View Full Version : which 4x5 camera for architecture?
I´m trying to start in architecture photography and thinking about buying the equipment. I´ve been looking for 4x5 field cameras on ebay and saw that Linhof color kardan and Sinar Norma are the like low budget cameras from two great brands. Can anybody tell me an opinion about wich of this cameras would be better for architecture photo?
thank you very much for the answers,
I would opt for the Sinar. It is now low-budget because it is old, but it was very well made and many examples in nice condition still exist. The Sinar was the first fully modular camera, you can add and exchange components to do all sorts of work. Outgrowing it is unlikely. By contrast, the Linhof, though a well-made instrument, is not nearly as versatile.
As already stated its one champion and his name is Sinar!
I don't know much about the specific cameras, but I can give you some general advice. For architectural photography, adequate rise and shifts is specially important. You want to be able to make full use in that respect of what your lenses can handle. It is also important that you be able to use your camera with short focal length lenses and still be able to use adequate rise and shifts. So, for example, being able to use a bag bellows might be important. Finally, archtectural photography usually requires careful attention to leveling the camera and being sure the film plane is plumb. While you can usually manage just with a simple torpedo level, anything that expedites that would be helpful.
If budget's a consideration, take a look at the less expensive Calumet Cambo models. They'll do everything that you need in architecture. You'll need a wide-angle bellows. You might also want to think about getting the reflex viewer. Another advantage of Cambos is that you can find adaptor lensboards for many different cameras. For example, you could mount your lenses on Linhof Technika boards, use them on a Cambo monorail for architecture, and also use them on a field camera that accepts the same lensboards.
People make a lot of being able to put cameras in backpacks, etc. That's a consideration for field photography. But on an architectural shoot, you make up the camera at your vehicle at the beginning of the day, and you take it down at the end of the day. Of course, weight is important. I don't think the less expensive Cambo's necessarily weigh any more than, say, the Arca-Swiss. (Which is a first rate high end camera for architecture.) Actually, the newer Arca Swiss cameras weigh less than the older monorail Arca-Swiss cameras. So, the newer ones might weight signifantly less. But, they're expensive.
With the excellent low budget used cameras available that are suitable for architecture, put the money you save into high quality lenses.
I'd add that anything you need can be found used. There's no need to purchase new.
When I had to do architectural shots I used the Sinar Norma – bag bellows, short rail, both standards in from of the rail clamp, and a Super Angulon lens. But then I also used the same camera in the studio with normal bellows, long rail etc etc. The modular concept was really valuable (and expensive in those days!).
Go with the Sinar and configure it any way you want. Just don't try to carry it any great distance...
I second the Sinar recommendations, but I would suggest looking at the F2 over the Norma. They are not so expensive. On the auction site I see a Norma that went for just under $600 and two F2 camera that sold for between $650 and $750. With an F2 you will gain some sophistication in movements (asymmetrics), you get Sinar's patented DOF focusing for lens apertures, and probably shed some weight to boot over the Norma.
The Norma might beat the F2 in rigidity by a little, but not such that you will lose in quality. I know a working Architectural photographer that uses an F2 for all his work.
Maybe others have reasons I don't see to get an older camera, but I think you will feel less like you are using a vintage machine with the F2.
So long as you acquire a good bag bellows and lensboards with your purchase, don't hesitate to buy your choice of a Sinar Norma, Arca-Swiss, Linhof Color Kardan, Cambo monorail, Toyo G, or Arca-Swiss A, B, or C. All of these excellent cameras can be had for less than $600.
It really comes down to what sort of tilts you prefer (base or axis), brand preference, and the condition of the particular camera. I wouldn't worry about anything else.
The Sinar F2 is fine, but the Norma is more solid. I never found the DOF BS worth a hoot but others swear by it, YMMV, no insults meant or implied. The older Arcas are compact and lightweight. And the Linhof is probably the finest quality. The Toyos and Cambos are decent but I have no experience.
Of course the Sinar parts are the easiest to find... I like the the old Arcas personally because they don't need as heavy a tripod. I always thought the Sinars needed a Gitzo 4 or 5 where I can get an Arca on a 3.
Assuming weight is no object you should add the Horseman L Frame system to your list of possibles. Super sturdy and even the entry level LE has geared rise/fall and shift. You can usually find a good used one in the range of $500 and sometimes an LS with both base and axis tilt for not much more. Many of the Horseman and Sianr parts are interchangable and the Horseman system is as sxtensive as any you will find and the parts are reasonably available. You should contact Jim at Midwest Photo as they usually have several used ones on hand.
I have used a Horseman system in my studio for many years and have never found a task it couldn't handle.
