Wider angles and a variety of sensors

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.

GFX-50r. For use with the “smaller medium format sensor” of the Fujif GFX and Hasselblad X1D cameras, the 15 is fine. Some shading at the left could have helped, though.
Actus with GFX-50r and Actar-15. Sometimes it’s fun to shoot straight into the sun.

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.

The Actar-19 combined with a GFX-100

Links to download some RAW files:



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No, this isn’t wood

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.

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Tilleman’s take on architecture

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.

Phootgrapher : Ronald Tilleman, building : Arnhem Central Station , Arnhem The Netherlands designed by UNStudio & Arup ( structural engeneering)

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.”

More work by Ronald Tilleman.

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King Kilimanjaro

©Stéphane Gautronneau, for Condé Nast France, Air France Madame Magazine

We don’t hear it too often, but we do like it: A photographer carrying the Cambo Actus in his back-pack, all the way up the Kilimanjaro. Stéphane Gautronneau did it. He was assigned by 360 Voyage Events expedition planners and Commune Image Media to realise a documentary along the Marunga tracks, reaching the Uhuru Peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. Stéphane’s movie Pole Pole, which means “slowly” in Swahili, will be broadcasted next year at BBC’s Geography channel. The resulting article was published in the most recent issue of Air France Madame Magazine.

In the bag were a Fujifilm GFX-100, Cambo Actus and Mamiya RZ 65 and 90mm lenses.

©Stéphane Gautronneau, for Condé Nast France, Air France Madame Magazine

This is not our first blog about Stéphane. If you’d like to read more Wild At Heart

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New applications for the X-Shutter

About a year ago, Phase One introduced their XT system. A technical camera developed in close cooperation with and manufactured by Cambo. At the core of the XT is the X-shutter. It’s a robust #0 leaf shutter that can take the place of a mechanical shutter, like i.e. the Copal-0.

In the past Rollei, Sinar/Rodenstock and Schneider manufactured their own electronical leaf shutters. Unlike these earlier attempts, the X-Shutter doesn’t require an external controller. It’s powered from and operated directly at the Phase One IQ4 digital back. The downside of this: You can’t use it with any other digital back than the IQ4. The beauty of it is an ease of use that’s unprecedented for technical and view cameras. Although you’re going to miss the wonderful sound of releasing a mechanical Copal shutter set at long exposure.

The X-Shutter was first used in the XT system. November 2020 Phase One will start supplying shutters for other applications. This requires a cable, to connect the shutter to the digital back when it’s not connected via the XT’s integrated connectors. After a firmware update the IQ4 will be able to distinguish between cable connection and use on the XT and switches to the proper mode automatically.

Cambo will supply new Rodenstock Digaron lenses fitted with the X-Shutter. Not only for use on our WRS and WRC technical cameras. Lenses can also be mounted to #0 lens plates for view cameras. Here’s a Rodenstock HR-Digaron 90SW attached to a Cambo Actus-XL. When you’re using a view camera and IQ4 back in a studio environment, the X-Shutter can certainly make your workflow more efficient. All shutter and aperture settings can be controlled in Capture One. No more need to open, close, cock and release the shutter manually, as required when working with a mechanical shutter.

Existing Rodenstock Digaron lenses and a selection of Schneider Kreuznach lenses can be upgraded to the X-Shutter. Every lens added to this list requires a unique piece of firmware. It tells the shutter in which lens it is. Not only necessary to mention the lens used in the EXIF info, but – more important – to get the aperture right.

Cambo WRS lens panels fit onto the Phase One XT. If you’d like to use tilt and swing on your XT, using one of Cambo’s WTS lenses was already an option. Now these lenses will be a available with the X-Shutter as well.

And vice versa XT lens panels fit onto the Cambo WRS. Which makes sense, in case a larger shift range is needed than the XT’s 12mm.

This is a list of lenses that can be fitted with the Phase One X-Shutter:

Rodenstock Digaron:Schneider Apo-Digitar:
23 HR-S47-XL
32 HR-W60-XL
35 HR-S72-XL
40 HR-W80-M
50 HR-W90-N
60 HR-S100-N
70 HR-W120-N / Asph.
90 HR-SW120-M
100 HR-S150-N
180 HR-S180-T


To summarise the new applications of the X-Shutter:

  • XT lens panels can be used on Cambo technical cameras
  • Cambo Tilt & Swing lens panels fit onto Phase One XT cameras
  • Cambo view cameras are available with X-Shutter lenses
  • New Digaron lenses are available with X-Shutters
  • Digarons and a selection of Schneider lenses can be upgraded with X-shutters

The X-Shutter has been used in the XT camera for over a year now. It’s proven itself as robust and troublefree. Being a further development of a shutter that is build by Phase One’s Industrial division, it’s been tested and tried in i.e. aerial photography. That version, btw, has a fastest shutter speed of 1/2000 and shows outstanding longevity. The version we have at our hands now – its shutter speed being reduced to 1/1000 – will only be more durable.

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A wider view for the Actus

Cambo Actus-GFX-100 with Actar-19. 8mm of fall, 1 degree of tilt applied.

It’s been on Fuji Rumors, blogs and forums and now it’s time to show it here. The new Actar-19 lens for the Actus and Actus-XL view cameras. Based on the Nikon PC-19.

The PC-19 is a great lens in its own right. Distortion is minimal for such a wide angle. We “rehoused” it and made some changes, to make it work even better on a view camera. The aperture was replaced by a manual version. The F-bajonet had to go, to make better use of the lens’ generous image circle. The result is a lens that enables a generous amount of shift on 24×36 cameras, performs very well when paired with a camera like the Fuji GFX-100 and has enough coverage to still enable some shift when used with a Phase One IQ3 or IQ4.

