The Bender Camera Kit

Compiled by Q.-Tuan Luong for the Large Format Page


A review by Barry Sherman

I'm of very mixed minds regarding the Bender kit. It's definitely cheap and definitely light. Both good things! But I think that there are some very serious down-sides. Not too long ago the Tachihara cost about $450 while it cost about $250 all told to build the Bender kit and I'd have recommended buying the Tachihara unless one absolutely required longer bellows extension than it can provide or simply couldn't scrape up the extra $200. Nowadays the Tachihara is up to something like $600 or $650 and $400 is a bigger jump in the price so I'd be a little more hesitant about recommending it over the Bender. So. What I like about the Bender: What I don't like about it: So. I think that the Bender is a fully usable camera and I've taken some of my very best, and best sellling, photos with it. But I do prefer the convenience of a real store-boughten camera. I've kept it and take it on trips to carry for longer walks, but it has to be a fairly lengthy or strenuous hike before I'll abandon the convenience of the Arca Swiss.

Review by Geoff Allen

DISCLAIMER: The only other 4x5 camera I've used is a Linhof Technikardan, which is an amazingly cool camera, but costs a couple orders of magnitude more than the Bender. I've never used a field camera or a monstrous studio camera. You might need to take such things into consideration as you read this. Also, I have no connection whatsoever with Bender Photographic, other than as a very satisfied customer. As I see it...

Executive Summary

It's a great camera and loads of fun. You don't have to spend loads of money for a view camera if you've got a few weeks of time available. (It took me a year to build mine, but I actually only spent about three weeks of actual effort.)



Movements limited only by lens coverage. You can very easily reach the limits of most any lens with this camera, since the only physical restriction on tilts and swings is the bellows, and rises and shifts are a couple of inches in all directions.

Light. The Bender is half the weight of the Technikardan. This should be an important consideration when I'm trudging high in the Tetons. A three pound camera vs. a six pound camera is no contest when one is climbing a mountain. :^)

You build it yourself. Pride of ownership. It's loads of fun to tell people you built a camera and see what reactions you get! Chances are you'll be the first in your neighborhood to do this! Some folks might consider the need to build the camera a con, of course. :^)

Attractive. I think my Bender is more attractive than donl's Technikardan, and I've told him so. :^)




You need to build it. Can also be considered a pro. :^)

Friction focusing only. I've had no problems with this, though. Use a loupe and stop down to f/32 or so and you'll be fine.

Little brass l-screws are used to hold the lensboard, back, and bellows in place. I replaced them all. On my camera, I hold the lensboard and bellows in place with some plastic window screen retainer clips. Lots nicer. And for the back, I found some catch locks that hold it more securely than I think the l-screws would have.

Movements aren't ``calibrated.'' But if you care about such things, there's nothing preventing you from marking appropriate calibrations on the standard yourself. (There are levels for the back provided with the kit.)

Things get really tight when using a 90mm lens. With a 90mm lens, the bag bellows is essential, as the standards are about as close together as they can physically get. With a 135mm lens, I find I still need the bag bellows. At 210mm, I can use the regular bellows. For anything shorter than 90mm, I'm sure you'd need to rig up a recessed lens board. So, if you've been drooling over that 58mm Super Angulon, you'd better drool over another camera to go with it. ;^)

Usage notes

For using my camera, I leave the monorail on the tripod. This provides the next best thing to a quick release (maybe even better, because you can hold the camera with two hands while putting it on the tripod). When taking a picture, I just haul the camera out of my carrying bag and slide one standard onto the monorail on either side of the tripod mount. For the 90mm, both standards have to go on the same side of the tripod mount, because you can't get them close enough otherwise. I honestly can't remember which way I configure things for the 135mm lens. I think it's the same as the 90mm.

Removing the camera from the monorail also has the advantage of making the camera fit into a carrying bag more easily. It's certainly not as compact as a Technikardan, though.

I keep both standards all the way down in their rise/fall adjustments for their ``zero'' position. This keeps the camera a little more compact without sacrificing any movements, since front fall can simply be accomplished by back rise. This means one less movement to zero when you set the camera up (well, actually, two movements, I suppose).

