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-A Lens With a View: Part 3-
by Robert A F van de Voort

This and the following articles will introduce the view camera to the reader who is completely unaware of the possibilites, the surprises and ease of use of the big black box, my favourite working tool.

Now we will have a look at the movements of the image-panel. The image-panel is able to do exactly what the lens panel can do, but the results are not the same.
Imagine focusing: The camera is in total 0 position and looks straight ahead towards the mug of coffee you are photographing. To get it into focus, you can move the lens panel closer or further away until the image is sharp on the image panel's groundglass. What you were doing was moving the "camera" closer and further away until it was focused.

If you moved the image-panel (negative holder) only and kept the lens-panel where it was, you will find at one stage the image is sharp, but it might not show enough of the mug or too much. So in both cases the same thing happened, it will be sharp but did you get your image, as you wanted it?

Normally I suggest you use a combination of the two to start your image composition/sharpness, and use the lens-panel for sharpening the image only. The image-panel is exactly that, it shows the image that the lens projects on it. Thus if you move it out alignment (the 0 position) you can create those wonderful images that are so unique to view cameras and make such a nice difference from those "straight" 35mm and fixed 120 bodies.

We will take the tilt first: If you tilt the image-panel forward, the upside down projected image of the coffee mug will be projected in a distorted way. The bottom of the mug is now projected on the top of the image-panel, which has moved closer forward towards the lens, thus making the projected image bigger on the groundglass.
The top of the coffee mug is projected smaller on the bottom of the groundglass because the groundglass has moved away from the lens. So in effect, I made some creative pottery here with a coffee mug that looks very different from the shape the potter made it in. Who said view cameras are boring?

The focus would shift a little when you move the groundglass, and if you would stop down a few stops this mage would get sharper. Do this by making the aperture hole smaller by choosing a higher F-number. If I used the swing of the image-panel, I could make the handle of the mug appear bigger by swinging the image panel that shows the handle on the groundglass closer to the lens. Of course, the opposite side of the mug would get smaller because the projected image by the lens has more projecting distance to cover to reach the groundglass on the image-panel.

When I move my image-panel up or down, I position the mug lower or higher on my image-pane. The view that the lens sees of the mug does not change, so there is no difference of HOW I see the mug but how much or little of it!

The wooden type view cameras have most of these movements available but are not as flexible or extreme in their movements. However, they do offer you the magic of manipulation of the image combined with a lesser weight. These cameras are great for landscape and other large format outdoor work like architecture, and figure work. In fact, these cameras are great for anything where you want more control of the visual aspects of your image. You can get much more out of one of these cameras, when compared to only being able to change aperture or shutter speed or film that a fixed camera body could present you.

We have touched on some of the magic that we can make inside the camera. Without resorting to scanning and electronic image manipulation, we observe what realistic perspective distortion is, instead of being blown away with some fantastic filter, or plug in that might not be based on reality.

The next issue will offer some "deeper insights" of these movements. For those interested some book titles that are like "Bibles" (but not in volume, thank heavens) for the view photographer:

"Photo Know How" by Carl Koch and Jost. J. Marchesi - highlighting how to use the Sinar view camera including how to do it assignments like a workbook.

Basic and Applications vol.1 (Creative Large Format Sinar Edition)
Architectural Photography vol.2 ( '')
Natural Landscapes vol.3 (")
People photography vol. 4 (")
Advertising photography vol. 5 (")

"The View Camera" by Harvey Shaman, ISBN0817463755

This article was first published in the Photographers Mail - New Zealand - March 2001. Article copyright Robert A F van de Voort 2001, can be reproduced unabridged with reference to author.

Lens With a View Series:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7&8 9 10 11 12

Robert van de VoortRobert van de Voort is a professional photographer and writer, with his headquarters located on the North Island of New Zealand. Robert's professional photographic career spans the course of over 20 years, with work in stock, advertising, studio, digital photography and much more! You can learn more about Robert and see examples of his stunning work by visiting his website at

The staff at would like to thank Robert for his generous article contributions, and we would like to invite you to come back next month for part 4 of Robert's "A Lens with a View" series!

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