View Full Version : A bit of help for my son please?

15-Jan-2007, 01:12
a bit of background:
A few years ago my son took an interest in the digital camera I bought. Since I considered any interest outside of video games and tv great I ended up buying a 35mm nikon slr. Over the next two and a half years he really got into photography and has stayed with it. This Christmas break he borrowed a local photographer's large format camera and even I was amazed at the difference in quality. He was going to spend most his money buying a cheap used one on ebay but I thought this might be a good thing for me to get him as an early graduation gift.

I spent some time reading up on large format cameras, a lot more too it than I originally thought, but was hoping for a bit of help in deciding which company/model to buy.

Here's some of the things I think he'll need:
Quality- I'd rather spend a bit more money now then to have him upgrade in a couple years.
4x5 field camera- he likes to do a lot of landscape/nature pictures and started hiking for pictures last year.
Rugged and able to put up with some wet weather- I'm sure he'll be careful but he is a teenager after all.
Decently fast to get up and ready from out of bag. (The camera he borrowed was a complex view camera that took way to long, in my opinion, to setup.

So far I was looking at the Wista 45V, Walker Titan SF, or Toyo-View 45AX.

Can anyone comment on the advantage/disadvantage of these? Or is there another brand/model you'd recommend?

Tripods... Are there any that would be better than another for him? He'll be carrying around a lot so it needs to be lightweight but still stable enough for somewhat uneven ground and winds.

While I don't have a set budget, I would prefer to stay under 4-5k for the entire camera setup, a couple lenses, and tripod.

Thank you,

15-Jan-2007, 01:35
I'm sure you'll get a flood of answers in the morning.
Wow. I wish if my folks were that generous when i discovered photography. They thought/think i was/am crazy. This day and age with so many folks leaving film behind, i wouldn't buy anything new if i didn't have to. 95% of what own i've purchased from ebay and from online forums and nearly all of it you could never tell from new. My 4x5 is a shen hao and it's a great camera. If i had to get another 4x5 i'd maybe do a few things different. I've got a great system with several lenses and i've haven't spent maybe half the amount you're thinking of You may want to get him a camera that'll handle a variety of lenses including lenses up to 360mm. Something that can accept bag bellows if needed for short lenses.
Lenses, anything multicoated in a modern copal shutter. New nikkors are still available.
I highly recommend a gitzo 1325 carbon fiber tripod if he plans to hike. It's tall enough to set up on uneven surfaces and still allows for a comfortable working height and sturdy when fully extended. Add a pan/tilt tripod head or a geared head on top of that.
Film holders on ebay are dirt cheap.
Don't forget a harrison changing tent for reloading the film.

good luck

15-Jan-2007, 02:49
Hi Kristen,

I think Vinny has given you some sound advice and I'd also recommend a Shen-Hao as a first camera for your son. It's a reasonably priced camera and will serve him well for many years.

That said, many shooters find things they like/dislike about their first camera and, consequently, will change cameras over time. Secondly, your son may discover that he prefers a different format as well. So, I wouldn't suggest going into this purchase with a view toward it being his first and last.

Here's a link to Paul Butzi's website where he discusses how to select a camera:


For a lens, I'd recommend something like a 180 f5.6 or 210 f5.6. Most of the manufacturers out there (i.e.; Rodenstock, Schneider, Fuji, Nikon) make very decent lenses and you won't go wrong with any of them. Again, your son will find a style that he prefers and this style may dictate different focal length lenses running from wide-angle lenses to longer focal lengths. I would suggest leaving this decision up to him... but, you can always put the funds aside for the purchase when he decides.

As for tripods, you'll want something that is reasonably sturdy but doesn't weigh an excess amount. Vinny suggested a Gitzo 1325, which is a great way to start. That'll run you approximately US$500 on ebay. You'll also need a head for the tripod and I would whole-heartedly recommend a Manfrotto 410 or 405. The 410 will cost about US$200 and the 405 will cost approximately US$300 on ebay.

He'll also need a dark cloth and these will run you approximately $50 plus depending on the manufacturer. These can be purchased from Calumet.

Film holders are very reasonably priced these days. Again, you'll find a dearth of them on ebay.

