About Mike's Equipment

My field equipment selection has evolved over time to best meet the conflicting requirements of maximum stability with minimum weight. I am currently using a modified Ebony SV45Ti 4x5 folding camera made of mahogany and titanium, with five Rodenstock and Fujinon lenses ranging in focal length from 90 to 450 mm. A Better Light Super6K-HS scanning back is powered by a nine-hour lithium battery and controlled by a lightweight Sony Vaio TZ198 laptop that also has a nine-hour battery life. Everything fits neatly into a backpack from ThinkTankPhoto that weighs 26 pounds complete. A Gitzo carbon-fiber tripod and leveling head provide lightweight yet extremely stable support. The camera and tripod together weigh just ten pounds, and I occasionally have to tie down this assembly to the additional weight of the backpack to prevent it from blowing over in the wind.

One unique characteristic of the scanning back is its ability to capture seamless panoramic images of any horizontal extent by rotating the entire camera while the image sensor remains stationary behind the center of the lens. This is the modern equivalent of the classic Cirkut panoramic cameras that moved a strip of film past a narrow slit as the camera rotated, but with far more precision and capability. Panoramic operation requires an additional motorized turntable that mounts between the camera and tripod, and I carry this in a small shoulder bag when I want the option of making panoramic photographs.

Back in the studio, I use an HP 8740w laptop workstation with a state-of-the-art RGB LED backlit display to review and edit my photographs. Prints are made with an HP Z3200 44 inch wide-format inkjet printer that features built-in automatic calibration and profiling of individual media.


Close-up of modification made to the Ebony SV45Ti to improve stiffness
Four added screws (arrows) lock the rear standard shift/swing plates together
Camera loses these movements, but becomes rock-solid even with full rear rise


Mike at Aguereberry Point, Death Valley, January 2010
Dark cloth is used to block the wind; tripod is anchored to pack
Photo courtesy of Reg VanDrecht (made with his Better Light system)


Pack with laptop and dark cloth removed
Everything is easy to access and put away
Dark cloth and laptop stack on top of camera


Everything set up and ready to use
Control box and battery remain in the pack
Laptop controls scanning back via USB cabl