I’m no stranger to medium format photography. I’ve owned a few box cameras, a basic folding camera, and a cheap TLR for a while. Last year I started to take it seriously by buying a Mamiya RB67 outfit. I’ve been using it mainly for landscape photography and perhaps inevitably, I ran into the need to have movements on the camera.
I don’t have a scanner or an enlarger capable of taking 5×4″ negatives, and with the added cost of the sheet film, it would be an expensive venture. So I decided to buy a medium format technical camera, aka field camera. After looking around, I settled on one of the Horseman cameras – 970, 980, 985, VH or VH-R.
But this isn’t my life story, nor is it a review of the Horseman 980. This is supposed to be a few snippets of information that I have found out for myself about the 980, and have decided to publish here given the scarcity of information about the Horseman 6×9 technical cameras.
Mamiya RB67 backs
Compatibility with RB backs is an important factor for me, since I already have several Mamiya backs for my RB67. Information is hard to come by, but as far as I can gather…
|Will work with RB backs||Will not work with RB backs|
I think this can be roughly summarised to say that the Horseman cameras with rotating backs can take Mamiya RB67 backs. The older ones can’t.
The baby Graflok mechanism is the same, but the older Horseman models have raised silver metal areas around the film gate that do not allow the Mamiya backs to get close enough to the camera body for the sliding Graflok blades to mate. To mount a Mamiya back on a Horseman 960, 970 or 980 you will need to modify the camera itself. I haven’t seen a later Horseman body to compare.
This note particularly concerns the older roll-film back (pictured) with a chrome knob advance rather than a lever – although I have no idea if the same also applies to the lever-advance backs.
When loading a new film, there is no painted or engraved mark to align with the arrow on the paper backing. Instead you have to wind the paper on until you see the arrow peeping through a hole in the pressure plate. At this point, you close the back and wind until number 1 appears on the film counter.
However, in my experience, this means the film is wound about 5cm too far before the first exposure, meaning the last exposure is cut off. Now that I’m aware of this, I’ll just advance a little less to begin with. After I’ve figured out the best way of doing this reliably, I’ll comment on this post.
These Horseman cameras do not take a standard cable release. The standard type of cable release found on 99% of (non-digital) cameras has a small screw thread on the tip of the cable, and screws into a socket somewhere on the camera or lens. There is no threaded socket on the Horseman lenses. Instead, there is a tube that the cable release sits in, with a screw clamp to hold the cable in place. Sounds OK, except the diameter of the tube is 6.5mm and almost all cable releases are too thin to be gripped by the clamp.
The Horseman cable releases seem extremely rare – I haven’t found one anywhere online. There is also an adapter that exists but is very rare. I’ve searched extensively and found them only occasionally supplied with lenses – never on their own. I’ve pinched this photo from an eBay auction, to illustrate what the adapter looks like. It’s the small chrome thing in the shutter release hole.
I’ve contacted the Analog Photography Users Group and a camera shop that sells Horseman accessories, but neither were able to offer any insights.
I have worked around this by taking a standard cable release and wrapping it in a few layers of electrical tape to fatten it up a bit, so it gets clamped in the Horseman shutter release. It works reliably enough for me, and even looks OK when mounted.