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shmish
22-Apr-2019, 11:03
Hello all,

I'm interested in getting a 4x5 and could use a little advice. There's a decent chance I'll want to get a used camera but I haven't been looking for very long so I don't know how common it is to get certain models on the used market. As well, I could probably use a bit of general advice on camera choice.

I really got into b&w photography in the early 90's (I was in my early 20's). At the time I thought that I would eventually get a 4x5. Life happened, work happened (more money but less free time), family happened, digital happened. Then a few weeks ago I was having a beer with a co-worker and a friend of his. It turns out that his friend shoots 4x5 and that got me thinking... At first I thought about 3d printing a camera - I'm an ex mechanical engineer and I came up with a simple monorail design years ago that I never made. That very day I received my new Make magazine and they had an article on 3d printing a 4x5. I tried printing a few parts for that camera (The Standard) but I don't think my printer is quite up to it. I'm not convinced it's really what I want anyways. So I started some web searches on what's out there.

I was reading about different wood field camera models when I came across some info on a Toho monorail design. I saw a video of one being used and that really got me interested - while I value small size and weight, I don't necessarily care if the camera folds up into one box. That reminded me of my old monorail design, which at the time I thought would be lighter and easier to make than a folding camera.

Even though I've never used a LF camera before I'm pretty sure I know mostly what I need: vertical shifts and tilts. I don't know if I'd need back movements very often or at all. The 4x5 would primarily be used for landscape photography while hiking. I think I'd try to get a 90 mm lens - almost all of my landscape photos over the years have been shot between 24 and 35 mm. Weight and cost are important to me. The Intrepid 4x5 is interesting and available. I'd really like to check out a Toho but I have no idea how long it would take before I find one of those turning up on the used market. A Chamonix would be great but probably too much money unfortunately.

Any idea on the liklihood of getting a Toho? I also read about a Badger 4x5 that is a copy of the Toho. What other models should I look at? I'm in Vancouver BC btw, for some reason I haven't been able to update my profile.

Thanks!

John Kasaian
22-Apr-2019, 11:29
Get a camera you find attractive, that calls to you.

LF is so much work, the chances are that your 4x5 camera will collect dust in the closet unless you really want to get out and use it.

So look at cameras that make you want to spend the time and use them.

Shooting with your camera will sort out all the details for you and you'll be able to figure out which features are useful, and which are not for a better informed decision---if the relationship should go South---the next time 'round.

jmontague
22-Apr-2019, 11:31
You might check Standard Cameras (standardcameras.com). They make a light-weight monorail camera that can be purchased as a kit. Looks pretty interesting. I have not seen one in person, but may be worth a look.

Other than that, you might consider a press camera like the Graflex or Burke & James. These have decent front standard movements and can be found at very attractive prices. They are a bit heavier but, as metal cameras, they can take a good deal of punishment. I started 4x5 with a Burke & James and it was a great place to start. Enjoy!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Oren Grad
22-Apr-2019, 11:59
Any idea on the liklihood of getting a Toho? I also read about a Badger 4x5 that is a copy of the Toho.

The Toho is pretty scarce on the used market. The Badger clone of the Toho was offered only very briefly and will be even harder to find. If you are looking specifically for an ultralight monorail, a Gowland will usually be easier to find.

My own preference for a first 4x5 camera would be a lightweight folding wooden or metal field camera. There are many options at reasonable prices second hand.

Two23
22-Apr-2019, 15:33
I suggest watching here or ebay for either a used Chamonix, Tachicara, or Shen Hao. Buying used you would be able to get your money back if you resell. I love my Chamonix!


Kent in SD

Corran
22-Apr-2019, 16:06
I saw an Intrepid 4x5 for sale the other day for $175, with a lens. I haven't used one and some people don't like them, but considering that price I don't think the quibbles about build quality matter.

That or a simple beat-up Crown Graphic for $200 or less.

The suggestion of getting a camera that you "find attractive" is fine, but IMO it's a tool and you should want to shoot the format because of the inherent qualities of that format and not because the camera looks cool. Anyway, finding something to learn on that is cheap is fine and if you decide you need something else, the used market is robust for most field cameras.

Joe O'Hara
22-Apr-2019, 18:12
Agree with Two23. Or a Wista, or a Canham... the point is, if you are into landscape, a field camera may be a better starting point than a monorail camera,
if only because they are easier to pack and haul. Of course we are only talking different degrees of "easy". (Real easy is a camera phone...)

Which is NOT to say that many outstanding landscape photographers do not use monorail cameras, and would never look at anything else. It's a personal
thing, sort of like whether you like ballheads for your tripod or 3-axis heads (the ballhead people are mistaken, by the way ;) ). I see their work; I cannot
gainsay their results. Use the tool that feels natural to you.

