cheap woodfield cameras

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

These are current production cameras.

the Iston from China

The brand name in Chinese is Shenhao. They make both 4x5 and 8x10 and are available in China. The 8x10 costs about $500. The 4x5 price is about half of that, or you can get a 4x5 with a 210F3.5 (yes, F3.5) lens for about $500. Never actually used them but played them for a while in store. They are not sturdy, in particular the 8x10, and the focusing is kind of rough. The store owner told me that everyone bought these had to rebuild them in someway. After that they are usable. Yangbo Ye (

The Iston is distributed & sold in Canada (for about $400 CDN). It's a little rough overall but it is still very usable - plus it's cheap. I'm sure it's probably equivalent to the Indian made Rajah that's sold in the US. Roger Hein (

I own a "spruce goose" and they are not a bad little camera. There is no comparison to the Wisner's or others in that bracket, but they are a very useable, no frills camera. I tired of lugging my Cambo around and wanted a field camera, but rebelled at the prices of many of them. I am sure they are superb instruments, but $2000 plus for a couple of wooden standards and a bellows seemed (and still does) a bit much. I photograph mainly statuary and cemetery landscapes. I needed the large negative and front and rear tilts. The Iston has those. They also have a rising front and a crude rear swing. The rear standard also slides forward to accomodate a 90mm lens. The bellows draw is about 12". Again it is very basic, but basic was what I needed. If I am doing an architectural shoot I'll use the Cambo, but for everything else I need the Iston is fine. It has generous size knobs, easy to use with gloves. I did change the small set screws that set the infinity position as they were too small for my hands and replaced the ground glass with a finer one from Calumet. Other than that no other modification was necessary. The importer was (is) MC Photographic out of Cleveland, TN. I purchased the camera from Ken Hanson's in NYC. It cost about $500. That plus the price of a lens, loupe, film holders, and bag totalled around $1400. Less than the cost of one of the fancier body only outfits around. I realize it is not a precision studio camera, but I don't look for that in a field camera anyway. It serves me very well. I would not hesitate to recommend it as a good working field camera. Frank J. Calidonna (

Argraph carries them. Ask your retailer. (Argraph is a US photo supply vendor like Dotline or BKA and these vemdors are used by just about every photo retailer). James Baker (

the Rajah from India

The following specs are from a 1984 Petersen article:
                                     Rajah Wood Fields
                           Cub           Field A          JRF B
Lensboard            3 7/8 x 3 3/4   4 1/4 x 4 1/4   4 1/4 x 4 1/4
Back (below)                1               2               3
Bellows Draw               13"             23"             23"
Max Ext w Std Bellows     300 mm          580 mm          580 mm
Min Ext w Std Bellows     47 mm           65 mm           65 mm
Front Swing                 30              30              30
Front Tilt                  90             360?            360?
Front Rise/Fall            2.5"           1 5/8"          1 5/8"
Front Shift                3/4"             0               0
Rear Swing                  30              30              30
Rear Tilt                   15              15              15
Rear Rise/Fall              0               0               0
Rear Shift                  0               0               0
Folds w Lens                No             Yes             Yes
Price US$ in 1984         $300            $300            $250
Back 1: Reversible International
Back 2: Revolving International
Back 3: Reversible Spring             
Michael Gudzinowicz (bg174@FreeNet.Carleton.CA)

At one time Rajah view cameras were distributed in the US by Jack Callahan of Kyvyx Korporation in New Jersey. They look like a copy of a Deardorff but they are made out of teak instead of mahogony. Rajah made 4x5, 5x7 and 8x10 wood field cameras and accessories. The 8x10 had 33 inches of bellows extension and was originally priced at $795. Gary Shank (

I've used a Rajah 8x10. Gearing was rough, and I had to use a C-clamp to keep the front standard from tilting forward with a heavy lens (45cm Voitlander APO-Skopar process lens - no shutter). However, it did allow me to start making photographs in 8x10 and for that, I loved it. I think I paid $600.00 from NY Lens and Repro about two years ago. If you are already into LF and think that this will be a cheap Deardorff copy...the emphasis is on "cheap." Save your $500.00 towards a higher quality 8x10 at some point down the road. But if it is a choice between starting to make photographs now and waiting a year....put your money down on the counter and dive right in, the water's fine. Benjamin Marks (

The Ikeda Anba (and Nagaoka) from Japan

An Ikeda Anba is similar to a Tachihara in construction (cherry wood/chrome fittings) but lighter (1260 v 1660 grams) and smaller (17x17x5.5 cm) although it has the same bellows extension (300mm). It has rear base tilt, rear swing, front rise-fall and front axial tilt and front swing. The front rise-fall can be coaxed into performing shifts by turning the camera 90 degrees on the tripod head like a 35mm and rotating the back. Both the Tachihara and the Ikeda take Technica/Wista boards (holes centered, not offset). I sold my Tachihara after I got an Ikeda. The only 4x5 I know of that is smaller and lighter are some versions of the Gowland Pocket View. All three of these cameras make for good, light field cameras but with decreasing weight comes more trade-offs in movements and ease of use. Like the Tachihara, the Ikeda folds up into a mostly self-protecting box. It is light enough to use with a Bogen 3262QR ballhead with quick-release which further decreases the overall weight of the field kit. I do add a ground-glass protector and large Calumet wrap when taking it into the field. Marc F. Hult (

The one I have is labeled as an Anba Wood Field Ikeda Factory Tokyo. Other than appearance (brass plated hardware and red bellows) the only difference between it and my friend's Nagaoka (chrome hardware and black bellows) is movements for sliding the back forward for wide angle use on mine are geared. Not a big functional difference IMHO. Kerry Thalmann (

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