View Full Version : Calumet 4x5s

29-Mar-2010, 05:52
I have the opportunity to buy a Calumet 4x5 camera in usable condition for not much at all. I only have a speed graphic now, and I have been wanting something with more movements for studio and still life work. I'm hesitant to buy a cheap camera now and then rebuy one later but can't afford a nice one right now. What kind of shortcomings or drawbacks do the Calumet cameras have over a more expensive view camera?

AJ Edmondson
29-Mar-2010, 06:18
Assuming that you are referring to the monorail versions, the major difference is in the lack of gear-driven "micro-drives" for swings, tilts... they are a basic no frills approach and are capable of accomplishing the same results as higher-priced cameras though they may be a bit slower in use. I still have, and use, one of the short-rail 400 series cameras and I have yet to find a view camera that I like better for wide-angle use. Obviously opinions vary (and for good reason) but the fact remains that they are robust, inexpensive, and very serviceable.

Frank Petronio
29-Mar-2010, 06:19
If you find a nice clean one they are great. Sometimes you will get creep when you point them down and the standards slip a tiny bit. And the long rail is awkward, it makes it harder to transport the camera. But for $100 or so they are pretty hard to beat, like your Speed Graphic.

29-Mar-2010, 06:23
I'm normally a "hold out till you can afford what you really want" but this one is going for $50 and I have a feeling he will take $40. At that price I figure I can't really lose.

Tintype Bob
29-Mar-2010, 06:42
I use one and even though it is slower to use and a bit more to transport, it is working out well, you will need a good tripod it is heavy. I also love my speedy

W K Longcor
29-Mar-2010, 06:56
If this is the early Calumet base on the Kodak Master --and if the bellows are good - you can't find a better camera -- fancier YES - better, NO. I still have my old Kodak master -- bought used in the 1960's. I have several Sinars now , too. I will never part with the Kodak. In some repects, it is faster to set up and use than the Sinars. Any and all mechanical problems that arrise from age and use are usually fixable with little effort. Learn all about swings and tilts with this camera and using the fancier stuff will come even easier - but then again, you may find that you don;t need the fancier stuff.;)

29-Mar-2010, 07:48
Well this is what I have to go by


It looks a bit rough, but maybe worth $50

29-Mar-2010, 08:04
I suggest you but it, try it, and if you don't like it, you could probably recoup your costs. WK is right these are the old Kodak Master cameras (Calumet bought the rights in the 50s when Kodak decided to no longer manufacture them) and they are solid workhorse cameras.

Have fun!


29-Mar-2010, 08:10
I loved my first Calumet cc403 so much, that I bought the other two versions. Stone axe engineering results in stone axe reliability. I transport the camera either in a duffel bag, or over my shoulder when I'm in the field (see article in VCM Nov/Dec). Controls are intuitive and easy to find. I once slipped on some ice and landed right on top of the camera. The front standard mounting plate got bent, so I dismantled it when I got home, heated it up with a torch and hammered it back into place. Works like new.

Awesome. This camera has done everything I have ever asked of it.

Scott Edwards (http://scottedwards.us)

Shawn Dougherty
29-Mar-2010, 08:24
I have a long rail version - as stated, it's solid, functional and dirt cheap. A real workhorse. For $50 (or $40!) you can't loose. Shawn

29-Mar-2010, 08:38
It does have full movements, right? I'm having swing-envy with my speed graphic. Another thing is my lenses might not allow much movement, but I will be using it mostly for bust-length portraits. Focused this closely, do lenses gain a lot of coverage compared to at infinity?

Vick Vickery
29-Mar-2010, 08:45
It has more movements than alot of lenses. These are solid workhourse cameras that will do anything you're likely to ask of a view camera. At $50.00 you can't loose...play with it awhile and if you don't like it, sell it for $90.00.

29-Mar-2010, 09:12
I see no down side to spending the $50 either, but there are some limitations:

1) No interchangeable bellows so a 90mm lens will require a rare and awkward recessed lens board. Calumet sold a short rail version of the camera with a more flexible bellows for architecture. These also are relatively uncommon and don't sell cheaply.

2) Spring back, not Graflok back, limits choices of roll film holders.

3) No ability to expand the camera to a larger format.

4) 16" max extension on the standard camera, 22" on the long rail version - no great consequence.

5) No rear rise or fall - no consequences at all.

Specs are here: http://www.cameraeccentric.com/html/info/calumet_1.html

Roger Thoms
29-Mar-2010, 09:23
I've owned two of these Calumets so far. Would definitely pick it up for 50 bucks. Biggest drawback besides the weight for me is it is awkward to use my 90mm lens. I have a Sinar with bag bellows which handles wide angle lens with ease.

You can always sell the Calumet if you find a better camera. I sold mine for a hundred bucks, it did take a few months.