Press cameras are certainly an inexpensive way to start, but are not particularly flexible movement-wise, from what I've heard. Never tried using one myself.

jamesaz
22-Apr-2019, 23:03
My first was a speed graphic and in the years since I've used many different LF cameras. Personally, I've never been that particular about gear as long as it does what I want. That means not leaking light and moving and tightening down as it should. They come and they go, so start with what is realistic for your budget. Glass is probably more important. Have fun.

Peter Lewin
23-Apr-2019, 05:05
With your interest in an easily packable camera for landscape, I would look for a wooden folder. They are the lightest and most compact. I suggest you take a look at keh.com and their selection of LF cameras. While I have dealt with them, and they are actually a reasonable source for used equipment, my suggestion is rather to give you a sense of what is out there used, and the price ranges. Also, while you mention vertical shifts and tilts, especially for landscape you may want rear tilt. Even though you are thinking of a moderately wide angle lens (90mm) many of us use rear tilt to accentuate the foreground-background relationships.

Bob Salomon
23-Apr-2019, 05:58
With your interest in an easily packable camera for landscape, I would look for a wooden folder. They are the lightest and most compact. I suggest you take a look at keh.com and their selection of LF cameras. While I have dealt with them, and they are actually a reasonable source for used equipment, my suggestion is rather to give you a sense of what is out there used, and the price ranges. Also, while you mention vertical shifts and tilts, especially for landscape you may want rear tilt. Even though you are thinking of a moderately wide angle lens (90mm) many of us use rear tilt to accentuate the foreground-background relationships.

Both front and rear tilts and swings do the same Scheimpflug controls to control the plane of sharp focus.
Rear tilts and swings, in addition, change the shape of the subject, front tilts and swings do not.

Alan Gales
23-Apr-2019, 15:10
"The 4x5 would primarily be used for landscape photography while hiking."



You want a field camera. They are lighter and more portable for backpacking and have all the movements you should need for landscape photography.

The truth is that very few of us keep our first large format camera. You shoot one for a while and then realize that you prefer another model. Also some people try out large format and they figure sheet film is just not their thing. Or you could be like me and decide you want a larger camera than 4x5. The most important thing that we will all tell you is that you need to get started burning some film! ;) If I were you and I was at one time, I'd buy a used camera. There are plenty of used Shen Hao's out there. That would be a good start or a used Chamonix if you can find one. I've heard good things about the Intrepid and they are inexpensive new. I have seen them on the used market too. My preference would be a used Chamonix but I'd let price and condition be your guide. Buy a camera at a decent price and shoot it for a year. If you decide you want something else then you can sell that camera for close to what you paid and get what you really want.

Just remember to budget for the extras you need plus plenty of film to burn. You will need 4x5 film holders and a loupe. You can use a black oversize sweatshirt for a dark cloth. If you don't have a light meter you can use a dslr or 35mm camera's meter. There are light meter apps for smart phones. Just make sure your tripod is sturdy enough. I don't know if you have a dark room. I don't and use a Harrison tent for loading film holders and my Jobo drum. I own an Epson flatbed scanner for scanning film.

The 90mm is a very popular choice for landscape photography. Most on here recommend starting with a normal focal length first though. It's easier to learn on. A 150 or 180 would be great and then add the 90 later. Remember, used lenses are like used film cameras. Buy right and you can always sell later and get most of your money back. I thought I wanted a 75mm for my first 4x5 but found it too wide so I sold it and bought a 90 which I was happy with. Some people (like me) see differently with large format and prefer focal lengths different from what they shot with 35mm or medium format.

You are in for a lot of fun. Enjoy yourself and if you have any questions just ask. We are glad to have you as a member!

Alan

Jac@stafford.net
23-Apr-2019, 15:25
Starting out I recommend a light-weight camera even if it has modest front rise or no movements at all. For 4x5 a 135mm or 150mm lens is good. Keep it that simple and enjoy. Spend discretionary money on a decent tripod; it will likely last you through however many cameras you use in the future.

Very best in your quest.

Leszek Vogt
23-Apr-2019, 15:32
Definitely a field camera. There are many models, tho I probably would choose Wista or Tachi (many light models on epay). Toho may perform fine, but you might be looking at higher cost due to its rarity (?). Indeed, great support and glass will make any camera look good. Overall it's about images and less about equipment, but I assume you know this by now.

