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htbs
3-Jul-2013, 05:12
Hello,

I normally shoot digital small format but I want to change to film. I heard of large format cameras but was always too intimidated by them and I still are. I read up on them a bit but I still have no idea what to look out for when choosing a camera. There aren't that many reviews of large format gear like of small format cameras so I have no idea what camera or lens to get. My main problem is that I have no way of trying a large format camera out. And it seems to me like moving large format gear takes time so I want to get the right gear right away if possible.

I mainly shoot around my town and I travel by foot and train so the camera shouldn't be too big and heavy. A field camera would be perfect but these also don't have as many movements as monorails and they are also more expensive. But then again I don't know if I even need all the movements of a monorail. All I missed from my SLR was perspective correction to correct the falling lines. But since I have no experience with shift lenses or cameras I have no idea how much mm rise I actually need. Monorails are usually bulky but I heard that they can be used outside as well. Are there any small cheap monorails? I could get a calumet cadet wide for 120 but I am not sure if it wouldn't be better to invest a bit more. My overall budget for camera+lens is around 1000 but I would be willing to spend that on the body alone if It's really necessary. My main focal length is 35mm on 24x36 but I got recommended to go a bit wider for architecture. There is also a bigger selection of 90mm lenses than ~115mm lenses. I noticed that this section is for cameras. Should I make a seperate thread in the lens section for lens recommendations?

Halford
3-Jul-2013, 05:35
Hi and welcome to the forum :)

Where are you based? Depending on where you are, I'm sure some kind soul would be willing to show you their gear and let you see how it all fits together.

For easily walkable use you might look at something like a Speed Graphic -- not a lot of movement versatility, but they're pretty cheap and cheerful.

I've just had a bad experience using a monorail for backpacking -- turns out my monorail (a Graflex Graphic View) is unbelievably fiddly and awkward to assemble in the field, but many other (mostly newer) designs are much easier, and many people use their monorails like this just fine. I guess Sinar p series and Arca-Swiss F series would work pretty well (and be lighter than my ancient GV)

Otherwise, lots of modern folding cameras are pretty lightweight and provide reasonable movements - not necessarily cheap though.

I'm sure you'll be able to find something reasonable to get going with for under 1000€.

Best of luck to you :-)

Tim Meisburger
3-Jul-2013, 06:03
I think the above is the best advice. Let us know where you are, and someone nearby can take you out on a weekend and introduce you to the process. Hopefully you can try several cameras, which will give you a feel for what you would like.

redshift
3-Jul-2013, 06:33
Checking them out in person is the best idea. I would give high praise for a Sinar P. The main reason is because all movements are geared and held in place with friction or clamps. All the movements have "zero" indicators so you can get out of trouble and back to zero easily. There is a simple to follow system for focusing when using movements. You can get a nice starter set for well under your price. There are a huge number of options and accessories available that are interchangeable within the brand. It's not at it's best for backpacking but far from difficult.

Brian Ellis
3-Jul-2013, 06:48
I used a Tachihara 4x5 for exterior architecture (among many other things) for several years, it worked fine. There are other relatively light, compact field cameras that have more movements than the Tachihara and that rival a monorail in that respect, e.g. the Chamonix and the Shen Hao. There are several models of each and I don't keep up with the latest model designations but if you search on those names here and Google you should find plenty of information. There also are a lot of reviews of different LF cameras on the home page of this forum.

I photograph a fair amount of architecture though I'm not the pro some here are. But FWIW, the only movements I almost always use are front rise and front tilt, front tilt not so much to alter the plane of focus (the more common purpose with other kinds of photography) but to use when aiming the camera up at the top of the building (when front rise alone is insufficient) and then bringing the front and back parallel to the building.

Ken Lee
3-Jul-2013, 06:52
As they say, we get to pick 2

We always want all 3, as with lenses: best resolution + small + cheap. With work: done fast + done well + done cheaply.

With cameras: cheap + portable + lots of features.

For architecture (interiors particularly) we need to use short lenses, which often necessitates bag bellows.

I'd settle for lots of features and low price, and get a used monorail system camera like a Sinar, Calumet, Cambo, Horseman etc. They will let you use any bellows or lens. They are not as portable as field cameras, but you're not trekking with the camera in the field after all. These cameras are widely available on the used market for modest prices.

It doesn't matter how light the camera is, if when you get it to the shoot it can't do what it needs to do.

John Kasaian
3-Jul-2013, 07:18
Hello,

I normally shoot digital small format but I want to change to film. I heard of large format cameras but was always too intimidated by them and I still are. I read up on them a bit but I still have no idea what to look out for when choosing a camera. There aren't that many reviews of large format gear like of small format cameras so I have no idea what camera or lens to get. My main problem is that I have no way of trying a large format camera out. And it seems to me like moving large format gear takes time so I want to get the right gear right away if possible.

