Monday, July 4, 2011

Byron 4x5 Camera

I am fortunate to own one Byron 4x5 folding camera and use it with a 90mm Symmar and the stock Rodenstock lens very frequently.  Unlike other Polaroid model 110 modifications that use an adapter, Byron holds various 4x5 film holders such as double dark slide, Horseman, Fuji PA-45 etc. natively, and closer to the original focal plane, without an adapter, making use of wide angle lenses like the Symmar and some even wider, possible. It is also lighter and more compact.

Click here for an excellent blog about Byron cameras, with lots of technical information. Of the several other 4x5 conversions of the 110s, this one is singularly special, and truly innovative.  Next to the Speed Graphic, it's my favorite camera.


Anonymous said...

They all try to copy this one.

Anonymous said...

I completely disagree with both of these posts. I currently own or at least examined all of the most popular 110B to 4x5 conversions: Littman 45, Razzle, not to mention ones by Noah Schwartz', EastCamTech, and Patrick Putze. Plus a very nicely done no-name conversion I picked up from a fella on ebay a couple years back.

Out of all of them the Byron is actually the least desirable one of the bunch due to a very basic yet serious design flaw.If you notice, the film plane on the Byron is so close to the lens that there is no way you can fill a full 4x5 frame of film with the projected image. You can get sorta close, but a good portion of the edges will still be chopped off.

On all the other conversions I mention, the builder uses a Graflok back or something similar that retards the film plane to the correct distance for a 4x5 film holder. The result is images that fill the entire sheet of film and no waste.

Sure the Byron is smaller, but who cares? 4x5 film is expensive. Chances are if you're shooting 4x5 you're likely doing it for the full frame. For my money the Byron is an utter waste of time in that regard.

By the way, you don't have to take my word for it about the failure to fill the entire frame. I personally communicated with the builder of the Byron about this very subject as I was contemplating making a purchase. He is an exceedingly nice person, but he admitted his cameras are not full frame cameras even though his website is pretty low key on the issue.

Bob Crowley said...

I think you are splitting hairs on this one for sure. The Byron frame is slightly smaller top and bottom than 4x5, but not by much, not enough, for instance, to crop a 4x5 Polaroid (which is slightly smaller than 4x5 inches).

Did you know that on a Graflok back, the "five inches" is actually only 4 3/4 inches? On the Byron it is exactly 4 3/4 too.

As far as that having anything to do with lens distance, it doesn't. That is a function of the coverage of the lens at infinity, which with the Byron, you can choose over a wide range. In fact having the film plane closer to the front is better in my view, since I can now use some wide angle lenses that otherwise would see the focusing rails. I have a 90mm Angulon that is very handy.

A Speed Graphic has a Graflok back, and so I use one of those setups if I want Graflok. I have several of them, and use them regularly and have mentioned that if I only had one camera, it would have to be a Speed.

That reminds me that the Byron is very much slimmer and more portable, and that's very important to me, otherwise I suppose I would grab the Speed Graphic! I wear glasses, and the others with protruding frames prevent me from using the finder, so that feature, plus the overall excellent quality and interchangeable lenses, make this one my pick.

I have not seen all of the conversions personally, but some that you mention I have, and the relatively high Byron quality, and the way the back is engineered, also impressed me.

It is fun to see a debate of which FILM camera to own!

Anonymous said...

No debate here. I own half a dozen Polaroid 110B to 4x5 conversions and I'm perfectly comfortable with what I've learned about them. I'm merely passing along what I know in hopes that it helps somebody else before they drop hard earned cash on one. If you want to say I'm splitting hairs that's fine. Though it seems to me that if one is bothering to shoot 4x5 hand-held that the end goal would be to cover as much usable film with an image as possible. But that's me. Anyone else can decide which features are best for their individual needs.

In the meantime here is a transcript of the email conversation I had with the designer/ proprietor of the Byron camera regarding it's film coverage. His name is Daniel Chiang Lung and he resides in Taipei (Taiwan).