Good luck,

29-Mar-2010, 10:06
If you should ever run across the wide angle version of this camera, the four most obvious telltales are:

1) Shorter monorail
2) Front standard is reversed from the one you see in this picture.
3) Bellows looks crumpled because of no stiffeners. No bag bellows were used on this camera, but rather an un-stiffened pleated bellows. Very durable bellows btw.
4) Front lens standard is built in a recessed fashion.

As mentioned, workhorse camera. Great learning tool. In fact many photo schools used various Calumets.

I've bought and sold a half dozen of these in the last few years. Never got less than $100 for one w/o lens. Never got less than $150 for the WA model, which is designated as the CC402 if I recall correctly.

You can still get manuals if you search on line.

Kirk Gittings
29-Mar-2010, 10:08
I've owned many of these and even used the Widefield as my primary camera for shooting commercial architecture for many years. I bought a few of these as junkers for parts, but never got one for $50!

Merg Ross
29-Mar-2010, 10:56
I have a couple of these that I bought new in the 60's. Kirk mentioned the Widefield (402) which I also used for my architectural work. I would not suggest the model you are looking at for short lenses (90mm), even with the recessed board.

The back is a revolving bail-type which makes it a very fast field camera; it has built-in levels. You have found a good camera at an excellent price.

What is that tube/cable attached to the front standard?

Shawn Dougherty
29-Mar-2010, 11:01
Also looks like the Black Stopper is missing from the back of the rail - of course the picture quality is such that maybe you can't see it. Not a big deal, especially at that price point.

Jon Shiu
29-Mar-2010, 11:18
An nice basic camera. I have one that I inherited. I mounted a fresnel screen on top of the ground glass to brighten the view. Requires a sturdy tripod with a medium sized mounting plate.


Robbie Shymanski
29-Mar-2010, 12:27
I just started using one of these and have been regretting having dismissed them until now. The 3/4" (solid) steel rail appeared frail, but is quite rugged. Lots of movement, especially in the rear standard. Personally, I am not a fan of the rotating bail-back. This would be perfect if it had a Graflok back. I too am on the prowl for one of the Wideview versions. But, again, for $40 you are not going to be unhappy.

29-Mar-2010, 12:44
i need your help;

I want to buy a Calumet c-400. Can you change the bellows? And the next question: you get more bellows for these cameras? Does anyone here like that. Maybe in hand or as a small series?

Greetings from Germany

29-Mar-2010, 13:26
i need your help;

I want to buy a Calumet c-400. Can you change the bellows? And the next question: you get more bellows for these cameras? Does anyone here like that. Maybe in hand or as a small series?

The bellows on these are not interchangeable. Replacing them is a repair operation. If repair is your quest, then I'm sure that is possible, as is finding a donor camera with usable bellows.

They came in three versions, a wide-angle model (CC-402) with an unstructured bellows for short lenses (down to 90mm), a standard version (CC-400) with a 16" bellows and monorail, and a long version (CC-401) with a 22" bellows and monorail. That was their answer to interchangeability--just use a different camera.

The wide-angle version has a recessed mounting for the lens board in addition to reversed legs for the front standard.

I used a standard model for a while, but it's heavy and the 4x4 lens board can be limiting for larger lenses. (I may actually still have it, buried in storage somewhere.) I replaced it with a Calumet 45NX, which is really a Cambo SC in disguise. That camera has full modularity with interchangeable bellows, and can accommodate lenses down to 65 with a recessed board. It's also quite competent, and I used it for 20 years.

Rick "who now uses a Sinar--the ultimate in modularity" Denney

29-Mar-2010, 15:58
Want to shoot roll, a calumet roll holder slips right in the back. Get the camera, you won't regret it.

Frank Petronio
29-Mar-2010, 17:18
The bellows is very durable so even the older ones are usually still good.

I cut one in half once for a Kodak test ad, had film pouring out of it. Gotta dig up the shot somewhere....

Gee the way we are praising them it's a wonder anyone buys those $4000 Ebonies and Arca-Swissi.

29-Mar-2010, 17:57
The bellows is very durable so even the older ones are usually still good.

I cut one in half once for a Kodak test ad, had film pouring out of it. Gotta dig up the shot somewhere....

Gee the way we are praising them it's a wonder anyone buys those $4000 Ebonies and Arca-Swissi.

Arca Swiss, Ebony??? What are those.

Mr Lustig should be sending my "light tight" Graflex Super back this week with a new bellows.

30-Mar-2010, 08:40
Gee the way we are praising them it's a wonder anyone buys those $4000 Ebonies and Arca-Swissi.

In absolute terms, they are a bit clunky, quite heavy, and bulky. They lack any modularity, and the 4" boards are a problem with big lenses. Even if you can get a short lens on the camera, it's not so easy to get the rail out of the picture.

But for $100 or less, they really do work, especially for those who aren't into short lenses.

For $100 more, though, I'd prefer the more modular newer Calumet 45NX based on the Cambo SC. And for still under $500, I'd prefer an older Sinar F even more. Both of those have Graflok backs, and the Calumet still has a rotatable back.

