Got Cardboard?: Build a 4×5 View Camera to Canon EOS Adapter

 I have not been sleeping well. While I would rather be sleeping, an overactive brain can suddenly make connections that might otherwise go unnoticed. Case in point: I decided to build a 4×5 View Camera to Canon EOS Digital Adapter from a single piece of cardboard. Twelve minutes later, and I had a working, mash-up camera that I shot a single image with for fun, and to decide whether the $200 Fotodiox metal adapter might prove useful as a way to provide my photography with tilt and shift movements.

Design Within Reach had just delivered two new Sapien bookcases, as my studio is becoming the library of Don Quixote, and I noticed that the cardboard was especially rigid. Ding-Ding-Ding…get the X-acto knife out and build an adapter, Lunatic. The reason for building an adapter like this was to see whether the idea of stepping a Canon digital body to my 4×5 Linhof view camera would work at all. As I had learned with the Schneider Kreuznach 90mm lens, one needs just the right amount of extension or compression to be able to focus the lens. Given that the Canon focal distance to the sensor would by necessity be different than a sheet film back, I hypothesized that I could cut a piece of cardboard from the packaging, use a Hasselblad Extender and a Hasseblad to Canon adapter connect through a hold I would cut in the square, and PRESTO MAGIC!!!!

 The adapters were easy to fit together and the cardboard was just the right thickness to hold it all together. The challenge in my dazed insomniac mind was to decide what to photograph to test out whether the Frankenstein would be of practical use to food photography.

I believe that the butter stains on the cardboard were integral to the success of the project [ahem…]. A 4×5 camera from the 1960s is not the most complex mechanical concept, but the Linhof is beautifully machined and took the cardboard in stride. While attempting to focus on a piece of quiche and duck rillettes, I found that the 90mm lens was hopeless as the bellows needs to compress far closer than possible, and would provide me with no tilt or shift movements even if I could focus. The 210mm was another story, however.

 As my iPhone 4 captures, the body sits at the back of the bellows and one can focus using the live view or the viewfinder. With the lens wide open at 5.6, the depth of field was nicely soft, and the movements were vast. The challenge for me was to keep the camera steady, even on the Arca Swiss Ball-Head, and that required a timer set to 10s.

What are my thoughts? Well, I am bemused to no end, but I also see some clear problems. I do not like the colour at all I get when I combined the Schneider-Kreuznach with the EOS sensor. It feels super-saturated and strange to my eyes, and there is little room for manipulation in post-production. Fine focus was tough with the lack of control due to the Linhof’s 60 year-old rail design. When shooting sheet film it is superb, but on digital I really noticed the guesswork.

I have to admit that after spending 4 days with the Hasselblad CFV-39, I am spoiled for resolution and colour. I just identified with the CFV’s colour management right out of the box, and the Franken-camera’s casting would always need a lot of tweaking to make me happy. Still, I could definitely see a great many times when I would turn to such an option to create a different vibe for a shot, and with lights and the Color-Checker I am certain the colours would be greatly improved. Are those possibilities worth $199 for a Fotodiox adapter? Yes, I would think so. But if you imagine that such a device would magically create the 4×5 negative with a tiny sensor, then look elsewhere, because it just ain’t so, Kid.

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One response to “Got Cardboard?: Build a 4×5 View Camera to Canon EOS Adapter

  1. Pingback: A Tale of Two Lenses: Canon 50mm f.1.2 Versus The Schneider-Kreuznach APO Symmar f.5.6 | While We Can | Food and Travel Photography

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