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Thread: Rugged Rigidity of Various 4x5 field cameras: Wista, Toyo, Horseman

  1. #1

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    Rugged Rigidity of Various 4x5 field cameras: Wista, Toyo, Horseman

    I do aerial photography and want to take some personal 4x5 B&W shots when I am in the air. although I long for a beautiful wooden field camera with brass hardware, reality is that I will be working in a swamp and flying around in small aircraft. The last helicopter I worked in was used for also used for varmint hunting And so function comes first and I can live with spartan aesthetics. I want to do this affordably, and so I likely will get a simple "modern" field camera if I cant find an used Fotoman within my means.

    I am now actively shopping for a used field camera. I do NOT need much if any camera movements, although some decent RISE (only) might serve me if I need the camera as backup to my monorail. I see many offerings, especially Wista, and some Horseman, and Toyo (the latter 2 brands more expensive it seems). Side note: When I made a living shooting 4x5 color trans, I used Horseman monorail and liked it very much, and still use it for pet projects today.

    My question today is: without the need for much movements, do any of these field cameras have an advantage in being somewhat more rigid when locked-down? I am thinking of turbulence in the air, and sometimes of work from other vehicles like work boats.

    GIVENS:
    0. 4x5 B&W neg film
    1. Hand-held work with vibration present
    2. 125-150mm lens. Prefer to use modern lenses

    FEATURES/CRITERIA:
    0. Rugged and rigid when bed and movements are "locked-down"
    1. One thing that I can't tell is which ones have Graflok back, which I prefer.
    2. The ability to have a good hand-strap or even better, add a grip is a big plus. Do any of these have affordable Linhof-Technica-type grips affordably available?
    3. I need to be able to frame the shot hand-held so I need a finder of some sort. Ease of having this or adding one is a plus. Again, I wonder about the RangeFinder (RF) models - does the rangefinder also function as an accurate viewfinder for subjects at infinity?
    4. I do NOT need much (or any) camera movements like rise/fall/swings. Maybe just some conservative front rise. Nothing more really.

    CANDIDATES:
    a. Wista 45D. These are plentiful and affordable.
    b. Wista 45RF (having rangefinder might be nice - will that allow me to frame a shot accurately (100%) at infinity focus?)
    c. Horseman FA Nice option if I can find a zoom finder at affordable price.
    other: I dont see many affordable Toyos out there. Still looking as I write.
    old press cameras? Do any classic Speed-Graphic-type cameras have Graflok backs?
    note: should I consider some others in the $500-range?

    Ideas welcome. I am just loving the process of shopping for a used field camera and a lens!

    HERE IS A RUNNING LIST OF NOTES & UPDATES ADDED:
    -I've never seen any of these in real life. In picture-shopping on-line, I am tending towards the Horseman FA.
    -My old Horseman LE monorail has Graflok back - is that Horseman-flavor of Graflok or is it truly universal? Is it more like Sinar?
    -It appears that the Wista 45RF has Graflok back and that the rangefinder has markings for framing common focal lengths. Built-in rangefinder seems handy and well-protected.

    Wishing you great light!
    Paul
    Last edited by pchaplo; 24-Dec-2017 at 00:36. Reason: Please note that I am constantly editing as I learn more.
    Dallas Texas HABS / HAER / HALS Photography
    Photographer/Author Marfa Flights: Aerial Views of Big Bend Country (Texas A&M University Press)
    Represented by Michael Duty Fine Art

  2. #2
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    Re: Rugged Rigidity of Various 4x5 field cameras: Wista, Toyo, Horseman

    OK, I'm up too late, so I'll weigh in first on this one too.

    Horseman 45FA or 45HD (also 45HF if you don't mind a fixed-orientation back) with handstrap will be by a fair margin the most compact/lightweight of those you list and won't give up anything to the others in rigidity. Horseman offered a zoom finder that you can add in the accessory shoe on top of the camera. The nice thing about the Horseman (and Linhof) zoom finders is that you're not wedded to using the nominal setting for your focal length, which likely won't give you an accurate field at infinity - you can determine an alternate setting that will give you the field you want.

    In the Wista RF with its built-in viewfinder you're stuck with the standard frame lines for each FL - can't adjust in that way.

    They all have Graflok backs.

  3. #3

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    Re: Rugged Rigidity of Various 4x5 field cameras: Wista, Toyo, Horseman

    Oren,

    Thanks for the your most welcomed reply. Looks like we are both up late. Good to know about the Wista RF finder-framing perhaps not being accurate at infinity. That is key info! Thanks! Looking for Horseman zoom finder. Seems hard to find. More tomorrow after sleep and coffee... TNX, Paul

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    OK, I'm up too late, so I'll weigh in first on this one too.

    Horseman 45FA or 45HD (also 45HF if you don't mind a fixed-orientation back) with handstrap will be by a fair margin the most compact/lightweight of those you list and won't give up anything to the others in rigidity. Horseman offered a zoom finder that you can add in the accessory shoe on top of the camera. The nice thing about the Horseman (and Linhof) zoom finders is that you're not wedded to using the nominal setting for your focal length, which likely won't give you an accurate field at infinity - you can determine an alternate setting that will give you the field you want.

