Do you like the idea of a large-format view camera but don’t want to jump into developing and handling large-format negatives? This was my idea when I bought a Horseman VH a year ago. This is a medium-format technical or view camera that has a good range of movements and allows you to get very close to large-format experience but stay within your 120 workflow.
This is work in progress.
I bought this camera for a year ago and have since added some accessories. It is a camera that really slows you down, and has the total large-format feel to it. It is very fun to see that a bit of swing gives you a lot more depth-of-field in an architecture shot where you really need everything to be in sharp focus. Or a bit of rise can bring the subject into the field without creating a lot of distortion. I have a lot to learn, especially when it comes to framing, but I am amazed by the quality of the photos I manage to take with this camera. So much details.
The negatives you get can be up to 6×9, which is really the closest you can get to 4×5 large format (excluding some panorama cameras). You could ask why not buy a 4×5 camera and add a 120 back to it? I am currently doing some investigations, and plan to compare the Horseman to Linhof 4×5, but I can immediately tell you that this camera costs like one fifth (at least) of a Linhof. And I think it is smaller. It is also a very robust camera. Additionally, I am afraid that if I buy a 4×5 camera I will start getting into 4×5, which is another workflow in addition to 135 and 120. Instead, what I should be really doing is getting out and taking photos! Anyhow, for now I am more than happy with the quality of the photos I get from this camera.
What is it?
Horseman VH is a very simple 120 view camera, or technical camera. There are several terms used for naming this kind of camera, such as technical, view, field, press, you name it. I think the most generic class of cameras that Horseman VH is part of is view camera (view and focusing through a ground glass), but it also has most of the characteristics of a technical camera (film and lens standards movements). Britannica defines a technical or view camera as follows:
For studio and commercial photography the view, or technical, camera takes single exposures on sheet films (formerly plates) usually between 4 × 5 inches and 8 × 10 inches. A front standard carries interchangeable lenses and shutters; a rear standard takes a ground-glass screen (for viewing and focusing) and sheet-film holders. The standards move independently on a rail or set of rails and are connected by bellows. Both standards can also be displaced laterally and vertically relative to each other’s centre and swung or tilted about horizontal and vertical axes. These features provide versatility in image control (sharpness distribution, subject distance, and perspective), though not speed in use. The view camera is nearly always mounted on a tripod.
Horseman the company defines the camera as a technical camera. The camera has most, if not all, of the common movements you can get in a traditional technical camera, and it is definitely a view camera with ground glass focusing. It does not demand 4×5 lenses so the lenses are a lot cheaper than large-format lenses.
There is also another version of this camera with an integrated rangefinder. I think the problem with the rangefinder version is that it needs to be calibrated for your lenses, and in general the rangefinder can get out of alignment and makes the camera more complicated.
More to come…
Comparison to Linhof 4×5
The following table summarizes some of the main features of Horseman VH and compares them to Linhof 4×5
|Feature||Horseman VH||Linhof 4×5 Technika IV|
|Type||Technical camera||Technical camera|
|Film and frame size (with various adapters)||120: from 6×7 to 6×9|
Sheet: 6×9 cm
Polaroid pack film
|120: from 6×7 to 6×12?|
Sheet: 4×5 and below?
Polaroid pack film both 100 and 4×5
|Dimension and weight||H:|
|Camera movements||Camera bed: down 15o|
– Rise: 28mm (15mm with wide angle lens).
– Swing: 15o l/r
– Tilt: 10o forward, 15o backward.
– Cross: 30mm l/r (15mm wide angle)
– Swing: 10o l/r
– Tilt: 11o up/down
|Lens mount||Horseman board, 80x80mm.|
|Lenses||Wide: 65mm and 75mm.|
Standard: 90mm and 105mm.
|Back rotation||Landscape and portrait modes by rotating the back holder.|
I have three Horseman lenses. It seems like these cameras can take other lenses than Horseman. There is this web page by Jonathan Gazeley that lists a lot of lenses that should work on these cameras. I have also read here on Camerapedia that Horseman’s Pro lenses cover only 6×9, while Super lenses can cover 4×5, which also means 6×12. So if you want to do 120 panorama with these cameras you need to have the 4×5 back and some Super lenses.
Here are some photos taken with the camera on various emulsions: