John Austin: Black and White Photography, Rae Starr: Pinhole, Cyanotype and Textiles


Ikeda Anba Wooden Field Camera

Apr 10th, 2019 • Tech Notes

Ikeda ANBA camera description

The camera is a traditional cherry wood and brass field camera with silk lined dog coloured kid-leather bellows.  The craftsmanship is superb, almist as good as my old and long-ago sold Gandolfi 1/2 pt camera.  At 1.22 Kg for the body it is as light as a wooden view camera can be.  It is also tiny, 285mm including knobs x 173mm x 62mm when folded, as small as is possible with a reversing 5x4" back.

I have purchased this very light camera as carrying the Linhof STv kit through forests and swamps and along beaches and over rocks is getting too much.  The Linhof is 11Kg for the kit with three lenses and no tripod.  The Linhof STv body weighs 3.5Kg.  The Ikeda body is 1.22Kg, and if I am very careful with what I take with it I should be able to keep the whole kit with film to 4.5Kg.  However this comparison is disingenuous, as the Linhof has Linhof stuff, which is heavy, while the Ikeda will have very light weight filters and hoods, and not much stuff so I can carry as much black and white film and continue large format photography for as long as possible.

Ikeda camera folded before opening

Ikeda Anba camera kit

The planned kit is body, 90mm Schneider Angulon and 135mm Schneider Symmar lenses for landscape work, and sometimes also a 180mm Symmar or 210mm Xenar, six DDS, (double sided film holders for a total of 12 exposures). a Weston V exposure meter, a tiny pouch of 40.5mm filters, two lens hoods, a small focusing cloth and a notebook.

Ikeda Anba Camera review

I had not expected the camera to be sturdy enough to carry a 210mm Schneider Xenar lens, but it does, but that lens will be the longest.  I don't want lenses to be hanging beyond the bed on such a light and almost flimsy machine.  I type almost flimsy, and it is, but when locked it is a very stable camera when the bed is not extended beyond a couple of inches.  To this end a small brass stop block will be screwed to the bed to prevent the focusing track moving beyond half way, which is 270mm extension from the film plane.  This will allow 1:1 image ratio with the 135mm Symmar, but as this is not a great camera for close working all this is conjectural..  Any more and the front bed will probably will flex.  That is the pay-off for having a light weight camera.  With the 180mm Symmar the planned extension gives just over 1:2 image scale

Ikeda camera with double ext'n for 135mm Schneider Symmar lens

Another aspect of lens extension with a field camera is wind on the bellows.  If the camera is used with any amount of extension on a windy day there is the problem of the front and rear standards vibrating as the wind causes the extended bellows to pulsate.  (It was this effect on my Gandolfi 1/2pt camera at Severn Beach at the head of the Severn Estuary in the 1970s that caused the English Littoral Portfolio to be photographed with a Rolleiflex).  I predict this camera will have real problems in wind with a lens longer than 150mm.  But as all my Broke Inlet work is with 135mm at the very longest it should be OK.  In forest the wind becomes confused and moves like a fart in a collader.

When I was considering buying this camera I kept thinking about the slots in front of the rear standard.  No one ever mentions these on the Wise and Wonderful Web, but it was obvious they would allow the rear standard to slide forward for wide angle work.  They do, and the arse end will to go to the middle of the bed, which makes use of wide angle lenses very easy.  In the case of this individual camera it has obviously never been used with the rear standard moved forward, and that movement was very stiff.

Ikeda camera with 90mm Angulon in recessed panel
and rear standard slid forward so a wide lens will clear the baseboard

The main fault with this camera is that the focussing racks need to be be packed, but with this machine the racks are screwed in from the side, so rack packing will be difficult.  The addition of nylon washers to the locks will allow some degree of controlled slippage for nice tight focusing.  Before getting nylon washers I will use home made yogurt carton plastic ones.  In the meanwhile, it is easy to hold the focusing knob in place while the focus lock is tightened, and check locking has not moved the standard backwards, which can happen.  This is fiddly, but this camera in not quite in the quality league of Gandolf or Ebony.

Rear of Ikeda camera showing simple, but strong, spring back

Ikeda Anba focusing screen

The other complaint was that the screen is too coarse, but I was expecting that.  I have replaced it with a spare Sinar screen, which is perfect.  The Linhof screen is also a bit coarse, but I have lived with that for about thirty years.  The big problem is that the back is a spring back, which means it can't used a roll film back.

may put the International back from the Q-SWW on a rear panel to use with the Ikeda to use roll film backs.  I will then mount the 75mm and 90mm Super Angulons on the two helicoids for the 5x7" version of the new home made camera, so that 5x7" becomes my field super wide camera, but making a back to take the 5x4 International back will be an easy addtition.

Maximum rise with 135mm Symmar lens

Ikeda Anba Camera Movements

These are limited, beautifuly limited for a landscape camera, with a small amount of front rise, shown on the top photograph, front swing and a bit of front and rear tilt.  For forest work a bit of front rise will do, and for the coast rear tilt.  The pay off between front tilt and rear tilt is that rear tilt retains the use the centre of the lens coverage, where it is sharpest, but can distort the image.  For coastal work this does not really matter.  Using front tilt there is no distortion, but the lens coverage moves off to the edge, and image quality and coverage can be impaired if the lens has limited working angle.  The front rise is the only truly awkward aspect of this camera as it requires thee hands, one on each locking knob and one to support the lens, which will slide down unless held.  This design quirk is shared by the Tacky Hara.  (Is this the same design as the Tacky Hara?)

Ikeda camera tilted down, with 180mm Symmar and back
tilted for Scheimpflug effect (focus) along the ground plane

For more extreme movements or bigger lenses I still have the Linhof STv for location and Sinars for studio work.  To ask a small wooden camera to act like a full blown studio camera is silly.  If you aspire to large format work, get a field camera and a Sinar studio monorail.  If you are a cheapskate you can make them share lenses with the use of a Linhof to Sinar lens panel adaptor plate, but we will speak no more of such parsimony.

Ikeda Anba conclusion

I was half expecting to be  in this camera as the rear standard does not focus and I was expecting it to be flimsy and only usable with 90 to 150mm lenses.  In fact it is a far more workable camera than I was expecting. AND, big and, I can carry it for miles.

To follow will be reviews of the Linhof Super Technika V technical and Sinar Norma monorail cameras


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