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View Full Version : My First 4x5 Camera Search Continues...



IanBarber
29-Jul-2016, 03:13
Maybe it's because I am getting older or maybe it's because LF is so new to me, but I seem to taking much longer in deciding which 4x5 camera to buy than I ever did when buying a DSLR.

Having exchanged various emails with Hugo, the Chamonix 045N-2 is at the the top of my current list and i am just waiting for dave_whatever to arrange a date and time when I can go and see his Chamonix face to face but from all the posts I have read, this camera does seem to be high up there.

Last night someone threw a spanner in the works by offering me his Ebony RSW45 for 850 (is this a good price?).
I have seen this camera and it has really looked after it, hardly a mark on it.

Dilema

Unlike the owner of the Ebony RSW45 who mainly photographs landscapes, I like to photograph a wider variety of subjects including...


Architecture (External and Internal)
Landscapes
Seascapes
Still Life


I am just not quite sure whether not having any Rear movements or front swing would limit me in what I like to photograph.

Thoughts...

Mark Darragh
29-Jul-2016, 04:12
Both are no doubt excellent cameras. The Ebony is designed primarily for working with shorter focal length lenses. If you see yourself using lenses longer than 200mm or doing close-up work the Chamonix will give you more versatility without resorting to extension backs or lens boards. I'm sure there are users of both camera who can offer comments to their relative merits.

vinny
29-Jul-2016, 04:32
chances are, the first one you buy won't be one you keep forever. Lots of folks also try LF and decide it's not for them so spending only a couple hundred bucks on an old beater to try out often makes the most sense.

IanBarber
29-Jul-2016, 04:39
chances are, the first one you buy won't be one you keep forever. Lots of folks also try LF and decide it's not for them so spending only a couple hundred bucks on an old beater to try out often makes the most sense.

Thats an interesting point and is something that has crossed my mind. From your experience, what are the reasons for people trying LF and then deciding its not for them, possibly weight and speed I am guessing

Michael W
29-Jul-2016, 05:04
chances are, the first one you buy won't be one you keep forever. Lots of folks also try LF and decide it's not for them so spending only a couple hundred bucks on an old beater to try out often makes the most sense.
I agree. When I was looking to get into LF I was considering a Linhof Technika kit for about $3k, and then a guy I respect said to me - get a Crown Graphic for a few hundred. It will take just as good photos as the Linhof (really, it's mostly down to the photographer's choices) and after using it for a while you will know if LF suits your photography & also will be able to make a more informed decision about what camera to get next, if at all. So I used a Crown for a few years, very good camera, but I got frustrated with a few aspects & when I researched Chamonix I knew that would let me do the things that were problematic with the Crown. So I got the Chamonix, sold the Crown for around what I had paid for it & happily moved on.

jnantz
29-Jul-2016, 05:37
Thats an interesting point and is something that has crossed my mind. From your experience, what are the reasons for people trying LF and then deciding its not for them, possibly weight and speed I am guessing

not only weight and speed, but there is a list of things you need to do or try to remember to do every time you use the camera, and stuff you need to remember to bring too.
did i remember my meter? ( if not would i trust sunny 16? )
did i remember my dark cloth ( is my jacket big enough to go over my head and camera, or should i take off my T-shirt ?)
did i remember to load the film holders, and are they loaded emulsion side up ?
(im not going to go into the tripod .. )
did i remember to stop the lens back down or close the lens?
is the darkslide in the right way afterwards / i cant' remember if i exposed this one or not ?
shoot, the camera shook.
shoot, i kicked the tripod by accident.
shoot, i have all this film to process, should i get a mod54, attempt to tray process, leaky drum roller, hangers, how do i mail my film to a lab if I only have
the one box the film came in?

i agree with vinny, get a beater and see if "the dance" works for you its much easier to sell or write off a beater than something
that costs a small fortune.

good luck ian !

Drew Bedo
29-Jul-2016, 08:38
There are a lot og good and great 4x5 cameras out there, both new and used.

I fyou are new to LF, I would not agonize over your first camera . . .it will not be your last. the important thing is to start doing LF photography. You will develop skills and a way of shooting. As you grow in LF photography, you will better understand what equipment, gear and impedimenta suit your way of doing things.

I am undecided on wether or not I will continue to use/keep Grafmatic film magazines or double darkslide film holders. I really like using a changing tent, but weight and bulk are major issues for me and so I usually pack an ageing changing bag. I bought a 380mm Tele Optar and don't use it but love to look at it (OK-that bothers my wife). The point is: There is no one BEST camera, lens or anything else. Your kit will evolve and change as you do.

So don't sweat getting your first camera. I have an 8x10 Eastman 2D and wish I had something with front standard movements. I have a TravelWide but haven't decided to keep it or sell it. The Zone VI 4x5 is a keeper. I toyed with the idea of getting a Polaroid conversion and didn't. Get your first camera . . . and then get another. Same goes for lenses, tripods, camera bags and all the rest of it.

Cheers

Alan Gales
29-Jul-2016, 11:03
The Chamonix should cover everything on your list except for maybe some architectural shots. Architecture used to be shot using monorails for their generous movements.

You may not but if you do later feel that you need a monorail, they are almost giving away some of the Toyo's and Cambo/Calumet models on Ebay. The Chamonix takes Technika style boards. You could buy a reduction board to use Technika style boards on the monorail so it would be easy to swap lenses back and forth.

I used to do this between a Tachihara and a Sinar P monorail. With only 13" of bellows draw, the Tachi was a little short for portraits with a 300mm lens.

MickAitch
29-Jul-2016, 11:31
How long have you been looking, Ian?

I've only been looking for around a month so might be in the same boat as you. Each time I think I've decided, or get close to plumping for something, I get cool (not quite cold) feet. Should I spend a decent amount of money and get something I plan to keep for years or should I buy a 'beater' to make dead sure it's a format I'll stick with? Both ideas make sense at different times of the day!

I'll give myself a few more weeks yet and see what happens when I eventually get to see the Classified Ads section.

I wish you good luck.

Alan Gales
29-Jul-2016, 11:57
How long have you been looking, Ian?

I've only been looking for around a month so might be in the same boat as you. Each time I think I've decided, or get close to plumping for something, I get cool (not quite cold) feet. Should I spend a decent amount of money and get something I plan to keep for years or should I buy a 'beater' to make dead sure it's a format I'll stick with? Both ideas make sense at different times of the day!

I'll give myself a few more weeks yet and see what happens when I eventually get to see the Classified Ads section.

I wish you good luck.

If you just want to see if you like it then buy a Toyo or Cambo/Calumet monorail for $200 or less U.S. dollars. I've seen old ones go for as low as $50. Just make sure the bellows isn't full of pin holes. Many times you can pick up someone's kit with a 210mm lens and some film holders, dark cloth, storage box, etcetera. I got a steal once on a Calumet with 3 Caltar lenses. I sold the 65mm lens for close to what I paid for everything.

If you need a meter you can use the one in your 35mm or digital camera. Some use an iPhone app. An oversized black T-shirt or sweatshirt works for a dark cloth. Cheap readers from a drugstore can work as a loupe. Used 4x5 film holders are dirt cheap.

From what I have gathered on this forum and APUG, some do but most do not keep their first 4x5 camera. I didn't. I started with a 4x5 Cambo monorail. After several 4x5's, I now own a Wehman 8x10 field camera.

IanG
29-Jul-2016, 12:19
I made a point of showing Mick the limitations of Crown/Speed Graphics when he visited recently, it's important to think through the options. I need to retire my Wista 45DX which has had quite heavy use over the past 30 years and I've thought about what to rplace it with. Other cameras Ebony, Chamonix etc, might seem to be better in some ways but the Wista has excellent movements and is very much faster to set up and use, better with WA lenses so I'll get another. (The first will then be stripped and restored).