I mainly shoot around my town and I travel by foot and train so the camera shouldn't be too big and heavy. A field camera would be perfect but these also don't have as many movements as monorails and they are also more expensive. But then again I don't know if I even need all the movements of a monorail. All I missed from my SLR was perspective correction to correct the falling lines. But since I have no experience with shift lenses or cameras I have no idea how much mm rise I actually need. Monorails are usually bulky but I heard that they can be used outside as well. Are there any small cheap monorails? I could get a calumet cadet wide for 120€ but I am not sure if it wouldn't be better to invest a bit more. My overall budget for camera+lens is around 1000€ but I would be willing to spend that on the body alone if It's really necessary. My main focal length is 35mm on 24x36 but I got recommended to go a bit wider for architecture. There is also a bigger selection of 90mm lenses than ~115mm lenses. I noticed that this section is for cameras. Should I make a seperate thread in the lens section for lens recommendations?

Welcome! Click on LF Home Page on the blue banner at the top of this page and follow the trail to plenty of LF camera and lens info.
Unless you have a great deal of money to spend, consider this a learning experience. You'll know what movements and lenses you'll actually need by going out and making pictures so start with something cheap, but in good condition and add/upgrade as time passes. A copy of Steve Simmons Using The View Camerais an excellent resource.

Otto Seaman
3-Jul-2013, 07:45
Keep it simple and cheap. A $300 used 90mm >1980s Rodenstock, Fuji, Schneider, or Nikon 4x5 lens is all you need for professional results. Most people try several cameras over a period of time before settling down.

BrianShaw
3-Jul-2013, 07:59
... It doesn't matter how light the camera is, if when you get it to the shoot it can't do what it needs to do.

Indeed. While the notion of a lightweight camera is natural to think of when traveling for LF shooting, architecture is the one genre where I'd be very careful about two issues in exchange for weight: generous movements and ease-of-use with short lenses. For me that has been a Cambo... and I just suck it up and deal with the weight of the camera, the carry box, heavy tripod, and all of the other accoutrement. I've adapted a two-wheeled folding luggage trolley to mitigate some of the effects of bulk/weight... but when I get on site I know I'll not be as constrained as when I use a Graphic for that purpose. Not having a wooden folding camera I can't say for sure, but I think they share some of the limitations of the Graphic.

htbs
3-Jul-2013, 08:14
Wow didn't expect so many replies in such a short time. Thank you!


Hi and welcome to the forum :)

Where are you based? Depending on where you are, I'm sure some kind soul would be willing to show you their gear and let you see how it all fits together.

For easily walkable use you might look at something like a Speed Graphic -- not a lot of movement versatility, but they're pretty cheap and cheerful.


Thanks and Hello. I heard of the Speed Graphic but I also heard that it has very limited movements. Shift would be really important for me. I just have no idea how much.

I am from Cologne, Germany but when I say try out I mean actually use it for a few days.


I would give high praise for a Sinar P. The main reason is because all movements are geared and held in place with friction or clamps. All the movements have "zero" indicators so you can get out of trouble and back to zero easily. There is a simple to follow system for focusing when using movements. You can get a nice starter set for well under your price. There are a huge number of options and accessories available that are interchangeable within the brand. It's not at it's best for backpacking but far from difficult.

I see the Sinar P and F series recommended a lot. If I decide to go with a monorail I will give it a look.


I used a Tachihara 4x5 for exterior architecture (among many other things) for several years, it worked fine. There are other relatively light, compact field cameras that have more movements than the Tachihara and that rival a monorail in that respect, e.g. the Chamonix and the Shen Hao. There are several models of each and I don't keep up with the latest model designations but if you search on those names here and Google you should find plenty of information. There also are a lot of reviews of different LF cameras on the home page of this forum.

I photograph a fair amount of architecture though I'm not the pro some here are. But FWIW, the only movements I almost always use are front rise and front tilt, front tilt not so much to alter the plane of focus (the more common purpose with other kinds of photography) but to use when aiming the camera up at the top of the building (when front rise alone is insufficient) and then bringing the front and back parallel to the building.

Thanks. I think I would prefer a field camera. I am just not too sure how more convenient and easier to carry they are. After all the camera will be mounted to a tripod anyways.


As they say, we get to pick 2

We always want all 3, as with lenses: best resolution + small + cheap. With work: done fast + done well + done cheaply.

With cameras: cheap + portable + lots of features.

For architecture (interiors particularly) we need to use short lenses, which often necessitates bag bellows.

I'd settle for lots of features and low price, and get a used monorail system camera like a Sinar, Calumet, Cambo, Horseman etc. They will let you use any bellows or lens. They are not as portable as field cameras, but you're not trekking with the camera in the field after all. These cameras are widely available on the used market for modest prices.

