Walker Titan XL 5x7 review (and comments on other formats)

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by alex_smith|7, Jul 29, 2009.

  1. Please forgive the somewhat lengthy and informal review that follows. When originally searching for information on the Walker Titan XL 5x7 I had a difficult time finding answers to some of my questions, and others remained altogether unanswered. In hopes that the following will be of interest and help to someone contemplating purchasing a Walker large format camera, I write the comments below.
    First, however, the obligatory background information: I have been shooting with large format cameras for some years now, and have owned Toyo, Wisner, Arca-Swiss, Fotoman, and Ebony cameras, but have also had some experience with Canham, Zone VI, and Linhof models. So that you know my biases, I have preferred the folding and non-folding Ebony 4x5 cameras that I have owned to the other brands—though there were many things that impressed me about the Arca F-Field that I briefly owned. I am not in any way affiliated with Walker Cameras, other than that I happened to buy one of their products.
    Looking for an Ebony-non-folding-like design led me to Mike Walker’s relatively new cameras. The non-folding design was a plus for me, but the real draw to the Walker Titan XL 5x7 was that it seemed to meet my various format needs in one camera. Without going into the arguments for or against Walker cameras in general—with their unique plastic bodies—let me echo the opinions of other reviewers. Mike Walker is a gentleman to work with. Polite, courteous, and he builds a great camera. Turn-around time for my camera was a little longer than the 8-10 weeks that he anticipated, but he is very busy with orders at the moment—a symptom of the very loyal following that he seems to have. In terms of payment and shipping options, and special modifications to the camera, he was entirely accommodating.
    I had heard good things about the fit and finish of the camera, and had rather high expectations before seeing the camera, but when it arrived I found that in every way it exceeded my expectations. Smooth locking mechanisms, focus control, a beautiful finish, and I have never used a field camera (or even some monorails) that exhibited greater stability of the front and rear standards at full extension (part of this, of course, being due to the lack of rear standard movements). The layout and design of knobs is very intuitive, and will be very familiar to anyone who has used a non-folding Ebony camera.
    Now then, on to the specifics.
    Dimensions: For some reason, dimensions are not provided for the 5x7XL on Walker’s website, as they are for the 4x5 SF and 8x10 XL cameras. Mike, however, provided them in an email prior to my ordering the camera. The camera is 28x28x17.5 centimeters. The first surprising thing about these numbers is that this shows the baseboard of the camera to be even longer than that on the 8x10 camera. Acknowledging that a smaller camera is more ideal for packing, the advantage of this is that the 5x7 XL has a longer maximum bellows draw—in relation to the format size—than either its 4x5 or 8x10 companions. With a 70-320mm bellows draw it is at least a little less specialized for extreme-wide-angle photography than the other two Walker non-folders, and this becomes more pronounced if the camera is used with a 4x5 reducing back.
    6x17: See below. But let me just say that the Canham 6x17 motorized back fits beautifully on this camera, and will likely be the reason many people would consider purchasing a 5x7 camera these days. As other reviewers have said, I cannot think of a more stable or appropriate platform for Canham’s back than this Walker camera. With the growing numbers of 6x17 shooters and the dearth of companies making even reasonably-priced 6x17 cameras, I would think a viable 6x17 option, with movements, at a reasonable price would be a welcome addition to the market.
    5x7 - 4x5 Reducing Back: My purpose for purchasing the 5x7 camera was not to shoot 5x7, but rather to consolidate my 4x5” and 6x17cm shooting needs in one camera, as I have grown tired of packing both camera systems simultaneously for the last few years. Additionally, the thought of shooting 6x17 with my current lenses on Linhof/Wista-style boards and a considerable range of available movements were too much to pass up. The 4x5 reducing back replaces the entire 5x7 back section. It does not merely slide into the 5x7 removable ground glass position. This will likely be obvious to anyone looking at the photos of the camera on Walker’s website. Before purchasing the camera I was a little concerned about the design of the 4x5 reducing back, and whether it would allow for use of a Fuji Quickload holder, as that holder has a significant bulge at the top, which faces the camera back. I was pleased to find that the Walker reducing back does indeed accept the Quickload holder just fine, but this is accomplished by setting the 4x5 gg and film plane further back than the 5x7 film plane when using the 5x7 back. The downside of this is that the quoted 70mm minimum bellows extension of the camera is really only applicable to 5x7 or 6x17 formats. Using a flat lensboard I am not able to focus my 75mm lens even considerably closer than infinity. Rough measurements of the focusing rails leads me to believe that nothing short of a 90mm lens would be usable with the 4x5 back, at least when using a flat lensboard, and even then, with potentially little room for focusing closer than infinity. Don’t quote me on this though. My 110 XL had plenty of room for focus, as did the 240A Fuji on the other end (I do not currently have a 300mm non-telephoto, but presumably that would be fine slightly closer than infinity as well). While the inability to use extreme wide-angles when using the 4x5 reducing back is unfortunate, it is a compromise I would gladly make to be able to use Quickloads rather than traditional film holders with all the other lenses available to the camera. Cost of the 4x5 reducing back is 240 GB pounds.
    Front Shift/Cross: For some reason, the Walker 4x5 and 5x7 XL cameras do not come standard with any front shift (or “cross” for those on Mike’s side of the pond). The 8x10 XL does come with a small amount of shift. Prospective buyers should be aware, however, that Mike will include front shift for the modest additional sum of 100 pounds. Personally, I believe there is a stronger argument for including front shift on the 5x7 than on either of the other camera sizes. Shooting landscapes primarily, I rarely use front swing movements, but when I do use them, I would certainly like to be able to use an attending shift movement center the image circle over the film. This becomes even more important when using, for instance, the popular Schneider 110XL lens on either 5x7 or 6x17 formats. Any lenses that will only barely cover the larger 5x7 or 6x17 formats would seem to cry out for front shift in the rare cases that front swing will be used. On a side note, I use front and rear shift on their own rather frequently when shooting with my Ebony, but the amount of shift offered on the upgraded Walker 5x7 front standard is relatively small anyway.
    Having already taken too much of your time, I close with thanks to Mike for building a great camera. If there are any follow-up questions that I might answer, please feel free to ask (or email Mike—he’s a great fellow).
     
