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View Full Version : Monorail...I have to ask.



dazedgonebye
11-Dec-2008, 07:28
Ok, I don't think there's any real chance that I want a monorail camera. Just about every picture I ever take is out in the mountains/desert/beach/woods.

How bad is it to tote something like that Calument monorail in the classifieds? Can you carry it essentially assembled in a large bag then easily mount it to a tripod for quick(ish) use?

Ralph Barker
11-Dec-2008, 07:49
Thirty-some years ago, all I had was a 4x5 Calumet monorail. I found a back pack that was large enough to accommodate the fiberboard case, and used the outer wells in the interior to pack wrapped lenses, film holders and such. The pack was certainly heavy, and less than convenient, but it worked.

Bruce Watson
11-Dec-2008, 08:01
The Toho (http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/toho.htm) I use is a field monorail. Full movements on both ends, and one of the lightest 5x4 camera available. I pack it everywhere. Fairly quick and simple to use, but you do have to know before hand whether you are shooting horizontal or vertical. Changing after you are setup isn't all that hard, but it's not as convenient as a revolving back.

The Toho isn't a flexible as a full monorail -- it's not the answer for heavy architectural or studio work. But for landscape it's very nice indeed, especially if you are backpacking it.

Paul Kierstead
11-Dec-2008, 08:07
I have a Calumet monorail that I use inside. I *really* wouldn't want to pack this; it would be a serious hassle. If you worked mostly out of your trunk (like many LF'ers do), it wouldn't be so bad. But if you want to do field work, for sure I would say get some sort of field camera.

Ron Marshall
11-Dec-2008, 08:28
Another vote for the Toho: I am completely satisfied with mine.

Before purchasing the Toho I packed a Sinar, which is fine for short hikes if one is in good shape.

dazedgonebye
11-Dec-2008, 08:32
Bruce,
That Toho looks great. Unfortunately, that's about a decimal place too expensive for me.

I hate being cheap.

venchka
11-Dec-2008, 08:40
A big wheel jogging baby stroller might make the monorail more portable. Unless you already have one or find a low mileage example at a garage sale, they aren't cheap.

I have no idea which Calumet is for sale. What I do know is that I purchased a Kodak view camera that supposedly became a Calumet view camera. It had a few issues like: non-standard lens boards and standards that would not get very close to each other. In other words, it needed a non-standard, recessed lens board to accomodate lenses shorter than 110mm-120mm. After figuring out all of this, I returned the camera for a refund.

YMMV

dazedgonebye
11-Dec-2008, 08:45
Room is always a problem for me.
I travel with my family, usually the 4 of us in a compact car. No room for baby strollers. If I had any sense left, I'd stick to 15mm lenses on 35mm cameras.

venchka
11-Dec-2008, 08:49
Room is always a problem for me.
I travel with my family, usually the 4 of us in a compact car. No room for baby strollers. If I had any sense left, I'd stick to 15mm lenses on 35mm cameras.

Sense? We have sense left? Who knew? :D

Frank Petronio
11-Dec-2008, 08:53
Just compress the front and back standards, wrap your darkcloth around them, and stick the Calumet into the top of your pack with the rail sticking out. Not very elegant but what other camera is $100 and offers full moves? In someways having a disposable 4x5 is better -- you'll use it in bad weather and dicey situations.

The other way to carry it is to mount it on the tripod and put the tripod over your shoulder and march. It will be faster to shoot with and maybe you'll find better photos -- more intimate and unique, less of the grand vista from the mountain top sunset crap -- closer to home if you don't have to unpack and set-up simply to check a scene out.

Drew Wiley
11-Dec-2008, 08:54
For about twenty years I hiked around with a Sinar monorail, often in very rugged terrain. It was a much faster camera to set up than a flatbed, and more versatile. The problem was that I had to train myself to eat only one meal a day, because I didn't have enough room left in the pack for much food! Tried that last year and almost fainted on the third day out! So now I mainly shoot folding flatbed cameras for extended outings. And now that I'm nearly 60, I try to keep the pack weight around
75 lbs instead of 90.