What else you'd need besides the camera

Though the Bender is tempting as a low-cost way of getting into large format photography, you should realize that the couple of hundred dollars you'll spend for the camera is the beginning, not the end, of your capital outlay. Besides the camera, you'll need:

Film holders -- You'll use a lot less film when shooting 4x5, but I'd still recommend having several film holders around. Maybe 5 as a minimum. How many you want is a trade-off between how often you're willing to reload, how many different kinds of film you want available, and how much you're willing to carry. (Large format film holders hold two sheets of film per holder.)

Lens(es) -- Here's where you'll spend the money. I don't know enough about older designs to make any recommendations, if you're looking for used lens deals. In newer models, Schneider, Rodenstock and Nikon are all good.

Loupe -- perhaps somewhat optional, but extremely helpful for getting the focus right on. Make sure it's a loupe that works with a ground glass, since the image is a few mm from the end of the loupe, due to the thickness of the glass. A loupe designed for viewing slides won't work, unless you can adjust the focus.

A carrying bag for everything. You might try a generic daypack in the $100 range, rather than a $400-500 ``photo'' backpack. I use a generic pack without any problems.

Bag Bellows -- you almost certainly want to buy this when you buy the camera kit.

Meter -- remember, this is a truly mechanical camera; there's no meter. You'll have to supply your own. Any handheld meter you know how to use will work fine. If you want to get into spot metering, check out Ansel Adams' book, _The_Negative_.

Developing -- this could be where the problem lies. Your options include:

Developing the film isn't too big a deal. You can use the Jobo reels and tanks designed for 4x5 film with or without a Jobo processor. Phil Davis also markets his ``BTZS'' developing tubes that I've read fairly good things about. For printing anything, though, you're going to need a 4x5 enlarger (you could contact print as a start). But you could just shoot chrome film for a while to get used to the camera.


I wholeheartedly recommend the Bender camera. You'll trade some slick features of something like a Technikardan for a lighter, though more bulky, camera. I really found little practical difference in using the Bender or a Technikardan. The pictures I took with donl's Technikardan and my Bender are of equal quality. Building it is fun (and I have no experience in woodworking, so if I can do it, anyone can) -- just go slowly and methodically and everything will be all right.

Additional info

Here are comments from others that I've collected. I've occasionally added comments enclosed in square brackets -- '[]' -- and signed with my initials, 'gwa'.
From: (donl mathis)
Subject: Bender View Camera Kits
Date: 5 Apr 90 22:59:24 GMT
Organization: Silicon Graphics, Inc., Mountain View, CA

A couple of people sent me email asking for more information about the
Bender view camera kit i mentioned, one of them suggesting a general
posting might be of interest.  I talk too much, so this is rather long;
my apologies to those who are not interested.

The 4x5 kit is about $150, the 8x10 is about $250.  The primary
difference, other than size, is that the 4x5 has interchangeable
bellows (because you typically need a bag bellows with short lenses in
4x5, but not in 8x10), and more movements on the rear standard (i
believe it's built more like the front standard, where the 8x10 has
tilt and swing only, with no shift or rise).

[The prices are now $190 and $290.  The front and rear standards on the
4x5 are basically identical, except the rear standard is a little wider.
You have the same movements available on both standards. -- gwa]

It's all made of cherry.  You receive, essentially, a rather small box
full of sticks and other parts (hardware, ground glass, bellows,
etc.).  Complex wood parts are glued up out of simple rectangular
pieces, rather than having been shaped in a more sophisticated way at
the factory.  This basic principle keeps the production simple (i.e.
inexpensive), but means you have to do some fancy gluing and clamping
to get it built.  I am not a woodworker, though i know the basics.  I
had no trouble building the kit, except for one (count them, 1)
dimension that didn't quite work out quite right on the back of the
8x10 (which is built differently than the 4x5 so is a non-issue
there).  Something along the lines of "if this is here, and that goes
there, then this overhang is not sufficient to glue that thing to."
Nothing serious; a little cleverness makes everything fit.

[I had no problems with the 4x5, and I know nothing about woodworking!
-- gwa]

Start with as many C-clamps as you can find.  I believe i had 16 -- 8
little ones and 8 big ones.  I used little patches of cut up mat board
as pads to keep the clamps from marring the wood.  If you have lots of
clamps, you can let one glued and clamped assembly dry while you're
working on the next.

[I second the motion on clamps.  If you can get some of those clamps
which hold a corner, they will be quite useful as well. -- gwa]

I used a palm sander to round off all of the corners.  I think it makes
it look a LOT better than the simple, square-edged version pictured in
the ad.  I also stained it dark mahogany before varnishing.  Finishing,
though, is entirely your option.  It can be as simple as a little oil.

