Cambo

PDN PhotoPlus 2014 Coverage

Last weekend, I attended PDN PhotoPlus 2014, and recorded a number of videos with various manufacturers that interested me. These include, Digital Transitions (PhaseOne, MamiyaLeaf, Arca-Swiss), Cambo, Alpa, and Arca-Swiss as well as Blazing Editions a print making service. Don’t really have much of a set up for this but I think the videos give a nice look at some of the new products that were announced at Photokina 2014 that we haven’t gotten to see in the flesh yet. If you weren’t able to make it to NYC for PDN PhotoPlus 2014 then I hope these videos will help you get to see and better understand some of the products that where on display.

Capture One 8 Pro Tips from Digital Transitions

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My PhaseOne dealer, Digital Transitions (http://www.digitaltransitions.com) and my friend Doug Peterson present 6 tips for the new CaptureOne 8 Pro software from PhaseOne. CaptureOne 8 produces a lot of important workflow and efficiency improvements as well as introducing a updated user interface to Apple’s refined interface in OS X Yosemite. Aside from the features highlighted above some tools have also been improved, however you will come across most of these in the course of your use of the software which can be downloaded here (http://www.digitaltransitions.com/page/capture-one-downloads).

A couple of other notable features are the improved Shadows/Highlight and HDR features as well as the new Black and White / Grain features. Shadows/Highlight controls in capture one have had their algorithms refined to produce more realistic and natural looking results. This is especially apparent when there are bigger exposure differences between the foreground and background (like you might encounter with a landscape).

Generally regarded as a joke, pieces of software that attempt to introduce grain into a digitally converted black and white image (or even a monochromatically captured one) fail to produce anything resembling the true character of the real silver-nitrate grains that make up actual film. Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you that PhaseOne has cracked the code for this in their latest software but they have created a very nice feature. Getting overly obsessive about minor details as PhaseOne is want to do, they chose to attempt to create a better, more realistic model for grain in CaptureOne 8. They started by studying the physical grains of film under microscopes, and eventually wound up researching the way that those grains behave in gradients and different lighting situations. From this they created an algorithm that produces much more realistic grain. That being said, its not real grain, and it never will be. However, there are a few situations where I can see this feature being very helpful. For starters, one of the cameras I own and use is the Leica M9 Monochrom, at low ISO’s this camera produces files that are almost “too” clean for certain applications. The way that I generally get around this is that I simply shoot the camera at higher ISO’s where there is some grain introduced, since it is rendered very differently in a monochromatic image and generally gives me the results that I want. However, I am going to be interested in testing out this new feature to see if it yields more pleasing results. Pleasing results in the sense that the image looks more natural, not that it looks like film, but that it looks more natural. This is a very important distinction and is also the other situation where I think that this feature may come in handy. If we have converted a color image into black and white and want to make it look more pleasing and natural this feature will help (I believe) in making interesting results and nice images, but not replicating actual film grain which is entirely different and not something that to date a computer has been able to replicate.

Alpa Switzerland

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In an exciting change of pace for the PhotoPlus, Alpa was here again and showing off their full line or products. At Photokina 2014, they presented a number of potentially very interesting mounts for the Alpa FPS (which can be used in conjunction with all of their Alpa 12 cameras including the TC, SWA, SWC, STC, MAX and XY or on its own as a separate camera). These mounts are for a number of different medium format digital lenses. Alpa has had adapters for Canon and Nikon lenses, and the Canon Tilt-Shift’s have been particular favorites of owners of Alpa FPS’s particularly because of the Canon 17mm TS-E’s ability to cover a full medium format digital sensor. These new mouths include Hasselblad H, Rollei 6000, and Contax mounts with electronic communication planned for them in the future to allow for some potentially very interesting control of these electronic lenses which could lead to stepping which would be great for focus stacking.

