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View Full Version : Opinions wanted - Easiest 4x5 field camera to focus.



ryanmills
22-Dec-2014, 12:53
I currently have a 4x5 Sinar F that I have used for about 2 years now. It was cheap and I can make it work but its not really ideal. I would prefer a field camera over a rail since I travel quite a bit. The biggest feature I need on the next camera is a brighter easier to focus ground glass. The sinar f I was using with a rather nice 135mm rodenstock apo-s was a challenge. Not sure if its the fault of the lens or ground glass but even at 5.6 it vignettes very hard and its hard to focus (even with a 10x loupe). I got to try an 8x10 master view and man that was easy to focus and see everything. Do I need to go up to a linhof technika or can I get a clean speed speed graffix and replace the ground glass? Hoping to spend around $1400, maybe more if I have too. Thoughts?

Drew Wiley
22-Dec-2014, 13:02
Sinar is just about the easiest 4x5 to focus that I can think of. I use a Satin Snow groundglass and never use a fresnel. But the original Sinar glass was damn good
too. Don't know what you're problem is. But you're certainly not going to solve it by merely switching camera brands. Folding field cameras are nice for portability,
but tend to be slower to set up than monorails. And the big glass present on an 8x10 is certainly a luxury to compose and focus with compared to 4x5, but obviously comes with much greater bulk and weight.

Luis-F-S
22-Dec-2014, 13:05
sinar is just about the easiest 4x5 to focus that i can think of. I use a satin snow groundglass and never use a fresnel. But the original sinar glass was damn good too. Don't know what you're problem is.

+1! L

Vaughn
22-Dec-2014, 13:06
Just something to check out with your present camera. The image on the GG will be its brightest when one's eye is on the same line as the light hitting the spot on the GG that one is trying to see. Loupes will only allow light hitting the GG at close to 90 degrees to be at its brightest.

If one wants a corner to be well illuminated, one needs to look from the corner and towards the center of the lens.

Randy Moe
22-Dec-2014, 13:06
For that budget, buy a fantastic side rangefinder Speeder. they came with fresnels and you could add a Steve Hopf Borosilicate GG on top of it.

Then get a very fast lens, and have a specialist make it all work like it's supposed to, meaning get the rangefinder setup with the scales calibrated.

I am slowly getting mine ready, but I'm a DIY guy and almost never farm things out, so it takes me much longer.

I'm also working on the same thing in 3x4.

joselsgil
22-Dec-2014, 13:09
Ryan,

An 8x10 camera should not be easier to focus than a 4x5 with a f5.6 lens. Unless the 8X10 had a brighter lens or a brighter ground glass, than your Sinar. All of my 8X10 lenses are darker than your f5.6 lens. Does your Sinar have a Fresnel lens? If not, installing one could help to brighten your ground glass.

How dark is your dark cloth? Many allow too much light or are somewhat transparent and this makes critical focusing a bit harder.

You may also want to try a different loupe manufacture. Some loupes are easier to work with than others. I use Schneider loupes 10x and 4x and they seem to work ok for me.

Jose

ryanmills
22-Dec-2014, 13:28
The sinar model I have is about as cheap as sinar makes, fairly certain it does not have a Fresnel. I do have a very nice dark cloth. I'm a portrait shooter and I eye ball with the whole screen, then focus with a loupe. It would save me a lot of drama to just see the whole screen at once, im quite tired of missing silly things on the edges. That 8x10 was a massive difference. It was using basically the bigger version of what I have, a rodenstock 240mm 5.6 apo-s. but man that screen was bright and I could see edge to edge. I just sent an email to the maxwell guy, the examples in that other thread look to be exactly what I need. Maybe I just need to plan to buy a clean camera and just replace the glass.

Jac@stafford.net
22-Dec-2014, 13:30
I don't know why, but a 10X loupe is terrible for me. A 4X to 6X is better, regardless of the screen's fineness.

In my experience the easiest focusing are 1) Green Monster 8x10 with 14 3/4" lens and new Kodak ground glass, 2) Super Technika with any properly cammed lens :) (and all four lenses have proper cam). Even with a proper cam while shooting over legs, I will sometimes double-check with a loupe because it is simply remarkable how accurate the Super Technika RF is.

Jac@stafford.net
22-Dec-2014, 13:36
The sinar model I have is about as cheap as sinar makes

Actually that would be the Sinar Alpina. Used bodies were sold from a big photo outfit here for $75 each about 20 years ago.

ryanmills
22-Dec-2014, 13:45
I don't know why, but a 10X loupe is terrible for me. A 4X to 6X is better, regardless of the screen's fineness.

In my experience the easiest focusing are 1) Green Monster 8x10 with 14 3/4" lens and new Kodak ground glass, 2) Super Technika with any properly cammed lens :) (and all four lenses have proper cam). Even with a proper cam while shooting over legs, I will sometimes double-check with a loupe because it is simply remarkable how accurate the Super Technika RF is.

I have never used a range finder 4x5, honestly not even sure how it works. I thought I read it was expensive to get is setup correctly. Did you have to do this with yours? As for the 10x loupe I don't have issues with half body or closer but when its a full body or father I can struggle to focus correctly. I got the 10x just for that reason but as you said I think im just making the grain in the glass more obviously than making it easier to focus. Might have to to try a smaller one.

Peter De Smidt
22-Dec-2014, 14:02
The Sinar screen is very good. Assuming that's what you have, are you sure it's clean? My favorite ground glass is made by Bill Maxwell. They are very bright, even, and they have a very fine Fresnels. There's a recent thread that shows the difference. The screens are approximately $400.

Drew Wiley
22-Dec-2014, 14:08
You must have a miserable loupe. Something in the 4X to 7X range would be more typical. It's really hard to use 10X on a groundglass. Fresnels help even the
circle of illumination with true wide-angle lenses, but the fresnel pattern itself interferes with high resolution focus. I hate them in general. Rangefinders are more
a technical camera feature for quickie head-on focus. Once you employ view camera movements that rangefinder probably won't be of any use. I wouldn't overthink this problem.... It's far more likely you're missing something in basic technique, that's not going to go away by switching equipment.

Luis-F-S
22-Dec-2014, 14:29
The sinar model I have is about as cheap as sinar makes, fairly certain it does not have a Fresnel.

The fact that it's a Sinar F and was "cheap" does not mean it's garbage. Sinar did not make junk, and as long as it has not been abused, it should work just fine. It should be a very straightforward camera to use and focus. I've bought two F2's lately for around $350 each through this forum, for parts and to have extra belows & standards-so now I've got 3. Get the Sinar Fresnel for it if you don't have it, and Sinar also made a Binocular reflex viewer which inverts the image makes it ever easier to focus. They usually go for under $150 on the auction site (1/3 what I paid for mine 25 years ago). You can also call Precision Cameras in Niles IL who repairs Sinar @ 847-470-3350 and speak with them about it and see if it needs service. A field camera may be easier to travel with, but won't be any easier to focus. L

Jac@stafford.net
22-Dec-2014, 15:17
I have never used a range finder 4x5, honestly not even sure how it works. I thought I read it was expensive to get is setup correctly. Did you have to do this with yours?

Bob S might be able to tell us again what a cam matched to the lens and camera might cost.

Regarding my Super Technika V, I simply blundered into a very good deal for an existing system. When I got it I didn't even know the 135mm 3.5 Planar was desirable.

djdister
22-Dec-2014, 15:20
Well I'm just going to say it. A 4x5 Speed Graphic with a working rangefinder was pretty damn easy to focus. Why else do you think all those press photographers used them?

ryanmills
22-Dec-2014, 15:53
You must have a miserable loupe. Something in the 4X to 7X range would be more typical. It's really hard to use 10X on a groundglass. Fresnels help even the
circle of illumination with true wide-angle lenses, but the fresnel pattern itself interferes with high resolution focus. I hate them in general. Rangefinders are more
a technical camera feature for quickie head-on focus. Once you employ view camera movements that rangefinder probably won't be of any use. I wouldn't overthink this problem.... It's far more likely you're missing something in basic technique, that's not going to go away by switching equipment.

I think there might have been some confusion based on a few replys. As far as rail vs field. This is a mute issue. I'm not keeping the Sinar, i travel too much and after bring it to Europe last summer I need more space in the flight case and I don't need all the things it does and im not really happy with how much the whole thing vibrates. I work with kids a lot, I need a camera thats fast to focus and front swing, that's it. A solid simple folding camera better suits my needs. My question was more since going to replace it are there any brands or models I should be looking at that would excel in focusing without having to buy anything new for it. I took a workshop with Jock Sturges this past summer and it was his 8x10 I got to try and his advice to get rid of what I have now. I used them side by side. That 8x10 was a dream to focus and I could see the whole GG at the same time. I know why he has four of them and still uses them. I know i'm not going to get the same thing on a 4x5 but I don't buy that all ground glass is the same and im just simply not using them correctly. Again i'm not trying to say a field camera will be easier to focus than a rail camera Im saying im buying a field camera and im wondering if there is a model or brand that I should be looking at.

Anyway with that said the post and examples about a "Maxwell Screen" show exactly what im running into and looks like a good fix. Might just have to find a nice clean folding camera and replace the screen with one of his. Still might try a new loupe too and Jock uses special glasses im going to try as well, basically bifocals with magnification. Works really well for him but he has a prescription so I could not try his.


Bob S might be able to tell us again what a cam matched to the lens and camera might cost.

Regarding my Super Technika V, I simply blundered into a very good deal for an existing system. When I got it I didn't even know the 135mm 3.5 Planar was desirable.

Oh wow, wish I could stumble into a that kind of deal, im not in a rush so im keeping an eye on ebay and see if I get lucky. I would kill for a really clean 135mm f3.5 :o

Drew Wiley
22-Dec-2014, 16:26
Odd. I don't know how a Sinar would vibrate unless you are either using a substandard tripod and head, or if it is in fact an Alpina, which does not use the standard
rail. Sinar F's compact rather easily for travel in a briefcase - that's how they were designed; but there are 4x5 folders which are even more compact. Technikas
are basically clamshell design "technical" cameras (sorta a half-breed between a view camera and a press camera), as is the similar but much more affordable Horseman FA, something you might look into if you work in somewhat wide to just somewhat longer than "normal" focal lengths. Lighter than the Technika and likewise beautifully made, but without the triple extension rack.

Jac@stafford.net
22-Dec-2014, 16:28
I would kill for a really clean 135mm f3.5 :o

Please take care. There is one that comes and goes on the big Bay site but it is mounted in the totally wrong shutter - so bad that even the max aperture is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Choose wisely. :)

While the 135mm F/3.5 Planar has been lauded, and honored historically as a 4x5 aerial recon lens I believe that given recent development the lens should be reconsidered. There are so many, probably symmetric 150mm lenses that outperform.

Bill_1856
22-Dec-2014, 17:55
Focusing a coupled RF Speed/Crown Graphic and a Technika are about equally easy. I LOVE 'em.

Peter De Smidt
22-Dec-2014, 18:17
I really like my 4x5, a Toyo AX. They're sturdy, easy to use, and not very expensive.

AuditorOne
22-Dec-2014, 18:58
My 4x5 Crown or my 4x5 Graflex are pretty easy to focus. Different systems but they both work extremely well.

When I first started using 4x5 I went for monorails as I believed they would be much easier to change lenses on and still focus. After about a year I realized I was still using the same 150 Schneider I started with. I went and bought a nice Crown and have been perfectly happy. A slightly wider view but very fast to work with, especially if you use a Grafmatic. :)

ryanmills
22-Dec-2014, 19:25
Odd. I don't know how a Sinar would vibrate unless you are either using a substandard tripod and head, or if it is in fact an Alpina, which does not use the standard
rail. Sinar F's compact rather easily for travel in a briefcase - that's how they were designed; but there are 4x5 folders which are even more compact. Technikas
are basically clamshell design "technical" cameras (sorta a half-breed between a view camera and a press camera), as is the similar but much more affordable Horseman FA, something you might look into if you work in somewhat wide to just somewhat longer than "normal" focal lengths. Lighter than the Technika and likewise beautifully made, but without the triple extension rack.