Brian Ellis
11-Dec-2008, 08:59
It's fairly common to see someone post a question about what field camera to buy because they want to switch from a monorail to a field camera for landscape and similar photography. I don't offhand ever recall someone asking about what monorail to buy because they want to switch from a field camera to a monorail for that kind of work. That's not counting "field" monorails such as the Toho or "tweeners" like the Technikardan.

aduncanson
11-Dec-2008, 09:28
The thumbnail below is my very old boy scout pack frame adapted to carry a large camera bag and a Cambo/Calumet square rail camera. The major added components are two pipe clamps, a piece of wood and a spare Cambo rail clamp. It is illustrated with a Calumet 45N on a 12 inch rail. The set up is compact enough, but it takes a bit of time to get the camera into shooting configuration; i.e. attaching the lens board, back & bellows. I keep another Cambo rail clamp on a quick release plate for my tripod head.

The camera bag is big enough to hold the necessary camera pieces as well as lenses, meters and film holders etc., but if I had to actually carry anything non photographic larger than lunch, say like camping supplies, I would probably need a second pack on my chest.

My intentions in building this rig has been effectively defeated by my essentially sedentary like style. It has not gotten me out into the great outdoors and actually taking pictures very often so I guess that it is not a great solution for me.

John O'Connell
11-Dec-2008, 09:46
The one in the classifieds I see is the long-rail version of the Kodak/Calumet CC400 series camera.

They weigh a ton (about 8-10 pounds), require a recessed board for any wideangle, do not have a Graflok back, have non-removable bellows, and the standards do not come off the rail for transport. On the plus side they have geared rise on the front standard and a revolving back.

These are not packable cameras in the sense that they are easily transported in a backpack. The suggestions you've received here are about as good as it gets for carrying one. If you do manage to get it where you want it, however, it can be set up for use quite rapidly, as it cannot be disassembled in any meaningful way.

Probably every member of this board can attest to creating an excellent image taken with one of these puppies, because we've all probably owned one at some time. But a $300 Sinar is a much more packable beast in the field.

Nick_3536
11-Dec-2008, 10:25
Somebody awhile back posted about taking the rail off. I think they cut it down. Maybe a search would turn up the discussion. If you can manage to get rail off then it wouldn't be too bad to haul around.

The CC401 has a very long rail. 26" I think. They aren't the sort of camera for extreme wide angles that's true but I bet a 120mm would be okay. Maybe a 105?

Dave Brown
11-Dec-2008, 14:37
I do as Frank suggests, just leave the camera on the tripod and balance it on my shoulder. You'll want to switch shoulders from time to time, but I've done hikes of five miles or so, on steep mountain trails, using this technique. One caveat, my Gowland weighs considerably less than the Calumet. Couldn't the kids play Sherpa for you?

Alan Davenport
11-Dec-2008, 15:22
How bad is it to tote something like that Calument monorail....?

It's "do-able" but a real PITA, IMO. I have Calumet 540 (square rail) that I managed to stuff into a Lowe Super Trekker, at least before I got a field camera.

I made a 5 inch rail from hardwood. To pack the camera, I first moved the rail-to-tripod clamp to one end of the rail, so that both standards were on one end of the rail. Then rolled the standards from the metal rail onto my wooden stub rail. At five inches, it was just long enough to carry both standards with the bellows fully collapsed. I left the long rail at home and packed a 12 inch Calumet rail in the bag. As I recall, I could only get one lens (mounted on a lensboard) into the bag, along with the rest of the camera bits, lightmeter, filters and a few film holders. Only one lens wasn't a problem then, because that's all I had.

To use the camera in the field, I reversed the above procedure, then packed it away again if walking more than a couple hundred hards between shots.

I originally bought the monorail because I felt some need to have "all possible" movements when I was learning to use LF cameras. Though I still use the monorail, it's only when I can apply the Weston system (less than 500 feet from the car...) The rest of the time I use a Tachihara, and if I were starting in LF now I'd just buy a field camera and imagine the monorail.

