Classic Cameras
A Linhof Technika 70 Special

Beware: heresy is about to be spoken. It is that you might care to take one of the most sublimely constructed and complex of all mechanical cameras, and butcher it.

The sacrificial victim is a Linhof Technika 70, which entered production (as far as I know) in the early 1960s: certainly, my 1963 Linhof in Practice book refers to it. It's a magnificent piece of kit, with a huge combined range/viewfinder which has the best parallax compensation ever installed in any camera. There's a quick-change triple cam for three individually coupled lenses, a built-in meter, a levelling indicator, and all kinds of mechanical refinements. Put in on a tripod, and you have a first-rate "baby" view camera, with back swings and tilts, and cross (lateral shift), rise (vertical shift), and tilt at the front. It would probably be too expensive to build today: I'd be surprised if you could sell the body alone for much under $10,000.

The Idea
Astonishingly, you can often find a ratty one, without a lens, for absurdly little money: I've seen quite a lot at under $500, their once-pristine enamel scuffed and marred, the meter no longer working, the lenses to which the camera was once cammed long gone. And this gave me an idea.

To modern eyes, the big disadvantage of a Technika 70 (and one of the reasons they are often so cheap) is that it allows very little rising front with wide angle lenses. With the standard wide angle lens--a 65mm Super Angulon, very roughly the equivalent of 28mm on 35mm--you can get about 13mm (half an inch) of rise before the top of the lens standard collides with the interior of the camera. The solution is simple: remove the range/viewfinder housing, and put a trap door in the roof. This means that the only constraint on the rise is bellows flexibility, and I found that I could get over double the rise (about 27-28mm) with this modification.

Now this is really worth having. A 28mm shift on 6x7cm is roughly equal to 14mm on 35mm, and in 35mm terms a 28mm shift lens with about half an inch of rise can be extremely useful--the more so as I can use longer lenses with a direct rise of over 30mm (just over 11/4"), or by adding indirect rise (tilting both front and back until they are parallel), about 65mm or 21/2". And, because it's a triple-extension bellows (310mm) I can do true macro with the 100mm, and I can use the other movements to hold receding planes in focus.

The other lenses that I have paneled for this camera are a new 100mm f/5.6 Schneider Apo-Symmar (about 40mm in 35mm terms) and my 150mm f/4.5 Voigtländer Apo-Lanthar (about 72mm in 35mm terms). If I hadn't sold it, I'd probably panel my old 203mm f/7.7 Ektar as well: close to 100mm in 35mm terms.
This whole three-lens outfit is a good deal cheaper than the only practicable 35mm choice, a Canon with a full set of shift lenses. Yes, the Canon offers both wider (24mm) and longer (90mm) lenses, but I'll live with the Linhof in return for the incredible savings and, of course, the much bigger negative: the nominal 6x7cm of the Linhof is actually 56x72mm (most other makes are 56x68mm) so the total area of the Linhof neg is about 4.7x that of 35mm, and (for example) a borderless 30x40cm/12x16" enlargement is 5.6x off the Linhof, or 12.5x off 35mm.

Actually, I do have one other lens that I could use with it, albeit without any movements, and that is a 47mm f/5.6 Super Angulon (not XL). This is roughly the equivalent of 21mm on 6x7cm.

The only real drawback--apart, of course, from the fact that the camera can no longer be used handheld with the rangefinder--is that when I use the 65mm, I have to use the cross front to shift the front standard about a millimeter and a half (1/16") to one side so that the tilt lock doesn't crash into the rear post from the back movements.

It's a pretty minor disadvantage, though, especially when set against the fact that the butchered camera is much smaller and lighter than the Tech 70: the body only (ground-glass back, no lens) weighs about 1650 g, or 3 lbs, 10 oz. Actually, that saving in weight may not be so significant, because I'm seriously tempted to buy another Tech 70 that I won't butcher, so I can use it handheld alongside my T70W (for "wide"). But if I did that I'd need to get rid of my Graflex XL, another great camera and...

Oh dear. Here comes another camera!