[I left mine square, and stained it a golden oak.  Very attractive.  I
used some spray-on stain which requires no wiping.  Very convenient for
all those nooks and crannies.  -- gwa]

Gluing the bellows on the 8x10 was something i approached with fear and
trepidation, because it is this big old floppy thing that you can't get
a hold of and won't cooperate, and the dimensions of the flap on either
end don't really match size of the wooden frame they are supposed to be
glued to.  I called Bender and we chatted for a bit, during which time
he told me it looks harder than it is -- just give it a shot, it will
be fine.  So i did, using some (non-from-the-kit) angle and straight
brackets to help hold things together as i worked my way around.  It
was a little messy, with epoxy oozing out here and there, but otherwise
not bad.

[The 4x5 bellows is no big deal. -- gwa]

The design is such that certain parts (lens board, removeable back,
etc.) are held on by these little brass screw L-pins.  I thought they
looked a little weak; i ended up making changes such that i didn't need
them.  The given lens board, which is 6x6 i believe, is a piece of
black acrylic sheet.  Additional boards are available (or make your
own), and you use one per lens, as usual with view cameras.  The design
says that you twist the L pins to catch the edges and hold everything
in place.  I made a lens board from a heavier sheet of black acrylic
and a few additional pieces, using a Bridgeport mill, that serves only
to accept my Linhof Technikarden lens boards, which are more like 4x4,
thus permitting me to swap lenses between cameras when appropriate.
The rear film holder frame was also designed to be held on with the
L-pins.  It must be removable so that you can orient the film
vertically or horizontally as appropriate.  Rather than use the pins, i
drilled a hole in each corner of it, and put studs in the back of the
camera that poke through the holes, with a little knob on each one.  I
used 1/4" studs, because all of the other studs in the camera are 1/4",
and they were MUCH too large and the holes ended up being rather
crude.  If i were to do it again, i would use rather small screw-in
studs to hold the back on.  They must be carefully placed so that the
back fits both vertically and horizontally over the same studs, i.e.
they must be really square.

[Some catch locks can do the job of holding the back in place also. 
Poke around in the fastener section of your favorite hardware store and
see what they've got that looks good. -- gwa]

There were other wire pins used as pivots here and there; i replaced
them with heavier brass rod, because i like to over-engineer

They suggest gluing the various clamping studs into their respective
knobs, and screwing them into the T-nuts embedded in the parts of the
camera.  I decided i would rather strip the threads in the knob than in
the T-nuts, because the knob can be replaced, but the T-nut can't.  You
can't always glue the studs into the T-nuts because then you can't get
the camera apart if you ever need to, because of the way it is
assembled.  Usually, a healthy twist on the stud will drive it home in
the T-nut where it runs into the backing piece of wood, and it will
stay there as you loosen and tighten the knob.

[I didn't glue any of mine, and it seems to have made no difference. --gwa]

The camera focuses by loosening a clamp and sliding the front standard
back and forth on the rail, which is a 1x1 square aluminum tube.  With
the long lenses used on an 8x10, i found it a bit difficult to reach
when standing behind the camera and looking at the ground glass.  The
rear standard of the 8x10 has a pivot in the middle (at the base), and
studs with knobs running in arced slots at the left and right to clamp
it in place as you do your swings.  I left out the pivot, and enlarged
the slots a bit so the whole rear standard could actually be moved
forward and backward an inch or so, as well as swinging as necessary.
This gives me an inch or so of focusing range at the rear standard,
right there in front of me, so i don't have to reach out around to the
front of the camera when tuning the focus.  It gets a bit difficult to
reach all the way up there when using a 20" lens!  Standing behind the
camera, you just can't reach.  I'm not sure how the 4x5 is set up;
hopefully, you can slide the rear standard and focus there.

[Yep.  Both standards slide easily.  I generally rough-focus by moving
the front and fine-focus by moving the back.  -- gwa]

I don't think there were any other major points; all in all it was
pretty fun to build, and is actually quite easy to use.

