Cambo WRS 1600 Review

I recently rented the Cambo WRS 1600 from Capture Integration.  I had already bought my Phase One through them, and they were really accommodating to me while I was trying to figure out what solution I wanted for a technical camera.

For those unfamiliar with what a technical camera is, it is basically a camera that allows the lens and the sensor to shift in relationship to each other.  While there are many applications for it, I particularly like it because it is so useful for architecture.

 Cambo WRS 1600, Schneider 35mm Apo-Digitar XL lens, Phase One IQ 150 Back

Cambo WRS 1600, Schneider 35mm Apo-Digitar XL lens, Phase One IQ 150 Back

Years ago, I had developed my business specializing in Architecture and Interiors.  Since I really like people, I branched out to working more with portraiture and advertising, but I still love architecture and spaces.  Ideally, I am shooting a person in a space.  Oftentimes, photographers neglect the space and the environment by only focusing on the person, but I really like getting the space ready and then adding the person naturally to the space such that they complement and complete each other.

Also, one of the (many) reasons I chose to buy a Phase One was because I could use the amazing sensor with the XF body when I wanted to shoot portraits, but then I could easily detach it and move it to a technical camera when I wanted.  Also, I use shifts and rises often in my personal work, so is great to have that capacity with the quality I need.

Gear Used

In order to round out the Cambo system, I used my Phase One IQ 150 digital back and a Schneider-Kreuznach 35mm f/5.6 Apo-Digitar XL lens.  While the back is current, this lens is an older discontinued lens.  It works great on the 50MP back that I am using; however, if a client required higher resolution, I would use the Rodenstock 32mm f/4 Digaron-W lens with the Phase One 100MP back.  But, as already stated, the Schneider lens worked just fine for my tests.

 Cambo WRS 1600, Schneider 35mm Apo-Digitar XL lens, Phase One IQ 150 Back

Cambo WRS 1600, Schneider 35mm Apo-Digitar XL lens, Phase One IQ 150 Back

Body Rotation

The big selling point of the WRS 1600 over the other models is it's ability to move into the vertical position without having to remove the back, exposing the sensor to the elements.  This is great to help reduce dust and debris, but is also very nice when it starts to rain, which was the case for both days of the test.

Other than that, the WRS 1600 has similar gears to the WRS 1200/1250.  I found that even though they sometimes feel like they would easily move, they were mostly very stable.  Even when pressure was applied to the digital back, it would still usually stay in place.  That being said, I can see why some photographers would still spend the extra money to get the WRS 5000.

I did see some issues when I had to stitch images together.  In the normal position, the horizontal shift knob is firmly connected to the part of the body attached to the tripod. However, in vertical position, the knobs switch roles and the horizontal knob is now the knob attached to the moveable plate.  I have noticed that in the vertical position when stitching images, there is sometimes a bit of vertical movement when applying pressure on the horizontal knob.

 Stitch test with two vertical shots at -15mm and +15mm horizontal shift.

Stitch test with two vertical shots at -15mm and +15mm horizontal shift.

Wooden Grips and Portability

Another thing that surprised me was how much I wanted a better grip.  I had contemplated only getting the WRS 1200 since I figured it would live on my tripod.  Why would I need to spend all this extra money on wooden grips if I'm not planning on shooting hand held?  Well, I really want them now.  After carrying the camera around all day for two days, I realized it would be worth the extra grips just to make sure my hand didn't cramp taking it from shot to shot.  

As an aside, I was impressed by how small and light the whole system was.  I am used to hauling large format systems around, so this was quite pleasant.  Apart from backpacking into the deep wilderness, the size and weight is not really an issue, even if I were to go up to the larger models.

Accessories

There are a couple of things relating to accessories that I wanted to bring up:

  • Flash - A flash can easily be triggered from the PC port on the digital back itself.  It was really easy.
  • Viewfinder - There are optional viewfinders for each of the focal lengths available for the system.  While I didn't have one with me, I really wish I did.  It is much harder to find just the right angle using live view.  The viewfinder would make the workflow much faster.
  • Arca-type mounting plate - The WRS 1600 came with an Arca-style plate, but the other models don't.  Everything I have is Arca-style, so this was very convenient.  I wish this was standard on all of them, but it isn't.

Conclusion

Overall, I was really impressed with the system.  I think I would prefer the WRS 5000, but I would completely understand why someone would feel comfortable sticking with this system.  It really is a quality system that would tolerate years of professional use.

TL;DR

Pros:

  • Quality Construction
  • Light weight and small
  • Easy to use and get into position
  • Very modular and easily expandable

Cons:

  • Shifting not as good in vertical position
  • Not very ergonomic (which was surprisingly important)