View Camera: The Linhof Kardan Color 45S

The Linhof Kardan Color 45s view camera body arrived from in the mail last week. As always, the camera was in truly excellent condition and feeling like they had done some a bit of work to clean it up for resale. I had never really even seen a view camera before, and I had spent the better part of a year humming and hawing over whether it made any financial sense to invest in dead technology. Looking around the room at my turntable, the other film cameras and my library of books, I decided that the old technologies still had a viable future as long as they were of the well-made, high-end variety. Hence, the Linhof camera, which has to be one of the most well-crafted pieces of machinery I have seen in a long time.

The image on the back ground glass is obviously inverted and reversed. If looking through the Hasselblad is like seeing into another dimension, then starting into the view 4×5 plate is like staring into a darkened mirror in a funhouse. I should stress that I do not actually have a lens for the Linhof yet; I took the Leica 90mm lens that screws apart and rescrewed it onto the 35mm hole on the recessed lensboard. The tiny lens does not cover much of the 4×5 inch plate, but it did give us some idea of what we might expect from the movements. This particular lens would also only focus on an object that was about 12 inches from the lens; I can only assume that is do to the nature of the lens and not the actual ability of the camera movements.

The bellows seems to be in solid condition, and is certainly as good as the Hasselblad ProShade. The joints are clean and smooth,  the only mar is a small scratch on the front standard. For the $300 I paid, I could not believe the quality of the piece. The great benefit of buying used gear in a non-film market is that one can pick up equipment that would never be within reach for an average photographer. The real boon of the digital market has to be the short-sightedness of professionals in relation to their investment in quality equipment. I fully understand that we could not market ourselves viably to commercial or portrait work based on a solely film-based platform, but from my experience, bringing out a Hasselblad or a Leica at the end of a session when you know the exposures perfectly adds a whole new level to your professionalism and what you can offer a client.

The plan for the Linhof is to do portraiture with Ilford Black and White 4×5 sheet film that I am ordering through Northern Artists Image Lab. Nick has always been great to do business with and he is pulling in 20 rolls of 120 film and 100 sheets of 4×5 for my summer shooting. While they develop all of my 120 and 35mm film, I will be on the hook for any of the 4×5 sheet film, which should be quite exciting. I will have to take advantage of V.’s more scientific mind when it comes to the chemicals. Using some alternative processes and traditional developing, I am hoping to blend our digital workflow with a analog one to create a unique product in a world of blindly digital photographers.

I did order a Schneider-Kreuznach 210mm APO Symmar MC lens today from KEH in Georgia.  We went over options on Saturday and decided that it made sense to buy something a little more modern for the lens in lieu of saving the few hundred dollars.  210mm seems to be the standard for 4×5, and I do not plan on buying a full array of lenses for this camera like I did for the Hasselblad. The Hasselblad CFi lenses have worked out well on the front of my Canon digital 1DmkIII as a way to create food photographs that stand out from competitor’s images, but I do not anticipate needing more than one Schenider lens for portraits and then one for the landscapes that V. plans on shooting down the road. Speaking of food shots…

Last week ended with a shot of spiral-sliced ham in a Paderno roaster. The work I have been doing for them over the past three years has developed into a strong vision and continual learning process for the studio. For instance, I have still not completely worked the X-Rite Color Checker into our workflow at the studio, but I try to use it for each shoot so that I can get in the habit of doing the reference shot. For my most recent package photographs I have been shooting on a linen background using the Hasselblad 120mm Makro lens at f.4, and I have been using only the modelling lights from the Profoto D1s. I love the new medium white umbrella I picked up the week before, as it really fills in the light nicely. The studio needs to look into purchasing one more Profoto light to add so versatility to the set-up, but the third light is a little more complex – do I buy a ring flash and Acute power pack, another D1, or one of the new ProDaylight Continous Light D1s? I am going to wait this one out for a while, because the D1 pair are stellar performers, and learning to work around problems is only going to make my understanding of the light stronger.

In other news, my Mastercard number was compromised by a fraud ring this week. They ordered a Blackberry Playbook and oddly had it delivered to my home address; strange criminals. I am just lucky to have caught the error before too much was lost. I am also trying to get back into hot yoga at the Moksha Downtown studios with V.  In the midst of this crazy life it is all too easy to forget to take care of my health. Life is not much fun when illness and exhaustion take away from enjoyment of its rewards and pleasures.





One response to “View Camera: The Linhof Kardan Color 45S

  1. I have been thinking of getting one of those from KEH, too. There is SO much stuff you have to put together before you can make the first exposure that it seems bewildering. Still, it sounds like you are on the right track for a basic setup. If I do one of these I will probably get an Epson V700 scanner to handle the printing phase and let a local lab in Boston handle the film processing.

    Hope to see what you come up with over the summer with the “new” outfit!

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