One of the great advantages of Sinar is the retro fit and interchangability of most parts. This helps when upgrading via the local 2nd hand dealer. Not mentioned is the DB shutter and opportunity to buy cheaper shutterless lenses. This is well noted in past posts.
I have been in business now for 28 years doing work for leading designers and magazines all over the country. For the first 12 years I used a Tachihara. For the last 16 I have used a modified 40 year old Calumet Widefield that I paid $175.oo for. My field camera these days is an old Zone VI.
Yeah but you don't draw the hot chicks to check out your equipment and that is half the game... ;-)
The "hot chicks" look at the Calumet and ask "Is it a Hassleblad?"
Thank you very much (again) for your helpful comments. I guess Sinar is a good choice because of its modular system but I´ll take a look to the even less expensive Calumets, Toyos... for seeing if they worth and then I´ll made my choice.
Chris, the F2 does not have assymmetric movements. Only the P or P2 do, althought the F series do use another form of Sinar's 2-point focusing. But I still agree, I would opt for an F series over the Norma. An F or F1 is just as functional, and cheaper than the Norma. I see them go for $300 all the time on ebay.
The F series is very light, and can fold up in a way no other monorail can, for compact storage. Another thing I have noticed is that you can use the Sinar bag bellows with up to a 300mm lens at infinity. No need to buy 2 sets of bellows to begin with.
The Norma may have more geared movements, which can be an advantage for accuracy. On the F series, none of the movements are geared, except for the focus. I don't know if any of the Norma's are. All of the movements on the P series are geared, and self-arresting.
You can also go for a Sinar "C", which uses a P series rear standard and an F series front standard, giving you assymmetrical movements, but keeping the price and the weight lower.
The Norma isn't geared except for fine focus and it will fold down flat upon itself the same way a F-model will. The F and the F1 have a flimsy clamp for the rail - the F2 is well worth the extra money for much more secure camera.
You can also substitute a low profile rail clamp for the later Sinars (or use one from a Norma) that will lower its center of gravity and overall height - making it more stable and compact.
My Sinar bag bellows would extend maybe 8 inches, no way it ever would handle a 300mm. Not saying there couldn't be a "long" bag bellows out there, but I've seen and used several and never found one that long myself.
And if you can get me a couple $300 Sinar Fs please send them my way, even if they have flimsy standards. That's a heckofagood price!
I noticed on eBay today that there is one of the Calumet cameras that I assume Kirk Gittings was referring to. The item number is 7612968337.
These cameras are a very interesting design. Rather than a bag bellows, they use a pleated bellows of unusual pattern which gets the job done quite well. The miseries of recessed lensboards are avoided by recessing the whole front panel. This isn't a perfect solution, but what is? These cameras are specialized, but they do quite a good job of handling the wide angle requirements so common in architectural work.
Yes that is it. It will accomodate a 47 on a flat board and with full movements. I have made a few modifications to mine, better knobs and knobs on all pivots. Double spring back spaced out to accomodate the Polaroid pack film backs, extension lens boards for my 210 and 305. And it is powdercoated black. If I get aroung to it I will offer up a picture next week.
Kirk, now all you need to do is glue some fancy European logo on it and document its provenance since you are a semi-famous photographer. ebay riches here you come!
Frank, the gluing logos comment reminds me of an ancient Cartridge Kodak with a mediocre later lens and a big Linhof label. A Greek citizen had registered it coming out of Greece. He returned from Munich with a brand-new three lens Linhof outfit saying "Here is the Linhof camera I registered on my way out".
I am currently working with what I regard as a great camera, a Sinar F1. While it was not my immediate first choice, it a was a sound choice I feel in the end. I love the F1 for it is lightweight, easy to work with and will not break the bank! It has a depth of field scale on the right hand side-when you are zeroed out,set it to '0'. When you adjust your focus, your scale will give you an idea what to set you lens to, to get a nice shot. The Sinar's are built for architecture in mind. The only unfortunate thing is, yes the camera is a great deal...but the accessories are that of a foreign car in america sometimes...expensive!! But do not dread, I found a lot of what I own of Sinar in (real)camera shops(not Ritz). I only have 3 lenses, a cable release,a loupe and a dark cloth I made from old fabric lying around the house that was going to be thrown away. Buy a little at a time and not all at once...you are more inclined to learn more about your camera this way, I think. Since you are aiming on architecture, my lens choice would probably be anything from a 75mm-90mm wide angle. Check into these and find out which best suits you. As far as tripod goes, I still use my old manfrotto. I will eventually have to replace the head here soon, but hey, it's about 5yrs old and seen it's fair share of well use!! I wish you best of luck in this matter and don't feel you have to hurry to decide.
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