Cambo

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Rene Rook from Cambo (and also my host when I toured the Cambo factory in the Netherlands) presents the new Cambo Actus miniature view camera. This is an extremely small, extremely rigid view camera platform for both 35mm and medium format mounts. Here it is shown with the Sony A7R and a medium format digital back, both of these configurations are interchangeable on the same camera as well as a number of lenses, there are a number of interesting options for using this camera in conjunction with the Sony A7R since you can use medium format and large format lenses to get a lot of area out of the image circle of larger image circled lenses. And further as a miniature view camera, with a medium format digital back and digital lenses from Schneider-Krueznach and Rodenstock this presents a very compact and portable option for using movements on the go, very tempting in both configurations. I hope to get a sample of this camera soon to review.

Digital Transitions (PhaseOne, MamiyaLeaf, Cambo, Arca-Swiss)

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My preferred PhaseOne dealer, Digital Transitions (digitaltransitions.com) was showing the full line of PhaseOne and MamiyaLeaf backs. I asked Lance to help go over some of the differences between the PhaseOne and MamiyaLeaf models, especially since now we have the IQ1 series (including the new CMOS IQ150), the IQ2 series (new CMOS IQ250) as well as a CMOS censored camera from MamiyaLeaf (as well as standard CCD models). Its important to understand the differences between these models to help decide which camera is right for you.

PhaseOne has also relatively recently released the PhaseOne 40-80mm LS f/4.0-5.6 Zoom lens which is an absolutely massive zoom lens that is not to far off in size from the Hasselblad 50-110mm f/3.5-4.5 HC AF Zoom Lens. Hopefully I will be able to do some testing soon, but I have been told that this lens preforms very nicely, this is something that I will be interested to see since zoom lenses are particularly difficult to make. Hasselblad has had some real winners, especially with the Hasselblad 35-90mm f/4-5.6 HCD lens which was one of my favorites for the system when I owned it. 

Arca-Swiss

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Arcs-Swiss released a number of extremely exciting products at Photokina 2014. Most excitingly they announced a number of new electronic accessories including two new shutter modules that work with all of their cameras! Arca-Swiss released a number of new products that I will detail below;

- The Arca-Swiss Central Shutter (CS) this is a direct replacement for Copal mechanical shutters which are the industry standard though no longer being made. The Arca-Swiss CS can take Copal 1 and Copal 0 lenses (which covers almost all modern digital lenses) and is controlled by their dEx Controller. The CS can go up to 1/250th of a second with a Copal 1 lens, and higher with a Copal 0 lens (since the opening is smaller). The CS can be used with all Arca-Swiss cameras, including the new Universalis, all R-series technical cameras, and all Arca-Swiss view cameras through their proprietary screw mount used on all of the lens boards for these various cameras.

- The Arca-Swiss Focal Plane Shutter (FP) mounts between the digital back and the camera, and thus can be used on all Arca-Swiss cameras up to 6×8 (possibly 6×9) and tops out at 1/3000th of a second which is very impressive as well. This allows for shutterless lenses to be used like older “vintage” lenses as well as the potential to start being able to use 35mm lenses like Nikon and Canon’s tilt-shift lenses (among others with lens mounts coming soon).

- The Arca-Swiss Cloud DM Wireless Distometer (DM) is a much more compact (and wireless) followup to the eModule Cloud and helps you find the distance you should focus the camera (its effectively a rangefinder). This becomes a powerful tool when coupled with a few of Arca-Swiss’s other new products.

- The Arca-Swiss dEx which includes the Arca-Swiss Remote Control Unit (RCU) and Micro Power Unit (MPU) allows for wireless control of devices attached to the dEx system and will display information from the DM module as well as the FP and CS shutter modules. The MPU is a better pack that will power the whole system, Arca-Swiss is selling a special mount with an AS plate on the bottom so that they system can conveniently be mounted to the bottom of a camera next to the tripod head where it is accessible and out of the way. This system, again, can be used on the Arca-Swiss R-Line, M-Line, and F-Line system cameras as well as the new Universalis.

- The Arca-Swiss Focus Rail Readout (or trolley) is probably my favorite of the new products because of its implications for use with the system as a whole. This is a small item that mounts on the rail of a rail system camera like the M-Line or F-Line and most importantly the new Universalis. It then will communicate with the dEx command module and display the distance that the camera is focused at digital allowing for precise focusing when combined with the DM module.

