View Full Version : A Sea of 45s

22-May-2016, 09:12
hello all! my name is jesse and I'm fairly new to this site, but I'm beginning in the saving process of getting a 4x5 system, complete with lenses, new tripod, etc.
So I have a lot to ask of you all in terms of advice and suggestions.

I've been looking at many many many 4x5 field cameras and i've seemed to have fallen in love with the TOYO 45AII, mainly because I shoot a lot of shots of cities and various architectural elements from rooftops, parking garages, the outskirts of the skylines, you get the idea! but the 360 degree rotating back would come in heaps of handy with aligning things in those last few degrees to get everything perfect right? does anyone know of another 4x5 camera that is cheaper and sturdy with a 360 back? i also definitely plan on getting a 6x12 or 6x17 roll film back just so i can get my other formats covered....and do they make 4x5 backs for 35mm film? i could only imagine the panoramas one could do with that...

Lenses, what in heavens name do i buy?! I shoot a lot of distant objects but i also love doing macro photos in plants and some insects as well, mainly the non venomous ones...I don't plan on doing portraits but its always a possibility? What lens(es) would you all recommend for shooting in the city that have a good image circle to cover any movements i may utilize for perspective and other controls. most of the photos i take with my 35mm is no more than a few hundred feet away. i know a wide angle is probably in order, but what of any normal or zoom lenses?

lastly are there any other tips, recommendations for me to keep note of? in the end I'd like to get the whole camera system for under $3,000...if possible.
I've attached a few basic examples of some early work I've done so please forgive the composition...



David Schaller
22-May-2016, 09:20
Welcome. You should spend a bit of time on the LF Home Page above, where you will find answers to many of your questions. Also to search this site, use google : large format photography forum.
All the best,

22-May-2016, 10:23
I can see why you think the back would be a nice thing, but I doubt it's worth basing a camera purchase primarily on that, since a tripod head will do the same thing for free. I don't know how it is with that camera, but with Cambo's back if you're within a couple of degrees or so of H or V, it will click over into that stop, so you couldn't make the small movements you want to make.

As far as lenses---no one can tell you what to do; that's a personal decision. In general, for some odd reason people often seem to use slightly longer lenses in LF than they do with 35mm, so I'd consider that in picking. Also, for macro you will probably want to use a shorter lens with less total extension. In 35mm you need a bit of tele effect to get distance from the subject, but with LF you get distance by virtue of the lens focal length used. For instance, 1:1 with a 135mm lens, which is a bit of a wide angle for 4x5, will put you at around 10" from the subject. If you use a longer lens, thinking the 35mm way, you'll have a gigantic extension and a problem with camera stability and shake.

Zooms? There aren't any.

John Kasaian
22-May-2016, 11:31
I suggest getting something reliable but inexpensive and have at it. Only experience can tell you what will work best for you but just about any camera and lens in good repair will work well enough.

FWIW I spent a lovely fortnight prowling around Honolulu some years ago with a Crown Graphic and a 127mm shooting what was left of the "vintage tourist" architecture details hand held, often braced against a handy street lamp, dumpster or wall. No it wasn't an ideal "textbook"kit for architecture, but it was near perfect for my purposes.

I'm not trying to sell you on a Speeder, only to show that large format is very flexible when it comes to various subjects. Once you start shooting LF you'll learn what might make life easier for your way of working and you can adjust your kit accordingly but you won't know until you start burning silver halides

A Calumet 400 is a near bullet proof monorail that has been a long time favorite and can often be found for under $200.
Links on the LF Homepage will take you to lens data tables which will show you the coverage you can expect from both old and newer lenses. Take your pick and have fun!

neil poulsen
22-May-2016, 13:30
Thanks for joining.

At $3000, you're giving yourself some choice. Wise spending should enable you to get a decent outfit.

As for lenses, you might consider coming in at the lower end on expense, and work towards more recent optics later. Yet, one need not sacrifice too much in quality. I've gotten good performance from Schneider Symmar-S lenses. Some of the single-coated (vs. multi-coated) super-wides perform quite well. Older Schneider Super Angulons fit into this category, like the 121mm S.A. (For conventional architecture, the 90mm, f5.6 super-wide lens is the most used focal length.) Some Nikon optics can be found for reasonable prices. Fuji optics seem to be the least expensive, yet they perform well. Look for Caltar lenses, like the Apo "N"s (Rodenstock), or the earlier -S II's, which are Symmar-S lenses.

