View Full Version : Suggestions for info on which 4x5 Field camera?

20-Apr-2010, 04:23
I am considering a move up to a 4x5 Folding field camera ( new or late model used) and would like to a good source for comparisons and value. It is a little overwhelming to try to sort out all the features, strengths weaknesses, etc. Any advice is appreciated.

I am going to spend in the range of $700- 900 for the body. It seemed the new Chamonix was a good bet - but I just missed those. I can go on the waiting list, but then most of the summer will be gone. They seem to have the older version, but it doesn't seem to be a good deal compared to the upgrades with the new one (focus problems, standard versus universal bellows). So far I have looked at the Toyo 45cf, Shen Hao HZX and TZ, and the Tachihara. I am sure others have faced the same challenge starting out - how did you decide the meaningful features versus the one you can live without?

Thanks in advance for any advice or links to resources for a rank beginner looking to get a system to grow into!

20-Apr-2010, 04:35
i would buy the chamonix no matter what. even the "older" one is awesome. it can be had with the universal bellows. i like the regular bellows (i have them on my new one) i had no problems with focus issues.

i only bought the new one to see it and try it. and i was able to sell the older one very conveniently....:)

the chamonix is much better than the others you listed IMO for my style shooting....light and fast. perfect for travel.


Michael Roberts
20-Apr-2010, 05:34
I have a Tachihara and can't say enough good things about it. It's lightweight, and yet very solid...and stunningly beautiful. Classic field camera design. I don't think you could go wrong with it as your first 4x5. And it's on the low end of your budget, so you have more $ left for lenses, film, etc. my 2 cents....

20-Apr-2010, 09:21
Zone VI's are cheap and decent. there are 2 versions: one is a Tachihara and the other made in Vermont (by Wisner before he had a falling out with Picker... later ones are less well constructed). plus I've got one for sale... PM if interested. otherwise check out some of the threads here and elsewhere since this is well plowed field:

http://www.largeformatphotography.info/ and especially


and some others


20-Apr-2010, 11:29
I would go with a less expensive entry-level field camera to save money and permit you to build your lens kit. After a few years, you can evaluate what you really want in a camera and feel more confident in what you want and need.

This is the way that I got into the format, and I imagine that many others have done the same. The reason is because it is impossible to know what you need or want by reading websites and personal accounts of cameras.

20-Apr-2010, 11:32
Another vote for the Tachihara. Inexpensive, lightweight, practical and good looking. It's been my starter and I have zero complaints.

20-Apr-2010, 11:35
By the way, first post here (second now). Lots of posts on Apug, lots of reading here. Thanks to all for all the great info.


20-Apr-2010, 11:55
I went through the same mind-wrestling some months ago when I decided to get into 5x4 on a fairly limited budget.
Unfortunately, there's no such thing as the perfect camera; it depends on you and what you want to do with it. Users of Tachiharas, Shen Haos and Chamonix all seem to be very pleased with their cameras. I ended up buying a mint used Wista DXII which I can wholeheartedly recommend also. Like the Tachi, it's beautifully made, lightweight, easy to use and has a lovely bright screen. However, its bellows draw doesn't really allow the use of lenses over 270mm if that's important. (The DXIII has, I believe, interchangeable bellows, though.) I think Wista Fields are maybe a bit over-priced new when compared with their Chinese-made counterparts but if you see a good used one, it'll represent great value for money IMHO.

Good luck,


Eric Biggerstaff
20-Apr-2010, 12:31
Tachihara is a great bet and a great camera. Classic, proven design and it will last for years, nothing fancy in terms of design but it just keeps on going. I used one for 11 years and never had a problem.

I also have a Zone VI and it is great, but if you consider one educate yourself on the history of the brand and who made them so will be well informed. Mine is a later model that was made by Zone VI prior to them being purchased by Calumet. Bruce Barlow and Richard Ritter are members here and they worked for Picker at Zone VI and made the cameras so they may chime in here.

But, Tachihara is a great little camera that will do darn near everything you want for a field camera.

Rick Moore
20-Apr-2010, 13:54
After a Crown Graphic in the 60's, I purchased a Tachihara in 1978, and I've had it ever since. I don't shoot 4x5 much any more, but the Tachihara is still in fine shape. Light as a feather as well as functional.

Frank Petronio
20-Apr-2010, 14:44
Personally I would opt for one of the ~$700-ish METAL Toyo A series folding field cameras or perhaps a similarly priced METAL Wista 45.

Wood is for termites and guys who wear knickers and have funny beards ;-)

20-Apr-2010, 16:13
Wow thanks for all the information everyone.

Both the Tachihara and Chamonix sound like good choices. But Frank does bring up a good point - the metal Toyo looks pretty nice - and I think I would look great in a beard (I'll skip the knickers!)

Problem is, I think it is the Carbon Fiber version Toyo that is about $900. Can I get the metal one for $700-ish ? I assume it would be used? Any opinions on the Toyo vs the Other wood ones?


Michael Roberts
20-Apr-2010, 16:25
metal is for moan-o-rails!