    In the Wista RF with its built-in viewfinder you're stuck with the standard frame lines for each FL - can't adjust in that way.

    They all have Graflok backs.
    Dallas Texas HABS / HAER / HALS Photography
    Photographer/Author Marfa Flights: Aerial Views of Big Bend Country (Texas A&M University Press)
    Represented by Michael Duty Fine Art

  4. #4
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    Re: Rugged Rigidity of Various 4x5 field cameras: Wista, Toyo, Horseman

    Digging into my literature collection again - here's what Wista says about the 45RF finder:

    "The finder is designed to show as much as possible and also to view the field of a 120mm wide-angle lens. The magnification of this finder is 0.45x. Frames in the finder are explained below. The frame for 120mm wide-angle lens is light yellow (the outer most frame). Frames for 135mm, 150mm and 180mm lenses are marked with light yellow colored frames marked the focal lengths. In this case, the image through the finder is 100% at a distance of 6M (20') from the subject. Therefore, the field of view of the finder frame will be about 90% of the image of a subject in infinity. Accordingly, the actual image of infinity is 10% larger than the area in the finder frame."

    OK, logging off for the night now. Really.

  5. #5

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    Re: Rugged Rigidity of Various 4x5 field cameras: Wista, Toyo, Horseman

    I’ve used my Speed Graphic with Graflock back and Grafmatics from light aircraft and through the floor of a heavy military helo without apparent issues. Locked down tightly is a requirement for you because of being bounced around I suppose (?), and not because camera will be in the wind which would be a bigger issue. I always shot through some opening in the side or floor while inside the aircraft. I fitted a modern lens to it — 120 I believe. I never used the modest rise available on it though.

  6. #6

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    Re: Rugged Rigidity of Various 4x5 field cameras: Wista, Toyo, Horseman

    Quote Originally Posted by pchaplo View Post
    Oren,

    Thanks for the your most welcomed reply. Looks like we are both up late. Good to know about the Wista RF finder-framing perhaps not being accurate at infinity. That is key info! Thanks! Looking for Horseman zoom finder. Seems hard to find. More tomorrow after sleep and coffee... TNX, Paul
    The Wista rangefinder/viewfinder is very accurate at infinity. But the rangefinder is only crammed for. 3 lenses! 135, 150 and 180.
    What isnít mentioned are two problems with optical viewfinders for aerial work. They really donít let you see what is about to enter the scene or what surrounds the scene. A good wire frame finder does. There is no need for a rangefinder for legal aerial work as FAA m8nimum altitude is always at infinity on a camera.
    You are looking at bellows cameras, how do you plan to protect the bellows from the slip stream? Or will all of your work be through the windows.
    You might consider a true aerial camera like an Aero Technika. Older models are not any more expensive then what you are considering and if it has its original lenses then they will be corrected for aerial work.

  7. #7

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    Re: Rugged Rigidity of Various 4x5 field cameras: Wista, Toyo, Horseman

    Quote Originally Posted by pchaplo View Post
    I do aerial photography and want to take some personal 4x5 B&W shots
    If you are to use 90mm f/6.8 or 65mm (with kit) IMHO there is a nice option for that kind of amateur job: http://www.wanderlustcameras.com/

    In aerial jobs normally focus is set at infinite while in the ground.

    The Wanderlust is designed for 90mm lenses, but focusing system will allow longer than 90mm focals if focusing at infinite as you will, still you can add a DIY extension tube for longer focals, you should ask manufacturer, but I find no big problem in modifiying the W front to place DIY circular lensboards of DIY extension.

    So the W may be a direct choice if you agree with supported lenses, and it would require some hacking if you want to use other glass.

    I agree (of course) with Bob that a wireframe finder is the best for the reason he mentions.

    Regards,
    Pere

  8. #8

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    Re: Rugged Rigidity of Various 4x5 field cameras: Wista, Toyo, Horseman

    Paul,

    There is a current thread along this line at:

    http://www.largeformatphotography.in...ion-1-the-lens

    in case you missed it. The DAYI can take lenses from 47mm to 150mm, I think. Looks like your problem is "too many options".

  9. #9
    Jac@stafford.net's Avatar
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    Re: Rugged Rigidity of Various 4x5 field cameras: Wista, Toyo, Horseman

    Google: printex 4x5 camera

    It uses a steel 'bellows' which will not deflect in a wind blast. It is positively IR proof. Can be locked into a focus position.

    I have several, and use late LF lenses on modified lens boards. (Glennview.com made me an outstanding blank, too.)

  10. #10
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    Re: Rugged Rigidity of Various 4x5 field cameras: Wista, Toyo, Horseman

    I'm with Mfagan in post #5. Movements and focus can be locked down tight on a Speed Graphic. Focusing on infinity is all you need for most aerial photography. Its sports finder is a good substitute for optical finders. The strap works well enough for a left hand grip. An accessory grip with cable release secured to the tripod socket for the right hand completes the set-up. Photographers have done well with less for many decades. Late models already have a Graflok back. These backs can be fitted to older models. Despite having accumulated a variety of 4x5 cameras over many years, the Anniversary and the later series of Speed Graphics are still favorite outfits.

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