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My new studio warrior: the charismatic camera with tough personality (do I say goodbye to Canon?)

Now, when I’ve got everything assembled and working, I am excited to show my new studio camera, Cambo Ultima D:

Cambo ultima D with Schneider 120mm macro HM lens
Cambo ultima D with Schneider 120mm macro HM lens

My previous setup (cambo master PC + 1Ds Mk III) was very cool view camera learning tool , but now I feel the difference: Working with this Cambo Ultima is like a riding a Mercedes-Benz after Honda (do not get me wrong, Honda makes great cars).  All the gearing is smooth and precise, most of the dials does not have a lock (in opposite to Cambo Master PC), as it sort of “lock itself” after you finish with adjustments.

This is how I have it configured for now:

Schneider 120mm Makro-Symmar HM mounted on Dambo Ultima D

Schneider 120mm macro HM lens on Cambo ultima D Atlanta photographer
Schneider 120mm macro HM lens on Cambo ultima D

Truly, the camera is pure pleasure to work with. I feel like I am operating a futuristic machine :-)
On other hand, if I compare the changes in workflow with this camera to what I had with Canon… Man! Everything is so much more cumbersome (I mean complicated:-)!
This is what I need to do to get a shot now:

  1. Aim camera to a subject.
  2. Switch shutter to “open” mode .
  3. Turn on LIVE VIEW on C1 software
  4. Adjust camera position and focus it on the subject while looking at Live View screen
  5. Turn off live view
  6. Switch shutter to normal operation
  7. Cock the shutter
  8. Take a picture
  9. Repeat all steps above if subject position needs to be changed and camera must be re-focused.

Pretty cool, isn’t it? :-))

So, what the deal, why I so exited to work with this monster?

Fist of all, it gives me a true freedom with camera movements. Unlike working with DSLR mounted on similar rig, I can swing or tilt lens or sensor to up to 45Âş and have no problems with shadows from the camera body.

Second, the image quality: Even dated P25+ renders much more details than Canon 1Ds MKIII  or 5D MkII. Twice as large sensor provides more resolution and lack of AA filter makes a big difference. When I look at PhaseOne images, I feel like I’ve got cataract was removed from my eyes:-)

Soon I am going to post images from Canon and P25+ to show the difference in IQ. Subscribe to receive blog updates by email, or to my blog RSS feed.

This is how Phase One P25+ looks like, mounted on the camera:

Cambo Ultima D and PhaseOne digital back
Cambo Ultima D and PhaseOne digital back


Obviously, I use this setup only for “serious” work  (trying to do more serious work these days;-), Canon still the best for simple, “flat focus” shots. Not mentioning any moving subjects, of course.
I do not think I ever say goodbye to 35mm DLSr, as they are so easy to work with. Waiting  for a new Canon 1Ds Mark IV,  and hope it will be 40 Mpx, best in the world 35mm DSLR.
PhaseOne P25+ will be replaced  with at least 50Mpx DB as well.

Have a great day!


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50 responses on "My new studio warrior: the charismatic camera with tough personality (do I say goodbye to Canon?)"

  1. How does this setup sync to your strobes? Is there another PC port on the Kapture Group cable release?

  2. I recently bought a Sinar P2 with 3 lenses, Schneider 90mm, Schneider 150mm and Sinorar 210mm. They are good lenses, but not modern created to work with a 50 megapixels digital back.

    I shot basically food and products and I’m thinking about buying only one “digitar” lens. I saw you are using the 120mm from Schneider, do you like this lens? What do you say about buying the Schneider MACRO-DIGITAR 120mm? Do you know with it also works to focus on far objects?

    Before my switch to medium format I used Canon and I had a Schneider-Kreuznach Makro Symmar 90mm PC-TS f/4.5 and I was absolutely in love with the quality of that lens, this is why I’m thinking on by a new Schneider.

  3. Hey Alex:

    thanks for the info on this set up – looks pretty sweet and seems to be reasonably priced. Are you happy with this set up ? How is the live view working out ? It’s been a year since you started using it – would love to hear your thoughts.

    I am moving away from medium format into view camera (can’t stand the sliding adapters though) so considering getting similar set up –

    thank you

  4. Alex,

    I notice your Cambo appears to have base tilts. I’m looking at getting into Phase One P25+ and view camera. I have a Sinar F2 that I could use initially to avoid the expense of a better MF camera such as the P3 or Linhof M679cs. Even Sinar told me once that the base tilts on the F2 would be a hassle for a smaller format digital back because of focus shift when tilting. They recommend one of their centerline tilt cameras. Of course, the lack of geared movement precision on the F2 is another issue. Do you feel that I could use the F2 with the P25+ without going insane adjusting tilts? Thanks!

