Svedovsky 8x10 Review

Hubert Banaszkiewicz

The summer is gone now, and I had little free time to do my stuff, I managed merely to do a couple of photographic walks… Mainly it was 35 mm but also some 8×10 shooting: Canham but sometimes also Ito camera.

I didn´t take even one picture with Rolleiflex, a thing I´m concluding only now. No idea why, probably I just didn´t have enough time for it and was very enthusiastic about 35 mm format, instead.

Now, I would like to write a couple of words about Svedovsky Camera, share some thoughts, also comparing it to other 8×10 cameras. My First Impressions on the camera, released in May 2014, caused lots of questions, amazement, complaints + objections, but also many warm and positive words, as in Poland, as on the American Large Format forum.

I ignore here the complaints about the high price of the camera, the choice of colours and its shape. The objection I would like to refer to is the missing tilt of rear standard. Truly, I had no idea that there are so many field photographers willing to „move their bottoms“…

So, one cannot have it all in the first place, I for example choose a greater stability, tilting the camera back is not something I personally ever miss.

Secondly, I do not consider convincing the argument about using small coverage lenses to change the focus plane while tilting the the rear standard. I, for example, use lenses especially made for 8×10 format with a normal coverage and that is it. Whether distortions and the „zoom effect“ are ok is highly disputable.

In case my words are not convincing enough, I would like to recall Clyde Butcher who has been using a camera with a stiff rear standard for some time now and is fully satisfied with it.

So… If there is still somebody who doesn´t care for a flexible rear standard, you are welcome to continue reading on this review…

I have been using Svedovsky with the same tripod, lenses and backpack I use my Canham with. The backpack is the ingenious f.64 designed for 8×10 cameras, and it fits Svedovsky perfectly. Carrying it on my back (apart from the camera, I take with me 3 film holders, 2 lenses, 6 large filters, a large dark cloth and some accessories), I feel no difference in weight but while carrying the bag in my hand, Svedovsky does feel 1 kg heavier.

The camera is very fast to set-up (the leather buckle got adjusted after some time) and it is quite impossible to break the bellows while closing the camera after use.

The lenses I use are Angulon 210 mm and Conv. Symmar 300/500. The latter one can be used with no limitations both as 300 and as 500 mm. The Angulon could profit from a wider bellows, hence the possibilities of perspective correction are here somewhat limited. This is the case for any other camera which is not a typical a wide-angle model or which does not have a universal bellows (an element with an extra wide-angle bellows behind the lens).

Every time I use, I can´t believe how stable Svedovsky is. Also the focusing screen is one of the best I have ever used. Not even once I had to support the camera on  the front with a monopod. I might be doing this only starting from a couple of seconds exposure time at 500 mm focal length.

Focusing with Svedovsky is extremely precise, although I would prefer it to be a tiny bit faster instead. Also the handle could be collapsible, and the „holes“ which help positioning the lever of the lens or extending the back standard could be painted in white. This is my whole wish list.

A couple of walks is not enough to be sure of its sturdiness but my impression is the camera will have a long life because it is built very well.

Inserting the film holders was at the beginning somewhat difficult but after the springs got adjusted also this works just fine now.

Svedovsky is not a camera for photographers with a limitless budget – these people will more likely buy something suitable for their needs. It is not a camera for those who require all possible corrections or settings, either – for them a Sinar P2 will do the best job. :-)

Nonetheless, photographers who saved some $ 1000-1500 and plan to buy an old view camera in order to renew it or its modern equivalent with some minor limitations, should consider buying the Svedovsky 8×10. This camera really has a convincing quality.

On pictures 2, 3, 4 Camera with lenses 210, 300, 500 at infinity focus.