May 2, 2011

Gandolfi Variant 4x5 inches / Level III - Photo Gear (12)


If I would shoot this self-portrait today, my face would be rather sad...

I am sad!

Checking up the web about the Gandolfi Variant, I came to understand that Gandolfi Cameras seems to have ceased production.

Bear in mind that the company was founded in 1885!
Sad news for the Large Format Photography world.

Not long ago, I still could order some lens panels and an adapter from Mr. Edward Hill. Lets hope that somebody out there decides to keep the flame alive.

Even in the United Kingdom tradition is no longer what it used to be...

Super Angulon 75mm + wide-angle Bellows + Horseman 6x12 roll film holder
(equivalent, in 4x5 inches, to 24mm in 35mm Photography)

Without focusing screen and with the 6x12 Horseman holder installed

Apo-Symmar 150mm + Linhof Rapid Rollex 6x7
(equivalent, in 4x5 inches, to 45mm in 35mm Photography)

Without bellows and without universal back + Apo-Symmar 150mm (zero position)

The Variant closed (with Apo-Symmar 150mm inside)

Symmar-S 210mm
(equivalent, in 4x5 inches, to 65mm in 35mm Photography)

Maybe you shouldn't try to photograph with such extreme movements: they only demonstrate the flexibility of the design.
Actually, you mostly just need minor adjustments for picture taking.

Schneider G-Claron 305mm
(equivalent, in 4x5 inches, to about 95mm in 35mm Photography)

Rodenstock Apo-Ronar 480mm
(equivalent, in 4x5 inches, to 145mm in 35mm Photography)

The Variant is (was...) made in various types (levels) and finishes.

Mine is made out of MDF (medium-density fibreboard, a resin bonded fibre with selected hardwood reinforcement), and offers, being a Level III, the most adjustments / movements that one can wish for this type of camera.
Obviously, it is the heaviest of the three possible Variant levels to choose from.

It is (was...) possible to convert and upgrade the different models and formats, all the way up to 8x10 inches.

Some people regard with a certain disdain the MDF version, prefering the looks of the walnut finish. As a "working horse", I think that the MDF material is very satisfactory: sturdy and stable, it surely is strong enough for the adventures one encounters on the road.
The black color is discreet and doesn't call the public attention (if that is possible to say about such a camera on a tripod...).

The Gandolfi Variant is without doubt a rather versatile piece of gear. It allows nearly the same adjustments, as the best studio monorail cameras (maybe I could use sometimes a little more rise capability, and I could wish a somewhat longer bellows to cope with even longer focal lengths, but that's about all!).

Let's hope to see someday these very fine cameras back in production...

I really dig them!

Yes, I will say it loud: Gandolfi forever!



  1. Amazing cameras, the design looks like somebody considered very well what to do. I think the MDF looks good, a little like a black-paint Leica !

  2. Hello Gabor,
    I guess that you are right, the design of this camera is quite impressive. It is a mix of classic and modern, a very nice symbiosis.
    The comparation with a black-paint Leica is interesting: understated looking.
    I still think that a Sinar F/F2 is the most universal piece of gear for exterior photography (of course, the Sinar P/P2 is much better, but I think that it stays better inside the studio...), but the Variant comes close, using another approach of course.
    Maybe I find it even a little easier to use than the wonderful Linhof Technika!
    MDF gives me less worries about possible scars on the finish: good for a working camera.
    Cheers and thank you for commenting,

  3. Hi rui,
    I was considering for a long time to start taking photos with the gandolfi variant, because of its beatiful looks, movements and flexability in sizes to shoot. But because 5x7 photographers nowadays are almost to extingt i decided to go for the light and unbreakable very comfortable in use toyo 45A. shooting photos is a relieve after shooting 35mm and medium format, nothing can compete with a groundglass and superior quality of the larger format. But now as a large format photographer i can imagine that a slightly bigger format than 4x5 could be very comfortable. Im curious if you ever used to shoot 5x7 with this camera. does it require a special back and is it still possible to get all the parts for this camera?