Bob Salomon
20-Apr-2010, 16:48
All Wista cameras accept extension beds and extension bellows, or longer bellows - depending on the camera model - as well as extension lens boards. So you are not limited to lens focal length if you use the proper Wista accessories.

20-Apr-2010, 17:49
I am particularly watching ebay for a Toyo 45CF. They pop up about two a month. In the meantime, I have seen plenty of the 45A, 45-AII, and recently a 45 AX go by with many of them selling body only from $600 to $700. I am very picky about seller feedback and history on eBay and I am only mentioning sellers I would have purchased from myself.

If I don't score on a CF soon, I will go ahead on a 45A or AII. I've had both before and they are excellent camera's, but I want to try the lighter CF.

I've had a new Shen Hao, a Rosewood Wista, and a Tachihara. After using the metal Toyo field cameras, I will not buy another wood field camera. Personal choice on my part. I know a very good photographer who has used a Tachihara exclusively for a couple of decades and he would never change.

It seems to come down to some very personal selection issues, which I don't think you can conquer until you've tried variations. Therefore, I would encourage you to purchase used, since chances are good the first selection won't be your last selection.

I bought the Shen Hao new, and while I can't pinpoint anything bad about it, I made the choice it wasn't right for me while I could still get 90% of my money back. I won't make the choice to buy new again. Almost all the used camera's I bought were as nice or looked as good as they would have after I used them for a few months to a year.

New purchasing is also not "Green" purchasing.

I also want to add another VERY "Green" option. My abused and used fall back camera is a klunky old Graflex Super metal camera that just came back from Fred Lustig with a squeaky clean new "used" bellows. I originally paid $100 for this relic. It has all the rangefinder and electronics gear stripped out of it. It has many of the movements of the Toyo's I have owned. I'ts not as heavy as a 45A or AII. It does everything that a camera is intended to do....

1) It holds the film in place in a revolving back
2) It holds the lens/shutter in place with some tilt, shift, rise, fall, and rotation.
3) It keeps the light out except for the duration of the shutter opening and closing.

I was told by a fellow who knows how I want to use it, that it absolutely had all the features I needed for what I want to do... mostly landscape.

Really, I don't know why I want another LF camera.

Lon Overacker
20-Apr-2010, 17:54

In the past I may have said start with an inexpensive basic camera, spend the money on a pair of good starter lenses - and of course all the accessories; film holder/Quickload, light meter, dark cloth, loupe, etc. But I just did a quick check on *bay and I can't believe the prices of used 4x5's - they're going up! At least relative to a couple years ago. Basically, the cameras - and I suspect lenses too are holding their value. If that's the case, even if you decide later LF isn't for you, you should be able to get most if not all your money back by reselling the camera.

Having said that, you might also want to ask yourself a few questions. Will 4x5 be a "companion" format to digital, MF - or are you wanting to move up completely to the larger format? I ask because "learning" all the nuances of shooting LF takes quite a while to get comfortable. If you're lugging around 2 or more systems/formats and the 4x5 and saving it for the best scenes.... well, those great scenes may just more difficult to capture quickly.

Another question is, what is your main subject? landscapes, architecture, people, etc.? The field camera is best for nature/landscape because of the portability, weight, etc. So I'm assuming that's what you're after. What focal lengths do you normally shoot with your current format? This will be important to consider when selecting lenses - and if you like the long focal lengths, bellows extension is key.

Getting back to the camera, all the ones listed so far are good candidates. I started with a Busch Pressman and then traded up for a Japanese Nagaoka wooden field camera. Got my feet wet with large format so to speak. Since then I've had the Wista DXII, Zone VI (Vermont,) Zone VI (Calumet - crappy IMHO) and finally now the Chamonix (original 045-N1.) I loved the look of the finely finished wood cameras - always attention getters in the field. Moved up from the Wista to the Zone VI for the extended bellows. I destroyed the 2 Zone VI's when the tripod fell or got kicked over... :-) and now finally I'm settled in with the Chamonix and I love the camera.

Best of luck with whatever you end up with.

20-Apr-2010, 18:14
Kuzano - good luck with the CF - what do you think a good price for one is?

Lon - Good advice, I see most of my shooting being landscape and carrying it on hikes (I have been using a "Moan-a-rail" for a short time to see how I like the whole view camera thing). I mostly shoot RF - 35mm film/digital and RF Medium Format.

Frank Petronio
20-Apr-2010, 18:18
No ofense but geezum I think the Toyo CF is the least desirable modern camera made. CF is hardly Carbon Fiber, it is more a code word for "plastic" crap box.

Have you guys actually seen one? I have.

Merg Ross
20-Apr-2010, 20:30
No ofense but geezum I think the Toyo CF is the least desirable modern camera made. CF is hardly Carbon Fiber, it is more a code word for "plastic" crap box.

Have you guys actually seen one? I have.

I have also, and agree with your assesment. In fact, the day that I purchased my Toyo AX about ten years ago, I considered the CF version. With both in hand, the only thing that might have appealed to me was the weight of the CF; otherwise, it offered nothing, no back movements and questionable sturdiness.

