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View Full Version : Rugged Rigidity of Various 4x5 field cameras: Wista, Toyo, Horseman



pchaplo
23-Dec-2017, 23:28
I do aerial photography and want to take some personal 4x5 B&W shots when I am in the air. although I long for a beautiful wooden field camera with brass hardware, reality is that I will be working in a swamp and flying around in small aircraft. The last helicopter I worked in was used for also used for varmint hunting :) And so function comes first and I can live with spartan aesthetics. I want to do this affordably, and so I likely will get a simple "modern" field camera if I cant find an used Fotoman within my means.

I am now actively shopping for a used field camera. I do NOT need much if any camera movements, although some decent RISE (only) might serve me if I need the camera as backup to my monorail. I see many offerings, especially Wista, and some Horseman, and Toyo (the latter 2 brands more expensive it seems). Side note: When I made a living shooting 4x5 color trans, I used Horseman monorail and liked it very much, and still use it for pet projects today.

My question today is: without the need for much movements, do any of these field cameras have an advantage in being somewhat more rigid when locked-down? I am thinking of turbulence in the air, and sometimes of work from other vehicles like work boats.

GIVENS:
0. 4x5 B&W neg film
1. Hand-held work with vibration present
2. 125-150mm lens. Prefer to use modern lenses

FEATURES/CRITERIA:
0. Rugged and rigid when bed and movements are "locked-down"
1. One thing that I can't tell is which ones have Graflok back, which I prefer.
2. The ability to have a good hand-strap or even better, add a grip is a big plus. Do any of these have affordable Linhof-Technica-type grips affordably available?
3. I need to be able to frame the shot hand-held so I need a finder of some sort. Ease of having this or adding one is a plus. Again, I wonder about the RangeFinder (RF) models - does the rangefinder also function as an accurate viewfinder for subjects at infinity?
4. I do NOT need much (or any) camera movements like rise/fall/swings. Maybe just some conservative front rise. Nothing more really.

CANDIDATES:
a. Wista 45D. These are plentiful and affordable.
b. Wista 45RF (having rangefinder might be nice - will that allow me to frame a shot accurately (100%) at infinity focus?)
c. Horseman FA Nice option if I can find a zoom finder at affordable price.
other: I dont see many affordable Toyos out there. Still looking as I write.
old press cameras? Do any classic Speed-Graphic-type cameras have Graflok backs?
note: should I consider some others in the $500-range?

Ideas welcome. I am just loving the process of shopping for a used field camera and a lens!

HERE IS A RUNNING LIST OF NOTES & UPDATES ADDED:
-I've never seen any of these in real life. In picture-shopping on-line, I am tending towards the Horseman FA.
-My old Horseman LE monorail has Graflok back - is that Horseman-flavor of Graflok or is it truly universal? Is it more like Sinar?
-It appears that the Wista 45RF has Graflok back and that the rangefinder has markings for framing common focal lengths. Built-in rangefinder seems handy and well-protected.

Wishing you great light!
Paul

Oren Grad
23-Dec-2017, 23:58
OK, I'm up too late, so I'll weigh in first on this one too.

Horseman 45FA or 45HD (also 45HF if you don't mind a fixed-orientation back) with handstrap will be by a fair margin the most compact/lightweight of those you list and won't give up anything to the others in rigidity. Horseman offered a zoom finder that you can add in the accessory shoe on top of the camera. The nice thing about the Horseman (and Linhof) zoom finders is that you're not wedded to using the nominal setting for your focal length, which likely won't give you an accurate field at infinity - you can determine an alternate setting that will give you the field you want.

In the Wista RF with its built-in viewfinder you're stuck with the standard frame lines for each FL - can't adjust in that way.

They all have Graflok backs.

pchaplo
24-Dec-2017, 00:32
Oren,

Thanks for the your most welcomed reply. Looks like we are both up late. Good to know about the Wista RF finder-framing perhaps not being accurate at infinity. That is key info! Thanks! Looking for Horseman zoom finder. Seems hard to find. More tomorrow after sleep and coffee... TNX, Paul


OK, I'm up too late, so I'll weigh in first on this one too.

Horseman 45FA or 45HD (also 45HF if you don't mind a fixed-orientation back) with handstrap will be by a fair margin the most compact/lightweight of those you list and won't give up anything to the others in rigidity. Horseman offered a zoom finder that you can add in the accessory shoe on top of the camera. The nice thing about the Horseman (and Linhof) zoom finders is that you're not wedded to using the nominal setting for your focal length, which likely won't give you an accurate field at infinity - you can determine an alternate setting that will give you the field you want.

In the Wista RF with its built-in viewfinder you're stuck with the standard frame lines for each FL - can't adjust in that way.