Now, if you'd prefer NOT to go the ebay route, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the following retailers:

1. Jim at Midwest Photo - http://www.mpex.com

2. Jeff at Badger Graphics - http://www.Badgergraphic.com

3. Rob Skeoch - http://www.bigcameraworkshops.com

All three of these fellows will give you sound advice and are as honest as the day is long. If you'd prefer to buy "new" then they'll be able to help you on this end of things. If you'd prefer to buy "used," Jim and Jeff will be able to help you here. I don't know if Rob sells used gear but you can ask him.

When your son gets his camera and starts the learning process... here are some great resources to help him along:

1. The resource part of this website contains some very useful information:


2. The following books are a must-read, IMHO:

a) Large-Format Nature Photography by Jack Dykinga

b) Using the View Camera by Steve-Simmons

c) Users Guide To The View Camera - by Jim Stone (Look for the 2nd edition since it's more readily accessible and is less expensive.)

3. Here's another link to Paul Butzi's site where he gives terrific instructions on how to load a filmholder. It's indispensable!


Lastly, feel free to ask questions of the folks here on this forum... there's some very nice (and knowledgeable) people here who would be more than happy to lend a helping hand to both yourself and your son.

Well, I hope this helps you and your son on his journey to becoming a great LF shooter! :)


Juergen Sattler
15-Jan-2007, 06:47

you got some great advice already. I just want to stress the point that it is very difficult to pick the perfect field camera - if not impossible. As strange as this might sound, but LF cameras are a very personal choice. I had to go through 6 different cameras before I found my perfect gear (a Canham DLC45) but for many other LF folks the Canham would not be acceptable.

Buy either a very reasonably priced new camera (a Shen Hao or Tachihara come to mind) or buy a used outfit. Both Jim ad Midwest as well as Jeff at Badger Graphics are a great source to get you the right gear.

For a three lens outfit I would recommend a 90mm wide angle, a 150mm normal lens and a 210 or 240mm short tele lens. Any of the modern lenses will serve him fine (Rodenstock, Schneider, Fuiji or Nikon). There are differences in how much some of these lenses cover (this is important if your son wants to use a lot of movements).
There is a great lenschart right here on the home page - here is the link - study it for awhile and it will answer most of the questions you might have reg. lenses - if this is too much information (it can be overwhelming) then just call Jim or Jeff and tell either one that you need help. http://www.largeformatphotography.info/lenses/LF4x5in.html

A gitzo carbon fiber tripod is perfect for a 4x5 camera - you already got very good advice from the other posters.

He'll also need a loupe to focus on the groundglass. Get him a 4x or 6x loupe (Rodenstock makes a very nice one, so does Schneider and Sivestri, but there are also tons of very cheap loupes on eBay that will work just fine.

A handheld lightmeter is also essential - many folks here really like the Pentax spotmeter - either digital or analog. Another very good lightmeter is the Seconic dual (sorry I forgot the model number) - it offers everything in a small package.

Other than that he'll need

- Darkcloth
- film holders (buy them on eBay - they are very cheap).
- a Polaroid film holder, Model 545 - this will help him to learn much faster because he will have instant feedback on his shot. The film is more expensive than regular sheets, but itis well worth the money, esp. for a beginner.
- Sheet film either B&W or color - very personal choice.
- some bag to fit all his gear into - most of us use backpacks - Lowpro Trekker is a good choice
- a changing bag or tent to load and unload film holders

I think that pretty much covers it. It is awfully nice of you to do this for your son - I am sure he will really, really appreciate it.

Don't hesitate to ask more questions - this is a great group of people and they will be happy to help you out.


Ted Harris
15-Jan-2007, 08:02
Everything posted so far is right on now a few more things to ponder. Some from my 50 years of experience as a photographer and some from my very vivid memories of the day my father bought me my first 'real' camera. I'll start there .... let your son make the final choice since this is such a personal decision. In my case I had been using a Speed Graphic as the photographer for the Junior High newspaper and knew what I wanted (he didn't). I had also scouted the local camera store and found a fine Leica tht would have been perfect. Dad got talked into a shiny new camera with less than half the capability of the Leica that I had wanted. I can't remember ever using the camer much. Anyway, here it is more than 50 years later and the memory is still vivid so you get the idea. Now on to your choices.

From the three cameras you listed I am assuming that you/your son have a distinct preference for metal cameras as opposed to wood. Nothiong wrong with that, it is my preference as well. I have tried a number of wood cameras over the years and always went back to metal. I have used all three fo the cameras you mentioned (assuming you meant he Wista VX) and they all have strengths and weaknesses. I like the Wista the lest of the three because it seems the least well made to me, it just isn't as 'tight' as the other two. The Walker is a marvelous full featured camera and, assuming it is to your son's liking is a camera he will never outgrow. It does have two drawbacks though: 1) it is a bit fussy to to setup and take down and it has a large 'footprint' for a 4x5 field camera. I used one for several years and the only reason I got rid of it was that the 'footprint' made it very difficult to take on a plane as carryon. It absolutely meets yoru rugged standards, Mike often likes to show one getting washed in the shower. Finally, Mike Walker is a great guy and once you have a camera of his you are part of the family. This leaves the Toyo AX and this would be my choice, in fact it is my choice as I use a Toyo AII which is almost the exact same camera. I use the Toyo because it is compact (fits neatly into a small bag I can shove under my seat in any plane), allows me to do nearly everything I want in the field (I can use from 58mm through 360mm lenses and has plenty of movements), its large rubber covered knobs make the camera easy to use in the winter and to focus and adjust with gloves on. For field use it is unlikely that your son will often use a lens shorter than 75mm or longer than 300mm. The Toyo is sturdy, built like a tank and will take all the rough treatment that can be dished out. It is also very fast to setup, less than a minute from out of the bag to ready to focus. Final comment on the cameras ... feel free to contact me for more info on any of them and, if you live in a metropolitian area where you can actually look at any or all of these (unlikely with the Walker in most places) you should do so. If you do buy I will also strongly recommend Jim at Midwest or Jeff at Badger. If you buy from Jim he can sell you a like new used camera that you can return or exchange after trying it for a few weeks or so, something few if any other dealers will let you do. BTW, considering this is a first purchase and you may well want to make changes and adjustments I would strongly advise against eBay for obvious reasons; also you will likely pay Jim around the same as you would spend on eBay.

As for lenses something in the 150 to 210 range is the logical place to start and then a second lens that is either wider or longer. If you really are going to spend 4-5K you might even be able to squeeze 3 lenes into the budget (90 - 180 - 300). If you do get a longer lens make sure it is one of the smaller ones with a smaller maximum aperture that is good for field use.

Other bits and pieces. First no one mentioned the 'hood' type darkclothes maked by Black Jacket and BTZS, either oneof them would be my choice as they fold up small and attach to the camera nicely. Second, If you do get the Toyo AX (or the Wista) make sure you get the rear view hood which obviates the need for a dark cloth (I still use a dark cloth much of the time but it is nice to hve the hood and means I don't need to carry the darkcloth if space is tight). If he is going to use the hood a lot then he needs a loupe that is long enough and there are two choices there ... one fromn Wista and the other from Horseman. Finally the meter, if you can get a Pentax Digital Spot at a decent price then do so, otherwise any of the spotmeters from Soligar, Minolta or Sekonic will do fine.

Good luck and, as Jurgen said, ask away and feel free to send email or Private Messages too.

15-Jan-2007, 08:21
If you live in or near a large city and you don’t intend for this to be a surprise gift, it would be good if you and your son could visit a store that sells large format equipment and let him have some input. If you don’t have access to actual cameras I still think it’s a good idea to get him involved in the selection. Almost any LF camera will work. If he “connects” with it in some way, whether it’s a visual feature or a mechanical one, he will enjoy it much more that if he perceives it as merely OK.

I second the vote for a Manfrotto/Bogen 410 tripod head.



Jim Rhoades
15-Jan-2007, 08:23
I strongly agree with Juergen about how difficult it is to find the perfect field camera. The best camera for me has the specifications that say it's the worst. It is a question of what handles the best, fastest, lightest, etc. Specs on bellows draw or movements do not tell the whole story. A modestly priced camera with a good lens/lenses that can go along with any camera upgrades is the way to go. He would be thrilled with a Tachihara or Shen-hao. A used Zone VI or Toyo 45AX is a good bet too. The Toyo AX is a all metal field camera that is quite tough.

Ralph Barker
15-Jan-2007, 08:23
While I haven't used either the Wista or the Walker Titan, I've owned a Toyo 45AX for 10 years or so. It's well made, and convenient to use. It does not, however, have interchangeable bellows, but I haven't found that to be too much of a limitation for non-architectural work. What I especially like about the Toyo line is that they use a somewhat modular design. Thus, some parts are interchangeable between their various models. That adds some flexibility should he eventually want to use a monorail for some types of work.

As to lens choices, you've already received good advice. You might, however, look at some of your son's images to get a sense of how he "sees" his subjects. Although a 150mm lens is considered "normal" for 4x5 (like a 50mm lens on 35mm cameras), many people "see" either wider or longer. If there is a pattern to your son's existing images (e.g. strong wide-angle compositions, or more remote telephoto shots), that may help you with lens selection.

Jim Jones
15-Jan-2007, 08:32
As Juergen says, the choice of a field camera outfit can be very personal. Your son is wise to consider used equipment first. After a year or two he'll have a good idea of how to invest in newer gear. Maybe he won't have to upgrade. My most expensive LF lens (35 years old and $140 secondhand) is decades newer than any of my other LF gear, and I don't expect to ever outgrow it. Used LF equipment holds value well. If he upgrades, he can resell it at modest loss.

Knowledge is the serious photographer's most valuable tool. No one book covers everything. View Camera Techniques by Leslie Stroebel is comprehensive. Other books may be more up-to-date and easier reads. Either of the two series by Ansel Adams are still useful. This forum and APUG are great resources. A google search for specific equipment can be quick and valuable. If a hundred hours of research can save a thousand dollars in equipment, it is time well spent.

Jack Flesher
15-Jan-2007, 08:38
Lots of good advice, but one point to add: While most that have been shooting LF for any length of time have a favorite camera (or three), we could probably make do with ANYTHING that held our favorite lenses and a filmholder.

To explain further, there seems to be a tendency to over-analyze specifications and needs when buying that first camera, only to find something different is wanted within the first 6 months... And that second camera is usually less complex (faster to set up) and and almost always one that is lighter in weight. Then after another 6 months you realize you really only need a simple dark box/bag that holds the lens on one end and a filmholder on the other while allowing you to adjust their relative positions...

Any of the cameras you've listed are excellent, but FWIW my recommendation is to make the first camera purchased a popular model as it will be easy to sell when and if you decide to "change" after a bit. Probably the two most popular current choices are one of the Ebony SV45's (U, U2 or TE) or an Arca Swiss F-line (many configurations, but get one with Micro-metric Orbix).

Lastly, for a beginner I HIGHLY recommend using Quick or Ready load films. They cost about 30% more per sheet over hand-loaded emulsions, but are significantly more convenient, lighter in weight, lower volume and lower in dust...


John Kasaian
15-Jan-2007, 08:48
You've had lots of good advice and there is little I can add. I think allowing your son to pick his own camera is a great idea---new these things can get quite expensive and since your son has been actually shooting with a field camera for awhile he'll have a beter idea of what features he wants or dosen't want. Since this is a major purchase I wouldn't hesitate to ask if they had loaners available where you could apply any rental fees to the camera you'll purchase and let your son test one or two cameras to make certain he gets the camera what he wants.

Also keep things simple. A single 210mm-ish lens and three holders to start out with would be adequate, a good tripod that'll hold a 4x5, a heavy black tee shirt, Toyo loupe, a good cable release and a light meter if he dosen't already have one.

David Karp
15-Jan-2007, 09:28

You have gotten great advice. The best advice is to let your son pick his camera. View cameras are not like digicams and 35mm SLRs. Many of them have such different feature sets and "personalities" that it is harder to match them up with different users.

You said:

". . . he likes to do a lot of landscape/nature pictures and started hiking for pictures last year. Rugged and able to put up with some wet weather. . . ."

That is a perfect situation for a Walker Titan SF. I have one and love it. As Ted mentioned, it is not the smallest camera, but I am sure I could carry mine on an airplane without much problem. I don't find it that fiddly to set up, it seems about the same as any 4x5 folder. (Some 4x5 field cameras fold up on themselves to make a smaller package. This is different than the Toyo or Wista metal cameras.) Yes, it is harder to set up than a Linhof Technika, a Crown Graphic, metal Wista, or a Toyo field camera, because those cameras are like boxes that you open, and pull the front standard out onto the bed. Much less folding involved with these cameras. There, I would say advantage to the Toyo and similar cameras. Advantage to the Walker in many areas. Yes, you can remove the bellows and wash the camera off in the sink. It has all the movements most people will ever need in a field camera, and is still quite rigid. It is rugged. It can use lenses up to 450mm (the others you mentioned cannot use lenses over 300mm, and if I recall, the metal Wista even less than that). Plus, Mike is a great guy. None of this is to denigrate what Ted said. The Titan is heavier than other field cameras, and not everyone likes the same things or uses a camera in the same way. I love my Titan. It is just about the perfect field camera for me. Others don't like it so much. That is the way it is with view cameras. It may be harder to find a used Titan than the others. By the way, Ted is right when he says Walker is a great guy. I bought my Titan used from Midwest Photo Exchange. He still did a no cost servicing of my camera! (just note, he is in England.)

Consider buying as much as possible used. My recommendation, like that of others, is to call Jim at Midwest Photo Exchange (mpex.com). He usually has a huge supply of used cameras and lenses. I bought my Walker, and over time, and at least four lenses from him. All of my used lenses from MPEX look like they were never touched. He is the best and smartest retailer of any item (photo or not) I have ever dealt with. He will help your son make a decision on a camera, even if it is not one he has in stock. If he does not have one, he will look for it, and when he finds it will sell it to you at a very fair price. He has talked me out of two different cameras that he felt were inappropriate for my needs. In retrospect, after learning more from him, he was right both times.

Regarding a tripod. It is nice to have a lightweight carbon fiber tripod, but your son is young. He can carry the extra weight for a while. If you need to save money, you can get a good aluminum tripod and head for less money, put the money you saved into something else. He can save up for a super expensive tripod later. Just make sure it is an appropriate tripod for the camera he chooses. Check with Jim. He will help you make the proper selection.

Best of luck.

Vick Vickery
15-Jan-2007, 09:58
While I use a Cambo rail camera (architectural photography and little hiking!) and have little experience with the current crop of field cameras, I would still recommend (as was mentioned above) that you choose a camera with changeable bellows...a bag bellows is invaluable when using wide lenses, and a standard bellows is needed for longer lenses.

15-Jan-2007, 10:22
The Shen Hao is a really nice camera (I'm quite attached to mine, and honestly I don't think I would trade it straight up for an ebony if someone was crazy enough to offer that), but if you have the budget some of the more expensive ones being discussed here are probably very nice. It's reasonably well built, it has an interchangable bellows (and its only $99 for the perfectly nice bag bellows as opposed to $400 plus for some of the other brands), and it has a full suite of movements on front & back that test the limits of my lenses.

Lastly, for a beginner I HIGHLY recommend using Quick or Ready load films. They cost about 30% more per sheet over hand-loaded emulsions, but are significantly more convenient, lighter in weight, lower volume and lower in dust...

Assuming you can find the film for them. I prefer buying film locally and nobody in town has quickload or ready load - none of them have even heard of it, it seems.

I can pick up loose sheets in boxes (velvia, provia, and B&W) so I stick with holders.

Jack Flesher
15-Jan-2007, 11:31
Assuming you can find the film for them. I prefer buying film locally and nobody in town has quickload or ready load - none of them have even heard of it, it seems.

I can pick up loose sheets in boxes (velvia, provia, and B&W) so I stick with holders.

You might point you dealers to these links and then have them in turn point their suppliers to them...




Frank Petronio
15-Jan-2007, 11:47
Just to turn things around, from a parenting point of view it may be questionable to simply give your son a $4000 outfit all ready to go. First, it doesn't need to be $4000 when you could get a perfectly excellent outfit for much less that would be capable of making just as good a photo as the more expensive stuff. Plus film and processing (and related darkroom and/or digital processing) is expensive and it may be wiser to budget 40-60% with the 60% going towards media so the kid actually shoots and learns something. Second, the photographer using the gear should really have the choice since it is really difficult to trade around new items for different stuff because you take a huge hit going new to used, as well as the sentiment about it being a gift. Third, even though I am sure he is a fine young man, it always seems better for the kid to make some of the investment themselves. Perhaps you could give him a budget to work with and let him supplement the difference for the "extras" but at least get some chores and work out of the guy in return. That way there is a sense of ownership and responsibility that you sometimes don't get from a gift situation.

Just my two cents, it sounds like a wonderful gesture and I am sure you are on the right track already...

Oh yeah, some of the photo workshops would be a good investment -- along with a nice used mint $900 Toyo A outfit with ONE normal 150-210 lens ($400), a nice metal Gitzo tripod (solid, less $ than Carbon, ~ $400) and a case of film ($$$) IMHO.

Hugo Zhang
15-Jan-2007, 12:56
Why 4x5?

I got my first used 8x10 Wista with a 14" Dagor brass lens in barrel for less then $700 a few years ago and never touched my 4x5 Arca-Swiss Discovery again, which is collecting dust in my closet with two wonderful lenses: a 110mm SSXL and a 210mm Rodenstock N.

Get the Arca if your son has to have a 4x5. I hope my son will use mine in a few years. Wishful thinking!:)

Walter Calahan
15-Jan-2007, 15:47
Kristen, adopt me please! Grin. You're doing a great thing for your son.:)

15-Jan-2007, 16:22
What about a good scanner added to the mix (unless you already have a darkroom)? All those great 4x5's need to be printed right?

neil poulsen
16-Jan-2007, 12:51
Frank makes a good point by suggesting that you start with something that's less expensive. It's always nice to give something new as a present. The Shen Hao is attractive since they are a versatile camera and can be purchased new for less than $600. A lot of people like this camera. Accessories are also reasonably priced. This is not to say anything against what others have recommended, though. Also, consider that his taste in cameras will evolve to meet his own needs. So, there's a reasonable likelyhood that he may trade or eventually find a different camera.

Used makes sense in lenses. Consider Schneider Symmar-S lenses or the Caltar lenses, which can be Rodestock or Schneider lenses. These are good quality optics. I've always liked the Fidelity/Lisco holders, which can also be had for reasonable prices used. Best to check them first with some black and white film. If purchasing on EBay, I always make sure the seller has 100 plus feedback, and that it's all good.

16-Jan-2007, 19:20
i have wooden 4x5 and 8x10 field cameras. one is a korona view and the other a kodak 2D. you can get these for between 200-500 USD. there are a few listed here or over at apug.org. look fo rjim gali. he is a great guy with plenty of lf cameras.

enjoy. i am glad to hear your son sees the better quaility in film and larger formats....


16-Jan-2007, 20:50
Just to turn things around, from a parenting point of view it may be questionable to simply give your son a $4000 outfit all ready to go. ...

Hmmm, yeah, if I were choosing parents I think I'd take Kristen as a mom over Frank as a dad....sorry Frank. ;)

One angle that I did not see mentioned: If at all possible try to rent several models of large format cameras. I'm not sure where you are, but here in NYC there are places to do that and I'd imagine most major cities would have similar places. It can be expensive (depending on how long you rent it for) but it gives you the chance to actually work with a few different models before deciding on one.

I would second Frank's idea of adding a photo class or two into the mix from some kind of accredited institution. I'd caution you to be wary of "workshops" as they are often run by photographers with wonderful photographic talents but perhaps not-as-great teaching talents. I've taken some classes at ICP (http://www.icp.org/) that were phenomenal and the Maine Photographic Workshops (http://www.theworkshops.com/) have stellar reviews as well.

Accessories add up quickly, and I'm in agreement with many of the posters that the camera body can be purchased for about a $1000 or less. Keep in mind that $1000 on the used market will go further than brand new. When buying tripods or lenses, keep in mind a possible format change. A tripod that can hold an 8x10 camera or lenses that can cover the 8x10 format will give him added flexibility in the future.

Lastly, as another poster pointed out, think carefully when choosing a format. You can rent and try all the cameras in the world and perhaps even find the perfect one, only to discover that when it comes down to it, you really wanted a 5x7 instead of a 4x5. He can certainly change formats anytime, but it's an added bonus if he can nail it the first time around. Also keep in mind that if you're torn between formats (say 5x7 and 4x5) you can buy the 5x7 and get a 4x5 reducing back.

To summarize:

Try renting a few camera models first.
Have your son really put some thought into which format he wants.
Stick to the used market if possible.
When buying accessories, try to find ones that can work for multiple formats.
Definitely consider adding a photo class to the package (and be wary of "workshops".)


17-Jan-2007, 21:58
Wow, thank you all for such an amazing response! I took your advice and have spent the last couple evenings talking with my son about the many of the points you all made and his experiences/research and while we're going to take a bit of a trip this weekend to see a few at a store, we're currently leaning towards the Toyo 45.

The idea of him taking photography classes is great! while I doubt anything nearby us will cover much for large format cameras, I'm sure a couple of the nearby colleges will have general/outdoor photography classes for him to begin with.

As for the cost of the cameras and the amount I'm willing to spend on it... Well, I just look at things a bit differently is all. To me none of the money I'm spending is actually on the camera or equipment, it's spent on keeping my son out of trouble. Photography has been one of the best things for him as it's giving him a sense of direction and kept him happy and busy. I may still have to nag and sometimes confiscate his cameras/keys/driver's license to make sure he actually does his school work, but I no longer worry about him spending too much time with the wrong crowd and getting into trouble. That alone is worth every penny.

We did have another question if you all could help us again though.

He's mentioned setting up a dark room in the past, I was against at the time because we don't have much room to spare. This time though, he mentioned tanks that didn't need a dark room. While he did a good job of selling me on the idea of developing his own film, I'm not too sure he really understood everything when it came to the details.

Do those daylight tanks work well? Or is there another good way for him to develop his own film with out taking much space and extreme cost?

Thank you,

Frank Petronio
17-Jan-2007, 22:41
LOL, I had to use paintball with my boy and it worked great until he shot me in the nether regions. But it got him doing a sport -- not a video game -- and hanging around a better crowd than he would have otherwise...

The daylight tanks work fine. Also he can send film out to a mail order lab like Praus at http://4photolab.com. Most people send their color film out because the processing is more complex. But Praus does a fine job with B&W.

But you might consider having him look up Polaroid Type 55 P/N film. It is a self developing instant film of very high quality that requires a tiny bit of clearing and washing in a couple of buckets -- plus a clean place to hang to dry -- and it has the added advantage of giving feedback. A supply of Polaroid and a decent Epson 4990 flatbed scanner ($400) will keep your son out of trouble for a decade or two.

Here is what it looks like, it is pretty stuff.

D. Bryant
18-Jan-2007, 09:32
[QUOTE=Frank Petronio;210413] A supply of Polaroid and a decent Epson 4990 flatbed scanner ($400) will keep your son out of trouble for a decade or two.

And at $85 per box it will keep his parents in the poor house ....

Don Bryant

18-Jan-2007, 19:17
Some of the best times my son and I have had have been in the woods or mountains taking pictures together. There are so many things at home that pull kids away making it impossible to talk for more than 90 seconds. TV, phone, cell phone, IM, email, video games, computer games, ..... The great thing about being in the woods with your kid shooting LF is that you can talk. The process is so contemplative that it forces you to interact in a way that is very hard to do at home. You collaborate on making an image. I love those times we have had together. Another added plus is that he can carry all the heavy stuff. He is a horse.
Dave B.

19-Jan-2007, 08:33
He's mentioned setting up a dark room in the past, I was against at the time because we don't have much room to spare. This time though, he mentioned tanks that didn't need a dark room. While he did a good job of selling me on the idea of developing his own film, I'm not too sure he really understood everything when it came to the details.

Do those daylight tanks work well? Or is there another good way for him to develop his own film with out taking much space and extreme cost?

Developing B&W film at home is rewarding, saves a lot of money, and is relatively easy to do. If color is his game, I'd suggest mailing it to a lab. The daylight tanks are great. For something like $70 or so, I was able to get all the developing materials (for medium format) + chemicals for 50 rolls of film. One can achieve much better quality in B&W processing than nearly any lab can. It's well worth it. The negative makes the print, and the more control you have over the negative the more control you have over the final image.

I develop my 11x14 film in trays in the bathtub in the dark. It works out ok, but the ventilation isn't that great and that gets to be kinda nasty when it's time to add the fixer. Since 4x5 can be done in the daylight tanks, I'd stick to that if possible.

The polaroid route is fun, and I'd recommend a 4x5 polaroid back just for test shots alone. It's a good way to evaluate lighting & composition & exposure prior to exposing a negative. It would be costly (and not really as interesting IMHO) to solely shoot polaroid.

A printing darkroom is a big deal requiring a lot of space, a lot of expensive equipment, adequate ventilation, etc. Something to keep in the back of your mind when you help him shop for a house one day!!! =)


evan clarke
20-Jan-2007, 11:00
I have had all three and still have the Walker. I would recommend the Walker hands down over the other two choices..EC

Robert Hughes
20-Jan-2007, 14:01
I agree with those cautioning you not to spoil your kid. I knew a guy in high school whose parents bought him a BMW for his 17'th birthday. When he wrecked it, they bought him another one. I think he's probably in prison now for bond fraud.

You can buy a perfectly good Speed Graphic for $300 and it may last him his entire photographic career. Why bring him in at the bleeding edge top end, everything else will seem worthless to him. Give him something to grow into as he matures.

20-Jan-2007, 15:04
Ah raising kids can be a challenge. I think I would not spend more than $300 for his camera. As noted above, I think a Speed Graphic would be a good choice. I think the Crown Graphic I had many moons ago came with a 135mm lens and it was a good starter. Hey, I am a mom and I know how some of this feels.

My 18 year-old son wanted a guitar for Xmas this year. I have a pretty nice guitar collection and I did explain to him that the collection was built over the course of my adult life. He played piano growing up (classical lessons) so I knew he did know how much work playing music can be and now turning to strings was another issue. So I said fine. We went to a Guitar Center close by and he picked out a $300 Ovation. I picked up a similar looking $900 Ovation and tried it, then tried the $300 one and could not tell much difference except maybe in the cosmetics. I asked my son if he wanted the $900 one and he said "NO" with a look of pain on his face. I guess after all the years he has put into his chores of cleaning the bathrooms and floors on the weekends has paid off. My husband has always offered to pay for a maid, but I wanted to raise my kid like I was raised, with a strong work ethic. Everytime I hear him play his Ovation, I hear his work ethic in action and I am proud. :)

Kirk Fry
20-Jan-2007, 16:25
First of all it is great your son is interested in large format. I would attack it from a different direction. You have gotten a lot of great suggestions, but I would look at it differently. First you don't need to spend a pile of money to get some great cameras.
Calumet sold a great camera called a CC401. It was used by most the photography schools because it did everything and was built like a main battle tank. Good ones sell for less than $100 on ebay. So can you use them in the field? I did. You screw it on to a tripod and off you go with it over your shoulder. Set up time 30 sec. I even backpacked with it. Would I do it today, no, that was back in the 70's, I'm older now.
But I took great pictures with it. Buy one lens (210mm or 150mm) and let your son learn by taking pictures. Too much stuff can be as bad as not enough in the beginning. After a year or so he will really know what he needs. Also you need a loupe, a dark cloth, light meter and film holders. For a full experience set up a darkroom with a 4X5 enlarger but you can scan negatives and get the files printed that way. He should develop his own black and white film. All you need are some trays and a very dark place (I use my bathroom).
HC110 developer is very easy to use and although it is out of style right now, it is still a very fine developer. Millions of negatives have been made using it. Welcome to the adventure..... And buy some books, The Negative by Adams, And using the View Camera by Steve Simmons.