Zone VI Ultralight vs. Zone VI vs. Wisner Traditional S

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by steve_williams|3, Apr 16, 2003.

  1. I owned a Zone VI 4x5 (vintage 1984), traded it for an 8x10 Deardorff, sold it to
    pay my kid's tuition one semester and have been shooting with my Leica M6
    for the past three years.

    I have some extra money and want to get another 4x5 wooden view camera. I
    have found some nice used Zone VI cameras similar to the one I had. But I
    have also been looking at the Wisner Traditional and the Ultralight Zone VI.

    I am familiar with all the "flaws" of the Zone VI---wobbly front end, challenge
    with 90mm lens. The wobble was never a problem and futzing with the fornt
    standard to accomodate the 90 wasn't a hassle either for me.

    this time I am going to only use two lenses though---a 125 Fujinon and a 210.

    Can anyone comment on the "feel" and sturdiness of the Ultralight? And how
    does the Wisner compare to the standard "Wisnerlike" Zone VI?

    I have touched a Wisner Traditional once in a store for a few minutes and I
    was in love with it as an object of art., much the same as I felt when I first got
    the Zone VI. Don't want to obsess too much with this decision, so any light
    you can shed would be appreciated.

    I do not want to consider any other view camera. Just these three.

    Thanks. steve
  2. Can you afford one of the cheaper Ebony's? Will the 45RW or such do what you want?

    I've never used any of these long term, just played with the ZoneVI and the Ebony. If I was goign for a wooden 4x5 I'd go for the Ebony without a second thought...

  3. I like my Wisner Pocket Expedition a lot. It's well made and fun to use. Despite what
    has been said by others about Wisner services I have been all but pleased about the
    response and support I got from the company.
    I can only recommend Wisner.
    Traditionals are bulkier and heavier than my camera but also a lot cheaper. Check
    ebay they come along occasionally.
    I read that Wisners are better built than Zone VI and that the Ultralight was a bit
    wobbly. I never used the ZoneVI so I cannot confirm.
  4. Tim,

    I have a friend who has an Ebony camera and I have looked at it closely and just don't connect with it. My large format work has always been ritualistic first, almost like a meditative act where the process was far more important than the resulting negative. I made hundreds of negatives over an 8 year period of time without ever doing more than processing the film.

    The Zone VI and Wisner "feel" right. I just am not sure about the Ultralight....

  5. Steve

    You are actually considering buying a camera with defects such as a front end that wobbles? That is not the only flaw in a modern Zone VI. I live near Calumet and have played with all their Zone VI cameras and was not impressed at all. I have a Wisner, a metal Canham 5x7 and an Ebony. The Wisner works ok, but is far from perfect. I just noticed a large strip of wood which Wisner forgot to finish. But it has sloppy spots of varnish on it which were not even sanded or cleaned off. One can only see this strip when the camera is folded, but it still bothers me. The Canham works well, is a wonderful design, and I have no complaints about it. The Ebony is in a different world altogether. It's beauty is only matched by the genius of its design and the excellent quality of the craftsmanship. It is flawless, both in construction and in operation, and after using it for a year I can no longer look at any other camera in the same light. Imagine driving a Rolls-Royce for a year and then going back to your old Neon. Do not buy another camera before you check out the Ebonys. The cheapest one is about what a Wisner costs. But it's still an Ebony.
  6. Find a place with an unconditional 10-day money-back guarantee, buy one, try it out. Might work. I think you have to see it, feel it, try it out. View cameras are like musical instruments, there's an emotional connection (for me anyway).

    The other day I found myself stranded at the bottom of a slippery ravine...crawled up using my Zone VI tripod as a walking up safe and sound, started along the trail and promptly whacked my 1991 Zone VI 4x5 on a tree limb. I couldn't believe there was no damage...they won't fix them for free anymore.
  7. I have the "Wisnerlike" Zone VI 4 x 5 and Wisner Traditional 5 x 7 and 8 x 10, so I can comment on them. In my opinion, they are all good cameras. The Wisner front standard is sturdier than the Zone VI and the finish is nicer. But I don't have any trouble setting up the Zone VI to make the back and the front standards parallel, if that is what I want, and rigid. If you are careful, that shouldn't be a limitation. The Wisners also have leather bellows, but I wouldn't say they are any better than the Zone VI bellows. For my 90 mm SA, I use the Zone VI bag bellows. I have never seen the Zone VI Ultralight and cannot comment on it.
    If I had to choose between a Zone VI and a traditional Wisner, I think I would opt for the Zone VI. Servicing is an important consideration for me. Shortly after I bought the Zone VI about 8 years ago, I had to send it back for some adjustments. Zone VI took care of it very expeditiously, and I'm sure that Calumet would do the same.
  8. I've used a Speed Graphic, a metal Calumet mono-rail, and my current Tachihara 4x5. Obviously I have no experience with Zone VI, but it is a brand name that I associate with higher prices for less value. I love my Tachihara, very light and easy to pack. The camera is quite stable if you religiously tighten locking screws. The build quality is quite good. I can't comment on its durability since I'm very nice to it. It's the cheapest thing (new) in 4x5 field cameras, and I can't really imagine wanting more. The lack of interchangable bellows, and therefore of a bag bellows is awckward for me, requiring me to use a recessed lensboard for my 65mm. Since you don't intend to use short lenses this shouldn't be an issue for you.
    - Blatant Plug
  9. First, I want to thank everyone for their help, advice, and guidance. Those who suggested strongly that I look at the Ebony camera again succeeded in having me visit the Ebony website and call Badger Graphics.

    I had never seen the folding Ebony RW45 before. And as indicated by many, it looked sweet. To make a short story of this, your wisdom led me to Badger Graphics, I took out my credit card and ordered an Ebony RW45, a Congo 120mm lens, Schneider 210, 6 film holders and 100 sheets of TriX. Now I have to figure out what tripod to get that won't complain when I stick it in the middle of a creek, in the ocean, or a manure pit....

    thanks again for your help.

  10. I would like to take issue with Brett's comment about Zone VI. All of my Zone VI equipment has been in service for twenty years, with no service problems. It was not inexpensive, but has served me well.
  11. Ken

    A twenty-year-old Zone VI is probably a fine camera. The new ones seem to gather most of the bad press.
  12. Daniel, your point is well taken. Almost all of my Zone VI experience is pre Calumet.
  13. Steve,

    You'll be glad you got the Ebony. I have the 45SU and it is a joy to use, although this model is very different in design to those you are used to using. The RW45 is more traditional in design but construction is superior to the rest of the wooden cameras out there. Enjoy.
  14. My new Ebony RW45 arrived yesterday along with a new Congo 120mm 6.3 lens. It is a work of art. Solid, functional, lightweight, pretty.

    I shot 8 sheets of film late yesterday with the Congo lens to check on its sharpness. I didn't do any lens chart work, just photographed the kinds of things I do in the kind of light I work in. The results on the light table looked shart and contrasty. I will make prints this evening before I decide to keep it or not.

  15. Steve

    If the Congo 120 doesn't work out, consider the Super Symmar 110XL. It's definitely in the same class as the Ebony. Once again, you won't be sorry!

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