- The Arca-Swiss Universalis is very similar to the Cambo Actus (though the Universalis is slightly larger, and the Cambo is impressively robust for its smaller size) and also very compact. However a defining difference between these two cameras (for me anyway) is the ability of the Arca-Swiss Universalis to communicate with all the new goodies detailed above from Arca-Swiss. Arca-Swiss’s new products have radically changed the medium format technical market with their modularity and complex set of features which combines for endless possibilities and the most digital control in a sector that was caught between the analog and digital world. Now the Universalis brings all of these benefits in a small package that is compatible with both 35mm cameras as well as medium format digital backs. I actually think that there is a place in the world for both the Cambo Actus and the Arca-Swiss Universalis since they will appeal to people who want different things (as well as those who are already committed to one system or another). I’m very happy about these cameras, because while technical plate cameras are very nice, versatile, and compact nothing beats the control or tactile feedback of a rail camera, and now that these have been effectively miniaturized they allow for themselves to be much more user friendly.

Blazing Editions – Metallic Printing

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Immediately behind Digital Transitions Booth (where Arca-Swiss was housed as well) was Blazing Editions (Blazing.com) who offer a number of printing and photographic services but also interestingly a wide array of printing options on Metal. Metal can produce some very interesting effects (which some may see as kitschy) however Blazing Images also offers printing on a metal substrate without the metal showing through and their process (explained in the video) yields some extremely detailed results. Digital Transitions had provided a number of medium format digital files for Blazing Editions to print and show off at PDN PhotoPlus 2014 and the files looked amazing printed. Anecdotally a fun little detail is that Blazing Editions can CNC Machine a photographer’s signature onto the print for a very interesting (and I think very fun affect).

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I hope you have enjoyed my PDN PhotoPlus 2014 conference, it was very exciting because there were a number of medium format players there in force and ready to show off their new products that we all lusted after from Photokina 2014. If you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Stitching with the Cambo Wide WRC-400

Cambo WRC-400  with Schneider-Kreuznach 43XL RS

Smith Rock in Redmond, Oregon - Stitching with the Cambo WRC-400, Schneider-Kreuznach 43 XL T/S, and PhaseOne IQ180

For my most recent trip to Bend, Oregon, Digital Transitions was nice enough to lend me a Cambo WRC-400 technical camera along with Schneider-Kreuznach 43 XL lens mounted in Cambo’s proprietary tilt-shift mount. When I was in The Netherlands this winter, I had the chance to visit Cambo’s factory. I was very excited for this since I’ve never had any extended shooting time with a technical camera to speak of and this was a great opportunity to learn more about these cameras, and understand their strengths and weaknesses. My normal shooting, does not generally involve still-lifes or landscapes so I’ve never had any reason to purchase or further look into a technical camera. One of the two things that everyone knows about technical cameras, is that they are highly-customizable. The other, is of course that they offer superior image quality, originally harnessing large format lenses with huge image circles allowing for the smaller digital sensors to utilize the center of the image which is of course, where a lens is sharpest. Since this trip was the first time that I traveled with a technical camera, I will treat this review as initial impressions, thoughts, and comparisons.

The day before my trip to Bend, Oregon was a very eventful day for my PhaseOne IQ180, it was the first time, since my purchase of the camera (immediately after its launch) that it had been removed from my 645DF and placed on another camera. Mounting the camera is very easy, once you have the proper adapter plate for the rear of the camera, you simply place the back on the camera like you would on an MF SLR. Initially on the trip, I was planning on shooting a bunch of landscapes and so on, which would be the easiest way to shoot this camera. Landscape shooters love technical cameras because, they offer superior image quality (partly because of the quality of the lenses, and partly because the quality of the digital back), also because they don’t have a mirror, they offer very little vibrations (frankly non-existant) when firing the shutter of the camera to make an exposure. Focusing is done using the lenses helical mount, the lenses are mounted by Cambo into their proprietary mount and calibrated for use with their bodies and digital backs (as you can see here). However, generally speaking focusing isn’t really an issue (though we will address this again later) since with landscape photography more often then not things are set to infinity and shot at small apertures (for maximum sharpness).

