Walker Titan XL Review
When I bought my first large format 5x4 camera there was something very charming about using a beautifully crafted wooden field camera. Wooden cameras look great but after a few years of hard usage the charm was wearing a little thin. I was keen to replace it with something a bit more practical.
My main issues were that the wood of the camera expanded in extremely wet weather and focus on extreme wide lenses was very difficult. I love ultra wide lenses and going out and photographing in extremely wet conditions. This wooden camera was locking up and on occasion rendering the camera useless.
The obvious choice of replacement for wood is metal. The Toyo AII looked great but loving my ultra wide lenses I thought it was likely that I might to run into problems using my 47XL which would have to be on a recessed board. After a lot of research I came across the Walker Titan XL range of cameras.
The 'XL' in the cameras name refers to the Schneider XL range of lenses as it is built specifically with the wide XL lenses in mind. When an extreme lens such as the 47XL is mounted on a field camera the depth of field of the image projected on the film is extremely thin making focus issues creep in easily. Keeping the front and rear standard parallel becomes extremely important and the Titan XL excels in this area with its fixed back and precision build.
Initially I had been a little dubious that a camera made of plastic would be strong enough but having now used one for several years I can say with confidence that this it is as sturdy as any of the metal field cameras I have used. It is also by far lighter.
This camera is designed for wide lenses and so has limited movements to ensure the standards stay parallel when required. The only movements available are front rise and fall, front swing and front tilt. Front shift is available as an optional extra and I do now wish I'd added that as it's really handy for small compositional changes. All movements are very smooth and the positioning of the knobs makes for extremely easy adjustments and focusing when under the dark cloth. It's also really easy to zero all movements by touch.
The camera will take a 47XL lens on a flat lens panel. On previous cameras I've struggled with the 47XL with the bellows getting in the way making fine adjustments quite difficult. Not so with the Titan. The 47XL is a pleasure to use on this camera, it will after all accommodate down to 35mm lenses with a recessed board making it a superb choice if you are planning ultra wide 6x12.
Options are more limited on the long end. It will certainly take a 180mm lens but it won't allow you to focus up close. To use anything longer you'd need to get an extension back which would get you to 210mm. For 240mm you'd need an extension back plus top hat panel.
Completely gone are all issues with working in wet weather. This camera is extremely practical, designed to work in any environment or weather condition. For me it's the cameras simplicity that allows me to keep all my attention on the image I'm taking without worrying about controlling the camera. Being a non-folder it's ready to use right out of the camera bag and at just 2kg it's great for hiking.
The wide angle bellows are a kind of combination of normal and bag bellows. I've never once had the bellows intrude on the edge of an image which I've found a common issue with all view cameras I've used when using ultra wides. I'm not certain on the exact specs of the included Fresnel lens but it is as good as I've ever used (previously used a Maxwell HI-LUX Ultra Brilliant Matte 4.7) and the ground glass screen comes with marking for common roll film backs such as 6x12, 6x7 etc.
Overall I can't recommend the Titan XL enough but you do need to be sure that it will do everything you require of a camera. If you are planning on using mostly longer lenses then this is likely not the camera for you. My own lenses range from 47 to 180 which work great with this camera. If I need anything longer in future then I have a 5x4 reducer for my Rittreck 5x7 which will take at least a 360mm lens. There are many other view cameras available with more movements and features and at cheaper price points but after almost 4 years with this camera I still would not swap my Titan XL for any of them. The camera is ideal for backpacking and I've had no problems placing the camera plus lenses in a rucksack for aircraft hand luggage. It's also great to support an independent British camera maker - Mike Walker is always there should you have any issues. Recently I somehow lost one of the front tilt knobs and after a quick email to Mike a replacement swiftly appeared in the post free of charge.
View through ground glass
Walker Titan XL focus with Schneider 47mm XL lens