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Archive for August, 2020

A few years ago at the PhotoFair I bought a Spiratone T-Mount Bellows system that had a simple 150/4.5 view camera lens attached and is able to use T-mount adapters for most cameras. What really intrigued me with this item was the amazing build quality and the full suite of monorail view camera movements. Seriously this thing is a Sinar miniaturized to work with small format. I really haven’t played with it much in fact it is a bit dusty, but I pulled it out recently and fiddled about for a while.

This particular unit is equipped with a standard T-ring in the back and a T-ring adapter for M42 universal lenses up front. The Spiratone lens is a 150/4.5 that is mediocre and appears to be uncoated. The Bellows, uh, er, I mean camera is well made with solid lock down and smooth controls for movements.

The 150mm lens has decent coverage for 35mm/full frame but the movements can rather easily find the edge of the image circle. Using an APS/C camera like my EOS M5 adds substantial range of movements if you really want to tweak the bejezus out of it 😉 I used my EOS M5 with the Metabones speed booster so I was getting closer to 35mm/full frame coverage. I needed the extra working room as 150mm is a bit long for my small “man cave” / office space.

I decided to make a few images and use the camera movements to try and compensate for various “problems” that might come up in a studio situation. The first shot is a simple picture of two lenses one near and one set back. The lenses were inside a small light box. This was a test shot just to see how sharp or “unsharp” that Spiratone 150/4.5 is. The lens is as I said earlier “mediocre.”

Then I put a couple of smaller EF-M lenses in the light box and decided to leave the camera in a fixed position and try to use nothing but movements to remedy the “problem” you will see in the first image. keeping the camera perfectly level left me with the camera too low. Now I could easily just raise the tripod, but sometimes in a studio situation it may not be that easy. Perhaps the subject is really large and the camera needs to be 10 feet in the air. Well that was not the case here, but hey, I needed a reason to mess with the movements, right?

So this first image on the left was with no movements, straight through the bellows. You can see that the back lens is chopped off and the camera position is too low. The first movement to remedy the low camera position is a simple rise on the front standard. That produces the second image on the right. Here we see that without moving the camera position at all we can effectively “raise” the camera by raising the front standard. You may recall I did a shift lens adapter article a few years back discussing this technique.

The focus is on the front smaller lens leaving the back lens way out of focus. The back lens was about 6 inches behind the front lens and with a 150mm focused at 6 feet distance, even F/8 or F/11 would be a challenge to sharpen up that back lens. F/16 is available but diffraction tends to soften things up a bit at F/16 not to mention the epic long shutter drag to get the exposure and the increased depth of field reveals “flaws” in the background.

So to sharpen up both objects wide open would normally require a change of camera position to a diagonal that create a nice focus plane through the two lenses. But these are in a light box so that is not possible and I did agree at the onset not to change the camera position, right? Right.

Here is where a swing movement can make a dramatic change in the image. I decide to keep the lens WIDE open just to make a point about the benefits of view camera movements. Ideally stopping down to f/8 would have sharpened it up wonderfully. I used the rear standard for the swing movement because that won’t change the lens to subject distance like a front swing will. Now without changing the camera position or the focus and still shooting wide open, both lenses are now more or less sharp. Again if this were a real product shot F/8 and a slight tweak to focus would have made both lenses razor sharp. Full disclosure here, I was right at the limit of the lens circle thus you see some heavy vignetting on the left, Had I not used the Metabones speed booster and backed the camera up a bit that would not have been the case. or better yet if that silly Spiratone 150mm lens had more coverage 😉

This miniature view camera has surprising quality. On the front standard you have a geared smooth shift, geared smooth rise/fall, front and back tilt, front swing. The rear standard has all the same movements but the rise/fall on the rear standard is not geared. This is a true mini monorail camera! With a little machine work or shopping time you could find mountts to allow for true view lenses to be used on this unit. I would recommend 75mm – 105mm for full range use with infinity focus. Shorter focal lengths will have little or no movements at infinity or long focus as the bellows is collapsed. Shorter focal lengths work great for super closeups.

If you are interested in finding one of these, I occasionally see them on EBAY as well as camera shows, like PhotoFair, where I found mine.

I have also played with some real view lenses on this mini-camera. I made some images with the Kodak Ektar 100/4.5 and some other silly stuff like a Holga lens and even a few with my beloved Zeiss Biotar 58/2. Ah too much fun.

Kodak Ektar 101/4.5 @ f/4.5

A super closeup using a plastic Holga 60mm F/8 on a stack of US dimes

Super close Zeiss Biotar 58/2 on stack of US dimes. @f/4

There’s that dime-stack again, this time Russian Helios 58/2 @f/2

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