Flawless finish, consistent operation and engineered like a fine timepiece, the BOMM V810 is a wonder of thought, effort and passion…and my new 8×10 workhorse. I this article I will be sharing my thoughts about this wonderful camera, one that was built specifically for me.

First, per EM’s request, here’s a little about my journey to 8×10 photography and ultimately the BOMM V810.

 

 

Working my way up to 8×10

I have been a photographer since the 1960’s, but did not get serious about photography until the middle 1970’s. I started with 126 format and progressed from there to 35mm, on to a Mamiya RB67 for portraiture, then a Hasselblad 500CM for weddings. I went back to 35mm when I went to photojournalism school and then on to 4×5 when I became obsessed with landscape photography (a 4×5 Zone VI and then Linhofs).

Around the year 2000, I decided the best landscape photographs had been created with 8×10, and I purchased a Burke and James 8×10 camera. The camera had been well used, but it was what I could afford. I quickly learned that repairing the old camera was not too difficult and even with the low-quality lenses I had at the time, the 8×10 negatives were amazing.

I felt I was competent enough as a 4×5 user to be able to master the 8×10 quickly. I was so wrong.

I didn’t have an enlarger, so I only contact printed the images, and they were okay, but not spectacular. I blamed the results on the camera and lenses, so set about saving for a proper camera and lenses. I had seen Jay Dusard using a Kodak Master View camera at one of the workshops I had attended, and while I was shopping for a new camera, a lightly used Kodak came up on eBay. I bought it as quickly as I could. That was about 2005, if I remember correctly.

Later that year a good friend of mine gave me an 8×10 enlarger he had crafted using an Omega D2 4×5 enlarger chassis and an Aristo Cold Light Head. I knew that my negatives looked great, and being able to enlarge them would prove it in a way that contact printing never could (in spite of all of Edward Weston’s evidence to the contrary).

At the point I bought the Burke and James, I felt I was competent enough as a 4×5 user to be able to master the 8×10 quickly. I was so wrong. I made almost all of the same rookie mistakes I had made with 4×5.

…I made exposures with the dark slide still in the holder…

…I pulled the dark slide with the lens still open…

…I would rush to make an exposure and not properly focus…

…I would forget to close the aperture…

As I used the Kodak and became more comfortable with the beast, these mistakes went away, and the results improved. The camera and I came to terms, and my film waste declined. I didn’t want to go back and relearn a camera at this point. I wanted a camera that would allow me to keep improving, and to keep an acceptable success rate.

Because I am a dedicated Zone System user, I do not experiment with a lot of different films. I prefer to pick one film, and learn everything possible about it. I used Fuji NEOPAN 100 ACROS for many years, and when Fuji gave up on Quickloads for that, I switched to Kodak T-MAX 100 and the Kodak Readyload system. At that point, I was shooting exclusively 4×5 and mostly canyons in Southern Utah where dust is a major problem. I learned the quirks of T-MAX and was happy with my results, so when I went to mostly 8×10, that was my film of choice.

It eventually became nearly impossible to find T-MAX 100 in 8×10 (and very expensive as well) so I switched to ILFORD HP5 PLUS. It didn’t perform as well for me with Kodak’s Xtol developer, so I began trying other films. It was during this quest that I was given some ILFORD PAN F PLUS to try. It took me 3 rolls to sort out that ILFORD was wrong about the speed of the film, but other than that, it was the film I wanted to use going forward.

Turns out there was just one small problem…

ILFORD doesn’t make PAN F PLUS in sheet film. 35 mm and roll film yes, not sheets. I, of course, thought about taping cut up 120 rolls together to make 8×10 sheets, but I am too impatient for that, and I couldn’t convince my wife to do it for me. I have long been a fan of panorama work, and I saw a panorama back for sale on eBay that would work on my Linhof 4×5, so I bought it thinking this would be a terrific way to use PAN F, and really exploit the fine grain and long tonal scale.

This set-up had a few limitations – the construction of the camera cropped the 6×17 format to about 6×14 with the 300mm lens. Also, the 4×5 version required carrying 2 backs, one with the ground glass and the other with the film. In short, it was not the perfect arrangement.

Later, I saw that DaYi also made a 5×7 version. I immediately ordered one for my 8×10. Turns out the Kodak does not have a Graflok back and I couldn’t find one. The Kodak also did not compress enough for the 72mm lens, without a recessed board, which I did not have, and didn’t care to fiddle with anyway.

