View Full Version : Limits to Horseman FA

Tom Davis
16-Mar-2005, 14:31
Hi all,

Well, I'm still trying to settle on a field camera to mainly use for wide-angle (but not super-wide angle) landscape work in 4x5 or 6x12 and then environmental portrait work. Given that intended use I don't need extensive movements. So again it's down to doing a Kerry-like conversion of a Crown or going with either a Horseman HF or FA. The criticisms of the Horseman I've found in the archive are:

(i) controls are too small for gloved use in winter,

(ii) back tilt and swing use the same control which limits the range of the use of either alone,

(iii) cannot use lenses with too large rear elements,

(iv) cannot use lenses wider than 75mm (with that iffy) or longer than 240mm (without adding accesories),

(v) only a very few lenses can fold up mounted.

OK, so have I missed anything about the Horseman's limits (I do realize the HF is a good deal lighter than the FA)? And, when everything is said and done, would it just make more sense to just go with something like the Wista DXIII that would allow easy mounting of a 6x12 back but be, on the whole, more flexible for someone starting out in large format with the needs I have specified above?

Again, I appreciate the help here.


Gem Singer
16-Mar-2005, 14:55
Hi Tom,

Take a look at the specs. for the Wista SP. It just may be the camera that fits your needs.

Oren Grad
16-Mar-2005, 15:47
Tom -

I find the FA design, which is derived from Horseman's 6x9cm technical cameras, cramped and constraining. The HF, with its fixed back, is even worse, and not all that much lighter - I think the difference is about 10 ounces.

I think the main reason for buying an FA is if you are really committed to owning a metal fold-into-a-box field camera for 4x5 but need to minimize weight. If you intend to use it primarily with roll film holders, there's also the advantage of an absolutely rigid rear standard. But if I were shopping for a 4x5 camera for myself, for uses as you describe, I'd be looking first at an Ebony SW45 or 45S if budget allowed, perhaps a Wista DX-series camera otherwise.

Ted Harris
16-Mar-2005, 15:57

It's all personal choice and need. Let me start by making some corrections in your limits statements. Use of a 75mm lens is not iffy. It is fine. I used a 75mm Super Angulon f5.6 for years on both an FA and an HF with absolutely no problems at all. Never ran out of movements in the field. I also used a 65mm Fujinon f8 without runnin g out of movements, but only for a short time and years ago so it is hazy. I never ran into a problem with alens rear element too large to fit the camera although I know there are some out there. I am not sure I agree with the statement on the back tilt and swing but I would make another that back tilt and swing are a pain in the arse because of the way they work and so much so that you almost work to avoid using them. While you are correct that neither camera will fold up with any but a very few small lenses mounted neither will most field cameras. If that is a concern think about something that doesn;t fold at all. All the other limits you mention are on the money.

On the other side of the coin are the pluses and the chief among them is a combination of the relative light weight and the compact size of the camaera when folded. I know of no other field that folds up this small except possibly the Gowland. That has always been the Horseman's strongest point for me. I could put it and a few lenses and othr stuff in an over-the shoulder-haversac. I could pack it in a briefcase or carryon suitcase along with lenses, etc. and still have room for clothes (I know I know who needs clothes if you have the gear packed).

Final choice remains yours and no matter wht you will make tradeoffs. I finally got to the point where the small knobs were jsut too much for me to deal with for a lot of medical reasons so switched to a slightly larger and much heavier Walker Titan.

Juergen Sattler
16-Mar-2005, 15:58
I know we all hate to make mistakes when selecting a LF cameras (especially if it is our first). But the truth is that your first LF camera will not be your last - guaranteed. Until you had the chance to shoot with it for at least a year you won't even know what you might be missing. My advice is to buy a used outfit and use it - whether it's the FA or the HF - or any other camera for that matter. Then when you've shot 150 sheets or so, take a critical look at it and figure out what does or does not work for you with your camera. Then you can either resell it and get one that is more suited to your style or stick with what you have (which you most likely won't).

