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nanuq
5-Nov-2008, 09:02
Hi,
I'm shooting a lot of landscape and have been thinking of giving LF a try, as this seems to give the best possible quality and I'm often disappointed by the results from my DSLR. I have read quite a few resources (mainly on this website and forum) but haven't found exactly what I'm looking for, and I'm hoping you could help :)

Here is my situation: I want to give LF a fair try, but I don't want to blow thousands of euros to discover that I won't bother taking pictures with it, so am looking for something very cheap to start with, and will then consider upgrading if it is really what I want to do. At the moment, I am exclusively interested in landscape for LF (I'm happy to use 35mm for portrait/street and don't do so much of architecture or macro), so I'm not sure that having all the movements would be so important. Small size and weight are paramount, as I plan to hike, bike and perhaps even climb with it, as well as take it on far travels. This is perhaps not as important for a starter camera, but even though I try to be as careful as possible with all my gear, it tends to see pretty bad conditions every now and then and I wouldn't want it to fail on me at bad times.

Unfortunately, I can't take photography classes (I'm living in Denmark and don't speak the language, and besides I'm not sure there are any available) and the local photography club doesn't want to touch film with sticks anymore. The big photo store has some gear, but it's either very expensive or very bulky (full list is at http://products.photografica.com/shop/templates/Group.asp?GroupGuid=5524 if you want to take a look), so at the moment, it looks like ebay.
From what I've read, it looks like a field camera is the way to go, but since they're all quite expensive (by my standards), I was thinking that a graphic view would be the best way to get started.

Your thoughts would be more than welcome!

Thanks,
/Alexandre

Scott Knowles
5-Nov-2008, 09:50
I'm in year two of my adventure in LF and don't have a problem with the equipment, see camera bag (http://www.wsrphoto.com/lfblog11.html). I use a Horseman HD which, depsite its limitations - no back control and top tilt, is good for learning. I carry two of the three lenses (120mm, 150mm and 210mm) which covers almost everything I need (the 90mm, 180mm and 300mm lenses waiting on new camera).

I think the question is if you're serious you'll spend the money for good equipment. The last thing any beginner needs is to buy equipment they shortly regret and don't like LF photography when they didn't give a good shot (sorta' speaking). The problem is once in, it's hard to get out unless you're lucky to find a buyer for the equipment, so it's best going in to say you're committed to learning and doing LF photography.

And if the money is not extra to everything else you do, including you're other photography, you're fine, but if not, then rethink and wait until you can have the money to spend without regret. After all, LF photography is a lifetime interest, so it's not like it's obsolete in a year or two. Only the photographer may become by not working at it.

Just my thoughts. Good luck.

CG
5-Nov-2008, 11:32
On the other hand ...

I don't think it is accurate to say that if he's "serious" Alexandre will jump through a big financial hoop just because we believe in LF. He needs a chance to try out LF to determine whether he wishes to approach LF seriously. And, for that matter, he needs to discover what "seriously" means to him. It may be utterly different from how I or you see it.

The jump from 35 or digital to LF is huge and I support Alexandre's thought about getting a starter camera cheaply. His concern that a LF camera might go largely unused is reasonable. They are big and clunky and are a totally new experience, and they're not for everyone. Alexandre may discover that, for him, LF is a boon, or a bummer. It may or may not suit his way of working and seeing, and I think he needs to try cheaply before becoming fully invested in the best of the best.

The first thing I'd recommend would be trying to rent or borrow LF equipment of any kind, just to get one's toes "wet". Some pro photographer in Copenhagen must still have his/her LF equipment sitting unused in a corner. Make some calls. Leave some placards on the walls of camera stores and schools. Maybe the folks at the camera club have an unused LF to try.

I think that scouring the used markets for a workable but cheap "user" camera would be great. Keep your eye on Craigslist: http://copenhagen.craigslist.org/pho and on the classifieds here and on www.apug.org Given the evidently lower prices on used starter cameras over here in the US, it might even be possible to economically ship one over. There are deals around, but you have to keep your eye out and patient. Maybe you could put a wanted ad in Craigslist. Scrounge for a camera.

I'd urge him to find a starter camera based on price and condition and availability, and not try to get the perfect camera. He'll learn more through shooting and working through the issues that come up, than anything I could impart to him.

One question that he needs to answer before he can really move forward is what format 4x5, 5x7, 8x10... Reading up on the whole process - from shooting to darkroom - will help him see the import of many of the choices.

Presuming we are talking about the BW darkroom, 4x5 means probably enlarging. 8x10 brings the possibility of contact printing. If he shoots color, then he could possible hand the issue of processing off to someone else. BW maybe too, but...

This is a great place to ask the questions that come up as one tries out LF.

Welcome aboard, Alexandre!

John Kasaian
5-Nov-2008, 12:11
Close to the car---monorail.
Far from the car---field camera.
Handheld (and all the above)---press camera.
Get something used and in good condition to play with, or better yet take a class or pal around with an LF'er in the field for a day or two. That will give you a taste for what's in store.
My 2-cents :)
Good luck!

Nick_3536
5-Nov-2008, 12:35
One of the advantages of LF is you can do it on the cheap. There isn't much/any equipment aimed at the amatuer market.

Plus if the camera works and holds the lens and film in the right spots then the camera isn't that big of an issue. The lenses that you'll be able to reuse later with a better camera matter more.

I'd agree with getting something in good condition but not expensive. If you can live without rear movements get a B&J press camera. You won't be paying anything for the name -) You won't be able to hurt it. Not heavy or bulky.

nanuq
5-Nov-2008, 13:14
Thanks all. Just to add a few things, I've already pretty much decided I would go for 4x5 and colour slides. I don't think I'll print wide enough to justify the extra weight and bulk of 8x10, and seeing how I'm struggling in the darkroom to get good BW prints from 35mm (I've started photography with digital, so all this is new to me), I figured I could as well go to colour directly.
And it will definitely be far from the car: I don't have one, I just bike, walk or take the train ;)

As for lenses, my tastes with 35mm definitely go towards pretty wide for landscapes, so I was thinking of starting with just a 90mm lens, over longer 150 or 210 that seem to be pretty standard.

My main worry, and I guess my main question, is whether by going with a press camera (either a graphics or a B&J as Nick suggests), I will be giving LF a "fair try", or whether you think I should spend the extra buck for a field camera, and take the risk to find out that it's not for me after all.

Struan Gray
5-Nov-2008, 13:19
I recommend joining APUG and signing up for their Scandinavian focus group. There are several LF-ers from the Copenhagen region there who can give you help with both hands-on experience with LF cameras and tipoffs to good local deals:

http://www.apug.org/forums/forum189/

My experience is that there are no LF equipment bargains in Scandinavia except for occasional private sales. These sometimes show up on local small-ads sites, but it's more often by word of mouth. The Danes on APUG have an impressive record of finding good LF deals and passing them on to others.

For good basic gear, MXV in the UK have some great deals (www.mxv.co.uk). The best deals are in monorails, but some of the less popular field cameras can also be found cheaply. eBay.uk and eBay.de (if you can muddle through some German) are also good sources of kit at sane prices, but there are very few bargains in field cameras there.


PS: I have a packable monorail, an older Sinar Norma. It's fine for hiking, even quite wild hiking, but hard to take along if photography is not the main purpose of the trip. You're welcome to come and see it in Lund if you feel like a trip across the Öresund. I got is because as a beginner I didn't want to be limited in movements or extension: I found I wanted both more than conventional wisdom suggests, so I've kept it.

nanuq
5-Nov-2008, 13:28
That's great Struan, thanks very much!

Sheldon N
5-Nov-2008, 13:57
Welcome Alexandre -

I say that a field camera is an easy way to test the waters in LF before going into a more expensive camera. Your idea to go with a 90mm and a 150mm lens is also a good option. I found that a 90/150/240 kit was nice, but could easily have done with just the 90 and 150.

If you do decide to go with a field camera, I have a 4x5 Tachihara (Calumet Wood Field XM) in nice condition that I'm going to be selling shortly. Drop me a PM if you have any interest.

Thanks!

Bruce Watson
5-Nov-2008, 14:24
As for lenses, my tastes with 35mm definitely go towards pretty wide for landscapes, so I was thinking of starting with just a 90mm lens, over longer 150 or 210 that seem to be pretty standard.

I can see why you would think this. However, it won't work the way you think. The problem with starting with a 90mm lens on a 5x4 camera is that it makes it difficult to learn movements. In order to climb the learning curve you have to be able to see what you are doing. And the image from a 90mm lens on the ground glass can be small indeed.

I say this from experience: I did more or less what you propose; my first lens was a 110mm. Don't repeat my mistake; you really would be better served getting a 150mm lens first. It will make climbing the learning curves both easier and faster.


