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jamesw
14-Nov-2008, 04:31
Hi all,

I'm making my first step into LF. I've been shooting 35mm of various types (most recently Leica M and now 1DsMkii) for years, but I love my landscape work most. I noticed that many of my favourite landscape photographers were still working on 4x5 and so decided to check it out. I've done a bit of research and asked a few people, but I thought it was time to ask on a forum what people's opinions were about a starter setup.

OK, so I don't want to spend a silly amount of money before I decide whether LF is really for me. However, I'm prepared to spend enough to not put myself off by limiting the experience with equipment that won't give me a good idea of the process.

So far, I'm considering such things as a Chamonix 045n-1, or a Shenhao (the TZ45 IIB - or possibly the cheaper PTB 54) for the camera itself. Again though they're at the cheaper end of the new market, I did want to check whether there have been any issues with these, and whether they're going to have enough features so I'm not too limited in my learning curve. For example, are they going to have enough movements for normal dof/perspective corrections in landscape work? Are the screens going to be bright enough? Can I use 'quickload' film in all of them? Etc. I must say that something is drawing me toward the Chamonix, but it's just a feeling.

Lens-wise, I've been told, and read on here, that I probably shouldn't go for a 90mm as a first lens, even though that is one of my most commonly used focal lengths in 35mm photography. Perhaps a 110, or 125? Again, do I need to get a lens that's 'fast' enough to be able to see clearly on the ground glass for focussing/composing/learning movements?

What else do I need to factor in? I'm guessing a good spot-meter, film-scanner, and other things. Could someone suggest a starter kit list?

Many thanks in advance!
James

Walter Calahan
14-Nov-2008, 06:28
I started with an inexpensive Tachihara with a 135mm Schneider. All bought used.

Don't think in 35 mm lens equivalents in 4x5. The two formats do NOT have the same aspect ratios, so you'll get confused trying to calculate what you need.

Let you eye guide you as you grow in LF.

I do not see that same way you see. A lens I like may not work for you. Take your time learning one lens before buying a bag full of lenses.

"Fast" glass is meaningless in LF. Give you eye time to adjust to the image on the ground glass. All modern LF lenses will be plenty bright on the GG.

Invest in a quality tripod. Don't overlook having an incident meter as well as a spot meter. No one meter is perfect for all situations.

The main thing is not to rush out to buy everything under the sun. Simply learn to see in LF first. Once comfortable with seeing in LF, you'll know what to buy to do all the rest.

Brian Ellis
14-Nov-2008, 08:19
Do a search for "newbie" and maybe "newcomer" here. You'll find more information about getting started in LF photography than anyone could ever need. But if you're going to ask questions dealing with purchases, don't use terms like "silly amount of money" and "spend enough." We have no idea what those terms mean to you. Give us dollar amounts, e.g. "I don't want to spend more than $1000 for a camera and $500 for lenses."

Ron Marshall
14-Nov-2008, 10:36
It is easy and economical to resell used LF equipment.

The cameras you mentioned will do fine.

I recommend getting a single lens and using it for several shooting sessions before considering others. Something in the range of 90 to 210mm.

KEH has a good selection and reasonable pricing, and their ratings are fair.

http://www.keh.com/OnLineStore/ProductList.aspx?Mode=&item=0&ActivateTOC2=&ID=59&BC=LF&BCC=7&CC=6&CCC=2&BCL=&GBC=&GCC=

Skorzen
14-Nov-2008, 11:32
Everything said here makes sense, the only thing I wanted to mention is that I would NOT recommend getting lenses new. The new vs. used prices of even modern lenses show a big advantage with going used.

John Jarosz
14-Nov-2008, 12:32
Don't forget a good 4x-5x eye loupe, and a focusing dark cloth. Some kind of case that holds everything is very handy. This may all sound trivial, but LF is different than MF or 35mm. You need to have everything at hand when you are setting up to take a photograph. It's easy to become frustrated because SOMETHING isn't where it should be.