I am at my 5th LF camera in 2.5 years - this last one (a Canham DLC45) is my first new one that I bought.

Good Luck and enjoy your new (old) camera:-)


Oren Grad
16-Mar-2005, 16:14
I should add that, based on my own experience with Graphics, I'd find the Crown option even more klutzy - if forced to make a choice between them, I'd rather have the Horseman.

Although I've shared my own preferences, I do want to agree with both Ted and Juergen. There's a large element of personal taste involved here. By all means finish doing your homework and make the best choice you can, but don't feel that you must or even can select the perfect camera for a lifetime on your first try. Buy something that provides the basic functions you need and then go use it a lot - you'll learn a huge amount, really quickly, about what *you* like and dislike in a camera.

16-Mar-2005, 17:00
I can't afford lenses with large rear elements. I take my gloves off if I have to. Back tilt / swing is figgity, but it is there. None of my lenses fold up. I thought I would mind that, but I don't. The only real drawback for me is the bellows extension. I wish it were longer, though I don't have any long lenses yet. Current lenses are : 75mm, 6.8; 90mm, 6.8; 105mm 5.6; 180mm, 5.6 all used. I've owned the FA for three years or so, and I like it a lot. My next camera will be much like it but with longer bellows.

Tom Davis
16-Mar-2005, 18:45
I want to thank everyone who's replied thus far. I certainly understand about fantasizing that I can make a "perfect choice" since I'm sure you all are right that it will take enough time with direct experience for me to work out what works best for me. But, given limited funds, I do want to make a good start. I'm asking about Horsemans because it just so happens that a reasonably priced HF and FA are currently available to me. The Wista SP suggestion could also be good if I could track one down. I'd love to just go for an Ebony right off the bat but I'm afraid I'd have to sell off a little too much gear to be able to afford one (we're talking the difference between investing $650 to $750 for a Horseman vs around $2500 for an Ebony 45S unless someone knows where I can find one used since the usual places to look (like mpex) don't have one).

The real issue, I think, comes down to the lightest weight metal folder versus just going with a more flexible but still very high quality wooden folder like the Wista DXIII (which is available for $1000 new and is within budget). The key may be using a 6x12 back: Oren indicated the Horseman's rigidity could well be an advantage over, say, a Wista DXIII, for removeable backs. Does anyone have direct experience here to comment?

And yet again, I appreciate all the help, this site's group of folks and their generosity with help, has been a real encouragement for me to take the first steps into large format after my growing disillusionment with digital (indeed my big budget question with all this is just how much of my Nikon digital system I'm going to be willing to let go in order to finance this move into large format).

Oren Grad
16-Mar-2005, 19:30
Tom -

On the issue of back rigidity - I don't do that much 4x5, so for that format I make do with a cheap wooden camera (I think mine is a recent model Nagaoka, though it's not labeled at all). There is a fair amount of flex in the mounting of the rear standard. Although I've never done a controlled test with my own equipment, with short focal-length lenses under certain working conditions, even a small discrepancy between where the back sits while you're focusing on the ground glass and where it sits once you load it with 20+ ounces of roll-holder could cause trouble.

I'm sure the Wista is a bit better built than my maybe-Nagaoka, but I'm equally sure that it's not so rigid as the Horseman, which is rock solid in this respect. Is the Wista rigid enough? I hope someone else here has done controlled tests and can tell us. As for myself, in the absence of actual test data, if I decided I were going to be doing extensive work in 6x12 I probably would get an FA, despite my gripes about it. If I didn't plan to shoot many verticals I'd consider the HD (another current model, not the same as the HF) as well, to save the extra 10 ounces, but for vertical work the ability to use the back movements of the FA to squeeze out a bit of extra effective front rise is an advantage.