I stopped using my old CC400 when I couldn't get a modern 90mm lens to fit or work on the camera. I stopped using the 45NX when I couldn't get a 65 or 47mm lens to work easily on the camera.

Rick "it's all a matter of fulfilling requirements" Denney

30-Mar-2010, 17:46
...and my requirement was convincing the wife that we could afford yet another camera!

I picked it up today. It was owned by a painter who used to use it to copy his canvasii. It looks pretty nice but HEAVY. I had been looking at videos of the toho camera which is apparently extremely small and lightweight for a monorail camera. This is to the toho as a 1960 Buick is to a Yaris. Still, it has full movements and the rotating back is very cool. I just realized I can't use my 210mm (barrel) lens with it, though. Plus the only lens board it came with is recessed.

31-Mar-2010, 02:28
I Have 2 Of These The 22" And The 6 3/4. Not Light Weight, But Nearly Unbreakable. Have More Movements Than My Lenses Can Handle.

Luck Joe A

Don Wilkes
31-Mar-2010, 15:06
I've had several of these, both with the long rail. Why do you think you can't use your 210 with it? Because of the recessed board? If that's all, just make one yourself. It's really easy, as they are so plain. Find some flat wood stock that is the right thickness to fit in its slot at the bottom, and cut a second sheet that'll that just fits the square opening of the front standard. Glue together in situ. I suggest you drill out the hole for your lens first, with the "backer board" having a larger hole, to make it easier to screw on whatever retaining ring or whathaveyou on the rear of the lens.

It's a pretty simple design for a board, so even with modest woodworking or metalworking skills, you can come up with a satisfactory flat board for a Calumet. Just stare at your recessed board, and see what fits where on the camera, then take measurements.

It's a good idea to paint the back of the board flat black, and wait til the paint is really dry before mounting your lens.

If there is some reason you can't tackle this, there are tons of used boards out there, or you can even buy new ones. Calumet still sells them.

Happy hacking!

31-Mar-2010, 17:00
In absolute terms, they are a bit clunky, quite heavy, and bulky.

Well, "bulky" I'll agree to. Otherwise, it is around 10 lbs with a lens. Pike that over your shoulder and carry the 10 lb tripod in the other hand. Nice balance. Hell, that thing hanging over my belt weighs 10 lbs. We manage.

So it weighs as much as an 8x10. But it's a real good friend that will take some lumps and still keep on giving me better pictures than I've gotten with any other camera.

Each year I flirt with the idea of going over to Badger Graphic and picking up that new wooden field camera that I've had my eye on for the last 6 years or so. It's lighter by half, much more compact, and pretty as all get-out. It's even got more movements than the Calumet, but you see, I talk myself into thinking that I need something that I can pack into the hinterlands. Well, I've got my Busch for that, but the front doesn't swing and tilt at the same time, nor does back swing and tilt at all. It's enough to keep me looking every year for something else. So I go to Badger and handle the new field camera and then say to Jeff, "It's real purdy, but I'd make kindling out of this if I fell on it".

Yeah, no thanks, I'll keep the clunky, hurly burly Calumets. A little discomfort brings greater satisfaction when the images turn out beautifully.

31-Mar-2010, 23:40
Why do you think you can't use your 210 with it?

My 210 is a shutterless process lens, so I need my speed graphic's focal plane shutter.

W K Longcor
1-Apr-2010, 04:47
My 210 is a shutterless process lens, so I need my speed graphic's focal plane shutter.

Not so -- if it will fit on a 4 x 4 lens board -- you can use it. A black card, your hat, an extra dark slide, etc. all work as "shutters" . Or, depending on the lens diameter -- there are small ( though not always easy to find) Packard shutters that will fit the 4 x 4 board. Or, mount a larger Packard to the front of the lens. 210 is a wonderful lens for much 4x5 work. Do it - and enjoy!:D

By the way, if you have an older graphic - like maybe an anniversary graphic -- they take a 4 x 4 lens board that will fit right into your Calumet.

1-Apr-2010, 06:22
No, mine is a Pacemaker, but I'm already figuring out how I can make an adapter with rare-earth magnets so the speed graphic boards will fit on the Calumet. I've thought about the hat method, but the truth is I've never had any luck shooting portraits with shutter speeds below 1/30th or so.

4-Apr-2010, 16:50
I have a very basic, low tech 4x5 Cambo, same one is also branded as Calumet, no rulers, no gears whatsoever, just friction knobs. I can unpack it, and put the standards thru the monorail and on the tripod in less than 3 minutes (the only way to put it in a backpack is to disassemble it). Maybe half a minute more than a field camera. Once it is on the tripod it is a very fast camera to use in the field, precisely due to the fact that it is barebones. The only drawbacks I find is it is larger to pack by about 30% more than a Technika. They are so cheap and so good you can't go wrong.

Frank Petronio
4-Apr-2010, 17:38
You can find plenty of vintage 8" Wollensak, Ilex, Ektar, Caltar American-made 210mm lenses in working shutters in the $100 range, they would even be age-appropriate for the camera.