View Full Version : New Purchase of 4x5

Thomas Gentry-Funk
16-Apr-2005, 21:01

I'm sure this question has been asked, but here it goes....am a photographer well versed in photography through medium format. I want to make the move to 4x5.

I purchased a Crown Graphic 4x5 but was disappointed with the results in landscape photography. I am looking at modern Calumet 4x5 made from plastic and other composite materials. Any advice about rail-based 4x5 cameras?

Thanks in advance for your response,


Doug Dolde
16-Apr-2005, 21:07
Arca Swiss ! !

John Flavell
16-Apr-2005, 21:07
Two words: Field camera

I don't know much about the composite materials used by the composite cameras. I have an old wooden Calumet 4x5 purchased on eBay.

The rail cameras you ask about won't hold up in the field.

Good luck. Have fun.

Dave Moeller
16-Apr-2005, 21:13

A few things to consider:

If you're interested in landscape photography, a field camera is generally easier to carry than a monorail. (I assume you mean a monorail when you say, "rail-based.") Field cameras fold up into a box shape that's easy to fit into a backpack or shoulder bag, and unfold quickly. Most monorails must be stored either intact (thus taking up a lot of room in your bag) or disassembled for storage and reassembled for use (thus taking up time you could be using for shooting). That's not to say that you can't do landscape with a monorail, just that it's generally easier with a field camera. There are monorails that are made for backpacking (like the Toho), but they're not on the inexpensive end of the spectrum.

I'd highly recommend that you buy used equipment. If you find that you don't like the camera, chances are that you can get most of your money back re-selling it to someone else. New equipment depreciates greatly, unless you're buying at the top end. I picked up a modern Cambo monorail on eBay last year for around $180 complete with lensboard...the camera looked like it had seen little use. If I wanted to sell it today I'd expect $150 to be the minimum I'd get. Assuming that's all that I got, $30 is not a bad rental fee for a camera for one year.

Finally, if you tell us specifically what types of photography you're interested in we'll be better able to make specific suggestions for equipment. "Landscape" is a pretty broad term; are you more interested in the "grand landscape" (like Ansel Adams), more intimate landscapes, macrophotography...you get the idea. Will you be shooting next to your car, or will you hike for miles? Do you intend to use the camera where it'll take some abuse (like salt water spray from the ocean), or will you be in more controlled environments?

LF is a lot of fun, and there is a wide range of choices in both cameras and lenses. Personally I own too many LF cameras, but I have every one for a specific reason. For your first camera you should buy something that will work well for the things you want to do. No camera does everything perfectly. Tell us more about what you want to do and I'll bet you get some great advice on what equipment will meet your needs.

Best of luck to you.

Bill McMannis
16-Apr-2005, 21:24
Thomas: I heartedly recommend the Linhof Technikardan 45S. I used both a wooden field camera and a Sinar in the field. Each had its pluses and minuses. With the Technikardan you get the best of both worlds.

Dean Tomasula
16-Apr-2005, 21:26
Shen-Hao HZX45-IIA. Easier to carry in the filed than a monorail and won't break your budget at $625US new. Plus, if you don't like it or want to move to something more expensive, you can easily sell it as it was bought new.

ronald moravec
16-Apr-2005, 21:27
Landscape means a field camera as described abouce. With a Zone 6 or Wisner the long bellows allows a lot of freedom. Rail camera are just too hard to move around.

A rail that has standards that can be removed for transport might be ok if it weighs little. Linhofs Technicardan is intriging also, as the standards fold flat.

John Kasaian
16-Apr-2005, 21:37

Welcome to LF!

What was wrong with the negs from the Crown Graphic? While these cameras are limited in movements, all you're really dealing with is a light tight box. It might be more cost effective to fix the camera you have. Are you focusing on the gg? If your model Crown has a top mounted range finder, is the cam the right one for the lens? Is the fresnel in place? Are you using a loupe? A sturdy tripod(wind and vibrations can play havoc with LF cameras, though a heavy duty medium format tripod can certainly handle a Crown!) Is the shutter accurate? Is the lens a good one for your purpose and do you have enough bellows for it? Is your light meter calibrated? Does the camera lock down firmly? There are lots of ways for good cameras to misbehave and if you're new to LF gear don't be too quick to change ponies without first understanding whats causing the problem or you might end up chasing "magic bullets" (a new camera, new lens, new??) which can be counter productive. My 2-cents.

16-Apr-2005, 21:56
The Crown Graphic is very hard to beat for straight landscape work. In what way did it fail to meet your needs?

Eric Biggerstaff
16-Apr-2005, 23:23
If you really want to stay with a monorail camera then the Arca Swiss F-Line is a great little camera and is compact enough for field work. Take a look around this site as there are articles comparing different cameras.

I tend to agree with the others here that a field camera (folding) is tough to beat and used ones are available on eBay that will not break your budget. All of them I think are good depending on what you want to do with it. I have used a Tachihara and Zone VI for years and they have served me very well.

But read and decide what you really want to photograph and then make a choice. When I was first getting into LF, I too asked around and a couple of very well known photographers suggested that I move to 8x10 to begin with as opposed to 4X5. Reason being that I could make contact prints and would not need to upgrade my entire darkroom to begin with. So with this logic in mind, 8x10 or even 5x7 might be fun.

Just my two cents worth! Have fun!


Thomas Gentry-Funk
16-Apr-2005, 23:40
Thank you for the many helpful responses. The reason I looked into a rail-type camera was price. I did think about moving the beast around. Most of what I like to do is go off the beaten path. I live in New Mexico and I'm often chasing light.

I'll compare some of the field cameras many have suggested. Thank you for the informed comments and suggestions.


Jim Rhoades
17-Apr-2005, 06:30
I have to jump in here with John & Bill. This is coming from a guy with a 4x5 monorail in his basement "studio" and three field cameras in the storage locker. My most used camera is a Crown Graphic. It packs up very small with three lenses and it's still very lightweight.

You mention off the beaten path. This is where the Crown shines. Most landscape needs very little movement which is good because the Graphic won't give you much. The tiny lenses are a joy to carry compared to a 3 pound XLCH Super Cosmic. If you were "disappointed with the results" it was not the camera.

Is the ground glass and fresnel in the proper position? Other's asked about cams etc. Check the camera and lens carefully.

For back country travel you can't beat a CG. I take mine all over the country on a motorcycle. John ski's with his. Think about it, check out the camera and reconsider.

Bruce Watson
17-Apr-2005, 07:40
I use a "field monorail" camera, which also happens to be extremely light weight. It's from a Japanese company called Toho (with an "h" not a "y"). The particular camera I'm using is the FC-45x (http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/toho.htm) which I've modified a bit. I replaced the tripod mount with an arca-swiss quick release plate, and added levels. It weighs less than 3 lbs, and has full movements front and back.

I've been using mine for more than two years now, and have been very happy with it, with lens from 80mm to 360mm (with a top-hat style extender board). If a rail based field camera is what you are looking for, you should definitely consider the Toho.

Wayne Crider
26-Apr-2005, 17:08
I shoot two Crowns and the only reason I would have to buy anything different would be to shoot architecture. Tell us your problems. I'm sure you could be satisfied in some way, unless your equipment jonesing.