My main worry, and I guess my main question, is whether by going with a press camera (either a graphics or a B&J as Nick suggests), I will be giving LF a "fair try", or whether you think I should spend the extra buck for a field camera, and take the risk to find out that it's not for me after all.

I'd avoid a press camera. The reason being that they are designed for quick action (they were designed for the working press after all) and hand holding. They were usually setup as rangefinders -- and they work great that way.

But to learn to use movements, you have to compose on the ground glass and view the effects of movements on the ground glass. You wont be hand holding -- you'll be using a tripod. You'll be using it as a view camera and not as a press camera.

Learning how to use movements should be your goal if you want to make landscape photographs. And if that's your goal, I think you'd be better off with a field camera. That is, use the tool designed for the task.

Of course there are always many paths to the waterfall. Your path may well be different than mine. I'm just saying that you might want to consider these things as you make your choice.

All that said, learning to use a view camera isn't very hard. It takes some practice, patience, and a little thought. That's all. And the rewards of being able to make the photograph that you really want to make are just huge. I'll never go back to smaller formats again if I can help it!

nanuq
5-Nov-2008, 14:45
Thanks again, it's very informative. Bruce, I hadn't thought of that, but it indeed makes sense. I guess I'll have to live with a 150, then, at least for a start.

I am of course willing to use tripod and take all the time that I will need. If I want hand-held and speed, then my DSLR system works very fine (and I expect to keep shooting it, whatever my ventures with LF happen to be). I am not afraid of the learning curve either (maybe not enough, actually ;) ), but rather of not wanting to bother taking the whole thing when going out, if it's too big and heavy. This, I think, could be the main problem but then I already thought exactly the same for my 35mm SLR, and it turned out not to be the case at all.

So to summarize, the consensus seems to be that I should try and spend a bit more and go for a field camera instead of a press?

Scott Knowles
5-Nov-2008, 14:46
On the other hand ...

The first thing I'd recommend would be trying to rent or borrow LF equipment of any kind, just to get one's toes "wet". Some pro photographer in Copenhagen must still have his/her LF equipment sitting unused in a corner. Make some calls. Leave some placards on the walls of camera stores and schools. Maybe the folks at the camera club have an unused LF to try.


That I agree with, even before buying anything. I was only thinking about people who go the cheap route, buying used equipment, to discover they didn't do their homework and have problems or dislike the results because of the equipment. And then quit, thinking they wasted money for nothing. There are some great bargains out there, but also consider they're bargains because of the (buyer's) market.

paul08
5-Nov-2008, 17:38
You write: "And it will definitely be far from the car: I don't have one, I just bike, walk or take the train "

So I'm putting a vote in for a folding clamshell field or press camera. A Toyo 45A/AII/AX or CF can be found used, and you can attach a grip to use it hand-held, but a better bet would be an early Wista 45, Super Graphic or Busch Pressman (underrated, all aluminum camera similar to the Wista and Linhof Tech III/IV). The Pressman and Wista lack front swings, but have enough tilt, shift and rise for landscape work (plus drop beds which can be used for front fall). Depending on model and condition you should be able to find one with a good bellows for $200-500 (maybe even with a lens). I'd advise against the 90 to start (the good ones are big, and IMO the Angulons aren't good enough, but I've only owned two). Instead, I'd recommend a 120-135 plus a small 210 (Rod. Geroner/Caltar II-E or a G-Claron). This setup will take you a long way and will fit comfortably in a backpack and work with a smaller tripod (camera plus one mounted lens would be about 7 lbs.). Good luck!

nanuq
29-Nov-2008, 06:56
I finally got Sheldon's Tachihara, and went today and bought a Schneider Super Angulon 90 f/8, along with a box of Velvia and some other supplies. I know you've advised me to start with a longer focal length, but the 90 was all that I could find at a reasonable price, and I've heard it has a good coverage, which will hopefully allow me to use a fair amount of movements.

Now I just need to find a time when it's not raining or night already, which isn't that straightforward in the Danish winter ;)

Ivan J. Eberle
29-Nov-2008, 07:17
Another fun part of the journey is all the tinkering and do-it-yourself projects that can both educate and help keep LF costs reasonable.

