Zone VI Ultralight - why not?

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by ross_martin|3, Jun 7, 2001.

  1. Hello All,

    <p>

    I am in search of a new 4x5 field to replace my Linhof Technikardan currently being auctioned off. I am after something light yet with long enough bellows draw to fous a 450mm at least at infinity, and I prefer to spend as little as possible given a choice (so, no Ebony in the budget right now). The newest Zone VI 4x5 Ultralight weighs in at only 4 pounds yet will focus even a 480mm, and all for only $1499 new. Doesn't this seem like a great combo of weight/extension/price factors? Any users of this new Ultralight version want to share their hands-on experience? Unfortunately I do not have a Calumet retail store anywhere close to me to look at these in person.

    <p>

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. I would consider the Canham DLC 45. I just bought one last month, and
    have been amazed. It has a roughly 21" bellows, and doesn't need a
    bag bellows for a 75mm lens. Not sure about a 65mm lens, but the
    shortest I own is a 75.

    <p>

    Yes, the Canham retails for $2300, but the extra moeny is well worth
    it. It weighs in at something like 5 pounds 11 ounces.
     
  3. Ross,

    <p>

    You might want to also consider the Phillips 4x5. I haven't seen it
    or the Zone VI Ultrlight in person (but I am a former owner of a
    non-Ultralight Zone VI). From what I've read, the Phillips is more
    rigid than the Zone VI. I've also talked to someone who has used both
    the Phillips and the Canham DLC (I myself am a long time DLC owner
    having bought one of the first ones Keith made) and he assured me the
    Phillips is more rigid than the Canham.

    <p>

    I'm not saying the Phillips is the camera for you, but it's worthy of
    consideration. With the "Light" bellows (VERY similar to the Canham
    bellows) and the spring back it weighs 3.9 lbs and has 18" of bellows
    extension. With these bellows, the manufacturer claims it can be used
    with a 58mm lens on a flat lensboard. Other bellows and back options
    are avilable. The price is $1775 including a tubular focusing cloth.

    <p>

    I haven't seen one of these cameras, but I have seen several 8x10
    Phillips models over the years and have always been impressed with
    both the construction and design philosophy of these cameras. Dick
    Phillips seems to put an emphasis on designing and building cameras
    that are both as light and as rigid as possible. He accomplishes this
    by omitting unnecessary features that don't do anything but add
    weight, reduce rigidity and increase cost.

    <p>

    I just talked with Mr. Phillips on the phone last Friday and requested
    information on his 4x5 model. He is very friendly to talk to on the
    phone, and sent the information I requested promptly. He is also a
    photographer, so he knows what works well and what doesn't in the
    field - and his cameras incorporate that knowledge in their design.
    If this sounds like a product you might be interested in, give him a
    call and request the information packet (517-835-7897).

    <p>

    Yes, the Canham is also a very versatile camera that is light and
    compact (the official spec is 4 lb. 11 oz. - mine weighs 4 lb. 14 oz).
    It's also worthy of consideration, but at $2300 it's substanitally
    more expensive than the Zone VI (or the Phillips). Still give it
    careful consideration so you know what you might be giving up to save
    some money.

    <p>

    Kerry
     
  4. Ross: I first knew there was a lightweight Zone VI camera when I saw
    it on the shelf at Calumet. I've been using the non-lightweight
    version for about 12 years or so. I was favorably impressed, it
    seemed like the same camera I was used to, it was just much lighter.
    (Reminded me of when you reach for the full milk carton and find out
    it's empty and your hand goes flying up in the air. It's that light
    if you're used to the other one.) I did the math about selling the
    one I had and getting one of those, but it didn't make sense since I
    already have a very light Ikeda I use for backpacking. There was an
    earlier question somebody asked about this camera that went
    unanswered, which surprised me a bit since I thought this was a
    camera which would tempt people to buy it. There are detractors of
    the Zone VI design but I'm happy with it. I don't use a lens shorter
    than 90 mm, however.
     