As for cameras, the Toyo AII is not the best choice I think. For architecture, you're better off having a bag bellows option, and for macro work, you may find yourself needing a longer bellows. How important is portability, which together with the above features narrows the choice? There are flatbed, field cameras that have a bag bellows option. But, they tend to be a bit awkward to use. It's possible, though.

One can find a Sinar-F rail camera for reasonable prices, and with the right accessories, they can be flexible with super-wide, long, or macro optics. They can be stowed fairly easily in a backpack. Toyo rail cameras tend to be heavy; Cambo cameras can be found for quite reasonable prices, but they don't break down well for backpacks.

These are just a few of the many options that exist.

22-May-2016, 16:13
Get a good, used, Linhof Technica V. You may never need anything else, but if you do you can get your money back (or nearly). Their only problem is that the bellows can go bad, and it's about $400 to replace.
Start with a 135mm lens -- after 6 months you'll know what else you'll need (longer, shorter, etc). My choice for best lens for the buck is a Multicoated Schneider Symmar-S. Good for landscapes and Macro, (as well as portraits with a rollfilm back). Don't spend a lot on your first rollfilm back -- I like the late Graflex backs with lever wind.
You'll need a bigger tripod -- consider a used TILTALL made by Leitz at about $100.
Always keep in mind that Large Format is not magic, it involves a lot of effort and frustrations, and that it may/may not be for you.

24-May-2016, 07:05
Years ago i bought a 45AII for the rotating back as well, but i soon enough found out it isn't as handy as it looks from paper. Firstly because it is easy enough to zero a camera back with the tripod head. Secondly because when rotating the back more then just a few degrees, it tends to clip the corners of the negative. In practice i only used it either in landscape or in portrait setting, which can be done with almost any camera back.

As you want to shoot a lot of architectual photo's i think you are better served with a camera with more movements. Those of the 45AII are pretty limited and for architecture you should want the max you can get. Look at the Shen Hao and Chamonix camera's - they both offer a good range of 4x5's with plenty of movements, both front and back. Or get yourself a monorail if you don't have to carry the stuff around to much. But then: the 45AII is a nice and rugged camera that can easely be obtained second hand.

Thirdly: i would advice against a 135mm as a first lens, because of their limited image circle. Looking at the pictures you included i would advice you to get a 210mm and something like a 90mm. Any of the fujinons, schneiders, rodenstocks or nikons will be plenty good enough. Caltar and Sinaron are rebadged lenses of the same makers, mostly a bit cheaper. Also the Topcon lenses are quite nice. And instead of a 90mm you could get yourself a 105mm f8 fujinon or a 110mm f5.6 SS XL, which both have plenty of image circle for architecture. After you have acquited yourself with those first two lenses, you will probably know what to get next.

Jeff Keller
24-May-2016, 10:49
I found that the larger the print, the more likely I am to want to use a wide angle lens. You will have to find out for yourself but you will probably want a lens around 90 mm and a more normal focal length of about 180 mm. In a city with tall buildings you may want an even shorter focal length but 90 mm is a good starting point.

Whatever camera you choose pay attention to minimum bellow extension and movements at minimum extension. Many cameras are "challenged" by short focal lengths.

Long focal lengths are typically limited by how far your bellows will extend. 360mm for 4x5 cameras doesn't provide a particularly long range view (roughly similar to a 100mm lens on a 35mm camera) but is roughly the limit for many 4x5 cameras.

Canham cameras have very nice bellows which extend longer than many cameras yet also allow movements with short focal lengths. A Sinar Norma has readily available exchangeable bellows which would let you use almost any lens you wanted to.

The rotating back on a LF camera is normally only used to change between "portrait" and "landscape" orientations. Use your tripod head and/or legs to level the camera.

Good luck.

24-May-2016, 11:54
Thanks for the advice guys! however, what lens would you guys choose for photographing a city skyline from approx. 1/2-1/3 mile away? say i wanted to get the skyline in this photo to take up a reasonable amount of the frame and be able to adjust for perspective and get the buildings standing straight up since I'm not perpendicular to their facades from this altitude. 151170

24-May-2016, 12:27
It looks like you have been using a moderate wide angle for this shot, so i would say something like a 110mm or 120 mm would serve you nicely here. A 180 mm or a 210mm would give you a slightly more cropped image.

24-May-2016, 21:27
I owned the 45AII and it was a great camera. It was built like a tank, folded easily, and did quite well if there was a bit of wind. The only thing I missed on it was axial front tilt. I used it with a Nikkor 75mm and a Nikkor 210mm. You will probably find that it's difficult to ask questions on forums like this because you will receive so many different opinions, and you will be led in a bunch of different directions. Take it all in, keep doing your research, and enjoy whatever camera you end up with.