Ever wondered what it takes to break a wooden field camera?

Here’s a method which I find works:

a) Put the camera (in this case, my Intrepid 4×5 Mark II) into a backpack, with additional packing provided by a laptop cushion.

b) With the backpack on your back, start walking down a muddy bank at the coast

c) Fall on to your back, allowing your legs to go in strange directions, resulting in a knee injury

d) Slide a few yards but come to a stop before going over a cliff ….

This method is most effective if, like me, you weigh around 16 stones as a less weighty body might not provide the necessary force to smash the camera.

That’s what happened to me two days before Xmas, at Howick in Northumberland. You can see the resulting damage in the image above – the base section has been pushed upwards (not helped by being attached to a hefty Kirk hexagonal-to-Arca Swiss tripod adapter); the rear standard has split and the metal supports bent. That only leaves the front standard as a major component that escaped damage, so a repair is not viable.

After some consideration, I’ve ordered another Intrepid to replace it. The Mk II has been replaced by the Mark III so I’m waiting for a Mark III, with red bellows.

It might seem strange to order the same (almost) camera as a replacement after the camera failed to withstand this accident. However, I’m not really sure that any other wooden camera would have fared much better and it’s better to ruin a £250 wooden camera than a £1,000+ plus wooden camera. A metal camera might well have survived but I would be carrying 3 or 4 times the weight on every outing.

I did look into buying the Chroma Camera as an alternative, which is a lightweight acrylic camera with a similar weight and price point, but that camera is currently only available to those who committed themselves to it’s Kickstarter campaign – and I didn’t do that because I already had the Intrepid.

So I’m currently without a large format camera whilst I wait for a new Intrepid – the company are currently quoting a 6-week delivery time. A very kind member on the Talk Photography forum offered me the loan of a Wista 4×5 but I politely declined on the grounds that I had neglected my other cameras since I purchased the Intrepid so now I would have a chance to use them. As it happens, I’ve hardly taken any photos at all since the accident since the resulting damaged ligaments in my knee have put paid to non-essential outings.

I should point out that I’m a clumsy oaf with a record of breaking things. I still believe that the Intrepid is strong enough for everyday use but falling on top of the camera and dragging it along the ground isn’t a fair test for most cameras.

I did manage to take a couple of photos before the accident – so here’s my last images with the Intrepid 4×5 Mark II, taken with Fuji Velvia 50 in a 6*9 roll film back, and home developed in the Tetenal E6 kit:


  1. Blimey! Glad you’re (mostly) ok. As much as the injured knee and broken camera must pain you, at least you didn’t go over the cliff!

    Thankfully, the worst I’ve had happen was falling flat on my face while walking down a steep hill. Other than a few thistle stings and a slightly painful ankle, the only injury was to my prise. 🙂


  2. Kevin, you should contact Max at Intrepid. I’m sure he’d do something to repair or replace the broken parts. I lost one of the locating screws on my MkI kickstarter camera, ordered a replacement and was sent a set along with a pin badge without even being charged postage. When I queried it with Max he basically said it was part of the service and his business ethos to repair cameras ‘for life’.


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