The quality of German and Japanese-built equipment

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by nathan_congdon, Dec 19, 2001.

  1. I preface this potentially inflammatory question by saying that this is not a troll or invitation to flames or intemperate responses. I'm genuinely interested to see what people think.

    <p>

    I was just talking with a fellow frequenter of this group in a private email exchange about our not-entirely-satisfactory experiences with a well-known US maker of LF cameras. I began thinking about the camera-makers that I associate with unimpeachable quality: Linhof, Sinar, Ebony, some might add Arca Swiss to the list. Though I know there are partisans who really love their Canhams and Phillips and Wisners, it occurs to me that I have just not found the same level of "fit and finish" in US-made cameras that I've bought. Not that they can't be well or beautifully made, but I'm talking about that "throw it off a cliff and keep right in using it" kind of ruggedness that Linhof, for example, has. Or the perfect precision of a Sinar. Not wanting to take this TOO far off-topic, I have to admit that I'm driving German and Japanese cars, too, and just don't generally find US-made ones to be as reliable. IS there really something cultural about Germany and Japan, presumably Switzerland, too, that allows things to be made more precisely, reliably and ruggedly? What IS it? Obviously, there are exceptions to prove the rule (Gitzo tripods from France, the venerable American Deardorff, some might say Reis tripods, though I haven't been as impressed with their usability as, say, my Swiss-made B-1 ballhead!)

    <p>

    I'm hoping to capitalize on the recent "philosophical" bent of a few recent threads in this newsgroup, I guess. I am, by the way, American, and not in any way trying to denigrate the US in general. More curious I think about what allows things to be made the way they often are in Germany, Switzerland and Japan.

    <p>

    Nathan
     
  2. Hi Nathan,

    <p>

    I can't comment on US made cameras but, I'm currently building my own
    house and some of the building equipment that I've been using which is
    almost indesctructable, has "Made in the USA" stamped on it. Perhaps it just
    depends on the product being made.

    I currently own an Ebony - handmade in Japan, perfection in craftsmanship
    and design in my opinion, but I wouldn't like to throw it off a cliff! ;-)
    I have also used the Sinar cameras for years and they are certainly rugged
    and precise, but don't have the beauty of the Ebony, IMHO.

    <p>

    Precision engineering seems to be something that the German and Swiss
    manufacturers do with skill and have a well-deserved reputation for, but I've
    found the US made Leatherman knife/tool I use, is as good as my Swiss army
    knife - maybe even better.

    <p>

    Perhaps with camera equipment the, German, Swiss and Japanese makers
    just have more experience in this particular area - I certainly like their gear,
    but then again no one makes any good camera gear in Australia either - so
    they sort of have a monopoly ;-)

    <p>

    Kind regards

    <p>

    Peter Brown
     
  3. Hopefully not too far off topic but this memorable true story has
    stayed with me for many years. While trying to get a variation on a
    Japanese thin walled step up ring, I took it to America's leading maker
    of photographic filters (do I need to give a name?) to see if they
    could accomodate me with anything superior. Remember, this was years
    ago when these step up rings were not nearly as commonplace as today -
    the 'days' of Spiratone's store in Flushing and NYC. The reps response
    was simple and unforgettable, "We can't make anything like that here."
    And he was right as what his company offered was, in comparison, crude,
    larger than necessary series size (i.e., series 8 to series 9 step up)
    step up rings that nonetheless did that job fine. But his response was
    scary to me. Can't make this in the USA? "Why not", I ask ... still.
    These days Tiffen acts as importer for those finely machined Japanese
    (and now Taiwanese?) rings.
     
  4. Of course there's Tradition, but I'll bet that our tax laws have
    something to do with it, too. Also, how about Gandolfi, in England?
     
  5. some companies just know how to make a great product and keep thier standards high.
    i know of two camera companies i have experience with that have the concept right but
    can't deliver the goods and fall very short of all expectations promised.
     
  6. We tolerate too much "whining" in the workplace in America. In my
    lifetime I have seen the "work ethic" if you will, degrade to the
    point where workers are incensed if someone actually expects them to
    work. It's actually kind of frightening. The politicians are
    fighting just today about employers having to pay for health insurance
    long after some lazy unemployable person is gone. The people who
    actually go to work and work, do it because they want to. But it's
    demoralizing to see folks getting paid more than you goofing off.
    We've enjoyed a 10 year windfall in this country because of the new
    internet phenomenon, but now that it's over, what do you do with a
    nation of people who don't expect to go to work and be productive.
    I'm no expert, but I think the other nations mentioned are laughing
    behind our backs.
     
  7. I see the very high quality in Linhof, Sinar, Arca-Swiss and some
    other view cameras. I see high quality on others. Then, in some of
    the modern field cameras I see a lot of sloppy fittings and a general
    lack of precision. Some are better than others but when compared to
    many of the similarly priced premium brands they suffer. A Linhof
    isn't cheap, but niether is a Wisner & there is no comparison between
    the two. Quality control is one issue but design philosophy seems to
    be quite different. 'Good enough' is the norm with one while the
    other is, if anything, over-engineered & precise beyond what most of
    us will ever need. I will take the precision over slop if given a
    choice.
    'German engineering' has been a staple for some time. Japanese
    engineering is noted for high quality. The USA can produce camera
    gear just as good as these, so why aren't we seeing more of it?
     
  8. I agree with Nathan. Anything the size of a Honda Civic or smaller
    will invariably be better-manufactured in Japan, Germany. For
    example, I could envision an American company attempting the German
    Jobo type processors, but they'd be junk, believe me.