Smith Rock, Bend, Oregon, Capture One

Screenshot from CaptureOne

As you can see from this focus mask applied to the IIQ files in CaptureOne, at f/11 and focused at infinity, pretty much everything is in focus. That makes this camera particularly suited to this application. And, like everyone knows technical cameras on the whole acquit themselves of this task with particular acuity. However this is not what wound up happening. I wound up decided to relax I wound up shooting photographs around my friends house where I was staying. Now you might say, well technical cameras are also used for architectural photography, and you would be correct. However, as it turns out I wound up being very aggressive with my compositions and wound up even taking the same images at different focusing distances and compositing them later using Photoshop’s auto-align and focusing stack functions. But for now, we will take a look at the Cambo WRC-400 as a camera and then discuss my main application for this camera on my trip.

Cambo WRC-400 Montage

Cambo WRC-400 at Smith Rock – Redmond  / Bend, Oregon

For its diminutive size and weight (120mm x 145mm and 500 grams) this camera offers a class-leading 20mm of Fall (or Shift depending on the back orientation). Arca-Swiss’s comparable offering, the Factum though weighing and being negligibly larger (137mm x 150mm and 640 grams) the Arca-Swiss factum only provides 15mm of Fall or Shift, five less then the Cambo WRC-400. Alpa’s smallest model the Alpa TC (Travel Compact) offers no tilt or shift and is 109mm x 109mm though their next model up, the Alpa STC (Shift Travel Compact) offers 18mm of Fall or Shift and is again larger, though negligibly (146mm x 140mm and 580 grams). Bythe numbers, the Cambo WRC-400 slightly edges out the competition in dimensions and weight, it does offer a larger possible stitch then the competition. All of this information, as well as a wealth of other information can now be found on Digital Transitions ‘Technical Camera Overview” and their DT Visualizer Tools are also extremely helpful allowing you to see the amount of shift possible with various lenses image circles and various sensor sizes.

However, this is not necessarily a product that you buy in and of itself. You buy this camera, because you are thinking about investing in a tech cam system, or you already have a tech cam system and you want a smaller model for hiking around or testing things out before pulling out the big guns if you need them. Of course, the only differences between different models will be their rise, fall, tilt and shift capabilities they offer since they are simply plates which act as a conduit between lens and sensor. The Cambo (like all technical cameras) offers a high degree of customizability, though it is not overwhelmingly so and focused on functionality rather then supreme customizability like some other systems. All four edges of the camera offer the same mount which means that grips, tripod mounts, and viewfinders can be mounted on any of the four sides, they simply screw in and out very easily, though securely. While I was traveling one of the mount screws on the iPhone viewfinder adapter

Schneider-Krueznach 43XLcame loose and it was a bitch to put back in because of the positioning of the rest of the mount. However, the image to the left displays a small issue which can be encountered during field use. If you decide to change the orientation of the camera, and consequently accessory positions of the camera. If you were to do this properly you would need a table to remove, place, and then re-apply the accessories on to do it in the safest way, however this isn’t a luxury afforded to us when shooting in the field and consequently it can lead to some awkward situations like the one in the picture. The screw in for the shutter release on the Schneider-Kreuznach 43mm XL is no placed so that it is twisting the release cable around. To correct this situation, you would have to remove the grip, unscrew the cable release, remove the cable release from the grip, and then place it correctly in the grip and the finally re-apply the grip, however this is a long process for field shooting and would certainly be a pain, and then thus leaves you in an awkward place. Other then these small details, the system works very well and is secure and allows for the camera to be used in lots of different ways, especially when you combine the body with the tilt-shift lens mounts that Cambo offers.

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Speaking of the iPhone viewfinder adapter, it is the most utterly useless and kitschy accessory possible. It is a very nice mount, which will take the camera of the iPhone and with a wide-angle adapter allow for wide-angle use with Alpa eFinder for iOS (Now known as Viewfinder PRO). While the app and adapter both work as advertised, there is no possible reason for you to ever need this item (by my humble approximation). When using the camera it is far faster to take a test shot and then view it on your digital back to check composition, which is the only thing that that this app can do for you. Consequently it is a bit clunky and is good for nothing else other then draining your iPhone or iPod Touch’s battery, which is absolutely wonderful if you are photographing in a remote location where you might need to contact someone in an emergency, or alternatively if you need to play Words With Friends after (or during) a shoot.

