View Full Version : another newbie :) choosing the right camera.

5-Apr-2009, 02:31

I'm sorry to bother with this kind of question, I browsered on the forum and saw you got plenty, but some advices would be very helpful :)

I'm a student in photography, I've been using a cambo, a sinar (both very heavy) and a toyo field camera at uni, but I don't really excel in it, I try to do things too fast, and sometime screw it up.

The fact is that I'm planning to do a project during the summer and I'd like to buy a large format camera for myself. I would like to be able to have more time to prepare for it.

I'm mainly looking for something light, but also very cheap.

the project I'm working on is going to be in some ice rinks and I'm thinking to buy a 90mm super angulon (would it be a good choice of lens?)

I found a calumet N45 camera for about 250$ in very good condition with a lot of extras, and also a Gandolfi Variant (is on ebay I'm still waiting to see what the price will be) for cheap but I don't know if I could mount the 90mm lens on the field camera. Would it still work? Would I be able to straighten the lines with it?
I will probably mainly shoot architectural stuff, but I'm a small girl and don't want to walk with a very heavy camera.

so the main things are : light, cheap, wide angle :)

I hope that some of you could help me, I would ask my tutors, but we are on spring break and I would really like to get started.

cheers and thanks!

p.s. I just discovered this website, and I'm speechless it's really a great resource!

Ole Tjugen
5-Apr-2009, 05:14
The Gandolfi Variant can take lenses down to 47mm, so that will be a good camera for your use.

5-Apr-2009, 05:34
thank you! Will I be able to make all the movement and the architectural lines straight with that camera? :)

5-Apr-2009, 05:43
I can't tell which Calumet camera you're looking at, but the Gandolfi would be an excellent choice. I've never owned or used one, but their reputation is excellent and appear to be good value for the dollar. I don't think that you'll be able to pick one up in what I would consider the "super cheap" price zone, but if you do, snap it up.

5-Apr-2009, 05:50
For architecture, lenses: 47XL, (the regular 47 is for 6x7cm and not for 4x5") 58XL, 75, 90, 115/121.

I use the 58XL, 75 and 115 for architecture.
Any camera that has shifts for these lenses will do.
Look for a bag-bellows aswell.

Have fun !


Ole Tjugen
5-Apr-2009, 05:52
Most cameras are capable of that - I know that the Gandolfi Variant is since I have owned one, and that's how I know that it is capable of using very short lenses too.

Yes, it has enough movements for architecture. Note that there are different models of these, called Level 1 through Level 3 as well as an older model without "level".

The only one I could find on ebay right now has no front swing, but that is not really necessary since it has good rear swing capability.

It's a very capable camera, and there aren't really many which are as rigid as that one, or lighter, and i know none that are both lighter and as strong and locks down as tightly.

5-Apr-2009, 06:05
thank you everyone! you already have been very helpful :)

I'm very interested in the Gandolfi-Variant now but I'm seeing that the price is getting higher and there still a 8 hours left. I'm looking for other ones over the internet but can't find any. I will look more and follow the auction of the one I found on ebay hoping it won't get too expensive for me.

if anyone has any suggestion for other similar camera I would love to know more! :)

p.s. what about the calumet one? I read that is a good student camera, but will I be able to find the lens board?

5-Apr-2009, 06:21
Can you be more specific on the Calumet? Is it the wood field camera?

5-Apr-2009, 06:32
it's the N45. Unluckily I don't know a lot of details about it, I'm making research right now
here there is a picture:

5-Apr-2009, 06:52
Ok, a rail camera. I think it's this one:


I don't know what that camera weighs, but it sounds like a fair price. I'm a big fan of rail cameras in the field. The best in terms of weight and portability are the Toho and the Arca F series. There was a Toho for sale here recently. It might still be available, but it's going to cost more than you seem to want to spend. I would have picked it up myself if I could have justified another rail camera. The Arca F series costs more. You might get an older Arca without the collapsing rail for around $400 if you look hard.

The super angulon is a nice lens and there is one for sale here at a very good price.

