Travelwide Wanderlust Camera Modification

01st November 2017

Article for camera users interested in handheld 5x4inch cameras...

I have used Crown Graphic's, Linhof Tecknika's, MPP's and Busch Pressman Model D cameras in the past but always found them too heavy, due to their metal construction, and unwieldy. There are other handheld cameras such as Sinar-Handy and Dayi but these are prohibitively expensive. Each system has their pluses and pitfalls but the Travelwide camera, as described below has been the only camera which I found truly portable and very quick to use...

The Wanderlust Travelwide camera was produced using kickstarter money, monies donated by benefactors who then received a lightweight handheld 5x4inch camera. I was not one of these original funders (not being USA based) but I kept an eye open for funders who wished to sell their cameras afterwards on Ebay.

It is a simple beast made of plastic with a plastic focusing helicord on which you added your own lens most notably a Schneider 90mm Angulon F6.8. This is what I used with my first Travelwide camera but my lens always vignette slightly whenever I used the lens at F11 or F16. It was passable at F22 but often the shutter speed then became too slow and the risk of camera shake came into action.

I swapped this 90mm Angulon with a 90mm Super Angulon. This made the camera larger, the lens also made the camera feel a little top heavy but I used this combination successfully over a year or so. The lens was sharp at F11 and upwards. It then languished in a draw for a year and then I decided to sell it.

For handheld work at this time I used a variety of medium format cameras including Pentax 67ii, Mamiya 645, Bronica 6x6 as well as various folding cameras such as Bessa 2, Hasselblad and Agfa Isolette’s. As with any camera system, none were perfect, compromises were constantly in play and the small frame size always bothered me. I often found he medium format camera also too heavy, or caused camera shake due to mirrors, heavy lens etc…

I was also less fussy with what I took photographs off, so the cheaper film size was used up quicker with ‘filler’shots. No saving at all.

I then had the opportunity to purchase another Travelwide for a reasonable 150euro. It seemed a no-brainer although the seller did admit to the helicord focusing as being wooden. It wasn’t wooden, it was damn-well stiff, very, very stiff. It broke the connecting column which attached the helicord to the camera body immediately. I then saw why the camera was cheap(ish) and even as a paperweight it was useless due to its lightweight! A waste of 150euro or so I thought.

I was wondering what my next option was when I realized that I perhaps missing an opportunity here. I had read online forums that this focussing helicord was a common fault on many Travelwide cameras. (I must say my first Travelwide worked wonderfully). I looked through my other bits and bobs that photographers seem to hoard and found I had an old Mamiya camera lens from a Polariod 600 SE camera with a helicord mount. I then began fiddling around with this, removed the lens (an old 127mm with a non-working shutter) and set about attaching another lens (in this case a Fujinon-w 125mm in an old compur shutter from a Xenar 135mm F4.7 lens). I knew the lens would fit because the Mamiya lens was a copal 0.

I then set about unscrewing and removing internal masks within the helicord as well as the original lens mount. About 20 – 30 small screws later all I had left was the simple helicord. I attached the lens with a retaining ring with a lens spanner. I put the lens/helicord to the body of the Travelwide. I messed around with elastic bands and got the lens unit in place temporarily so I could check the infinity focus and whether a 125mm wouldn’t be too long or too short a focal range. It wasn’t. I measured how much the lens unit had to protrude from the camera body and found it was an almost a perfect fit.

All I had to do now was to attach this to the body of the Travelwide. With great good fortune I found with I used the focusing collar from the original helicord and the rubberised focusing ring (trimmed down by about 8mm) and glued together it would serve its purpose. This was then epoxy-glued inside the lens mount of the camera body. The helicord then fitted snuggly within this (once the glue had set) and was also glued into the lens mount. I think I didn’t even necessarily have to glue this, it was an excellent fit and if I wrapped two elastic bands to the original polaroid mount of the helicord it seemed to stay there. I however wanted something a little more permanent and decided since I had come so far, I may as well glue the lens properly onto the camera lens mount. So this I did!

The camera is, no doubt, larger than if I had simply used the original plastic helicord focussing mount and a 90mm Angulon F6.8 and indeed a 90mm Super Angulon F8 but with such a stiff helicord mount it wasn’t really an option (even with wax helping to loosen the focusing it was still too stiff and liable to break the retaining collar inside the camera).
I also have a less angle of view with a 125mm lens instead of the 90mm – but this can also been seen as a pro. Sometimes a 90mm is too wide, especially for portraits.
Close-focus is about 3 feet, similar to a 90mm which is fine for my use. The helicord focuses in and out approx. 16mm
The depth of field on the Mamiya helicord isn’t spot on obviously but neither is it too far off. It gives a rough guide rather than perfect accuracy but again, this doesn’t bother me too much. I was surprised by how little the depth of field is different. If the 127mm Mamiya lens covered 3 ¼ × 4 ¼inch and the Fujinon-w 125mm covering 4x5inch there isn’t a massive difference. Again, as along as I’m carefully and err on the side of caution, I can use the depth of field lines on the helicord as well as avoiding the focus guesswork normally required due to the slowness of the Angulon lenses.
I have yet to add a fresnal screen to the basic camera ground-glass that comes with the camera. I am uncertain yet what option to take, maybe even try a cheap magnifying Fresnel and stick it to the back of the camera ground glass. We’ll see how I get on with this set up first. The original plastic ground-glass has a bright hotspot which to focus by and I find this adequate for my needs generally speaking.

Mostly the helicord. It is firm and feels proper unlike the original plastic one. I have a little more confidence with this lens too. The F6.8 angulon is dark to focus by, and worse still was the F8 version. The funinon-w is a F5.6 and the bright spot on the ground-glass seems more than adequate for daylight images (which I only be using this camera for).
The main pro however is I have not wasted 150euro and actually have a camera that is now a pleasure to use, that and an unusual focal length lens.
I will add images as they are processed onto this site. This, I know, will be the proof of the pudding!

The epoxy glue will next be sanded down and then I'll either paint over with a matt black or possibly wrap a piece of black rubber around the rim of the camera body.

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