Now, lets look at some of the images;

Cambo WRC-400 Article, Smith Rock

This is the image, alluded to in all of the supporting materials for this article above. It was taken at Smith Rock at the appropriately named Smith Rock National Park in Redmond Oregon, outside of Bend, OR. This was the most straight forward of all of the images I will be showing. The camera was set up on a tripod, focused to infinity, a light reading was taken, settings were adjusted and then the most complicated part simply involved taking the 5 stitched images and their LCC”s. This is not a fast process to be sure, but it ensures ultimate image quality. The general consensus seems to be that it is better to take the LCC exposures at the same time as the normal exposures. Though, I have been told that you can take the images later if you ensure even, and similar lighting / exposure time and use the same focus distance and aperture. Having tried both methods, I can say that taking them on site is certainly better, though if you make a mistake or omit something you can work with a LCC that was taken after the fact, it may just take some extra tweaking. Once you import the file and convert it to an LCC in CaptureOne (right clicking and selecting the option from the drop down menu) and apply it to the base image you have some options to tweak how strongly the LCC corrects the image and this generally seems to be an effective substitute in a pinch.

Please observe this series of images;

Cambo-WRC-300-Focus-Stack

Image 1

Cambo-WRC-300-Focus-Stack-BackFocus

Image 2

Cambo-WRC-300-Focus-Stack-BackFocus2

Image 3

Image 1 is a focus stack of image 2 and image 3. Images 2 and 3 are both stitches of 5 images taken with the tripod in the same place, with every setting in camera and in CaptureOne being exactly the same except for focus. Obviously in image 2 the focus is on the panther and in image 3 the focus is on the background of the image, the fireplace and the painting. Now, the key difference between these two stitches is most notable in the lower left hand corner of the two images. As you can see, the amount of table between the lower left hand corner of the panther sculpture’s base and the bottom of the frame changes. In image two, focused on the panther there is less, and when the image is focused on the background there is more. Now, when I was making these images this was not something that I noticed, I assumed that there would be no difference in the composition of these images. The issue in this, of course lies focus stacking, focus stacking aligns the two images based on their similarities and then determines what is in focus in the two images, and then combines and blends those areas to increase the apparent DoF of the image, i.e to have more in focus. When there are areas that do not align, this creates an issue, this issue will either result in an awkwardly blended area, or it will result in an area which needs to be cropped out of the image which will then change the composition. This is a phenomenon which is called focus breathing, or breathing. What occurs, is that while you are shifting focus, the Angle of View (AoV) of the lens changes. Many DSLR lenses do this, and it is one of the things that makes them less then desirable for videography since this is not an effect that you expect and can be an issue if you attempt to rack focus. Some higher-quality DSLR lenses, as well as of course, cinema lenses correct for these issues. Focus breathing is certainly an issue for cinematic purposes, however here, with technical cameras, it is a surprising minor annoyance. Considering the high level of precision which is one of the defining characteristics of technical cameras, one would assume that this would have been something that would have been thought of and correct for when developing the lens mount. That said I certainly do not believe that this is exclusive to Cambo or a slight on their system. And frankly for most individuals this might not be a problem, but when engaging in a fairly aggressive composition AND focus stacking it is certainly something that must be considered. Now, using the PhaseOne IQ180′s live view (which we will discuss later on more) you can see the changes in the AoV and composition of your image as you shift focus from point to point and can correct for it before taking a series of exposures and investing a considerable amount of time  in the capture and editing of these images.