    <p>

    A good friend stopped talking to me inexplicably once. Then I
    remember I had sold her a Russian medium format 6x6 including fisheye
    for fifty dollars...
     
  9. I've come across some very interesting written material that in
    great and philosophical detail describes the reasons for the quality
    and lack of, in certain areas of the world and the perceptions of
    large groups of people i.e countries, states etc.to their advantage
    or not.
    This material is fasinating as it posits transmigration of the
    soul(reincarnation)into different areas of the world and peoples
    through life and death. The theory is this....that it takes about
    100 to 150 lifetimes to run the trip on planet earth.This requires
    many births and deaths....like a planetary school as we live more
    lifetimes we learn and grow.About 5000 years total time expended on
    the planet in various bodies. There are 5 levels...1st is infant
    soul...many aboriginal tribes and autistic children characterise
    this level...fear of complexity is prominant and much care needed in
    the life course. 2nd level is the baby soul where the soul is just
    able to start to move about in the world but with many
    limitations,especially religious(Iran is largly baby soul).3rd is
    young soul...this is where the shakers and movers are found ...the
    big achievers. 4th level is mature soul..after all the achievements
    have taken place a more artistic and philosophical point of view is
    learned.5th level is old soul...this is the level where the
    difference of the tangible in contrast to the intangeble are sorted
    out and balanced...often the worldy demands are avoided as the old
    soul has done much in the course of many lifetimes and now seeks
    truth and simplicity.Musicians can fall in this catogory as well as
    bums and hoboes...who want nothing to do with the demands of
    society.Maybe some photographers too!
    According to this info, countries manifest in a general way ..the
    levels of the soul and in the lifestyle, as well as the perceptions
    and products created. The US is mostly a young soul country and is
    therefore very ambitious,capitalistic and warlike while recent
    Germany is mature soul country.Most famous artists and geniuses are
    mature soul because they require precision and excellence in
    creation, and a higher value.Switzerland and Holland are old soul
    countries as they allow drugs and prostitution to be legal vs the US
    which has a need to put people in jail for this.Switzerland also
    stays out of war as the old soul has had enough of this in past
    lives and has nothing to learn from it.
    As far as cameras are concerned the Germans are very precice with
    high values(mature soul) in their construction, unlike the young
    soul Americans who are in it mostly for the fame/success or money...
    and that may have nothing to do with high quality.Hence the lack of
    respect of our autos and...where did our cameras go...we never
    equaled the Germans photo gear.
    Japan is another story entirely as they are late baby souls with
    an eye for repeatability and commercial sucess in a societal
    sense...Toyotas are different from Mercedes as Leicas are different
    from Nikons.Nikons/Toyotas=functionality(baby soul) while
    Leicas/Mercedes=uncompromising quality(mature soul). The soul levels
    are evidentin the creations.
    Ebony cameras as well as the exquisite Japanese works of art were
    most likely not the work of the prevailing soul level of Japan but
    of a mature or old soul trying to create quality/beauty in a
    systematic,robotic society. Food for thought eh?
     
  10. It's always risky to generalize -- but no doubt the
    German's/Japanese/Swiss must have a gene that separates them from the
    rest of the pack when it comes to techno-super quality and attention
    to detail. Some other facts: American workers are the most productive
    in the world and work longer hours on average than other
    industrialized countries. German workers are among the most pampered
    in the world with 6 weeks of vacation and very short work weeks.
    Therefore, this issue of attention to detail and unsurpassed quality
    has little to do with the work ethic of the people as was alluded
    above. Another observation is that on average, US corporations
    consistently deliver much higher profit margins than their
    counterparts in other countries, particularly Japan and Germany (auto
    industry aside). The market in the US is brutally focused on
    quarterly profit delivery, much more than eleswhere. This undoubtedly
    has an impact on the way we think about business even though a number
    of the camera manufacturers mentioned above are probably private and
    don't feel that type of pressure.

    <p>

    I think the poster who mentioned several high-quality companies from
    the US has the right idea. The issue really boils down to the person
    or team at the helm of the company and his/their attitude and
    requirements. Those few companies which really value
    fit/finish/artestry above all else stand out, but I'm not sure they
    get the return on capital demanded in the US economy. Therein lies
    the rub. fwiw, I'm an American who's worked in both US an European
    large corporations for about 20 years and overseas for the last 14
    years.
     
  11. come on folks, its one thing and one thing only, and that is the
    ability to put more money into the product itself, because less money
    is going into the cost of the labor. When I say product itself, that
    means things like culling out specimens that are no good. I believe
    I read somewhere on this forum at one time that Zeiss throws away an
    incredible number of their top end binoculars ever year on the one
    hand just to protect their warranty on the other end. same probably
    goes for Leica, Sinar, Hasselblad, Roles, BMW, and Mercedez.
     
  12. It's not that we can't do it in America. I have Photosonics high
    speed 35mm cameras out at work that are made in Burbank California.
    The mechanism in those cameras is like a piece of jewelry. Each piece
    hand lapped to precision tolerance. They spin at 11,000 RPM and the
    film advances and stops for an exposure 250 times a second. (no typo)
    The image quality is similar to a Nikon. Mostly Pentax 67 lenses.
    Some Zeiss, and some Schneider Xenotar's. But they cost $250,000.
    Your tax $ at work folks. Nobody else anywhere even tries to compete.
     
  13. I second Jim's point: when it comes to real high-precision
    engineering no country has a monopoly, and the best supplier
    can come from anywhere.