They all have Graflok backs.

Oren Grad
24-Dec-2017, 00:43
Digging into my literature collection again - here's what Wista says about the 45RF finder:

"The finder is designed to show as much as possible and also to view the field of a 120mm wide-angle lens. The magnification of this finder is 0.45x. Frames in the finder are explained below. The frame for 120mm wide-angle lens is light yellow (the outer most frame). Frames for 135mm, 150mm and 180mm lenses are marked with light yellow colored frames marked the focal lengths. In this case, the image through the finder is 100% at a distance of 6M (20') from the subject. Therefore, the field of view of the finder frame will be about 90% of the image of a subject in infinity. Accordingly, the actual image of infinity is 10% larger than the area in the finder frame."

OK, logging off for the night now. Really. :)

Mfagan
24-Dec-2017, 04:53
I’ve used my Speed Graphic with Graflock back and Grafmatics from light aircraft and through the floor of a heavy military helo without apparent issues. Locked down tightly is a requirement for you because of being bounced around I suppose (?), and not because camera will be in the wind which would be a bigger issue. I always shot through some opening in the side or floor while inside the aircraft. I fitted a modern lens to it — 120 I believe. I never used the modest rise available on it though.

Bob Salomon
24-Dec-2017, 06:15
Oren,

Thanks for the your most welcomed reply. Looks like we are both up late. Good to know about the Wista RF finder-framing perhaps not being accurate at infinity. That is key info! Thanks! Looking for Horseman zoom finder. Seems hard to find. More tomorrow after sleep and coffee... TNX, Paul
The Wista rangefinder/viewfinder is very accurate at infinity. But the rangefinder is only crammed for. 3 lenses! 135, 150 and 180.
What isnít mentioned are two problems with optical viewfinders for aerial work. They really donít let you see what is about to enter the scene or what surrounds the scene. A good wire frame finder does. There is no need for a rangefinder for legal aerial work as FAA m8nimum altitude is always at infinity on a camera.
You are looking at bellows cameras, how do you plan to protect the bellows from the slip stream? Or will all of your work be through the windows.
You might consider a true aerial camera like an Aero Technika. Older models are not any more expensive then what you are considering and if it has its original lenses then they will be corrected for aerial work.

Pere Casals
24-Dec-2017, 06:58
I do aerial photography and want to take some personal 4x5 B&W shots

If you are to use 90mm f/6.8 or 65mm (with kit) IMHO there is a nice option for that kind of amateur job: http://www.wanderlustcameras.com/

In aerial jobs normally focus is set at infinite while in the ground.

The Wanderlust is designed for 90mm lenses, but focusing system will allow longer than 90mm focals if focusing at infinite as you will, still you can add a DIY extension tube for longer focals, you should ask manufacturer, but I find no big problem in modifiying the W front to place DIY circular lensboards of DIY extension.

So the W may be a direct choice if you agree with supported lenses, and it would require some hacking if you want to use other glass.

I agree (of course) with Bob that a wireframe finder is the best for the reason he mentions.

Regards,
Pere

xkaes
24-Dec-2017, 07:18
Paul,

There is a current thread along this line at:

http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?142839-My-perfect-fixed-lens-LF-camera-decision-1-the-lens

in case you missed it. The DAYI can take lenses from 47mm to 150mm, I think. Looks like your problem is "too many options".

Jac@stafford.net
24-Dec-2017, 09:58
Google: printex 4x5 camera

It uses a steel 'bellows' which will not deflect in a wind blast. It is positively IR proof. Can be locked into a focus position.

I have several, and use late LF lenses on modified lens boards. (Glennview.com made me an outstanding blank, too.)

Jim Jones
24-Dec-2017, 12:37
I'm with Mfagan in post #5. Movements and focus can be locked down tight on a Speed Graphic. Focusing on infinity is all you need for most aerial photography. Its sports finder is a good substitute for optical finders. The strap works well enough for a left hand grip. An accessory grip with cable release secured to the tripod socket for the right hand completes the set-up. Photographers have done well with less for many decades. Late models already have a Graflok back. These backs can be fitted to older models. Despite having accumulated a variety of 4x5 cameras over many years, the Anniversary and the later series of Speed Graphics are still favorite outfits.

