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View Full Version : Two 4x5s Compared - First LF Quandary



Scott Teven
29-Dec-2008, 13:47
I am comparing 2 different "entry level" 4x5 cameras. I say "entry level" because I am shopping for my first LF camera after many years of 35mm SLR photography. I shoot landscapes and some architecture and want a LF camera that has movements so I can learn and apply the functions of a LF camera.

I also like the convenience of roll film and the 6x9 format so I plan to use the 4x5 with a 6x9 back also. Because I am so used to looking through a bright SLR viewfinder (and my eyes are getting tired at 54 yrs old) I would like to get a reflex viewer for my new 4x5. Without having actually seen or touched them, these are the two 4x5 cameras I am comparing:

1 - Arca Swiss Discovery in original case with 30cm rail

2 - 4x5 Cambo Legend with fresnel & revolving back, geared moves are shift and rise/fall

The Arca Swiss does cost more than the Cambo but that is a huge issue for me. I would greatly appreciate feedback from anyone who is familiar with these cameras.

David Karp
29-Dec-2008, 14:16
I have a Discovery. I am familiar with the Legend, and have owned three other Cambo cameras.

Both are fine cameras, but serve different purposes.

The Legend should be less expensive. Accessories are plentiful and generally less expensive than those for the ARCA. The Legend is heavier. If you were going to use it to photograph architecture and transporting it by car to various locations, it would be fine. Some Legends have both base and axis tilts. Most of them have axis tilts only.

The Discovery was ARCA's entry level camera. You will see references to 171 ARCAs. This size has been discontinued, in favor of a version of the camera with smaller frames (the part that holds the bellows, back, and lensboards). The Discovery is a 171 ARCA. It has base tilts.

The Discovery is lighter than the Legend. It was designed to be portable. The version you are asking about has a 30 cm rail. That will let you focus a 300mm non-telephoto design lens at infinity. There are other rails (expensive) that will let you use longer lenses. The best option (in my opinion) is the telescoping rail (two rail sections that slide on a bracket and lock in place). This lets you set up your camera in a more compact configuration for transport (by mounting the camera on one of the rail sections and removing it from the bracket). I have one of these and it is a great feature. Without this feature, the camera is somewhat harder to transport in a backpack. Cambo also makes a telescoping rail like this, but I can only recall seeing one of these used.

The good news is that it is easier to come by used accessories for 171 ARCAs than the newer ARCAs. The bad news is that both new and used ARCA accessories are pricey.

A good compromise between these cameras would be a Cambo 45SF. I had one, and honestly, if I did not want to make my Discovery into some crazy off-size film format, I would never have sold the 45SF. It is not as light as the Discovery, but putting together a full system of Cambo accessories for it was far easier and less expensive than doing the same for an ARCA. Don't get me wrong, I like my ARCA, but the differences between the Discovery and the 45SF are smaller than some would like to believe.

As between the Legend and the Discovery, I guess it comes down to price vs. weight. The Legend is pretty darn heavy. It was made to be a studio camera. The Discovery is much lighter. It was made to be transported out of the studio.

Either one will let you take good photos.

Gem Singer
29-Dec-2008, 14:29
Either one is a good choice, if you have decided on a monorail camera. Both are light enough to be carried short distances in the field, but they are non-folding, bulky cameras.

The Arca Swiss Discovery is classified as an entry level camera.

Cambo makes a light weight monocular reflex viewer that attaches directly to the groundglass frame. Sometimes it is available on the used market. A Fresnel is a must when using a reflex viewer, and you mentioned that the Cambo already has one.

Gem Singer
29-Dec-2008, 14:31
Hey David,you type faster than I do.

GPS
29-Dec-2008, 14:40
...
The Arca Swiss does cost more than the Cambo but that is a huge issue for me.

Hey Scott, you type faster than you think.:)

Frank Petronio
29-Dec-2008, 14:44
The Discovery has a better reputation on this forum, it's better built. Think of it as an entry level BMW to the Cambo being an good General Motors family sedan like a Buick (which isn't a bad car at all).

jb7
29-Dec-2008, 15:40
The version you are asking about has a 30 cm rail. That will let you focus a 300mm non-telephoto design lens at infinity. There are other rails (expensive) that will let you use longer lenses. The best option (in my opinion) is the telescoping rail (two rail sections that slide on a bracket and lock in place). This lets you set up your camera in a more compact configuration for transport (by mounting the camera on one of the rail sections and removing it from the bracket). I have one of these and it is a great feature.