I picked up an old Turner-Reich triple convertible, 300-500-600mm focal
lengths, f/7, in an old slow shutter that i had to recalibrate (1/2,
1/4, 1/8, 1/12, and 1/30 second, with the all-important B and T
settings!).  The front and rear parts of the lens unscrew; using both
of them gives you a 12" (300mm) lens, which is equivalent to 150mm in
4x5, and is sort of normal, but actually slightly wide.  Using one or
the other have alone, behind the shutter, gives you 500 or 600mm focal
length, with significantly reduced image quality, which means you'd
better stop way down if you expect a decent image.  Actually not a
terrific lens, but it was sort of cheap, which is the general idea.
Hindsight says i should have gotten a better 300mm lens and forgotten
about this convertible stuff.  For 4x5, you probably want to start with
a 210, maybe a 150.  There are probably lots of cheap 150's out there,
so for not TOO terribly much money, you can get started in 4x5.  Then
if you are clever, you can turn it into an enlarger by finding a way to
fasten a cold-light source on the back, behind or instead of the ground
glass, with some sort of negative carrier.  I think Bender might be
working on something like that; ask them.

I made several phone calls, and the same guy always answered the phone,
who i suspect might be Mr. Bender himself, and he was always nice and
friendly and sort of got to know who i was, so that by the time i
called him from Port Angeles, Washington, in the middle of my trip,
moaning about breaking the ground glass and needing another one, he
sort of knew who i was.  I made a cover for the ground glass out of
acrylic sheet.  It fastens quickly over the back of the camera, and is
spaced out from the glass about 1/2".  Highly recommended.

- donl mathis at Silicon Graphics Computer Systems, Mountain View, CA


From: (donl mathis)
Subject: Re: Bender View Camera Kits
Date: 10 Apr 90 23:10:10 GMT
Organization: Silicon Graphics, Inc., Mountain View, CA

In article <5360328@hplsla.HP.COM>, andyc@hplsla.HP.COM (Andy Cassino) writes:
> Thanks for the very informative posting, Don. You've piqued my interest.
> I'm wondering about some of the statistics for these cameras. Like, max
> bellows draw, weight, and how compact are they when closed up. Would you
> consider (gasp) backpacking the 8x10?

[I would take mine!  Of course, it's only 4x5. :^) -- gwa]

I have no doubt that it could be made to fit in a back pack; you will need
to fashion a cover for the ground glass.  If you remove the monorail (which
can be accomplished by loosening a couple of knobs and pulling it out), the
bellows can be compressed all the way down, and everything sort of fits
together pretty well.  I would consider it, yes, though i can't say for
sure how it would work out!  I've been carrying it around in a canvas bag.

[A very cumbersome-looking canvas bag, I might add.  As donl has it set
up now, he wouldn't want to take it more than a few feet from the car.
:^) -- gwa]

The overall package is smaller than my 4x5 outfit; i have four 8x10 holders,
and only one lens, so there isn't much else to carry.  You tend to run lean
on holders, because they're (gasp) $40 each, new.  Get used ones.  Don't
buy very many.  Don't make exposures you aren't sure are going to be
printable.  Etc. etc. etc.  It's a time-and-effort versus money tradeoff
to load film holders a little more often!

The 4x5 kit:

	$150, 3 lbs., 10x10x4 (folded)

[Now $189.50, as noted above. -- gwa]

	rise and fall at both ends: 2 3/4"

[Or, as I use it, rise at both ends: 5 1/2" -- gwa]

	tilts and swings at both ends: 45 degrees

[The stats lie.  Physically, both of these movements are limited only by
the bellows.  Without the bellows you can swing them all the way around. 
I think that's more than 45 degrees. :^)  The only real limitation on
your movements with this camera is the coverage of the lens, and that's
what really matters anyway. -- gwa]

	front shift 3", rear 4".
	extension: 3" minimum, 22" maximum.

[Here's where you see the problem with short lenses.  90mm is only 3.5
inches.  You're just about as short as you can get when using a 90. -- gwa]

	interchangeable bellows; optional bag bellows.
	Interchangeable lens board.  Back rotates to vertical or horizontal.

	Cherry wood with little bits of hardware here and there.  All
	movements, including focusing, are friction locks via knobs on
	1/4-20 studs.

	The rail is a simple 1x1 square aluminum tube; appropriate lengths
	are easy to make.

The 8x10 kit:

	$250, 6 lbs., sort of big but folds up reasonably well.

[Now $289.50. -- gwa]

	rise and fall at front: 2 3/4", none at the rear.
	front swings and tilts: 45 degrees
	rear swing 12 degrees, tilt 18 degrees.
	front shift 4", none at rear.
	Non-interchangeable bellows (not necessary in 8x10).

