Wista VX 4×5 Technical Camera

The Wista VX is a metal flatbed 4×5 technical camera. The front standard has full movements, rise, shift, swing, and tilt, and the rear has swing and tilt with a rotating back. The focusing rail has double extension allowing for most focal lengths and close focus. The camera closes into a sturdy, compact package.

Work from this camera can be seen here: Wista VX

The beauty of a view camera is not just the image quality, but also the control over perspective and the plane of focus. The orientation of the image plane or rear standard determines perspective or how lines converge; the classic example is keeping the vertical lines of a building parallel, see the image below. The image plane also controls the plane of focus. The lens plane or front standard controls how the plane of focus intersects the scene. There are two basic criteria for making a sharp image of an object plane, when (a) the lens plane, film plane, and object plane are parallel or (b) the lens plane, film plane, and object plane intersect, also know as the Scheimpflug Rule. Naturally, the movements can be used to distort the perspective and focus for more creativity.

4×5 film is very seductive. The technical quality in transparencies and negatives on a light box is a sensual experience, especially when compared with smaller formats. The downside of using large-format film is not only the size of the cameras and lenses, but also the other items you need: sheet-film holders, loupe, focusing cloth, tripod, changing bag, etc.

Film handling is complex, especially in the field: each holder only carries two sheets of film and the weight and volume of multiple holders can quickly become impractical, making changing film in the field preferable. Finding a suitable place to use a changing bag to reload the holders presents another complication. Roll-film holders—I used 6×6 and 6×12 film backs with the Wista—can make the experience a little better. Regardless of the film type, large-format cameras are big systems. However, these camera present a slower pace and control over the image that can be very attractive.

Photo: Wista VX and 135mm Graflex Optar with front rise to control perspective