Last September I finally pulled the trigger on a camera that I'd been eyeing for a while - an Intrepid 5x4. I already have a Crown Graphic, but I wanted something that would give me more flexibility with regard to movements. With the Crown Graphic I don't really use movements, so all you're gaining is the additional film size, and since my Hasselblad is no slouch in the optics department, there didn't seem to be much advantage in using the Crown Graphic over the Hasselblad, despite its smaller film size. The Intrepid would, hopefully, give me more flexibility with movements, as well as being lighter and more compact.
I was fortunate to take delivery of one of the first Mk 2 versions of the Intrepid - I'm just going to give my overall first impressions of the Intrepid, not a full review.
The first thing that strikes you is how light it is. According to my kitchen scales it weighs in at 926g. That's less than my Hasselblad 503CX with WLF and A12 attached. Even with the 90mm Super Angulon attached it is only 1.4kg. And when it's folded it's only marginally bigger and heavier than my Reality So Subtle 5x4 pinhole camera.
I quickly got the hang of setting up the camera and folding it down again. It all seems to be quite straightforward and well designed from that point of view. The only slight snag is that the screw for attaching the front standard to the camera bed is removable. I hope Intrepid sell spares because I can see potential for that getting dropped and lost.
The other potential problem is that the ground glass frame is held on with two black elastic bands. There are black metal sliding catches either side but they don't actually grip the frame - I assume they are for fitting accessories such as roll film backs. So if the elastic bands become loose over time that could be a problem.
From comments that others have made about the Mk1 Intrepid I was expecting the finish to be rough, but I was pleasantly surprised. The finish of my camera is quite smooth - sure there are little imperfections here and there but overall I'm pleased with the finish of my camera.
Movements are quite generous on the front standard. The amount of rise and fall available is actually outside the image circle of my 90mm Super Angulon lens. Front tilt is quite restricted with the 90mm with the standard in the neutral position due to the bellows but can be increased quite a bit if the lens is dropped, and obviously that would be improved dramatically if I mounted the 90mm on a recessed board. A flat board has been fine for me so far though.
There are quite pronounced detents on both the rise/fall and shift which makes it easy to set the camera up in a neutral position but it does mean that you're fighting against the detents when you use rise/fall and shift. I haven't found that to be too much of a problem. From my point of view it's great having axis tilt on the front standard.
I'm sure that if I was used to using a more expensive camera, such as a Chamonix, Shen Hao or Arca Swiss, the movements would probably seem quite crude but as I haven't used any of those the operation of the camera seems fine to me.
There are no back movements, other than front tilt. One very nice feature is the revolving back, which operates quite smoothly. Film holders slide in quite smoothly, although I do worry about how those elastic bands are going to cope after a lot of use.
My first outing with the camera was to the lakes at the head of the Garw Valley, north of Bridgend. This was a perfect place to get to know the camera, it's familiar territory for me and I knew there would be a good chance that I'd be on my own at the top lake as very few people seem to go there.
One problem with a lightweight camera soon became obvious. It was very windy (and very cold) and an extra strong gust of wind blew my tripod over with my brand new Intrepid mounted on it. I'm pretty sure that if it had hit the ground the camera would have been smashed, but thankfully I just managed to catch it in time before disaster struck. Phew! After that I hung my camera bag from the tripod to weigh it down.
The ground glass is brighter than my Crown Graphic, but still not as bright as I would like and that wasn't helped by my focusing cloth being blown all over the place in the wind. Also I need to practice using movements and focusing. I was using extra strength reading glasses to view the screen and that worked quite well, but I might possibly have to invest in a loupe as it was really hard to see whether everything was in focus.
I shot four sheets of Delta 100 and I was reasonably pleased with all of them, but this one was my favourite.
I used a small amount of front tilt to get the foreground and background in focus, a Hitech Firecrest 6 stop filter to smooth out the water a bit - it was very choppy in the wind - and a 2 stop Lee ND grad to darken the sky. Developed in Ilford DD-X.
My second outing with the camera was to waterfall country in the Neath Valley. Again familiar territory, but this time there were other people about, including one couple who stood and watched me with the camera and even took photos of it. I guess that's the only downside to using a camera like the Intrepid - it can become a centre of attention.
This is the Lower Ddwli Falls in the Neath Valley, again with the Super Angulon 90mm (it's the only lens I have that fits the camera at the moment). Also on Delta 100 but this time developed in D76. It was great to be able to rotate the back to be able to take the vertical shot. Something I can't do with the Crown Graphic.
Some other photos taken with the Intrepid over the last few months...
I've enjoyed using the Intrepid and for the price it offers incredible value. Although I haven't used a Mk 1 version from what I've read the Mk 2 is a distinct improvement, especially with the ease of setting up and taking down. Front movements are excellent, if a little unrefined, but definitely worth the modest price.