Greg
24-Dec-2017, 15:53
This may sound surprising but keep your eye out for a 4x5 aero TECHNIKA. I've seen them come up on non-photo auctions and go for bargain prices cause no one in the audience knew what the item was. Non-photo people recognize brands like Leica, Zeiss, Hasselblad, etc. They might also recognize Linhof, but the label on top of the lens cone says "aero TECHNIKA" and not Linhof so the item's description does not include the Linhof brand info. At a multi dealer antique store in Great Barrington Massachusetts I found and bought a 5x7 super TECHNIKA V for under $200! It was labeled something like old bellows camera. A fellow photographer I knew was looking for a 5x7 field camera so passed it on too him for that same $200. Last I heard he loved and treasured the camera.
Bob your comments?
Greg

Jac@stafford.net
24-Dec-2017, 15:59
This may sound surprising but keep your eye out for a 4x5 aero TECHNIKA.

Yeah, I bought two for cheap just to harvest the backs, left and right grips, its excellent sealed lens mount and 135mm Planar and the excellent wire frame finder.

The rest went into the bin.

Linhof aerial cameras are works of art.
.

Drew Wiley
24-Dec-2017, 18:58
But in a chopper? You might need a Kenro gyro stabilizer too. The Technika/gyro combination certainly worked well for my brother.

pchaplo
26-Dec-2017, 10:01
Oren,

Great info about the Wista RF view finder. Thinking I could do an accuracy test at infinity and use tape to mask it for my one lens. I sure appreciate you taking the time to look this up. The integral rangefinder has a certain appeal and less likely for me to damage it; seems less vulnerable that one on a shoe mount. Also I like that it is close to the center bore of the lens axis. I dont need a working rangefinder per se for distance as I will be locked on infinity. Also, I am used to watching the view unfold with both eyes open before I shoot, so an optical viewfinder would work fine.


Digging into my literature collection again - here's what Wista says about the 45RF finder:

"The finder is designed to show as much as possible and also to view the field of a 120mm wide-angle lens. The magnification of this finder is 0.45x. Frames in the finder are explained below. The frame for 120mm wide-angle lens is light yellow (the outer most frame). Frames for 135mm, 150mm and 180mm lenses are marked with light yellow colored frames marked the focal lengths. In this case, the image through the finder is 100% at a distance of 6M (20') from the subject. Therefore, the field of view of the finder frame will be about 90% of the image of a subject in infinity. Accordingly, the actual image of infinity is 10% larger than the area in the finder frame."

OK, logging off for the night now. Really. :)

pchaplo
26-Dec-2017, 10:04
Aero Technica's are sexy. Never saw one that cheap. I have a gyro if needed. Good to know about the markings - I will search for those terms. Always coveted a Linhof. (A white Technica lol really).


This may sound surprising but keep your eye out for a 4x5 aero TECHNIKA. I've seen them come up on non-photo auctions and go for bargain prices cause no one in the audience knew what the item was. Non-photo people recognize brands like Leica, Zeiss, Hasselblad, etc. They might also recognize Linhof, but the label on top of the lens cone says "aero TECHNIKA" and not Linhof so the item's description does not include the Linhof brand info. At a multi dealer antique store in Great Barrington Massachusetts I found and bought a 5x7 super TECHNIKA V for under $200! It was labeled something like old bellows camera. A fellow photographer I knew was looking for a 5x7 field camera so passed it on too him for that same $200. Last I heard he loved and treasured the camera.
Bob your comments?
Greg

jim10219
27-Dec-2017, 12:31
I'm throwing in another vote for a Speed Graphic (if you want a focal plane shutter) or a Crown Graphic (if less weight is more important). They invented the Graflock back, so of course you can find one that comes with it (though not all models do, so be sure to check). They're cheap, rugged as hell (these were used in war zones for decades), and check all of the boxes for accessories that you require. Generally speaking, the only downsides to them are short bellows and limited movements. But if all you need is modest front rise, and don't plan on using any long lenses, then that would be my first choice. Either that, or one of the other press cameras like a Busch Pressman D. Press cameras were made for hand held shooting.

LabRat
27-Dec-2017, 13:48
What FL do you intend to shoot??? If you need different FL's, you would use a bellows camera (if inside the aircraft avoiding slipstream winds vs your bellows) or a camera with different solid lens cones... If for a single FL/semi wide/lower altitude, a rigid sided camera with a 4X5 back are fairly common if you look around... The shorter the FL, the less image compensation will be required, maybe none if short FL enough...

Start with deciding the angle of view you desire, and figure out the FL that would work for you... All of the necessary tables and formulas are in one of the many aerial photography textbooks that can be had for less than a few bucks now, so get one now...

Talk to a working or retired aerial photographer in your area... I'm sure someone will be glad to answer your questions that come up, and might have a stash of gear you might be able to obtain...

Keep 'em flying!!!

Steve K

Jac@stafford.net
27-Dec-2017, 14:30
173122

chassis
27-Dec-2017, 15:01
The Toyo 45AII is solid when the movements are locked down. It has a Graflok/international style back that takes common 4x5 film holders. It can handle lenses from 47mm to about 240mm with the standard bellows and back. It has a nice leather hand strap.

