The optical part probably looks familiar enough. Cambo has taken the highly acclaimed Nikkor PC 4.0/19 and made it available for use on Cambo WRS and Phase One XT cameras. The lens has been rehoused and fitted with a controller for the electronic aperture. The image circle is large enough to cover the sensor of an IQ3/IQ4 digital back and still permit about 4mm of shift. The edge-to-edge sharpness is excellent and would make this wide angle lens the perfect addition to your workflow.
The ACTAR-20 is the latest addition to the extensive line of Cambo lenses available for use on the Actus view cameras. The distortion of this new lens is very low and the optical quality meets the requirements of the latest generation of Mirrorless Cameras. The ability to use filters was greatly missed on both the ACTAR-15 and ACTAR-19, but the new ACTAR-20 features an 82mm filter thread which allows for their use with this wide angle lens.
With 14 book publications behind his name and over three decades of experience as a chef, we may well consider Heinz von Holzen an authority on Indonesian food. During his entire professional career Heinz managed to combine his passion for authentic food with a passion for photography.
It probably all started with a strong desire to keep moving and discovering new things. As a youngster Swiss born Heinz von Holzen aspired a career as an engineer. He soon got bored sitting behind a desk and found a position as an apprentice cook. Working as a chef at various first class hotels in Europe, Australia and Asia gave him the opportunity to see the world and along the way his camera has been his travel companion. Heinz developed the good practice of visually documenting the recipes he created. Especially after he had started working in Singapore. “It was then in Singapore that I became hooked on photography, which allowed me to visually document many great dishes that we prepared.” And he didn’t settle for mediocre results, not in cooking nor in his photography.
Working as a chef in Singapore, Heinz was asked to become the executive chef of the new Grand Hyatt at the Isle of Bali. Shortly after his arrival, now 32 years ago, Heinz by chance met a publisher. He was impressed by Heinz’ food shots and encouraged him to publish his first book on Balinese cuisine. It became a success and many would follow.
After 4 ½ years at the Grand Hyatt Bali Heinz decided to resign. Together with his wife Puji, he set up a company specializing in commercial photography, advertising and food consulting. The photographing chef now had become a professional photographer. However, he wasn't happy, as he enjoyed photography a lot less now it had become his bread and butter. So he went back to his first passion, food. This resulted in the opening of Bumbu Bali, a restaurant and cooking school, which was soon followed by a second restaurant and a small hotel.
A good chef remains inquisitive throughout his career and Heinz’ photography has probably benefited greatly from his investigative nature. “During the past 32 years I was utmost fortunate to be able to travel extensively across Indonesia. Whenever I got stuck with answers about food in a specific part of Indonesia, I searched for a reliable contact in that region. Next I purchased a ticket, flew to this region and spent some time with the experts, home cooks, at markets, ceremonies, kitchens, road side food stalls and cooked, wrote recipes and took lots and lots of photos.
All this would not have been possible without the full hearted support of my family and the teams in our restaurants.”
To photograph the beautiful landscapes he travels and the venues he visits, Heinz acquired a Cambo WRS system with a Phase One digital back. His favorite tool to document the dishes he creates is the Cambo Actus-G paired with a Leica SL2 and ACTAR-90 lens. Complemented with Cambo’s adapter to enable the use of Mamiya RB/RZ lenses. “What I love most about the Actus and shooting food is the tilt and shift capabilities and with it the great DOF. Simply amazing. No need for photoshop. Yes the system is slow, but offers photography pure. Then again, when combined – as in my case – with a Leica SL2 body, it gives you total control over your picture.”
Heinz was introduced to the Cambo brand by Warren Kiong, owner of Primaimaging. A valued Cambo partner who has decades of experience in representing professional brands from his beautiful Jakarta based studio. As Heinz expresses his appreciation: “We are incredibly fortunate here in Indonesia to not only have a distributer of all Cambo products, but also an owner gentleman behind prima-imaging which does an amazing amount of extra work for the photographiccommunity. Absolutely nothing is too much, and their fast expertise and know-how in high-end camera gear is extremely useful when questions or challenges arise.”
It seems appropriate to end with one of Heinz von Holzen’s recipes here. Thank you for sharing this with us Heinz.
Frequently here at the Cambo USA office we get asked questions that go something like this:
“I’m considering buying an Actus, and I don’t know what lenses to look for. What can you recommend?”
For anyone who has used an Actus (or have spoken with us at length) know that this is a very loaded question. Because there are so many different configuration options (and due to the nature of being able to adapt several hundred if not more legacy lenses to the system) it’s sometimes hard to quantify which lenses are going to work best for what system.
