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How do view cameras work?

This type of camera design is directly related to the oldest shape of the photographic plate camera, used by pioneers like Louis Daguerre. The equipment then consisted of two boxes, one running inside the other for focusing, and having a lens in the front and a screen of ground glass in the rear.


Today's cameras are always big but designed for sheet films. The most usual size is 4 × 5 inches; others include 7 × 5 inches and 9 × 6.5 cm, even 8 × 10 inches.


You can adjust any of these sizes downwards by adjusting a suitable folder or adapter for a smaller sheet film, 120-reel film, instant image hardware, or digital recording. The camera lens with its shutter between the lenses is mounted on a panel clip which adapts to the front of the camera.


You can quickly switch to lenses of various focal, also mounted on panels. The front of the camera is connected to the rear by a gusset with an opaque concert which allows you to place the lens and film at a wide range of angles and distances from one another.


A finely engraved glass screen at the back captures the image of the lens for focusing and composing. The backrest can be rotated horizontally or vertically.


As the screen is springy when you push a film holder between the glass and bellows the surface of the film is precisely in the position previously occupied by the engraved surface of the glass.

It takes time to get used to the inverted picture, but if you use the camera enough you will finally stop noticing it. The camera's front lens holder can be tilted or shifted laterally upwards or downwards regardless of the rear.


These «camera movements» are important for architecture and professional still-life photography. They allow you an additional check on the depth of field and shape deformation, explained in detail in Annex B.


There are two main types of view cameras, monorail and skirting board. Monorail types are constructed as a pair of frames (called standards) attached to a bar. For focus, move the standard front (lens) or back (focus display) along the rail.


Having such an open unity structure, a monorail provides the same front and rear camera movements, allowing an enormous amount of compensation. Monorails are practically impossible to use by hand and are thus always used on a support or tripod.


The basic panel camera, also known as the "technical camera", is a box-like unit with an articulated front. Open this flap you will find that you can draw the standard lens on it, on the riders.


Then, by rotating a milled knob on the edge of the board, you move the runners, the concentration of the back or front lens while checking the image on the focus display. A plinth camera is faster to install on its base and operate than a monorail. However, it provides less complete movements, particularly on the back.


With all the cameras in sight, you need a foldable cover or an old focus cloth on your head and the return camera to block the ambient light so that you can see the picture.


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