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Cambo Wide Improvements (fine butchery)

by Bob Hutchinson

I've been looking at these wide Cambos for years. What a wonderful design for big landscapes, big outdoors, big pictures, big bucks. Graflok back, lens shift facility in any of the four arrow directions, superb quality Schneider Super Angulon lenses. Oh boy did I drool for one of these fine babies. That must have been in 1983 or 1984 during the drilling and production depression in Houston. Then I could just about afford a 10 exposure box of film.

Well, wouldn't you know, I finally came across this one in superb condition with 75mm f5.6 Super Angulon MC. It is a thoroughbred built like a lightweight aluminum racing  tank. After fondling it for a few days I began to experience withdrawal systems and caved in to my desire to MODIFY this beautiful camera. Oh, where can I find the strength and fortitude to resist this terrible addiction. I just can't help myself, I've got to get a drilling, sawing, filing and screwing fix.

Must have flaws                                                                          Before -  Click Larger
167.jpg (35023 bytes)166.jpg (24995 bytes)165.jpg (29711 bytes) As fine as this instrument is it must have some flaws before it can provide me with the pleasure, satisfaction and self esteem hit that I seek. I must be able to rationalize my actions, build a plan, document my butchery of this delightful piece of photographic desert.

168.jpg (33646 bytes)Well, ya-know, this plastic grip thing looks like a marketing idiot's afterthought. I mean the rest of the camera seems to be wonderful of design and this grip thing is - is - well, it's really a piece of shit! Its vertical, stiff, un-handy and has some sort of cable release that you work with your thumb. That's no way trip a shutter. When I put the camera up to my eye the grip is all wrong and there is nothing to hold on to on the right side of the camera.

Wait a minute. how do I take a vertical shot? If I attach an expensive 6 x 12 back and want to do a vertical I have to flip it up on the tripod. Not good. OK, OK, OK. It does have serious flaws, so - - I'll have to modify it with improvements .

Rationalization found
It needs a handle on the right side to handle it in and out of a case, on and off of the tripod and for additional help for handheld shots. It also needs a usable grip to replace the afterthought idiot grip. And, and - a tripod facility for vertical shots.  Ha! Rationalization of feverish drilling, sawing, filing and screwing action. Additionally, the little bubble levels, including the one in the finder which seems to be in error and they are not easy to see with old eyes.

170.jpg (19114 bytes)169.jpg (19270 bytes)Let's saw it up. After removing the plastic grip there are two strong aluminum grip supporting stanchions as part of the aluminum body casting. Each stanchions has a #6-32 threaded hole that held the plastic grip. (See pictures.) After studying this I started working my plan. With the camera stripped to bare body frame I clamped it in a rubber jawed drill press vice with stanchions up and ran a #6-32 tap drill down through the two holes and drilled two pilot holes into the casting for future #10-24 machine screws. My plan now is to whack off these useless stanchions and bolt an aluminum accessory plate to the left side of the body. The plate will have a Bogen quick release tripod adapter plate attached.

To the saw
Still scares me. I have been around big power equipment, 25 years as a manufacturing engineer in the big metal removal industry, but a screaming 12" miter saw, even with all the guards in place, still scares me with the blade close to hands and face. Adrenalin rush. I have a couple of machined aluminum rectangular blocks about 1 1/2" x 2" x 7" long that I use for fixtures in making square cuts on this saw. After set up I just pulled the blade down and zipped right through the two stanchions, reducing them to 20% or their original length. (See pictures.)

171.jpg (29042 bytes)172.jpg (28918 bytes)Back to the drill press to drill and tap the two pilot holes #10-24. I carefully measured and cut a plate from 1/8" x 2" flat stock with angles similar to the angles of the camera front housing. Then I marked, drilled and countersunk three holes for 10-24 mounting screws for the new accessory plate. I drilled four #6-32 clearance holes in the Bogen tripod shoe, aligned and centered it, clamped it the plate and dimpled the accessory plate with the clearance drill. After tapping the holes the tripod quick release adapter was mounted with flat head machine screws.

Get a grip on it
174.jpg (39423 bytes)173.jpg (38303 bytes) While visiting with Erwin Ferguson at Camera Co-Op here in Houston I bought a little Bogen quick clamping device, the purpose of which still eludes me, that clamps to a Bogen tripod adapter plate. I had this sucker in my vice in a flash and in another flash had hack sawed away the purpose that eludes me. After dressing and a little black paint I had an attachment device I could attach one of the wonderful Mamiya Press camera grips to. Not just bolt it on but expertly attach it with machine screws at the perfect compound angle for comfortably holding this big camera to face. That angle is:
30 degrees reward, 25 degrees wrist to the right.

Using pieces of 1/8" thick vinyl sheet I gripped the Mamiya grip in the soft jaws at the correct angle with the help of a protractor and hack sawed the angles to the grip stanchion. Then gripped the big nut in the vice and sawed it in two places to remove it. I marked the back side of the little Bogen clamping device, the purpose of which still eludes me, drilled clearance holes for 4 #4-40 flat head machine screws, countersunk them, transferred, marked, drilled and tapped the grip stanchion and attached. What a wonderful improvement. (See pictures.)

Get a handle on it
180.jpg (36648 bytes) The grip is for holding and snapping the shutter. The handle is for everything else. The wood is 1 inch square Red Oak. I cut an inch off the tip of 8 inches of the Red Oak at 30 degrees and glue it on reversed. Then sand on the 4 inch belt sander to shape. I cut and shape a 1/8" aluminum plate, drilled, tapped, countersunk, and attach with #4-40 flat head screws to the front camera housing. (See pictures.) The oval extension is chrome plated steel, 1 3/8" length 185.jpg (67915 bytes)184.jpg (69910 bytes) dressed square. Material is from you know who as steel clothes hanging rod for do-it-yourself closet builders. The camera housing handle plate is attached to the 1/8 x 3/4" handle plate with two 10-24 round head screws compressing the steel oval extension. The wood handle is attached to the handle plate with 8-32 round head machine screws. Very strong handle, as it should be.

On the level
182.jpg (25385 bytes)The original levels, two on a tiny plastic base were just crap. 
Too small, not coordinated with the body or back and could not be properly viewed in dim light. The body is only about 3/4" thick at the top so I cut and dressed a couple of small 1/16" mounting plates for the levels, carefully tested everything with body leveled in the vice using another level of known accuracy. I drilled, tapped and mounted the small plates with # 2 round head screws, doubled check the accuracy, coordinated the levels and
187.jpg (27333 bytes)glued them on with Goop. In the first ten minutes of glue setting I re-check accuracy of levels.

These levels are important, much more important if ultra wide angle lenses such as 65mm, 55mm, 45mm and 35mm are used. The 35mm on a 6 x 12 format has a 120 degree angle of view. Awesome wide angle distortion of lines when film not parallel to lines.

Click Here to contact Bob Hutchinson.

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