If you buy from KEH I will say not to discount their bargain classification. I've purchased bargain items in the past and I'll say I found it difficult to find any flaws in the item. That's where to save some $$. If you are a newbie, I agree that you shouldn't do ebay for LF unless you have someone to guide you on the item you wish to bid. .

John

John Whitley
14-Nov-2008, 12:55
As a newbie who's newness is just losing its shine, I'll second the recommendation to go with used lenses. There are many fantastic lenses available on the used market for much less than most new lenses. Moreover, there are many lenses no longer made that meet certain needs better than currently manufactured lenses. One of the fascinating things about LF photography is the vast living history in available LF equipment.

jamesw
14-Nov-2008, 15:44
Thanks for all that advice, most helpful! And yes, you're right, I should have been more specific on prices, etc. Oh, and I live in the UK - I'm not sure the second-hand market here is so strong, unfortunately, but maybe I haven't looked in the right places and a UK member here could put me right?

OK well from what you've said I'm tempted to start with a Chamonix 4x5 camera, because it seems to be a lot of camera for a very reasonable price, as far as my level of knowledge goes and from what a couple of people I've asked have said.

As for the lens... well, I'm more likely to use a wider lens I think. So I'd be inclined to start with a 90mm. However, I am slightly concerned about what I've read on other parts of the site and a couple of people advised me that it could be really difficult to compose and learn movements on a 90mm lens as a beginner. How much of an issue do you think this will really be? I have to learn the format with whatever lens I get I would have thought. It's good that a faster lens is not neccessarily needed in terms of getting enough light to compose, carry out movement adjustments and focus, etc. as faster lenses seem bigger and more expensive. If you think a 90mm really is going to be a problem for a beginner, maybe I could get a 110mm or 125mm?

If I get the Chamonix, do I need an adapter to use Fuji Quickload sheets? Is there any way to use non-quickload sheets without access to a darkroom?

I'll have a look around at second hand lenses and come back with any more specific questions.

James

jamesw
14-Nov-2008, 15:56
OK just started looking at lenses on the KEH site as recommended. I have a few questions straight away:

1. They mention 'mount' type: i.e. some say '35 mount', or '4x5 mount', etc. should I only be looking for a '4x5 mount' type for my application?

2. What is Copal type?

3. Things like 'Seiko B', 'Comp B' - what do they mean?

Do I need a specific combination of these factors for a specific 4x5 camera?

Thanks!

Ron Marshall
14-Nov-2008, 17:59
OK just started looking at lenses on the KEH site as recommended. I have a few questions straight away:

1. They mention 'mount' type: i.e. some say '35 mount', or '4x5 mount', etc. should I only be looking for a '4x5 mount' type for my application?

2. What is Copal type?

3. Things like 'Seiko B', 'Comp B' - what do they mean?

Do I need a specific combination of these factors for a specific 4x5 camera?

Thanks!

35 mount refers to the lensboard hole diameter in mm, (see here: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/lensboard_hole_sizes.html)

4x5 is the largest format on which that lens can be used.

Copal is the brand of shutter. See here: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/shutters.html

Have a read of all of the info on the front page of this site.

You don't need to use quickloads, if a darkroom is not available, you can use a changing room:

http://www.badgergraphic.com/store/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=663

h2oman
14-Nov-2008, 18:56
I started using LF in January, and here are just a few of my observations/comments:

1. Used lenses - As people have said, this is the way to go. I got a steal on one on e-bay, but didn't realize how fortunate I was until I started bidding on another. Eventually I gave up on e-bay and called Jim Andracki at Midwest Photo. He sold me an immaculate used copy of that lens for a bit less than the ones were going for on e-bay, plus I knew I could send it back if I didn't like it. I doubt I'll go e-bay again.