Cambo-WRC-400-Focus-Stack-Fina

This final image that I made from the basic idea behind the shots above corrects for focus breathing and also ads a few other images focused at different points to make the DoF even greater then it was when I was stacking two images. Also the exposure times were increased slightly from 22 seconds at ISO50 to 25 seconds at ISO 50. While this doesn’t sound like much, considering the long exposure process with the PhaseOne IQ180, it does add a significant amount of time. For one exposure to be made, there are 25 seconds of the shutter being open, and then 25 seconds for a dark frame to be made to reduce the heat noise from the sensor on the image. This means that each single exposure takes 50 seconds. 50 seconds for 5 images becomes 250 seconds. Then this number must be doubled since not only do you have to take the 5 images, you also have to take their resulting LCC’s, meaning that we are now at 500 seconds for one stitch. Then these 500 stitches must be multiplied by the 5 different planes of focus which were used to create this final image. This means for the in camera time used to create this image we are now at 2500 seconds, or around 42 minutes. Suffice it to say, a chair was involved in the making of this image. That is a lot of time, and also a lot of time for a mistake to possibly be made, and trust me mistakes were made. However eventually the 42 minute dance was complete and the image was created. The overall sharpness of the image combined with the excellent exposure which was eventually achieved make me very happy, and for me, it was worth it to spend all of the time going through various iterations and changing the composition of the image to make it.

Cambo-WRC-400-Vertical

This last image I only really include to reiterate the point that this system is extremely versatile. You can position the camera, and sensor in any position you want to allow you to make any image that you want. When you stitch 5 images for a total of 40mm (of stitch) you will yield a native image area of 53.7mm  x 80.4mm (IQ180′s image sensor is 53.7mm x 40.4mm) This allows for an aspect ratio slightly shorter then that of 6×17 medium format (120mm) film format.While people laud the errors of using 6×17 or panoramic formats vertically (and I am right there with them), certainly stitching vertically like what is done in this image, can provide an interesting image making area to allow you to get everything you want into a scene.

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wrcimage5

Everything on the Cambo Wide RC400

Digital Transitions Vimeo Cambo Wide RC400

http://vimeo.com/63916039

In this rapid high-paced video, befitting of its soundtrack, Douglas Peterson from Digital Transitions (http://www.digitaltransitions.com), presents a stop-motion look at a cornucopia of different combinations and set-ups possible with the Cambo Wide RC400 technical camera (digitaltransitions.com/page/cambo). See if you can spot all of the different pieces of equipment used, pay special attention to the digital backs and comment below with what you think!

For more of your Cambo fix, check out my tour of the Cambo factory in the Netherlands.

Cambo Factory Visit

Cambo-Photographic-Industry-Factory-Holland

Exterior of the Cambo Photographic Industry (Cambo) Factory in Kampen, The Netherlands

This winter, I was lucky enough to be able to get a tour of the Cambo Facotry in Kapem in the Netherlands. I was visiting a friend in Amsterdam, and Lance Schad from Digital Transitions (a Cambo Dealer and my PhaseOne dealer of choice) suggested that I visit the Cambo factory while I was there. This turned out to be a very interesting experience for me, and I hope that it will be an interesting behind the scenes look at the production of Cambo’s cameras for you.

In this review, I will be covering the vintage cameras, as well as the factory and production process of Cambo cameras, I also made some images of their newer offerings (released at Photokina 2012) which include the WRS-5000 (a slightly improved version of the WRS-AE) and the compact WRC-400 which are fully integrated into the current system of adapters and plates that Cambo makes. Pictures of these cameras can be seen in the Set I uploaded to Flickr here. Some other items can be found there which are not discussed in this review.

Kampen is located between an hour and an hour and a half outside of central Amsterdam, where I was staying. Rene Rook from Cambo (who Lance put me in contact with) was nice enough to pick me and my friend up form the train station and drive us the short distance to the industrial park which houses Cambo’s factory and headquarters. From the outside it is fairly unassuming, which was helped by the fact that it was a very overcast day when we went, however inside the lights were on and everyone was busy at work. They had just returned from their holiday break and were back in production.