    • Lloyd,
      I can’t tell you, as I have never had F2 in my hands. But without geared movements, it will be hard to do a macro studio work. Tilt/swing might not be that bad, as you do not need to adjust them by microns. Focus should be very precise though, especially considering you’d have to adjust it after every tilt move.
      However, I think you can give it a try. You can always replace F2 with studio-oriented tech camera like P3, or M679 or Ultima digital, but it may happen that you’ll be able to use F2 without much issues: after all, it is only about convenience and skills:-)

      All the best!

  5. made in holland! thinking about buying one from ebay(€1999) what else do i need to make it work?lensboard+lens..what else? new to this format.want to use film.

    dankje(as we say in holland)


  6. GREAT! i hope it will not disappoint u.

    Wating for the new toturails :)


  7. Nice set up Alex ! I am sure it costs as much as that Honda … or maybe even that Mercedes :-) . Look forward seeing new images using this MF camera !

  8. Alex,
    Cool, what a nice setup.Will you use it for close up jewelwey shot? DOF is a big big problem! How many shot need for stiching? Looking forward to your test report! Because i want to upgrade to MF also! Congratulations!

  9. Alex, Very interesting read since you own one and comments from top photographers regarding this DSLR.


    • Ha-ha.. Karel definitely knows how to promote his blog:the post title is the most important thing. Negative emotion aimed title works the best to get people’s attention. As for the content, it is just blah-blah, empty talk. Hope he is happy with Nikon:-)

      • Alex, Yes for sure, looks like he has an axe to grind with Canon but interestingly enough he shoots with a Canon 40D, someone suggested he read the 5Dmk11 manual…..maybe that would help:-)

        • Well… it might be that that particular 5D he had had an issue. Or maybe all 5D has this issue. But why not to post a real examples showing focus failure? Something like this: Camera on a tripod, focusing point here, result is this.. and so on. But I guess it is much easier just to write an article and name it “Canon 5d -> shit” instead;-)

  10. Alex, Congratulations on the alcohol free zone. I’m currently bidding on a cook book project right now for a food equipment manufacturing company which may involve some travel possibly in your area. Not guaranteed, but good possibility so if this happens I may be able to spend a 1/2 day or so in Atlanta.

    I would really like to have the opportunity to chat with you. I hope you know that sometimes my comments should not always be taken so serious,I can get under peoples skin at times. I do find that it is good way to learn from each other. You are a very nice person and even though we haven’t met in person I feel like you would make a good friend. BTW I do like your Lenovo, very practical all around machine. Keep up the good work and much success will come your way. Family First, Work second, life is short.

    FYI – programmer/ photographer – His prints start at $400 and go up to $2600

    He is part of the luminous-Landscape team of photographers hope you find it interesting. Fun way to travel and make a living too.

    Enjoy the day, talk later.

  11. Alex, Last comment, So if I am using Nikon, Blad & Sinar it is for religious reasons, and you use PC, Cambo, Canon. You equate dedication to system for religious reasons if I follow your thinking. So it’s not because I just happen to think they have superior Operating system – MAC, lenses – Nikon, Sinar better overall system.

    Nothing is fail safe so I agree on that point.This is a no win situation just a point of view. BTW What Ad Agency did your wife work for, just curious. This is one agency I do work for http://www.theadvertisingcompany.net/ http://www.garland-group.com/ http://www.manitowoc.com/en/default.cfm click on the link manitowocfoodservice for the manitowoc site. Also regarding (how many photographers you know have a programming background)? here is one – need more? http://www.luminous-landscape.com/about/critic.shtml

    End of discussion. K.bye 4 now

    • Tom,
      She worked at small local agency (http://www.aesmark.com/) as a web designer, and my point was that she has experience with Mac and seen how stable they are in real life.
      Another my point was that there are very few computer professionals (such as programmers) among photographers. BTW, head of product development in software company is far from software developer.
      Vadim Chiline is much better example… I bet he uses Mac:-)

  12. Congratulations!
    We are waiting new photos:)

  13. Will you be using this set up for Splash photography?

  14. Alex, When your ready to upgrade nothing beats this system http://www.sinar.ch/en/solutions/stillife

    Also if you are looking for representation check this site out http://www.corneliaadams.com/about/

    View Represented artists http://www.corneliaadams.com/photo/richard-pierce/clinique/

    • Tom,
      I’ve already got into a good company:-)
      As for the sinar P3: its good, but the real difference between Ultima and P3 is that P3 has integrated electronic shutter. The rest is the same, and I like Cambo design/controls more.
      Plus, P3 works the best with sinarback, and it is not going to work for me at all: they do not have CaptureShop software for Windows, and I am a windows guy… at least until Apple will be able to release powerful laptops with 8-16Gb of memory and dual HDD.
      Thank you!

