with the camera in direct sunlight. BTW, mine has front tilts and has been modified to have front swings as well. I love it! I find the tripod block to be very useful because it really tightens the camera up. Wish I could get my hands on a rail extension though.

    Sincerely, Jodiah Jacobs

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