Without getting too technical, the answer to the compatibility question mostly relies on the Flange Focal Distance (FFD) of your camera body of choice when compared to the same measurement from your lens of choice.
FFD is the distance between the image plane (image sensor) and the front of the camera interface (mount or bayonet).
This measurement can also be known as: “Ahhhh why did this helpful article suddenly become all about math?”.
Generally speaking, for the greatest number of users, the Actar series of lenses will be a great starting point. These lenses were designed to offer the widest amount of usage across many different camera types. The only exception to this rule would be of course the Actus DB for digital backs (which is a whole other conversation in itself) because unless you are using a back with an electronic shutter, there is no way to trigger the capture process with these lenses.
“I see there is a ______ lens adaptor, can I use it on my camera?”
To make things a little clearer, please reference the below PDF for a general list of what modern or relatively available lenses could work to fit your needs. Or download a copy for yourself here.
This is not an end all list, because of the sheer number of lenses available that could possibly work. However, this should give a pretty basic starting point for looking at which options may be the best for your needs.
This 2nd part of my examination of the Cambo Actus GFX system focuses (literally) on the lens tilting functionality. The tilting lens stage allows the photographer to alter the plane of focus, usually to match the plane of focus with the subject, to achieve better depth of focus with near-to-far subjects, or with macro focus situations.
The Cambo Actus technical camera system allows the front lens stage to tilt, altering the plane of focus to match the subject.
This lens tilt takes advantage of the Scheimpflug principle, a geometric rule that describes the orientation of the plane of focus of an optical system (such as a camera) when the lens plane is not parallel to the image plane.
Tilting the lens such that the desired plane of focus intersects the plane of the lens, and the image plane at one point, known as the Scheimflug intersection, is the core function of the Scheimpflug principle.
Arranging the lens tilt so that the desired plane of focus intersects with the image plane, and the lens plane, at the same point, allows for enhanced focus along that focus plane without resorting to extra small ƒ-stops, and in most cases achieves sharper focus in the desired area. The following image illustrates how this works in practice. The first image has the lens plane parallel to the camera back, and the result is a limited depth of field that is particularly troublesome for near-to-far subjects…
Here the back of the camera and the lens plane are parallel in a normal orientation—the focus is on the guitar pick which is very close to the lens—the focus falls off into the distance.
The second image has the lens tilted forward so that the lens plane intersects the plane of the face of the guitar, and the back of the camera—the result is an illusion of infinite focus or extended depth of field, even at a wide open ƒ-stop…
Here the lens has been tilted forward enough that the plane of focus matches the face of the guitar, and we have perfect focus along the whole length of the guitar, near-to-far.
The beauty of the medium format, mirrorless FUJIFILM GFX is that focus peaking in the electronic viewfinder makes the chore of determining the best angle for the lens easy—just tilt the lens until the red highlights show up along the edges in the image!
Besides the obvious application here in the still life above, subtle lens tilts can work wonders in ultra-close-up macro photography. This is something the Cambo Actus system excels at…
The Cambo Actus GFX with the 90mm Actar lens is ideal for extreme macro work. Small lens tilts can greatly enhance the apparent depth of focus at closer than 1:1 magnification distances.
Here the lens has been tilted to place the focus across the plane of the flower center. Closing down the ƒ-stop just a bit extends the depth enough that all of the petals are also tack sharp!
There is nothing quite so luxurious as a view camera for macro photography, and the Cambo Actus GFX is a joy to use with extremely precise geared focus movements along the extended rail—the focus peaking of the FUJIFILM GFX is fantastic for nailing the focus.
The Scheimpflug principle also has application in landscape photography…
Here I’m setting up a shot with foreground rocks leading up to the lighthouse—an extreme near-to-far composition.
The foreground rocks are only 24 inches from the front of the lens with the light house over one hundred feet away.
There is no way to achieve this level of depth of focus in a single capture without the use of a tilting lens stage.
While it is possible to capture several shots with differing focus depths, and merge them using focus stacking, the look of the Scheimpflug capture achieves a subtle “standing in the scene” kind of feel that just works better for this type of image!
Here is a short video showing another shot from the same day of shooting…
The Cambo Actus with the FUJIFILM GFX is truly the ultimate technical camera for demanding photography in architecture, still life, and landscape applications. While the system is not cheap… roughly $2,795.00 for the Cambo Actus, another $1000 – 1700 or so for a large coverage view camera prime lens, and you’d still need to purchase the FUJIFILM GFX body ($6499.95 from B&H) , if you are looking for the ultimate technical system, this is it!
