DigiView: Take 3 Part 3

With two successful tests  for the Wista technical camera-based DSLR system down, it was now time for the architecture shot.  The purpose of this test shot was to verify whether or not this system has the ability to optically correct the “keystone effect” common when fixed lens cameras are used to photograph buildings.

As you may recall, when doing this test with the Ultima, due to the use of a medium format lens, it did not have the covering power to allow for much of a front standard rise and therefore forced me into choosing either to straighten the lines more or less or to use the Scheimpflug/Carpentier rules to get it all aligned for depth of field solutions… but not both.  So for whatever rig I decided was going to work for all around shooting, this was a crucial test.

Since I had created a different set up for the still life’s compound movement test shot, perhaps for this final test (architecture exterior needing rises and potentially tilts on both front and back) I could use a different building since it was the concept under scrutiny not the picture.  After all, I was choosing test subjects simply for their particular demand on the camera movements not for any aesthetic or lasting photo image value.

In any case, this will give me a chance to try this adapter plate in the vertical position.  I intended to do that for the still life in the last post, Take 3, Part 2, as I had done with the Ultima, but once I looked at the set up in the ground glass I realized it needed to be horizontal.  So this time whether ideal or not, I decided I’d do a vertical composition.

The building I chose has a very vertical entryway that seemed ideal for this test.  And when I looked at it with a 40mm lens on the DSLR alone the converging lines were readily apparent as you can see in the shot below.  My vantage point was across the street in a parking lot that was actually lower in elevation than the base of the building.

this is the entryway of the target building for the test. You can easily see the parallel lines converging as they move upward. This shot was taken with a 40mm lens on full frame DSLR.

In order to straighten those lines I needed to use the rising front so I could keep the back and board parallel to the building front yet look up at the building.  Here is a side view of the camera showing the movements I employed.

Side view of the Wista Technical camera showing the front and back parallel with the front standard raised.

Below is the corrected shot.  But before I show it to you I need to confess to a bit of shoddy craftsmanship.  I had forgotten to grab the remote release for the 5D when I hauled the equipment to a good shooting vantage point.  But in a bit of hubris liberally lubricated with a large dose of laziness, I really convinced myself that I could simply hold the back and DSLR in place, even though now working against gravity, to slide up and down, and be steady enough for each of the shots.  I was wrong.

All of them show various amounts of motion blur, but the worst of the lot is the top shot where obviously, in retrospect, my perception of steadiness existed only in my wishful thinking and in fact I was really shaking as I tried to hold the weight of the camera and back steady for the 1/4 second shots.  There was no excuse for it since i could have locked the slide into place for each shot but noooooooo…

Target entryway with parallel lines straightened using the front rise on the Wista Technoical Camera.

However, what you can see is that the lines of the entryway are parallel as they should be and, if it were not for my ancient hand’s unsteadiness, all would be nice and sharp.  Boy there is an important lesson for me there… ALWAYS USE A REMOTE RELEASE!!!  With the Ultima i could legitimately blame it on the limits of the system, but this time, the system was fine… I was the weak link in the chain.


By now it is clear that at least for my own purposes, the combination of technical or field camera and DSLR adapter plate is the optimal system to generally solve the issue of obtaining real view camera type optical movements for digital capture.  My reasons for that conclusion are…

  1. It is far cheaper than a dedicated (though excellent) system such as the Cambo Ultima using a DSLR (with view camera lenses not medium format lenses) and a whole lot cheaper than a rig as cool as the Linhof M679 with a MF digital back or, perhaps my dream rig, a Linhof Techno.  Every time I even just look at one online my wallet swoons into a dead faint.
  2. In aggregate it is also cheaper, with dedicated shopping, to buy all of the parts than a good tilt/shift lens.  The View Camera option was cheaper still, but as discussed that was not ideal to use when sallying forth into the great unknown.
  3. The adapter plate’s allowance of stitching the image provides, using my 16.7 megapixel camera a final image equal to a 50+ megapixel back.  And with a 5D Mk II  or Mk III it would be even greater.  Even my original 5D (12.8 megapixels) gives me the equivalent image resolution of a 35 megapixel chip.
  4. It breaks down into very transportable parts and is much lighter than the dedicated systems and far easier to carry than using the same DSLR adapter back on a full sized monorail view camera.  The Wista weighs in at right around 4 lbs.
  5. The quality of the final image is absolutely top drawer because it is using the center portion of the projected image circle where even large format but top quality lenses can match resolution and contrast with the best medium and small format lenses.

So wow, I love it.  But is this the tool for everything?  Of course not.  No single tool or tool system ever is the perfect solution for all needs.

When I want the ultimate in resolution for what I know at the time of taking is destined to be a very large print of say 40 x 60 or bigger, using the DSLR mounted on a spherical panoramic head to create a mosaic (multi-row panorama) of 30 or 50 or more frames using my Hasselblad Zeiss lenses creates detail to make an 8×10 film shooter weep in envy.  When I am producing images for more normal sized prints (let’s say 11×14 and smaller) or for the blog and require no movements beyond what a tilt shift lens can accomplish, then a DSLR body and good lens are all that is needed.

If extreme mobiity is required, again, a DSLR and a couple of lenses fills the bill where this system takes quite a bit more to carry.  For the photographer going along and documenting the next climb up El Capitan or the Diamond on Longs Peak, this is not likely to be the rig of choice.  And the truth is for serious architecture work the monorail camera and bag bellows would make life a lot easier.  But the truth is that for shooting in town when there is money and a client riding on the shot I would probably have grabbed the monorail camera anyway.

This set up is for general use and, for me, primarily a camera to haul into the field.  Thus far it seems to work extremely well for that.

About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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