Monday, March 28, 2016

Wehman "Ultralight" 8x10 Field Camera

These days it seems like there is no shortage of new companies building 8x10 and other size field cameras, often with space-age materials and impressive specs (and impressive price). I bought my first 8x10 camera, a Gundlach built in 1899, about 4 years ago. It was cheap and came with a cool lens, and I shot nothing but x-ray film with it for a long time. Later on I found a Wista 8x10, made by Tachihara, that was a bit more versatile and easier to use - but it was still really heavy and the thin paper bellows made me worried when hiking, as an errant tree branch could puncture it and ruin the camera.

I started thinking about upgrading my camera but the expensive new production models, even used, were just not the right fit for me. They were also for the most part still quite heavy. So when I saw a Wehman 8x10 "ultralight" advertised, I was intrigued. Looking up the specs, I discovered it was about 7 pounds, plus another pound could be shaved off by removing the top "clamshell," reducing the total extension (which I rarely would use). My mind was made up. I bought it.

In-hand, I was really amazed by the simple and elegant design and the great look of the camera. In the field, it was the perfect blend of simple usage and versatility. I have read in several places that Wehman only made two of these "ultralight" models but I can not verify that. Either way, I think this is the last 8x10 camera I'll ever need.

Last weekend I took it for its first large hike (about 3 miles). It was easy to carry and didn't weigh me down, and being so light I could also use a slightly less heavy tripod without worry. I hardly broke a sweat carrying the load, with 4 lenses in my bag and 12 sheets of film in 6 holders.

I hiked at Langdale Park, which was closed for "repair" earlier this year - but a local conservation group was allowed access to paddle down the river and take out at Langdale Park, so I tagged along.

Here are the photos from that day. First are a few on Delta 100, developed in FX-39, using either my 210mm f/9 Graphic Kowa, 300mm f/9 Nikkor-M, 25cm f/4.7 Fujinar, or 90mm f/5.6 Schneider XL (cropped slightly):

I also tried out two photos on Efke IR820 AURA film. I have a big box of this I've never used. Here are those photos (duplicates of the above, as I wasn't sure the Wehman bellows were IR light-tight...luckily it is!):

Finally, I had one more sheet of Delta 100, so I took this photo of the WWALS group with that:

Now right before I took this last image, I had one bad thing happen - I slipped and fell pretty bad on some mud. The Wehman 8x10 took a dive and hit the ground hard too. Everything seemed okay, but then I discovered the nylon focus track had a few teeth go missing! I was dismayed, but I sent Mr. Wehman an email to see if he had parts. Amazingly, he responded later that day and offered to send a free replacement! What a great service and awesome guy! I just received the part today and installed it in just a few moments, and it's back to like-new condition (after I cleaned up the mud...).

I love this camera and can't wait to shoot it more!

Oh! One more thing. My friend Julie took this photo of me with the camera before I left:

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