Camera is on a very solid, very old metal tripod that has to weight 15+ pounds. I use it just for the weight. It does not move. The F1 and F2 have much better standards, mine is the very cheapest one they make it does not have the standards you can replace or upgrade to a 8x10. Its not a huge vibration either but you can see it. I shoot a lot at sunset and by the time im nearly done im shooting at 1/30th to as much as a 1/2 on a 135mm lens. I need it to be pretty darn still. When i swap in a holder it shakes both the front and rear standards and I have to sit and wait. Would not matter for landscape but with portraits those seconds count. It does break down but its not friendly and the TSA took it out last time and back it back in with the standard twisted the wrong way, prob lucky it did not accordion out and have him drop it. He basically mashed it into the flight case trying to make it fit. So yea, smaller solid metal easy to fold camera is ideal and I talked to the Maxwell glass guy today and that looks like its going to be easy to do. You have a valid point in the triple rails. I do shoot with a 210mm sometimes and I have an extension rail for my Sinar for close ups. Its going to be the only major trade off with a folding camera. Since its coming down to replacing the glass im thinking either a toyo or a technika. See what I can fine. That Horseman FA looks like an option too, plenty in japan.

Randy Moe
22-Dec-2014, 19:31
Uh, hand raised! I love Horseman and have way too many, but don't get an FA or HD, the lens boards are too small and you will regret it, particularly if it's your only camera. I have an HD and the smaller 6x9's that all use the 80mm lens board.

But I have other cameras also.

jp
23-Dec-2014, 07:28
It won't fold down as small as a field/speed, but a Graflex RB (such as a 4x5 Super D) SLR camera might work. The chimney hood is dark and lets you eyeball focus. You could use reading glasses if you needed modest rolleiflex-like focus magnification but it's probably not necessary. Downside is no any-speed x-sync or movements. With portraits, focus is more likely to be lost with subject movement rather than focusing error.

Jim Noel
23-Dec-2014, 11:57
I currently have a 4x5 Sinar F that I have used for about 2 years now. It was cheap and I can make it work but its not really ideal. I would prefer a field camera over a rail since I travel quite a bit. The biggest feature I need on the next camera is a brighter easier to focus ground glass. The sinar f I was using with a rather nice 135mm rodenstock apo-s was a challenge. Not sure if its the fault of the lens or ground glass but even at 5.6 it vignettes very hard and its hard to focus (even with a 10x loupe). I got to try an 8x10 master view and man that was easy to focus and see everything. Do I need to go up to a linhof technika or can I get a clean speed speed graffix and replace the ground glass? Hoping to spend around $1400, maybe more if I have too. Thoughts?
The coverage of your lens,not the ground glass is responsible for your vignetting. The cameras you mention will be more difficult to focus than the Sinar. I believe you are better off spending your money on a lens with larger image circle.

Drew Wiley
23-Dec-2014, 12:23
I've never even encountered a Sinar Alpina, but it's the only model of Sinar I can think of that did not use the tubular sectional rail. I've used true Sinar F's for decades of really rough conditions, including thousand of miles of mtn and desert backpacking, and exposures as long as an hour. Never an issue. I currently use
the even more rigid Sinar Norma system, which is interchangeable with all the F and P components. If TSA is going to trash your monorail, they might ruin a folder too. I carried on a couple of Pentax 6x7's, lenses, tripod etc etc this month and they never even opened the flight bag. Instead, they got in my wife's stuff, pried apart her laptop, left things all loose, and it was useless for the duration of the trip, and required repair plus a new battery. But it's been a long time since they opened up any bag with a view camera in it. Guess they have their marching orders what to be suspicious of. Or maybe I'm just starting to look too old and dumpy to worry them.

Drew Wiley
23-Dec-2014, 12:32
Regarding the Horseman FA - there are plenty of excellent small lenses within its limited bellows range that will fit their boards (though not necessarily close with the lens still on it, but that would be the case with Technika too). Just a suggestion, one among many.