    <p>

    You can find a craftsman capable of making you a top-quality LF
    camera in pretty well every country in the world. The real
    question is how much will it cost for a particular volume.

    <p>

    Having worked in Germany and visited labs in Japan I can say
    that one cultural factor I have noticed is technical staff are treated
    with the same respect as managerial or scientific personnel.
    Both countries also have a strong tradition in production
    engineering - how to make machines to make things -
    compared to the anglo-saxon world which awards kudos to the
    design of the product itself. Finally, both countries have financial
    sectors which are very friendly towards small companies in
    general, and small mechanical engineering companies in
    particular.
     
  14. d_g

    d_g

    I'm a french, i've got an army swiss knife, a german LF camera (linhof), german lens (schneider and rodenstock); my hasselblad
    comes from suede, my apple mac was built in UK. I enjoy french cuisine at home, i'm going to thai, greck...restaurants...
    I don't want a world where everyone looks similar (religion, food, skills,...), with mondialisation we can have different products made by
    different people, i like it like that, that's call : humanity. Don't let mondialisation destroy our own specific skills, cultures...and enjoy
    differences...
     
  15. I fully agree. After wearing them for four years, I have sadly put to the rubbish the best shoes I ever had: a
    pair of Timberland made and bought in USA. Otherwise, my flatbed is German but my monorail is Japanese. My
    65 SW is Japanese, but the 110 XL is German. My Apo-Ronar is German, but the Fuji C's are Japanese. My
    tripods are French, but the ball heads are German and Italian. My Backpack is Irish as well as my computer, but
    my monitor and my car are Japanese and my scanner is Israeli. Finally and to put an end to the list, my
    army-knife as well as my rollfilm back are Swiss! What would we be without one another? Best wishes to all!
     
  16. Forgot to mention an excellent movie tripod that I had and was made in Australia, and the wonderful roast-leg
    that we had the other week from a tender Kiwi lamb! ;-)
     
  17. We (Americans) can manufacture the best there is when we want or need
    to. Panavision in Tarzana, CA and Mitchell, before them, produced the
    finest 35mm motion picture cameras in the world. Why? They needed to
    do it. Entertainment is our biggest export! Big money drives that
    industry. It will be interesting to see the impact of HDTV on the
    motion picture industry. Should it eventually dominate the world of
    moving pictures, it will be the Japanese who we turn to for the cameras
    (and as is the case now, Zeiss, Angenieux, Cooke and Leitz for the
    optics). But, I think it a mistake to assume anything the Japanese and
    Germans make is great. At their best, they are wonderful products but,
    at their worst, they can be as dreadful as any made here (USA) or
    elsewhere. Precision made dreck? Personally, I think we are
    "toolcentric" as a society. We often measure each other's ability by
    the tools we use. This is particularly so in highly creative arenas.
    I think that is because it is so difficult to explain what enables
    artists to create art, that ordinary folks look for "answers" to
    explain their success. "He or she makes beautiful photographs.....I
    wonder what camera they use". You never hear anyone saying "What a
    great plumber....I wonder if he uses a Craftsman or a Stanley wrench!"
     
  18. Paul,

    <p>

    You cruel man. That lamb you ate may have been some poor
    Kiwi's girlfriend! Just as well it wasn't Australian lamb or it would
    definitely have been some bloke's shiela.

    <p>

    Happy eating ... Walter
     
  19. Nathan,

    <p>

    I know where you are coming from and I feel sure that there are
    many of us make the same observations and uphold the same
    views.

    <p>

    In fairness: drop a Technika over a cliff and warp the body-shell
    and that's the end of it - chances are you won't even be able to
    shut it again prior to major surgery.

    <p>

    Having said that you need to look at the marketing and
    manufacturing philosophies of the societies involved. The
    comparative histories are relevant also. I’ll endeavour to refrain
    from more psychobabble.

    <p>

    Europe and Japan are very old cultures with traditions of craft
    and manufacture dating back to Neolithic times (in the case of
    Europe). From this craft manufacturing tradition industry
    developed and eventually in response to increased demand and
    greater technology heavy industry and manufacturing came into
    being … but always with the influence and incorporation of craft
    alongside.

    <p>

    America, on the other hand, is a comparatively new society
    quickly developing it’s own culture. From a standing start it had
    to acquire vast industrial capabilities virtually overnight to forge
    the national expansion necessary to accommodate the
    enormous influx of migration that flooded to its shores.
    Expediency and economic viability were essential if the goals of
    the great American social experiment were to be met. Without
    the time, need or funds for craft it had to give way to simplicity
    and efficiency – hence the American development and worship
    of the production line.

    <p>

    "Good Old Yankee Know-How" has lead to the invention,
    development and fabrication of a plethora of manufactured
    goods for every purpose imaginable ... including photography.
    They’re adequate to satisfy their intended purpose (often
    handsomely so), usually relatively inexpensive and readily
    available. But then American designs often remain
    fundamentally unchanged for generations to minimise
    expenditure on re-designing, re-casting or re-tooling on the
    basis that "If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It!" The Zippo lighter, Omega
    and Beseler enlargers, Norman & Speedotron flash are all
    examples … the list goes on and on.

    <p>

    I recall attending a press-conference here in Sydney a couple of
    decades ago at which Neil Armstrong was asked what his
    feelings were in retrospect about his trip to the moon. "Scary,"
    was his immediate response, to which he added: "I was
    undertaking mankind's most potentially hazardous journey in a
    craft built by the company that put in the lowest tender." It got him
    there and back and the rest is history. In American
    manufacturing I believe economical expediency is paramount –
    the bottom line IS the bottom line.

