Review : Intrepid 4x5 Generation II

Here is the 20s version of this article : This camera is a fantastic alternative for an experienced large format user who needs a light weight alternative for backpacking. Inexperienced or people new to large format may get frustrated by lack of precision in some movements.

I'll be honest, both Alex and Ben Horne have done a much better job of explaining various functions of the camera. I would urge you to view those videos in case you are looking for an in-depth review and how to use this camera.  Ben's recommendation as a good light weight field camera has without a doubt helped the sales.

While the generation I of this camera had some serious issues and I agree to most of them, the second generation is very refined. I used this camera for a portrait session and some architectural shots and here are my impressions.

Intrepid Camera 4x5 Generation II at work in our garden

Intrepid Camera 4x5 Generation II at work in our garden


First session at home.


The Good -

  • Rotating back - amazingly clever and simple design and engineering.
  • possibility to use roll film back despite the light weight of the camera.
  • Weight - under 1 kg this is one of the lightest large format camera (4x5) there is.
  • Price - £250. Fantastic for someone to give it a go. I mean you can easily spend more on film and development within a year.
  • Functions - no light leaks, good front axis movements.
  • Novelty factor hence many people buying it. And so the possiility of more film available. Kudos Maxim and Co.

Not so Good -

  • Ground glass is not protected. One must take care while carrying/backpacking
  • Variability is the enemy of manufacturing. There are some tolerance and manufacturing variability issues. Mine was replaced free of cost by Maxim. Check the forums - there are still some issues which need addressing. A 6-sigma study will help iron out quite a few them easily and help make the third generation even better. #Intrepidcameraco give a shout if you need help. As of now you are in the same boat as Tesla motors. One can get away with lots of things gone wrong due to novelty factor. (Yes, I'm an engineer by trade and attribute engineering is my specialization).
  • When you insert the film holder you need to give it a push. This is may mean moving the camera and potentially focus. For my shoots I had all the time so not a problem. However for landscape photography when light is changing fast this could be a problem. It only happened twice so not a huge deal perhaps and potentially user error on my part.
  • Ground glass is good if you have a bright lens and it is a bright day. Anything like f8 and you must invest in a Fresnel lens. There is a good discussion on Intrepid User Group on Facebook.

One must also understand that while the folks at Intrepid are very friendly and passionate about their product this company has grown. That means there will be issues with communication compared to say a year ago. They are also into production stage of their 8x10 and recently moved to a new place. It is great to see the film user base increasing and demand for LF camera going up however Maxim and Co are now very busy - expect delay in your delivery. If you happen to be on the wrong side of the pond this could mean - waiting. For long time.However they are very friendly and often will take care of production variability.

Some more good reviews and information on the internet

Richard Pickup

Alan Brock contemplating selling his Shen-Hao

Steve O'nions uses this camera often for landscape shoot


Some images made with Intrepid camera recently. Using my favorite Ilford FP4+ film at ISO 100, handheld meter and strobes. It was then scanned using Epson V750 and Vuescan.

Intrepid Camera 4x5 Generation II + 210mm/5.6 Fujinon lens. Ilford FP4 developed in Ilfosol.

Intrepid Camera 4x5 Generation II + 210mm/5.6 Fujinon lens. Ilford FP4 developed in Ilfosol.

Intrepid Camera 4x5 Generation II + 210mm/5.6 Fujinon lens. Ilford FP4 developed in Ilfosol.

Intrepid Camera 4x5 Generation II + 210mm/5.6 Fujinon lens. Ilford FP4 developed in Ilfosol.

Intrepid Camera 4x5 Generation II + 210mm/5.6 Fujinon lens. Ilford FP4 developed in Ilfosol.

Intrepid Camera 4x5 Generation II + 210mm/5.6 Fujinon lens. Ilford FP4 developed in Ilfosol.