Tom Davis
16-Mar-2005, 19:42

Very helpful comments. I think you've confirmed that I should go with a metal folder since I most certainly do intend to use replaceable backs, most especially 6x12. It's now going to boil down to weight vs flexibility between the HF/HD or the FA. Since I also want to do portrait work (even if that's not the prime purpose), I think you're comments are heading me more and more toward the FA or toward Eugene's suggestion of the Wista SP---only here weight would come back in as the FA (even by Kerry's "actual weight") is significantly less weight than the SP.

thanks again for the help, Oren,

Oren Grad
16-Mar-2005, 20:03
Tom -

I'm pretty weight-sensitive myself, but unless saving every last ounce of weight is an overriding concern, I'd take an FA over an HF - IMO the reversing back on the FA is a substantial convenience compared to flipping the whole camera to switch between horizontal and vertical, with the associated weirdness of the front movements. Also, I don't recall whether the older HF has the flip-top that allows full rise with the shortest focal lengths that the camera can accept; otherwise, with the lens sitting in the throat of the camera, the top of the body can obstruct.

Good luck...

Steve Clark
16-Mar-2005, 20:37
Hi Tom
I`ve been using an FA for nearly twenty years now, other cameras have come and gone, but the little Horseman has remained. Mine is used with lenses that range from 80mm to 300mm, they all work reasonably well if you a little common sense. No, you cannot do close-ups with the 300mm! For the most part, the camera is used with a 6x12 back. After using a 5x7 for the past several years, I find the size and shape of a 4x5 neg. a little awkward. Another one of those personal preferences...As far as lenses that will fold into the camera, I use a 90mm Angulon and a 135mm Rodenstock, both use 40.5mm filters. When other filters are needed, a 40.5 to 52mm step-up ring solves that problem. Until a long extension board came up, the longest lens that I used was a 240mm, mounting it on a short tele board will give you an extra inch or so of bellows. For those occaisions that I feared the bellows would be too short, I`ve a reducing back for the 5x7, it`s never been used...Yep, the controls are small, as is everything else about the camera. All cameras have thier own quirks, it`s simply a matter of finding the one that annoys you the least, so that you can get out there and make pictures. Oh, almost forgot, a 65mm is supposed to work on the FA also, In my estimation it`s likely to be a bit fiddley though. Also, the lensboards with the slight extension (C -1 ring?) will make it easier to operate your lenses that are mounted in a #1 shutter. Good luck, Steve

Ted Harris
16-Mar-2005, 20:42
Oren is right, some of the older HF's don't have the flipup.

One more thing to consider, precision of movements. Again sommewhat a matter of preference but no wood camera, even an Ebony, will give the same precision or feel of precision that you get with a metal camera. If that matters don't look at wood. It can be a vert subtle difference in feel and doesn't really have anything to do with performance as long as the camera stays locked mdown where you put it. Again, a subjective thing. BTW I use both.

Tom Davis
16-Mar-2005, 20:57
Thanks for commenting on the precision of movements point, Ted. This is, actually, an issue for me in terms of personal preference, but also in terms of the kind of issue that Orin was raising about rear standard rigidity for the use of a 6x12 back. Since I know that's going to be my main use (along with, say, a 180mm for environmental portraiture, which should not present a problem even with the FA's limited extension), I really want the lightest weight camera that will also simply work the best---and it's beginning to look like that will be an FA (since I would also like a folder). Your original comments on Horseman's have kept me looking into them further, Ted, and I appreciate your added remarks here.

17-Mar-2005, 05:03
Once you accept that any camera is going to be something of a compromise you can get on with making great images with what you have. I have the FA, I think it's a great combination of absolute rigidity, precision of movements and compact size. I can't use extreme lenses, but I don't need them to make good photographs. The controls are small and neat, but much bigger than anything on a medium or small format system. I take the FA out more often, and further than I would a bulkier camera so I get more use out of it. It comes with a very good screen, hood and fresnel as standard as well. You won't be dissapointed with the FA. A biased opinion I admit, but one based on several years of ownership and use.

Armin Seeholzer
17-Mar-2005, 12:20

I have the HF and I like it a lot. Not for all of my work but for almost any outside work. So I'm still in love with it only one time I heated it because it did not work for a shoot to short bellows and the wrong lenses with me.
It is my "Reisekamera" travellingcamera!