Why Use A Compendium Hood
A compendium hood, also known as a bellows hood or a lens hood, is an accessory used with large format cameras like a 4×5 camera. Its primary purpose is to control and block unwanted light from reaching the camera’s lens, causing issues such as lens flare, reduced contrast, and decreased image quality. Compendium hoods are typically more complex and versatile than simple rubber, plastic, or metal lens shades, and they serve several important functions:
(1) Light Control: Compendium hoods are designed to be adjustable, allowing you to precisely control the hood’s angle and position to block specific light sources that might be causing problems in your composition. This level of control is crucial when working with large format cameras, as they often involve carefully composed and focused shots.
(2) Flare Reduction: One of the main functions of a compendium hood is to minimize lens flare. Flare occurs when unwanted light enters the lens and scatters inside, resulting in artifacts like ghosting, reduced contrast, and unwanted reflections. The adjustable nature of a compendium hood allows you to block light from different angles and directions, reducing the likelihood of lens flare.
(3) Improved Contrast: By preventing stray light from reaching the lens, a compendium hood can help maintain the contrast and clarity of your images, especially in situations with challenging lighting conditions.
(4) Versatility: Compendium hoods can be adjusted to accommodate various lens focal lengths and formats, making them versatile tools for large-format photographers who frequently change lenses or formats. This flexibility is not typically found in simple rubber lens shades.
(5) Precision: When using a large format camera, precise composition and control over image elements are crucial. Compendium hoods allow for fine adjustments to block specific areas of light or control the shading of specific parts of the image.
(6) Filter Holder: An additional feature a compendium hood may have is its ability to accommodate square or rectangular filters for all lenses the photographer uses. This results in significant cost savings compared to purchasing filters with specific millimeter-threaded sizes for each lens.
While compendium hoods offer many advantages over simple lens shades, they may require additional setup time. The choice between a compendium hood and a lens shade depends on the specific requirements of your photography. A simple lens shade may suffice if you work in controlled conditions and do not encounter lens flare or stray light issues or have the need to use the same-size contrast filters for black-and-white film photography, neutral density filters, etc. However, when precise control over light and composition is essential, and you use filters on multiple lens sizes, a compendium hood is a valuable accessory for large-format cameras.
Most popular 4×5 camera manufacturers made a compendium hood for their cameras, but not all. Large format camera makers such as Arca Swiss, Horseman, Linhof, and Sinar have hoods available on the used market. If you cannot find a hood for your specific camera, one from a manufacturer other than your camera maker may be modified for use. If not, search eBay for what may be available new from an after-market retailer. This article is about my experience with a new compendium hood made for Ebony cameras by an after-market maker.
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A Compendium Hood Made for Ebony Cameras Is What I Need
I have been an Ebony 4×5 camera user for over twenty years. Ebony Camera made little accessories for its cameras, and adapting some things to Ebony cameras can be a significant challenge. I also shoot a Linhof Master Technica and have appreciated the accessories I can use with this camera, such as various viewfinders and accessories that attach to the back. I have never found the perfect camera for me, but an Ebony RSW with a Linhof back would be my first choice!
If you enjoy shooting 4×5 black and white film like me, eventually you will wander into contrast filter territory, and then you have to figure out what system will work best for setting up, using in the field, and your budget. After spending an embarrassing amount of money on umpteen filters with a variety of millimeter thread sizes, a figure I do not want to try and calculate, I finally concluded to get a compendium hood like I used with my Acra Swiss cameras long ago and a decent set of 4×4 (100mm) contrast filters that will last for the twenty or so years and be done with it. But Ebony never offered one for their cameras, so I went with a LEE Wide Angle Hood with a Filter Frame.
I had been using the LEE wide-angle bellows hood because it attaches to all my lenses with various lens rings, but now the bellows were falling apart from the filter frame. An attempt to glue it back in place turned disastrous. What an expensive mess the bellows and gluing created! The black paint/ink comes off easily when you try to repair it, making it virtually impossible to use again. I looked at what LEE offers today, but after that experience, I decided it was not worth the money this time around.
I found my Arca Swiss compendium hood to be the best solution for lens shading control with filter usage. I had it stashed in my gear closet because I did not want to let go of it when I sold my last Arca Swiss camera years ago. The only problem was it would not attach to the RSW no matter what I tried; it simply would not work. The only way to secure a compendium hood to the RSW is either with lens rings, such as with a LEE Hood like I used in the past, or somehow through the cold shoe on the front standard. Truth be told, I was not 100% crazy about the LEE system because it had limited movement control. I don’t like hanging weight off my lenses, either. So, the hunt was on for me to find a compendium hood that could be used with my RSW and attached via the cold shoe mount.
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Looky Here: An Ebony Compendium Hood!
I spent about six months looking for a compendium hood for my RSW and found one made by clever and inventive folks in China (CN). I had already been using the bellows focusing hood I purchased through them a year ago, and now they were offering a compendium hood made exclusively for Ebony cameras. I placed my order because I already knew the bellows focusing hood was of excellent quality.
Now I understand that shipping the hood to me will come by ship and truck, which will take some time. I have the patience, but I do not understand why they advertise “4 available / 2 sold” when, in actuality, they do not have any in stock or what I would call: ‘available.’ After a week of placing my order, the tracking information still did not show up on my eBay purchase page. I decided to contact the seller to ask why it had not shipped and if the arrival time I was given at purchase would happen. No, it would not arrive as quoted before and after the purchase.
This is my only beef with buying from this seller. They are always responsive and polite, but as they explained to me this time (because I asked them directly), it has to be made before it can be shipped. So I asked why they advertise items as ‘available’ when, in fact, they are made to order. Their answer was this: this is how we do it. If this way of doing business bothers you, I suggest you contact them before purchasing to ask specifically when they think the item will ship. In all honesty, I would still have bought it if they had stated on the auction page “made to order,” as I cannot find anyone else selling a similar product, and adapting a compendium to the RSW was not something I could come up with.
I ordered the hood on October 5th, which was delivered on October 28th. That is a short wait time, with all things considered, but I was initially told it would arrive around October 15th. Am I happy with it? Absolutely!
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Metal, Carbon Fiber, Synthetic Fiber Cloth & More
This is a quality product made from, according to the seller and my observations, two layers of synthetic fiber cloth with a special coating to avoid light leakage; the front & rear frames and connecting standards are made of metal; the rails are carbon fiber, lightweight and excellent quality with too many screws for my usage (more about this below). It connects to the cold shoe (image #2 above) with a heavy-duty mechanism made of hardened metal that holds the carbon fiber rail system (image #3 above). It comes with a one-year warranty and was worth the cost and the wait time. Here is a link to the eBay seller’s shop (ecbuyonline2008). Do a store search to see if they are still offering them.
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Overkill in photography equipment is not bad unless it gets in the way. Having been a Linhof camera user for many years, I can attest to liking overkill but getting frustrated when it gets in the way. Do not get me wrong, I love my Linhof 4×5 field camera, but sometimes, the tightness of the design and its overall weight from its superbuilt quality has made shooting more difficult. If you shoot with a Linhof field camera, you might learn it can sometimes get in the way.
While this compendium hood made for Ebony cameras is near perfect, there are too many screws for me. Could you look at numbers #1 & #2 in the first image above left? You must remove those tiny screws from the rail tips to slide the hood onto the rails. It will be fine if you do not take the hood apart for transport. But that does not work for me as my RSW kit is a landscape and architecture kit that needs to be set up and broken down quickly and cleanly on location. To break it down, remove the small screws on the rail tips so the rails and cold shoe attachment will slide off the hood. This is not a folding hood like the Hasselblad 6093T, but one that breaks down similarly to my previous Arca Swiss hood, but not 100% exactly, as the Arca Swiss hood has only one central rod, and its own unique attachment gadget for use on Arca Swiss front standards.
Also, in picture one above, screw #3’s job is to tighten one of the rails to the hood, but the hood I have is not loose at all. Pushing the hood down the rails takes a bit of oomph, so that is another unnecessary screw, at least for my hood, it is. If this changes over time, I placed the screws in the small plastic bag alongside the Allen wrenches it came with and then stowed it inside the original box. And this goes in my gear closet for safekeeping and organization.
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My Set Up
One thing about using filters I want to avoid, especially when using a compendium hood out in the landscape, is to expose my filters on the outside of the hood. The best-designed compendium hood I have used in my career is, by far, the Hasselblad 6093T. I bought an extra one to see if it could be modified for my RSW, but it could not. What is so lovely about the 6093T for me is (1) the rear filter tray for 4×4 filters, (2) the ability to screw on threaded filters with the hood installed, (3) the ability to rotate a polarizer with the hood installed, and (4) how it folds for transport–it has it all! Notice I said rear filter tray.
If you are going to subject your filters to incoming light by placing them outside the bellows in the front filter slot, why even bother using a bellows hood in the first place? The front filter slot is best used to hold specially designed masks when using longer lenses. This compendium hood does not have a rear filter tray or filter holder, but it rotates up and out of the way so you can install filters on the lens or in a filter holder you place on the lens. I use the LEE filter holder that was part of the LEE Wide-Angle Hood I used prior. It’s a good thing I had all the lens rings I need, as it is an expensive system today if I had to start over. eBay is good for finding used items like LEE adapter rings.
My setup is simple:
(1) set the hood up and extend the bellows towards the end of the rails,
(2) attach the hood via the cold shoe on the front standard and raise it up,
(3) attach the LEE filter holder to the lens with the brass knob down (image #2 above),
(4) lower the hood over the lens + LEE filter holder,
(5) insert the filter.
Because the hood I have does not easily move across the rails, I pull the bellows out before attaching them to the front standard (image #3 above). After it has been secured, I then adjust it as needed. Also, your filter holder must be loaded from the side because of the rails above, but you can raise the hood to adjust the filter holder for filters that must be in the vertical position (i.e., grad ND filters), and once it is where you need it to be, lower the hood. Even though the Arca Swiss hood I used for many years only had one rod that held it to the top of the front standard, it also required filters to be loaded sideways, which is easy.
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Using & Stowing
Image #1 above shows a side profile of the compendium hood installed on my RSW with the Nikkor 75/5.6 lens and LEE filter holder in place. The rear of the compendium hood has a 4″ circular opening that will fit around the lens when the filter holder is not used. The front filter holder will not hold 4×4 (100 mm) filters as it is 110 mm in width.
Image #2 shows the hood on the camera and the contrast filters I use the most for 4×5 black-and-white film photography: LEE 4×4 polyester filters in frames.
Image #3 above shows my compendium and filter kit for my Ebony RSW. Happy to say the hood, as I use it (without the three screws), weighs just 7.4 ounces on my kitchen scale. The total weight in my Porta Brace puffy bag with filters in its pouch and LEE filter holder in its pouch comes to 16.1 ounces; let’s call it one pound. Overall, I am happy with this product and wish I found it sooner.
I saved the front pocket of my backpack for just this very thing when and if I could find one. It fits easily in there with room to spare.
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Pros & Cons
- made for Ebony cameras
- lightweight considering durability
- you can raise it up and out of the way when installing/removing lens filters/holders
- breaks down quickly
- does not have its own filter tray or holder
- made to order and shipped from CN
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