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View Full Version : Rethinking my 4x5 Field Camera choice



EdC
15-Nov-2019, 08:44
At this time, I have an older Nagaoka field camera. Nice and light, and good wide angle capability. Plus, getting it at a dirt cheap price didn't hurt. However, as an earlier model, it uses a very small lensboard that is actually smaller than the ubiquitous Technika lensboard. This sort of led me down a financial rabbit hole, since I didn't want to be constantly swapping out lenboards in order to share some of the lenses with my 4x5 monorail, and an 8x10 field camera. I wound up purchasing properly sized newly made lensboards from a supplier in the greater Chicago area (whom I recommend!). However, I wound up duplicating some lens choices, as a result.

Well, I have finally realized my mistake (not my first one!! :0( ), and want to go about correcting that. I think it would be best to replace this camera with something that would allow me to maintain commonality of lensboards, and to reduce the lens count, which would free up some cash to help pay for the replacement camera.

I like the light weight, and the wide angle capability of the existing camera. My needs are simple in regards to the other specifications. I want wide angle capability, so that I could go as wide as a 65mm, or at least 75mm. I enjoy architectural photography, and have had cause to use a 65mm in really tight circumstance, but would prefer not to have to haul around the monorail if possible. Front/rear tilts, and a decent amount of front rise are a must. Set up for or at least compatible with the Technika lensboard is a must. I haven't had much need for front swings, but I have used front shift on occasion.

I have done some checking, and it seems that my best bet would be to go with one of the following:

Newer model Nagaoka w/ Technika lensboard compatibility
Tachihara 4x5
Wista 4x5
Horseman wood field camera

I've thought about Wisner and Zone VI, but am concerned about the wide angle capability, and the lensboard compatibility. The Shen Hao and the Chamonix didn't appear to offer the features that I am looking for.

I'm not sure if I am overlooking anything here, but would like some comments. I am leaning towards the newer Nagaoka or the Tachihara, but am not firm on that.

Thanks,

Ed

Oren Grad
15-Nov-2019, 08:55
Perhaps it would be easier just to have an adapter lensboard made so you can use the Nagaoka boards on your monorail, rather than going through a lot of selling and buying to completely rearrange your outfit.

Also, for clarity, since you're talking about Technika boards I take it that you're referring to the Horseman Woodman 45 camera. Otherwise, when you say "Horseman field camera" people will assume the metal-bodied technical cameras (45HF, 45FA, 45HD) that take a very small (IIRC it's ~80mm square) lensboard.

Also, what features are you looking for? Shen Hao and Chamonix each offer a wide array of 4x5 camera models with different features.

Bernice Loui
15-Nov-2019, 09:59
As mentioned previously, work backwards. What kind of print, image making environment, lenses required to produce the prints in mind, choose a camera based on lens and finished print requirements.

IMO, too many believe camera alone is the prime factor in the creation of sheet film images.. This is simply not correct.


Bernice

EdC
15-Nov-2019, 10:07
Very good points, Oren! I went back and edited the original post in order to address some of the excellent points that you brought up. Appreciate the commentary.

Ed

EdC
15-Nov-2019, 10:10
Thank you, Bernice! I have been thinking about the nature of what I am normally looking to photograph, which dictated the lenses that I bought for the camera. I'm a little wide angle heavy, which is in tune with what I am normally after. As an example, I made a point of getting a 90mm with a larger maximum aperture in order to assist with focusing for interior shots. Appreciate the comments!

Ed

Doremus Scudder
15-Nov-2019, 12:40
A few ideas.

First, if you use short lenses and movements, you really want a camera that has a bag bellows or a "universal" bellows (combination of bag and pleated bellows). There are many cameras out there that offer this feature, either as standard universal bellows or interchangeable bellows.

If you do architectural work a lot, you really want a camera with shift. I simply won't buy one without this feature.

And, if I read your intentions correctly, you're looking for a lightweight, portable wooden camera that has the above features. A full-featured monorail would give you all the capacity you'd ever need for short lenses, but is unwieldy.

Of the cameras you mention, I've owned and used most. Here are my thoughts: Anything without a bag bellows will not easily allow full movements with a 90mm lens (and certainly not on shorter lenses with generous coverage). I crinkle the bellows on my Wista DXs with the 90mm all the time and can "make" the camera do my will, but it's not pretty. The Horseman Woodman has even less flexibility, although it is about the lightest camera I've ever used. The Nagaoka would be similar to the Wista DX and the similar designs from Shen Hao, etc.

