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Inside a View Camera

Camera Parts | Camera Movements

Big negatives... creative control... photographers love using view cameras. Unlike a standard 35mm camera, the lens and film plane of a view camera are adjustable. These adjustments can change the point of view, plane of focus and even the shape of the objects being photographed.

View camera

A lens admits light rays to the camera, and causes them to converge at the film plane and create the image. Lenses are interchangeable and come in a range of sizes, each with its own properties.

The front and rear standards are connected by a lightproof bellows, designed to let the two standards move independently.

Film Plane
The film plane is the place within the camera where the ground glass and a sheet of film alternately sit. Light coming into the lens is focused at the film plane -
also called the focal plane.

Ground Glass
The rear standard holds a piece of ground glass, which has a matte, light-diffusing surface. It sits at the film plane when a film holder is not in the camera, and the lens projects the image onto it -- upside down. The photographer composes and focuses the upside-down image on the ground glass, using the loupe to check sharpness.

Front Standard
The front standard holds the lens, mounted on a lens board. It is designed to tilt, swing, or shift the lens into various positions.

Rear Standard
The rear standard holds the film holder, and contains the ground glass. It is designed to tilt, swing, or shift the film into various positions.

The front and rear standard are mounted on and move along a rail or flatbed. Rails offer more flexible movement, but flatbeds make the view camera more portable.


Tripod, from the Greek words for "three" and "foot," is a three-legged stand for holding the camera.


Dark Cloth
Photographers put a cloth over their heads and the rear standard while composing and focusing an image, to block outside light from the ground glass. Most often, the cloth is dark, though Ansel Adams used a white one to keep himself cooler when working in the desert.

Magnifying loupe

A loupe is a small magnifying eyepiece used to see if the image is focused on the ground glass, before the film holder is inserted.

Light meter

Light Meter
Light meters measure light and indicate the correct exposure. Types of meters include simple analog devices, spot meters, and flash meters that measure light from artificial sources.

Cable release

Cable Release
A flexible piece of wire, the cable release is used to trigger the lens' shutter and take the photograph.

Sheet film holder

Film Holder
A film holder holds two sheets of film, one on each side, protected by a dark slide. When a film holder is inserted in the camera, it displaces the ground glass, holding a sheet of film at the film plane -- in the same position the ground glass occupied during focusing.

Camera Parts | Camera Movements

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