2. Focal lengths - I bought a used camera that came with a 150mm, which is a "normal" lens. My strategy after that was to determine what eventual selection of lenses I wanted and work toward that. After a bunch of reading I settled on 90-150-240 based on weight, size, people's opinions of the quality of some specific lenses, and a desire to not have too many lenses to cart around. I wanted a normal, a wide and a long, but not excessively long or wide. There was quite a thread here recently aboutr what focal lenghts people had in their selections and why. You might try to find it.

3. 90mm - I was advised not to get a wide lens too soon. Well, that was good advice but I didn't heed it, because I like the wide perspective. While the 90mm is definitely harder than the 150 to work with, it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. I liked the idea of the Nikkor f/8 to save weight, but I bought an f/6.8 to get a little more light for focusing. Every once in a while I get a hankering to have something longer or wider, but realistically I figure I'm much better off working on my skills than obsessing about lenses!

4. Light meter - I use my DSLR, and that has worked for me so far. I'm shooting color transparencies. I want to try B&W, and plan to get a spotmeter for that. The use of a DSLR is frowned upon by some folks here, but it would be a way to save a bit of cash at least initially. If you understand your histogram and how it relates to parts of the scene, it is not hard to do.

5. Loupe - I've used a cheap loupe that I used for 35mm slides, and it seems to do fine. As someone here once said, the loupe is to get correct focus, so quality only matters to the point of being able to do that.

6. Film - I've used both Quickloads/Readyloads and film holders. I thought loading film would be a big deal, but it wasn't. I found one of the web videos made by members here, watched it and practiced in the light with a sacrificial piece of film. Film hoders are heavier than quickloads, but because you shoot so many fewer exposures with LF that is not a problem. For me, 4 holders with 8 sheets of film will get me through a day or one location, after which I can go to my car and get more. They are pretty inexpensive used. Be sure to number them somehow, and keep a record of which shots came from which holders. I didn't do this - I've got a light leak in one holder and I don't know which one it is!

7. Movements, shooting, etc. - The use of using movements for focusing wasn't too hard for me to get a handle on, but one mistake I've made is trying difficult shots too early. In particular, I should have avoided near/far shots except in the case that the plane of focus is pretty flat, like a field, body of water, beach, etc. Those I have found easy, but when I have something with much vertical depth in the foreground I had trouble.

Expect to screw up a lot, but if you are prone to that sensation of getting mesmerized by tasks requiring care you will love LF.

forthmedia
15-Nov-2008, 02:06
Like you James, I'm just starting out (I went for Toyo 45AX, 150mm rodenstock). I visited London recently and found a good LF shop tucked away behind BT tower

http://www.teamworkphoto.com/

They had a reasonable secondhand selection and were helpful.

I bought a 6x12 Horseman rollfilm back from them. I'd recommend this as worth thinking about. As well as allowing MF panoramic shots which you can scan with a film scanner like the nikon 9000, it also helped me learning to setup and use the camera in an "economical way" - you can experiment with multiple settings for the same shot without "wasting" those precious loaded film holders!

Anyway, I'm having fun - I hope you do too

more photography
15-Nov-2008, 09:00
Hi James

Welcome - I am like in The UK, It took me over 6 months of research and trips to Robert White, Linhof Studio, friends and a mini workshop to understand all. There is a lot to learn and you have many questions about Copal shutters, quick load etc...

Van I suggest as was recommended to me, buy Steve Simmons "Using the View Camera" from Amazon @ 13, it arrives with a 2 days, and it will answer most of questions, movements, holders etc. You can then progress "View Camera Technique" by Leslie Stroebel, however this is an expensive book and more technical.

I would recommend both before doing anything, also book yourself on a workshop if you can and download and read all the information on this site.

Regarding cost and equipment, it all depends how deep is your pocket and what you really want? Some people say buy F8 lenses, I find them to dark to focus, and it is all down to preference and experience.

I am only using quickloads at the moment, whilst this is more expensive it is easier and quicker for me, but as I progress I see no reason for not using sheet film.

To start with I set all the blocks from a scrabble game on the dining room table and practised on a regular basis, tilt, shift, swing and focus, also used a packet of corn flakes, kept adjusting position and orientation until I got the hang of movements, then I bought a pack of instant film and fuji-pa45 to practice metering and composition, before using a single quickload.