I still wanted to shoot Pan F in 617, but what to do?

Bomm Camera to the rescue.

 

 

Discovering BOMM

The 8×10 Kodak Master View camera I have been using for the past 13 years was very functional, sturdy, not too heavy and over the years, has never given me any problems. It was a vast improvement over the Burke and James 8×10 I had used prior to it, but there were still a few improvements that I felt were needed.

I gave some thought to trying to modify the Kodak, but quickly rejected that idea, deciding that there must (eventually?!) be a camera with everything I wanted being made by someone, but at the time I didn’t actually make a conscious effort to shop for a new one. After all, I had photographs to make.

In 2017 I noticed a beautiful view camera on Twitter, of all places. It was a 4×5 and built by a company I had not heard of before – BOMM. I didn’t think much of it, but I did follow them, just to see what sorts of cameras they offered.

Back then they were only making 4×5 variations and I eventually (jokingly) asked Massimiliano Acanfora (Max) from BOMM if they built any 8×10 versions. He told me they had not, but would be interested in building one if they had a customer.

I seized the opportunity (on the proviso that they could provide all of the features I wanted).

 

 

A demanding customer? Me? (Part 1)

During my early conversations with Max, I told him I would not be interested in purchasing a camera unless it provided an improvement in functionality over my Kodak. The beauty of the camera was totally secondary for me.

My specific requirements for Max were extensive but in my opinion, important for me to work efficiently in the field:

 

Front standard

  • Rise and fall should utilise geared movement for precise control, and tilt should remain constant when using rise and fall.
  • Tilt must be geared for precise control.
  • Swing and shift could be sacrificed if the front standard would be more solid without these features.
  • I wanted to use Linhof lens boards on this camera. The standard 4×5 lens boards not the larger 5×7 boards.

 

Rear standard

  • Rear tilt and swing must be on centerline axis.
  • Compatibility with 8×10 and 5×7 film backs – the 5×7 specifically must have a Graflock capability for my 6×17 DaYi panoramic 120 roll film back.

 

Bed and bellows

  • I wanted to be able to use my Schneider 72mm XL lens without a recessed lens board.
  • I wanted enough extension in the bellows to be able to use at least a 600mm lens, even though I do not own one….yet.

 

If you’re a large format photographer, you’ll likely understand that many of these features are normally traded off, one for the other in other cameras.

My requirement that the camera would be able to use lenses ranging from very wide (72mm) to very long (600mm) was also potentially also very demanding.

If you’re not a large format photographer then I can probably bottom line it like this: I wanted everything without making any compromises.

Be careful what you wish for…I will address each one and BOMM’s solution individually later.

 

 

Taking delivery

My camera (#12 produced by Max and his partner), arrived on September 12, 2018, and I have used it as often as possible since then. What Max delivered was far beyond my wildest expectations. I have a camera that is portable and sturdy, with all of the functions I need to be able to make photographs that satisfy my creative passion.

It is an instrument that does not require me to compromise, with the icing on the cake being that it is a truly beautiful object created by craftsmen who take incredible pride in their work.

The finish of the camera is flawless.

All of the wood is shiny and polished and so smooth to the touch. Like fine furniture. The metal pieces are the quality of fine timepieces. Focus is smooth and consistent throughout the focus range on all three beds. Opening and closing the camera really amplifies how much thought went into the engineering of the camera.

This camera is a high-end field camera, but it certainly has all the movements of a studio camera – front and rear tilts, front and rear swings, front shift, front rise and fall. It is precise, it is sturdy and it is beautiful. The has many of the same movements, so transitioning to it was easy for me.

From the first image I created (after testing) I have been impressed with this camera. Due to its size, there are times when it is just too windy to use. And because of my over protectiveness, it has not been used in the rain or snow – YET.

 

 

Trade-offs

The functionality does come at some cost, the first in weight. My 8×10 Kodak weighed 14.8 lbs, the BOMM weighs 15.6 lbs. There is also a bit of difference in size when folded closed. The Kodak is 13 ¾ inches wide, the BOMM is 14 ¾. The Kodak is 12 ½ inches tall, the BOMM is 13 ¼ inches tall. And the Kodak is 4 7/8 inches thick and the BOMM is 5 ¼ inches thick.

In return for being about an inch wider, an inch taller, half an inch thicker and a pound heavier, the BOMM V810 delivers an incredible 28 inches (over 700mm) of maximum extension from the film plane to the lens board. That’s 8 inches or 200mm over my Kodak.

