At present cameras which use sheet films larger than 4x5 inches are called large format cameras but it changes with the times. For instance until compact cameras using 35mm cine cameras appeared, those cameras which were made for roll films, which are present medium format cameras, were called compact cameras.

Also there are some differences in distinguishing them by profession, for instance 8x10 inch format cameras might be considered by TV cameramen as largeformat cameras whereas 4x5 inch format cameras, are large format cameras for commercial studio photographers.

The mechanism of the cameras are clear, simple and primitive. However, in recent years application of electronic technical know how has become popular on such as shutter and exposure controls and depth of field computations, but still the general trend is toward the manual operation of camera which means still many photographers prefer analog field.

Basic construction of the camera consists of rear frame which has device to focusing and to load sheet film, front standard which has lens board mounted with shutter and lens and mechanism for swing, tilt, rise and shift movements, and a bellows which connects the rear frame assembly and the front standard. Also above mentioned cameras are seldom called view cameras which are recognized by its focusing screen or viewfinder.

These large format cameras can be roughly divided into 2 types. One type is a camera with front standard and a rear frame assembly which both can be moved separately on a mono-rail(optical bench). At Wista we call this type of camera as technical-view camera. As the front standard and the rear frame assemblies are independent and by making the use of this advantage, it will enable you to get more tilt, swing rise and shift movements of the camera and by extending the mono-rail with an optional coupling extension rail it broadens representation of your tele/close-up photography.

Another type of camera is a box type camera with hinged lid which has front standard mounted on tracks found inside of hinged lid and a box which is the rear frame with a focusing screen which is the bottom of the box. At Wista we call this type of camera as Technical Compact Camera as it is collapsible.

Due to portability of the camera and its suitability for field work, this type of camera is sometime called field cameras. Even though wooden cameras are said to be the origin of technical compact cameras, these cameras are regaining popularity because their weight are lighter than the others.

We at Wista call these wooden cameras Field Cameras and have designed them to have functions which can be matched by those of technical Compact Cameras.


Large is good

Large format is attractive, why is it required? This is not only because of the larger picture produced. The picture quality of large format negatives are superior to and incomparable with those of medium and compact cameras due to improved definition and sharpness, less grain and improved tonal range. Large format negatives with their greater amount of information can show objects in more detail especially in printing and when making large size prints. Now, with the availability of super fine grain films, it is said that 35mm films can meet all requirements. However the same brands of super fine grain films are sold for large format cameras so the same improvement will still be obtained. The same thing can be said for digital camera photography unless the basic concept of the CCD information per unit area is overruled, the optical photograph will continue to maintain its dominating position.


Wista have a range of lenses called Wistar which are made not only for use with Wista cameras but also for other makes of camera. There is no general concept with large format cameras that lenses can only be used with one make. Exclusive lenses are only required with rangefinder cameras. It has long been the custom to construct large format cameras so that the lens and shutter are a separate unit mounted on a lensboard which is a component part of a modular camera concept. As most lensboards are compatible with other cameras with different size lensboards by means of an adaptor, a wide selection of lensboards can be used.


It is probable that commercial and studio photographers may feel that it is inefficient to use sheet film for large format cameras and advanced amateurs might feel a loss of mechanical satisfaction but, for instance, it would be natural to take color negatives at the same shoot. Processing can be done more efficiently by making reversals for printing and making antique prints in monochrome. Furthermore, as shots are taken one by one, photographers who are not fully confident with reversal film because of its limited latitude can take several shots of the same scene with subtly different exposures. The photographer can make adjustments when developing the film, can expose at his preferred setting and select exposures which satisfy his work. The reference book called "A Primer of Large Format Photography" by Isamu Tamada (A Photo Industry Publication Co. publication) says that a characteristic single shot by a large format camera is the most appropriate one for making prints using the zone system technique of Ansel Adams.


Cameras are basically constructed so that the optical axis cross at the center of the perpendicular picture plane. Shift is the means whereby the optical axis is moved to obtain a picturesque effect. Tilt is a movement to incline the lens or the rear focusing screen towards the front or rear. Swing is the movement to move the axis to the right or left. Rise/Fall is a horizontal movement to raise or lower the lens or the rear focusing screen. Shift is a horizontal movement to the left or right. Three good results can be obtained by camera movements. Firstly, adjustment of the depth of field as the depth of focus of long focal length lenses, which are often used with large format cameras, is small. When the picture plane and the lens plane are parallel it is difficult to have the whole picture in sharp focus but this can be solved by the tilt or swing movement of the camera. An easily understood example is a group picture of a wedding party or a sightseeing group which has sharp detail from the front to the back row which is achieved by the above mentioned camera movements. Tilt and swing have another function which controls perspective. If you look at the focusing screen of your camera when taking a photograph of a skyscraper and you leave the camera as it is, you will find that the building is remarkably out of perspective and distorted compared with the view of the human eye. Tilts and swings are used to bring these incorrect perspective and distorted pictures to a natural looking perspective. Furthermore, it is possible to correct to the extent that hardly any distortion can be seen.

After the camera has been set to correct the perspective distortion, you may feel unhappy about the ratio of sky to the rest of your picture composition. The rise movement of the camera can be used to give more sky or the fall movement effectively lowers the rear frame assembly making the building fill the whole frame. If you wish the building being photographed to move to the right or left of the frame then use the shift movement of the camera.

As can be seen from this description, the attractions of the large format camera are in the variety of the capability of expression.


Fall by bed down


Shift (front)