If you do get the Arca, you might think about sawing that rail in half,
which will give you a bit more extension, as well as making the camera more portable.

That is, if it's not already in two pieces-

j

David Karp
29-Dec-2008, 15:44
Hey David,you type faster than I do.

:) I am glad we agreed, pretty much anyway.


The Discovery has a better reputation on this forum, it's better built. Think of it as an entry level BMW to the Cambo being an good General Motors family sedan like a Buick (which isn't a bad car at all).

Having owned both a Cambo and a Discovery back to back, I would have to say that each was superior in some ways, and inferior in others, including build/design quality.

Scott Teven
29-Dec-2008, 20:50
The Arca Swiss does cost more than the Cambo but that is a huge issue for me.

Indeed, I do type faster than I think! What I MEANT to say was that the price difference between the cameras was NOT a huge issue for me.

David Karp
29-Dec-2008, 20:52
If you do get the Arca, you might think about sawing that rail in half,
which will give you a bit more extension, as well as making the camera more portable.

That is, if it's not already in two pieces-

j

Sawing the rail won't do you much good unless you have the extension bracket. You will just have two pieces of rail.

Which brings up a question: Will the Discovery rail work in the extension bracket? I don't know the answer to that.

Scott Teven
29-Dec-2008, 21:06
Accessories are plentiful and generally less expensive than those for the ARCA. The Legend is heavier.

The cheaper & plentiful accessories are a useful consideration. However, I don't know how long I will own the camera before I decide to upgrade to another type. I guess I'm thinking of this LF camera as a learning tool and a stepping stone. Of course, I may also get frustrated & decide its not for me. Only time will tell!

The lighter weight & portability of the Arca would be nice. Although I doubt I will backpack with it, I will carry it short distances.

I visited the Cambo website and noticed they have several different types of viewers. I don't know how available these others are on the used market.

Scott Teven
29-Dec-2008, 21:18
The Discovery has a better reputation on this forum, it's better built. Think of it as an entry level BMW to the Cambo being an good General Motors family sedan like a Buick (which isn't a bad car at all).

I like your comparison Frank! This helps a beginner like me without getting technical. If I was shopping cars, I would probable get the BMW. But I already know how to drive a car. A LF camera is a new ride altogether!

David Karp
29-Dec-2008, 22:28
Scott,

With patience, I think you will find just about every Cambo accessory pretty readily available on the used market. For example, if you are interested in a viewer, the rotating monocular viewer or the binocular viewfinder are often found on Ebay.

ARCA cameras are really nice. Accessories are really expensive. For example, since you are interested in architecture and landscapes, you will probably want to use a 90mm lens, which will require a bag bellows. A used ARCA bag bellows will be quite expensive, perhaps $150-$200. A used Cambo bag bellows should run $40-$50.

If you want that ARCA telescoping monorail discussed in the earlier post, they are sufficiently rare on the used market that you might have to buy a camera just to get it, cherry pick the best pieces from the two to get what you want, and then sell the other camera with the 30cm rail. Just do a quick search for "Cambo" in Ebay under large format, and you will get lots of stuff. Then do a search for "ARCA."

So, I am somewhat conflicted in giving advice. I think Cambos are great cameras for learners. (The camera used to illustrate camera movements in Simmons's, Shamans's and Stone's view camera books is an even less expensive Cambo.) Actually, I think that they are just plain old good cameras. Plus, collecting the gear you need to learn LF photography is easier and less expensive if you go the Cambo route.

On the other hand, ARCAs are really nice cameras. If you are really patient, and don't mind the added expense of accessories, you might start out with the Discovery as your keeper camera. Since you could probably sell either of these cameras for about what you pay for them used, it is hard to go wrong.

jb7
30-Dec-2008, 00:26
Sawing the rail won't do you much good unless you have the extension bracket. You will just have two pieces of rail.

Which brings up a question: Will the Discovery rail work in the extension bracket? I don't know the answer to that.

