Sake Elzinga lives in the tranquil Dutch town of Assen. Approaching his front door you can’t miss a print displayed in the window. It shows bumper cars on an abonded fair. This turns out to be a photograph made near Chernobyl, the Ukrainian city struck by nuclear disaster in 1986. Sake has been a contributor to one of the larger national Dutch newspapers for decades. A role in which he mainly covers events in the northern (often rural) parts of the country. However, he does so much more.
A view camera is probably not the preferred tool for most photo journalists. Sake Elzinga however, has as solid background in technical photography. For several clients in the cultural heritage preservation sector and museums he photographs interiors, estates and architecture. Alongside his Nikon gear, he likes to use a Hasselblad. He must have owned every digital back they made to fit his 503CW. Nowadays his favourite camera is the CFV II 50C and the nifty 907x that comes with it. When the job requires perspective control, the Hasselblad back is attached to a Flexbody. Yes, now we’re talking!
An extreme wide angle like this Actar-15 enables photography from a viewpoint that otherwise can’t be used. Whereas view camera techniques keep the lines straight.
Here a pole made it impossible to change the camera’s position. The Actar 15 lens and some rear shift still got the whole museum building and the statue within the frame.
Sake likes to use his classic Linhof Technika when occasionally shooting film. There’s also an old Sinar which he uses for portraits. Tilting the lens gives this nice blur that only leaves the eyes in focus. And there’s the aforementioned Flexbody for use on location. A great tool, but the inability to rotate the back makes it impossible to apply rise and fall when working in portrait orientation. Something more versatile replacing the Sinar and the Flexbody was due. So we handed over an Actus-DB2. When you’ve been a Hasselblad photographer for decades, owning a bag full of legacy lenses and a CFV-50 back, the Actus-DB2 is a fine addition. The ACB-HVSA adapter enables the use of the Hasselblad lenses with full leaf shutter versatility. Like the Flexbody does, yet more flexible. It’s light and compact enough for use on location and still offers enough camera movement to do those signature studio portraits.
Portrait of colleague Michael Kooren. Made with the Actus-DB2 and a Carl Zeiss 120mm lens from the Hasselblad collection.
A photo journalist who started his career in the early 80’s must have exposed tens of thousands of rolls of black and white film. That makes an archive which is a real treasury. A silver mine if you like. Sake started to digitise his negatives years ago. A massive amount of work, when you have been that productive for such a long time. The resulting book is called De Zilvermijnen van Drenthe*. It’s a beautiful testimony of the 80’s in the country side and small towns of The Netherlands.
*Silver Mines of Drenthe, the latter is the name of a Dutch region
Sake Elzinga won many awards during his long career. These also bear testimony of his versatility as a photographer. 1990 he was awarded the 2nd prize in World Press Photo’s Sports category. He won De Zilveren Camera (Silver Camera, probably the most prestigious prize for Dutch photo journalists) twice; 1994 in the category Documentary National and 2001 in the category Art, Culture, Architecture and Technique. 1996 Sake was distinguished with the Fuji Award for his series of photographs made in and around Chernobyl, ten years after the nuclear disaster.
On his websites – yes, he’s got two, more about that later – Scott Choucino gives us a short video tour through his studio. It looks like the perfect mixture of a motorbike shed, professional kitchen, library and a greenhouse. Oh, and still a photo studio. It must be a fine place to work. That alone would be enough to catch our attention. But there’s also this video about the Actus on his YouTube channel. And he’s pretty enthousiastic about it. Time to meet.
Scott is a self-taught photographer. He’s specialised in food. During the last ten years he’s reached a high level of professionalism in this, always striving to achieve the utmost quality in his work.
“I started out learning from YouTube about 13 years ago coming from a background of sports science with a post grad in physiology, but I quickly found that photography was what really got me going. After a long hard slog working on small jobs I finally got my break shooting big commercial ad campaigns and quickly signed with my first agent.
Since then I signed with Lisa Pritchard Agency which has been incredible with such a huge focus being on personal work. Something I wished I had prioritised in the same way from day one. My biggest bit of advice would be to stick to what you love and constantly create new personal work.”
As in most food studios, Scott’s got clients who require the proverbial top-down shots. These need to be perfectly crisp from corner to corner. There’s the editorial style photography, where the art director often asks for a detail of the dish to be in focus. And we see plates that need to be in focus front to back despite being shot at an angle. For all these applications Scott is using his Cambo Actus, paired with a Canon 5Dsr and Mamiya Sekor lenses from the RB and RZ system.