  5. Hi Ross. Don't know much about the unltralight, but I have read it is
    a much better camera than the original Zone VI. I'm just sticking my
    two cents in because the Phillips 4x5 was mentioned. I am one of the
    lucky few that have this wonderful little camera. Mine has the
    combination bellows and the international back so it weighs 4.7
    pounds. You can get it with the light weight bellows and the spring
    back and it will weight about 4. I played with a number of other
    cameras before buying this one including the Arca Swiss Field, Canham,
    Wisner Pocket Expedition, Wistas. The only one I looked at that I
    liked better than the Phillips was the Arca Swiss, but it was $1000
    more and a couple of pound heavier. Good luck.
     
  6. I do not know much about the other cameras but also once owned a
    Technica V. I have also played alot with the Zone VI. Although it
    doesn't seem to have much substance it holds up quite well and is
    quite sturdy. I was alot more abusive to the camera. Done things I
    never would have done with my Roles Royce Linhof. It also sped up
    working time since I didn't really worry to much about a large
    investment. It came home the same way it left, in perfect working
    order. Things to get used to is that it is quite simple. Everything
    slides {no geared movement}and locks when tightened down. Very good
    degree of movement keeping in mind that it is not a view camera. I
    did miss the free moving back movements of the Linhof though I never
    really used them. The bail that opens up the back to insert film
    holders is so simple and completely awesome. Accessories are cheap
    relatively speaking and easily found new. Two pieces of advice. Buy
    the bright screen for an additional $200.00 and throw away the groung
    glass it comes with. Buy something anything to hang on your tripod.
    One of those cheapy bookbags that you can throw some nearby rocks
    into. Finally call Calumets 800 # ask for someone who knows large
    format they are usually more than happy to talk to you.
     
  7. Thank you for all the responses so far. Just so you know where I'm
    coming from, I have owned an Iston, previous version Zone VI,
    Tachihara, Wista DX, Toyo AX, Linhof TK, and used or carefully
    examined Canham DLC, all Wisner 4x5's, all Horseman 4x5 fields,
    Linhof Technika, and some Arca-Swiss. Obviously I am having trouble
    locating my one true love! I realize the perfect 4x5 does not exist,
    and each camera I've owned has had it's share of virtues as well as
    irritations.

    <p>

    I will still consider a few of the cameras I've not had an
    opportunity to see yet, but one question remains: If the new
    Ultralight Zone VI is Calumet's #3 best selling product currently
    (according to their website), then why are their no actual owners
    responding to this and other threads about the camera? Seems strange
    to me.
     
  8. There is really only one wooden field camera to consider for a
    serious LF photographer....the Ebony. Simply the best. Anything else
    is a compromise.

    <p>

    Jonny
     
  9. Well Jonny, unfortunatly for those of us who do not have unlimited
    financial resources, *compromise* is a fact of life. Thank God the
    artistry of a photographer is not dependent on how expensive his/her
    camera is or the size of the wallet...
     
  10. The Germans have a phrase that essentially says "But quality and you
    only cry once - when you buy it" "Buy inferior and you cry about it
    every time you use it." After the list of cameras you have been
    through and are still looking, the odds are pretty good that the
    Ultra Light or any other $1500 camera will not be the perfect camera
    either. If I were you I would find a way to get the Ebony and hope
    that your camera trading days are behind you.
     
  11. Ross - Don't jump to conclusions about the cost of an Ebony! At
    current exchange rates, Robert White lists the RW45 for only about
    $150 more than the Zone VI. It doesn't have quite the movements of
    the Zone VI, but they are ample enough for most landscape work. The
    RW45 will focus a 500mm lens (of telephoto design), and it actually
    weighs slightly less than the Zone VI.

    <p>

    I was also a user of the older Zone VI camera. It wasn't the most
    rigid camera to begin with, and while it was fine for the first year
    or so, everything just kind of loosened up over time until the thing
    was essentially worthless. Until very recently, a friend of mine had
    the ultralight. It was more rigid than I remember my Zone VI being,
    but it was starting to loosen up a bit as well. He was concerned
    enough about it that he sold it. This may be a problem with wood
    fields in general, as I had the same thing happen with the first wood
    field I purchased (a Wista, many, many years ago).

