Page 1 of 4 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 31

Thread: advantages of monorail over field camera

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Posts
    159

    advantages of monorail over field camera

    Hi.

    Before you tell me about how large, bulky and heavy a 4x5 monorail is, please note: I am large, bulky and heavy and I am quite versatile.

    Are there any significant advantages, for a fine art photographer mainly concerned with landscapes, cityscapes and environmental portraiture, to owning a monorail camera as opposed to a field camera? I do not care for studio portraits; I find a blank, neutral background to be sterile and unnatural. I particularly like the images of Karsch, Liebovitz and especially Sally Mann. In my view, they are not typical portrait photographers; the backgrounds in their portraits tend to interact with and augment the human element in their respective images.

    I like this.

    I don't want to limit the range of control to which I might avail myself. Carrying 30 lbs of equipment is not big deal to me, as long as I can fit it into my car.

    Have I answered my own question here, or is there something else I should consider?

    Thanks to all who are inclined to reply.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Posts
    1,794

    advantages of monorail over field camera

    Neither landscape or portraits are big movement users.

    The big advantage to big bulky monorails is they tend to be cheap used. Most people won't go to the trouble to haul them around so they can sell for less then a field camera. BTW both my monorails have less movements then my field camera. Better to compare camera to camera then camera type to camera type.

  3. #3

    advantages of monorail over field camera

    Being large and bulky myself, I thought that weight does not matter. Trust me it does if you are going any distance. The big weight is usuallly in what kinds of lenses you have. A 600mm Nikkor weighs almost 4 lbs, and a 450 Nikon sw weighs 2.5 lbs. Add a bunch of holders and you quickly outweigh just about any camera, save a really big studio 8x10. Bigger cameras require bigger tripods.

    All that having been said, the advantages of a field vs monorail are usually 1. quick setup.

    2. simple adjustments, which can also be a disadvantage. Something like an Ebony RW, limited movements, usually plenty for field landscapes, very light, strong, not as many movements as:

    practically any monorail.

    My personal favorite, Arca Swiss. Very rigid, huge number of movement, endless adapters, about 6 lbs. Not a problem with a lens board adapter. It is a monorail. I have a4x5 AND an 8x10, it weighs somewhere around 11 lbs.

    Kerry has a thread on the Toho 4x5 monorail

    I have a Toyo G 8x10 which I will probably be selling before long. It weighs 18 or 19 lbs, but has the most movements anyone would ever need. It is a wonderful studio camera, lots of geared movements, utter precision in adjustments.

    So the answer, as I said in a previous thread, there is no answer. Get a cheap version of whichever and try it out.

    That is the only good answer.

  4. #4

    advantages of monorail over field camera

    For the type of photography that you describe, I don't see much advantage to a monorail. A monorail will be more precise and rigid, e.g., the standards may be more accurately parallel. But the comparison depends on specific cameras: a well made field camera is sufficiently precise and rigid, while a lightweight or poorly designed one may have standards that aren't exactly parallel. A studio monorail will tend to have geared movements, which are convenient, but in field use the convenience doesn't seem worth the weight. Some monorails have larger direct movements such as front rise than many field cameras, but for the work that you intend, you are unlikely to exceed the available movements of field cameras. Additionally, you can always obtain additional front rise indirectly, by titling the camera upwards, then bringing the standards back to plumb.

    Monorails will tend to have measuring scales on all the movements, while many field cameras, particularly wooden ones, lack scales. But most photographers setup movements by observing the ground glass rather than using the scales. The most useful scale is a measurement of the focusing position -- this scale can be used to determine the best focus position and the aperture needed to achieve the desired dof using the focus spread method described in articles on the home page of this site. But some field cameras have a focusing scale, and a ruler scale can be easily added to others.

    There are also some cameras that bridge the field / monorail categories, such as the Linhof Technikardan and some Arca-Swiss models. The Technikardan has a collapsing monorail and standards that rotate to make the camera more compact for carrying. It has geared focusing and is more precise than most field cameras and more rigid than many. It has scales on all movements.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    627

    advantages of monorail over field camera

    Partly it is a matter of personality; whichever you prefer using is better for you.

    Theoretically, flat bed cameras are easier to haul around and set up, but once set up, a monorail is easier to take the actual picture. Those thoughts led me to buy some monorails, but once I owned a top quality field camera, with extensive bellows range and movements, the monorails took up their current residence in the closet. It turns out that the precision work of composing, framing, focussing, and movements, isn't exactly rapid with either model, so the convenience of a monorail buys little. But the repetitive, boring, exasperating, bothersome, grunt work of stowing, carrying, removing, mounting, and setting up the camera is all cost and no benefit. So even though I believed that monorails were better for me, I found out in the field that I preferred working with a flat bed. With two exceptions.

