Panoramic Advice on 617 Camera Required Please.

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by jamie_jones|1, Jan 1, 2009.

  1. I have just purchased a Rodenstock 90mm f/6.8 Grandagon lens and a Shen Hao 617 Panoramic camera.
    I took it out for a play the other night to photograph a large floodlit building. Even when removing the Centre Filter it was very very hard to focus the camera. I could only use the very brightest of high lights, A lot of the composition was guess work.
    I have since had a play with the camera in the daylight and find that even with a good lupe, trying to focus the edges is almost impossible if any of the subject matter is dark. Mid tones are extremely hard work as well
    Question 1) Any suggestions that will help?
    Question 2) Have I brought the wrong Lens? The dealers said that it was a good lens, is it?
    Many many years ago a used a Toyo 5x4 Monorail camera and I am sure that it was much easier to focus.
    Question 3) What other lenses would complement the the 617 format for landscape and cityscape pictures?
    Question 4) The first building that I did want to photograph I needed a wider angle of view. Can I go wider than a 90mm lens?
    Question 5) Any other advice that can be given to a newbie on the use of the 617 format and the Shen Hao?
    Question 6) Any other 617 Shen Hao Users here?
  2. It might be so that you had a Fresnel lens on the Toyo but you don't have it on the new camera or the quality of the GG is bad. So far change it to a acid etched which is much brighter.
    The Rodenstock is a good quality lens and it's made for 13x18 cm the max diagonal of the lens is on f22 is 221mm so the edges could be a problem to see, the lens gives you a 102 degree so much wider you can not go. Drew the circle of 221 mm and put in your film size and see what happens. :) Some Schneider has a 110 up to 120 degree. The Hypergon gives you a 130 degree but they are very expensive.
  3. I agree that you need a brighter screen. The lens you got is a good one. Rodenstock wide lenses are a little brighter, going down to f4.5. The Rodenstock 55mm Grandagon N covers your format, as does the 75 and 90.
  4. Focusing on night scenes on ground glass can be challenging. It isn't unusual for the shadows to be guess work. Wide-coverage lenses intrinsically have less illumination off-axis so that it be more difficult to compose and focus on parts of the scene away from the optical axis. This illumination fall-off is due to simple optical principles. There is additional fall-off wide-open because the lens elements aren't made big enough to deliver the stated aperture over the full image. Another problem is that the rays arrive to the ground glass at an angle. If your screen doesn't have a Fresnel lens you can see more in the corners by tilting your loupe and head to match the angle of the rays. Normal procedure is to focus and compose without the center filter. Having a good dark cloth to block all external light and allowing your eyes to dark adapt can help. But there may always be portions of night scenes that you won't be able to see. One trick is to bring a flashlight, either to shine or to temporaily place in the scene pointed at the camera (e.g., if there is some area of critical to focus on). You might want to take your first photos in the daylight.
    Any lens that have a circle of coverage equal to the digonal of the format will work. LF lens manufacturers publish this figure. Coverage above the minimum will allow movements such as front rise or tilt. Additionally the focal length needs to be somewhat shorter than the maximum extension of your camera so that you can focus the lens.
  5. Focusing the edges of wide angle lenses can be difficult at best. The light from the lens is hitting the glass at a shallow angle that sends it off to the side. When you try to see it with the loop that is perpendicular to the glass all you see is a little light being scattered by the Ground glass. The two solutions are either a loop that focuses up off the glass and allows you to tip it pointing strait at the lens and lining up with the light or using a fresnel that turns the light back vertical with the glass. Either works for focusing but the fresnel has the added benefit of helping with composition.

    For cheep fixes the magnifying sheets sold in book stores make usable fresnel. Some work better than others. One that’s about the same or slightly shorter than the focal length as the lens you're using will work best, anything’s an improvement. Take it out into the sunlight and focus it to a point on a nonflammable surface to get the focal length. I keep one in my bag and hold it up to compose.

    Old projector lenses make great focusing loops. Cut the tube on one short enough to tip 45 degrees to the side and still be able to focus on the ground glass. Tape the rough edges and you have a nice focusing loop for little or nothing.

