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Thread: Field Camera Recommedations for Urban Environments/Abstracts

  1. #1

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    Aug 2007
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    Field Camera Recommedations for Urban Environments/Abstracts

    Hi all,
    I've been shooting MF for a few years and would like to move up to LF. My budget for a field camera would be under $1500, but of course cheaper is better. At one time I had a crown graphic with a sticky shutter housing a 127mm Ektar, so it saw limited use.

    I'm trying to find a camera that I can use for urban landscapes, in downtown situations. I shoot a lot of abstracts and get my inspiration from Aaron Siskind. I've tried to find information on his view camera and lens choice to no avail. I'm thinking maybe a 210mm or 300mm, but I'm not sure what would be best to use in the alley's and streets where I tend to shoot. I also need something that is quick to set up because I want to be somewhat mobile.

    Reading the forums some of the cameras I'm considering are the Wista SP, Linhof Technika, Toyo 45, or Toho. I would appreciate any opinions or recommmendations.

  2. #2

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    Re: Field Camera Recommedations for Urban Environments/Abstracts

    I'm going to assume that you won't go down the Crown Graphic road again. Press cameras have a very limited subset of movements anyway and are somewhat less versatile than a "real" field camera. BTW, I consider any camera that has a drop bed to be a press camera...

    A Tachihara (my personal choice) or Shen Hao will give you all the movements you'll need. IMO, the urban landscapes you're after will be better attacked with a wide angle lens: a 90mm f/8 Super Angulon in excellent condition can be had for around $300 these days, so even if you buy the camera brand new you're out less than a grand, leaving $500 for incidentals...

  3. #3
    kev curry's Avatar
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    Re: Field Camera Recommedations for Urban Environments/Abstracts

    Second the Tachihara its worth some consideration - light weight with plenty of movements, bright fresnel, quick to set up, affordable/replaceable, accepts 75-300mm lenses..... lovely camera.

  4. #4

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    Re: Field Camera Recommedations for Urban Environments/Abstracts

    I have two Toyo field cameras, the 45AII and the 45CF. I can recommend them both but for different applications. The 45AII is a great camera. Solid, reliable, all the movements one really needs and is built like a tank, made from metal. The camera is heavy but very well built. It will remind you of a modern, well built Speed or Crown. It will take a lot of abuse and still take fine photos. The 45CF is a lightweight camera I use for backpacking. It is made from a carbon fiber material that is relatively strong but nothing like the metal 45AII. With the CF you will need to be careful but for landscapes in the woods, it is a fine camera. For urban environments the 45AII is a good choice if the weight does not bother you. If push came to shove, the 45AII would be a pretty effective weapon in a bar fight.....
    Good luck,
    Dave B.

  5. #5
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Re: Field Camera Recommedations for Urban Environments/Abstracts

    In the city, I like to be able to set up and put the camera away quickly and keep an eye on what's happening around me, so I recommend using a camera that has a folding focusing hood or magnifier with a bellows or prism finder, rather than a darkcloth. Sometimes I shoot larger cameras that require a darkcloth, and if possible I take someone with me, but otherwise, I usually use my Linhof Tech V. I have cammed lenses, so I can even shoot handheld in places that I can't easily go with a tripod.

  6. #6

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    Re: Field Camera Recommedations for Urban Environments/Abstracts

    The work of Aaron Siskind is indeed wonderful. However,what makes his work unique is his vision; the equipment is really secondary. I believe he used a 4x5 Medalist for his work in the 1950's but any camera with adequate extension and movements would work well.

    Much of my work consists of abstractions done in city environments. Early on I used a Calumet monorail with darkcloth, but for the reasons David mentions, I now use a Toyo AX. A used one might be within your budget and a lens from 150mm to 210mm would work well for close-ups.

  7. #7

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    Re: Field Camera Recommedations for Urban Environments/Abstracts

    "I'm trying to find a camera that I can use for urban landscapes, in downtown situations. I shoot a lot of abstracts and get my inspiration from Aaron Siskind. I've tried to find information on his view camera and lens choice to no avail. "

    From the book "Aaron Siskind: Toward A Personal Vision 1935 - 1955"

    "My camera is a 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 Linhof with a Speed Graphic back and I use a Cine-Kodak tripod which is light, steady, and a joy to handle. . . . All of these photographs were taken with aperture f29 (that's where my aperture stops because of a repair job on the shutter). I made three exposures for each picture, varying from 1X to 4X Weston depending on the importance of the darker elements in the subject. The film was not developed until I returned to New York - all normally and according to the manufacturer's charts and graphs."

    No techie he. Siskind apparently managed to get along without the hinge rule, the zone system, or even a fully functioning shutter.

    There's another interview conducted in 1977 that deals mostly with his teaching at the Institute of Design in Chicago. There he talks about why they used a 4x5 camera for teaching purposes. I like the following exchange between the interviewer and Siskind:

    Interviewer: Speaking of equipment, the beginning classes were taught with a 4x5 camera.

    Siskind: And they were miserable.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  8. #8

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    Re: Field Camera Recommedations for Urban Environments/Abstracts

    Look at his pictures, there is not much evidence that he used movements. One gallery notes that he also used a Rollie SL66. What is it you want to do that you cannot do with MF?

  9. #9
    Scotty333
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    Re: Field Camera Recommedations for Urban Environments/Abstracts

    I enjoy Siskind's work very much as well and like to shoot similar images. I use ULF, however...For $1500 the 4x5 shen hao would work well. I might opt for a longer lens than a 90 however as the 90 may be to wide to move in and crop appropriately. And you may not be able to physically move in as close as you would like. This is based on my cropping in camera. I would agree with previous posts that vision and careful placement of tonality throughout the photograph are key to Siskind's work. I have a lot of abstract on my website, much of which is 7x17 or 8x10 contact prints.
    Scott Peters Photography

    www.scottpetersphotography.com

  10. #10

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    Re: Field Camera Recommedations for Urban Environments/Abstracts

    For the urban kind of work you're wanting to do, I don't see why you don't get yourself a cheap monorail (some of which, like Calumet) can be had quite readily, offer all the movement you want, and, with the right tripod, are sturdy and light enough to do whatever you want.

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