Mick was rather surprised when I demontrated movements with the Wista, setting the camera up from the side with no reference to the ground glass screen, amazingly the table top was in focus and quite a lot of tilt involved.

For 800 you can put together an excellent kit - camera and 3 lenses, some DDS as well - quite easily, be patient and shop around and that could come down to 400-500 - I've done it a few times.

Ian

MickAitch
29-Jul-2016, 13:25
...setting the camera up from the side with no reference to the ground glass screen, amazingly the table top was in focus and quite a lot of tilt involved.


You can't buy experience! :)

IanBarber
29-Jul-2016, 13:34
Thanks for the replies, some food for thought here.

Two23
29-Jul-2016, 13:52
I don't find my Chamonix to be any heavier than my Nikon D800E. Really, it's light weight. The main thing about 4x5 is you can't be in a hurry. Some people just aren't suited to taking a slow approach and thinking through every step. That's the main thing, I think. I enjoy using 100 to 150 yr. old lenses and 4x5 lets me do that. I started with a 4x5 Cambo monorail--LOTS of movements but a beast to haul around. I then bought a Tachicara 4x5. It was a good camera and did what I wanted. I was then seduced by a used Chamonix--I loved its sexy lines and simplicity. I'm quite happy with it as it is easy to travel with and is versatile. By buying used gear, I can easily resell if it's not working out for me and simply get something else. Really, I wouldn't agonize over this.


Kent in SD

Tim Meisburger
29-Jul-2016, 14:15
My advice it to avoid specialist cameras and get a generalist. That means a field or technical camera. Not a monorail, and not a press camera, and not a wide angle camera. Should have movements and at least 300mm of bellows. Using that, you can do many types of photography, and will soon learn if a more specialised camera of some sort would makes sense.

Luis-F-S
29-Jul-2016, 14:54
My first few view cameras some 35 years ago were different flavors of the Wista/Zone VI. Then in 1987 I bought a new Deardorff V5 and have never looked back. I presently own 4. It is without a doubt IMHO the finest view camera ever made.

Drew Bedo
29-Jul-2016, 15:25
this threD reakky makes me miss the old Houston Camera Show in its hay-day; say 1995-2002 or so. A newbie could walk the isles and actually pick-up, hold and examine about any camera made after 1900.

Jim Jones
29-Jul-2016, 16:10
Drew is right. Some camera stores can give the newbie the same experience. I bought my first 4x5, a Newton New Vue, in 1955. It could take most of the LF photos anyone needed. An old Speed Graphic was added a dozen years later. Since then many other LF cameras have joined the arsenal. Each one taught appreciation and dislike for various features. Hands-on experience is more valuable than reading posts here. However, the most valuable resource on the planet for LF photography is this site if one only asks the right question and disregards the personal bias that plagues most of us.

B.S.Kumar
29-Jul-2016, 19:44
My advice it to avoid specialist cameras and get a generalist. That means a field or technical camera. Not a monorail, and not a press camera, and not a wide angle camera. Should have movements and at least 300mm of bellows. Using that, you can do many types of photography, and will soon learn if a more specialised camera of some sort would makes sense.

And proving that someone can have an equally valid and different point of view, my advice to those new to LF is always to start with a monorail. My own first view camera was a Linhof Super Technika V. I had years of experience with Nikon and Mamiya RB cameras. At that time I was shooting mainly architecture (exterior and interiors), some industrial work and a bit of product photography. While the Linhof was great for overall views of buildings, it was very difficult to use for interiors. Focusing a 65mm lens was really tough. Product work was equally difficult, due to the limited movements available. The front focusing also meant that I had to move the tripod in tiny increments each time the focus changed. I then got a Sinar F2, and suddenly everything became super easy. I sold the Linhof soon after.

Once I figured out what movements I might need for a certain kind of photo, I bought a Wista metal 45D when I moved to Japan. Now, I think I could take most photos with either camera, but it took a lot of time and frustration learning with a technical camera. Toyo monorails are cheap (~200USD), have geared rise, fall and shift movements. The older versions have fully geared focusing as well.