    I carry several small flash lights in my bag for focusing in the dark. Place one at any critical point of focus pointing back at the camera. I point of light is easier to focus on than a surface. Focus, pick them up and shoot.
  6. Are you sure you can the lens wide open?
  7. 72mm covers Linhof's 617 format on the Technorama, even when used with the shift adapter for the T617 SIII. This is one of the lenses that Horst Hamann used for his panoramic 617 book "NY Vertical". Is that the type of work you are trying to do?
  8. I've got the Da Yi 6x17 back for 4x5 cameras, which has a ground glass probably very similar to the rig you're using.
    I've used an old 90mm f/8 Caltar Wide, which is equivalent in speed to the older Super Angulon. I also found it quite difficult to use on that ground glass.
    So I got a cheap fresnel at the local office supply, cut it so it would fit (make sure the middle of the fresnel is at the middle of the ground glass!), and fastened it to the glass (I forget how I did this, but probably something sophisticated like Scotch tape) without moving or removing the glass itself. It completely solved the problem.
    As noted above, focusing at night is a challenge with any camera, so your 617 is not immune. But without a fresnel it'll be close to impossible.
    One thing you can do also is to find something easy to focus on (brightly lit subject) and focus to the hyperfocal distance for the aperture you like to use, then mark that spot on the camera bed. Then you'll have a focus reference to use the next time you're in a tight spot.
  9. Having built many 6x17 cameras with and without the facility to use a ground glass screen, I arrived at a much easier method...quite simply not focusing at all! There's a program freely downloadable on the web called DOF Master. It's brilliant, just by selecting the lens focal length , film format (5x7 when shooting 6x17) and aperture it calculates the hyperfocal distance for optimum focus. When I built the first Obsession 6x17's I did not a focus helical so had to employ this method and it worked perfectly.
    This enabled a night shot to be taken without hanging about long enough to risk getting mugged and I could pack up and be gone in a flash.
    I just built a fixed focus 35mm two frame wide angle camera that employs the same feature using a 40mm lens. At f22 everything is in focus from 7-8 feet to infinity. Whilst it would mean fairly long shutter speeds using 100 ISO film at night this is not so bad. Waiting for the film to expose is easier than trying to see the G/G in the dark. To focus even closer I insert a 1mm shim under the film gate which gives close focus of 2-3 feet. On 4x5 a lens of f3.5 or faster would be needed in order to easily see the image on the ground glass at night, even then you'd need a good loupe.
  10. Just to prove that hyperfocal distance tripod, just point and shoot.
  11. The equation to calculate the image distance to set the lens to focus on the hyperfocal distance is quite simple, and of course calculators are available on the web. But it doesn't seem useful to me to a camera with ground glass focusing, as the original poster has. Suppose the equation tells you that the image distance should be 92.4 mm. How do you set the lens to this distance from the ground glass with sufficient precision? The distance is supposed to be measured from the rear of the ground glass to the rear principal point on the lens. How is one to measure accurately to that point? One way would be to look up the position of the rear principal point on the datasheet, and use its offset from the rear of the shutter / front of the lensboard. But on most LF cameras the measurement won't be convenient. An easier method for a ground glass camera is to use the focus spread method. For a night photo, pick two bright objects that approximate the closest and farthest objects that you want to be in focus. Focus on each, noting the position of the standard. Place the standard half way in between -- the is the best focus to get both of the selected objects and everything in between in focus. The distance between the two focus points indicates the f-stop to use -- see
  12. Hi Michael...I have found it rather simple to check focus accurately (on a bright sunny day obviously) by using a decent loupe...maybe 4-8x. I have repeated this measure on many cameras of different formats and found f22 to be extremely forgiving. DOF master has just told me that to get the widest depth of field using a 90mm lens on a 4x5 format the hyperfocal distance is 12 feet. I can easily check this with a G/G screen and be within inches of that distance. Assuming that at f22 the DOF is one third in front and two thirds behind, eveything should be in sharp focus between 6 and 36 feet? Actually the DOF calculator states 6 feet to where does infinity begin?.