The BOMM also includes a couple of features that have proven to be incredibly useful but were never on my radar before. The first is the bellows support. This is a bent wire hidden in between the rails of the camera base that hinges up to prop up the bellows.

This is especially handy when using long lenses. The other feature is the bubble level on the top of the rear standard (where it is most useful). The level has a protective hinged cover that has a mirror inside, so I am able to see the bubbles from behind the camera without using a step ladder to be above the camera.

 

 

A demanding customer? Me? (Part 2)

I noted my requirements (ahem, demands) [LINK PART 1] to Max when discussing this camera with him. They were neither small or inconsequential.

Here’s how Max delivered.

 

Front standard

Rise and Fall – Max engineered a rise for the front standard that uses a knob directly under the lens. Adjusting this knob raises the lens incredibly precisely, and with very little effort.

There is not a lock on this knob, but in using it, it has never changed once I adjusted it. This is better than I could have hoped for. The coarse rise and fall adjustment is very similar to others cameras, except for one really helpful feature: when opening the camera, the lens board is lowered to the lowest position, rotated to the point it is aligned with the front uprights, and then raised to the clearly marked center position. The result of this is that using the coarse rise and fall will not affect tilt.

On the other hand, if you choose to not align the lens board with the standard uprights, the lens board will tilt when the knobs are loosened to coarse rise and fall. I use the first method almost exclusively, except when using the 72mm lens. When using the 72mm, I tilt the front standard uprights toward the back of the camera, and add quite a bit of rise, to move the lens closer to the rear standard, and this allows for the lens board to be vertical. This all works much easier and much more quickly than it sounds here.

Tilt – Max engineered a micro-tilt mechanism for the lens board that is one of the most amazing functions I have seen on a camera. I have never had this feature on any camera before, and it works better than I hoped.

I can make very precise tilt adjustments – on the axis of the lens. I do not have to tilt the standard, then readjust focus, then tilt again, refocus again, over and over again until I decide it is close enough. Even with the very narrow format of 617, I can quickly tilt the lens just enough for sharp focus and then move on. This is my favorite feature.

Swing and shift – Max engineered front swing and shift that is convenient and has strong detents so everything can be quickly returned to zero. When locked down the front standard is very solid.

 

Rear standard

Rear Tilt – On previous cameras, the rear tilt was a base tilt which is annoying to use. When you tilt the back, you have to refocus every time. When the tilt pivots at the center of the image, it is simple to focus the center, then tilt the back to bring the near and far into sharp focus. It is quick to use and Max added detents at zero so it is quick to return to the starting position.

Rear Swing – The rear swing is also on the centerline axis of the film area. One of my previous field cameras had separate locks for each side of the back, and when using would change focus. The BOMM avoids that and makes using the rear swing much more practical.

 

Bed and bellows

Camera Bed (a): Max engineered the front and rear standards in such a way they with very little fiddling, the lens and the back are close enough together that the 72mm focuses at infinity very easily. The bellows being folded up so tightly doesn’t allow for much movement in this configuration, but the lens doesn’t have enough coverage to allow for much movement anyway.

Camera Bed (b): When I asked Max to provide enough bellows draw for a 600mm lens, I knew it would be a stretch (no pun intended). I have not tried yet, but I suspect using a 720mm lens ought to be possible. This was done with a bed design that is ingenious.

The rear standard can move forward for shorter lenses, and to the rear for longer lenses. The front standard rests at the front of its own bed, which moves forward for longer lenses. As a fan of wide angle lenses, I really appreciate how the design of the camera helps me avoid having the front bed in the photo. This happened frequently with the Burke and James and the Kodak, and has not happened even once with the BOMM.

 

 

Making the BOMM V810

EM here. As part of putting this review together, I asked Max if he was able to share any images or even a video of the build. He kindly obliged.

If you’re interested in seeing more of the build, you can check it out right here.

 

 

Lens compatibility

This camera is remarkable for its ability to focus the 72mm lens as well as the 28 inches of available bellows draw. Movements are restricted with the 72mm, mostly due to the bellows being so compacted, but I have not found that to be an issue, and the 72mm barely covers the 617 format anyway.

The 121mm Schneider Super Angulon is a very wide lens for 8×10 and is one of my favorite lenses. The BOMM is a great pairing with this lens. Max’s bed design allows the front standard to be far enough forward that the bed is not in the image and allows the rear standard to move forward to focus. It is easy and quick.