Kumar

IanG
30-Jul-2016, 00:52
My advice it to avoid specialist cameras and get a generalist. That means a field or technical camera. Not a monorail, and not a press camera, and not a wide angle camera. Should have movements and at least 300mm of bellows. Using that, you can do many types of photography, and will soon learn if a more specialised camera of some sort would makes sense.

In the UK an MPP MkVII would be a good starting point. You can often buy a kit for reasonable prices and there's quite a few around, essentially they are derived from the Linhof Technical cameras.

Ian

Steve Barber
30-Jul-2016, 08:03
Unlike the owner of the Ebony RSW45 who mainly photographs landscapes, I like to photograph a wider variety of subjects including...


Architecture (External and Internal)
Landscapes
Seascapes
Still Life


I am just not quite sure whether not having any Rear movements or front swing would limit me in what I like to photograph.

Thoughts...

i have a Wide45, and a SV45U2, the Wide45 used for shorter lenses, up to 210mm, but not for still life. However, the RSW45, a specialty camers built for and sold by Robert White, would have been my choice if i had not found the Wide45. For architecture, landscapes and seascapes, the RSW45 should be every bit as good as my Wide45. The problem would be with the still life.

Howeverc, there are plenty of monorails about and one of those along with the RSW45 would be a formidable combination for what you are interested in. You would have, basically, unlimited bellows length and no limitation on movements. The total cost would be very reasonable and the camera you would be, most likely, using in the field would be very convenient and easy to carry.

IanBarber
30-Jul-2016, 08:22
In your opinion Steve, would the RSW45 have any limitations for architecture with it having a fixed back

IanG
30-Jul-2016, 10:02
Read the spec it's about as limiting as a Crown/Speed Graphic, perhaps more so in some ways, max 180mm lens only front rise/fall and tilt. Great as a landscape camera but useless for architecture. Only advantage over a Crown/Speed Graphic is better front tilt.

Steve's suggesting you get two cameras :D

Ian

Luis-F-S
30-Jul-2016, 10:21
In your opinion Steve, would the RSW45 have any limitations for architecture with it having a fixed back

For Architecture I used an F2. The fixed back should make little difference as long as it can handle short lenses, I used as short as 47mm. I used front rise more for architecture. L

IanG
30-Jul-2016, 11:46
For Architecture I used an F2. The fixed back should make little difference as long as it can handle short lenses, I used as short as 47mm. I used front rise more for architecture. L

A fixed back is fine as long as there's a lot of front swing and shift for architecture, the RSW45 has no swing or shift at all according to the spec page. It seems to be a cut and paste then edit from another camera spec sheet and they've forgotten to take out the great for architecture bit.

Ian

M.B.
30-Jul-2016, 13:25
Hi,
if I wont to buy a 4x5 and I had enough money, I would buy a Linhof Technikardan S.
A very light camera for a monorail, and lot of movements.

Markus

Bob Salomon
30-Jul-2016, 15:02
Hi,
if I wont to buy a 4x5 and I had enough money, I would buy a Linhof Technikardan S.
A very light camera for a monorail, and lot of movements.

Markus

+1

AuditorOne
30-Jul-2016, 15:30
I think that a newbie, just getting into large format, should really consider buying a Cambo SC 4x5 monorail. It is the best teaching camera I own. If I am not too sure how to accomplish something I grab the Cambo and fiddle until I figure it out or I decide it is too much hassle. For very little money you can buy the camera, lens boards, compendium lens shades, bag bellows, and on and on.

Once you have learned whether you like large format or not, and have taught yourself what the format can do, then you can make some informed decisions of what you want and need. Field cameras are neat but there is nothing like a monorail to teach you all the movements, how to use them, and why. Once you have learned that you will know what you want in a field camera because most of them do not include all the movement you may need.

You can even pack one into the back country if you want. The camera comes apart very quickly and can easily be packed as separate pieces into a back pack, along with quite a bit of film.

barnacle
30-Jul-2016, 21:43
I have to admit that although I have a couple of wooden field cameras - one self made - and a press camera (which is like a field camera but usually with restricted movements, and made of something like cast iron from the weight of it!) I'm tempted by a cheap and cheerful rail camera...