    <p>

    Let’s take a look at enlargers for a moment to illustrate this point.
    I had an Omega D-something or other … hardly changed since it
    was designed for use with the US Navy in WWII. The negative
    stage was a sheet of stamped aluminium plate aligned using 4
    phillips head screws and spring washers. Pull the lever to raise
    the head and re-insert the neg carrier (a flat stamped aluminium
    sandwich) and bits swayed and clunked in a charming but hardly
    reassuring ballet. Lower the head and it all sort of went back to
    where it was before … but it might be smart to re-check the
    focus. Now I have a Durst Laborator L1200 – a solid die-cast
    chassis with milled tracks for the neg carrier to glide in on,
    assisted by bearings. Snaps back to the same spot time and
    time again. The carrier glasses are seated on milled parallel
    surfaces, the head glides up the column on roller bearings –
    believe me, it’s nice … and precise. The Omega did the same
    job but the Durst is nice and precise.

    <p>

    Now, I’m sure that just like my Linhof the Durst will be at a
    premium price in the USA as it is here in Australia and anywhere
    else you care to mention. But they make it; and you have are
    given a choice. While the bottom line is the focus for these
    Italian folk, also, there is the sense that they go the extra yards.
    Maybe they have to in order to maintain a competitive identity in
    the face of US industrial might.

    <p>

    Naturally Germany, Switzerland and Japan make some prize
    crap as well and the ‘Name Brands’ aren’t necessarily innocent
    in this regard, either. But generally speaking if you are
    discerning in your choice and cough up the money you can be
    sure of getting what you pay for.

    <p>

    So now let’s consider the Linhof Technika series for a moment:
    there was a time when there were many metal
    Technical/Field/Press cameras in production – the Graphics
    from the USA, the MPPs from England and the Linhof from
    Germany to name a few. What do we have now? Despite
    market changes, ownership changes and the need to
    re-structure production and financing Linhof have persisted and
    produce a premium product to this day – with ongoing upgrades
    and improvements. They obviously see it as their role and
    exercise a considerable level of devotion to it over and above
    purely fiscal considerations. I feel sure that the German national
    identity plays no small part in this also. So where are MPP and
    Graphic now? With the decline in demand for large format
    ‘press’ cameras they couldn’t or wouldn’t weather the storm.

    <p>

    However, what about the healthy American “large format art
    market”? Who is serving the perpetuees of the Ansel Adams
    legacy? Many fine American craftsmen answered the call
    making exquisite wooden field cameras (some metal too, of
    course) but due to the somewhat limited size of the market
    production is possibly geared up as cottage industry. Forged or
    stamped metal parts are often common to many manufacturers;
    fiscal constraints are at the forefront again. Then there are the
    less scrupulous camera makers that cater for those
    photographers on a forced budget by supplying sloppy,
    under-featured units made from dead peoples’ furniture: those
    products could be made anywhere. Nevertheless, Japan and
    Europe have made their move into this market as well with the
    much-lauded Ebony from Japan, the venerable Gandolfi of
    Britain and the full-featured Lotus of Austria. It will be intriguing
    to see what happens over time.

    <p>

    However, credit where it’s due. America makes damn fine film,
    paper, and chemistry and has kept up research and
    development activity and new product releases until very recently
    in some areas that many are predicting the impending death of.

    <p>

    I do respect Robert's view about concentration on our tools but if
    it feels good, it feels good and makes you happy. If it inspires
    confidence and certainty then go for it. Maybe the plumber's
    client is unconcerned by his choice of wrench but sure as hell
    the plumber has his preferences.

    <p>

    Season’s greetings … Walter
     
  20. Japanese cameras are great, but I'll never forget that day when a
    piece of wood fell off my rosewood Wista. I was composing on the
    ground glass when I heard a soft "plunk" sound. One of the corner
    pieces, where the tongue and groove joints are, just simply fell off
    for no apparent reason. I glued it back on with some Elmer's.
     
  21. That is a very good question. So good that several years ago, MIT
    asked it and then spent 5 years and 5 million dollars answering it.
    To limit the scope of the question, they restricted their study to
    the automotive industry. The results were published in a book
    called: “The Machine that Changed the World” Buy it if you like
    graphs and charts. They looked at overall product quality, and
    quality as a function of man hours and resources used. Their
    conclusion (in a nut shell) was that Toyota was a fine car but in
    most cases Ford was just as good and in some cases better. Mercedes
    was good but only because of very expensive end of line rework of
    mistakes that Ford and Toyota wouldn’t have made.

    <p>

    I have worked with automotive engineers all over the world, and yes,
    I do believe that there are cultural differences that show up in the
    products. I wouldn’t even begin to try to make judgments as to
    whether these differences make products better or worse. On the
    whole I think the answer is both. Linhof puts a triple extension
    bellows in the same space Graflex put a double. But to my experience
    Graflex will last longer before developing pin holes. The Nikon’s
    eight thousands of a second shutter adds capability to the camera but
    my wife’s F4 blew up on our honeymoon on about the 30th roll of film
    and about 30 days after the warranty expired. My old Ftn with a cloth
    shutter is going strong after 25 years and my Leica 3f still
    produces a satisfying “zip” after about 50. Everything in
    engineering is a compromise.

    <p>

    With modern quality procedures (invented by Americans for the War
    Department during WW2) and modern CNC machinery, the differences in
    quality as a result of where a product is made are shrinking rapidly.

    <p>

    However, “the proof is in the pudding”. Cameras are for taking
    pictures not admiring and stroking. (do as I say not as I do.)