  2. I fully agree with your assessment of Mike and of the 5x7 Walker camera. Before going further I am obliged to say that I sell both Walker and Ebony cameras, and have owned and used both. I Liked my 5x7 XL very much. It is tough, well made and has accurate focus. I had a 617 Canham back for the camera, but never could get the back to work right. I am sure that was my fault because I was resentful that the back had an electric advance. This is foolish, in my opinion, on a piece of equipment that could be simple and almost foolproof. The camera was very good, and reasonably priced for a non folding 5x7. I did not keep it because I missed the rear tilt. I am currently using an Ebony 57SUE instead. The Ebony cost more than twice as much, but the rear tilt and asymmetrical tilt/swing are worth it to me. Also the Ebony goes wider. I use a 55mm lens with a flat board on mine. My only criticism, and this is of both cameras, is that another few inches of bellows extension would be a big help. Ebony does make extension tubes and extension backs.
     
  3. Hi Alex. I'm also a very recent convert to Walker cameras having cut my teeth on 2 non-folding Ebonies - the SW and the 45SU (both 5x4 format). I was also shooting 6x17 on an Art Panorama roll film back with both of these cameras and really enjoyed this format - so much so that I got a Fuji GX617.
    However I was never really happy with the squarish 5x4 shape! After some consideration I realised that 5x7 was a much more natural format for me and so began my quest for an affordable quality camera. I couldn't afford a 5x7 Ebony (pity) but I am so glad that I found Mike Walker's cameras!
    They are the equal, in quality and craftsmanship to the Ebony; albeit two ends of the manufacturing spectrum - wood and ABS!
    However, the 5x7 XL Wide is so similar to the non-folding Ebony cameras that the change to this camera was very smooth.
    I was pleasantly surprised at the fit and finish - the camera has a "grippy" feel about it that gives it a modern-look and the movements are super smooth.
    I got my 5x7 along with the 5x4 reducing back (just in case! As I still have a load of 5x4 film in the fridge!) as well as the Canham 6x17 roll film back. The Canham is an amazing piece of kit! It does take a bit of getting used to when loading (those film chamber doors tend to flap around!) but it is so much easier to use than the Art Pan and the frame spacing is perfect. The thing I missed about the Fuji 617 was the inability to use movements.
    I use the 5x7 with a 110XL (superb), a 150mm Schneider as well as a 250mm Fuji. I am looking for a 72XL too when funds allow!
    I was also pleased at how bright the screens are on both the 5x4 and 5x7 backs - illumination is very even across the frame.
    I was fortunate that Mike was also able to make up a set of wide angle bellows for the camera as he had parts available. This typifies the professional service he provides - I emailed the order Monday morning; he replied with a quote; I arranged bank transfer of funds; I received the bellows on Wednesday morning of the same week - the funds hadn't even arrived in his account I'm sure!
    I also got the wide angle recessed board - to allow the use of wide angle lenses (for 5x4 as you mention that there is a limitation in the focal length useable due to the design of the reducing back) and this is based on the clever design of the Wista panel (I think). The only issue I can foresee is that it will be difficult to use a Lee Filter holder on the camera with this lens board installed as there is not enough clearance between the lens front/camera controls. However, this lens board allows about 28mm of additional "bellows reduction" and combined with the wide bellows should cover all but the widest of lenses. Unlike traditional recessed panels the design here allows aperture and shutter controls to be operated from the side - very convenient.