That said, I'm not sure if it's something I'd recommend to start with. It does rather depend on your previous experiences, and a lot on what it is you're planning on photographing, but it's possible that the wealth of movements available on a rail camera might simply add to the confusion you will inevitably suffer from when you start. Portraiture, architecture, landscapes, and even some action shots can all be done with a press camera - say MPP or Speed Graphic - or, as mentioned up thread, the slightly more complex MPP MkVII (which is another camera I have my eye on).

The point is, you might buy a camera and never use half the things it can do simply because you never need to. Or you might buy your first camera, and play with it until you find the things it *can't* do but that you want to, and then sell it to fund a camera that fits your work flow.

Neil

Steve Barber
30-Jul-2016, 22:18
In your opinion Steve, would the RSW45 have any limitations for architecture with it having a fixed back

I think of my WIDE45 as an "urban landscape" camera and it handles most exterior shots of buildings without using any of its front shift or swing. Like the RSW45, it does not have any back movements (ignoring a slight amount of tilt and swing that its extension back will allow and that, normally, isn't used). For more complicated interior shots, the RSW45's lack of front swing and shift could be a problem.

Most of the time, what is needed is front rise and a lot of it. The RSW45 has the same 60mm of front rise that my WIDE45 has and that is enough to get full benefit from a 90mm Super Angulon XL. If you want to use that lens, you need to be sure that the camera frame does not interfere with the lens' rear element, preventing getting the maximum usable rise with it. I leave the 90mm SA XL in the car and do not get it out unless I need its extra coverage. Most of the time, 60mm of front rise is overkill. The Rodenstock 90mm f4.5 Grandagon-N is a lot more convenient to carry and, usually, has enough coverage for the rise that is needed.

In short, with cameras, everything is a compromise. Adding the monorail with a lens board adapter to take the Ebony lens boards won't add much to your total cost and will do anything the RSW45 won't. With a lens range of 47mm up to 210mm (using an extension tube) the RSW should do most of what you need without the inconvenience of carrying a monorail around.

Last, I am attempting to answer what you asked. I am not saying that the RSW45 is exactly what you need. However, I had the SV45U2 and added the WIDE45 to get a combination I liked better. I think the RSW45 and a monorail would provide a similar result for you.

Besides, everybody needs a monorail. :-)

Alan Gales
30-Jul-2016, 23:08
Frank Petronio used to say to buy a Crown Graphic and a monorail. For those few times you need more movements then bring out the monorail.

I think that there is a lot of truth to that for many of us.

IanG
31-Jul-2016, 01:41
My first LF camera ws a heavy monorail, whole plate/half plate/5x4, it was used every day for work, however it wasn't practical to use outside a studio.

So I added my Wista 4DX for landscape work, later oicking up a Cambo Cadet (monorail) very cheaply but the Wista has such good movements I only ever used the Cambo for a long weekend away in Cornwall when I'd left the Wista in Turkey.

The OP wants to shoot architecture where front/rear tilt and front rise/fall, and just as importantlly front swing and shift and usually rear swing as well are needed. Some field cameras have good movements, like the Wista 45DX which has a very good range and technical cameras like the Linhof Techikas, MPP MicroTecnical. I know from experience the Crown/Sped Graphics are too limiting the Super Graphic is much better but few turn up second hand in the UK. I now use one as my main camera while in Turkey and Greece enough movements for my use but not as practical with short wide angles ^5mm) as the Wista.

It's also important to think of how you work, I shoot from a backpack often walking some distance, a monorail is less practical compared to the relatively light Wista which folds neatly up, is very fast to set up and use, as is the Super Graphic. Weight is also an issue so my kit in Turkey/Greece is compact and light fitting in a small backpack. If I was working closer to a car and shooting a lot of architecture then the Linhof Technikardan would be my ideal choice.

Ian