	Other features the same as as the 4x5.

All swing and tilt angles are plus-or-minus.

Bender is in Albuquerque, (505) 293-1118.  Ask them for a brochure.  Nice

[They're now in Leavenworth, Washington.  You can reach them at:

	Bender Photographic
	19691 Highway 209
	Leavenworth, WA 98826

	(509) 763-2626
	(800) 776-3199 (orders only)

-- gwa]

From: (Barry Sherman)
Subject: Re: Bender View Camera Kits...
Date: 12 Jul 91 20:19:11 GMT
Organization: Amdahl Corporation, Sunnyvale CA

>How rigid are they? 
[Description of windy visit to Point Lobos]
>He was very upset by the wind.  He showed me how the camera was 
>flopping in the wind.  It was clearly unusable.  I had no problem with 
>my rigid bodied 35mm.  He said that he doubted that he would have had a
>problem were he using his Toya view camera.  But the floppiness of the 
>field camera was very disconcerting.

Well, I haven't had it out in any major winds (though we get them here,
that's for sure), but I don't think the camera would be flopping in the
wind.  Of course, if there's any vegetation in the scene, you don't want
to be using large format anyway!

The camera does seem to ``give'' a little when I insert a film holder,
but it stays in focus, so it's obviously not slipping any.

A bigger hazard in a heavy wind might be that the camera is so light,
yet so big.  The wind may try to carry it off.  I don't know if that
would become a problem or not.

>I'm hoping to start with large format in the next year or so and
>am considering a Bender kit as a starter. 

[Barry has since caved in to the temptation of that 20 square-inch piece
of film, as you may know.  He started with another camera, and has since
bought a Bender, for the weight savings.  Welcome to the club, Barry! --gwa]

>But somehow the
>friction locks on the Benders just don't look as if they would
>produce a really rigid assembly.  What does experience show?

I'd say it locks up just fine.  The friction locks, you probably know,
are just screws.  I tighten them up pretty snugly and everything holds
together just fine.  In fact, when playing with tilts (which are held by
two screws) I usually just tighten one and leave the other loose.  This
allows me to use one hand to adjust the tilt and one to man the lock. 
Tightening down one side seems to hold it pretty well.  Of course, once
I decide everything is how I want it, I lock the other one as well. 
Then check the focus again, just to be sure. 

I haven't had any problems yet.

Another thing I wondered about the friction locks was focusing.  I
wondered how close I'd be able to get focusing without a geared focusing
movement.  The answer is, ``Quite well, thank you.'' I do my rough focus
with the front standard and fine focus with the rear standard, and am
rather impressed with how easy it is to move the standard the tiny
little bit required to get the focus right where you want it.  I'd
definitely recommend a little extra care when building the monorail
riders, which are the first parts in the instruction book.  There's a
bit of extra wood in them, which you sand away.  If you don't sand
enough, they'll be loose; if you sand too much, they'll be tight. 
Either way, focusing will be more difficult. 

From: (donl mathis)
Subject: Bender 4x5 View Camera Kit report
Organization: Silicon Graphics, Inc., Mountain View, CA, USA
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1992 22:46:18 GMT

[I'm posting this for Steve. -- donl]


For the past two months, I've been building a Bender 4x5 camera.
Given the interest in 4x5, and specifically Bender cameras, evidenced
by recent traffic, I decided to write about my kit-building
experiences. has graciously offered to post these articles for me;
I don't have posting ability to this group anymore (and only limited access
to read it). Send comments DIRECTLY TO ME at the Email address (way) below.

PART 1 (starts with lots of drivel about me, skip forward if you're bored):

My background:

My career is as a software engineer, but I've been involved professionally
in photography for about eight years. My forte is atypical portraits, more
intense than typical "glamour/fashion" work, but along those lines (I tend
toward saturated colors and hard lighting, with unusual posing/props.)
I've done some product shots, some "event" coverage, and have made one 
magazine cover. Most of my work has been done in small/medium format.
I print my own B/W and color, and process my own B/W film. It's 
more cost-effective for me to run roll film through a local minilab.

Why 4x5?

As indicated above, I don't do this full-time. The professional aspect
is really intended to finance my equipment needs for personal photography.
Of course, I still have to pay taxes on it :-(.  My personal interest is
"fine art" photography, specifically landscapes, macro flowers, and
"set" pieces. 4x5 or larger is the preferred format for this type of work.