Yes of course, wasn't really thinking-
it depends on having a full length bracket,
which is unlikely on a disco-

I just picked up a nice rail and bracket- 45cm each-
and I might end up sawing the rail myself-

Must have been just thinking aloud...

j

Bjorn Nilsson
30-Dec-2008, 03:29
As you are about to learn how to use a Large Format camera, I would like to suggest the Sinar F (or F1 or F2) camera. I have used a Cambo but quite soon bought me a Sinar F which was much easier to use. (I guess the Arca Discovery is easy to use too, but I don't know for sure.)
Anyhow, apart from being a precise professional tool, the Sinar is very easy to get along with. There are plenty to choose from on the second hand market, so try to find something which comes in a package, with lens(es), filmholders, maybe a binocular reflex hood and a fresnel lens. An extra 6" piece of rail is nice. While you're at it, see to getting a manual too. The Sinar manuals are comprehensive and very well written with lots of examples and pictures.
One "difficult" concept in the world of view cameras is "tilt & swing", how to do it and how much. On the Sinar there are scales which helps you to get it right the first time without a lot of trial and error.
The Sinar cameras were found in almost every photo studio, thus there are plenty of cameras and accessories around if you need to find them.
For myself, I have a Sinar F2 and have previously owned 3 different Sinars over some 20 years.
Well, this is my idea of a good learning camera, which have been good enough ever since.

//Björn

Scott Teven
30-Dec-2008, 15:14
A good compromise between these cameras would be a Cambo 45SF. I had one, and honestly, if I did not want to make my Discovery into some crazy off-size film format, I would never have sold the 45SF. It is not as light as the Discovery, but putting together a full system of Cambo accessories for it was far easier and less expensive than doing the same for an ARCA. Don't get me wrong, I like my ARCA, but the differences between the Discovery and the 45SF are smaller than some would like to believe.


Based on the helpful suggestions & opinions of many of you on this forum I have an order PENDING at KEH for the following used equipment which seems to be priced fairly:

4x5 Cambo 45 SF Camera EX+ $430

I'm very excited about the Cambo 45 SF camera which David Karp wrote a great review on. This seemed like a better way to go. Thanks David!

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I selected a normal and wide angle lens also from KEH. I wanted to get lenses made by the same manufacturer. My understanding is they are both Rodenstock lenses but the 150mm has the Caltar name on it.

90mm F6.8 Rodenstock Grandagon MC, Copal 0, "Bargain Condition" $415
150mm F5.6 Caltar II-N MC, Copal 0, EX+ $350

My only concern is the 90 F6.8 Grandagon won't be very bright on the ground glass. They also had a Caltar 4.5 II-N but it cost about twice as much.

-------------

I have no idea if this is a good carrying case. Maybe I should wait on buying this item:
Calumet lightweight black woven nylon case 22 x 17 x 12 $70

Bjorn Nilsson
30-Dec-2008, 15:52
Try to find a fresnel lens for your new camera. That will give you much better (and even) brightness when using your wide-angle. The problem isn't really the f/4.5-5.6 (the bright ones) compared to the f/6.8-8.0 (the "not so bright" ones). It's only about one stop or so, but a heck of a difference in weight and size.
The real problem is that the lens is quite close to the ground glass, so the light rays which are off center (from where you watch behind the gg) is also a lot "off angle". This makes any wide-angle produce a hot-spot on the ground glass, even a f/4.5 fully open. A fresnel lens will really make wonders here, where the huge size of the f/4.5 lens only made the center spot slighly brighter.
(Ok, the brighter 90mm lenses also have about 20mm larger image circles and are constructed with 8 lenses instead of the 6 lenses for the smaller f/8 lenses. At working apertures the brighter, bigger lenses have slightly better MTF readings, but in practice?)
Many of us use e.g. f/9 lenses in longer focal lenghts and have no problem with focusing them. (I'm thinking about the well reputed Fujinon 240 A.)

Anyhow, congratulations on your new camera.

//Björn

David Karp
30-Dec-2008, 21:35
Hi Scott,

I hope you like your camera. I feel sort of responsible if you do not! I am, however, confident that you will like it. It really is an underrated camera.

PM sent also.

Congrats.