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-A Lens With a View: Part 5-
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.

I like to do something similar again and use a row of items, instead of a book or chessboard.

Starting close to the camera lens and disappearing on a 45-degree angle, we place our "heroes". Alternatively, any similar angle into the distance will do. Well let us limit the distance to 30 cms to make it easier, but in principle this rule applies to infinity…
If you use a 35 mm camera, you could focus on one item and get the rest not sharp if you kept your aperture wide open.

The view camera would do the same if you kept all panels for the lens and image in zero position (lens and negative are than in the same relative position to each other), but wait, there is more….

Imagine you extend the imaginary line made by your heroes towards the camera and continue until it intersects with the imaginary line of the image panel, still in zero position.

If you now " swing " the lenspanel in a similar direction as the line of your heroes, but just - just a little less, the imaginary line of the lens panel will intersect with the previous two lines. Compris? I mean, understood?

Voila, all heroes are lined up sharp on your image panel! I hope that you had the sense to focus on one hero first….. J, you might have to refocus a little, but you get them all sharp into the distance.

This is the top view and it shows how to swing that lens, of course adjust it until it shows the lot sharp, this sample does not go far enough, but you get the idea?

Is this a wonderful feature? Some of you might think this is better than sliced bread, but these "all over pin sharp photos" are a bit boring… and you might get sick of getting every thing sharp. These view cameras are creative after all, so where can we find some creative effects?

In the above sample we used the lenspanel to swing " in line " with our line of heroes.
This gets them all sharp ok? What would happen if we kept the lens panel in zero position and swung the image panel into the imaginary intersection lines of the hero line and image panel line? We could see the heroes all sharp again would we…. How boooooooooring. But wait there is more… J the image now will show distortion of your heroes as well.

This happens because if one side of the image panel is swung backwards, part of the image has to travel further to reach the image panel and will thus increase in size (see hollow white point). Of course, the other side of the image panel will swing forwards, the image projected by the lens will have now less distance to travel from lens to image panel and get smaller in size (see solid red point). This will create a creative distortion effect in size and shape.

In the illustrated sample, the two points are on the same distance away from the lens. This makes it easier to understand I hope.

If the solid point was further from the lens it would be smaller on the image panel if the image panel was in zero position.





The three lines will converge in one point, creating all heroes sharp but you actually increase the perception of the size of each hero compared to each other, in other words you have now created a line of exaggerated perspective. Plus, bonus bonus, you will find that at the edges of your image panel the image is distorted. Circles will be projected like ovals, in other words, the objects will stretch a little out sideways. I find the use of the image panel quite creative because of the distortion factor and other image shaping abilities.

The lens on the contrary is an aid in seeing, in collecting information but not transforming any of its views. Together they make a brilliant team!

This article was first published in the Photographers Mail - New Zealand - June 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

Hey guys, any questions or comments? It is so hard to explain a view camera on paper and such joy to experience in real life that words sometimes are failing me to explain it nicely. All the responses received have been positive, thank you all for your feedback! Readers are invited to view some of my escapades into photography on or send Email to me at with your questions.Robert van de Voort

Robert 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 6 of Robert's "A Lens with a View" series!

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