    I have just performed this operation several moments ago on an old fixed focus camera, so I will pop off a couple of sheets and give you the results this afternoon. Cheers, Dean.
  13. Dean: so your procedure is to determine the hyperfocal distance, place the camera that distance from an object, than carefully focus on the ground glass. That makes more sense to me. For the original poster, they could try not to move the camera before they take their night photo (rather chancy) or make some sort of mark to recover the position later. The procedure that I described is more accurate and also "calculates" what f-stop should be used. It also could be done in advance in the daytime. An advantage of the hyperfocal method is that can be done anywhere, with a substitute object at the measured distance.
    The mathematics shows that if you focus on the hyperfocal distance d_hyp, the depth of field is always from one-half d_hyp to infinity -- which is what the calculator DOF Master told you for d_hyp = 12 feet: in focus from 6 feet to infinity. The rule that the depth of field is 1/3 in front, 2/3 in back is rarely very accuracte.
  14. This is the outcome of the is twofold. Firstly I used the DOF master to calculate the hyperfocal distance of this little 90 Angulon f6.8..this was after I had heated the lens elements to fully separate them with a gas torch. Using a UV cure bonding agent specifically designed for use with optics, I cleaned and reset the elements in a jig I made for the job. After testing the lens, I discovered the image quality had gone severely south, so posed the question that the lens element spacing was incorrect in the shutter it came in. Problem was that although the center of the image seemed focused sharply, the edges were terribly soft and from past experience this might be improved simply by machining the shutter down to decrease the distance between front and rear cells. I reduced the distance by ONE WHOLE MILLIMETER and by trial and error and got a great the center and edge sharpness appears to be equal.
    To establish the Hyperfocal distance using the DOF Master program, it came up with 12 feet as the optimum when shutting down to f22...clearly you can see the results... excellent sharpness from a couple of feet away (wheelie bins are exactly 12 feet away) to infinity across the street with fixed focus using no ground glass at all.
    So easy and so quick was this method and I never even got mugged!

    This little camera is a very basic design I built several years back, but never got around to completing...but now it's become a great little point and shoot 4x5 that requires no focusing at all.
    My apologies for the rubbish was only a quick scan!
    For anyone interested, the overall dimension of the 90mm Angulon (measured using a digital caliper) is 25.70mm.
  15. Jamie, i'm shen hao user of 617 tfc-a model.
    I use this camera with lenses from 75 SA F5.6 until 400 F8 telephoto.
    Using this format with extremly wide angle lenses make focusing very hard and you need centre filters.
    Same problem i had when i begun shooting 617 with a Gaoersi camera.
    I solved this problem fitting a fresnel lens but critical focusing is made harder.
    Now with my shen hao is impossible to fit a fresnel lens behind the gg without to change the focus plain, so i use this camera as it is.
    Composing without fresnel with 75mm in low light condition is difficult but not impossible.
    I use a big darkcloth and i wait, looking at the gg for a minute, untile my eyes adapting in these lighting conditions.
    Just be patient and you"ll notice that you"ll see better after few seconds.
    If you"ll use wider lenses than your 90mm, be carefull to give some rise to the front (about 3-4 mm with a centred hole lens panel) for having alined the lens axis to the centre of gg, becouse lens coverage is small and you dont want to see any vignetting to the corners.
    This camera is a very bad copy of ebony 617S .
    Very bad is also, the film back, the bellows and the aluminium alloys that it uses (very soft).
    The only good think about this camera is its price ( i bought mine about $1500 while ebony 617S costs about $7500 complete with a very good horseman back).
  16. Thanks for all your advice, it has been very interesting for a new comer to 617.
    Christos. Good to find another owner of the same camera. May be you or someone else can answer a problem I seem to have come up with on my first picture.
    I seem to have a problem with the Shen Hao 617 camera. Ok, my exposure is a out along with the framing, but it was very difficult to pick out any detail on the ground glass screen in the dark when focusing and trying to compose the picture. But hay, it is at least sharp.
    There does seem to be a problem with light bounce in the camera giving a banding at the edge of the frame. See Red Arrow on the picture in this link;
    (The picture is a quick grab using my apple mac screen as a light box).