Good luck

jamesw
15-Nov-2008, 15:48
35 mount refers to the lensboard hole diameter in mm, (see here: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/lensboard_hole_sizes.html)

4x5 is the largest format on which that lens can be used.

Copal is the brand of shutter. See here: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/shutters.html

Have a read of all of the info on the front page of this site.

You don't need to use quickloads, if a darkroom is not available, you can use a changing room:

http://www.badgergraphic.com/store/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=663

Thank you, most helpful. So in fact the '35mm' lensboard hole and the Copal type are directly related? I guess this means I just have to make sure I buy a lens board with the correct diameter hole, etc. for a particular lens?

Is there any preference to the shutter type, then? Most I have seen use Copal, but this is probably due to this being the modern type, I guess. Would one choose a particular Copal variant for preference?

I'll have a read of the info on the front page too.

James

jamesw
15-Nov-2008, 16:01
I started using LF in January, and here are just a few of my observations/comments:

1. Used lenses - As people have said, this is the way to go. I got a steal on one on e-bay, but didn't realize how fortunate I was until I started bidding on another. Eventually I gave up on e-bay and called Jim Andracki at Midwest Photo. He sold me an immaculate used copy of that lens for a bit less than the ones were going for on e-bay, plus I knew I could send it back if I didn't like it. I doubt I'll go e-bay again.

2. Focal lengths - I bought a used camera that came with a 150mm, which is a "normal" lens. My strategy after that was to determine what eventual selection of lenses I wanted and work toward that. After a bunch of reading I settled on 90-150-240 based on weight, size, people's opinions of the quality of some specific lenses, and a desire to not have too many lenses to cart around. I wanted a normal, a wide and a long, but not excessively long or wide. There was quite a thread here recently aboutr what focal lenghts people had in their selections and why. You might try to find it.

3. 90mm - I was advised not to get a wide lens too soon. Well, that was good advice but I didn't heed it, because I like the wide perspective. While the 90mm is definitely harder than the 150 to work with, it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. I liked the idea of the Nikkor f/8 to save weight, but I bought an f/6.8 to get a little more light for focusing. Every once in a while I get a hankering to have something longer or wider, but realistically I figure I'm much better off working on my skills than obsessing about lenses!

4. Light meter - I use my DSLR, and that has worked for me so far. I'm shooting color transparencies. I want to try B&W, and plan to get a spotmeter for that. The use of a DSLR is frowned upon by some folks here, but it would be a way to save a bit of cash at least initially. If you understand your histogram and how it relates to parts of the scene, it is not hard to do.

5. Loupe - I've used a cheap loupe that I used for 35mm slides, and it seems to do fine. As someone here once said, the loupe is to get correct focus, so quality only matters to the point of being able to do that.

6. Film - I've used both Quickloads/Readyloads and film holders. I thought loading film would be a big deal, but it wasn't. I found one of the web videos made by members here, watched it and practiced in the light with a sacrificial piece of film. Film hoders are heavier than quickloads, but because you shoot so many fewer exposures with LF that is not a problem. For me, 4 holders with 8 sheets of film will get me through a day or one location, after which I can go to my car and get more. They are pretty inexpensive used. Be sure to number them somehow, and keep a record of which shots came from which holders. I didn't do this - I've got a light leak in one holder and I don't know which one it is!

7. Movements, shooting, etc. - The use of using movements for focusing wasn't too hard for me to get a handle on, but one mistake I've made is trying difficult shots too early. In particular, I should have avoided near/far shots except in the case that the plane of focus is pretty flat, like a field, body of water, beach, etc. Those I have found easy, but when I have something with much vertical depth in the foreground I had trouble.

Expect to screw up a lot, but if you are prone to that sensation of getting mesmerized by tasks requiring care you will love LF.

Hi and thanks for all the advice!