Richard Wasserman
23-Dec-2014, 12:45
Just to chime in about the Horseman FA. I have one and like it a lot. It is my travel kit—FA with a Maxwell screen and 90, 135 and 210mm lenses. It folds very small and is light-weight. It does have it's limitations—don't we all— but most of them are pretty easy to work around. It doesn't do everything, but it does a lot. That said I also use a Technikardan when I need more versatility.

ryanmills
23-Dec-2014, 16:05
Just to chime in about the Horseman FA. I have one and like it a lot. It is my travel kit—FA with a Maxwell screen and 90, 135 and 210mm lenses. It folds very small and is light-weight. It does have it's limitations—don't we all— but most of them are pretty easy to work around. It doesn't do everything, but it does a lot. That said I also use a Technikardan when I need more versatility.

Im looking pretty strongly at the FA, do you find you have enough rails using a 210mm for headshots? Other than the screen thats the only thing im worried about.

blindpig
23-Dec-2014, 18:07
I have a Crown Graphic 4X5 with a"normal" 135mm lens and a slightly longer 180mm that I use for portraits. The camera came with a Fresnel lens attached to the ground glass and I wouldn't have it any other way.It's almost indestructible and I've punished it for over 45 years.
Just my $.02 worth...

Randy Moe
23-Dec-2014, 18:24
Im looking pretty strongly at the FA, do you find you have enough rails using a 210mm for headshots? Other than the screen thats the only thing im worried about.

A FA must have more extension than an HD, as the FA has the rear movements. I just measured my HD and I get 10.5 inches from FP to front of my 8mm top hat lens board. I need a top hat lensboard with a Copal 1 shutter and the 210 mm f5,6 Caltar II-N which gives me a full head on 4x5. But that lens will not fold inside.

I usually have a 150mm F6.3 Calter II-E with a filter mounted and that folds inside my HD nicely.

I'm not against a FA and I want one, but the lens boards are a limit and the hole in the camera behind the lens board is another. The above 210mm just fits through that hole. Some here have written of making the internal camera hole larger and mounting the rear lens element from inside the camera. A 120 SW Nikkor would need this treatment.

Leonard Robertson
23-Dec-2014, 18:52
Ryan - You might also do a bit of research on Super Graphics. They have pretty good front movements and most importantly for you - a revolving back. You seem to do as many verticals as horizontals and with a Super you can change the orientation of the back without having to remove it, so it is fast to change. Here is a video on the Super G:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HpYQ-tLqhk

Bellows draw is about 300mm, so with a 210mm lens you should be able to focus fairly close. I don't doubt the Horseman is a really nice camera, probably better than the Super G in many ways. But comparing the two on eBay, the Super seems less than half the price of the Horseman FA. Maybe the back movements are worth the difference in cost. But you buy a lot of film for the difference in price.

PM me if you want to meet up sometime when I'm in Spokane and I can bring along a Super so you can do a hands-on. Also have a Linhof Technika IV I can bring if you are curious about those.

Len

Richard Wasserman
23-Dec-2014, 19:51
I can't speak to headshots as I've never tried. I just measured my FA at maximum extension including the back movements and it's about 11 inches. A top hat board would add a bit more. Is that enough for what you want to do?



Im looking pretty strongly at the FA, do you find you have enough rails using a 210mm for headshots? Other than the screen thats the only thing im worried about.

DG 3313
23-Dec-2014, 21:16
I have a Sinar F 2 with the standard GG. It's light (in weight) with a ton of movements.....easy to focus.....


+1! L

Thomas Greutmann
24-Dec-2014, 02:14
I have been through a number of field cameras (Wista, Chamonix, Speed/Crown Graphic, Technika) but I haven't really noticed any difference, focusing wise. I found all pretty much equal in that respect. Tons of other differences of course, but not in focusing.

As others have pointed out, a bright screen makes a big difference. And you might want to check out a reflex viewer. That is really a big composition and focusing help for me. I am wearing glasses and I really have troubles viewing everything correctly under the darkcloth, but a reflex viewer solves that problem for me.

Greetings, Thomas