      • @Alex Koloskov, Here we go! Yes I understand you are a Cambo/ PC guy.The Ultima was designed for 35MM use primarily. You missed the point of my comment. I didn’t actually ask you if Sinar is going to work for ‘you’ in particular, reread my comment. I understand where you are coming from but did you actually read the data. Emphasis was on the ‘best system’ which includes dedicated Sinar back and the option of other brand digital backs, electronic shutters, D-lenses and everything else the system has to offer – without me compiling an in depth feature list. A complete system designed from the bottom up and also integrated for film.

        Just like the Hasselblad, RB/RZ, Mamiya, Nikon or Canon systems. Sinar is the world innovator not Cambo – such as incorporating the extended Scheimpflug Principle. Scheimpflug principle—bringing subject plane, lens plane, and sensor (film) plane to meet at a precise virtual ‘line’ and not merely at a point—as was the case with less sophisticated tilt/shift cameras e.g.Cambo. Cambo was trying to copy Sinar but, Sinar has a patent on this. I think that you like building photography equipment from scratch – like in ‘back to the future’.

        Also, How can you like something more (cambo) if you haven’t used the system (sinar) as it exists today? Mac or PC is not the issue, the majority of Pros do use Mac OS. PC is cheaper more unstable, was and is used primarily for business applications. Keeps all the service tech working I guess that’s a plus for job creation. PC was falling behind so they are desperately trying to copy Mac OS to gain creative media market share. Mac OS is very stable operating by comparison to PC and ease of use. World class Ad Agencies, Design studios and Pro-photographers use Mac OS. Why do you think they don’t have CaptureShop software for Windows ……because? :-) What I personally like about the Sinar is how compact and innovative the system is. Operates just like a Swiss watch.

        “As of last year the Sinar System has become even more versatile: as of right now all digital backs made by other manufacturers can be attached to the leading camera platforms in professional photography! What up to now has only been possible with considerable effort and great expense has changed dramatically. Simple and cost-effective adaptations for the widely used Sinar p3 view camera and the outstanding architectural camera Sinar arTec are now available to all users of camera backs made by other manufacturers”. Don’t get me wrong Ultima is nice compromise but not a fully integrated MF system. The x2 pro looks more like a camera bracket flash holder :-)

        “Sinar View Camera p3 and p3 RV
        The newly expanded versatility of the Sinar System creates an enormous increase in possible applications for the large number of digital backs that are currently on the market. Sinar has developed a new rear coupling frame for the Sinar p3 camera and matching adapters for Hasselblad V, H1/H2 and Mamiya 645 AFD, designed especially for users of digital backs made by other manufacturers. This new camera is called the Sinar p3 RV.

        The results are most impressive – working with the camera is gratifying in every respect. The totally stable view cameras p3 and pr3 RV stand out for their precision because their adjustments have no play and therefore do not need follow-up – and now the users of non-Sinar digital backs are able to enjoy that convenience. This controlled and precise manner of working constitutes the basis of high-end professional photography. For those users who would like to apply this advantage retroactively, Sinar offers attractive conversion packages”.

        Phaseone Digital backs are excellent they have worked closely with Dalsa to implement design elements. I do use Capture one for raw conversion best in class. Beats PS hands down for algorithm processing and conversion.

        Yours Truly Carl Hans Koch inventor of the Sinar and Tom Bako IMHO Alex. :-)

        • Tom,
          I really enjoy your comments when you are talking about stuff you know:-) But when you are talking about computers, PC v MAC.. Sorry, but looks like you have no clue… Cheap? Trying to copy MC OS?
          “Mac for Pros” – is a cliche, and you simply follow the herd. Apple does not make pro-grade monitors, they do not have serious laptops. Lenovo W700/710 series carry up to 16Gb RAM memory on broad, HDD raid array, built-in dual monitor, built-in Wacom digitizer and X-rite color calibrator. They cost $4000-$7000, depending from a configuration. Comparing to this machines any mac laptop is a toy for kids:-)

          BTW, if you were talking about yaw-free design of P3, there is nothing secret about it and Cambo has the same feature. The best thing about Sinar that its fully integrated system, agree. It is the best such camera on the market;-) May I ask you, did you actually work with this system?
          Thank you!