Cambo-Vintage-4x5-Cameras

Upon entering the building you are immediately struck by a display, showcasing some of Cambo’s Heritage. Cambo was founded in 1947 and began its life producing 4×5 cameras before branching out into other cameras (which we will see later). Cambo still produces three solutions which cover the 4×5 image. First there is the Cambo SC-2 Basic which Cambo asserts is “tried and proven” as well as built in “traditional Cambo robust, metal construction” which are two hallmarks of the brand. Looking at these cameras from the companies past, the SC-2 Basic’s heritage is clear (I believe this camera can be used with Cambo adapter plates with MFDB’s but do not quote me). Then there is the higher end Cambo Ultima Series Ultima 45 Camera which is designed to be a hybrid camera functioning in both the film and digital realms. The Ultima features far more precise gearing then the SC-2 Basic, allowing for it to be precisely focused to the standards of demanding modern digital backs. Both of these products are compatible with the majority of Cambo’s accessories including focusing hoods and lens boards, which can also be adapted from other brands such as Sinar. Finally, and most interestingly, there is the Cambo Wide DS Series WDS Camera which is familiar in form and design to MFDB technical cameras like the others offered from Cambo but uniquely offers coverage for 4×5 film and features an insert for a ground glass with traditional graflok back. This solution was created, as its name suggests for use with wider angle lenses and still allowing for coverage of the 4×5 frame. Again this camera is capable of taking Digital backs (with the proper adapters) and allows for hybrid use in the same way that the Ultima 45 camera does while not sacrificing its capabilities as a traditional 4×5 camera. The Cambo WDS is the most interesting to me, since I have been looking for a compact 4×5 system for a while. Movements are not essential for me, I do not use them in my photography on smaller formats and see no reason to change this. Consequently compact solutions like the Cambo WDS and the Arca-Swiss RL3D(i) are ones that I have considered and am still considering to let me get that big 4×5 negative or transparency in a compact package. With the end of the era of the Copal shutter, the WDS will be capable of using the Schneider electronic shutter system.

Cambo-Vintage-Heritage-Cameras

Vintage Cambo Cameras displayed in the Factory Show Room

Walking further into the factory, you are faced with the showroom, which contains cabinets containing the current line up of products and then the very interesting display cases that you see above which house some more of the companies heritage (which they are clearly very proud of) showcasing some of the rare-r cameras that the company has produced.

I was not sure how to do this next part of the review, but have decided to link to the Flickr page containing the camera I will be discussing about and the continue the discussion here while we look at some of the interesting cameras in this case:

The Cambo Passport Camera (shown in the upper right hand picture above) took four images simultaneously allowing for four copies of the passport image to be recorded identically on the same piece of 4×5 film. Even rarer then this model, is the one which sits directly to its left. This model, was produced by Cambo and branded for Kodak, however, Kodak had its own liscening issues and very few examples of this camera were every produced (**Update** I may have led you astray and it may have been produced by Cambo for Polaroid and then they got in trouble with Kodak, I will confirm).

The Cambo Mugshot Camera  is another rare and unique piece housed in Cambo’s small “museum” if you will. This camera may look similar to some of the old TLR-style 4×5 cameras, and you would be right in making this assumption, since after all it has two lenses. However, this very special and unique camera was produced at the request of Police forces so that they could observe the subject while they are taking the picture….you have to keep your eyes on those convicts….the mechanisms on the side of the camera allow for the two lenses to be focused simultaneously without having to close the top lens for the making of an image. In this way the process was more efficient as well as safer. I found this camera to be one of the most entertaining vintage cameras shown by Cambo.

Cambo also had a Special 4×5 50th Anniversary Edition in Gold on display which was fittingly produced for their “Golden Anniversary”, a nice touch which added to the sense of pride in the company and its products felt throughout the production process of Cambo’s cameras.

Cambo-Factory-Floor

After viewing the current Cambo line up, including thier releases from Photokina 2012 (which can be viewed at the Flickr link above) which I will be reviewing with the help of Digital Transitions later this month, we entered into the Cambo factory floor. Entering this large industrial room, you are immediately hit with the contrast between modern CNC machines and traditional metal precision metal working equipment. The picture above, highlights rather well which of these two types of equipment is being used today.

Cambo-New-CNC-Machine

Here we see a Cambo Technician preparing a newly acquired CNC machine for the production of Cambo’s products. Each of those holders sitting on the bench to the right will be fitted with a block of aluminum which will then sit in waiting (the part of the machine that says indumatik light) until the Bridgeport CNC machine is ready to work tis magic on it. This new machine allows for further efficiency since it can be programed with the a job and then left to run independently.