Scott’s Cambo Actus gives perfect control over the plane of focus. It enables him to position the focus right on the detail, nicely blurring the rest of the dish, with a pleasant looking fall-off in sharpness. When a dish needs to be perfectly sharp, dialing in some tilt and/or swing helps to achieve this without focus stacking. And even the seemingly simple top-down shot benefits from the view camera approach. Shifting the camera body in small increments is a much easier way to make small changes to the framing than repositioning the stand. Scott works with Mamiya 67 lenses on his Actus. He likes the large image circle (designed for the 6×7 film format after all) and these lenses offer great value for money. Even the Actus’ quick camera rotation from landscape to portrait orientation is reminiscent of the old Mamiya’s nifty rotating film cassette. Luckily without the heft of that camera.
Scott Choucino likes to share his knowledge. Hence the two websites. On scottchoucino.com you’ll find everything about his commercial photography, a taste of Scott’s portfolio and news. All very well maintained. The other website tin-house-studio is about his rental studio and workshops. There’s free stuff to watch, online tutorials available at a small fee and you may get in touch to book a group or one to one workshop. When there’s time. Scott is a working photographer in the first place.
The Actar-15 lens is perfectly suitable for use with mirrorless medium format cameras like the Hasselblad X1D and Fuji GFX. It’s also an attractive option for users of APS_C sensor cameras. When using a camera like the Fujifilm X on a view camera, the choice of (extreme) wide angle lenses was always limited. Due to the smaller sensor size, even a 24mm can’t offer more than a moderate angle of view.
Alex Vreeman is a long-time Fuji user. We asked this Dutch photographer to give the new lens a try. Although Alex does own a GFX as well, there are various occasions on which he prefers the smaller cameras. For instance when his clients also require some video footage.
He used his Actus-G, Fuji XT bodies and the Actar-15 on an assignment to shoot exclusive wallpaper designed by Working Bert. This is often custom made for a client’s interior.
Alex particularly liked the low distortion of the 15mm lens.
Alex Vreeman has been working as a commercial photographer for over three decades now. He’s passionate about portrait photography. We could have guessed that he’d be using this 15mm for portraiture too.
When shooting an extreme wide angle – and that’s what the Actar-19 is when combined with a 33x44mm sensor – you’ll only have limited ways to shade the lens. Using a flexible hood at least makes is possible to adapt the amount of shade to the direction of shift or rise/fall that’s been applied.
The Cambo AC-324 lens hood fits nicely to the Actar-19. Although the lens isn’t very susceptible to flare, thanks to its good coating, in some situations this shade may save you.
AC-324 is the dedicated Actar-24 lens shade. It’s 90mm fitting makes it also suitable for use on Rodenstock Digaron-32 lenses. As of now Cambo offers step-down rings from 90 to 75, 70 and 60mm. This makes it a light weight compendium alternative on various Rodenstock Digaron lenses. Including those used on the Phase One XT.
In this video Cambo USA’s Anthony Wallen introduces these new applications
2021 is Cambo’s 75th Anniversary year. We don’t want to let it pass unnoticed. Therefore we’ve decided to bundle the Actus-G with the newly announced Actar-15 and Actar-19 lenses.
So what’s in the box? The Actus-G mini view camera and a bayonet of choice to attach your 35mm or mirrorless medium format camera. Bundled with an Actar-15 or Actar-19 lens. Our previous blog entry gives you an idea which lens may suit your needs best.
Everything is packed in laser cut high density foam which fits seamlessly into a Peli iM2075 case.
End of last year we dedicated a blog entry to the new Actar-19 lens. A superb lens, with the distinction of an exceptionally large usable image circle given the short focal length. Crucial, when you’re working with a large sensor and still need to apply a substantial amount of shift, rise and fall.
We’re happy to announce another wide angle lens: The Actar-15. Its image circle is slightly smaller than the 19’s. Still large enough to make it a good choice when a 24×36 or 33x44mm sensor camera is used as a digital back behind one of our view cameras.
So now there’s a choice between 15 and 19mm lenses. The 15 being the more affordable one, the 19 still having a few strengths over it. Let’s first have a look what the difference in focal length does when used on various sensor sizes. We need some boring pictures to compare side-by-side.