There are models from Shen Hao and others that are intended specifically for use with short lenses. These have limited bellows draw, so using longer lenses with them is not an option. If you need longer lenses from time-to-time, this family of cameras is ruled out.

I believe that Chamonix offers cameras with a universal bellows and can be compacted to use very short lenses. This coupled with the possibility to use really long lenses makes a Chamonix with the universal bellows (and possibly the bag bellows too) a tool to consider, IM-HO. I certainly would take a look at one if I were in the market for another camera.

As it is, my go-to camera for portability and flexibility for architectural work is the Wista SW. It is basically a Wista DX, but with interchangeable bellows. I have the "wide-angle bellows" and the standard bellows for it. The wide-angle bellows is a short universal-type bellows, part pleated, part bag. I will allow me to use lenses as short as 65mm easily (maybe even shorter, I haven't tried) and extend enough for city work with a 210mm lens. Longer than that, and I have to mount the 300mm standard bellows. With the bag bellows, I can easily vignette my Nikkor 90mm f/8 lens and my 135mm Wide-Field Ektar; i.e., movements to spare.

Cameras like the Zone VI (late model) and some of the Tachihara models have interchangeable bellows too. I find most of these cameras a bit on the too large/heavy side for me. My Zone VI lives in the car mostly and makes it into the field only rarely. On the other hand, my Wista SW gets toted around everywhere, including around cities on my bicycle.

Here's a photo of the SW in action. Note that I've used shift and front rise plus point-and-swing for both to get more effective rise and shift. The 135mm WF Ektar covered just fine :)

197460

Hope this helps a bit,

Doremus

Oren Grad
15-Nov-2019, 13:32
The Nagaoka would be similar to the Wista DX and the similar designs from Shen Hao, etc.

Minimum flange-to-film on my late-model 4x5 Nagaoka is about 55mm. Of course, no useful movement at that point, but if I extend it for a 75, there's a bit of wiggle room. I'd guess that the older Nagaokas are similar; my old-style 5x7 Nagaoka can also accommodate FLs that are very short for the format.

But a high-precision device it's not. If I were doing a lot of demanding work with ultrawides on 4x5, I'd go for something with more finesse.

blue4130
15-Nov-2019, 15:52
I switched from a nagaoka to a chamonix. In your list of requirements, I don't see anything that it can't do.

Two23
15-Nov-2019, 16:02
I've been happy with the Chamonix 045n for doing a lot of small town/rural architecure. I use lenses down to 75mm with the standard bellows. Also available is a universal bellows that gives more movements with wide angles, and finally they have a full on bag bellows too. The camera is lightweight and sturdy. You might want one of their more advanced models though.


Kent in SD

Vaughn
15-Nov-2019, 17:51
I bought a couple Horseman Woodman 4x5s for the University after the students were too tough on the Tachiharas. We only used 150mm lenses on them, so I do not have experience with short lenses on them.

I was quite happy with the cameras. Light and sturdier than their prettier cousins the Tachaharas. A clean simple camera. From what I have read, it should take a 75mm lens.

Huub
16-Nov-2019, 02:02
I use a Shenhao HZX-IIa with an universal bellows, which does all the things on your wanted list and then quite a bit more. Mine is fitted with a universal bellows, which allows the use of my 58mm with full movements on a flat lens board. I bet even the 47mm would work when fitted on a recessed board. I use the camera both for landscapes and architecture and i am very happy with it.

Mick Fagan
16-Nov-2019, 02:29
I have the Shen Hao HZX45-IIA camera, it does more than what is on your list.

I run a 65mm lens on a recessed board, I have bag bellows which is small and quick to change on the run; so to speak. Literally about 1 minutes to change over.

I use bag bellows when using 90mm or smaller. For extreme movements with the 90mm, the bag bellows saves wrecking the standard bellows.

It is quite small, although not too light at 2.4kg for the camera alone; but it is quite sturdy.

Lenses I mainly carry are from 65mm through to 250mm; the camera works perfectly with all of these lenses. I have 400mm and 250mm telephoto lenses, but I seldom use them; but it works very well when I do use them.

I have used the wider lenses for architectural work and although not in the same league as my Toyo 45G monorail, it really isn't that far behind the Toyo 45G in what it is capable of.

Mick.

neil poulsen
16-Nov-2019, 10:13
Although not the commonly available, Linhof Technika lens boards, I've used a lensboard system that I've been able to adapt to any of the many cameras that I've owned. This includes Calumet, Wista SP, Sinar, Sinar-Norma, Arca Swiss, Kodak 8x10, Cambo, etc. Native lensboards for many of these systems can be expensive, so imagine the expense I've been spared as I've experimented through all these different cameras.

