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View Full Version : Compact, lightweight 4x5 camera with precise coupled rangefinder and excellent lens



JNmoyd
24-Sep-2016, 04:38
I am in search for a compact 4x5 camera that would be as user friendly as medium format rangefinders. The camera should support grafmatic holders, have a precise coupled rangefinder for critical focusing and an excellent lens, for example Rodenstock 135mm f/5.6 Apo-Sironar-S or Schneider Super Symmar 120mm f5.6. Chamonix Saber comes close, but the rangefinder is not that precise from what I have read. Oh, and a coupled built in light meter would be nice. Essentialy what I want is a Plaubel Makina that shoots 4x5 film instead of 120 roll film. Does something like this exist? Or could I make a custom request to some independent camera manufacturer to make it for me? Thanks.

IanG
24-Sep-2016, 05:27
Closest would be a Super Graphic, Graflex or later Toyo version, no built in meter though.

Ian

Drew Bedo
24-Sep-2016, 05:53
What about one of the higher-end Polaroid conversions that were such a thing a while back?

Pfsor
24-Sep-2016, 06:32
Don't know about the grafmatic holders but it seems to me you're looking for Linhof MT, especially with your funding for a custom made camera.

EdSawyer
24-Sep-2016, 06:40
Chamonix saber is your best bet, i have one, the rangefinder is pretty well calibrated, esp. If not trying to shoot wide open. Shooting at f/8-f/16, i never have any problems.

The crown/speed graphic is probably the best 2nd choice, with a kalart rangefinder it can be calibrated to be spot-on even with a xenotar or aero ektar wide open at minimum focus distance, which is about as tough a requirement as you can get.

Dan Fromm
24-Sep-2016, 10:21
Ed, the OP specified several lenses of which he seems to want to use one, so in principle a Pacemaker Graphic with Kalart would be fine for him. But people change their minds and a Kalart can be calibrated for only one lens. Changing a lens in the field is easy, recalibrating a Kalart in the field isn't. A Linhof or a Horseman seems a safer bet than a Pacemaker Graphic with a Kalart even though one would serve the OP's immediate need well enough.

rfesk
24-Sep-2016, 10:40
I agree that a Pacemaker Graphic would be a perfectly good and adequate choice. Also the Super Graphic, Meridian, Linhof etc. The Beseler 4x5 (look it up on Google) fits the criteria perfectly except for the meter but they are very rare. I have one but have never used it.

Peter Lewin
24-Sep-2016, 11:57
Depends on how much weight the OP puts on the original requirements, which include "compact" and "light." The Linhofs are not light cameras. The various Graphics and Kalarts are not compact. (I know this is all relative, but I am taking the OP at his/her word.) The only cameras that qualify with very little compromise to the specs are the Chamonix Saber, and some of the Polaroid conversions. What it really comes down to is that there is no camera which exactly meets all the specs, so the OP has to decide where to compromise.

Bob Salomon
24-Sep-2016, 12:18
I agree that a Pacemaker Graphic would be a perfectly good and adequate choice. Also the Super Graphic, Meridian, Linhof etc. The Beseler 4x5 (look it up on Google) fits the criteria perfectly except for the meter but they are very rare. I have one but have never used it.

The Wista RF is smaller and lighter then the Linhof and has a fully coupled RF/VF for 135, 150 and 180 lenses.

Leigh
24-Sep-2016, 13:18
Changing a lens in the field is easy, recalibrating a Kalart in the field isn't.
For anyone interested, here are the cal instructions for the Kalart (warning: 36Megabyte pdf):
http://www.atwaterkent.info/Images/Kalart_instr.pdf

- Leigh

Note there is at least one other version of the Kalart rangefinder.

IanG
24-Sep-2016, 14:02
As someone who uses a compact relatively light wight 5x4 camera hand held quite frequently I don;t use the range finder, I often use a touch of front tilt so thatmeans no rangefinder. A Poloroid conversion was heavier than my Super Graphic, I looked at one last month.

I've been out with ,members of this fourum and can work faster composing and focussing on the GG screen, and then shoot while they decide what to use. You have to know your equipment.

Ian

Leigh
24-Sep-2016, 14:17
I don;t use the range finder, I often use a touch of front tilt so thatmeans no rangefinder.
Hi Ian,

You can always do the rangefinder with the bad flat, perhaps with the entire camera tilted if need be.

Then do the back vertical and drop the bed as needed. The focus won't change.

- Leigh

photonsoup
24-Sep-2016, 20:10
I have two handhelds with rangefinders, a Crown Graphic with top mount rangefinder and a Polaroid 900 Alpenhaus conversion. Both have Xenar 135mm lenses so photos are pretty much the same from both.

