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Linhof Technorama 617 Test Review
2005 Kenrockwell.com

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INTRODUCTION

This fixed-lens camera takes 120 and 220 film and produces 4 or 8 huge 6 x 17 cm images per roll. This particular one is from about 1982. Linhof has been making these since at least the 1970s and continues to make them today, allbethey in slightly different versions.

SPECIFICATIONS

90mm f/5.6 Super Angulon

Shutter 1 - 1/500 and Bulb, no Time.

f/5.6 through f/45 with clicks at half stops

120 and 220 film, no need to alter the pressure plate

Actual image size 57 x 172 mm

OPERATION

This is a big simple solid camera. It's just a lens in a focusing helicoid jammed in front of a roll film holder.

You load it like other 120 cameras. You also need to remember to reset the frame counter manually. The entire back slides off for loading.

You focus by guessing (or taping) the distance and setting it on the focus scale. You use an external meter or guess at the exposure and set it manually on the shutter. You cock the shutter each time and release it from the camera body. There is a screwy linkage through the body to the shutter. The shutter is an ordinary view camera shutter, which makes perfect since since its an ordinary view camera lens.

When shooting 120 film you need to remember to wind on the film after frame 4; otherwise you can easily expose a half of a phantom frame 5 if you forget that you are shooting 120 and not 220.

PERFORMANCE

220 film often winds off the end of the take up spool, requiring some fooling around and the occasional loss of the last frame due to light fogging as you futz with the free end of the roll.

120 works perfectly, however with only four frames per roll you are always changing rolls.

The old one I had had a loose front element in the optical finder. No big deal, it works fine.

The felt pads were worn on film take-up side, the possible cause of poor winding. This can be serviced.

Tiffen glass ND grad in Cokin P size held over the lens by hand (no holder) only barely covers the image.

Focus calibration is not perfect, so use a tripod and stop down, bonehead.

The bottom of the camera is a little odd with just a small area to interface with your tripod plate.

The bubble level in the finder is accurate , and even works for vertical shots! It only reads the pitch axis (tilt up or tilt down from level). It does not indicate roll (rotation clockwise or counterclockwise).

Image spacing is fine on film.

I only used it with a lot of Velvia and a roll or two of Kodak E6. It may or may not work differently with other films as far as proper winding of 220.

It's a little soft in the corners wide open at f/5.6. It's pretty good at f/8 and by f/11 it's pretty sharp everywhere. Regardless of aperture it's softer in the corners than the center under an 8x loupe, which is pretty high powered for this big a format. This softness on 617 is still brilliant compared to anything you could get on a small format like the XPan. Diffraction starts to soften things just a little bit at f/32 and a little more at f/45, as you'd expect.

RECOMMENDATIONS

I personally want to shoot 220 in this, since it's ridiculous to go through the whole film loading song and dance after every fourth frame with 120. The disadvantage of using 220 film is that many times the end of the film winds off the spool and makes a mess which can mess up the last frame or two while you try to get it out of the camera.

This is a great way to go for 617. The modern dedicated 617 cameras require a ridiculous amount of separate lenses and bodies which are just as much of a pain as simply getting the Canham 617 back and a 5 x 7" view camera. The view camera solution costs a lot less and offers far more flexibility, like tilts and swings for better sharpness and lack of distortion.

This Linhof is better than the original Fuji GX-617 because 1.) the Fuji only focuses as close as 10 feet, 2.) I prefer the view of the Linhof's 90mm lens to the 105mm of the Fuji, although this is minor, and 3.) as I recall the Fuji may or may not have had some bizarre issue with making 1 second long exposures. Check me on #3.

New Cameras

A new Linhof Technorama 612 PC II with shift is $6,800 here with 58mm lens, and a new Linhof Technorama 617s III is $6,800 here with 72mm lens and $6,900 here with 90mm lens.

Also see the Horseman 6 x 12 with shift:

here with 35 mm lens ($4,900)
here with 45 mm lens ($4,700)
here with 55 mm lens ($4,700)
here with 90 mm lens ($4,800)

The Horseman without shift is cheaper:

here with 35 mm lens ($3,800)
here with 45 mm lens ($3,600)
here with 55 mm lens ($3,350)
here with 65 mm lens ($3,500)
here with 75 mm lens ($4,000)
here with 90mm lens ($4,200)

6 x 17 Fields of View

(calculated as the 35mm format lens that gives a similar field of view, presuming lenses are their marked focal length (they usually aren't) and film apertures of 24 x 36 mm for 35mm and 56 x 171 mm for 6x17.)

Horizontal
Vertical
72 mm
15.2 mm
30.9 mm
90 mm
18.9 mm
38.6 mm

6 x 12 Fields of View

(calculated as the 35mm format lens that gives a similar field of view, presuming lenses are their marked focal length (they usually aren't) and film apertures of 24 x 36 mm for 35mm and 56 x 112 mm for 6x12.)

Horizontal
Vertical
35 mm
11.25 mm
15.0 mm
45 mm
14.5 mm
19.2 mm
55 mm
17.7 mm
23.6 mm
58 mm
18.6 mm
24.9 mm
65 mm
20.9 mm
27.9 mm
75 mm
24.1 mm
32.1 mm
90 mm
28.9 mm
38.6 mm

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