Please note, that 4mm of rise was applied. The picture taken with the IQ4 back shows, that we’re exceeding the Actar-15’s image circle when working with this large sensor.
The Actar-15 gives an extreme angle of view when used with a 33×44 sensor and even at a 24×36 sensor it won’t be everyone’s taste. When you’re working with an APS-C camera though (which we didn’t include in this comparison), it becomes much more of a bread-and-butter wide angle. One that performs extremely well and enables a massive amount of rise, fall and shift.
Actus-GFX with Fuji GFX-50r and Actar-19. Here 12mm of rise was applied. The darkened upper corners show that we’re nearly exceeding the image circle. This is more than the Actar-15 can offer.
Cambo was founded in 1946 – yes indeed, we’ve got an anniversary this year – and has the distinction of being the first manufacturer to produce an all-metal large format camera. So you won’t find any woodworm in this early Cambo camera: it’s completely made out of metal, with a painted wood look.
This early model was branded Technica. Nowadays you’d do a quick search on the world wide web, back then nobody could assume that another manufacturer was already using this name. Soon after the company’s name was changed to Cambo, being a combination of Camera and Bok (the founder’s surname).
A sliding back became a popular view camera accessory in the 1990s, when live view on digital backs was poor or non-existent. Surprisingly, this camera already had one too.
Pulling down the curtain exposes the film. A nifty alternative to a dark slide.
Turn this wheel and the complete camera tilts up- or downwards. No fiddly little buttons, just great ergonomics.
The very early Cambo camera shown above doesn’t require a tripod nor a stand. From the very beginning however, Cambo has also been a manufacturer of studio stands. Some of these early models are still in daily use and bear testimony to the fact that a good studio stand is an investment you only need to make once in a lifetime.
The 1920’s were the years of modernism in architecture. 1919 Walter Gropius had founded the Bauhaus Academy for architecture and desing in Weimar, promoting the idea of machine production as a stimulus to design for a better world. Le Corbusier published his thesis on architecture in which he described a house as a “machine to live in”. New construction materials encouraged experimenting and there was a global trend towards a form-follows-function approach. Not in the least in The Netherlands.
In Rotterdam coffee, tea and tobacco manufacturers Van Nelle were expanding their business. Co-owner and managing director Cees van Leeuwen was a friend of Walter Gropius and admired his work. The new Van Nelle plant, built between 1927 and 1930, was a perfect example of a modern approach to architecture. The use of reinforced concrete and steel enabled sleek lines and facades almost completely made out of glass. This resulted in a clean working environment with ample day light. Design for a better world after all.
Fast forward. In 1995 manufacturing at the Van Nelle plant ended. Ather a thorough renovation the premises now house various businesses. Being a national monument since 1985, it was added to the Unesco World Heritage list in 2014. The photographs for the preceding application were made by Rotterdam based photographer Ronald Tilleman.
As for so many of us, Ronald Tilleman’s fascination for phography started using his father’s camera and making his first black and white prints in the high school’s dark room. He saved up to buy his first camera (a Praktica, made in GDR) and joined the local photo club. Apparently he’s got talent and soon received his first awards. Although contemplating to study photography, Ronald at first decided to become a teacher. Fifteen years and many awards later, he decided to start a second career as a full time photographer. At first, he did all kinds of commercial photography, combined with non-commissioned work. Working on assignments for construction companies and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, he got acquinted with several architects. Gradually architecture started to play a more important role. Tilleman is now a renowned architectural photographer. Besides that, he accepts other assignments and makes non-commisioned work. A necessitiy to keep a fresh approach, as he states.
At first Ronald shot his architectural assignments on film, using a Fuji GX 680 and a Cambo SC 4×5″. The first ventures in digital were made with a Phase One P25+ combined with a Cambo WDS, later followed by the WRS. He still owns this set, but the camera he uses most frequently nowadays is the Cambo Actus. On this small view camera his Sony A7r bodies and (recently acquired) Fuji GFX-50r are used as digital backs. This camera is compact yet precise and gives perfect perspective control.
“In architectural photography choosing your point of view is of essential importance. It defines the proportions and perspective of the building or interior. You need to have a broad choice of focal lengths in your tool kit. At the end of the day, the evocative power and story behind a photograph are number one, followed suit by technical perfection.”