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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Smooth, flexible and precise: Cambo Geared Tripod Heads

The Cambo PCH and PCF geared heads provide the fast adjustability of a ball-head, combined with the independent axis control of a 3-way pan-tilt head. Since the gears are self-locking, there’s no need to disengage the locks before adjusting the fine settings. The 90° indents on the rotating top plate and availabiltiy of a longer QR plate are amenities that serve the needs of panorama shooters. High precision engineering and extremely fine machining tolerances guarantee smooth operation without backlash.

Cambo PCH, PCF and PCM tripod heads.

WRS-334 is a leveller designed for use with the Cambo WRS and Phase One XT tech cameras. Although it comes with an Arca-style QR plate for use with other cameras as well.

Three thumb wheels enable levelling upto 5° in any direction.

WRS-334 features a selector to set its 360° rotation to 16, 12 or 2 indents.


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Finer, faster and smarter machining

At Cambo we take pride in our in-house machining. Not only the parts needed for your new tech or view camera are manufactured in our own facility, some other well-known brands rely on our machining as well. About two years ago we upgraded the shop with a DMG Mori DMU-50. A five-axis CNC milling machine. And guess what? We like it so much, that we’ve just acquired a second one.

The truck it arrived on was accompanied by a crew bringing their own forklift and all the tools needed for installation. It took a bit of manoeuvring to get the DMU into the hall and past its siblings.

But now it has arrived at its new home.

The DMU-50 in front milling tech cam parts, while in the back the installation of a similar machine is being completed.
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New life for your view camera

Many view cameras that were acquired in the Nineties or Zeroes (that sounds horrible!) by commercial studios and schools now have entered the stage of retirement. Not unlike human beings, some of these trusted work horses would rather stay active. Therefore we offer the means to use them with digital backs, DSLRS and Mirrorless cameras.

Let’s start with this 4×5″ Master, Cambo’s top of the line view camera introduced in 1988.

Let's start with this 4x5" Master, Cambo's top of the line view camera introduced in 1988.

In the camera shown above, the ground glass back is replaced by a Cambo DPB-45, it’s completed with an interface plate for a digital back. In this case an SLW-83 suitable for the Phase One/Mamiya interface of the Leaf Credo.

Cambo Master / Schneider Super-Symmar 110

If your view camera has a “standard” Graflock back, one of Cambo’s Graflock adapters can take the place of the ground glass. Like this WDS-506 for backs with a Hasselblad interface. The use of it is not limited to Cambo view cameras. For digital backs that have no or limited live view, there are sliding backs available.

On this Cambo Wide the ground glass of the Graflock back has been replaced with a WDS-509 to fit a Phase One IQ4 digital back.

In 1998 the Legend and Master view cameras were replaced by the Ultima. Although still available in 4×5′ and 8×10′ versions, this view camera was primarily designed for digital applications. Digital sensors, being much smaller than the traditional “large format”, require finer camera settings. The Ultima evolved into the Actus-XL, to make it more compatible with the smaller Cambo Actus view cameras. This makes the Ultima / Actus-XL the perfect base if you’d like to work with a view camera, but not necessarily with a digital back.

A Cambo Actus-XL with Nikon Z7
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There’s no such thing as a lost space

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One Wall Away is the title of Jan Theun van Rees’ website. And it says a lot about his work. Walls do not only surround a space and keep the outside at bay, they also form a connection with the world on the other side. One of the most vivid examples of this is formed by a project Van Rees started a couple of years ago: In Between.

During his first visit to Tokyo in 2015 it struck him that, unlike in other major cities, there are no continuous facades. There’s always an – albeit narrow – gap between the individual buildings. Access is often obstructed by fences or airco-units. It takes a strong observer to notice this phenomenon at all; during daytime the gaps aren’t more than dark lines separating the premises. After dusk this chances. Very often the buildings have windows facing the narrow ‘alleys’ in between. When the inhabitants turn on the lights, the light bounces between the walls and forms a connection between the buildings.

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This interaction between interiors and the outside world works the other way around as well. The incident light adds shape to a room. After years of merely observing and registering the incoming light, Van Rees started to alter, steer and manipulate it, by applying curtains and drapes in the often abonded rooms he uses for his photography. Subsequently he constructed an entire space from scratch, just to study the light that defines it. Here the distinction between inside and outside has finally vanished completely.

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The One Wall theme runs like a thread through Jan Theun van Rees’ career as a photographer. Whether he builds an installation in an abandoned store, photographs a curtain waving through an opened window, or challenges fellow artists to integrate one of his photographs in their works. There’s always this lifelong fascination.

The passion for the interaction between a space represented in an image and the room it’s exhibited in led to the project A Given Space. It’s an interdisciplinary collaboration between Jan Theun van Rees and 14 fellow artists. Each artist is invited to choose one of Van Rees’ photographs of  empty rooms. A lifesize print is sticked to the studio’s wall. The assignment is a new work of art created for this particular space, now being nothing more than a flat surface.  When the work of art has been completed, Van Rees photographs it in ‘his’ empty room. The final prints are being exhibited in various venues.

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From A Given Space. With Guda Koster.


Jan Theun van Rees works with a Cambo WRS-1000, Phase One P45 and Schneider 24, 43 and 80mm lenses. This may not be the most recent gear, it works well for him. When using a DSLR – or even more tucked away under a dark cloth behind a view camera – the gear stands between the photographer and the subject. Working with a tech cam without live view, the view point is established without visual aids. The photograph results from the interaction between photographer, camera and space. It’s all about space.