    <p>

    I came very close to purchasing an Ebony when I was last in the
    market. I looked at two models; the RW45 and the 45S, which is non-
    folding. They were by far the most rigid wood field cameras I've ever
    handled (though I've certainly not handled them all), and were very
    nicely designed. I ended up going with the Canham DLC (which I have
    been extremely pleased with), but there is no doubt that I'd have
    chosen the Ebony if I had ultimately decided to go with wood.

    <p>

    By the way, I took a look at your website. You've got some fantastic
    images there! No matter which camera you ultimately purchase, I
    suspect that you'll continue to prove your "artistry of a
    photographer" statement for a long time to come.
     
  12. Tim, thank you for the kind words about my images! And thanks to
    everyone for giving me food for thought, I really do appreciate it.
    I am going to try and get ahold of a local fine art shooter I met
    recently and see if I can get some field time on his Ebony, and find
    out what all the fuss is about. I'm ordering up literature on the
    Philips and figure I'll give the Canham another look as well.

    <p>

    Regards,
     
  13. Sometimes I see comments about cameras that are extremely puzzling.
    Having used the Zone VI camera for 12 years now, and having used it a
    lot, and having taken it many places, I can't imagine how anyone
    could say it becomes so loose that it is worthless. I've had two of
    the Zone VI 8X10's (first one was pre-production and was eventually
    stolen) and nothing about those was flimsy or became loose either.
    There is nothing "loose" on my 4X5 which doesn't get tight if you
    tighten a knob. The comment along these lines which referred to
    the "older Zone VI" might have referred to the original lightweight
    which wasn't the one Zone VI made, but still I can't fathom some of
    the criticism here. There's a review of the camera on or linked to
    this website which is harshly critical of how incredibly complex and
    difficult if not impossible it is to open and close the Zone VI.
    Again, unless you're trying it one handed or blindfolded, I don't get
    it. Every camera has its peculiarities of design and when you learn
    how to fold it up and open it (and do it until you really have it
    down) the camera is a piece of cake to use. If a particular piece of
    equipment doesn't appeal to you for some subjective reason, fine.
    Certainly a valid point of view to be shared. But anybody who is
    looking for information here and runs across some of the ludicrous
    over the top criticisms of equipment which get posted isn't being
    done a service.
     
  14. Well said, Kevin.

    <p>

    I am as guilty as anyone for being overly critical of various cameras
    and for occasionally obsessing over the equipment to the point that I
    lose my perpective on why I'm photographing. Now after starting this
    thread I realize once again that I am worrying far too much about the
    gear, when for me it's all about experiencing and capturing on film
    the awesome majesty of creation. So for now, I will choose a simple
    yet functional camera that I can afford, and let that tool be the
    means to a greater end.
     
  15. Kevin - Since my post was mainly intended to let Ross know that an
    Ebony (a camera that his original message implied was an
    extravagance) might actually be in his price range, I didn't want to
    waste a lot of time detailing the poor performance and workmanship of
    my older Zone VI camera.

    <p>

    Since you've asked though, let me go into a little more detail.

    <p>

    I thought it was pretty clear what I meant by loose, but for those
    who were unsure, to me, looseness is the opposite of rigidty. At
    longer extension, the bed was less tight and stable than it was
    originally. The standards (while never exactly bombproof), got to the
    point that they moved at the slightest touch. It didn't matter that
    the knobs were tightened, things still wiggled and moved more than I
    was willing to accept. Inserting film holders, pulling darkslides,
    adjusting f-stops, and cocking shutters were all enough to
    occasionally change focus. I tried different sized washers of
    differing materials, and that didn't help. I cleaned metal to wood
    and metal to metal contact surfaces, it still didn't help. I was
    unsatisfied with the experience.