    <p>

    I think it is safe to say the vast majority of 4X5 images that have
    stood the test of time were taken with Graflex cameras. Probably the
    Wide Field Extar holds the record for studio advertising shots. For
    vacations and kids birthdays, the Brownie has to King. Kodak labs
    are to film what Bell Labs were to semiconductors. The only area of
    photography where you might give the title to a foreigner would be
    lens development and to my mind no one comes close to Zeiss.
    However, that was more a result of two or three individuals not a
    culture.

    <p>

    The other problem that we have in American is that the government
    takes their share first before the company can buy new machinery or
    improve worker's compensation. Right now in an American
    manufacturing company the government gets about 50% of the wealth
    created. Furthar, tax laws and the stock market mandate a 90 day to
    1 year corporate horizon. As most equipment capital expendure has a
    pay of measured in tens of years, it gets a short shrift in America.
    At one time Japan owned 80% of the industral robuts in the world and
    America had 80% of the lawyers.

    <p>

    Neal
     
  22. Walter, I'm sorry! I did know women are lacking in this part of the world, but I would not have thought it was
    that bad! ;-)
     
  23. Work ethic may be dead or dying, and I do agree with it to a degree,
    but I also see a very distressing tendancy for corporate leaders to
    espouse doing the least you can get by with and charging as much as
    you can for it. This is by no means a lone case, but I have worked
    with a guy who is a Senior VP in a major company and his philosophy is
    to produce, "minimally acceptable product." He is PROUD of this
    approach, talks about it everywhere he goes, and has mentioned it
    enough that he calls it by it's acronym, MAP. This attitude is very
    ubiquitous, so while we might have lazy workers producing shoddy
    stuff, we have their bosses telling them this is exactly what they
    want.

    <p>

    I spoke with a German who was brought here to the US to head up an
    American-based German company. He was dumbfounded by our approach.
    "No quality control, and when profits dip you lay off workers who are
    needed to produce and know what they are doing, rather than the middle
    management that is responsible for the dip. And obscene salaries and
    bonuses for the top guys when workers get laid off." He said this,
    not me. Mercedes' chairman made much less than Chrysler's when
    Mercedes bought Chrysler. By the way, he went back to Germany in
    disgust because he couldn't change approaches.
     
  24. Well, my experience (26 years in US industry) leads to the opinion
    that worker motivation is a direct function of management treatment.
    The euphemism "people are our most important resource" would more
    honestly be stated "...our most important liability." If some way
    could be found for an American corporation to be run with *no*
    employees, the board of directors would gladly lay off everyone in a
    flash.

    <p>

    Dr. J. Edwards Deming taught Japanese industry all it knows about
    building high quality products at the lowest possible cost. Companies
    in the US rejected his input, and he accepted an invitation to consult
    in Japan. They listened. The following is a direct quote from Dr.
    Deming in which he responded to those who would blame American workers
    for the decline of US products: "The problem is management; it's
    always management."
     
  25. “Minimal Acceptable Quality” Sounds like a story for CNN. However,
    it is simply the point beyond which no value is added. The Japaneese
    have a word for that, it is “Muda”. Waste. They disdain it above
    all else. (Juran defined Quality as “what the customer perceives”)
    How much more will the average consumer pay for reliability and
    features (form fit and finish that they will never be aware of our
    use?)

    <p>

    One story going around manufacturing management circles now is that
    Lexus doesn’t plate their seat frames. They know that this will
    result in a light powder of rust during the life of the vehicle but
    that the owner will never have a reason to know or care. If they
    plate the frame, what ever cost in dollars and resources will be
    wasted.

    <p>

    The fact that a German couldn’t learn anything in America doesn’t
    surprise me. One might note however that during WW2 Tiger tanks were
    built so well that we could build 10 Shermans for ever Tiger that
    they built. Tolerances were so tight that when they got them up in
    Russia during the winter, they wouldn’t run. Tigers were built to
    last 20 years but considering that the average life of a tank in
    battle is two hours, this might not have been an intelligent
    engineering decision.

    <p>

    I might add that I own a Mercedes, have for years and the biggest
    advantage that I can see to owning one is I never have to buy
    another. You only need to pay $58. for an over-engineered turn
    signal flasher once in your life. The Mercedes turn signal flasher
    is solid state and flashes the turn signals at a very precise duty
    cycle and time period down to the fractions of a second. If you add
    a trailer, they still flash at the same speed. Fords use a electro
    mechanical device that retails at about $3. If you add a trailer
    they flash faster because the load goes up. Which is value and which
    is obsessive compulsive?

    <p>

    Neal
     
  26. "potentially inflammatory"?????

    <p>

    Please don't post anything you consider inflammatory, you will start
    WW3.
     
  27. I love this forum. Got my batteries all charged up yesterday reading
    all of this tripe, took my nameless (probably indonesia 1955) 3½ pound
    5X7, my $140 Ilex Acutar 165 (very american), my trusty cheap italian
    tripod, some old film holders made in California, some US military
    reconaissance film, and made some very satisfying pictures that I
    stayed up until 3:00 AM printing. Sorry Japan and Germany.
     
  28. Deming went to American manufacturers when they were running their
    plants at full production to try to fill pent up demand for consumer
    products that were unavailable during WW2. Essentially he said:
    "Stop what your are doing,(Stop what you did to win the war.) retool,
    restructure,rethink, and I will show you a way to reduce waste".
    They rightly asked; "Why?" They had more raw material then they knew
    what to do with. They had more sales than they knew what to do with.