I was able to borrow the system for a only a week, and had limited time to work with it, but I really enjoyed working with the system. This camera inspired many ideas for photographs that I would like to pursue at some point in the near future. In the meantime, here is a gallery of images from my testing—click on the thumbnails below to see larger images! You can find out more about the Cambo Actus system of cameras, available with adapters for Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Fuji-X, from their website here: https://www.cambo.com/en/actus-mini/cambo-actus-mini-view-camera/
Once again a huge thank you to Lee for his very in depth review. To purchase a Cambo Actus GFX or any of the many other Cambo products, please visit Cambousa.com/dealers to find the Cambo dealer nearest you.!
I recently had the opportunity to test the Cambo Actus technical camera with the FUJIFILM GFX—this was very exciting for me because I could renew my experience with view cameras in a new digital configuration! The Cambo Actus is essentially a view camera front end to just about any digital camera that gives the serious photographer the ability to use full lens tilt & shift with back shift.
The Cambo Actus consists of a front lens board with tilt/shift on a rail system with a bag bellows that connects the front lens to the back board using a clever magnetic attachment.
The Cambo Actus system uses large image circle view camera or enlarger lenses connected to a digital camera body through a bag bellows and a body adapter back standard. Basically replacing a view camera film holder with a digital camera body. I had the system set up for the amazing FUJIFILM GFX, a medium format 50 megapixel camera, and had an Actor 24mm & 90mm lens to test the full tilt/shift capabilities of the system.
The shifting function of this type of camera system is primarily used in architectural photography to control perspective convergence. This was how we had to work before the days of Photoshop and Lightroom lens corrections. The idea is to keep the camera back perfectly vertical and use the shifting back to get the top of a building in the shot. A carpenter’s bubble level is very useful to square up the camera…
Here is a short video where I show the process with the Cambo Actus and FUJIFILM GFX…
I was using the Actar 24mm with is fairly wide angle for the GFX medium format camera.
Here you can see the perspective convergence in the building behind me. It was actually much more severe in the un shifted GFX shot—it makes the building look like its leaning backward!
Sometimes when the image is perfectly corrected with all the lines parallel, it can look a little off, like its over corrected. You might have to deliberately under-correct (allow for slight convergence) to make it look right…
The shape of this building still looks a little strange, even though it is technically correct.
The shifting back of the Cambo Actus is also extremely helpful when stitching multiple shots together to get undistorted wide angle shots! I took advantage of the horizontal shift to capture a shot of the Ames Free Library in Easton Massachusetts when the best vantage point for the building was too close to show enough of the scene.
Instead of panning the camera, I shifted the back left to right to get 3 shots of the scene.
Shifting the back of the Cambo Actus allows for perfect alignment with the building, so all the lines are parallel, and multiple shots blend together seamlessly with no effort. The image below shows the individual shots shifted to the extremes of the extra large image circle…
This sequence shows the extreme shift inside the image circle of the lens!
The result after merging in Lightroom/Photoshop…
I added a better sky into the merged scene in Photoshop, but the panorama merge was done in Lightroom.
The Cambo Actus system is definitely the big boy way to shoot architecture, but the camera has many other applications that take advantage of a tilting lens! Stay tuned for part two of my exploration of the Cambo Actus GFX where I look at achieving infinite depth of field effects with a tilting lens!
The ACTAR series now consists of 5 lenses! Joining the existing ACTAR-24 and ACTAR-60 we now are pleased to announce the addition of the ACTAR-80, ACTAR-90 and ACTAR-120.
Designed exclusively for use with the ACTUS camera system, these lenses come pre-mounted to an ACTUS Lens Board and ready to use.
Actar 90/Actar 90
Cambo’s ACTAR-80 and ACTAR-90 are 80mm and 90mm standard lenses, dedicated to the Cambo Actus series. Both will focus at infinity in combination with mirrorless camera bodies as well as DSLR bodies. Both ACTAR-80/90 lenses are ideal for product photography, including fashion, food and jewelry.
An extensive image circle of 85 to 90mm, allows for horizontal shifts over more than 20mm each side when using a full frame (24×36) sensor in either landscape or portrait mode. The optical design of this lens is a 7 element, of which all lenses are multicoated to achieve the best contrast.
Cambo’s ACTAR-120 is a macro lens with a focal length of 120mm, dedicated to the Cambo Actus series. It will focus until infinity in combination with all mirrorless and DSLR camera bodies. The ACTAR-120 is a lens which is primarily designed for an optimal performance at close-up range, between 1:1 and 1:10. Nevertheless, this lens can also be used for general purpose photography. The design of this lens is build of 6 elements, of which all lenses are multicoated to achieve the best contrast.