Why a Bender kit?

It's cheap. No, actually, that's just part of it. I enjoy building things,
and I wanted a camera I could backpack with, without being overly concerned
about knocking it around. At $200.00, the Bender fits the bill. I dropped 
the serious bucks on a spotmeter and a Nikkor lense. When you
couple that with film holders, large format darkroom gear (used), and
assorted bits, minimizing costs becomes a consideration. Who knows, maybe
I'll hate large format :-). Bender kits have gotten mostly good reviews,
both on the net and in the photo media.

The Kit:

The kit is composed of an unmounted bellows, assorted hardware, a ground
glass, and, as donl accurately describes it: "a rather small box
full of sticks" (nicely machined sticks).


The Bender is basically a wooden monorail camera. It has full tilts and
swings, and substantial rise/fall and lateral shifts. Your lense coverage
is probably the limiting factor here. All movements and focus are friction
lock. There are no scales on any of the movements, but you could add them
if you really care. The back holder has two small leveling vials; front/
back, and left/right. All wooden parts are unfinished cherry. You finish
the camera however you like. The removeable parts (lensboard, back, bellows
frames) are held on with moveable "L" screws. Some people (including me)
consider this a mis-feature... however, Jay Bender correctly points out that
they DO work, and they keep the kit cost down. Most of us complainers :-)
changed these to something else, which is possible with a kit. 

Recent changes in the kit:

Bender does, on occasion, upgrade the kit based on owner feedback. The 
following improvements were made as of August 15, 1992. (Newer manuals 
should be current now; I got an old manual and a Errata/Changes sheet).
Note: most of this is meaningless if you haven't already built the kit;
I'm describing it for the benefit of owners of previous renditions...

1) The groundglass holder is now attached to the back differently. The
spring wires now mount into the back at the bottom at a single point each.
Looking from the back, the wires run vertically, with inward-turning
right angles at the MIDDLE of the groundglass holder, which fit into a
small block attached to the groundglass holder. The wires extend down
to the bottom piece of the back, and turn a right angle INTO the back
(along your line of sight). About a half-inch above this turn, a small
notched block is screwed into the side piece of the back to hold the
wire down and provide the "springy"-ness. (This is as opposed to the older
style which mounted to the back in the center sides, and hooked to four
L-screws mounted horizontally into the groundglass holder).

2) Most (all?) glued-together rectangles now have screws also at the

3) The groundglass holder now has a wider part 16 on the side where the
film holder is inserted. This is done to allow you to file the underside
to a slope, to act as a combination handle and guide for film holder

4) (I'm not sure this is new) Washers are now supplied to fit between
the rise/fall locks and the frames, and between the frames and back
holder/lensboard holder (ie - between all sliding parts except the 
frames and monorail sliders).

What you need to build it:

As several previous posts have mentioned: LOTS of clamps. I bought
four twelve-inch bar clamps, and four three-inch C-clamps. If you're
really gung-ho, get more than this. Each major assembly typically requires
four clamps to hold it together. I found that each major assembly took
about all the time I had or wanted to spare on any given evening.
In addition, you need multiple sheets of sandpaper in various grades
(I used 100, 150, and 220 grit). A one-quarter-inch wood file is useful
in a few instances. The kit is assembled with brass screws and carpenter's
glue (the yellow stuff). The bellows is mounted to the bellows frames
with contact cement. Contact cement is applied to the joining surfaces,
then allowed to dry (mostly). The two parts can then be loosely positioned
without sticking together (much), then pressed together for a secure fit.

C-clamps aren't necessarily the best choice here, because they aren't
designed to clamp a narrow thing while it's lying on a flat surface
(which seems to be the majority of the kit building). The clamps tend to
want to shear off of the part being held, because the pressure isn't
centered in the jaws. An easy solution to this is to cut a board slightly
narrower than the assembly you wish to clamp, put the board on the table,
lay the assembly on that so that the to-be-clamped edges slightly overhang,
then clamp the overhanging edges. Someone (geoff?) mentioned using corner-
clamps. In my experience, corner-clamps are designed to clamp from within
the frame being glued. The majority of the kit frames don't have sufficient
interior clearance for the clamps to fit.

Well, that's enough for now (too much?). I'll describe my luck building
the sub-assemblies in future posts. Let me know if I'm giving too much or
not enough information.

Steve Holzworth
SAS Institute - Open Systems R & D
Cary, N.C.

