Wisner 4x5 Cameras in the Classical Wooden Housing.

After using 35mm and then medium format cameras all my life, when I tried a 4x5 camera I found out what I had been missing. A 4x5 inch large format camera brings back the enjoyment of photography. No point-and-shoot idiot cameras in the world of 4x5 view camera equipment. The Wisner 4x5 inch large format view camera is also completely portable.

jpeg of 4X5 Camera in the classic wooden housing
Wisner 4X5 in the wooden housing.

With today's digital photography large format cameras are just as important as in traditional film photography.

First of all, the results from a 4x5 camera with Rodenstock or Schneider large format lenses are superior in all details to even the best that a Hasselblad or Leica can produce. I found this out after decades of taking thousands of 35mm and medium format. The results from the large format camera equipment are simply better.

Rodenstock and Schneider both make special digital lenses for digital photography. These lenses have better resolving power. With film there was no incentive to make an exceptional lens because the film grain quickly clouded the image anyway. With digital photography there is no grain.

When it came time to upgrade my equipment for the Japanese project, I reviewed Sinar, Wisner, Linhof, and Arca-Swiss. Sinar was too expensive and not intended to be portable. Arca-Swiss was tempting, but their product line was limited and it was hard to find dealers which carried Arca-Swiss equipment. I did, though, get two of their monoball tripod heads; Arca-Swiss makes the best tripod ball heads in the world.

Next I reviewed the Wisner product line. I was quite tempted, but again, I am a gadget freak, and thus am always dreaming about all the great accessories of Sinar. But lack of adequate financing (and space in my expedition truck) precluded Sinar at every turn. I did though, speak with Ron Wisner by phone, and noted that he was an enthusiastic spokesperson for large format photography, especially for portable field cameras. I ended up selecting the Linhof Technikardan in 1994 and used that for 18 intensive and productive months in Mexico, producing stunning photographs with Schneider and Rodenstock lenses.

Recently I called Ron Wisner and asked if he was interested in the digital world and field photography in general. It turns out that a major goal of the Wisner concept is to produce portable field cameras, both for backpacking necessities as well as for any class of scientific pursuit that requires moving the camera. Since FLAAR has worked for decades on behalf of the implementation of medium format quality in archaeology and anthropology, it was a perfect match now that I was upgrading from 2 1/4 format to 4x5 inch format and beyond.

FLAAR is now using the Wisner 4x5 traditional camera in its test program. I will be featuring Wisner products in my overall campaign to demonstrate several facts. First, if an artifact is important enough that we launch entire expeditions to dig it up and preserve it, then these artifacts deserve to be photographed with a format more professional than mere 35mm. Second, it is crucial to illustrate how easy 4x5 cameras are to use, even in the rigors of a field camp in a remote area.

I am an ideal apostle of 4x5 implementation, since I never studied photography and know nothing about tilts or swings. I just realize that I need perspective control and that the art, artifacts, and architecture deserve to be recorded for posterity in as large a format as is reasonably possible.

We hope to initiate training programs on the use of 4x5 systems and digital technology at the Maya sites, so anyone reading this Web page who wants to visit Maya ruinswith an archaeologist, and learn about 4x5 techniques from a master (Ron Wisner, not me), should e-mail or fax me or him right away, since we will only take a few people. I have been organizing photo-oriented tours to Maya ruins in Central America for years, so a photo seminar is a natural progression.

Most camera makers go up only to 8x10 format. Wisner makes a healthy sized12x20 and even an impressive 20x24 format. Indeed Wisner was selected by Polaroid corporation to make a special 20x24" format camera to handle the giant Polaroid 20x24" format film.

Visit the Winser Classic Manufacturing Co. Inc or call (508) 748 0975. P.O. Box 21, Marion, Mass 02738.

Upcoming, review of the Sinar X 4x5 camera.


updated Feb. 25, 1999; last updated Nov 4, 1999; proofed Aug 5, 2001.
Design updated July 18, 2008.