View Full Version : The Horseman HD45 - For a first time LF camera is it good?

Peter Skov
4-Aug-2004, 23:45
I am glad to see there are so many experienced and knowledgeable people who are answering questions by humble beginners like me. Thank you in advance for sharing your wisdom. I have been working with 35mm, 67 and 645 cameras for 15 years now. I have always wanted to move up to 4x5 and now I think I am ready to take the financial plunge. The other day I spent 3 hours talking with a rep. from Horseman about 4x5 cameras. After getting the crash course in what tilt, rise, swing and shift all mean and how they can be used I was quite excited to get my hands on a camera and rush out to the mountains. As I do a lot of hiking and climbing (not rope climbing just hands and feet climbing up steep slopes), the rep suggested the Horseman HD45 as the camera for me. Looking at the reviews and comments about this camera it seems the biggest obstacle is the lack of bellows extension, thus making it difficult to use telephoto lenses of over 250mm. Given the price of lenses and the ice age speed at which I will probably aquire them this is not a big concern for me at the momment. However, I want a camera that will last for at least 20 years, and during that time I may consider increasing my lens collection beyond a basic set of three lenses.

So, my question is basically is this a good camera to get for a first time LF-er? Or are there good reasons to invest in something different? Sorry for the lengthy preamble. I await your responses.

Jean-Louis Llech
5-Aug-2004, 02:36
In my opinion, forget it as a first camera : very few movements, rather expensive.
Two points :
- The 45HD will only accept lenses with a rear diameter of 2.5"(63mm),
- The maximum extension is reduced to 9.8" (25 cm).
With these two points, it means that you'll be very limited concerning the choice of your lenses.
It's better to consider a wooden camera, like a Shen-Hao. If you absolutely need a metal one, consider the Wista 45 SP.
Just ask if you need more infos.

Dave Moeller
5-Aug-2004, 03:36
My experience with LF for landscape photography is that it's more about the lenses than it is about the camera. My landscape work so far has been limited to using tilts on both standards and limited amounts of rise. I've not needed more movements than those for landscape work, and I'll be surprised if I ever do.

Unfortunately, the Horseman is going to put serious constraints on your lens choices in the future. I second Jean-Louis' recommendation that you look for something with more flexibility for lenses. I ended up with the Shen-Hao. It has more movements than I'll ever need, but the more important consideration for me was that it can easily use any lens I might reasonably expect to use for 4x5. There's an inexpensive bag bellows available if you want to use a really wide lens, the bellows will extend out to 360mm making it a great choice for a 300mm lens, and it'll take some pretty large glass without trouble. I mount a Fujinon 250/6.3 (not a small lens by any definition) with no problems.

Don't overlook the fact that you can pick up a camera like the Shen-Hao or a Tachihara and a couple of nice lenses for the price of the Horseman.

Gem Singer
5-Aug-2004, 05:30
Hi Peter,

Since you mention that you do a lot of hiking (backpacking), you will need a light weight, compact size 4X5 camera. I highly recommend the Tachihara 45GF as a starter. It will fulfill all of your needs for size, weight, and function, at a very reasonable price.

Also, invest in a few good modern lenses, in the 90-210 focal length, a Quickload/Readyload holder with film, a sturdy lightweight tripod and head, a lightmeter, a darkcloth, a cable release, a few filters, a suitable carrying pack, and you will be ready to begin your adventure into 4X5 large format photography.

Jim Rhoades
5-Aug-2004, 05:44
I would have to agree with the other posters as to the limits that would be placed on future lenses. But...

It would seem you intend to do landscapes. Movements are highly overrated in landscapes. The Horseman is lighter and much, much tougher than the other cameras. It's also faster to set up. The higher up or further out you go the better a Horseman will look. Are you going to fall down? A lot? Will the wind be blowing over your camera/tripod? Only you can truthfully know the answer.

In 20 years the horseman would still be around under those conditions, not so a woody.

No, I do not own a Horseman. I use a woody under normal conditions.

