Apr 7, 2009

Horseman SW612 Pro - Photo Gear (5)


"I told you about strawberry fields
You know the place where nothing is real
Well here's another place you can go
Where everything flows.

Looking through the bent backed tulips
To see how the other half lives
Looking through a glass onion."

Glass Onion, The Beatles
(The White Album, 1968)

Horseman SW612 Pro + Rodenstock Apo-Grandagon 35mm f 4.5

Yes, I told you about my "Cory" and some places we can go.

Now I will tell you about my "Horsy"...

The Apo-Grandagon 35mm without Center Filter, maximal fall

The last two posts where entirely photographed with another relatively scarce camera, the Horseman SW612 Pro.

SW must stand for super-wide, 612 stands obviously for the biggest format this camera is able to deliver, and the Pro part of the name makes the distinction between this model with shift capabilities, and the simpler model without.

I must say that it is a kind of denomination that somehow I dislike... To call something Pro doesn't make it Pro...

Nevertheless, I can assure you that this camera genuinely deserves the qualification of professional!

I also must add, that I can't understand why Horseman keeps both versions of practically the same camera on their catalogue. After the introduction of this refined, better version, the model without shift capability became rather uninteresting. That is, at least, my opinion.

The Apo-Grandagon 35mm you see above is really a super, super-wide lens! Too wide for most situations, I could say...

It consists of 8 elements in 4 groups, and is incredibly distortionless for such a lens.

The image circle is 125mm, what means that you can use the entire 6x12 format with it, if you don't use movements.

Nearest focusing distance is 0,3m.

I absolutely recommend the use of a Center Filter with this lens!

The Apo-Grandagon 35mm with Center Filter, maximal rise

The Apo-Grandagon 35mm with Center Filter, maximal fall

Maximal rise and fall with the Apo-Grandagon 35mm is only possible if you use the 6x9 or 6x7 magazines, that are also available for this camera. I wouldn't find the 6x7 magazine (10 frames each roll) very attractive, but I own and use a 6x9 magazine (8 frames each roll).

Obviously, for the greatest part I use the 6x12 magazine (6 frames each roll of 120 film). This format really makes the best out of this camera!

Notice, please, that I have painted the extremity of the dark slide red. It comes in black plastic and is sometimes very hard to see, mainly when you are photographing in dark places or interiors.
In former times, the Horseman magazines had such pieces made of red enameled metal.

They seem to want to save on production costs...

These are the small annoyances that make our lives a little harder in the field: if you forget to pull the dark slide before you make your exposures, you will not have any exposures at all!
Just as simple as that...

Please Horseman, make it a shining fluorescent color that we can't overlook!

(I tend to think that equipment manufacturers must often be shy to try their gear in real-life situations. They usually seem to overlook small but important details).

That little red ribbon I've added to the dark slide serves the same purpose of remembering me to pull it.

I also use it to hang the dark slide from my Gitzo tripod. Doing so, I don't need to search for it around the whole place...

(Getting older doesn't help my distraction...)

I like to concentrate on my photographs, not on the action of making them.

Horseman SW612 + Rodenstock Grandagon-N 75mm f/6.8

Although on these photographs I prefer to show the Grandagon-N 75mm without a Center Filter, I also generally use one with it.

I know that there are photographers who don't bother to do so, excusing themselves with light-loss, but I get really disturbed by looking at a color photograph of a white wall, and seeing it turning dirty white or gray in the corners of the image.

I guess that I am too much of a perfectionist...

I don't really understand why, but Horseman stopped offering this lens for the SW612. My guess is that it must be because you can't use the full shift movements with it. There is some vignetting caused by the lens mount. Maybe it is also because of the maximal aperture of 6.8.

In my opinion, it is a very fine lens giving a very pleasing field of view (identical to 24mm on 35mm film): wide enough for most subjects without excess.

The maximal aperture of 6.8 doesn't bother me: I mostly use it at f 22 anyway...

Notice that you can see a different mask in the optical finder, to adapt to the field of view of the lens.

The finder is very clear, but doesn't follow the field of view of the lens when you apply movements.

If you remember my former post about a similar camera I use (Photo Gear 3), the finder of the Corfield WA67 does...

