Greg Neville, Wolfgang Sievers’ camera 1, 2014
Wolfgang Sievers’ camera, the Stegemann StudienKamera C, is a 9x12cm monorail made from mahogany. It comes with beautifully crafted film holders, also mahogany. They are so unfamiliar in design it takes some time to understand how they function. The film holders are complicated with dark slides that have mysterious hinged flaps and brass clips, almost an exercise in hand craft for it’s own sake. The brass screws are aligned, they are all parallel!
The 9×12 film format is just smaller than our contemporary 5×4 format; it’s an old German format but still being made, just. Fomapan have a couple of products available from Macodirect.
Taking these trial photographs, I experienced two main problems. The first is that focusing is very primitive. There is no gearing, so the front standard is manually pushed back and forth along the wooden monorail. It’s not a smooth operation and jerks everywhere without precision. The other problem is the almost opaque ground glass which is very hard to focus and compose with. The camera has great precision in some parts but not where it really counts – when you’re taking pictures!
The two surviving original lenses are beautiful, both steel barrels, one still in its cylindrical leather case. Wolfgang said another lens was lost when lent for display at a museum in the 1990s.
As you can see from these photos, the optics have that German softness, or rather sharpness combined with softness, that distinguishes them from the typically harder Japanese lenses. Sharpness is not everything. These images show the lens has character, it is not merely a neutral collector of visual detail.
The lens used for these photos is an f7.7 inscribed Emil Busch A-G Rathenow, a short tele. It would be nice to take portraits with it because it would excel at that genre where the soft optical signature would fit the subject matter. Next time.
Greg Neville, Wolfgang Sievers’ camera 2, 2014
See my post about Wolfgang’s camera here