    I would guess that on a daylight exposure it should be more prominent given that a greater intensity of light will be entering the camera?
    Given that I want to do a number of night shots this I also guess it will continue to be a problem, before I do any daylight ones.
    (The was no movements on the camera other than a raise on the front)
  17. The shadow looks to me like it may be due to light bouncing off the edge of the film gate...this occurs when the metal edge is either too thick in dimension or coatings may be reflecting light after hitting the film. Coatings might be too reflective... i.e not sufficiently flat black in colour. Is the edge of the film gate anodised or painted? It may require to be of a textured surface to help absorb this excess light.
  18. Is this bandind to the same side from where you slide out, the dark-slide?
  19. I have added some more pictures to the web link, that I have taken of the camera and was wondering if this is the problem?
    What do you think?
    See Link;
  20. Dean
    The Film back is anodised.
    Christos Chatzoglou [​IMG], Jan 08, 2009; 12:51 p.m.
    Is this banding to the same side from where you slide out, the dark-slide?
    In real life the the answer is yes, in that darkslide would be pulled out on the same side when you look at thepicture and the scene, But I would then guess that because the image is rotated 180 degrees through the lens on to the film back, then the answer is NO. If that makes sense.
    There is some shading on the other side as well but is no where near as bad.
  21. Jamie.
    Have you bought your camera new, or used?
    I think that light pass throught the crack of the dark slide.
    How, do you use the dark slide?
    Do you pull it out at all from the back, or you just mouve it to free the film while the d\s is kept on the back?
    Is it happens to keep yor back for long time without the d\s on its site?
  22. I can see light bouncing off the side of the gate...I have had the same problem before. There is a textured flat paint (I think it's called 'Blackout') available to coat this area. It's worth a shot.
  23. Hi Christos & Dean
    My Camera is New.
    I took the slide fully out for doing the night shot (As I always did when I had a Mamiya 6x7 RZ)
    While doing the night shot I did 6, 9, 12, 15 minute exposures. (The 6min exposure was a 1/2 stop over). The banding is on all the pictures. There is also some on the opposite side as well, but not as bad.
    There is non on the bottom, but on the top there a slightly lighter band. I would expect a light band for extra light hitting the film on transparency film. But it is in the darkness of the film (Dark night sky) which does not make that much sense to me.
    I have to say that I am a bit loathed to start painting a brand new camera, but do understand your helpful comment.
    I have shot a second roll of film in day light and should be able to see it tomorrow. It would be interesting to see if there are any issues on shorter exposures but in greater light intensity.
  24. I have had a much closer look at the original film
    There does not seem to be any issue with the bottom of the picture.
    There is dark banding on both the left and right edges of the film
    Plus Light banding running along the top of the film
    I have posted some more pictures (Not the best quality) on the web link:
    Seeing that the dark banding in on both the left and the right side, I would guess that this rules out the dark slide issue raised earlier
  25. Jamie now with your last picture i understood better the problem.
    I have exactly the same light bandings at all my slides, not only at the top as yours, but also at the bottom like mirror.
    I haven't the dark bandings.
    When i show first time these light bandings at my slides, i thought that they made from rubbing, introduced when the roll is winding, probably because the surfaces of the back at these points are not perfectly smooth.
    I live with this issue and i just crop during the scan, these areas.
    Having both of us the same problem (me worst), means that these backs are difected and as i told you at my first message, all about this camera is a big dissapointment.
    About the dark bandings, i want to ask you if it was mounted on your lens any filter holder or any filter directly?
  26. Hi Christos
    I didn't have any filter holders or filters, other than the center spot nd filter which is the correct filter for the lens.
    I have had a close look at the film for wind on rubbing or scrapes, but there are no visible signs of scratches in the emulsion or the film base. I would have expected to have seen some if this is the cause.
    617 is a hard format to use and I don't want to lose any off the top or the bottom when scanning.
    What scanner do you use to scan yours?
  27. Hi Jamie.
    I suspected about scraches on the slide, becouse the nature of these bandings (at least mines) are like very thin lines of burned area and between them there is some information.