I usually compose using the ground glass, but sometimes it is handy to have the finder though. Photographing in a crowded place for instance, it allows me to control if people are inside the image, and what position they may have within the composition.

Dark places is another situation that usually sees me mounting this "eye" on top of the camera.

Planning my trip across the USA and Canada, to photograph the works of Mies van der Rohe, I quickly realized that it would be very hard to carry a lot of equipment over there.

I started thinking that I should better leave my Sinar, and all the lenses I use with it, at home. The multitude of different buildings I had to photograph, dictated that bringing only my Corfield WA67 would be an impossibility.
Non-shift medium format equipment, like the Hasselblad, wouldn't be an option either.

So I started thinking about alternatives.

To substitute the Sinar, I decided to get a Gandolfi Variant in 4x5 inches (my Gandolfi Precision 8x10" was out of question for obvious reasons...). I got the model with more features, the so called Level III, in MDF.

Not the lightest camera, but with lots of movements and very sturdy.
Enough bellows draw, to allow me to use my Rodenstock Apo-Ronar 480mm.
Enough wide-angle capability to use my Schneider Super-Angulon 58mm.
Capable of accepting my Horseman 6x12 roll film back and my Linhof Rapid Rollex 6x7.

What could I wish more?

Yes, you guess it right: the Horseman SW612 Pro!

Nice format for double-pages spreads in square books, interchangeable high-quality lenses, shift capability, very good engineering and build quality.

Add a couple of lenses for each camera, plus a Gossen Variosix F and a Minolta Spotmeter, plus focusing clothes and lupes, loads of film and some other paraphernalia and you get the picture of what we had to carry around... Oh, don't forget the Gitzo tripod and the Manfrotto 410 geared head!

Happilly, in those times I was stronger than today, and I had the good helping-hand of my older sun Jorge, who assisted me on the trip.
He shared duties with me on carrying, driving, eating fast food, sleeping in cheap motels, looking for the places to photograph and, most of all, having lots of patience for solving shooting permissions and assorted problems. I can imagine that without his help, I would certainly be in serious trouble.

While staying at the Illinois Institut of Technology, when it was raining and we could not work, we used to jump in the car and drive for endless hours across the Southside of Chicago.
Killing time, we found out that we were the only white people we could see around.
White people in America don't seem to cross the afro-american territory, they drive around, speeding down the highway without looking.
White people don't seem to know how blacks live in America.
Black people seem to know how whites live: they clean their homes, they drive their cabs, they fight their wars.

At night we used to sit around Seven-Eleven, inside the campus in Commons building, again killing time and watching. It seemed to be the only place in all Chicago where you could see a certain coexistance between various types of people. The cops and the ambulance drivers, the southsiders and the students, the beggars and the rich, they all came for a cup of coffee, for something to eat.

Then, we would go back to our room in the student's residence, having to go through a kind of check point where we had to show our ID to a student. Most of them didn't even say hello or wish good night, the only exception beeing a very nice and young black lady.
We were always happy to meet her.
One night she didn't notice that we were coming and she just kept dancing. We just waited awhile before knocking, delighted with the beauty and elegance of her dance. Needless to say that she got a little ashamed when she understood that we had been watching her for a while.
Since then I called her "Night Dancer" and she always gave back a beautiful smile.
That lady was a nice human beeing...

On our flight back home, via London, we had the chance of meeting some very nice people again: the crew of British Airways proved to be of exceptional kindness.
We got along with each other so well, that when we were getting ready to leave the plane, some members of the crew came to us and presented us with two bottles of Champagne!
Amazed, I just could say that it had been a pleasure to fly with them. They replied that if they always had such nice passengers, their job would be wonderfull...
Of course, we were flying economic, make no mistake.

These are the little stories that touch our souls, these are the true reasons why I love life.

Photographs are just photographs!



  1. What an enlightening post, Rui! Thank for sharing that :-) Have a great weekend.

  2. Thank you very much Esther,

    Have a nice weekend too



  3. Hello Rui, I'm looking for a SW612 instruction manual. Would you know where I might find one or do you know of a link on-line? Many thanks Steve...

  4. Sorry Steve,

    I only saw your comment today...
    I will look for one and scann it for you, although at the moment I can't remember if the camera came with one (probably yes for the film magazines).
    I will let you know.