Subject: Re: Bender 4x5 View Camera Kit report
From: (Prince of Wales)
Date: Tue, 10 Nov 1992 17:39:14 GMT
Organization: University of Cincinnati

Here are my opinions about the bender kit. I did mail these to people who
requested it. But since this thread appeared I felt it would be appropriate
here too. Most of the details about the kit have been mentioned by steve
(through donl's posting), so I am ignoring those aspects of the kit
building. I would however like to mention here that till about a week back I
was not fully aware of the use of the spring loaded back, not having  used
any other large format camera. My procedure for loading a film holder on the
back was to remove the ground glass holder from the spring, lay it down on
the ground or the camera bag, mount the film holder, take the shot, remove
the film holder and reinsert the ground glass holder.  It was very recently
that as I was going   through the zone VI catalog that I saw a photograph of
their view camera with the caption "Easy swing out bailing arm for the
ground glass". That was when the THING struck me. I have, all this time,
been expending unnecessary effort on inserting the film holder. I  have 
now started loading the film holder the way it should have been done in the
first place.

This has ofcourse led to an improvement in the time to shoot (see comments
below) by about 5 to 10 percent. 


Experiences about the large format per se:

1) I love the image resolution and tonal/color gradation available.

2) I hate (to some extent) the time it takes to  take a shot and the
weight of the equipment that I have to lug around if I am planning on
shooting anywhere a bit farther from my car. (In my case, I do not own a
car so all the travelling is by bus and walk. I wish I could save enough
money to buy a used car -:). Other things that irk me (they are what one 
terms occupational hazards) are the fact that since I do not have a changing
bag with me at present, I have to do all the film loading/unloading at
night. In other words, I have to plan every shoot at least one day
in advance. In the next few months I plan on buying a changing room from


Accessories that I feel one should have for doing large format

1) A magnifying glass/slide viewer. I use my 8x agfa slide viewer to
focus the image on the ground glass. I can somehow manage because I have
20/20 vision, but if your eyesight is not so good, I would recommend one
of the slightly more expensive ones such as the CALUMET viewer that sells
for about $40.

2) A spot meter. You lose the fun in working with large format if you are
not able to analyze an image before taking a photograph of it. This is
not a big problem with roll film since one can afford to bracket.

3) I have been using a jacket as a focussing cloth. But I would still
prefer to have a regular cloth. 

4) A spirit level of some sort if you intend doing a lot of architectural
shots. The bender kit comes with two spirit levels that you glue to the
rear standards. Besides, my tripod head also has two spirit levels.

5) Other odds and ends such as lens cleaner/dust remover/brush (these are 
a must for large format). The brush can also be used for cleaning the backs
before inserting them.


The tools/consumables which IMHO one MUST have to build the Bender 4x5 kit:

1) A Drill - electrical or hand powered. The drill bits needed are 3/32",
1/8" (or 7/64).
*** I purchased an electric drill for two dollars at a local yard sale. **

[A drill press is best if you have or can buy/borrow one. --gwa]

2) A couple of screw drivers with 3mm and 5mm blades.

3) Two grades of sandpaper: 90 and 200.

4) Clamps:	
	a) Greater than 8 inches - at least one.
	b) Greater than 6 inches - at least two.
		( One of the above can double up for both categories)
	c) 2 inch clamps -- at least 6. (very time consuming, but could be
		done with only 2)
	d) A corner clamp.

5) Scrap wood to place between the clamps and the wood surface.

[Cardboard and mat board work as well. --gwa]

6) The smallest possible container of wood glue.

7) Contact cement that hardens to the touch in a few minutes and sets in 
about an hour or two.

8) A reasonably flat piece of material (wood or any other metal).

[I used an old piece of glass. --gwa]

9) A reasonably accurate 90 degree T-square. 

9) A hammer to fix in the T-screws for the various adjustable movements.


Tools/accessories which IMO one could use to ease the working conditions
but are not critical:

1) A drum/belt sander or a sanding drum for the drill.

2) A set of good wood working chisels or wood carving knives. (these, I
felt were the single most useful junk tools that I had collected over the
last few years.)