While you're waiting for the weather to clear, bear in mind that shooting color transparencies (particularly Velvia 50!) means you need a very accurate and consistent shutter. I highly recommend testing your shutter if you haven't had it cleaned and tested already. There is a recent thread here about how to build a very simple and inexpensive shutter tester which plugs into your computer sound card port and uses a free downloadable sound editor software for graphing and timing the results.

nanuq
29-Nov-2008, 15:06
I checked quickly the long speeds (using my DSLR as a comparison) and 1s is definitely off, it makes a dying sound and takes 1.5 to 2s to release. But it worked fine for 1/2 and 1/4 (couldn't really test manually faster speeds). The shutter is a compur, but I don't know which one exactly. I don't know if it can be fixed or not, but in the meantime I'll simply try to avoid the 1s speed and test the other a bit more carefully. Thanks Ivan for pointing this out.

And just for fun, here is the beast:

http://images.aperturefirst.org/20081129185941_20081129-other_new_camera.jpg

Alan Davenport
29-Nov-2008, 18:09
I know I'm late getting my thoughts into this thread, but that's OK because you bought exactly the camera I'd have recommended (well, maybe still get the 150mm lens.) I know you'll be happy with the Tachihara and Super Angulon, because I use the same setup. Or sometimes with a 150... :-)

Kirk Fry
29-Nov-2008, 18:43
nanuq,

Get yourself a focusing loupe. Look at all four corners while focusing. A 90 mm lens will take very little movement or it will be out of focus. I usually shoot my wide angles straight on with little or no movements. K

Rafael Garcia
29-Nov-2008, 19:00
A Tachi and a 90MM SA is a great setup for landscape. It is one you will use for many years!

Excersise the shutter on the 1 sec setting... it may clear up. It is a problem with many older shutters and it is good practice to "warm the shutter" up before the shot by firing it several times before removing the darkslide.

My 90 SA is on a Linhof-Branded Synchro-Compur. I believe it is the same size as a Copal 0. Others please confirm this. The Copal 0 is plentiful and you should be able to get one cheaply if excersising your Synchro-Compur doesn't free it up.

Ivan J. Eberle
29-Nov-2008, 19:45
That Takihara is one nice looking camera. I only have three LF lenses myself, two with Compur shutters and an old Wollensak 135mm with a Rapax shutter that must be years old. I was rather sluggish. Don't know whether you can expect to fix a sticky Compur like this (thankfully the 2 modern lenses I bought used didn't need fixed), but I followed the advice of the longtimers hereabouts and gave the shutter (not the lens elements, just the shutter with the cover removed) a soak in naptha-- aka Ronsonol lighter fluid. Took a couple of tries to get all the dried up grease flushed out but drying it thoroughly and a lube became surprisingly accurate and consistent from 1s to 1/125s. (within a 1/3 of a stop, good enough for me).

Hopefully someone will chime in with whether or not this treatment might work with a Compur.

Rafael Garcia
29-Nov-2008, 21:41
Naphta, a.k.a. lighter fluid, works well on most shutters. I have used it on several TLR shutters with success. I have never tried it on any of my LF shutters, so I did not recommend it. Maybe someone can chime in with conclusive advice on this.

John Kasaian
29-Nov-2008, 22:05
Don't do the naptha trick with shutters having celluloid leaves :eek:

nanuq
29-Nov-2008, 22:11
@Kirk: I already got myself a nice Schneider 8x, so that should be covered.

@Rafael: I must have fired it about 50 times so far, hoping the problem would go away, but it hasn't changed anything, unfortunately.

@John: duly noted, thanks! :)

neil poulsen
29-Nov-2008, 23:25
The Shen Hao is a versatile camera and is also reasonably priced. Plus, it has the advantage of interchangeable bellows, in case you decide you like LF.

I would think that you could start with one lens just to get the idea and feel of large format. If you're drawn to LF, then you'll be drawn to additional lenses. If not, you won't have that much invested.

Nick_3536
29-Nov-2008, 23:39
You might find the 8x too much. But try it.

No shutter is 100% on. If you can get it timed and it's always off by the same amount then that's good enough. Doesn't matter what the label on the shutter claims if it takes 2s all the time then just remember that.

But shutters can by CLA it still won't be 100% accurate but will hopefully be better.

nanuq
3-Dec-2008, 06:29
Well, after a very stressful afternoon (can you believe how many tiny pieces there are in a shutter?), I finally managed to complete the CLA, using benzine (aka lighter fluid/naphta), and more surprisingly, to put the whole thing back together. The buzzing sound is now deliciously smooth and some quick tests using my computer line in gave excellent results on the slow speeds, with e.g. less than 50ms of variation on the 1s. I just don't understand why the shop where I bought it didn't bother doing that themselves before selling it at a reduced price...