The 240mm Lens is my “normal” lens. When focused at infinity the front bed and rear bed are barely extended. At this extension, the camera moves easily beyond the coverage of the lens. The bellows are more than flexible enough to allow all movements. The camera is very stable.

The 450mm lens is my tele, for now, although it is not actually very telephoto for 8×10. I mostly see photographs in wide angle, so it is plenty long for what I do. I have used this lens more for 617 work than I ever thought I would.

While these lenses are my usual 8×10 kit, Max designing this camera to fit my usual Linhof boards, I also can use my 47mm, 58mm, 65mm, 90mm, 150mm, 210mm, and 300mm that I have for 4×5 though everything wider than 90mm would be problematic due to lens coverage issues.

 

 

Accessories

A large part of my decision to have this camera built was due to Max’s assurance he could build a reducing back that would accommodate my DaYi 617 back. The back I use on this camera is the 5×7 version of the DaYi, and requires a 5×7 Graflock. This was not available for the Kodak. I could have converted to 4×10 for my panoramic work, but the ultimate goal was to be able to shoot my favorite film – ILFORD PAN F PLUS, which is not available in sheet film format. 6×17 format is the closest I could come to shooting PAN F PLUS in large format.

Max truly exceeded my expectations for this back. The Graflok works perfectly and holds the back precisely. He also included 617 framing on the 5×7 ground glass, and as far as I can tell from my tests, the ground glass markings exactly match the resulting negatives. It works easily, and having the view camera movements for the 617 format has really been a joy.

 

 

In the field

One word of caution, and I mean this sincerely. I was somewhat expecting a similar reaction to the BOMM as I used to get with the Zone VI. Folks would be interested and want to see the camera, ask some questions and then move on. The reaction to the BOMM is nothing like that. If you want to fade into the scenery and keep to yourself, the BOMM is not the choice. This camera draws more attention than a movie star on a red carpet.

On my first trip out, I was photographing high in the Snowy Range of Wyoming. It was a weekday, so there weren’t many folks out. It was also breezy and chilly. I was at a viewing area about ¼ mile from the highway, experimenting with the 6×17 back, photographing a range of 12,000-foot mountain peaks.

I heard a car pass on the highway, then the tires screech, and finally the revving of the engine as the car made a u-turn in the middle of the mountain road. Shortly the car pulled up and the couple nearly jumped out to look at the camera. After asking several questions and closely examining the camera, they left me to my work. Neither were photographers, but both commented that they could not believe how beautiful the camera looked.

 

 

Photography with the BOMM V810

You’ll see a few photographs made with the BOMM V810 and lenses mentioned dotted throughout the article to this point. Here are a few more. The “Christmas Card” photograph presented a few challenges, none of which were with the camera in the adverse weather I encountered. The photographer, on the other hand, developed a loud annoying whine before the day was through. Temperatures were in the single digits F, with wind chills well below zero F. I have included both 8×10 and 6×17 format photographs here.

 

 

To conclude

The case that Manuel built for the BOMM is a work of art unto itself. There are padded compartments for the camera and for the reducing back. The camera is personalized for me, including the #BelieveInFilm hashtag and my name on the reducing back. Even the leather straps have red stitching. The attention to detail is incredible, and there is so much detail it takes time to absorb it all. It seems like every time I am using the camera I find something I hadn’t noticed before.

To be very honest, the BOMM was not inexpensive although, in fairness, it was not the most expensive camera I have ever purchased. It was expensive enough that I paused before I spent the money but in return, I have the most beautiful camera I have ever seen, and an instrument that is very well crafted and intuitive to use. I usually have some sort of buyer’s remorse when I purchase expensive things. That is not the case with this camera. This is a purchase I would absolutely do again.

I feel obligated to note that I ordered the camera in November (2017) and received the camera in September 2018. There were times that I was frustrated with the wait, but in the end, seeing all of the had crafting involved in making the camera, the wait time was more than reasonable.

Lastly, and probably most importantly, working with Max on this has been so enjoyable. He is truly a genius, and one of the most talented craftsman I have ever encountered. For him, there is nothing that is impossible, only challenges looking for solutions. I know this camera will outlast me by a long time and will be a tribute to Max for years and years to come.

The journey from conception to completion has been a blast!

~ Craig

 

 

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