A grip could be modified/cobbled onto the rear standard, using the holes available for the leather grip. So one side could have the leather strap, the other could have a handle of your own making. Attachment holes are provided on both sides of the rear standard.

What I would do, is use a Bogen/Manfrotto magic arm with super clamp. This would create a more tripod-like composing platform, while maintaining alot of flexibility that comes with handholding.

The 45AII does not have a rangefinder, or a finder accessory of any type. A sports-type finder could be self fabricated and mounted on the accessory shoe.

Ari
27-Dec-2017, 16:35
One thing to note with the Wista RF: it will work with any lenses of FLs 135mm, 150mm and 180mm, but the RF system was optimized for use with Nikon lenses. I don't know why it would matter, but it does.
I ran into problems and gave up on rangefinder focusing because my non-Nikon lenses made the Wista explode (figuratively).
Fantastic camera if you use only the GG for focusing.

David Karp
27-Dec-2017, 17:20
A Super Graphic?

pchaplo
28-Dec-2017, 22:14
A Crown Graphic could be a good starting point. That for explaining the difference as I donít need th focal plane shutter.


I'm throwing in another vote for a Speed Graphic (if you want a focal plane shutter) or a Crown Graphic (if less weight is more important). They invented the Graflock back, so of course you can find one that comes with it (though not all models do, so be sure to check). They're cheap, rugged as hell (these were used in war zones for decades), and check all of the boxes for accessories that you require. Generally speaking, the only downsides to them are short bellows and limited movements. But if all you need is modest front rise, and don't plan on using any long lenses, then that would be my first choice. Either that, or one of the other press cameras like a Busch Pressman D. Press cameras were made for hand held shooting.

pchaplo
28-Dec-2017, 22:18
Iím thinking 135-150mm. With normal-ish lens I know from experience that I can visually clear the wing strut etc. Seems that having Copal 0 with 1/500 s shutter speed seems a given.


What FL do you intend to shoot??? If you need different FL's, you would use a bellows camera (if inside the aircraft avoiding slipstream winds vs your bellows) or a camera with different solid lens cones... If for a single FL/semi wide/lower altitude, a rigid sided camera with a 4X5 back are fairly common if you look around... The shorter the FL, the less image compensation will be required, maybe none if short FL enough...

Start with deciding the angle of view you desire, and figure out the FL that would work for you... All of the necessary tables and formulas are in one of the many aerial photography textbooks that can be had for less than a few bucks now, so get one now...

Talk to a working or retired aerial photographer in your area... I'm sure someone will be glad to answer your questions that come up, and might have a stash of gear you might be able to obtain...

Keep 'em flying!!!

Steve K

pchaplo
28-Dec-2017, 22:20
Jack is that home brewed camera? Love it and thanks for the welcomed PMís.

pchaplo
28-Dec-2017, 22:24
Toyo 45AII and Horseman FA are both looking good. Thanks. I have a magic arm and super cla l. UT I canít attach to the airframe if the plane as there is too much vibration tranmitted. In fact, I canít even brace myself against the aircraft door when itís on.
:)

LabRat
28-Dec-2017, 22:26
There's a bunch of rigid walled non bellows cameras for just that FL, so great!!!

There's one in the classifieds now from Kumar in Japan, and many more out there...

But make friends with an aerial photographer... You won't regret it!!! ;-)

Steve K

pchaplo
28-Dec-2017, 22:29
Ari, I didnít know that the Wista is optimized for Nikon lenses. This is very useful info as I consider lens choice. If I got 45RF it would usually be pre-focused on Infinity, locked-down, and use the RF as a viewfinder to frame the shot.


One thing to note with the Wista RF: it will work with any lenses of FLs 135mm, 150mm and 180mm, but the RF system was optimized for use with Nikon lenses. I don't know why it would matter, but it does.
I ran into problems and gave up on rangefinder focusing because my non-Nikon lenses made the Wista explode (figuratively).
Fantastic camera if you use only the GG for focusing.

LabRat
28-Dec-2017, 22:37
Oh, and also note that leaf shutters are usually a little iffy (usually slow) at their highest speeds and sometimes even don't open (rarely) if not operating correctly, so test it ASAP for speed accuracy before you fly & shoot... If you buy a lens, get a speed test chart for it...

Steve K

Jac@stafford.net
29-Dec-2017, 10:32
Jack is that home brewed camera? Love it and thanks for the welcomed PMís.

If you mean Jac (Jacques), then no, it is a modifed Printex 4x5 press camera.