Currently using an Ebony RW810 field camera made in Japan. Here it is above with a seal in the background. I bought it a few years ago and I like it; it’s light weight and simple in the way it folds out and focuses. There is one flaw which is how the rack that holds the front standard sticks out behind the rear standard at infinity even with my 240mm.
I use a Gandolfi 10×8 as well which is lovely to use, older and not quite so stable. They are straightforward cameras to and while all large format cameras have their own peculiarities they are basically a dark box that allows the lens to focus on the film. The way I work on landscape and the single medium wide angle lens I use, means I don’t use the movements beyond an occasional forward tilt.
I have always really only used one lens, a 240mm Schneider Symmar S with a Copal 3 shutter. Recently I got hold of a wider 165mm Super Angulon but I rarely get a picture that gets to print stage… it speaks a very different language. It’s rather like driving a fast car and makes things a bit overdramatic and says less.
Copal 3 refers to the type of shutter used. The 240mm is about the equivalent of a 35mm wide angle but with slightly squarer proportions. If you stop it down to f45 you can get pretty much everything in focus front to back. It takes in roughly what the eye sees and importantly it seems to offer exactly the right relationship between foreground and background to make the scene natural at the same time as being ‘stage-like’ which I find important. The shutter speeds only go up to 125th of a second which mostly is fine.
These large format lenses are large bits of multiple glass, beautifully made and rather lovely just to look into; glass darkly and all… though I think the biblical expression refers to a mirror.
The camera itself I never think of as a mysterious thing but the lens is full of a mixture of precision and magic that becomes an essential part of the process, not just through its important ability to render a sharp image but because through it the real is made unreal… or rather something else. The relationship between the two is the photographer’s game.
Eddie Hill at Gandolfi once made me a hand held 10×8 camera which I use sometimes. We designed to to be used in stronger winds and also take advantage of the different things you could do with a hand held 10×8.
The first 10×8 I had was a Gandolfi which I bought in 1996. I lost it in 2003 ago over the cliffs at Cape Wrath in Scotland because I was not using my big main tripod and the wind got up. I was 200 yards to the east watching the RAF practice bombing on a little island to the east. It was at the time of the Iraq invasion. Extraordinary how few of the bombs even hit the island let alone the target. Anyway, as I walked back I heard the camera crashing down the cliffs and rushed to the edge of the 300ft drop to the sea. As I looked down the extremely fragile ground glass screen came floating on the breeze up out of the cove and landed on some grass on the other side. The camera was lost to the sea. Awful, never again.