Yeah, I'm definitely going with used lenses. I'll probably source from the US as there seems to be so much more on the market there.

I think something like 90 - 150 - 240 is very much like what I'll end up with (near my most commonly used focal lengths in 35mm), but I'll have to see how I feel after using it a while. Did you go against advice then, and get a 90mm first? It's encouraging to hear it wasn't quite as bad as you thought!

I may well use the histogram on my DSLR to start with - firstly it's probably a very accurate lightmeter and gives pretty much a visual representation of what falls into each 'zone'. I have an incident meter from my Leica days which I'll probably use too, or a piece of grey card. The other reason for the DSLR is that I may well take a copy of whatever photo which I know will actually come out OK to start with while I'm still learning the ins and outs of LF! Pity to waste any good light/compositions while learning. Someone suggested I get a Tilt/Shift lens for my 1DsMkii, but I think it's probably more of a pain to try using tilt, or shift with a dslr viewfinder, etc. than it is to learn LF with a nice big ground glass, etc? I think in the end they are different tools which complement each other for different styles of photography and tasks, I certainly won't be selling mine just because I want to do LF as well...

I'll have to practice loading then. Quickloads are even more expensive! I also thought about using some BW for my very early learning shots, simply because the stock is cheaper to make mistakes on - although I do love BW work too.

What you said about learning movements and if I love tasks requiring care. Yeah, I think that's the main reason for yearning for something other than the dslr again?

Cheers,
James

jamesw
15-Nov-2008, 16:03
Like you James, I'm just starting out (I went for Toyo 45AX, 150mm rodenstock). I visited London recently and found a good LF shop tucked away behind BT tower

http://www.teamworkphoto.com/

They had a reasonable secondhand selection and were helpful.

I bought a 6x12 Horseman rollfilm back from them. I'd recommend this as worth thinking about. As well as allowing MF panoramic shots which you can scan with a film scanner like the nikon 9000, it also helped me learning to setup and use the camera in an "economical way" - you can experiment with multiple settings for the same shot without "wasting" those precious loaded film holders!

Anyway, I'm having fun - I hope you do too

Thanks, I looked at their site the other day, before I'd done any research, but I'll revisit! Glad you're having fun :cool:

jamesw
15-Nov-2008, 16:06
Hi James

Welcome - I am like in The UK, It took me over 6 months of research and trips to Robert White, Linhof Studio, friends and a mini workshop to understand all. There is a lot to learn and you have many questions about Copal shutters, quick load etc...

Van I suggest as was recommended to me, buy Steve Simmons "Using the View Camera" from Amazon @ 13, it arrives with a 2 days, and it will answer most of questions, movements, holders etc. You can then progress "View Camera Technique" by Leslie Stroebel, however this is an expensive book and more technical.

I would recommend both before doing anything, also book yourself on a workshop if you can and download and read all the information on this site.

Regarding cost and equipment, it all depends how deep is your pocket and what you really want? Some people say buy F8 lenses, I find them to dark to focus, and it is all down to preference and experience.

I am only using quickloads at the moment, whilst this is more expensive it is easier and quicker for me, but as I progress I see no reason for not using sheet film.

To start with I set all the blocks from a scrabble game on the dining room table and practised on a regular basis, tilt, shift, swing and focus, also used a packet of corn flakes, kept adjusting position and orientation until I got the hang of movements, then I bought a pack of instant film and fuji-pa45 to practice metering and composition, before using a single quickload.

Good luck

Yep, all sounds sensible, including the practice with scrabble blocks before wasting any film!

jamesw
15-Nov-2008, 19:01
Um... this may be a stupid question, but how exactly does one take a 'portrait' orientation photo in LF, as opposed to a 'lanscape' orientation? I take it all cameras have the ability to do this?

On another subject, I'm trying to decide between the Chamonix 4x5, the Shenhao TZ45 IIB, and a Tachihara. Any thoughts on the relative merits/limitations of any of these? I've done quite a lot of reading, but still haven't come to a conclusion...