If you are thinking along the lines of a metal camera, seriously consider the Toyo models, A, AX, AII, but not the CF.

For wooden models, you have received good advice in this thread from some very fine photographers. I would take their input seriously.

20-Apr-2010, 21:45
No ofense but geezum I think the Toyo CF is the least desirable modern camera made. CF is hardly Carbon Fiber, it is more a code word for "plastic" crap box.

Have you guys actually seen one? I have.

I used one for about three months and agree there are trade-offs. It's not carbon fiber, and the weakest part of the camera is the bosses molded into to the body for locking movements down.

However, it's the lightest camera I have used for 4X5 outside the a couple of Gowland Pocket models. The Pockets are light but the movements don't lock down well, and creep is a problem. The Toyo CF locks down without creep, but you have to not "reef" on the lockdown wheels.

The CF was far more stable than my Tachihara and Wista Rosewood..(both wobbly), which were just a tad heavier than the CF. The Shen Hao was stable, but 7 pounds without the lens and film holders.

So, I think I want to give the CF another try. I've encountered the bad press that it gets, but I think it can be my lightweight solution. It's pretty amazing how much a couple of pounds in the pack makes when you reach your mid 60's.

Then again, I'd probably be smart to drill and lighten the old Graflex Super. I did that once with a Busch Pressman D and changed a 6.5 pound press camera into a 3 pound metal field camera without losing much rigidity. Only problem was the Pressman had too small a lens board for a couple of my lenses.

I'm holding on for a CF around $500. I've seen them hit that low when the auction is configured just right (or wrong for the seller).

Robert Hughes
21-Apr-2010, 08:05
I'd probably be smart to drill and lighten the old Graflex Super. I did that once with a Busch Pressman D and changed a 6.5 pound press camera into a 3 pound metal field camera without losing much rigidity. Only problem was the Pressman had too small a lens board for a couple of my lenses.
Ooh, interesting. Any pictures? What did you drill out - the metal frame? Did you cover the holes to keep the rain off, or leave it open for that Road Warrior look? And did the lighter weight make any difference? I don't think my Pressman is very heavy.

21-Apr-2010, 09:01
Ooh, interesting. Any pictures? What did you drill out - the metal frame? Did you cover the holes to keep the rain off, or leave it open for that Road Warrior look? And did the lighter weight make any difference? I don't think my Pressman is very heavy.

Well, if I did it again, I wouldn't drill it... took some time. I'd probably dremel it. I took out two sections on each flat, of top, bottom and both sides. It had basically a ribbed look to the body. Ribs at the four corners and about a 3/8 inch rib halfway on each of top, bottom and both sides. I also did some drilling on the back of the front standard and the base of the front standard.. probably wouldn't do that again.

I recollect the camera (D model 4X5) weight at about 6 pounds before and half of that after. I did not sacrifice any rigidity. There was no flex in the body. I took off the rangefinder and went "commando" on the body... no covering and flat black paint. Left the revolving back. Used the camera ground glass viewing only.

21-Apr-2010, 15:26
I use a Wista 4x5 field camera and it's very good the only thing I wish it had was the ability to change bellows. Look on ebay and your will be surprised at all the 4x5 field camera's. Make sure you type in the words "field camera".

Steve M Hostetter
21-Apr-2010, 15:44
I'd go for a used Chamonix for around 700.00 or a speed graphic

22-Apr-2010, 03:41
The Chamonix is looking tough to beat...

Thanks again all.

Matus Kalisky
22-Apr-2010, 08:36
I own the Tachihara for about 4 years and would probably agree with the proposal of Frank for a metal camera. While wood field cameras are very light (and look nice), it may be easier to start with a more rigid camera. It depends on the purpose (studio, landscapes, architecture) - while for landscapes one generally uses only mild movements, studio or architecture work may require more movements and also more control over them (for example some cameras have front rise and tilt coupled under one control - for example Chamonix first generation). Also - if you are interested in a close-up photography you would prefer a camera with focusing on the rear standard.

As much as I like my Tachi I would swap it for a light monorail (Toyo VX125 for example) to get more rigidity and precision as well as wide-angle lens capability (recessed lens boards are a pain - I use one for the 75/4.5 N Grandagon).

24-Apr-2010, 16:33
Ok after thinking about metal cameras I have a final option to consider and would like to get opinions as to how much flexibility and movements I would give up. The option is a Super Graphic (probably not a Super Speed).

24-Apr-2010, 23:17
I shoot Chamonix 8x10 and think the 4x5 Chams are great, but use a Toyo 45A II (about $700 on bay). Great cameras, the Chams and Toyo 4x5s.

Nicholas Whitman
26-Apr-2010, 05:36
There are lots of good choices. Find something cheap and use it. Soon enough you'll recognize what features you need and what you don't. Then go for your "perfect" choice. If you are going into the field with harsh conditions find a camera with some wear on it already. If you've going to baby it may be spend a little more for a pretty one. Stick with a standard lens board system, Toyo view 4x4 is a good bet. Then you can mix and match lenses with different cameras. I bought a Nagoaka new in 1976 and have used it ever since - still love it!