    I too wondered about front shift? However, I am happy to live without it for the other benefits of this camera far outweigh the lack of this movement.
    The dimensions of the camera were also surprising - it is a big ol' thing but still surprisingly lightweight. I have been able to carry it in both my Lowepro and Tamrac packs along with lenses, meter, darkslides etc.
    I am really delighted with the move from Ebony to Walker - although I still rate Ebony as the finest wooden cameras; in Walker cameras you have an equally good but "different" camera.
     
  4. Bruce and Paul,
    Thank you both for your comments. I have nothing to add to the conversation other than to say that I have been a long-time beneficiary of the knowledge shared on the photo.net large format forum, but a very infrequent participant. I have thoroughly appreciated the comments of both of you over the years, and could not be more honored by receiving your responses here.
    Best wishes.
    P.S. - Paul, I am entirely envious of your location. I am a Utah resident, and while we have our share of landscape opportunities down in the southern part of the state, I always long to return to my one-time home of GB.
     
  5. Alex it's amazing how we all envy each others locations? I suppose that familiarity means that we don't fully appreciate the scenery that we have on our own doorsteps.
    Best of luck with 5x7 - it's a journey that I'm greatly looking forward to; well I would if the weather here wasn't so bad!! Heavy rain and strong winds - a typical British summer!
     
  6. The best photographs are often made within a Km or a mile of one's home.
    I often wondered, even though 6 years of my life was (agreeably) spent in the UK, why Europeans (well, the British at least) refer to 4 x 5 as 5 x 4, but (apparently) refer to 5 x 7 as 5 x 7 (and to paper sizes as the minimum dimension x maximum dimension), but I may be wrong? Does driving on the left side of the road have anything to do with it?
     
  7. Hi Arthur, we do it just to be awkward!
     
  8. Hello all. About two years ago, I bought a Walker Titan 5X7 XL, that was being sold on an estate sale online auction. I had never seen or heard of the Walker cameras before the auction. From the looks of the photos posted on the auction site. With it's ABS mould-injected plastic design. I just assumed it had front swings shift, tilt along with back tilt movements and folded down. Was I ever wrong. That is what I get for buying, and not being able ask questions. Not that I should complain. Overall, given the other photo items I purchased from the auction. I got a very GOOD deal! When the Walker Titan 5X7 XL arrived, and I realized my folly. I read up on the camera. Discovered it was made in England, and contacted said maker. Because I mistakenly thought he could add front shift movement to the camera. Because I mostly would have used the camera for cityscapes. Lack of back tilt movements on the Walker Titan 5X7 XL, would seem to be a major drawback for shooting cityscapes. So, after some basic testing to make sure camera was in working order. I put it in storage. I did have a bit of a problem, getting the hang of loading film holders into the back. My other view cameras, have a spring back loading system. I want to sell the Walker Titan 5X7 XL. Because I bought the Walker Titan 5X7 XL used, from an estate sale. I have no idea how much I should sell, or trade it for. Does anyone out there have an idea. I e-mailed the maker of the camera, asking how much I should sell it for, but did not get an answer. Camera is listed for £1500.00 ($2,031.00) new.
     

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