    From an older experience from a RZ 67 PROII that light entered in the back throught the crack of the darkslide, the nature of that banding was very different, vertical like fog.
    Here there are fine and precise limits nothing like fog.
    I believe that if the light pass inside the back from somewhere, these areas of the slide will be burned like fog.
    As you see i can do only suppositions.
    Maybe we must send an email to the dealer to ask what we have to do for solving this inconveniences.
    But i believe that something going wrong with these backs.
    Other problems that i had with this back is that when i wind fast the film at the begining, this was cuted, and sometimes was blocked the cover and was impossible to open it (i ever carry with me a set of fine screwdrivers and i unscrewed the two screws of one side that keeps the hook in site for open it).
    I don"t know if you have had similar experience but be carefull when you wind a new roll, to do it slowlly until to see the number three on to the back"s window.
    After this, there is no problem.
    And when you open the cover of the back you must pull it with the same way both sides simultaneously becouse the metal alloy is very soft and is possible distort one of the two back's hooks that keeps the cover.
    If it will be happen, opening the back will be impossible.
    One my thought was to buy the horseman back that use the Ebony 617S camera if it is possible to buy just the back and if it fits right on the Shen Hao (i thing that is very possible).
    Solving the problem of these bandings unfortunally not solves all the other problems.
    Exept the shen hao 617 i used more than one year, three same Gaoersi 617 cameras (the shift model with interchangeable back) and the quality of all these three backs was far better than this shen hao.
    About how i scan, i have allready answered you (before to asked it) yesterday, to your other question that you have posted in this site.
  28. Apparently an Epson V700 is the best tool for the job..without spending heaps. I still think you are getting light bouncing off the edges of your film gate. My early attempts at building a 6x17 camera resulted in exactly the same thing happening. The reason was twofold: Firstly the metal edge was too thick (4mm) and the coating I used was too reflective. You would be very surprised as to how much light enters the camera when you fire the shutter, even at night and especially with longer exposures, even the film itself is quite reflective. I'm sure if you're careful and use a fine brush, you could paint only the edges. If you're worried about getting paint all over the place simply mask it up with tape first.
  29. Hi, Jamie,
    May I you notice the light banding appearing anywhere other than just close to the edges of the ground glass and the image? Also....I had read that the Shen Hao 617 ground glass is larger than 6x17 does this light banding appear anywhere in the processed 617 film, other than just near the outer edges? Or is the banding so bright as to affect the entire image?
    I just purchased and received the Shen Hao 617, so I'm wanting to plan ahead...if possible.
    Thank you!
  30. Hi Robert.
    Welcome to the club!!!
  31. Hi Guys
    I will try and answer all questions in on go
    I am going to collect the second test roll of film on monday, this roll was a quick shot taken in the back garden, just to see if it suffers the same issues. I will let you know the results.
    Dean, I agree with some of your comments, but don't see why I should be doing this with a brand new camera. It should be fit for purpose (Under the UK sale and Supply of goods Act).
    Robert, There is darker banding on the left and right edges and a light band running along the top of the image (All on the film). It is impossible to see this on the ground glass screen due to difficulties in using the camera in the first place.
    You can see the result of the first roll of film in the pictures here: Link:
    I will let you know how the second roll of film comes out on monday.
  32. [​IMG]Jamie here there are some my photos from this camera croped up and down, scanned with Nikon Coolscan 9000ED.
  33. Sorry.
    I failed before to insert the photos.
  34. Jamie, I think your problem might be related to the fact that you're shooting a nightscape pic. In the night any cameras, especially view cameras, will be more prone to flare from lights.
    Christos, I see you have shot wonderful pics with the Shen Hao 617! Thanks for sharing your results. You mentioned earlier in this thread that Shen Hao 617 is a bad copy of Ebony 617S and its aluminum alloy is "very soft". Have you actually handled the Ebony 617S and compared these two cameras? What do you think of the rigidity of Shen Hao TFC617A? If the aluminum is soft I guess rigidity will be affected especially at long extension (say, using a 300mm lens). You seem not happy with Shen Hao TFC-617A's quality, but your pics from that camera are in fact wonderful!

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