It doesn't matter how light the camera is, if when you get it to the shoot it can't do what it needs to do.

That's the. Can't have it all. Like I said I can get a calumet cadet wide for 120€. But I can't find a lot informations on it.


Welcome! Click on LF Home Page on the blue banner at the top of this page and follow the trail to plenty of LF camera and lens info.
Unless you have a great deal of money to spend, consider this a learning experience. You'll know what movements and lenses you'll actually need by going out and making pictures so start with something cheap, but in good condition and add/upgrade as time passes. A copy of Steve Simmons Using The View Camerais an excellent resource.

Thank you. I will do some research myself. I guess I could start with the cadet and a 90mm f/8 lens?


Keep it simple and cheap. A $300 used 90mm >1980s Rodenstock, Fuji, Schneider, or Nikon 4x5 lens is all you need for professional results. Most people try several cameras over a period of time before settling down.

I heard that all large format lenses are good. Is this true? With digital small format I can look at full resolution images and judge the image quality of the lens myself but with large format film it's hard to find any samples to compare the lens quality.

Otto Seaman
3-Jul-2013, 08:23
There is no inexpensive, full movement, yet light and compact view camera. If there was then we all have them ;-p

A Sinar F2 is well built, has full movements and costs $500 (used price in the USA). Brian's Tachihara costs about the same and is half the size nd weight, but will lack the rigidity, versatility, and range of movements. A $5000 Arca-Swiss is light, compact, yet solid but expensive. Of course there are dozens of other options but these illustrate the compromises you make. Don't forget that a heavier camera requires a heavier tripod. Personally my tripod cost more than my camera and lens, I consider it that important.

Most large format lenses are excellent, at least the modern ones in good overall condition. Remember that the degree of enlargement is less than for smaller format cameras so we can be more forgiving ;-p (They are also better corrected for distortion than most small format wide angle lenses.) Many architectural photographers will say they use their 90mm lens the vast majority of the time. The more you spend, the more movements you can make - the more expensive and larger lenses will have a larger image circle. A good compact 90/6.8 Rodenstock Grandagon-N MC can be found for $300-$400 and is a good match to a folding field camera with limited movements - i.e. landscapes and occasional architectural photos. A $500-$700 90/4.5 Grandagon with a wider range of movements would be the more professional option, best for use on a monorail with a bag bellows.

The old Cadet was a usable but lower grade camera. It's fine for starting out with though, and many similar monorails will be priced similarly low. Buy based on condition ~ might as well go for a nice looking one that hasn't been abused.

Ken Lee
3-Jul-2013, 08:25
If you plan to use a short lens, make sure the camera has interchangeable bellows or the bellows will support a short focal length without buckling. Some general purpose bellows are just too long for short lenses.

Mark_S
3-Jul-2013, 09:05
As others have replied, for interior arcitecture photography, you are going to want a wide lens, I would start with that, and use the bulk of your budget for the lens. You will want lots of coverage, since you will probably be wanting to have a lot of movement. The Schneider Super Angulon lenses would fit this bill, as would some others - Depending on what sorts of buildings you will be wanting to photograph, you are probably looking at wanting the 90mm or 75mm.

The camera is less of an issue - one big difference between large format and small formats is that the lenses will work on any camera, and the cameras are relatively cheap compared to good lenses. For architecture, you are probably going to need/want more movement than a landscape photographer would use, which probably means that a monorail would work best for you - this is good news, as well as bad - good news is that monorail cameras can be had for less money than most other styles (look for something like a Calumet ), bad news is that they are less portable than something like a Speed Graphic. The big disadvantage to a camera like the speed graphic is a lack of movements, and that they sometimes don't work well with wide lenses. I would pack all of this in a rolling suitcase - architecture means urban, which means that you don't have to carry the kit in a backpack - take advantage of that.

If after a while, you want to get a more portable setup, keep your lens(es), film holders, tripod etc, and buy a folding field camera like the Tachihara - and with relatively little additional cost, you have transformed your whole setup.

Peter York
3-Jul-2013, 09:22
Sinars are excellent and relatively cheap. For approx. $1200 you could get a lightweight monorail like the Toho FC-45x. http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/toho.htm

jb7
3-Jul-2013, 10:05
A Sinar F2 is well built, has full movements and costs $500 (used price in the USA). Brian's Tachihara costs about the same and is half the size nd weight, but will lack the rigidity, versatility, and range of movements. A $5000 Arca-Swiss is light, compact, yet solid but expensive.

You can find used Arcas too, when I started in large format, in college in the eighties, there was a choice of an older Sinar, and an older Arca, and I gravitated towards the Arca, and have remained with it since... Of course, those cameras weren't older way back then.