Clive Gray
11-Dec-2008, 22:43
I drag a Sinar F around in a Supertreker.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/abbandon/2985378038/sizes/m/in/set-72157606209982421/

The F can be found pretty cheap and you can extend the system to do pretty much anything, it's not the lightest option and some people seem to hate them but it is perfectly usable.

Turner Reich
12-Dec-2008, 01:21
Ask Merg Ross, he used to have one and is seen in the Brett Weston film at Point Lobos with it. I have one but don't used it in the field, I have folding field cameras for that work but I see no reason why you couldn't use one. There are heavier cameras being used out there, ie the Calumet C1.

Bjorn Nilsson
12-Dec-2008, 02:45
I drag a Sinar F around in a Supertreker.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/abbandon/2985378038/sizes/m/in/set-72157606209982421/

The F can be found pretty cheap and you can extend the system to do pretty much anything, it's not the lightest option and some people seem to hate them but it is perfectly usable.

Nice backpack and good useage of the available space. You don't make things lighter with the Copal shutter either.
A good backpack (preferably with a good frame to support it) makes walking around much easier.

The more you shoot during a daytrip, the more you will benefit from a better (read "quicker") camera. The Sinar is very sturdy and easy to work with. Once you get the tripod set, the Sinar is very quick to set up. Setting tilts/swings/DOF is done with the aid of the built in scales, not as fast as with the P/P2 cameras, but with similar precision.
In my mind, learning LF photography is best done with a monorail type camera. A monorail is (usually) much easier to manipulate and the setup and adjustments are more "obvious" to the eye. I.e. a good way of really learning what a camera is and what it can be capable of. That knowledge is useable regardless of future cameras (from P&S to ULF...). Also, there is nothing a folder can do which a monorail cannot do. I don't think the opposite is true.

I currently use a Sinar F2 at "working distance" from my car, not yet having organized a nice backpack like Clive's. I do admit that I use smaller cameras on longer trecks (read: "10-15 kg of Hasselblads"), but I find myself returning to some places with the Sinar to work a bit more with certain scenes.

//Björn

Frank Petronio
12-Dec-2008, 04:38
I've tried to express the same idea as Björn's to numerous beginners -- that an inexpensive decent monorail is the best to start with because the movements are obvious and uncompromised. But I fear most are seduced by the prettiness of a wooden camera and end up with either a floppy Tachihara or an over-priced Ebony ("but I MUST have assymetrical tilts or I won't be able to make that sunset picture!")

Ken Lee
12-Dec-2008, 05:19
In "the field", some people shoot scenes at infinity distance, while others take close-ups of rocks and plants. Some love the wide-angle near-far look, while others love the details of mountain-tops or buildings.

Good monorails provide unlimited view camera adjustments. They can also provide unlimited bellows draw, and are generally more rigid than field cameras. They can be faster to set up for a shot - or slower, depending on how you carry them.

How many times have you been constrained by your current camera ? What do you need in... "the field" ?

Bill_1856
12-Dec-2008, 05:39
Get a Crown Graphic or Busch Pressman.

dazedgonebye
12-Dec-2008, 06:01
Field camera or monorail, it's going to be a big change from my regular kit.
I usually go out with.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2234/1573182943_3405a5f574.jpg

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/155/347281417_3bef9ce8b2.jpg

Add a few rolls of film in a coat pocket and a spot meter (sometimes) and that's about it.

I'm afraid a monorail might be too much of a shock to my system.

Brian Ellis
12-Dec-2008, 07:10
Field camera or monorail, it's going to be a big change from my regular kit.
I usually go out with.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2234/1573182943_3405a5f574.jpg

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/155/347281417_3bef9ce8b2.jpg

Add a few rolls of film in a coat pocket and a spot meter (sometimes) and that's about it.

I'm afraid a monorail might be too much of a shock to my system.

If my experience with beginning photography students and the university's monorail that I required them to use for one project is any guide, it would definitely be too much of a shock to your system. I'd never recommend a monorail to a LF beginner. If you want to get into LF photography, get a nice simple light weight field camera and see how you like it. If you ever find a need for more movements than a Tachihara, Shen Hao, Wista, Chamonix, or even Graflex camera has, then consider a monorail. But I've used LF cameras for about 15 years and have yet to find something I wanted to photograph that couldn't be photographed with any of the various field cameras I've owned.

