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Thread: Field Camera Recommendations

  1. #21

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
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    Baraboo, Wisconsin
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    Re: Field Camera Recommendations

    You have a pretty wide array of cameras from which to choose. So to narrow things down a bit the first thing I'd do is eliminate all cameras that require a top-hat or other accessory to focus closer than infinity with your 300mm lens. That eliminates anything with a 12 inch or shorter bellows such as Wista.

    For me it would also eliminate the Shen Hao that in its normal configuration has a 12 inch extension. However, another couple inches can be added by fiddling around with base and axis tilt, which moves the lens out in front of the camera bed, which has always seemed to me like a bad idea from a stability standpoint though some Shen Hao owners may disagree. Or maybe there are other versions that have a longer normal extension, I'm not familiar with all the different Shen Hao models, just the basic one that I owned briefly (briefly because it wasn't accurately described by the seller, not because I disliked the camera).

    Tachihara is cutting it close with its 13 inch bellows. The extra inch will allow you to focus closer than infinity but not as close as you could with cameras that have a longer bellows. I used a 300mm lens with a Tachihara and the loss of some close focusing distance didn't bother me, maybe it wouldn't bother you either.

    A Chamonix might fit your needs the best. It sells for well under $1,500, weighs around 4.5 pounds, is very well made, has plenty of movements, and has a 15 inch bellows which is fine for your 300mm lens.
    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.

  2. #22

    Join Date
    Jun 2002
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    9,296

    Re: Field Camera Recommendations

    http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/lightwei.htm

    Kerry's old article on lightweight lenses is still relevant - basically you want to use light lenses with light camera.

    I'm big on starting with inexpensive, rugged, simple cameras like $300 Crown Graphics to grasp the basics of film handling and workflow, then adding an inexpensive, expandable monorail with full movements - like a $300 Sinar F, Cambo, Linhof Kardan, Toyo, etc. to learn how to use movements and use more extreme lenses. For $600 - less than the price of most entry level wooden cameras - you can have greater versatility and capability from some truly fine but not-so-popular cameras. Once you understand and use both types of cameras you'll have gained an educated, experienced perspective from which to decide what you most want to work with, be it an ultralight but limited speciality camera or a robust but bulky studio system.

    It makes a lot more sense than the newbie who comes onto this board saying he wants to get a $5000 Ebony or Arca because he heard they were the best and wants to start out with one. All he is doing is limiting his experience and education with some expensive gear he won't grasp the subtleties of.

    I think the Shen and Chamonix are unduly complicated and fussy but I'll concede that if they are what you want, they're a decent value. But I suspect that a lot of people who start out with them, without experiencing the wider range of simple, solid cameras available for a fraction of the cost are doing themselves a disservice and a lot of them give up and quit.

    In fact, if you buy used, you'll probably buy their camera!

    All I have to do is watch a workshop and see some guy dicking around for 20-minutes to make a simple landscape shot to confirm my "ill-formed" opinion ;-)

  3. #23
    falth j
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Above the Straits
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    145

    Re: Field Camera Recommendations

    Ditto,

    What Franks says in post #22.

    Don't foreget the toyo d45m...

    It's fairly light, decently stable, and with a little forethought easy to collapse into a bag for backpacking.

    At least you'll get the chance for the full monty in 4x5 without spending a lot of money.

  4. #24

    Re: Field Camera Recommendations

    Thanks everyone for your input. I probably should have mentioned I have a Crown Graphic & a Super Speed Graphic, both of which I love, but feel I am limited by the lack of most movements. I wanted to step up from them. I've been looking at used Linhofs - any thoughts? Thanks again.

  5. #25

    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Posts
    9,296

    Re: Field Camera Recommendations

    http://www.cameraquest.com/techs.htm Whilst not 100% accurate this is a good introduction to older Linhof Technikas.

    They are wonderful cameras, imperfect but they all are... certainly heavier than most wooden folders but stronger too. If you like them, as do I, they will last a lifetime.

    The best buying strategy is to patiently wait for a good deal to come along - looking for a recent CLA and new bellows on a Technika IV, or budget for getting the work done. I think the IV is the best value, I would pay $600 to $800 for a user, plus $350 for a new OEM bellows and maybe $150 for the CLA. You can get a $120 Chinese bellows and do it yourself if you are handy, but frankly I'd ~much~ rather have the OEM bellows. I wouldn't worry about "camming" lenses unless you buy one with lenses already cammed, as it costs $300-plus to get new ones cammed.

  6. #26
    8x10, 4x5, ..., Tessina
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Maryland, USA
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    4,222

    Re: Field Camera Recommendations

    I use a Picker-made Zone VI 4x5 in the field, and find it quite adequate for the task.

    It has an 18" bellows that will focus my Nikor-W 360/6.5 down to 3.8 feet (1:3 ratio).
    It has interchangeable bellows, so it can do pretty short lenses.

    I use it on a Majestic tripod with a huge top plate that provides extra support.