Like to see more? One Wall Away

May 22 – 25 2020 Jan Theun van Rees is exhibiting at This Art Fair

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Revealing the unseen beauty of nature

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Professor Yuan Yu works on the cutting edge of science and art. As the Shanghai World Expo Museum’s Head of Innovation he’s exploring the latest (microscopical) imaging technologies. His work reveals the beauty of the micro world. Influenced by the works of British photographer Levon Bliss, he turned his attention to insects of various shapes and shades.

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Each photograph requires meticulous preparation. The equipment used is a Cambo Actus-DB2 paired with a Phase One 100mp back Equipmentand a Rodenstock HR-Digaron 105 Macro. The set-up is supported by a Cambo PCH geared head.

Results like this can only be achieved by stacking hundreds of images. This starts with calculating the magnification and the increments between the individual shots. Mounting the Cambo Actus to a micro-meter stage ensures the precision needed for this proces. After hours of stacking a beautifully coloured insect appears on the screen. Zooming into the details reveals the bumps and fluff of the carapace and one can literally count the scales on the wings. Its structure and vivid colours shine like a gem.


DetailThe bumps and fluff on the carapace, the array of scales, the insect’s beautiful structural colors are unreservedly displayed in front of the viewer’s eyes, shining like a gem.






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This blog entry was created with kind permission of  Nexor  Cambo’s exclusive distributor in China.
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Wild at heart

July 2019 French photographer Stéphane Gautronneau boarded the Ms. Austral in Petropavlosk. The ship sailed the Bering Sea, past the Aleutian Islands and reached the Alaskan Coast 21 days later. Due to global warming this Northern Passage has become more and more accessible. The melting ice offers unseen spectacular landscapes and traces of human intervention, such as wrecked submarines and planes from the Japan-US war. The initial plan was to work on a reportage for Le Monde M, following the Trans-Alaska Pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Seward. The forest fires of that summer urged to a chance of plans.


The Austral dropped Stéphane off at Juneau, Alaska. He made his way to Fairbanks to meet his local contact, a Native American who was going to help him on this reportage. Stéphane likes to set off on his own and hire assistants and help locally. It gives him a chance to meet people. And travelling is actually part of the process. “Hopping on a plane for a long journey, just to spend a few days out there, isn’t natural to the human body, the mind and the planet! I like to get out on my own, walking or biking. Slow travelling brings the human scale back into the picture.” 250km North of Fairbanks Stéphane and his guide – wearing gas masks to be able to breath – were stopped by fire-fighters.The couple could continue to Wiseman. Normally the last stop for petrol and coffee. This time the fire-fighter troops stopped them definitely.


Steph in Yellow Jacket

Stéphane during training

It was clear that the initial reportage could not be accomplished. After a two-days crash course Stéphane was allowed to join the troops. The new plan: A series of portraits of the fire-fighters, young people coming from all over the USA. Fire-fighting in Alaska is actually a summer job, like being a waiter or working on the beach. The brigades were named after the states the members originated from. Stéphane sticked with the Oregon Brigade most of the time.

May 2020 the result will be exhibited at ‘Le Collatéral’ in Arles. All the work has been shot with a Cambo Actus-GFX, using Mamiya RZ lenses and a portable Elinchrom strobe.


The Actus suits Stéphane’s way of working perfectly. He’s a photographer who prefers to come home with just a few photographs over shooting endlessly. Rather the picture he already had in his mind than a dozen that are nearly right. When working in New York in the 1990’s, he bought a 1952 Linhof Technika from an assistant. Stéphane immediately loved the more contemplative way of working it required. And its compact size made it a good travel companion. The Actus brought these qualities to the digital age. And Stéphane still uses the Mamiya RZ lenses on it that he’s been using since his younger days as a NYC based fashion photographer.

Over time shooting with a view camera has become Stéphane’s natural way of working. It’s not limited to travel photography. This picture is from a recent Thierry Colson fashion shoot.St. Gautronneau for Thierry Colson

Biography of Stéphane Gautronneau by Clara Lefort

Wild at heart, Stéphane Gautronneau is a photographer like no other. An autodidact, he started his career by assisting a roaster of great fashion photographers like Patrick Demarchelier, Justine Parson, David Sawyer and Riccardo Tinelli. Sensitive and precise, Stéphane soon devoted time to mastering large format cameras – which require extra care and attention during pre and post-production phases.

Ready to apply his skills to extreme conditions – under a tent or a motorbike, on a glacier or in a desert – Stéphane works marvels with this 4×5, admitting that the “probability that an image is untouched and perfect is rare. A rare exception.”

A regular contributor for major lifestyle magazines and periodicals, his work has been featured in French Vogue, Glamour US, Paris Match, Air France Magazine & Madame (Conde Nast), Figaro Madame, Le Monde, Libération, The New York Times, Vanity Fair US, Harpers Bazaar UK, Stern, The Guardian or The Independent to name a few. Stéphane also shoots many travel stories and portraits, including Gregory David Roberts, Zaha Hadid, Pharell Williams, Nicolas Hulot, amongst others.

Working with and for brands, Stéphane produces images for Nike, BMW, Benetti yachts, Virgin and Richard Branson’s submarine (Necker Nymph)

A BMW ambassador, Stéphane travelled the world to open expedition roads: these long solitary journeys included Perth-Sydney; Paris-Goa; Istanbul-Kathmandu; Buenos Aires-Atacama; Paris-Vladivostok-Lisbon.


Since 2014 Stéphane Gautronneau has been been collaborating with BMW Motorrad. His work has been used for bill boards and commercials. Being a rider himself, he documented over-land motorbike trips for the Make Life a Ride campaign. For a French-German co-production by Commune Image and Connaissances du Monde he was asked to follow a season at the Motodrome, a group of travelling wall of death riders. The resulting movie The Wall will be released in 2020. Here’s a short showreel.

More work by  Stéphane Gautronneau

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