Transcript as follows:

eBay sent this message to XXXXX XXXXXXX (lawrence_f).
Your registered name is included to show this message originated from eBay. Learn more.
Seller has responded to your question about this item

Dear lawrence_f,
the final film image size on negative is 120x90mm. thanks, Daniel
- clc16888

From: lawrence_f
To: clc16888
Subject: Other: lawrence_f sent a message about Polaroid 110B converted Byron 4x5 camera lens board #200451625075
Sent Date: Nov-03-10 14:26:59 PDT
Dear clc16888,
This question is about your cameras actually, of which I have considered purchasing one. I was told that your camera has a film gate opening of 3 1/2 inches by 4 3/4 inches. A regular Crown Graphic graflok back opening is 4 inches by 4 3/4. So the length is the same but it looks like your cameras opening is a little narrower, by 1/2 inch. Can you tell me what the actual final image size is on film? Reason, I do a lot of art, where I print the entire 4x5 negative, borders and all.

I take it then that your camera creates images that are the same length, but little narrower than what you would get with typical 4x5 cameras with graflok backs?
- lawrence_f

Anonymous said...

It depends on the film holder too. A double dark slide holder is less than 4x5.

Anonymous said...

3 3/4inch to 90mm, it is 1/4 inch in difference, not 1/2".

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...3 3/4inch to 90mm, it is 1/4 inch in difference, not 1/2"."

One of us anonymouses (anonymi?) must be dyslexic and I'm pretty sure it's not me. I never reported a measurement of 3 3/4 inches anywhere...

The film gate (edge to edge measurement of the open area) on both the Byron and the grafok back are roughly identical in LENGTH at 4 3/4". This is confirmed both by Bob's measurements, and Daniel's email reply to me.

However, and here's the rub, the WIDTH of the Byron camera's film gate is approx. 3 1/2", which is 1/2 inch less than a standard graflok at 4". Ergo, the Byron camera produces a final image on film that is of equal length to a normal graflok, but almost 1/2" narrower (after accounting for the slight intrusion of the film holder edges of course).

If that difference sounds negligible to you then go for it, I'm sure the Byron will find a happy place in your home! For myself, I like to print full-frame 4x5 negs with their borders where the discrepancy is quite noticeable. To me, this discrepancy was a deal breaker so I passed on buying one.

Really, all this stuff about film planes and proper film back clearance has been discussed to pieces at and the large format forum by Dean and Noah et al. To anyone who is contemplating purchasing any of these conversions I suggest making google your best friend.

I'm done.

Bob Crowley said...

Just got out my calipers.

The inside of a Riteway double dark slide measures 3.76". That is very close to a quarter of an inch less than the graflok opening, and greater than the projected 3.67" image in the same plane I just measured from the Byron that I own. So, divided between both sides, the difference is 0.090/2 = 0.045". That is just over 1mm (0.039")

Those are actual measurements. The lens-to-film plane distance is not a factor, only the projected image size "window". This is slightly smaller than a Graflok and will not cut off any of an instant 4x5.

Anonymous said...

if he owns a half a dozen, I guess he must be making them???? Dose he have a name?

Anonymous said...

I know I said I was done, guess I fibbed. Oops.

With respect to Bob:
For the final say on measurements I refer anyone reading this to the email I received from the maker of the Byron camera (see above). Reason, Bob's talking instant film. For me this is about a noticeable difference on any film type, including standard (not instant) 4x5 film. Sure I love my Type 55, but I love standard 4x5 sheets too. Since I print ALL my negs full-frame out to the film edge, I find any visible difference objectionable. While Bob may not see a marked difference using instant materials with his Byron, any 4x5 I pick up that doesn't measure up with both film types gets kicked to the curb.

To the previous poster:
No I don't make cameras. I'm not patient enough. My conversions were purchased one at a time on the used market over a 10 year period. In the process I've logged 10's of hours researching them and the conversion process. Even so, at this point my collection has grown so large that it's become more of a habit than one born of necessity. You could say that I share Bob's passion for both 110B's and Type 55 film, and then some. Also if you go back through the post you'll see that I mention the various conversions I own by name, along with my name. All of which which should assuage any suspicion that I'm secretly one of these camera builders looking to derail somebody else's pet project.

Now excuse me, but I feel the need to roll naked through my Type 55 stash while snapping blissfully away with my 110B's and labeling it high art.

Anonymous said...

That will teach YOU to like something Crowley

Ryan said...

So what camera does Mr. Anonymous suggest??

Bob Crowley said...

I keep getting many emails and comments from the makers of other cameras. Here is a message: You might want to focus on your own camera designs. I've had several in now, and will be making comments on them, too.