Ole Tjugen
5-Apr-2009, 07:30
I would hesitate to recommend a rail camera to someone who describes herself as "a small girl". :)

5-Apr-2009, 10:03
The Calumet is probably very much like the Cambo that you have used (although some Cambos are more sophisticated and heavier.) I have a Calumet 45N on a 12 inch rail for use with short lenses. All together it weighs 7 lbs. with a 135mm lens and quick release plate. Not too heavy really, but still bulky compared to field camera. I have a case to carry mine flat that is 21x17x8 inches, not small, and even larger when you consider that I still need to carry a tripod and another case for film holders, lenses, filters, meter etc. The other downside for carrying the Calumet flat is the time required to set it up, align the standards, install the bellows, the lens board, the back. Calumet sells cases for carrying their cameras assembled, but they are even larger, 25x17x12. At least they have extra space for lenses, film holders, etc.

For cheap and light, you might look at the Toyo 45CF, carbon fiber field cameras. Some here, who have had experience with them, find them flimsy, but still it might be a good compromise for you.

5-Apr-2009, 11:29
thanks again to all of you :)

the Toyo 45CF seems lovely. I used a similar one at uni I think, but I didn't know if I could put a wide angle lens on it and still having it work properly. (I'm not very experienced in LF.. and the one they have in the uni store has a 150 mm lens on it). the only problem is the price. I would like to spend less then 600/700 $ for both camera and lens. I wish I could spend more for this camera, but I need to get other photography stuff as well. :)

Erik Larsen
5-Apr-2009, 11:40
Hi Flo, this may be more camera than you want and I am biased because it is for sale from myself but here is a complete cambo set up with a couple lenses (a 90mm super angulon and a 210 symmar) bag bellows, holders, case etc for 600 bucks. You may not be able to view the link because you have to be a member for 30 days first to view for sale stuff.
If you are at all interested, pm me.

5-Apr-2009, 15:04
Thank you Erik!
I'm seriously thinking about that offer. which model of cambo is it? Also how much would be shipping to Europe? :)

Brian Ellis
5-Apr-2009, 15:28
Gandolfis are a lot of things but "cheap" isn't usually one of them. You can't tell anything about prices on ebay by looking at current bids. Knowledgable bidders use a sniping service and their bids don't go in until a few seconds before the end of the auction. So you won't know a final price on the Gandolfi until the auction is over but anything in the $1,000 range would be a very good price I think if the camera's in good condition.

While a monorail such as the Cambo will be cheap since the studios that used them have mostly gone to digital, it isn't going to be light and isn't going to be ideally suited for field work IMHO. For relatively cheap and light I think you should be looking at a wood field camera, possibly a used Tachihara or maybe a Shen Hao, either of which probably can be had for something in the $400 - $500 range. Older field cameras will be less money but typically don't have the movements today's models have and also tended to be heavier.

To get useful information you should tell us what you consider "cheap" and "light" to be. Tachiharas are in the 4 lb range, Shens in the 6 lb range. Most monorails will weigh a good bit more than that. Shens have more movements and will take a bag bellows but Tachiharas have all the movements you need for probably 95% of general purpose photography (I've owned two Tachiharas and one Shen).

I've done a lot of exterior architectural work and the shortest lens I've ever owned was 80mm and you can do a lot of exterior work with a 90mm lens. I'm not a pro and someone here who is might contradict me but I don't think you'll generally need a lens shorter than 90mm except for some types of interior work.

Kirk Fry
5-Apr-2009, 15:48
"You might get an older Arca Swiss without the collapsing rail for around $400 if you look hard." These are excellent and can take a bag bellows for super wide. They are 30-40 years old and come in two variants, base tilt only (B) and axis and base (AB) tilt. The model number is not printed anywhere on the camera. Either work fine. Saint Ansel used one. They disassemble well for travel and are light weight. Good luck.


Erik Larsen
5-Apr-2009, 16:03
Thank you Erik!
I'm seriously thinking about that offer. which model of cambo is it? Also how much would be shipping to Europe? :)

flo, there is no identification on the camera but it looks like the SC model to me. I'm guessing that shipping to Europe would be in the 100 dollar usd range but without further info from you I can't quote shipping accurately.
thanks for the consideration

Clement Apffel
6-Apr-2009, 04:59
Hi flo.

Just a side note to say that I don't think any monorail camera could reasonably satisfy the lightweight condition you are having.

Except if what we call “lightweight” differ a lot.

So make sure you check the overall weight and size of what you are planning to buy.

And a thread about a cheap lightweight field camera with wide-angle abilities should mention the Chamonix 45N-1.
Have a look at it.

EDIT : My bad, the Chamonix might be a little too expensive for your price.

Good luck!