In between, there was a very short lived experiment with a Calumet.

I suppose there's nothing like getting hands on experience with something, although the first quality camera you can use successfully might end up as being the one you measure others by.

rdenney
3-Jul-2013, 13:24
Determine what type of camera you need and then look for a lightweight model of that type.

If architecture is at all important to you, and if a 90 is a starting point, you'll be glad to start with a monorail-type camera. Put a good, wide-angle 90mm lens like an f/5.6 Super Angulon or an f/4.5 Grandagon--these will have larger image circles than the slower versions and for architecture you'll be glad you have it. Good, modern monorails will allow you to use a 90mm lens on a flat lens board, with a bag bellows. With the right bag bellows, it will focus a 47mm lens on a flat board.

Personally, I think the Sinar F2 or Norma present the best combination of wide availability, low prices, proven applicability, quality construction, and portability. The Sinar P is a more precise camera but far heavier. The F2 is intended to be the field configuration of the Sinar system.

I have also used a Cambo/Calumet, which is a bit bulkier than the Sinar, but which is even cheaper and also benefits from wide availability of parts and accessories. But it's not nearly as well-suited to short lenses. You'll need a recessed board and bag bellows for a 65mm lens, and a bag bellows for a 90mm lens with the Cambo.

Of the field cameras, the only one I'd consider anywhere near your price point (but still above it) is the Shen-Hao XPO. It provides Sinar compatibility for bellows and lens boards, and a triple-extension rail that will support fairly short lenses pretty effectively. But I think a monorail is more intuitive in situations requiring significant camera movements, especially for people new to large-format work.

Sinar made pro-grade cameras that were the standard of the professional art for so long that they are still flooding the market from studios that have gone digital. That is what keeps the prices low. The prices are pretty fully depreciated at this point, so it's easy to move on from Sinar and be able to get at least a good chunk of your money back out of it.

There are other brands, of course, and all of them are generally good--nobody really made crappy monorails, at least since the early 70's. The premium European monorail brands have traditionally been Linhof, Arca, and Sinar, plus Toyo and Horseman among Japanese brands.

And, yes, all large-format lenses are pretty good, even the really old ones. But not all shutters will still be in good running condition. Buy on condition. But also make sure you buy lenses with the appropriate coverage. For the 90, that will be pretty demanding for architecture work, which is why I recommended the faster wide-angle designs like the Super Angulon and the Grandagon (or Fuji SWD or Nikkor SW). For the longer focal lengths, any decent plasmat will be a good performer, and it will take quite a bit of technique to be able to tell the difference between good large-format lenses and the best large-format lenses, particularly if you are on a budget.

It should be possible to get an F2 kit in good condition and a good 90mm faster Super Angulon or Grandagon for your budget. You could start with a cadet and an f/8 lens, but they would only be a bit less expensive and you might outgrow them. It would be hard to outgrow an F2 and a f/5.6 Super Angulon.

Don't forget to budget for the other stuff, like the tripod, focus cloth, loupe, film holders, changing tent or darkroom, meter, and so on. Plus, a process for turning the film into something usable, either a darkroom, or a scanner setup, or a friendly local lab, or some combination of all of these.

Rick "for whom an F2 is his fourth 4x5 camera" Denney

JW Dewdney
3-Jul-2013, 15:09
I'd DEFINITELY go with an F2 or something like that for starting out (AND staying with) - an EXCELLENT and VERY underrated alternative is a Cambo Legend (well made and cheap!). They can do everything the F2 can do with only minor hit in the modularity department (expandability) - but it's only academic really. If you're really serious about it - you'll need a 90 for a lot of things - 150 or 180 for exterior views, 75 for many interiors - the only time I've ever used a 65 was for things like bathrooms or where space is super cramped and you have to pull off the impossible shot.

Don't use a field camera. You'll find that pulling out your own teeth would be more pleasurable than that...

Otto Seaman
3-Jul-2013, 16:34
But Brian shoots architecture with a wooden field camera?

Mark Sampson
3-Jul-2013, 17:02
I shot architecture (and landscape) with a wooden field camera for almost 30 years- first a Tachi, then a Zone VI. They got the job done. I used old Calumets and then a Sinar F2 on the job over the same period; they got the job done too. Now I use an old Sinar Norma; it works well. Kirk Gittings, one of America's leading architecture shooters (and a moderator here) used the very basic Calumet CC-402 wide-angle camera professionally for many years. Of course the vast majority of professional architecture photography is done digitally nowadays... but many of us like the 4x5 look for personal projects at least. If I was beginning today, I'd find a used Sinar-F2 and get a Norma rail clamp to replace the too-bif -F one- that will make a camera that will do anything you want significantly more portable.