dante stella stories photographs technical guestbook

There's no replacement for displacement.
Brooks Plaubel Veriwide 100


"You want wide? I'll give you wide! "

The Brooks-Plaubel Veriwide 100 is a strange beast. If you need to visualize this item, imagine a large-format (4x5") 47mm f/8 Super-Angulon mounted in a Compur #00 MXV (just like on a Kodak Retina), attached to a focusing helicoid, mounted in turn on a Graflex RH-8 roll back, with a Leica 21mm finder as standard equipment.

Lens. The 47mm Super-Angulon was originally designed as a 4x5 lens, and it was an ultrawide lens in that bracket. On a 6x10 like the Veriwide 100 (55x91mm, rather than the 55x85 typical of the largest 6x9 frame), the lens is equivalent to a 21mm if you are printing to 4x5 or 8x10 proportions and a 19mm if you are printing full-frame. Your first impulse is to grouse about the small maximum aperture, but remember, you can use film that is four times as fast (like Tri-X instead of T-Max 100) without incurring a grain penalty.

The lens and shutter are mounted in a special helicoid (rumored to have been most of the cost of the camera body), which focuses from 2.5 feet to infinity. The helicoid has click stops at 20 feet (hyperfocal distance for f/8, per the scale) and 6 feet (for f/22, per the scale). It may be hard to imagine how you would focus a 47mm lens without a rangefinder or other focusing aid, but remember, this mimics a 21mm lens in every way, even depth of field (the CoC used for medium format is much bigger, so it all evens out). The lens mount has a traditional depth of field scale for all apertures. If you are shooting for hyperfocal, it is best to set the infinity mark on the the left side, one f/stop in from what you have the lens set to. For example, if the lens is set for f/16, put the infinity mark at the line corresponding to f/11. This essentially keeps with the hyperfocal concept, but gives better sharpness with distant objects.

The lens performs adequately for 8x10s at f/8; the optimum is at f/16. This should be no surprise; most lenses peak at 1-2 stops down. For Planars, it's 3 or 4.


Shutter. The Synchro-Compur #00 MXV is similar to the shutter from the Kodak Retina IIa. Synchronization and self-timer are selected by a green lever. The shooting aperture is selected by a red lever (8/11/16/22/32). The Synchro-Compur is a basically sound design, but be very careful that the synch lever is on M or X; the self-timer is completely unreliable and can hang up the shutter in a way that it makes the right noise, but simply doesn't open. An unserviced shutter will run adequately for black and white work.

Finder and composition. Viewfinding and composition is done through a glass brightline finder for close distances (Leica finder, "Veriwide 100 Brooks New York," apparently similar to the finder for the 35mm Leica version of the 21mm Super-Angulon) and a wire frame finder for infinity. The accessory finder is on a mount which is parallax corrected for 2.5, 4.5 and 10 feet. Depending on the vintage, you will either have a bullseye level on the top or two spirit levels on the front. I prefer the bullseye level and a Cosina-Voigtlander 21mm brightline.


Film transport. This is accomplished by lining up arrows on the film backing with an arrow inside the camera, closing the back, and winding until the knob stops at 1. Cock, shoot, wind, stop. After frame 7 it goes to E. As they say, in every life, a little rain must fall. On one hand, the Veriwide 100 had an auto-resetting frame counter, which must have been a really big deal for a MF camera in the 1950s. On the other hand, it can be such a sensitive mechanism (and notoriously so) that you end up just centering the numbers in the counter window (just putting pressure on the top plate will cause it to miss the stop sometimes). Frame spacing is not really an issue, even if you have to guestimate, since the camera leaves almost an entire frame's worth of film at the end of each roll. Just tell yourself that the body is just a light box holding film, and you will be ok...

Conclusion. Cantankerous, sometimes ugly, with a somewhat iffy frame counter, this product gets the job done in the smallest package while delivering huge negatives. Thumbs-up!