3) Wood working stain and brushes for finishing/polishing the wood.


a) The single most important thing IMHO is the ground glass placement. Be
extremely careful about the dimensions that the kit mentions. (The kit is
very very accurate as far as the positioning of the glass goes. How close
you get to it is very much dependent on how patient you are in measuring
distances of about 1/32 of an inch)

b) Read the assembly for the back holder at least 3 or 4 times, do a mock
set up without actually gluing the pieces together. Keep in mind the
following :

	1) The hinge (or pivot )for the back should be towards the lens board
	and not the other way (the instruction manual is a bit fuzzy about
	this). Also, the UNEVEN ledges on the inside of the back holder
	should be away from the lens, i.e. should be facing back.

[I would recommend pre-fitting ALL of the parts, not just the back
holder.  Like I said early on in all of this, go slow and careful and
everything will be all right. --gwa]

c) Be careful with the cutting instructions for the bag bellows. Take a
couple of minutes extra in cutting. I would recommend cutting a little
less than is mentioned in the manual and then adjusting as and when



My experiences with the Bender kit:


1) Extremely light weight to carry. AM very pleased with this feature.

2) Is very generous in terms of movements.

3) Has interchangeable bellows (though I have never used the bag


1) No geared focussing (But I do not miss them so much).

2) Am not very sure about being able to use lenses shorter than 90mm.

3) The standards have some play, but since it is wood I have realized
that they spring back to normal once external pressure  is removed. You
may have to get used to this. 

** Initially you may find that once you focus the image and then tighten all 
the knobs, the image has gone out of focus. You will then have to readjust 
every thing again. After a few attempts you will get used to allowing for
such "plays" in the focussing mechanisms.	**

4) May not be possible to rent lenses for this camera since the lensboard
is not a commonly used size. I will have to look into this sometime.

4) Some of the joints that are glued do not look/feel strong mechanically. 
I had to reinforce some of them. I use plastic window screen retainers for
holding the lens board in place  -- (an excellent piece of advice from GEOFF,  . You may want to contact him about some more 
insights about the kit) -- I have two on the top  and two on the bottom 
of the lensboard holder, besides the two L screws that Mr. Bender has 
supplied. This has given me a lot of confidence in not worrying  about 
my $500 lens falling down when the front is tilted forward.

5) Though I have not had it, light leak could be a problem if the
workmanship is not good. This is not meant to discourage anyone from
trying out the kit, just that you should take that tiny little extra care
when working on the light trapping edges such as the inside of the ground
glass/film-holder holder.


It took me about a week of intensive working (with the limited amount of
time that a PhD candidate has) to assemble the kit and test out the
focus. Plan on spending additional time if you do not do your own
darkroom processing since you may take three or four days extra if your
ground glass is not at the correct distance from the lens board. The kit
has more information about this aspect.


[UPDATED in 2016 ] Experiences with the Bender View Camera Kit

It has been almost 24 years coming but I finally decided to pen my
updates on using the Bender kit.

The BENDER KIT has been going strong all these years and it is still
absolutely a wonderfully easy to use piece of artwork created by the
masterful Jay Bender -- HERE IS A TOAST TO YOU JAY.

My bones are no longer able to carry the heavy equipment that I used
to lug around on my photo trips but the Bender Kit is so lightweight
that it is almost a non-issue.

I am still amazed by the clarity and the tonal gradation. Digital
images, specially the medium format ones, are probably very close but
I simply cannot afford to plunk down the ridiculuous amounts to get my
hands on say a Hasselblad (not to mention the lenses).

Finally I bought a full fledged focusing cloth and portable changing
room. Focusing is now a whole lot easier and I don't have to plan to
pre-load my sheet holders the previous night.

I still do not miss the geared movement -- in fact I absolutely see no
need for one in my use of the camera. I have come to "account" for the
plays in the standards and am quite comfortable with it.

Last, but not the least, I have purchased the bag bellows and have
used it extensively with various wide angle lenses over the years and
have nothing but praise for the design of the camera/kit.

Some would say that for really short lenses we need a recessed board
but I have never been stretched to need and use such lenses.  

Bottom Line

I now love the opportunity to slow down, take a few minutes/hours to
set up and take a picture -- a rewarding and great diversion from the
"wham bam thank you ..."  digital imaging frenzies. I have the Nikon
D90 and it has served me admirably but I still take trips every now
and then with my Bender Kit just to be get friendly with my spot meter
and manual lenses.

Ramanand Mandayam 

Whew! If you read all of this, I know a few things about you: If you decide to go for it, remember: relax, and take thinks slow and easy. You'll do just fine. Happy shooting! Geoff Allen

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