Bill_1856
3-Dec-2008, 06:51
The GRAPHIC VIEW is an excellent choice for a first LF camera. I used mine for 30 years before foolishly trading it for a Linhof. I more recently bought another used one. They are built like cast iron -- you may never need another LF camera.

dazedgonebye
3-Dec-2008, 10:04
This is a timely thread for me. I'm working my way through the same decision process.
One thing I read here that I'd not read before is the advice to go with a normalish lens first instead of wide.
I really have no love for a "normal" perspective. I'd likely get most use out of something around 65mm. I'm a bit put off at the prospect of paying for a lens I'm not likely to use.
Just how hard is it to use a wide angle lens on large format?

If I had the money in my pocket, this is something I think I'd like to have:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&item=190269792805

John Kasaian
3-Dec-2008, 10:59
Just how hard is it to use a wide angle lens on large format?



It depends on the camera and the lens, bellows configuration, if you need a recessed lensboard, center filters etc...
If you tell us the camera model you have and the lens you want to use, members who have that set up can tell you what you'll need to make it all work :)

dazedgonebye
3-Dec-2008, 12:03
It depends on the camera and the lens, bellows configuration, if you need a recessed lensboard, center filters etc...
If you tell us the camera model you have and the lens you want to use, members who have that set up can tell you what you'll need to make it all work :)

I don't have anything at the moment. That's what I'm trying to figure out. My great problem will be budget. With all their limitations, I may have to get a Graphic. I know this will be limiting, but I'm just not going to be able to outfit myself however I want.

Even the graphics are getting to be discouraging. So many are listed over $400. I can't image buying one for that price since for a couple of hundred more, a used Shen Hao because possible.

John Kasaian
3-Dec-2008, 14:43
I don't have anything at the moment. That's what I'm trying to figure out. My great problem will be budget. With all their limitations, I may have to get a Graphic. I know this will be limiting, but I'm just not going to be able to outfit myself however I want.

Even the graphics are getting to be discouraging. So many are listed over $400. I can't image buying one for that price since for a couple of hundred more, a used Shen Hao because possible.

IMHO older Calumet 400 and Graphic View monorails are the bigest bargain out there. Both the Calumet and Graphic Views will take 90mms without needing bag bellows(I don't know if they'll need recessed lensboards or not---it's been awhile since I've messed with a Calumet 400) The architecture version of the 400 is especially suited for wa lenses. If you can appreciate what these types of cameras can accomplish, pick one up for under $200 and start having fun!

dazedgonebye
3-Dec-2008, 15:20
IMHO older Calumet 400 and Graphic View monorails are the bigest bargain out there. Both the Calumet and Graphic Views will take 90mms without needing bag bellows(I don't know if they'll need recessed lensboards or not---it's been awhile since I've messed with a Calumet 400) The architecture version of the 400 is especially suited for wa lenses. If you can appreciate what these types of cameras can accomplish, pick one up for under $200 and start having fun!

I've seen a number of those available at decent prices. I'm concerned though that I spend too much time hiking around to be toting all of that and putting it together to take pictures.

SamWeiss
4-Dec-2008, 01:44
I've seen a number of those available at decent prices. I'm concerned though that I spend too much time hiking around to be toting all of that and putting it together to take pictures.

The problem with the old metal monorails are their weight. I have an old Calumet.... durable, but too heavy to haul around on your back! There usually are good quality Horseman and Toyo monorails available for under $300 on eBay... only problem again is weight and bulk.

I can empathize with you... I am looking for a lightweight but affordable camera. Have you checked the for-sale forum here? Right now there are a couple of ArcaSwiss Discovery models that people are trying to sell (perhaps over your budget), and a Shen Hao that looks nice too at a very reasonable price.

dazedgonebye
4-Dec-2008, 05:52
Really, I think it's going to have to be a graphic for me. I'll shoot with the normal lens that comes with and save for a wide lens. If things work out, I'll start saving again for something more versitile.

Samuel Burns Landsacape P
14-Jul-2009, 22:02
Hi,
To jump into LF on a budget I started with a Shen Hao off ebay, really impressed with the cameras capabilities and quality for the money, great first LF camera in my opinion.

I also shoot with a Linhof and Fuji 617's but added a 617 back from Shen Hao for those times where I need movements with 617.

Cheers.

http://www.samburns.com.au