View Full Version : Should this be my "learner"???

10-Mar-2008, 14:32
Ok.....I've held the temptation to call Badger Graphic w/ cc# and going wild. Been scouring the used listings. Today I found the following: Calumet 400 series, 4x5, Caltar II E 150mm ($450 new at Calumt), Film holders, 4X5 daylight developing tank $450.00.
I understand the camera itself is worth no more than $125.00. A new combi and is *80.00 The lens is all the value in this purchase. Any opinions or caveats? I can try to bargain I suppose and save maybe $100 or so? What do you all think?

10-Mar-2008, 14:43
is the 400 a field or rail camera? The caltar seems to perform fine according to Flickr postings....

10-Mar-2008, 14:46
I've got the WA version of that camera and love it. I use it at least as often as my Cambo SCX and in some situations prefer it to my Zone VI. You just can't beat it up unless you hit the rail with a hammer or take a sharp knife or saw to the bellows. I've got a couple of Caltar lenses (not this one) that I swear by (not at). If the holders are new, they run about $15. each and still about $10 used in good shape. Can't see where the equipment will steer you wrong. You can even find the instruction book for the camera on line at www.cameraeccentric.com in their info section and you can print it off.

I betting you'll enjoy the daylights out of this one.


10-Mar-2008, 14:52
You're a dangerous man Tim!!!

10-Mar-2008, 15:06

Jeff at Badger Graphics is a good guy to deal with.

Likewise for Jim at Midwest Photo (www.mpex.com)

Neither of them will lead you down the garden path.

Jump in and have fun! :)


10-Mar-2008, 15:07
I do what I can!!!!

I'm still sure you'll love to play with this whole outfit. By the way. The regular 400 can work well with wide angle lenses if you find a recessed board. Those often appear on eBay. Even on my WA version I still use one with my 58mmXL when I need extreme flexibility in the movements.

You'll likely be able to use a standard board with up to about 90mm although that will make the bellows so tight, you won't be able to achieve much with the camera movements.

The 400 was the first view camera I ever bought, back eons ago when I was eighteen and I'm still enthused about it. It doesn't have all the features of a system camera like the Cambos and Sinars, but it sure can take on hell of an image if you use it right.


10-Mar-2008, 15:16
I've got a Cambo 4x5 SC with a Spring back, Graphlock back, 4 lensboards (one recessed), huge a$$ case, and a homemade short rail that I will be posting for sale. I'll be keeping the lenses though :) PM me if you are looking for something like a Cambo

Ted Harris
10-Mar-2008, 15:17
The camera is a relatively heavy rail camera and the lens is a rebadged Rodenstock Geronar,a budget lens you can buy used in the 200-250 range so the kit is fairly priced more or less but no bargain.

10-Mar-2008, 15:27
I second the Cambo SC suggestion! They are quite affordable, easy to find, and give you a taste of all the movements! Not friendly on wide angles unless you have a bag bellow, but on normal and long lenses, it's a great learner camera. Even if you are eventually wanting a folding camera, I can suggest the SC as it will give you a good taste for how movements work.

The kit you have found (though I don't know much about it) seems to sound like a decent starting price, especially since it includes a lens and some accesories (holders and such). This doesn't sound like a horrible deal for a starter.

I was fortunate enough to have a folding field camera loaned to me by a family member for my learner, but I also picked up an SC to experience more movements (which i have found, I rarely ever use!)

10-Mar-2008, 15:27
"The camera is a relatively heavy rail camera and the lens is a rebadged Rodenstock Geronar,a budget lens you can buy used in the 200-250 range so the kit is fairly priced more or less but no bargain"

Now I can bargain a bit. Thanks.

David Karp
10-Mar-2008, 15:54
The Caltar II-E is a three element in three group lens, a triplet. It is multicoated. If it is like its 210mm cousin, it should perform very well stopped down to f/16 or f/22. At larger apertures, you may find it soft. Check out this webpage, with interesting information regarding the 210mm Caltar II-E: http://www.hevanet.com/cperez/test/BigMash210.html.

I have the 210mm version and it will not be the limiting factor in your photography when shooting at the apertures I mentioned. If you like to shoot wide open, then you may prefer another lens. Another issue is coverage.

The image circle on the 150mm Caltar II-E should be around 180mm, according to Calumet, while the image circle for a typical 150mm f/5.6 Plasmat design would be around 210 - 231mm. http://www.largeformatphotography.info/lenses/LF4x5in.html.

If you think you want more movements, a different lens would be in order.

steve simmons
10-Mar-2008, 17:49
In addition to the info you can find on this forum, partly by asking questions and partly by looking back through the archives, may I suggest some additional reading

Jim Stone's User's Guide to the View Camera
my book Using the View Camera
Jack Dykinga's Large Format Nature Photography

In the Free Articles section of the View Camera web site there are several articles that might be helpful


When buying a lf camera it is not about the brand name, it is all about features, features, features. There are several things to think about before buying

- what subjects will you be photographing?
- what bellows length do you need?
= what movements do you need?
- what range of lenses will you be using

good luck and don't be bashful about asking more questions

steve simmons

neil poulsen
10-Mar-2008, 20:16
The Calumet SC is rather a heavy camera as well, and it's not all that back-packable.

But as a starter, I would think that it would be excellent. Lots of movements. Accessories are frequently found on EBay and are reasonably priced. You can get a bag bellows for it. Another nice feature, they sold adaptor boards for a number of different cameras. Linhof, Graflex, maybe Sinar, etc. So, if you purchased a second camera for field, it's possible you could find a common board for both cameras.

Kirk Fry
10-Mar-2008, 22:02
It's not that heavy, it just does not fold up for travel very well. Has all the movements. I am still "learning" on mine after 30 years. K

10-Mar-2008, 22:41
Any opinions or caveats? I can try to bargain I suppose and save maybe $100 or so? What do you all think?

First of all don't hit it with a hammer or you'll hurt the hammer :D

What are you looking for? With in it's limits the 400 series will do it all but it does have limits.

It's not exactly light. You can't swap in say bag bellows. It doesn't fold up the way a field camera does. Hey it isn't a field camera :p

The long rail version is great for long lenses. If you need a budget priced camera to handle long bellows needs it's nice to have.

11-Mar-2008, 07:36
Well, I decided to go for it. We can talk all day about image circles and other issues, but I learn best by doing. I'll be picking it up tonight. It comes w/ dark cloth, new film holders and even a developing tank which I may or may not use. Turns out I went to school with the seller. We were on the staff of the college newspaper together. I'm getting a much better price than anticipated. Now I can save for a 4x5 scanner. My enlarger is ready w/ neg carriers and a 150mm lens. Anyone here using the combi tank? It looks very convenient. I load my small format film using a dark bag....I imagine I can do the same with the combi???

11-Mar-2008, 07:39
Steve Simmons thanks for the link. I am currently going through the articles.

MIke Sherck
11-Mar-2008, 07:45
I've got a CC400 which I used as a field camea. For hikes in the 3-5 mile range, it will do all right. Not so good for backpacking trips into the wilderness, unless you have a burro. It's a decent camera: simple, rugged, and versatile. If the goal is to take a picture, this will do it as well as anything else. The geared rise/fall and rotating back are incredibly convenient. I used to just bolt it to the top of my tripod, hoist it over my shoulder, and off I went.

Calumet wants too much, though. They always do. $300 would be a good starting point for negotiating for the camera and lens you mentioned. If you could get it down to $200 it would be a deal. Call Jim at Midwest Photo: incredibly helpful man, with access to a wonderful back room full of ... stuff.


11-Mar-2008, 07:47
Thanks for the Caltar links.

11-Mar-2008, 09:22
Thanks Mike. I'll keep that in mind.

12-Mar-2008, 12:46
I also have a Calumet (I think technically a C-402). Do you plan to take it in the field? If so, its hard to carry. It doesn't break down and its heavy. I replaced mine asap with a wooden field camera which I bought new from Badger.

As for price, I got an insane deal on mine. I got the camera, case, a Symmar-S 150/5.6, Super Angulon 65/8, 12 film holders and an ancient tripod and a broken loupe for $100. The Symmar-S eventually needed a CLA, and I needed a changing tent and film to get going, so I was up and running for $300.