John Kasaian
12-Dec-2008, 07:43
Ok, I don't think there's any real chance that I want a monorail camera. Just about every picture I ever take is out in the mountains/desert/beach/woods.

How bad is it to tote something like that Calument monorail in the classifieds? Can you carry it essentially assembled in a large bag then easily mount it to a tripod for quick(ish) use?

You can certainly take a monorail afield. Just "how bad is it...?" depends on your expectations. For short excursions from the car it can be carried on it's tripod and over the shoulder. You can certainly put on in a pack, too---it will take some creative padding but it can be done...others have done it and so can you!

Personally I'd look for the architectural version of the 400 (402?? I get confused way too easily!) with a shorter rail and more compressed bellows due to the design of the standards. It will still handle normal focal length lense though.

If something quick, light and portable is what you really desire consider a Crown Graphic---another sweet, low bucks entree into LF!

Merg Ross
12-Dec-2008, 08:23
Somebody awhile back posted about taking the rail off. I think they cut it down. Maybe a search would turn up the discussion. If you can manage to get rail off then it wouldn't be too bad to haul around.

The CC401 has a very long rail. 26" I think. They aren't the sort of camera for extreme wide angles that's true but I bet a 120mm would be okay. Maybe a 105?

The CC400 series cameras can be separated from the rail by removing the end caps. This, of course, does not allow for a quick setup but makes for easier transport. I have both the CC401 & CC402 (wide field) that were purchased new about 40 years ago. I got the CC401 for doing extreme close-ups where a long bellows extension is necessary and the wide field was used for my architectural photography. The long rail can easily be shortened (permanetly) with a hacksaw if you prefer something less than the full rail poking you in the face. The Calumet cameras are very basic, no nonsense tools that are available for a small cash outlay. For a field camera I would look for a clean Toyo AX, it would be much easier to pack than the Calumet and has all the movements necessary, plus adequate bellows extension.

Ken Lee
12-Dec-2008, 08:30
My first view camera was a Calumet monorail, and I took it all over the place. I was fairly young of course.


http://www.kenleegallery.com/images/forum/calumet1.jpghttp://www.kenleegallery.com/images/forum/calumet2.jpg


I find field cameras harder to work with than that old Calumet: too many little controls to fiddle with.

Some monorails are fairly complex, but many - like the old Calumet - are very simple, as you can see. They are faster to set up in the field, than folding cameras: Just put it on the tripod and you're done. You can often leave a lens on the camera too, since it doesn't have to fold down.

If you don't want a metal monorail, and want to save a penny, you can build yourself a Bender (http://www.benderphoto.com/4x5.htm) camera. Very portable, very simple, very light, and very affordable. Even more affordable, when purchased used.


http://www.kenleegallery.com/images/forum/bender4x5.gif

Vaughn
12-Dec-2008, 09:37
One caveat, my Gowland weighs considerably less than the Calumet. Couldn't the kids play Sherpa for you?

My Gowland weighs a kilogram (just under 2.5 pounds) with the Caltar 150/5.6 on it...I would call that considerably less than a Calumet!;) And for walking around looking for images, keeping it on the pod works very well (as long as there is decent footing).

I use to carry the university's Calumet for miles thru the redwoods (in a big case and a BHT...big honkin tripod). I forgot to switch hands a few times, so now one arm is longer than the other. But I was young and getting out to photograph was more important than worrying about asymmetrical arm lengths, getting tired or sore. It still is, but I do have the Zone VI 8x10 beast contained in a comfortable backpack and a Reis pod to stabilize myself when walking on rough ground (or walking down the middle of creeks, etc).

If buying the Calumet does not tie up funds that might be better spent getting a field camera, go for it -- you can always sell it later...or save it for working around town and/or out of your vehicle. Otherwise, save your money for a field camera of some type.

Vaughn