    <p>

    Japan on the other hand (thanks to American B29s) had a clean sheet
    of paper. If they had won the war, made the world safe for
    benevolent rule by their Emperor, survived with all their
    manufacturing facilities intact and possession of limitless sources
    of raw materials in conquered countries, they almost certainly would
    have thrown Deming out on his keester too.
     
  29. American factories have long since satisfied WWII pent up demand.
    My experience, validated by reliability records published in
    subscriber-supported (i.e. no advertising) Consumer Reports magazine
    each April, has been that Japanese automobiles are the most reliable,
    German cars fall midrange, and American vehicles fail most often. I
    owned a Mercedes for eight years. Purchased it new. Performed all
    maintenance - - by the book - - and repairs personally. Got very
    tired of frequently repairing supposedly over-engineered
    parts/systems. Replaced it with a Honda Accord. Another eight years
    have passed. One hundred eighty five thousand miles later, I've done
    scheduled maintenance, replaced the tires once at 100k, and recently
    replaced the starter. That's it. I often opined how nice it would
    have been if Mercedes had done the top level design and Toyota laid
    out details and manufactured. Now that would be one heck of a car.
    Lexus doesn't approach things the same way as Mercedes. Until that
    happens, I'll just muddle along with my Honda turn signal flasher. No
    idea what technology it uses. It just keeps flashing at a constant
    rate when called for, with no failures.

    <p>

    Cameras are not automobiles. I am very happy with the set of
    design/construction compromises Dick Phillips made when producing my
    Compact II. It doesn't match the fit and finish of a Sinar, but it's
    not intended to. Different weight targets and expected applications
    were involved. I do expect that it will last as long as and retain
    its initial level of functional precision as well as the Sinar. I
    call this appropriate design. The same cannot be said for American
    cars compared to their German and Japanese competition.
     
  30. Jim, I'm curious, when you say "...all of this tripe,..." do you
    include your first post above?
     
  31. >Paul,

    <p>

    >You cruel man. That lamb you ate may have been some poor Kiwi's
    >girlfriend! Just as well it wasn't Australian lamb or it would definitely have
    >been some bloke's shiela.

    <p>

    >Happy eating ... Walter

    <p>

    Walter, that's terrible! I was born in NZ and now live in Australia - does that
    mean Paul has eaten TWO of my girlfriends at once? ;-)

    <p>

    I'm going to be sick! - Peter
     
  32. Mr. Honda’s title translated to “Director and Supreme Adviser”. I
    never understood how “advise” could be called “advise” when it came
    from the “Supreme Adviser”.

    <p>

    I agree that they build a fine car. The CVCC design was truely
    inovative.
     
  33. Walter's reference to Neil Armstrong, speaking in Sydney, reminded me of
    another quote from one of the moon astronauts:

    <p>

    --

    <p>

    "It's not that you didn't trust it, but you are only coming this way one
    time. I'm sure not going to let some damn computer land it,"

    <p>

    - Astronaut Gene Cernan on why he didn't engage the autopilot as he landed
    the last lunar module on the moon.

    <p>


    Peter Brown
     
  34. Perhaps all this can be summed up by the Peter Principle (no, not named after
    me, but Dr. Peter) in which he states (and I paraphrase), that almost
    everyone is promoted up to a level of incompetence.

    <p>

    For example the person may be a great worker on the factory floor and so
    they get promoted to foreman/woman, where they also do well, because
    they understand their fellow workers and also like the little bit of
    responsibility, making things run smoothly, liasing between staff and
    management, etc, etc. But then they get promoted to mangement and they
    do not like this added responsibility and so do not perform well, but instead
    of being able to go back to being the foreman again, they are either left
    where they are, doing a bad job, producing inferior product or they are
    side-promoted to a newly created job or moved to another department
    where they are equally as unhappy and doing a bad job. Their incompetence
    transfers right down the line, all the way to the consumer product.

    <p>

    I'm glad no one can promote me - I'm already at MY level of incompetence ;-)

    <p>

    This has been a fun discussion.
    Peter Brown
     
  35. It's said that the perfect automotible would be designed by Chrysler,
    engineered by Mercedes, built by Toyota, and sold by Saturn. Would
    the perfect camera be designed by Canon, engineered by Linhof, built
    by Leica, and sold by Kodak?
     
  36. Don't know Bill, but I suspect the Daimler bosses might not let
    their Chrysler division designers design anything for their Mercedes
    division to build!
     
  37. The ruggedness of Linhof Technikas is, IMHO, vastly overrated. I've
    dropped mine onto soft ground twice, from a height of maybe two or
    three feet, when a zipper on my back pack was inadvertantly left
    open. In both cases significant damage was done. I had to replace the
    ground glass frame last spring (cost: $500) and this afternoon I
    decided to install a Bosscreen in it to replace the factory ground
    glass. In the course of unscrewing the six screws that hold the
    ground glass in place, two of the screws broke in half and the bottom
    halves remain in the screw holes, making it impossible to replace
    them even if I could find the right screws. So off it goes to
    Marflex, where hopefully the old screws can be drilled out and
    replaced. Otherwise I guess I get in an argument over who pays the
    cost of a new frame since it seems to me that with all that reputed
    German build quality, the screws in a seven month old product
    shouldn't break in half when they're unscrewed.
     