Les

shmish
23-Apr-2019, 17:50
Thanks everyone. I'll keep my eyes open for a wooden field camera. The Chamonix are certainly attractive. As for a lens, I agree with people that a smart used purchase can be recovered by re-selling so I'm not married to getting a 90 mm lens.

Is there any reason why I wouldn't 3d print a lensboard if I wanted to save $30-$40 (based on a quick look on prices on ebay)?

thanks

rdeloe
23-Apr-2019, 17:55
Is there any reason why I wouldn't 3d print a lensboard if I wanted to save $30-$40 (based on a quick look on prices on ebay)?
thanks

Some forum members printed boards and had good luck. I purchased three printed boards recently and found them unsatisfactory. They didn't fit properly, and they were not strong enough.

Bob Salomon
23-Apr-2019, 17:57
Thanks everyone. I'll keep my eyes open for a wooden field camera. The Chamonix are certainly attractive. As for a lens, I agree with people that a smart used purchase can be recovered by re-selling so I'm not married to getting a 90 mm lens.

Is there any reason why I wouldn't 3d print a lensboard if I wanted to save $30-$40 (based on a quick look on prices on ebay)?

thanks

Yes, if the printed board isnít properly flat so that the lens is mounted parallel to the back with no movements are used. Also, it canít warp as that could cause a light leak.
Ruin some shots and the 30 to 40.00 would be cheap!

Oren Grad
23-Apr-2019, 20:32
Is there any reason why I wouldn't 3d print a lensboard if I wanted to save $30-$40 (based on a quick look on prices on ebay)?

Patience is in order if your budget is tight... between the FS subforum here, used camera dealers like KEH, and eBay, I've purchased plenty of lensboards over the years for more like $15-25 each.

shmish
23-Apr-2019, 23:27
Patience is in order if your budget is tight... between the FS subforum here, used camera dealers like KEH, and eBay, I've purchased plenty of lensboards over the years for more like $15-25 each.

I swear, I’ve looked through the forum listings several times, and I can’t see a FS sub forum!

Leszek Vogt
24-Apr-2019, 00:03
It's there. Once your 30 days here elapse, you should be able to spot it.

docw
24-Apr-2019, 08:42
If you truly don't need back movements, a Super Graphic is an excellent choice. It is very close to a proper field camera, having extensive front movements. They are relatively inexpensive, very durable (all-metal body) and very light and portable. It is in fact a press camera so you can actually use it hand-held.

I don't mean a Speed Graphic but rather THIS (https://graflex.org/speed-graphic/super-graphic.html)camera.

I started in LF with a Pacemaker Crown Graphic which has very few movements. When I got a Super Graphic, it really opened up LF for me because of the movements. I used that for quite a while before getting a Wisner.

Alan Gales
26-Apr-2019, 10:14
Patience is in order if your budget is tight...


Truer words were never spoken! ;)

Lethargus
28-Apr-2019, 07:31
I got started with a Speed Graphic and printing lens boards to use other lenses. I agree with everyone here that LF can be time consuming and if you're just getting started then having a camera you can grab and take shots without long setup is ideal. Once you've got practice with the format and developing on your own then consider getting a camera with more movements and see how you like it. 4x5 and larger can be dangerous to the wallet in an astonishingly short time.

Ramanand
30-Apr-2019, 11:29
Yes, if the printed board isnít properly flat so that the lens is mounted parallel to the back with no movements are used. Also, it canít warp as that could cause a light leak.
Ruin some shots and the 30 to 40.00 would be cheap!

I purchased black plexi-glass (or could be plastic) at a local glass dealer store, cut it to the rectangle size I wanted (used my existing board as a template).
Since this was for a different size shutter than my original lens I drilled out the center based on the lens specification and then using a file and the actual shutter I got a good fit.

Drew Bedo
2-May-2019, 09:31
Lots of good advice here regarding gear and technique. My $0.02 worth:


The most important thing is to get into it and shoot. As you work in LF, you will develop a feel for what gear you are comfortable with. As your knowledge and skill set evolve, your idea of what your shooting kit should be.

If you stay in large format, your "first camera" will not bwe your lqast.

DiscoShrew
3-May-2019, 12:55
Does anyone think the Intrepid MK4 with the metal bottom is the way to go now? I felt like I've
sensed a general distaste for the older iterations of intrepid.

Luis-F-S
3-May-2019, 13:54
Sinar F2 is how I’d go! You can find them used for about half the price of the intrepid and It's a real camera from a real company!

Bob Salomon
3-May-2019, 14:24
Does anyone think the Intrepid MK4 with the metal bottom is the way to go now? I felt like I've
sensed a general distaste for the older iterations of intrepid.

Then until the newer one has positive approvals why would you be willing to risk it?