SamWeiss
15-Nov-2008, 19:14
Um... this may be a stupid question, but how exactly does one take a 'portrait' orientation photo in LF, as opposed to a 'lanscape' orientation? I take it all cameras have the ability to do this?

On another subject, I'm trying to decide between the Chamonix 4x5, the Shenhao TZ45 IIB, and a Tachihara. Any thoughts on the relative merits/limitations of any of these? I've done quite a lot of reading, but still haven't come to a conclusion...

Almost all view cameras have backs that either revolve or can be detached then rotated and reattached. I believe the 3 cameras you listed fall in the latter category.

I too have been looking at the Chamonix and ShenHao cameras - I guess everybody who is looking to get a new field camera for under $1000 pretty much settles on those three options. Used is a option too. Years ago I played with some rail cameras - Calumet, and Gowland. Now I'd like to get back at it.

FWIW, while a field camera is an attractive option wrt weight, I'm beginning to think that I have to re-examine my requirements. Any view camera requires a different approach than the small roll film cameras. A lightweight rail camera may be better for me as I "see" with longish focal lengths (and all the field cameras you listed are limited by bellows.)

jamesw
16-Nov-2008, 05:23
Almost all view cameras have backs that either revolve or can be detached then rotated and reattached. I believe the 3 cameras you listed fall in the latter category.

I too have been looking at the Chamonix and ShenHao cameras - I guess everybody who is looking to get a new field camera for under $1000 pretty much settles on those three options. Used is a option too. Years ago I played with some rail cameras - Calumet, and Gowland. Now I'd like to get back at it.

FWIW, while a field camera is an attractive option wrt weight, I'm beginning to think that I have to re-examine my requirements. Any view camera requires a different approach than the small roll film cameras. A lightweight rail camera may be better for me as I "see" with longish focal lengths (and all the field cameras you listed are limited by bellows.)

A detachable back for different orientations would be fine.

Personally, I tend to 'see' more in wideangle, so I think a field camera which copes with wideangle lenses as standard would be OK for me. I think any of those three cameras I mentioned will do them fine.

As far as I can tell from researching and asking a few people, the Chamonix is probably a bit better built and more rigid, etc., while the Shenhao is slightly easier and quicker to set up and use. I guess the other thing is the Shenhao has been around longer and is more widely stocked - and there isn't a potential six-month wait for it.

Not many people have mentioned the Tachihara. I hate the look of the Cherrywood and brass (sorry if that offends anyone, it's only a personal taste), but I find the BR model quite aesthetically pleasing.

jamesw
4-Dec-2008, 16:58
OK I've had a good look at the Shenhao, but it's come down to either a Chamonix, or one of the Toyo field models (45A/AX/AII). I wondered if anyone has anything major against/for each? Does the Toyo take Fuji Quickload holders, I couldn't find any info on that...

I'm not sure what's in it between the Chamonix and Toyo for WA lenses. Apparently the Toyo will accommodate a 90mm with full movements with a flat lens board, and needs recessed boards below that (although that's not a problem, right?). I think the Chamonix with a universal bellows will accept wider lenses without recessed boards.

Other advantages to the Chamonix appear to be: axial tilt on the front standard (I think Toyo is base tilt only), it's lighter, it has greater movements overall. It looks fantastic.

Advantages to the Toyo: it's probably tougher and more rigid(?), it has a good range of accessories, it's more established; stocked in good camera stores and parts/accessories are readily available (like the camera) without a waiting list. You don't have to attach the front standard every time you setup, or change a focal length.

Another feature of the Toyo is 'drop-bed' for WA lenses - I don't know if this is an advantage, or something you don't have to do on the Chamonix? As I understand it, this can overcome a) the chance of the bed appearing in WA shots, b) extend the rise/fall/shift of the camera beyond it's ordinary limits. It's unclear whether you can use rise/fall in combination with front tilt for landscape, or how much of a PITA all this is, or not. Maybe someone would be able to comment from experience?

Cheers,
James