    <p>

    My results with the camera were sometimes disappointing, so yes, I
    considered it "essentially worthless". When I went to sell it, I
    found out that Zone VI had a fairly poor quality reputation (again,
    older model) and I ended up taking far less for it than I would have
    expected (entirely my fault, I now check resale value before
    purchasing new equipment). The low resale coupled with the cost of
    getting a new camera, made the Zone VI "essentially worthless" to me
    financially as well.

    <p>

    Does that help or is that still "ludicrous over the top criticism"?

    <p>

    I know others have mentioned it here, but we should keep in mind that
    all we are sharing here are our personal experiences. Mine was
    negative and I know of others whose experiences were similar. Yours
    was positive and you probably know others who have had positive
    experiences. The fact that my experience was negative doesn't make
    it "ludicrous", or "over the top". Two of the three reviewers you
    mentioned on the linked review page mention the difficulty of folding
    the camera. Why is their combined opinion "ludicrous" or "over the
    top", while your single opinion about how it's a piece of cake for
    anyone who isn't blindfolded, not?
     
  16. Tim: Are we talking apples and oranges here? Again, what is
    an "older Zone VI camera"? Zone VI originally put its mark on what I
    understand was a lightweight Japanese camera and sold that as the
    Zone VI Camera. (Actually a Wista, some say.) Is that the one you
    had problems with? Then came the one they made which is extremely
    similar to the Wisner. It was much more solid (and heavy) but it has
    been around long enough (pre-Calumet) that one could consider that
    an "older Zone VI camera." So point one is I'm still not sure we're
    even discussing the same camera or manufacturer. If the Zone VI
    camera became unstable and useless and you returned it for a warranty
    claim under the lifetime warranty (Zone VI) or your friend made a
    warranty claim for his loose lightweight camera (Calumet, 5 years)
    what happened then? Was the warranty claim to Zone VI or Calumet?
    My hunch is that we aren't talking about the same piece of equipment.
    Your comments about resale value don't seem to square with what
    people are bidding them up to on Ebay, nor the used store prices I've
    seen, which again makes me wonder which product you sold. (Is
    something worth $600 to $850 used [assuming it's the US
    version] "worthless"?) As to my point about some criticism here being
    over the top, I've received some private support from people who know
    exactly what I was talking about. I didn't characterize your
    comments as ludicrous; I made a general point which some people seem
    to understand and the Zone VI reviews illustrate the point pretty
    well. If you know a particular product well, then it can happen that
    a subjective comment about it can be so far off the mark that it
    falls into the "over the top" category. If I told you a Cobra was a
    quiet and spacious but dog-slow automobile which seats 4 comfortably,
    would you care if 2 out of 3 "reviewers" voiced similar comments?
    Does that make me right? Are my comments valid because they are my
    opinions? I think the only part of our discussion which has any
    potential interest to anyone thinking about the Zone VI lightweight
    camera, which is how we started on this, is whether your experiences
    with your camera are with the Zone VI-manufactured camera. If they
    were, and if your friend's problems were with the lightweight one
    (more to the point, since the wood and metal of the camera are
    different), I'd be interested to know about how the warranty claim
    was handled. As others have noted, Calumet's website has this as one
    of their best selling products and yet there don't seem to be any
    first-hand users with comments on the camera. This does seem rather
    odd and if somebody bought one and is using it, I'd like to know what
    they think. I'm still considering getting one. If I offended you I
    certainly didn't mean to and I apologize for doing so.
     
  17. Ross,

    <p>

    I checked out your website. Nice work! Anyway, maybe one of the
    easiest ways to address the issue of the Zone VI ultralight would be
    to find an excuse to go to LA and check one out. Depending on where
    you live in Washington airfare could be pretty affordable expecially
    when you compare it to the investment you are proposing to make on
    the camera. As for the other camers mentioned above I'm not sure
    that the Ebony referred to has an adequate bellows extension for the
    lens you propose using. It would at least be worth investigating at
    the Ebony website.

    <p>

    Good Luck.
     

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