        • You can tell I’m bored because I’m writing long essays. Let me be more precise with my terminology because I think sometimes language barrier and interpretation causes some misunderstanding.

          Please try to read my comments and digest what I am saying. Mac OS – means Mac operating system best in the world hands down, for the PROFESSIONAL Advertising, Design, Print and Photography business, nothing more needs to be said about that. It’s a done deal. I repeat your words here “Sorry but looks like you have no clue”. :-)

          To expand on my statement regarding the yaw free design and Scheimpflug Principle. I did not say it was a ‘secret’ you did, I said that Cambo was trying to copy the Swiss Sinar design and could not because of the patent held by Sinar which was invented by Carl Hans Koch in 1947, they even went to court about the issue to steal the idea from Sinar. Same way Kodak had a patent on Kodachrome film which had dye couplers added in the processing stage. 35MM equal to about 20Mp of info by todays standards. Nothing could compete with Kodachrome ala nothing could compete with ease of use Sinar Patented system. Depending on the life span of the patent and royalties paid would determine acceptable usage by the patent holder.

          I’m saying that The Mac Operating System is more stable than Microsoft windows operating system in a PC and it is much less susceptible to viruses and flaws in the operating system (downtime repairing) not 100% but more reliable overall. Mac OS can also run Windows OS. What I meant to say when I said cheap is that PC is more reasonable to purchase because more are made and sold in comparison to Mac computers. That will change in the near future. Also Mac is the premier innovative company when it comes to multi-media platforms and poor Windows OS in a PC is just trying to copy cat the ‘King of the Hill’ the indomitable Mac – hey that should get your blood boiling – upset yet. :-))

          The other issue is you have no serious experience in the graphic arts and print industry, if you did you would realize and know that Mac is the premier computer system used by all major Ad agencies, high end design studios, High end Printing companies and High end photography studios. I’m not knocking your choice of Lenovo just saying it is NOT the choice of professionals. All High end printing companies were running Macs and all High end Designers and Ad Agencies were running Macs, probably when you were still a kid. If you don’t believe what I am saying then I challenge you to call any High End AD Agency in Atlanta and ask them what they are using to output their Art, Design and photography and how it’s streamed downline to the High End printers. As for the monitors I don’t know what your interpretation of a pro grade monitor and color calibrating is but the Professional Ad, print and Photography world around you seems to be doing just fine and I stress the word PROfessional.

          If Mac for pros is a cliche as you put it and simply follow the herd then PC is for geeks (not saying who) and simply have nothing better to do with downtime but constantly reboot because of crashes and install and upgrade virus software, download patches like bandaids or spend time reconfiguring their PC’s like it’s a hobby for them or something. When you are working everyday in the business you use what the PROS use and that is A MAC in this business. Take a survey for yourself and see how many pros are using a Lenovo and how many are using a MAC, that will tell you more than what I have to say about it. I’m not going to try and convince you to use one or the other, it’s you choice and what you’re happy with it’s all that really matters. But in the end when all is said and done MAC rules the world of Multi-Media, Art, Design, Advertising and Photography. You know just like the pixel peepers who make a lot of semi-intellectual statements but never really shoot for a living and just constantly run all over the net comparing tests and looking at pixels. They don’t live in the Pro world so how would they even know. Not going to happen. Call around and find out for yourself, you will be surprised at what you find out about the REAL business of the advertising, design, print and the PRO photography world around you. Enough said for now ….get back to me. Just like all that cheap Chinese junk and the Kiev knock-offs is the OS for PC. Upset yet?

          Really though Alex call around the agencies tell them you are looking to pick up some photographic assignments, talk to the creative director, have a chat and see what they have to say, I think you will be surprised. If I’m wrong I will eat Nikita Khrushchev’s shoe, the one he used to hammer on the table with when he took his girly hissy fit. I liked him he denounced Stalin.

          • Tom,
            You know, I am not a believer:-) If everyone in AD/photography world use Mac it is not a reason for me to do the same (unless it will be a technical reason for me to have Mac in studio). Also, I never argue or discuss religious believes, and Mac is a religion for those who use them: Apple evangelists (do you know that Apple has such people?) are doing great job.
            I am a programmer (how many photographers you know have a programming background?), and I know what I say. My wife worked on Mac in AD agency for a year, and she had/seen many program crashes and freezes, and other stuff PC-alike happening on a brand new Mac workstations.
            I see Mac as stylish, overpriced computers for believers. How do you know Mac users? They will tel you about this :-)
            If you want , you can do your own research about performance stability and program selection between Win 7 and latest Mac Os, and you may be surprised.