The Crown weighs 5.234 lbs
The Polaroid weighs 4.154 lbs
not exactly lightweight, but lighter than my Cambo

The top mount rangefinder on the Crown has different cams for different lenses, I can change a cam quicker than a lens board. There is one window for the rangefinder. you then compose through a view finder or sports finder. The Polaroid has a single viewfinder for focus and composition, it automatically adjusts the view based on focus distance (parallax?). For handheld I prefer the Polaroid, if I was to do it over again I would opt for a 110b as I like the focus knob on it better than the one on the 900. They both use the same rangefinder. The Polaroid rangefinder can be calibrated for different lenses, I believe its easier than calibrating a Kalart but i haven't personally tried either one.

You can get a Crown with a lens for about a third the price of the Alpenhause. My Crown had lost all the balls and spacers from the rangefinder and had no cam. It took me about a year to find all the parts and get it functional. Alpenhause occasionally show up on this forum and eBay.

Alan Gales
24-Sep-2016, 21:46
Crown/Speed Graphics, Wista RF's and Linhof Technikas are a bit heavy and awkward to shoot handheld compared to medium format cameras. You may get a sharper image shooting a Fuji 6X7/6x9 rangefinder or Mamiya 7 handheld. I know I would.

Drew Bedo
25-Sep-2016, 04:54
JNmoyd: Whatever you decide on . . .please let us know what you get and how you uset it.

Michael Finder
25-Sep-2016, 23:24
My 4x5 rangefinder experience is a Linhof Super Technika V and a Razzle Polaroid 4x5 conversion. Yes the Linhof camera is heavy but a great performer. I had two lenses with cams, a 150mm and a 270mm Tele Arton. I had a 75mm which had fantastic depth of field so didn't require a cam and easy focus on the ground glass. I foolishly sold the outfit through the LFPF when I went digital. I am now trying to rebuild a complete LF film system.

Portraits are my preference so the 270mm with rangefinder focusing was just brilliant.

The Razzle 4x5 Polaroid conversion was also very heavy and not as easy to use as the Linhof imho. I always used a tripod with both cameras.

Corran
25-Sep-2016, 23:33
Contact any of the guys doing custom Polaroid conversions and send them the lens you want to use on the camera. The RF is plenty accurate. Make sure you get a Polaroid 900 or 110B (possibly others that I'm not remembering) with the combined viewfinder and rangefinder, which is way quicker and easier than a split RF/VF like most anything else. Be prepared to pay a decent amount for the pleasure but there is nothing else like it. I have an Alpenhaus Polaroid 900 with 135mm Xenotar...however, I use it less these days because I ended up getting a Linhof Master Technika. The MT is your other option. The raison d'Ítre of the MT is that you can use a variety of lenses and have super accurate focus with all of them. You just might have to spend a bundle on getting the custom cams made for whatever lenses you want to use. The MT also has the option for a nice ergonomic grip, and the accessory viewfinder (which costs a lot too...) is super accurate when dialed in properly, but is still separate from the rangefinder which is a pain. It's also probably double the weight of the Polaroid.

If you cheap out, a good Crown/Speed Graphic works okay and you can calibrate the RF, but it's a pain in the butt and generally not all that accurate close-up. If you want to shoot handheld wide-open and close up, this isn't the option for you.

AFAIK, a built-in meter has never been a thing on 4x5.

Bob Salomon
26-Sep-2016, 04:33
Contact any of the guys doing custom Polaroid conversions and send them the lens you want to use on the camera. The RF is plenty accurate. Make sure you get a Polaroid 900 or 110B (possibly others that I'm not remembering) with the combined viewfinder and rangefinder, which is way quicker and easier than a split RF/VF like most anything else. Be prepared to pay a decent amount for the pleasure but there is nothing else like it. I have an Alpenhaus Polaroid 900 with 135mm Xenotar...however, I use it less these days because I ended up getting a Linhof Master Technika. The MT is your other option. The raison d'Ítre of the MT is that you can use a variety of lenses and have super accurate focus with all of them. You just might have to spend a bundle on getting the custom cams made for whatever lenses you want to use. The MT also has the option for a nice ergonomic grip, and the accessory viewfinder (which costs a lot too...) is super accurate when dialed in properly, but is still separate from the rangefinder which is a pain. It's also probably double the weight of the Polaroid.

If you cheap out, a good Crown/Speed Graphic works okay and you can calibrate the RF, but it's a pain in the butt and generally not all that accurate close-up. If you want to shoot handheld wide-open and close up, this isn't the option for you.

