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Thread: Beginner's Large Format Question

  1. #11

    Join Date
    Oct 2009
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    Re: Beginner's Large Format Question

    The cameras mentioned in this thread are all very, very different from one another. Don't spend too much on your first 4x5 camera, there's a good chance it won't be what you really want. It's entirely possible that the second one you buy won't be what you want either.

    If portability isn't important to you, get a monorail. They're almost all cheap, they will help you determine if you like the format, and what you want in a LF camera. If you want something to take places, start with something that folds up. You may find that your first camera is perfect, or you may think "this is ok, but I'd prefer one that can do ____". Either way, it's a good thing - I don't think choosing the best LF camera for you is something that can be determined purely through research.

  2. #12

    Join Date
    Mar 2012
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    Re: Beginner's Large Format Question

    Quote Originally Posted by richardhkirkando View Post
    The cameras mentioned in this thread are all very, very different from one another. Don't spend too much on your first 4x5 camera, there's a good chance it won't be what you really want. It's entirely possible that the second one you buy won't be what you want either.

    If portability isn't important to you, get a monorail. They're almost all cheap, they will help you determine if you like the format, and what you want in a LF camera. If you want something to take places, start with something that folds up. You may find that your first camera is perfect, or you may think "this is ok, but I'd prefer one that can do ____". Either way, it's a good thing - I don't think choosing the best LF camera for you is something that can be determined purely through research.
    I'd second the monorail option. Especially if you don't intend on using it outdoors. You get a lot more movements to play with even with a cheaper monorail, than a field camera. If it's possible for you I'd look at trying to hire a camera to get to play with the movements and see what suits YOU best.

    Have a look at what is available second hand and spend the money on quality glass.

  3. #13

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Durango CO
    Posts
    627

    Re: Beginner's Large Format Question

    Quote Originally Posted by richardhkirkando View Post
    Don't spend too much on your first 4x5 camera, there's a good chance it won't be what you really want.
    I'd say almost a given the first camera won't be the one you really want.
    You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. ~ Mark Twain

  4. #14

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    Sep 2003
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    Hudson Valley, NY
    Posts
    1,508

    Re: Beginner's Large Format Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Barendt View Post
    I'd say almost a given the first camera won't be the one you really want.
    Ditto ditto.

  5. #15

    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    3,116

    Re: Beginner's Large Format Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
    Ditto ditto.
    Ditto.
    One man's Mede is another man's Persian.

  6. #16
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    Re: Beginner's Large Format Question

    Generally, buying camera jewelry from the start is likely to be an expensive lesson in defining your needs. Sinar is slick stuff, but it was in such common use by pros that it's a drug on the market and really cheap for what it is, which means it has a bit of jewelish glitter but without the jewelish price. Not so much with the Ebony.

    I always recommend a monorail as a first camera. It's much easier to learn with, because the movements are easy to see and understand. They are also all-metal, generally very tough and designed for hard use, comprise a range of interchangeable parts, fill six pages of goodies that fit on eBay, and don't cost much.

    The notion that a monorail is not for outdoor use is silly. People use monorails, some of them a lot heavier than a Sinar F/F2, outdoors all the time. (F stands for "field".) They are harder to backpack with, but again more because of bulk than weight. My F2 weighs maybe 8 pounds, and I use it in the field almost exclusively. Every now and again I wonder if one of those wooden field cameras would be more suitable, but then I mess with one at a store and put that idea back in holding. They are more fiddly, and 4x5 is fiddly enough.

    If I was packing a camera in a backpack where space was as much at a premium as weight, I might think differently. But I have carried a Cambo SC camera in a backpack, and the weight of the camera wasn't what was making the whole package heavy. Lenses, film holders, tripod--it all adds up. That Cambo is quite a bit more space-filling than a Sinar F-series camera, and that was the big challenge.

    A Calumet CC-400 certainly represents a high ratio of functionality to price. It does have some limitations--no Graflok back, to name one--but it is a completely competent camera. A Cambo or Sinar F-series will be a little more expensive, but they are system cameras with a lot more parts interchangeability. If you are at that price point anyway, then you won't regret having those extra features. The Sinar is lighter, too.

    Rick "the ability to fold is an expensive option in full-featured view cameras" Denney

  7. #17
    Arca-Swiss
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    May 2002
    Location
    Phoenix, AZ
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    83

    Re: Beginner's Large Format Question

    Lensfielders.com has some great buys on used 4x5 Arca-Swiss monorails and lenses.
    I inspect all their Arca-swiss stuff so know it functions and works correctly.
    They are local to me.
    Rod Klukas
    US Representative
    Arca-Swiss International
    480-755-3364


    Digital Camera Solutions including R-series Technical Cameras, Large Format View Cameras and Ballheads. 480-755-3364

  8. #18

    Join Date
    May 2010
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    St. Louis, Mo.
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    1,493

    Re: Beginner's Large Format Question

    Quote Originally Posted by rustyair View Post
    Thank you all guys! I'm leaning towards Ebony cameras and Sinar. A used Ebony RSW45 sounds great if I can find one. Sinar also looks interesting. I will look into Toyo, Calumet 400, Wisner as well. It's gonna be a long night!
    Saying that you are leaning towards Ebony and Sinar is like saying you are leaning towards a Cadillac and a Ford F150, two very different animals. You need to first decide field camera versus monorail. Then decide which model you want.

    I would recommend starting with a monorail. They are cheaper and are easier to learn movements on. I picked up a very nice Sinar P for $600.00 off ebay and it included a Schneider 210 lens and Calumet case. A Sinar F2 would also be a good choice if you want something lighter. They run a little more than Sinar P's due to being newer in age.

    We have all been in your shoes. I bet there are few of us who kept our first camera choice. I didn't. A lot of us, myself included, own both a field camera and a monorail. The only way you can know what you really want is by just diving in and shooting. It's a lot easier on the pocketbook to start cheaper and buy the expensive stuff when you really know what you want. This advice goes for lenses also.

    As far as 8x10 goes. The cameras, lenses, and tripods are generally more expensive. The film costs are more expensive. Unless you really have your heart set on 8x10, I would start with 4x5 and move up later if you wish.

    All this advice is coming from someone who has been involved with large format for a little over two years. I'm no expert but I do know what mistakes I have made. I'm just trying to keep you from making some of the same.

    Good luck to you. Large format is a lot of fun!

  9. #19

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
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    7,697

    Re: Beginner's Large Format Question

    Just so you know that the suggestion to buy a monorail isn't unanimous, I'd strongly recommend that you buy a field camera if you plan to mostly photograph outdoors and will be walking around. A brand new Chamonix, which is a great camera, will cost you about $800. You can find excellent buys in Wisners, Tachiharas, Shen Haos, Toyos, and many other 4x5 field cameras for less than $800. Sure, you can pick up a big old honking monorail for maybe $250 - $500 but there's a reason why they sell that cheaply and it isn't because there are more of them out there.
    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. #20

    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Posts
    116

    Re: Beginner's Large Format Question

    Thanks for all the suggestions! I shoot outdoors and usually walk around 4-5 hours. Also, I'm an ounce counter. So, I'm after field cameras thinking Toyo 45CF, Chamonix 045n-1, Wisners 4x5 field, Tachiharas 4x5 field, Shen Haos HZX 4X5-IIA, Sinar f1 or 2...Are there anymore of light weight field 4x5 cameras that I should consider? It will be so hard to narrowing down to one.

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