View Full Version : Which 4x5 for Outdoor / Urban "Architectural"?

19-May-2008, 00:09
I am looking for a 4x5 camera for outdoor architectural work in an urban enviroment (eg, San Francisco, NYC, LA). Buildings will not necessarily be the main subject, but will figure very prominently in my photographs. Similar to Atget photographing Paris in the early 1900's.

I probably will not be doing any close ups of buildings; mainly showing a few buildings at once, with some of the street showing.

Although I will be walking some distance with the camera (eg, 1 - 6 miles), I do not care if it folds neatly into a little box. I don't mind slinging a camera and tripod across my back.

I also would like the ability to use 120 roll film backs sometimes (because professional scanning is relatively cheap via-a-vis 4x5). A rotating back would be very nice.

And I'd like the package (camera, lense, shutter) to be under $1000.

Does anyone have a suggestion?

Greg Lockrey
19-May-2008, 00:19
All 4x5 cameras with Graflock backs will accept 120 film holders so that's really not an issue. A good starter camera that will take rough service would be a camera like a Speed Graphic. But Cambo's or Calumets are good deal on the used market too. A field camera like Wista or similar design are a little more costly are better yet for carrying.

Brian Ellis
19-May-2008, 07:40
I don't offhand know of a 4x5 camera that won't accept 120 film holders. Either the camera will have a Graflok back as Greg mentions or it won't. If it won't then it should take the Calumet line of 120 holders which slide between the ground glass frame and the camera back like a normal film holder (and which IMHO is much more convenient than using a holder with a Graflok back).

Virtually all 4x5 cameras can also be used horizontally and vertically, either by the back rotating while remaining on the camera or by removing it and repositioning it. I've owned cameras that work both ways and IMHO it really makes no difference which system the camera employs. Either way is very simple and very fast. So I wouldn't place much importance on whether the frame remains on the camera or is removed when you switch from horizontal to vertical mode or vice versa.

Apart from that, I'd suggest that before going further you search this forum using terms like "newbie," "what camera," "under $1000" or something along those lines. There have been literally hundreds of "what camera should I buy" questions asked here over the years. A quick search will provide more information about cost, advantages, disadvantages, etc. of cameras for architecture/urban photography than you'd ever want to know.

19-May-2008, 08:30
Thanks for the responses. I've done quite a bit of research on economical 4x5 cameras that would suit my application. For example, the Calumet 45NX appears to be a great value; however, this camera would require an 11" monorail and wide angle bellows to accomodate a lens with a focal length less than 135mm. I even was looking at a Toyo AII, which is slightly more expensive, but the bellows don't allow sufficient rise and fall with a 90mm lens.

Most commentors state the Nikon-SW 90mm f/8.0 or the Schneider 90mm f/8.0 Super Angulon would be good lenses for my application.

I'm wondering what others have used for urban outdoor photography in a crowded city such as NYC, Chicago, or San Francisco (buildings being incidental but very important part of the subject).

Vick Vickery
19-May-2008, 08:55
Adam, the Calumet 45NX is a re-branded Cambo and takes Cambo parts/accessories as needed...many of these, such as bag bellows, lens boards, long and short rails, etc., can be purchased used from photo shops such as KEH (a favorite with many of us on this site) or on eBay at very reasonable prices. I use a Cambo and have been well pleased with it. With both standards mounted in front of the tripod mount, you can use a 90mm lens easily on a flat board. Its universal back allows use of many different roll film holders. It is likely that the most expensive accessories you will need will be lenses.