AFAIK, a built-in meter has never been a thing on 4x5.

Cramming the Linhof is not exactly a "bundle" as the cam, cutting the cam, installing the infinity stops and the matching focusing scale is somewhere around $300.00 per lens.

Corran
26-Sep-2016, 08:08
$300 per lens is a bundle in my book, especially if one goes and gets several done. Yes I know the Master Technika costs almost $10k new, so it's not much compared to that cost...but it also can be found used for 1/10th that. In fact the MT might have the worst resale value, percentage-wise, of any LF camera, compared to the new price.

I have two lenses I want to cam but have been putting it off for a while due to cost.

Drew Wiley
26-Sep-2016, 08:33
Lightweight is relative to other features and what kind of focal lengths lenses you need. Horseman has some beautifully machined 4x5 as well as dedicated MF
technical cameras with rangefinder and rollfilm-back options, conspicuously lighter in weight than Technikas, but more limited in focal length options. They are a relative bargain.

Luis-F-S
26-Sep-2016, 19:42
Or could I make a custom request to some independent camera manufacturer to make it for me? Thanks.

Go for it and let us know how it comes out! I also wasn't aware that "user friendly" was a criteria to large format. May wish to reconsider your move from MF.

nonuniform
2-Oct-2016, 21:12
I've been through this exact form of gyration.

I've had the Linhof Tech V, and various Graphics. I ended up staying with the Crown Graphic with top RF and a 135mm Xenotar that just happened to focus perfectly with my existing 135mm Xenar cam. I don't know the equivalent weights, but the Linhof felt like a ton of bricks in my hand vs. the Crown.

I've thought about switching to either a Super Speed, for which cams seem to be easier to make, or a Kalart side rangefinder so I can use my 180mm. Although, I know from experience with the Aero Ektar, that the Kalart can either be adjusted for near or far focus but not both with that focal length.

stawastawa
3-Oct-2016, 10:36
I've thought about switching to either a Super Speed, for which cams seem to be easier to make, or a Kalart side rangefinder so I can use my 180mm. Although, I know from experience with the Aero Ektar, that the Kalart can either be adjusted for near or far focus but not both with that focal length.

Could you get a kalart for both sides of the machine? one for near and one for far? :)

EdSawyer
3-Oct-2016, 12:52
maybe, but who shoots an AE at infinity? beyond say 50ft doesn't matter with that lens, IMNSHO.

Jac@stafford.net
3-Oct-2016, 13:54
It's too bad you need to use Grafmatic holders. For one lens work I use a flyweight Printex 4x5 with a 135 mm Fuji lens. You can google it.

EdSawyer
4-Oct-2016, 06:49
is the printex lighter than a crown? I'd be surprised if so.

Ivan J. Eberle
10-Oct-2016, 13:57
The Super Graphic was meant to be used handheld, has a revolving back, superior to a Crown for most everything but coupled wide-angle work. I bought one for $250, decided I liked it better for cheap roll film used instead of shooting on the fly with Grafmaticss at more than $30 per loading... And found I was getting much better results with a Pentax 645N because of the vastly superior viewfinder. Sold it here for what I'd paid. Equipment can be virtually a free rental like this, but not if you have custom cameras built, or buy new.
Hasten to add that the cammed balls-in-a-tube TRF Kalarts like on the Super Graphic (&Crown & Speed) TRF are very, very consistent in accurate focus. It's just that they haven't been made in about 50 years so there never were cams made for modern Plasmats-- you either use lenses that had cams commonly available for them (Tessar Optar Raptar Xenar 135mm, most often) or else have to get creative

Jac@stafford.net
10-Oct-2016, 14:05
is the printex lighter than a crown? I'd be surprised if so.

Good question, Ed. I will try to find a battery for my scale and let you know.
.

Jac@stafford.net
10-Oct-2016, 15:31
Good question, Ed. I will try to find a battery for my scale and let you know.
.

Mr. Sawyer, I have not used my scale for so long it is lost. I will acquire another this week.
.

EdSawyer
10-Oct-2016, 17:26
Thanks Jac! I have a couple crowns, but no printex (yet).

Dan Fromm
10-Oct-2016, 19:08
Ed, think long and hard before shelling out for a Printex. I've handled a couple of 2x3ers, didn't scream but ran away.

Jac@stafford.net
11-Oct-2016, 07:15
Ed, think long and hard before shelling out for a Printex. I've handled a couple of 2x3ers, didn't scream but ran away.

Why? I can imagine two reasons: the range of focal lengths is limited and the focusing gear is soft, wears out but it can be replaced. It's an ugly lump, but who cares?