The Linhof Technika lensboards offer the same flexibility. Adapters for Technika boards are available for just about any camera system. I see how having a custom adapter made for your current camera addresses your current needs. But, will this address your future needs? Might there be other camera systems that you'll want to try later on?

It might make sense to bite the bullet now and find a more versatile camera that none the less can accept Technika boards. Long term, that might be you best option.

tgtaylor
16-Nov-2019, 10:27
That's one reason why I stuck with Toyo-View: 4x5 field, 4x5 Monorail, 8x10 field, 8x10 monorail - they all take the same lensboards which are readily available and reasonably priced. All you need is an adapter for switching between formats.

Thomas

rfesk
16-Nov-2019, 12:09
Yes, sensible idea. However, it is not so easy when you interchange lenses with a miniature Crown Graphic, Bush Pressman, Horseman 80mm boards and a Sinar.
I have managed to make most interchange but it has taken a lot of effort.

Should have chosen my cameras with lensboards in mind.

EdC
16-Nov-2019, 13:22
Although not the commonly available, Linhof Technika lens boards, I've used a lensboard system that I've been able to adapt to any of the many cameras that I've owned. This includes Calumet, Wista SP, Sinar, Sinar-Norma, Arca Swiss, Kodak 8x10, Cambo, etc. Native lensboards for many of these systems can be expensive, so imagine the expense I've been spared as I've experimented through all these different cameras.

The Linhof Technika lensboards offer the same flexibility. Adapters for Technika boards are available for just about any camera system. I see how having a custom adapter made for your current camera addresses your current needs. But, will this address your future needs? Might there be other camera systems that you'll want to try later on?

It might make sense to bite the bullet now and find a more versatile camera that none the less can accept Technika boards. Long term, that might be you best option.

Absolutely right, Neil! This is what I'm trying to do.

With so many shops either closing, or carrying minimal large format gear (let alone finding someone who knows the merchandise), tapping in to a resource like this forum is incredibly helpful, and greatly appreciated. Personal research is important, but there is no substitute for people sharing their experiences.

THanks,

Ed

linhofbiker
16-Nov-2019, 14:58
I have a 4x5 Technika IV, but for wide angle "field" use I prefer the Linhof Bi Kardan. An old camera but well made. I have the 5x7 back. The front has a kardan board that takes the 4x5 Linhof boards. The Bi is very flexible and will allow a 65mm or less lens to focus infinity, I have a 50mm f/6.3 Mamiya that covers 6x9 that works. When you are on a tripod the Bi is a pleasure to work with.

diversey
16-Nov-2019, 16:22
Ebony 4x5 wide is very attractive!

Greg
16-Nov-2019, 17:58
I switched from a nagaoka to a chamonix. In your list of requirements, I don't see anything that it can't do.

After using many field cameras over the years, finally settled on a 4x5 Chamonix and never looked back. For shooting in the studio or out of the back of my car, a Sinar X is my first choice by far. But if I have to carry a 4x5 system fo any more than maybe 40 feet, the Chamonix system in a ThinkTank backpack is just a pleasure to carry and use. The Chamonix reflex back will spoil you for sure... can't remember the last time that I used a dark cloth with a 4x5 (with the Sinar X, Sinar's binocular reflex finder I find the ideal finder to use. Thought of adapting it to the Chamonix, but it would just take up too much space in my ThinkTank backpack. Lately have been taking 90% of my 4x5 Chamonix images with either a 300mm or 500mm Komura tele lens. You'd think that either lens would tax the stability of the Chamonix, but not so...

Ian Gordon Bilson
17-Nov-2019, 23:00
After using many field cameras over the years, finally settled on a 4x5 Chamonix and never looked back. For shooting in the studio or out of the back of my car, a Sinar X is my first choice by far. But if I have to carry a 4x5 system fo any more than maybe 40 feet, the Chamonix system in a ThinkTank backpack is just a pleasure to carry and use. The Chamonix reflex back will spoil you for sure... can't remember the last time that I used a dark cloth with a 4x5 (with the Sinar X, Sinar's binocular reflex finder I find the ideal finder to use. Thought of adapting it to the Chamonix, but it would just take up too much space in my ThinkTank backpack. Lately have been taking 90% of my 4x5 Chamonix images with either a 300mm or 500mm Komura tele lens. You'd think that either lens would tax the stability of the Chamonix, but not so...

Check out the Chamonix 45F2 , please. Takes Linhof boards, has twin knobs for separate front tilt and rise (a huge improvement on the earlier single control), weighs just 3.52 lbs, plus,it is simply beautiful to look at. Not the first consideration, I agree,but a factor,nonetheless.

Andrew Plume
18-Nov-2019, 13:00
Hi

Some excellent (and as would be expected) replies on here to the OP's initial question

I've owned a number of Cameras from 4 x 5 to 11 x 14 during the past twenty odd years, I should,..........err..........by now have fully latched on to my needs etc but sometimes it's far from easy. The Wisner's, Tachi's etc are all/can be very beautiful but on the whole (particularly for 4 x 5) they come with what I see are very small lens boards. Unless one can get their board drilled for a larger lens, you are potentially stuck with the Copal 0-3 type boards. Potentially that's fine for the more recent shuttered lenses but 'problems' start when one wants to use/experiment with older barrel lenses where the rear threads are anything and everything far from the norm, even if they come with a suitable flange...................

So where am I going with this post.............? I've recently decided that it's practicality rather than beauty and the important issues (to me) are (a) lens boards (and their ability to accommodate odd sized lenses); and (b) all Camera movements that are feasible. A Camera must be able to accept as large a lens board as is possible and although the OP prefers not to use a Monorail, I really believe that he would be best served by buying, either a Sinar F1 or F2. Possibly one of the lightest around which can accept large lens boards (imo) with countless accessories and with the ability to move up to 5 x 7 by substituting a bellows and back. That would be all of the movements catered for and with the addition of:-

http://www.chamonixviewcamera.com/accessories/irislensboard

mounted on a Sinar size board all of the odd thread size lenses can pretty well be catered for. And not least there are also the standard Sinar Copal sized boards too

Good luck and regards

Andrew

EdC
18-Nov-2019, 17:11
Hi

Some excellent (and as would be expected) replies on here to the OP's initial question

I've owned a number of Cameras from 4 x 5 to 11 x 14 during the past twenty odd years, I should,..........err..........by now have fully latched on to my needs etc but sometimes it's far from easy. The Wisner's, Tachi's etc are all/can be very beautiful but on the whole (particularly for 4 x 5) they come with what I see are very small lens boards. Unless one can get their board drilled for a larger lens, you are potentially stuck with the Copal 0-3 type boards. Potentially that's fine for the more recent shuttered lenses but 'problems' start when one wants to use/experiment with older barrel lenses where the rear threads are anything and everything far from the norm, even if they come with a suitable flange...................

So where am I going with this post.............? I've recently decided that it's practicality rather than beauty and the important issues (to me) are (a) lens boards (and their ability to accommodate odd sized lenses); and (b) all Camera movements that are feasible. A Camera must be able to accept as large a lens board as is possible and although the OP prefers not to use a Monorail, I really believe that he would be best served by buying, either a Sinar F1 or F2. Possibly one of the lightest around which can accept large lens boards (imo) with countless accessories and with the ability to move up to 5 x 7 by substituting a bellows and back. That would be all of the movements catered for and with the addition of:-

http://www.chamonixviewcamera.com/accessories/irislensboard

mounted on a Sinar size board all of the odd thread size lenses can pretty well be catered for. And not least there are also the standard Sinar Copal sized boards too

Good luck and regards

Andrew

Thanks, Andrew! I appreciate the comments. Interestingly enough, I used to own a Sinar F1. I presently have an Arca-Swiss Discovery as my monorail. I have taken this out in to the field, but that is a bit of a slog, to put it nicely. Right now, I don't have any barrel lenses, but do have some older lenses like a 10.75in Dagor, and 16.5in Artar, both of which are set up with Technika lens boards. So, I have some versatility there, which is appreciated. So far, I've not been a heavy user of longer lenses with my film cameras, or even digital, for that matter.

Ed

Andrew Plume
19-Nov-2019, 02:04
Thanks Ed, very grateful

Best regards

Andrew

Bernice Loui
19-Nov-2019, 10:00
Ed, regardless of what camera is decided on it will always be a set of trade-off. There is no ideal camera that will meet every image making needs. Size-weight-bulk is a given aspect of the sheet film image making endeavor.

That said, over the decades, there have been many cameras-lenses (from wood and metal fold ups to a host of monorail cameras and a few odd ones) and all related used with the idea one of them will be "best". This never happened, so a deal was made.... Sinar Norma which fit well with the image making needs.


IMO, if you're into hiking long distances a Sinar Norma (fits very well with the rest of the Sinar system from F to P and much more) is likely not a good choice due to size-weight-bulk. While a fold up field camera is likely a far better choice, it's capabilities will be limited. This IS the reality and trade-offs that must be carefully considered for any camera. This is why images to be made first, then lenses to achieve this with the camera that fits most being the last choice.

If you're deep into wide angle images, a wide angle specific camera could be a better answer than a fold up. These tend to be smaller, lower weight, more portable, far easier to use with wide angles lenses than a fold up field camera.

Don't forget tripod stability is a must. There is no escaping the size-weight-bulk of a GOOD tripod, then add film holders, dark cloth, light meter, GG magnifier and all related. It all adds up to not a small package with the camera of choice being only some part of the whole system.


Bernice

Vaughn
19-Nov-2019, 17:21
Right on, Bernice. Field cameras are field cameras...not designed for old brass monster lenses.

I'd keep the field camera and just get adapter boards for the other cameras to take the Technica boards of the few lenses to be used with the field camera. That is a sweet little camera.

neil poulsen
20-Nov-2019, 07:01
Absolutely right, Neil! This is what I'm trying to do.

With so many shops either closing, or carrying minimal large format gear (let alone finding someone who knows the merchandise), tapping in to a resource like this forum is incredibly helpful, and greatly appreciated. Personal research is important, but there is no substitute for people sharing their experiences.

THanks,

Ed

My point of decision in a choice of camera came to whether I needed a flat-bed, or a rail camera.

Wide-angle is very important to me. I've tried multiple flat-beds, Deardorff, a Wista wood camera, a Wista SP, a Kodak Master 8x10 and a 2D, etc. With all of these, the camera contortions needed for wide and super-wide angle lenses became apparent, and definitely irritating, to me. For example, I refuse to use a camera that requires one to incline the bed in order to achieve rise.

It's true, there are negatives to rail cameras; they can be heavy, and they don't collapse into a small enough space. In the 90's, I found an Arca Swiss Classic F at a swap meet that was inexpensive. So over the years, I've been able evolve this camera to one that's relatively light-weight, and one that also compacts well when folded. For example, I shortened the bench to 8 inches, it uses the lighter-weight, earlier rails, and it now has a 6x9 front that is substantially lighter-weight. I've customized it in other ways to make it my ideal camera.

Have you thought about a Linhof Technikardon camera? It's a little heavier than some of the flat-beds. But its ease of use compared to flat-beds more than compensates for the additional couple of pounds of weight. And, it compacts well.

Another possibility is the more recent Toyo cameras, that are quite light-weight and have expandable rails. (I forget the model name of this camera.) Isn't there also a Toho 4x5 that's a serious, light-weight 4x5?

And I believe, the conveniently-sized, Linhof Technika boards can be used with all of these cameras. (Two dead birds lying on the ground.)

For sure, a rail camera was the way to go for me.

CreationBear
20-Nov-2019, 07:20
Another possibility is the more recent Toyo cameras, that are quite light-weight and have expandable rails.


Ah, given the OP's comments, I was thinking of the Toyo VX125 as well...it folds up to 12"x9"x5" with the two short extension rails left off. (IIRC, I believe there are Toyo/Linhof lens board adaptors floating around as well.)

Drew Bedo
21-Nov-2019, 14:21
I am using a little Wista-made Zone VI . It is light. It takes RToyo/Linhoff lens boards. I also have a Kodak 2D in 8x10. This is not a museum quality display piece and usually has an adapter lens board mounted. This allows me to mount any of the lenses that are set up for the Zone VI.

Look for a combination of 4x5 and 8x10 cameras that will allow something like that sort of commonality.

Greg
21-Nov-2019, 16:59
For years backpacked a 4x5 SInar Norma with a couple of lenses in an early 1970s Dana backpack. Camera was folded flat and went inside a custom padded case. Lenses, meter, WA bellows, and holders in protective wraps. Was on the bulky side when compared to a field camera outfit, but very doable even on long daily hikes. Actually when compared to 3-4 day backpacking trips, the pack was lighter. Never found a good way to carry the tripod though. Tried lashing it to the side of the Dana, but the pack wasn't rigid enough stabilize the tripod. My lashing system, in retrospect, probably wasn't the best. Minor White and Fred Picker, to name a few, used a 4x5 Sinar Norma. Wonder how they transported their Norma for any long distance?