Although this is a great lens when you are an architectural and interior photographer using a GFX, its use is not limited to mirrorless medium format. We used Phase One backs for many of our tests. The 53.4 x 40mm sensor being 1.5x bigger than the one used in the GFX and X1D is a good bench mark. With the largest sensor rise and fall is limited to 4mm. Corner sharpness remains excellent and distortion is low.

Actus-DB2 with Actar-19 and Phase One IQ4-150. 4mm of rise.
Sony A7r_mk4 with 13mm of rise applied

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When tech cams were more technical

Cambo Lenspanel WDS-180L

Attach a lens to the front and a digital back to the rear and your tech cam – like this Cambo WRS-1600 – is ready to use. And thanks to the good live view of nowaday’s digital backs focussing is a breeze. The Digitar and Digaron lenses come mounted and calibrated and are basically plug-and-play. What it requires is your creativity to make the most of it.

A technical photographer’s live hasn’t always been that easy. Apart from the substantially higher weight to carry, tech cams for analogue use required some more preparation.

Here’s a Cambo Wide DS. It accepts 5×4″ sheet film cassettes. This version was introduced in 2000.

This one has a WDS-504 revolving back. It has Graflock type sliders. That’s good. It enables you to replace the ground glas with an adapter for digital backs, like this WDS-506.

So it is possible to use these older technical cameras with a digital back. Even the latest and greatest will fit. The back’s sensor will be in exactly the same plane as the film used to be. This means the same lenses can be used in both the analogue and digital set-up. And each lens still requires its spacer, unique to each focal length that was available in those days.

WDS set-up for use with a Schneider Super-Angulon 58. Hence the marking on the spacer.

If the WDS is going to be used with the current lens panels, set-up for use with digital backs, the Graflock style back and spacer need to go. It will be replaced by one of these, which brings the sensor in the right plane for use with Cambo’s WRS lens panels.

Modern times
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Making waves

In the 1950’s water management and water works became big issues in The Netherlands. This required facilities to test scale models of new infrastructural projects. And we are not talking about kitchen-table-size scale models. Therefore an open air laboratorium was founded. It provided enough space to build huge models of coast lines, harbours and planned tunnels and expose these to artificially created tides and waves.

In this lab the effects of many national and international infrastructural projects were simulated. Here the ports of IJmuiden and Marsha-el-Brega, to name a few, were built to scale before the first stone was actually laid. Although The Netherlands still have testing facilities like this, computer simulation made this lab obsolete. In 1996 it was abandoned. Nowadays it’s called Waterloopbos and open for visitors.

The beautifully decayed scale models are surrounded by woods and moss-covered. A nice site to take the WRS-1600 with IQ3 back and Phase One 35mm for a walk.

This is Phase One’s 3.5/35 Blue Ring lens attached to a Cambo WRS-1600. It makes the tech cam look small.

The 35mm Blue Ring – a Schneider Kreuznach design – is a great lens. Designed and optimised for use on the Phase One XF cameras, it’s not intended for use on a tech cam. But we do have this adapter so why shouldn’t we give it a try.

Shooting straight ahead the lens’ quality is superb. Although not necessarily designed to cover more than the digital back’s sensor, it does offer some room to shift. Technically there’s 8mm in it before the corners show vignetting. However, to maintain optimum quality it’s better not to exceed a few mm.

Monument for the Delta Works at Waterloopbos

Detached from the XF body, there’s no way to trigger the lens’ leaf shutter. So you’ll need to rely on the digital back’s ES. It does support the use of strobes, albeit limited to longer exposure times.

WRS-M645 enables the use of all Mamiya 645 and Phase One XF lenses on Cambo WRS and Phase One XT bodies. There’s no electronic connection between digital back and lens. Before attaching it to the tech cam, the lens needs to be stopped down to its working aperture.

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Keeping things tidy

Ever since Cambo has been manufacturing studio stands many photographers ordered these with an accessory tray. Just to have things like the exposure meter and Polaroid cassette at hand.

At some point, the screen near the camera replaced the loupe and Polaroid. Looking at the DB, this one must be about 25 years old by now.

For use on our M-Line (Mono and MBX) of studio stands we’ve got the Mono-52. The U-52 is the notebook tray for the U-Stands (UST and UBS). Use is limited to the UBA cross arm, which slides on roller bearings. The U-4 requires a different solution, due to its crank.

That solution is called CT-460. It can be used on a C-stand, or – attached to a U-9 or U-29 – at the studio stand’s cross arm.

CT-460 attached to the U-4 cross arm

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Iconic landscapes revisited

The Dutch landscape as it is nowadays is to a great extent man-made. Over the ages courses of rivers were bent, where once was sea now crops are harvested and land consolidation on a large scale is one of the reasons Dutch agriculture could reach a level of unprecedented efficiency. In 2008 landscape architect Henk van Blerck and photographer Michiel Pothoff decided to collaborate and produced a series of 61 photographs called Canon van het Nederlandse Landschap. One of the criteria for the selection of landscapes was human interference during several periods of time. Thus urbanisation and lanscapes created by land consolidation play an important role in this work.

In 2008 all photographs were made with a Cambo WDS combined with a Leaf digital back and Schneider 35xl lens.

At the moment Michiel is revisiting these 61 landscapes. The Cambo WDS is still his travel companion. This time every photograph will be combined with a 360° panorama. The latter shot with a Nikon D5 paired with a Zeiss 18mm lens on a Cambo CLH-500 panorama head.

This link directs you to a panorama of the river IJssel near Kampen, Cambo’s home town.

It’s a work in progress. So if you’d like to see more, just visit the Canon van het Nederlandse Landschap from time to time.

More about Michiel Pothoff: www.studiopothoff.nl

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