    - Leigh

  7. #27

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
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    Baraboo, Wisconsin
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    Re: Field Camera Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by 1750Shooter View Post
    Thanks everyone for your input. I probably should have mentioned I have a Crown Graphic & a Super Speed Graphic, both of which I love, but feel I am limited by the lack of most movements. I wanted to step up from them. I've been looking at used Linhofs - any thoughts? Thanks again.
    You did mention it in your original post. Some people either didn't read it or forgot it. Your mention of using the camera for landscape photography, a type of work that doesn't require the extensive movements of a monorail, was also forgotten (or ignored).
    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. #28

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Location
    Oregon and Austria
    Posts
    1,221

    Re: Field Camera Recommendations

    My take:

    If a Crown Graphic is too heavy, you need to go with a lightweight wooden folder. Even wooden folding cameras with lots of bellows draw and fancy features can get heavy (I don NOT like to carry my Zone VI camera in the field much for just this reason).

    Also, despite what Brian says, I find using a top-hat lensboard (homemade) for my 300mm Nikkor M just fine on my 12" bellows-draw Wista. I can focus very close and, with a little practice, even front swings and tilts are not too bad.

    So, my advice would be to go with a simple basic-featured wooden field camera. There are many out there and I do not have experience with all of them. I'll let you know what I like and don't like about the ones I do have.

    First, in the U.S. I shoot mostly with my Wista DXs (I've got a couple). The advantages here, are:
    1. Smaller lenses fold up inside the camera. I can fold up the camera with my 100mm WF Ektar, 135mm Nikkor W, 203 Ektar, 150mm Nikkor W, 180mm Fujinon A and even the 240mm Fujinon A mounted.
    2. It easily accepts recessed lensboards; neither my Zone VI or my Woodman will :-( I use both a 90mm f/8 Super Angulon and a 75mm Fujinon SW on recessed boards with this camera and can get enough movements to vignette.
    3. It has all basic movements including shift. I can't live without either front or rear shift (it really doesn't matter which).
    Disadvantages are:
    1. the short bellows draw (really a trade-off for lightness) which means the longest lens I can use is the 300 with a top-hat lensboard. I keep my Zone VI around for those times when I really want to use the 450mm.
    2. The Wista DX and most other field cameras in this class do not like large lenses. That rules out 90mm f/5.6 lenses and plasmats much longer than 180mm. That means lightweight lenses (like those in my list above) that normally have smaller maximum apertures around f/8 or f/9. This makes viewing a bit more difficult in low-light situations.
    3. Movements are limited when compared to flagship folders (even the Chamonix) and this can be a bit of a bother when doing architecturals and close-ups. I end up doing a fair amount of "point and tilt/swing" for shots that need lots of movement. And, the bellows tends to get hung up when using extensive movements and short lenses. Mine are permanently kinked from doing this.

    My camera in Europe is a Woodman. It is a really bare-bones camera, but is extremely lightweight; it weighs even less than the Wista. It will not accept recessed boards, but I'm able to use the 90mm on it fairly well with a flat board. I do a lot of archtecturals in the city with this camera, and twist it up quite a bit. The bellows is still in really good shape. Again, movements are relatively small, so there is a fair amount of "point and tilt/swing" that I have to do. It does have front shift (really, don't get a camera without shift, it's one of the most useful movements). The Woodman allows me to mount Technika boards upside-down, which means that I can use boards with off-center holes (standard Technika boards) mounted with the offset toward the top to get a bit more rise. This is really helpful from time to time.
    The camera will not fold with a lens mounted, so doesn't have the space- and time-saving convenience of the Wista in this regard.

    I also own a later (Ritter/Picker) Zone VI field camera. It is larger, heavier and not my favorite to carry long distances. It will not accept recessed boards, and the long bellows bunch up a lot making the use of shorter lenses a PITA. There is a bag bellows option to fix this, but that is just that much more to carry. The upside, is that I can shoot lenses up to 450mm on the thing, and it's greater weight makes it really steady at even maximum bellows extension. It is not my default camera, though.

    From the above, you can see that I like the Wista DX a lot. Again, if you should decide on a Wista, make sure you have the DX and not the DX II, which does not have the shift feature.

    Hope this helps,

    Doremus

  9. #29

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    Re: Field Camera Recommendations

    I actually didn't say there was anything "wrong" with using a top-hat. But when there are many cameras in the OP's price range that will suit the fairly minimal needs that he's stated (common movements, 4x5, light) without needing a top-hat in order to use his 300mm lens, why start out buying a camera that's going to require such an accessory? If a Wista was the only camera that suited his or her needs I'd say fine, by all means get it and use the top-hat when necessary. But that isn't the situation.
    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.

  10. #30

    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    286

    Re: Field Camera Recommendations

    I have a Canham DLC and like it alot. I use it basically only for landscapes, so far at least. Works great, very rugged, relatively light, tons of movements and handles lenses as short as 65mm with a recessed board, no problem. Can handle up to 450mm+ on the long-end.

    -Ed

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