  38. That quote is actually from a Chrysler executive. I'll bet he ain't
    around any more.
     
  39. I will add one more thing to this. Do a direct comparison of two of
    the largest selling field cameras in 4x5. Take a brand new Linhof
    Technica and a brand new Wisner. For precision there is no
    comparison, the Technica beats the pants off the Wisner. Lock it down
    & the technica is more solid. Extend the bellows & the Wisner has
    more extension. It is personal feeling only as to which is more
    beautiful to look at. Take my 40+ year old Technica & it is still
    more solid & precise than a brand new Wisner. (went over to a
    friend's house & we did a direct comparison before posting this).
    Part of it is the nature of the beast. The wooden camera isn't as
    precise as the metal one even though nice. And, the wooden Lotus I
    have tried seems more precise than the Wisner in a head to head
    comparison. A bit different in design philosophy but both made to do
    the same job.
    It isn't that USA makers can't make precision gear but for some
    reason they don't get to the fine details like the higher
    end 'foreign' makers do.
     
  40. Peter L. Brown,

    <p>

    Steady on! I would stall short of inferring that Paul is a bigamist.

    <p>

    I learned today that I'm coming up to Qld mid-January. Only as
    far as the Sunshine Coast - shooting Harleys. I used to spend 8
    or 9 months of the year up there and every winter in Cairns or
    Townsville but that was 5 years ago. I sure miss the place.

    <p>

    Christmas blessings ... Walter
     
  41. Hey Neal,

    <p>

    Thanks for clearing something up. I can afford a Mercedes! If I buy
    the car I can count on paying $58 for a flasher during my ownership.
    Compare that to my '98 Chevy 2500 4x4 diesel truck, which has a new
    fuel pump, hydraulic lift pump, alternator, two batteries (shorted out
    by alternator according to mechanic), the belt that snakes all around
    the pulleys (twice), front rotors, front calipers, front pads, rear
    pads, four new tires because camber went out in the front and the
    rear wore unevenly, interior door handle (broke off in my hand),
    exterior door handle assembly (lock siezed and opener detatched),
    passenger side window winder (broke), wire bundle for tow package
    (shorted out and killed my back-up lights and turn signals), 4x4 front
    hubs (exploding during our biggest snow shorm last year), four shocks
    (can be considered normal maintenance, but at one year old?), and 11
    roadside breakdowns (requiring 5 tows). Add the purchase price to the
    repair prices, parts, tows, trips via mass transit to get home, some
    bogus repairs by shady dealerships, and I'd have a Mercedes.

    <p>

    And each time I broke down I went back to my 89' VW Golf GL with
    208,000 miles on it and 38 mpg and got to my various jobs and
    responcibilities. Japanese maintenance is definitely the best, but my
    experiences with this little car are astounding. I change the oil and
    have never done anything but shocks once and tires at 125,000 miles.

    <p>

    But we're talking cameras. WWII is a long time ago and most learn
    from their mistakes, and tanks also go farther afield than cars. The
    US can and has done great things. I have Deardorf, Century, Graflex,
    Korona. I also use Sinar, Linhof, Rollei, and others. And I have
    lenses from Zeiss, Rodenstock, Schneider, Nikon, Fuji, Rollei (German
    and Japanese), Goerz (US and German), Wollensack, and many more. All
    have strengths and weaknesses. My comment about Minimally Acceptable
    Product was to the point. He is not speaking about taking it to the
    point where people wouldn't pay for more hoops and whistles. He
    absolutely means the least you can get away with and still have most
    clients return for lack of a competitor who can offer better while
    cheap. The lowest common denominator is killing us.
     
  42. I think the reason for lower quality American products is based on
    our culture, such as it is. In the old days, making a quality
    product was taken for granted as the heart and soul of a business.
    Then somewhere in the 1960s the MBA weenies took over, instant
    gratification and short term goals became the focus, and money became
    all that mattered.
    Now days the focus is strictly on maximizing CEO compensation and
    shareholder wealth. Wall Street drives product design and quality,
    not a passion of excellence and utility. If the product is marginal,
    they just work on the marketing spin. Furthermore, consumers have
    become inured to shoddy products and planned obsolescence, to the
    point where they pay a very high premium for quality. This is all
    quite expected. Also consumers are far more concerned about price
    than quality.

    <p>

    Welcome to the new world!
     
  43. Sal Santamaura contacted me offline and expressed thatmy calling these
    posts "tripe" was offensive to him.

    <p>

    It was a poor choice of words from a limited vocabulary and was in
    fact an attempt by me to keep things light......not to take all of
    this too seriously. If I offended any others I apologize. My posts
    are tripe, but all others are deeply thought out and illuminative.

    <p>

    Respectfully, Jim Galli
     
  44. Hey Rob;

    <p>

    Your friend sounds like what I would call a "spread sheet" manager.
    Never goes out in the plant, just looks at the figures and thinks
    that is all he needs to know to run a company. I would be the last
    person on earth to defend him. I am reminded of a quote I heard
    somewhere: " If you want to be a succes making shoes, you had better
    love leather."

    <p>

    P.S. Friends don't let friends drive Chevys

    <p>

    A better camera to compair with the Linhof might be the Super Speed
    Graphic which was the last of the line and for a short while carried
    the Toyo name after they purchased the company. I have both, and the
    Linhof is my favorite but I am not sure I can justify that. It is
    said that Linhof don't suffer fools well. If you turn them both
    over, you will see that the Graflex focus rack is about 3 times as
    big as the Linhof. Unless you do something stupid the Linhof is
    fine, but if you do something stupid you might be better off witht he
    Graflex. The Graflex doesn't have rear movement like the Linhof but
    the Graflex front standard has so much you can argue it doesn't need
    it.
     