Cambo-CNC-Machine-Aluminum

While CNC machines fascinate and perplex me with wonderment in their precision and complexity, I found what we see in the above photo, all the more fascinating. Here we see the raw aluminum before being shaped into precise photographic instruments. To me, it is truly fascinating that from these raw blocks of metal will come the wonderful and detailed products which Cambo is known for. Inauspicious beginnings as it were.

Cambo-CNC-Marchine-Montage

Left to Right: Computer controlling CNC Machines, Raw-CNC WRS Rear, and Raw-CNC WRS Front

Click to view links above to view the images larger on Flickr

Continuing with the CNC machining process, we get a behind the scenes look, as well as a look at the final product in these next three photos. On the left we have one of the computers controlling the CNC machines which were busy blasting away metal to form the final products you see on the right. While being mesmerized by CNC machines, I have some idea about the back end. I used to fool around with 3D modeling and played with 3D printing in its early days (think like Shapeways) and further find it fascinating for people to be able to model things so precisely on the computer and then have them magically appear in a physical form in front of them. This magical physical form is what you see before you in the center and right images. The Right image presents the front of the body of the WRS which has been closely machined along with the holes and threading for the screws which will hold the few other parts of the body together after assembly. These two images show the metal in its raw post CNC-ing state. I was highly entertained when I learned that I could put the pieces together (3 in the case of the center) and they would fully fit together and more or less function before being buffed and coated. This speaks to the high level of precision possible with Cambo’s CNC machines, which they measure and quality check using this ultra-precise measuring device.

Cambo-Factory-Manufacturing-Buffing

In another room away from the main Factory floor, Cambo buffs their own products, allowing for the sharp edges of the CNC production process to be smoothed out and the product to become closer to the finished product that will be shipped out. This machine oscillates and contains (I believe ceramic? maybe silicon?) triangular tiles which are soaked in a lubricated fluid and buff the product while it passively oscillated around the machine. When it comes out of here, a piece of the WRS body will only need to be coated (in black) and have its designations and markers applied.

Cambo-Factory-Manufacturing

Cambo also posse this machine which forms for them the plastic parts that they need for certain parts of their products. This again, shows the economic efficiency of Cambo. Rather then having these parts made someplace like China, and then having them shipped, they have their own machine. Other then this obvious cost saver, Cambo produces small batches of plastic products as they need them, and no supplier would want to supply at the small quantities that Cambo requires. All of the one-of-a-kind molds are housed in a special fireproof vault which can be seen here. Along with the Coating (Blackening) process which is similar to the DLC or PVD coating on black watches, which is also done in the Netherlands, this plastic machine allows for Cambo to proudly state that their cameras are a “Made in The Netherlands” because as we can see, it is almost if not entirely produced in the country.

Cambo-Logo-Montage

Finally, we come to the assembly process where the finished parts are put together into the final products:

Cambo-Factory-Assembly

At this bench, the cameras will be assembled, checked, re-checked and confirmed to be functioning. The assembly and stock room is almost as large as the main room of the factory. Cambo stocks a large number of their products including their studio stands (which can be custom ordered to desired heights) as well as their cinema equipment, which they also make a large part of in house. They do stock a number of lenses, which they have mounted into their proprietary helical mount (and checked using this machine) however stocks of these and their camera bodies are lower because they are always in demand. Dealers generally have a very good stock of bodies as well as lenses. Cambo is known for their customer support and they will work with customers to get them the lenses they need in the quickest possible manner. They are also very helpful and approachable to discuss the gear if it needs to be serviced, or remounted (possibly into the new tilt-swing mount) although this does not happen often, since Cambo’s products will last for many years if treated properly while functioning perfectly. That said, Cambo also has a large stock of parts for their current and passed cameras dating back all the way to 1947.

It was an absolute joy to be able to get this intimate look at the production of Cambo’s cameras, and I would like to thank both Lance Schad and Rene Rook for helping me to make this happen. I hope that it has been as enjoyable for you to read this as it was for me to visit the Cambo factory, again more images of current Cambo products, as well as some other shots of the factory are available on my Flickr page here.