6-Apr-2009, 06:24
Hi flo.

Just a side note to say that I don't think any monorail camera could reasonably satisfy the lightweight condition you are having.

It just depends on the camera. My Arcas are in the 5lb range, IIRC. I can weigh one when I get home this evening if anybody is interested.

Flo, I would look seriously at that Cambo Eric is offering. Ask him to weigh it. The lens alone are worth close what he is asking, and if it turns out you don't like the camera, you could always sell it and still have two very useful pieces of glass.


6-Apr-2009, 06:47
the Toyo 45CF seems lovely... the only problem is the price. I would like to spend less then 600/700 $ for both camera and lens.

Here is an old thread on the Toyo CF:


It illustrates what some like and dislike about the camera. Just as important, one poster refers to buying one new through a discount program for photography students run by Mamiya America Corporation, the US importer of Toyo. Even though that program, which seems to still be in operation, is not available in Europe, it is is one of several reasons why this camera often sells used for far below the new price.

I hope that you also have a realistic idea of what the accessories used in large format photography might cost. Think of tripod, meter, film holders, focusing cloth, loupe, filters and inevitably more.

7-Apr-2009, 02:53
Thanks again to all of you. I'm browsering around the web looking for all those cameras, and I'm really in doubt between the small Toyo and the Cambo offer. one would be the perfect size for me and the other one has a great price.

I'm also looking to and anba a wista and a linhof technika (even if the bidding is probably going to get a lot higher). I would love to get the chamonix, but I'm afraid it would be too expensive for me.

Luckily I have a light meter and the loupe, I will need some film holders and a new tripod in case I will decide for the cambo :) (if it's not already sold!)

Can I ask you in which field camera I will be able to use the 90mm lens? or which one you know I won't? I'm scared to get a camera in which I won't be able to make the movements :)

15-Apr-2009, 01:25
Hi! After a lot of thinking and research I decided to purchase a Tachihara! I'm looking at one on ebay and another one on keh.com.
the one one Keh says:
Can someone give me an advice/explanation about the "ZONE VI FIELD/EARLY" thing? the camera is selling for about 500$ would it be a good price? I can't wait to buy one and start shooting :)
thank you!

Steve Barber
15-Apr-2009, 13:02
I would suggest spending a little on a phone call to KEH to find out why they have listed it as a "bargain" (you can see their definition of the "bargain" grading on their site) and how short a lens it will take and still allow enough movements to take full advantage of the lens. My concern would be how long and how much it would take if you were to have to find a bag bellows for it. If it would allow full movements with your 90 using the standard bellows, fine. Even better if it would take a 65 or 75mm lens without having to have a bag. However, if it had to have a bag bellows for the 90mm, I would definitely pass on it.

I have had good experiences with KEH and they are very good about being conservative in their grading and allowing returns if there is a problem; but you will lose your shipping and import duty, VAT, whatever, if you have to return it so you will want to be careful.

19-Apr-2009, 23:00
Hi Flo (or would that be Photo-Flow?),

You are smart to consider the equipment that you will use before you shell out a lot of bucks. Remember the camera is just a box with a hole in it but the lens is the heart of it.

I have as my favorite 4x5 an Omega Monorail w/full tilts and swings on both ends and risers up and down and side to side on both ends. It is relatively lightweight but remember to not skimp on a good solid tripod. I use a bunch of different lenses depending on what kind of image Iím working on. Lens boards for this camera are cheap and easy to find. When I first started using LF I pirated several lenses off of old press camera and just purchased one very nice workhorse lens for the Omega.

The camera does not weigh very much and it has levels built in to help you avoid helical obscuration. It also has the rulers and protractors on board to help make bellows factor easy to calculate.

I have seen these on eBay for not too much money but remember itís the glass that you should not scrimp on and I donít see a lot of lenses for LF on eBay.

I have been doing photography for about 50 years and I know you will have a great time with it. I no longer do weddings of newspaper or advertising photography; I spend all my time creating artistic images of everything. Some people say I am anal about my photography but I just will not quit until I get the image that I want. What Adams did in the Darkroom I try to do in the camera in natural light as much as possible. I asked him in Monterey once why he didnít work in color and he just said, ďWhy donít you work in Black & White?

If I can be of any use to you answering any questions Iíll try hard to give you good answers, else Iíll tell you I donít know. No BS here! Have fun with it and good shooting.

Randy Ansley