Circle of life

I've always loved theater. There is a minimalist approach to portray everything. Like an ideograph as the theater, film and opera director Julie Taymor puts it. An ideograph is like a brush painting, a Japanese brush painting. Three strokes, you get the whole bamboo forest.  In her most famous work, "The Lion King", she uses the essence of the story. The circle. The circle of life. Very effectively.

Ever since I saw the Disney movie, "The Lion King", I was hooked. To make images that may evoke emotions. I knew someday when I'm able to afford it I will buy a camera and make pictures. And so it all started when I got the Kodak KB 10. I had fun. Of course buying a film and developing it for small prints was a luxury. I had it for a couple of years and took it to Agra.

Summer 1998. Kodak KB 10. Kodak 400 ISO Color film. Scanned Print. It is amazing this came out so well. The camera has no controls what-so-ever.

Summer 1998. Kodak KB 10. Kodak 400 ISO Color film. Scanned Print. It is amazing this came out so well. The camera has no controls what-so-ever.

Moved to Germany and I graduated to a SLR. EOS 500N. Again, had great fun. Many images. Memories. In particular that of being an exchange student in Germany for masters.

Winter 1999. When I was in Germany as an exchange student one of the popular pop-song was "waiting for tonight" by JLo. It was my dream to be in Paris on the  Millennium eve . Unfortunately this was the evening before. EOS 500N + 28-80mm. Some Neg Film.

Winter 1999. When I was in Germany as an exchange student one of the popular pop-song was "waiting for tonight" by JLo. It was my dream to be in Paris on the Millennium eve. Unfortunately this was the evening before. EOS 500N + 28-80mm. Some Neg Film.

Then I got to know about the slide films and I was hooked. Velvia was magic. Projecting it was the next best thing to be actually there.

Summer 2002. EOS 500N + 28-80mm Kit Lens. Fuji Velvia 50

Summer 2002. EOS 500N + 28-80mm Kit Lens. Fuji Velvia 50

Summer 2002. EOS 500N, 28-80mm Kit Lens, Fuji Velvia

Summer 2002. EOS 500N, 28-80mm Kit Lens, Fuji Velvia

And then the bug of larger film hit me. I went from 35mm to 645, then to 6x6, then to 6x7. And eventually a large format camera with 6x7 back or sheet film (4x5 inches). Interestingly the equipment I carried was often the camera with a waist level finder and a standard focal length for the format. That habit has still stayed with me.

Spring 2004. Pentax 645Nii, 55mm. Velvia. I'm yet to see a view-finder to match this one. A friend once said this is so iMAX like.

Spring 2004. Pentax 645Nii, 55mm. Velvia. I'm yet to see a view-finder to match this one. A friend once said this is so iMAX like.

Autumn 2004. Pentax 6x7, 90mm Lens. Fuji Velvia. Image made as part of my "On the way to work" project. Göttingen.

Autumn 2004. Pentax 6x7, 90mm Lens. Fuji Velvia. Image made as part of my "On the way to work" project. Göttingen.

Spring 2004. Mamiya 645 + 80mm. This was my favorite light-weight travel camera for close to 3 years. And with few Velvia roll films in the pocket I was happy as Larry.

Spring 2004. Mamiya 645 + 80mm. This was my favorite light-weight travel camera for close to 3 years. And with few Velvia roll films in the pocket I was happy as Larry.

Autumn 2005. Taschihara 4x5 Field camera with 6x7 back. Velvia 50. Harz National Park, Germany. Large format camera is like a meditating tool. You get under the dark cloth and can keep refining composition and focus.

Autumn 2005. Taschihara 4x5 Field camera with 6x7 back. Velvia 50. Harz National Park, Germany. Large format camera is like a meditating tool. You get under the dark cloth and can keep refining composition and focus.

Summer 2005. Taschihara 4x5 Field camera with 6x7 back. Velvia 50. Image made as part of my "On the way to work" project.

Summer 2005. Taschihara 4x5 Field camera with 6x7 back. Velvia 50. Image made as part of my "On the way to work" project.