    1. For high-rise architecture, or any situation where maximum rise and fall are required, a monorail is the way to go.

    2. The Ebony non-folders attempt to be the best of both worlds, and look like they probably succeed pretty well at it. In particular the 45SU does so and also has quite a bit of bellows range. Out of my price range, though.

    One final consideration is base vs. center tilt. I bring this up because out in the field I also discovered though I intellectually preferred center tilt, for me base tilt is easier to work with. In general terms, flat bed cameras pretty much always have base tilt, since it is needed for folding the thing up; often they also have center tilt in the front. Monorails are less consisent in design, but nearly all have only one or the other, and I would guess that more than half are center tilt. If you know which you prefer, make sure the model you select has it (duh). If you are less than sure, having both available, while not a requirement, would be handy.

  6. #6

    advantages of monorail over field camera

    Allow me to put in a word for the Toyo VX 125. Although I think Arca makes the best monorail cameras for field use the VX is a close second and can be found used for half the price. Arca is at such a premium that the used prices are inflated and now are generally outdated. The VX is as light or lighter, has a telescoping rail so you can just squeeze it flat and stow it. Very quick, perhaps the quickest of them all, to set up. It has a bellows that can be all but tied in a knot and then snap back to it's folds without creases. There is a review on the front page here.

    But then you wanted to know about the differences between monorails and field cameras. In a word, simplicity. Field cameras are over-engineered. All that tricky folding, sliding, extensions and knobs. You have to be constantly checking and rechecking yourself to make sure you haven't forgot to loosen this or tighten that. They often have two different extensions. The front and the back. You have to use different setups for different lenses. In one other word, versitility. More function for the weight in a field monorail. At wide angle settings the lens is not backed into a box.

  7. #7
    Resident Heretic
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    USA, North Carolina
    Posts
    2,956

    advantages of monorail over field camera

    Think about the Toho FC-45X. It's a field monorail, one of the lightest, most rigid, and most versatile 4x5 cameras out there. I've been using one for years, and have been highly pleased with it - IMHO, the best of both worlds.

    Note that it's not as versatile as a studio monorail. It has a practical limit of 75mm lenses on the short side because it doesn't have a replaceable bellows. But I haven't found the bellows to be a limiting factor in my use of an 80mm SS-XL. And it's rigid enough to let you use a 360 or even 450mm lens with an extender board.

    I think you'd find it an excellent camera for mixed landscape and portrait use.

    Bruce Watson

  8. #8
    Resident Heretic
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    USA, North Carolina
    Posts
    2,956

    advantages of monorail over field camera

    Blech. That's Toho FC-45X.

    Bruce Watson

  9. #9

    advantages of monorail over field camera

    Percy... except for doing table-top style product photography, it is amazing how little camera movements are used. Usually a little front rise and some tilt to help focus a landscape. Or a little swing , rise, and shift to keep things parallel for architecture. Most any view camera will have enough movement for all but the most extreme shots.

  10. #10
    Octogenarian
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Frisco, Texas
    Posts
    3,522

    advantages of monorail over field camera

    Hi Percy,

    In the early 1980's, I decided that I was going to concentrate all of my photographic efforts on doing fine art, landscapes, cityscapes, and environmental portrature (sound familiar?). I proceeded to purchase an inexpensive Calumet monorail camera, a few lenses, and the necessary accessories. While hiking in the Oregon Cascades with my newly acquired outfit, it dawned on me that a monorail camera was not the proper instrument to be using for that type of rugged outdoor photography. Soon afterward, I purchased a Calumet wooden folding flatbed field camera, and, since that time, have never owned another monorail camera (although I have owned several other field cameras).

    It is true that some monorail cameras can be folded similar to flatbed field cameras, so that they can be easily transported. Some folding flatbed field cameras have as much, or more, movement capabilities as most monorails. However, I suggest that you select the type of camera you will be purchasing based on where it will be used the most. You may find that you need a lightweight flatbed for field work and a heavier weight, bulkier monorail to use in the studio. Over the years, most photographers have come to that same realization.

Similar Threads

  1. Finding a field camera equivalent to your monorail
    By David R Munson in forum Cameras & Camera Accessories
    Replies: 29
    Last Post: 21-Apr-2006, 13:41
  2. Monorail to Field Question
    By Emil in forum Cameras & Camera Accessories
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 30-Apr-2005, 08:16
  3. Arca-Swiss 4x5 F-Line "Field" Monorail Camera
    By John Latta in forum Cameras & Camera Accessories
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 16-Mar-2005, 06:33
  4. monorail for field work
    By Chip McM in forum Cameras & Camera Accessories
    Replies: 35
    Last Post: 24-Dec-2004, 20:51
  5. advantages of 6x9 view camera ?
    By Percy in forum Cameras & Camera Accessories
    Replies: 22
    Last Post: 5-Oct-2004, 19:55

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •