View Full Version : Agonizing over which 4x5 field camera to purchase

Alex Horvath
8-Sep-1998, 13:44
Hi all,

I have been looking at the availiable 4x5 field cameras and I am having trouble deciding which one is for me. I would like a solid camera, with somewhat low wei ght. I currently own a Tachahara and early on I noticed that there was several m illimeters of play in the front standard when everthing is locked. I just don't see the point of carrying a heavy tripod, ball head etc. and a camera which is n ot rigid. I don't need a camera that is built like a tank but I won't put up wit h any looseness in the critical parts of the camera. I shoot landscapes, usually I dayhike to my location but I may try some overnight backpacks. Here is my cur rent analysis:

Horseman VH: Seems to be a great camera but I noticed that the tilt spec is 10 d egrees forward and 15 degrees backward. Is this sufficient? Say I want to photog raph a flower that is 5 feet in front of me while still having the background i n focus. As a comparison, the Toyo 45AX has tilt of over 90 degrees. I don't wa nt more movements than I will need but I also want a camera which will not restr ict my landscape photography.

Toyo 45AX: Specs seem good, but fairly heavy. I would like to draw the line at a bout 4 lbs but I could live with 6 if the Horseman movements are not sufficient.

Gowland Pocket view (or other Gowlands): Excellent weight, but will it have pla y in the standards like my Tach? Maybe I could buy this for backpacking and use the Toyo for dayhikes.


I appreciate all comments. Anyone out there have a Horseman VH or HD?


Alex Horvath

Robert Ruderman
8-Sep-1998, 14:13

I recently went through a similar "agony". Have you looked at the Canham DLC? This was the camera I settled on. Solidly built and light enough to pack with ( around 4~5 lbs -- the actual specs escape me). To me, this seemed like a better camera than the Toyo (with a capability of really wide angle to telephoto witho ut changing bellows).


Ellis Vener
8-Sep-1998, 19:17
B&H says that a Horseman VH (a 6x9cm camera) is priced at US$2069; a Horseman HD is priced at US$1980.00. I second Robert R. recommendation of the Canham DLC ($ 2150); a fresnel might (depends on dealer) cost you an additional $150. I have t he Technika to DLC lens board adapter, that cost another $150.00 but isn't neces sary. My total outlay was $2300. I have a very solid and versatile, yet light, f ield camera with a very simple mechanism that is easy to clean in the field.

Roy Feldman
9-Sep-1998, 00:38
I vote for the DLC also. With this camera it is not necessary to carry a heavy t ripod and ball head. It locks as you wished for and is pretty no nonsense. I am currently hiking a lot with it and am using it on the small Gitzo Carbon, as lo ng as I hang my camera bag to it it is a very steady and locked down platform. I t is also a very cool looking insturment.

Bruce M. Herman
9-Sep-1998, 04:08
I have a Linhof Technikardan 4x5, which I like very much. However, I purchased it as a used camera for about what you would pay for a new Canham 4x5! One other advantage of the Canham is that you supposedly don't need to purchase bag bello ws ($$$!) for wide angle lenses. You can read a review of the Canham at the Vie w Camera web site (www.viewcamera.com)

All of that aside, I think that you should ask yourself what kind of landscape p hotography you tend to do. Do you concentrate on wide angle images, or are you more into long focal length images? Or do you do a bit of everything? If you p refer long focal lengths, you may not find the Canham adequate. Alternatively, if you work mostly with wide angle lenses, another less expensive camera may be what available. I don't have suggestions for these end members. But I do think that purchasing a one-does-it-all camera, like the TK45 or the Canham, isn't ne cessarily the best choice for everyone.

Finally, I would try to borrow or rent one of whatever you consider purchasing. I've never had a problem operating my TK45, but as you can see by one of the ar ticles on this site's main page, not everyone would agree. I suspect that the s imilar issues apply to the Canham or any other camera.

Best wishes, Bruce

9-Sep-1998, 07:50
Just to add to your agony, if you buy a toyo ax or aii (YES EITHER of them) you will get a new l 778 spot meter for 100 bux. If you dont already have a nice spo t meter this is the deal to grab (700US for the meter alone). There is a special on toyos too, so you can get it for 1500 and 19xx repectively.

Or you can buy an elph jr and enjoy life. (JK)


Eric Brody
9-Sep-1998, 19:56
I LOVE my Toyo Field. It has the advantage of being rock solid and is made by a company that's been there and will likely be there for a while. The meter deal i s also good if you are in the market for a meter. If I had it to do all over aga in, now (I've had my Toyo for over 10 years), I'd certainly strongly consider th e Canham. It sounds terrific but I've been unable to actually touch one. Since a camera like this is a virtual lifetime purchase for most amaturs, be careful an d deliberate. I've played with a used Technikardan and was not impressed. It did not seem intuitive to me. 4X5 work is slow work, by its very nature, take your time in this purchase.

Chris Kulczycki
10-Sep-1998, 10:48
I just went through this same agony over my new field camera (I shoot landscape and marine senics and I travel a great deal with my camera). After trying both a Toyo and a Linhof for a few days (and considering the Horseman), I bought a Wis ta SP. Now, two months later, I am certain that I made the right choice. The Wis ta is as well built, if not better, than the Linhof. It's far superior to the To yo in every way (more movements, geared movments, smoother, more rigid, easier t o use, and it has a real precise feel that the Toyo lacks,) but it cost about th e same as a Toyo. That is to say, it cost 1/2 as much as a Linhof. In addition i t has changable bellows and focusing tracks which no other metal field camera ha s. I knew nothing about Wistas when I started looking for a new camera; they see m to be a rather small Japanese company that had almost no US distribution. But now that B&H carries them, I'll bet Toyo and Linhof will be selling a fewer came ras.


Ellis Vener
10-Sep-1998, 11:16
Chris , I am glad you are happy with your Wista, but your statement "...it has changable bellows and focusing tracks which no other metal field camera has." while it ma ybe technically correct, less appealing then the Canham DLC which doesn't need e xtra focusing tracks (unless you are using a lens longer than a 720mm telephoto) or interchangable bellows for full movements with lenses as short as 55mm (if t he 55mm APO-Grandagon ismounted on a recessed board, no recessed board is needed if you are using the 58mm Schneider Super Angulon XL).

Mike Long
12-Sep-1998, 12:21
I can understand your feelings that the Wista SP feels more "precise" than a Toy o. The geared movements should probably translate to that precise feeling. I hav en't had my hands on a Wista but the brochure imparts the feeling you describe.

The Toyo AX, however, is priced quite a bit below the AII and the SP (assuming n ew, of course). As you might recall, the introduction of the AII was accompanied with a $700 price increase over its predecessor, the A. Improvements were prett y insignificant if you relate them to the $700 increase.

You may find this interesting. I sent an email to Mamiya about 2 years ago (befo re the AX) and asked if they made an AII without the revolving back. I figured i t would be lighter and less expensive. There response was, "No", but the RB only weighted about 6/10 of a pound. So, the AX was of interest to me upon its intro duction and I own one now.

But that's off the point. And the point is, I suspect the AX is doing nicely in sales because of quality/price. And, I don't think Linhof has to be concerned ab out the Wista as competition. That's not to say the Wista isn't a great camera b ut that Linhof appeals to a different buyer.

The other thing is, it would be really hard not to like ANY of the cameras you w ere considering. They are all fine instruments.

Also, congratulations!


Michael Wellman
17-Sep-1998, 02:11
Well, I'll be glad to offer my two cents on this topic and add Wisner to the lis t. I was in the same situation as you about two years ago. I had a similar pro blem with my old 4x5 and decided that I was going to get a good solid camera tha t had all the funcitons I wanted and that I could still take it out on the trail and it would work with out a problem. After a long search I decided on the Wi sner Technical. A great camera that should serve your needs well. If you are re ally concerned about weight, you might think about their expedition model. And i f you ever have a problem all you need to do is call Wisner and they will make i t right.