Wednesday, May 6, 2015


It used to be the case that view cameras were an essential part among the equipment of professional photographers.  They offer advantages that other cameras simply don’t have.  Digital image manipulation software like Photoshop or Lightroom have enabled photographers to compensate for the shortcomings of not using a view camera in post production.

However, post production is time consuming and not to the liking of everyone.  Even though most image manipulation software is relatively easy to do, it still has a considerable learning curve, especially when it comes to more complicated operations like correcting for not using a view camera.

View cameras are capable of a variety of things that otherwise are difficult to overcome.  For instance, they allow adjustments to eliminate converging or diverging lines in a photograph.  For instance, tall buildings will never be correctly shown in a photograph taken with a conventional camera.  The sides of the building will be converging toward the top.  The view camera adjustments do allow correcting for that.


Converging lines                                               View Camera corrected

Anyone who is interested in close up work will quickly become aware that enough depth of field is hard to come by.  Sure, we can stop down our lenses to increase depth of field, but that inevitably will cause shutter speeds to be slowed down.  While this is not a problem with inanimate subjects, close up photography out doors will quickly show how limited stopping down a lens can be, especially on windy days.  Here too the adjustments of a view camera can solve the problem easily,

Let’s take a closer look.  In order to photograph a tall building, it is necessary to tilt the camera upwards.  This the very reason for the converging lines.  The only time this will not be the case is when the film or sensor plane is parallel to the subject.  But that would cut off the top of the building.  Instead of tilting the camera, a view camera will allow to keep the film plane parallel to the building and still get the upward view by raising the lens.

To correct for lack of depth of field is a little bit more complicated.  Let’s look at a simply product photograph.  Since the film plane is not parallel to the subject plane, the lens must be stopped down considerably to gain enough depth of field.  A view camera, on the other hand, allows the application of the Scheimpflug principle.  It is named after Austrian army Captain Theodor Scheimpflug.  He found that by changing the position of the film or sensor plane (the focal plane) and that of the lens, a large number of problems could easily be solved.

In this example, depth of field is a definite problem.  Using a very small aperture is not necessarily the answer.  We must remember that camera lenses do not perform evenly at all apertures.  Especially stopping down beyond a certain f/stop will be accompanied by a deterioration of the image.  Applying the Scheimpflug principle will allow to use the aperture range at which the lens performs best.  This entails to tilt the lens, the focal plane or both in such a manner that the lens plane, the subject plane and the focal plane all intersect at the same point.  When that is the case, we will have virtually unlimited depth of field, or so it appears.  Effectively what happens is that by using these movements, we actually tilt the plane of focus to be the same as the subject plane.

Tilting the lens such that its plane intersects with the intersection point of the subject
plane and the focal plane will render seemingly unlimited depth of field.

In these two photograph by Ansel Adams the same principle was applied to gain sufficient depth of field.
As explained by Ansel Adams, in the color photograph stopping down the lens was not an option
because it would have caused too slow a shutter speed to freeze the motion of the waves.

The same applies with close up photography in nature.  Here too all we need to do is determine the subject place and adjust the lens and focal plane accordingly.  Stopping down the lens will then gain enough depth of field for any subject matter that is not within the subject plane.

Of course this brings up the question of how this applies to Leica equipment.  Any of the Leica SLR cameras and any of the Leica M-series cameras with live view can easily be converted to a small view camera with the Novoflex bellows BALPRO T/S or CASTBAL T/S.  Both will convert a camera into a small view camera.  Both offer adapters for a large variety of cameras as well as lenses.  In addition Novoflex offers a lens, specially designed for use with the view camera movements.  This is the SCHNEIDER KREUZNACH Apo DIGITAR 4,5/90mm.  It is optimized for digital cameras. The focusing range allows photography from infinity to 1.2x magnification with 35mm or full frame cameras and up to 1.8x magnification with APS-C cameras.

                       Novoflex Balpro T/S                                                        Novoflex Castbal T/S

Schneider Apo-Digitar 90mm f/4.5
The lens is supplied with the mounting adapters and a lens shade

The Schneider Balpro T/S in action

For complete information of the Balpro T/S and the Schneider Digitar go here 
For complete information of the Castbal T/S go here

The capabilities of a view camera go far beyond these few examples, but this article was not meant to be an instruction manual for their use.  Instead it is just an instruction to show some of the capabilities of these cameras, all of which allow photographs to be corrected prior to pressing the shutter release and thus eliminating any time consuming post production work.  For myself, I rather take photographs than sitting at a computer making up for problems that could easily have been taken care of prior to shooting.


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