Autumn 2006. Beginning of the end of film use. Or was it? Nikon D80 with 18-70mm Nikkor. Film development started to become expensive and digital cameras cheaper. Hesitant but I started to use digital finally. It was not as good as medium or large format scanned film but so much better than 35mm film scanned.

Autumn 2006. Beginning of the end of film use. Or was it? Nikon D80 with 18-70mm Nikkor. Film development started to become expensive and digital cameras cheaper. Hesitant but I started to use digital finally. It was not as good as medium or large format scanned film but so much better than 35mm film scanned.

Autumn 2006. And finally a L lens (Canon 17-40L) to get the best out of the matching sensor. EOS 5D was a revolutionary camera. First full format sensor with those lovely and fat 12 mega-pixels (more than enough for most people).

Autumn 2006. And finally a L lens (Canon 17-40L) to get the best out of the matching sensor. EOS 5D was a revolutionary camera. First full format sensor with those lovely and fat 12 mega-pixels (more than enough for most people).

Autumn 2007. One of the best thing with EOS 5D (and other canon cameras) was that it allowed to adapt legacy lenses. I bought few interesting lenses. One of my favorite has been 35mm Olympus Zuiko SHIFT. This should would not have been possible with the two-way shift this unique lens allows. I still have that lens and use it once in a while. Image made as part of my "On the way to work" project.

Autumn 2007. One of the best thing with EOS 5D (and other canon cameras) was that it allowed to adapt legacy lenses. I bought few interesting lenses. One of my favorite has been 35mm Olympus Zuiko SHIFT. This should would not have been possible with the two-way shift this unique lens allows. I still have that lens and use it once in a while. Image made as part of my "On the way to work" project.

However cameras kept evolving. EOS 5D was my dream camera for years. I bought it second hand as my first full frame digital camera. Technology though was moving fast. I jumped from Nikon and then to Canon before settling on Sony A7 series.

Spring 2012. Nikon D600 with 24-70 lens. Lake District.

Spring 2012. Nikon D600 with 24-70 lens. Lake District.

Summer 2014. Canon 6D with 45mm TS-E lens.

Summer 2014. Canon 6D with 45mm TS-E lens.

During one of the munro bagging trips in the highlands I realized I need to reduce the weight of the equipment. Climbing and heavy equipment, particularly in countries such as Wales and Scotland does not go well together. This was early 2014. Sony A7 was making waves. It also was the best in terms of adapting legacy lenses. The choice was easy.

Christmas day 2016. Sony A7ii + Loxia 50mm. A match made in heaven.

Christmas day 2016. Sony A7ii + Loxia 50mm. A match made in heaven.

Fast forward to 2017. During annual "clean up" of the garage I found a bag of expired (2005!) black and white Negative film and a few Velvia slides. And it just brought smile to my face. I thought what if? Out comes the old and trusty Hasselblad 500CM with Zeiss 80mm. It was almost a decade ago I had developed or even used film. Instead of the instant gratification and mostly forgotten images, here I was carefully working on compositions. Just 12 exposures I told my wife and was delaying the gratification of "review it on the back LCD". I knew there is something better in store. That moment when it comes alive on the paper in the dark-room. That moment of truth when you think have I loaded it correctly?, Was there any light leak perhaps? or Are these chemicals okay to use? And then you hang it to dry. And keep looking at it...And you know what was missing. 

1st Jan 2017. Hasselblad 500CM + 80mm Planar. Ilford HP5+ ISO400. Developed in Ilford Ilfosol3 1:9 for 7 min.

1st Jan 2017. Hasselblad 500CM + 80mm Planar. Ilford HP5+ ISO400. Developed in Ilford Ilfosol3 1:9 for 7 min.

After all it is about memories. Evoking emotions. From the very first image at the top - which brings back the memories of an endless chat with the best friend on Temblai Hill in Kolhapur to the last one on this page - of walks around the house with my son I cherish.  Both made with simple 50+ year old technology....but 20 years apart. Exactly 20 years after the Disney's enchantment act I was also fortunate to see Julie Taymor's masterpiece live on stage. Circle of life.