            And now, lets close this topic. And be happy with what each one have and use:-)

        • Alex, OOPS, owned used F1, P1 and P2, 4×5, 8×10 and LF Cambo when I first started, then switched to Sinar and Blad and Nikon, never Canon though, looking for something now in MF would like the Sinar but $$$$$$$. Probably phase one though. Be Safe, Be happy, don’t worry. I’ll be back just like Arnie, what a creep doing his maid.

        • Alex, Forgot to say Mac left IBM in the dust so now they are trying to make up for lost time, won’t happen. Lenovo is what is called a lost leader in retail terms. They are trying to hard and will never capture the multi-media market. They are trying to capture a market that they will not have foothold in only if they run UNIX then maybe. They are trying for bells and whistles you don’t need. If Mac needs it they implement it and will still sell for 1/3 of the price.

          Lenovo is more for scientific use and be careful your Lenovo does not catch on fire from overheating. Mac is the leader for multi-media and always will be. So you can spec all you want but it doesn’t make it a better machine for the intended application. IBM is for Business, science and Wall street, not the creative multi-media world.Plus it has the weight of a boat anchor so when you are greared up for location it’s totally unnecessary to pack extra weight you don’t need with all the other gear.

          You need to think lightweight, fast, easy to transport and what gets the job done not something clunky and heavy. Something like mac book air. $999. worth every cent. http://www.apple.com/macbookair/ and if it’s studio this is what you should be using http://www.apple.com/macpro/features/storage.html Old expression – horses for courses.

          K. now bye:-)

  15. Good setup. I always liked Cambo’s tilt mechanism with those curved rails rather than knobs on the front standard.

    Also, I received a micro-focus rail yesterday and used your focus-stack technique to great effect on a ring in the collection. Thanks Alex.


  16. Hi Alex………why didnt you get a medium format 4×5 sliding back with ground glass for your P25 ????

    • Wayne, I did:-) First I’ve got PhaseOne sliding back with ground glass, nut very soon I’ve realized few things:
      1. I can’t see anything on the glass (or see enough to make a focus), unless I’ll turn off all the lights in a studio. When shooting jewelry or even bigger subject, modeling lights is not enough to get a clear picture on the glass.
      2. Sliding back has little play, which is unacceptable for me as well. May it was a problem with that particular sliding adapter I had, but what the reason to keep it if ground glass is useless?

      So, I’ve returned it and got a fixed adapter. simple, less expensive and solid:-)
      Thank you:-)

  17. Hi Alex, I think your results for product shots will be much better with this technical camera.
    Hopefully you will keep making your blogs and great explanations for users with non technical cameras.
    I like to see the results for your customers and keep dreaming having mine sometimes…

    Good luck and keep clicking!

    • Thank you, Eric.
      I’ll still have many shots with a regular camera, as view camera is not for all. Also, in studio photography lighting is the key to success, camera does not make a big difference.. it just makes thins easier.

  18. WOW I am new to the field of photography and I have no idea what the hell that it is besides it being very very expensive.

    Do you think you can gives a video demo about the camera set up and how you use it please?

  19. An other question :-)
    What is tha maximum aperture of the new schneider lens?
    I bet that it is biger than f35!!

  20. First, congratulations on the new monster!
    I await with great anxiety to compare the files!
    One question, I just bought the Manfrotto 405 head,
    Do you have a problem with the total weight of the new system;
    What is the total weight;


    • Marios,
      I do not weighted my setup, but I feel that it is on the edge of maximum load for the 405 head. It is still lighter then my previous setup, about 40% less then Cambo Master PC weight.
      I do not want to overload the head and make it wear off too fast, so I help it in situations like when I am “lifting the nose” of the camera, by applying an additional lifting force by hand.
      Not a big deal for me, and Manfroto seems to be happy too:-)

  21. This is a dream come true for me! Have fun Alex! Can’t wait to see some of your work done with this set up!

  22. Nice!
    I have a question concerning camera movements: does the smalller size of the sensor (compared to 4×5) limits the amount of movement you can make?

  23. Beast is right…what an incredible setup! It’s about right….I hope it feels like a Mercedes, I’d have to sell my Merc to buy this!

  24. What a BEAST!

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