  45. Hmm..."tripe" or "trite"?
     
  46. <the Graflex front standard has so much you can argue it doesn't
    need it. >

    <p>

    Not if you plan on controlling image shape. That is the main
    advantage of back movements. Front movements won't control
    the shape.
     
  47. Hey Bob,

    <p>

    I think the main advantage of this post is that it made you so
    nervous that you put Linhofs on sale. Certainly a great servce to
    humanity.

    <p>

    Neal
     
  48. This thread, this post and this forum has nothing to do with the
    sale we are offering our dealers.
    We are simply trying to give all dealers, local and national the
    chance to extend the prices to all users across the country.
     
  49. I have enjoyed this post. The question reminded me of a course I took
    with an economist who later became chief economist for the New
    York/New Jersey Port Authority. He told the class about a
    conversation he had had with a German economist. The German
    economist lamented that "Germany excels at manufacturing the previous
    century's technology." They have nearly perfected the manufacture of
    automobiles, watches, machine tools and view cameras. The U.S., on
    the other hand has an absolute committment to the most efficient use
    of capital. In terms of products that usually results in goods that
    serve three masters: they must offer exceptional value to the buyer
    (consumer surplus), generate very favorable returns to the company,
    and be capable of being manufactured by a flexible labor force (the
    firm cannot rely on having experienced or "lifetime" workers to do
    skilled labor. You might not have noticed that what the Germans,
    Swiss and Swedes manufacture with such magnificent quality serve only
    a tiny niche market. They are not important players (by volume or
    revenue in the timepiece or camera market). They are also
    increasingly small players in the automotive world. In a sense they
    have trade manufacturing relevance for manufacturing prestige. That
    preserves for them a coveted top spot in the world's luxury and
    precision markets but does little to keep them on the cutting edge of
    the marketplace, something that the U.S. does exceptionally well -
    although it did go through a slump during the 70's and 80's.

    <p>

    The other thing about the U.S. system is that it dares to make
    significant changes. The German and other markets are known for
    their marketplace rigidities. While that preserves social stability
    and generates nice goods and living standards, it makes it much
    harder for them to compete head on in technology and service market.
    They do well, but upon close examination, not as well as we might
    expect. I think some of the responders to this thread mentioned that
    U.S. quality control is not where it should be. I think there is a
    lot of truth to that and I suspect it is due to a mismatch between
    corporate management styles, an overly permissive attitude towards
    executive pay that has eroded worker morale, and misunderstanding of
    the quality/price equation. It is difficult to measure consumer
    attitudes towards long-term quality, therefore it is hard to respect
    or account for its effect. We know it intuitively, but managers
    generally only respond to numbers. The truth is that Americans like
    quality as much as anyone, but if cannot use money efficiently in
    manufacturing it, we know we will do just as well manufacturing
    something else and buying the quality good from elsewhere. There is
    no irony in this since the best use of capital ensures that
    productivity remains highest and living standards as well (though not
    necessarily distributed equally).

    <p>

    By the way, I certainly respect and appreciate the quality available
    from makers such as Zeiss and Linhof, but I more appreciate the
    availability of goods that are nearly as good at a fraction of the
    price. It simply allows me to get work accomplished that I couldn't
    afford otherwise.
     
  50. "Zeiss and Linhof, but I more appreciate the availability of goods
    that are nearly as good at a fraction of the price"

    <p>

    How many of the ones that are "nearly as good" are still in
    professional, everyday use like the Technika III is?

    <p>

    Linhof's competition is Linhof. Unlike most products made for
    professional use they have an extrodinarily long life. And when
    that is factored into the price, the cost may be surprisingly high
    for others that sell for less.
     
  51. BTW, for reerence, the Technika III 45 was discontinued in 1956
    and it was introduced in 1946 so the newest one is at least 45
    years old and the oldest 55 years old. That is older then most of
    the less expensive companies have been making cameras.
     
  52. Its nearly impossible to discuss "better than" without including a
    discussion of the intended market and purpose for the items.
    Arguably the "best" camera ever made was George Eastman's
    Kodak because it helped create the industry that we all enjoy.
    But, other cameras of that era could produce images with
    greater quality e.g. large format. The "Kodak" was a response to
    the marketplace and the result was a huge success.
    Technological developments do not occur in vaccuums-they are
    all attempts to respond to perceived demand-realistic or not and
    whether they are watches or Tiger Tanks. There are people who
    would think that a constant rate of blinker flashing and plated
    seat frames are indicators of quality and there are those who
    could care less about those features-who could be so
    presumptious to suggest that either group was right or wrong?
    The reality is that the market lace is big enough to accomodate
    both of those groups and the automobile manufacturers are
    building cars that appeal to them The same is true for cameras.
    I love shooting with my Leicas and would not trade them in for
    another brand of 35mm but at the same time I also know that I
    have taken many great shots with Nikon and Canon equipment
    as well. A mercedes benz might last 50 years while a chrysler
    would be ancient after 5 years but they are both clearly built for
    different markets. The only measure of whether one is "better"
    than the other is if they serve their respective market they way it
    was intended. Clearly, the Tiger Tank was a failure (great
    machineing or not). The Ford or the Chrysler, built the way they
    are built and priced they way they are make it possible for all
    those who cannot afford to pay for the intrinsic engineering of the
    mercedes to own a car. Put them side by side on the test track
    and you will undoubtedly see a difference-but thats not the point.
    Put a Leica Apo Asph Summmicron on a test bench and
    measure it against a Minolta of the same focal length and you
    will probable see a difference in quality -but when you consider
    price points vs resolution and how the Minolta actually gets used
    and by whom then the quality differences become irrelevant-
    IMHO.
     

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