Steve Hamley
5-Aug-2004, 06:03
I have to respectfully disagree with Jim. If you fall down a lot, nothing will last. If you don't, a woody should last almost forever. How many Deardorffs, B&J, Century, Kodak 2Ds are out there taking pictures at well over 20 years? Quite a lot I think.


steve simmons
5-Aug-2004, 07:51
Before you buy a camera please go to our web site. There are several articles in the Free Articles section that might be helpful.


The imprtant thing to do is decide on the features you want - bellows length, movments, etc. before buying a camera. Then find the camera body that has the desired features.

steve simmons

Jim Rhoades
5-Aug-2004, 08:14
Steve, Indeed, I in fact do own a Deardorff that's well over 20 years old. Used under normal conditions including light hiking.

The Horseman is made of aircraft grade aluminum with fewer movements which makes it that much stronger. That's just a plain fact that should be considered when going into the high country.

When I go on cross-country motorcycle trips I take a Crown Graphic just because it's tough enough. I'm willing to give up extensive movements and big lenses to know that the camera will be ready no matter what. It helps to know that I won't crack the bed of a valuable camera from undo vibrations and bouncing.

A cheap Crown, an expensive Linhof or an in between Horseman will take more of a beating than any woody. That's just the facts.

Only Peter knows what's in store for his camera.

Matthew Cordery
5-Aug-2004, 12:41
I too once considered a Horseman. Save your money. I'm a backpacker and climber too and I can say get something less expensive and put it in one of those collapsible padded coolers in your backpack (e.g. ArcticZone) You should be fine. I've packed mine through mountains for years like this and not had a problem. Spend your money on the lenses.

Ted Harris
6-Aug-2004, 13:06
Hellp Peter,

I am one of the two 'regulars' in this group who DO use a Horseman field camera. In my case it is an FA and an HF. The other user, Arne Correl, also uses an HF. The HF is very similar to the HD the difference beting that it has rear movements and hair more bellows draw.

I'm getting too old to do all tham much 'real' rock and ice climbing anymore bur I used to do a lot of it and all with my Horseman. I chose the Horseman initially and have stuck with it for some 20 years now because it is the most compact 4x5 package (exception being the Gowland) and among the lightest werighing in at under 4 pounds for the model you are considering. the camer is solidlyb uilt and the movements are precise. You have far more movement capability than you are likely to use for most landscape work and I think you will be well satisfied. I regularly use lenses from 75mm through 240 mm and have no problems at all. I also own the Horseman 2x telextender and sometimes use that with a 135 or 150mm lens to go even longer. I do not own and never have owned a lens that I wanted to carry in the woods with a rear element that didn't fit the Horseman. The other cameras mentioned are also worth considering but there is little to compare to the Horseman for compactness.

I regularly put the Horseman and a lens or two in a briefcase. I carry the camera, 3 or 4 lenses, a spot meter, Quickload Film Holder and 20-30 sheets offilm in a small haversack slung over my shoulder. I find the operation of the various controls smooth and precise. There are detents where detents should be, etc. It is not a first camera, it is one that could be yoru last camera as well. As mentioned, I settled on the Horseman system some 20 years ago.

Good luck!

Bruce G. Collier
7-Aug-2004, 12:00
I have both a Shen-Hao HZX45-IIA and a Horseman 45FA (cousin of the HD with rear swing/tilt). The Shen-Hao is more "flexible" in pretty much all respects, has longer bellows draw by a couple of inches, and is not limited in lens diameter as is the FA/HD. *But* for travel/hiking and other landscape-friendly ventures, the 45FA is the one I throw in the backpack. It's lighter, smaller, tougher, and more convenient. The mechanics are wonderful and feel very precise. Just got back from Thailand with it and have no complaints.

Yes, your lens selection will be limited. But, if your primary application is outback landscapes, it is the better choice in my opinion.

Regards, Bruce      
www.brucegcollier.com (http://www.brucegcollier.com)

Peter Skov
10-Aug-2004, 05:35
Can I just say thanks a bunch to all the people who have offered their advice both by email and by postings here. I love the photographic community. You guys are all great. It still seems a tough decision. No, I don't fall down a lot. I try not too when I am skirting the edges of steep mountain ridges. But thanks for caring. I will probably not purchase a camera until the fall so I will carefully consider what everyone has said. Thanks again. Cheers!