View Full Version : Newcomer Needs Advice

5-May-2010, 13:01
Hi everyone,
I'm completely new to LFP. I've joined the forum in the hope that I can gather enough information to buy my first camera. I'm from Ireland and as far as I can gather, there isn't much local information on the topic here. I'm looking for a capable but affordable 4 x 5 field camera. My primary subject matter will be landscapes and very long exposure pictures at night but it will be important to find a camera that can take good portraits with nice shallow depth of field also. These will be printed very large for exhibition.(1-2m maybe). Its been recommended I look into an Osaka 4 x 5 with two lenses..one for landscape and one for portrait??
If anyone would be kind enough to help me with this somewhat daunting task I would be most grateful. My budget is 1,000 - 1,500. I hope I can get a decent quality and capable camera with lens and any other accessories I need within this price range. If anyone has suggestions or information i would be delighted to hear from you....Cheers

5-May-2010, 14:10
In the USA the best deal is for a Shen Hao which new sells for $650-700 $US. A 135 or 150MM lens can be purchased for $250-300 $US. The other value is a Chamonix. I have a Shen Hao field camera and its well made, I am happy with it, and it has a large following world wide. The alternative is to find a used View Camera (with a rail). This option gives you a larger camera body however good used View Cameras can be as low as $150 US so can be very affordable!

Michael Roberts
5-May-2010, 14:41
You will find lots of advice on threads like this if you look long enough. A few diagnostic questions--
will you be shooting b&w or color? will you be developing your own film or relying on a lab? (labs are rapidly going out of business)

do you prefer a monorail or a field camera? Is weight/transportability a concern?

The least expensive options are:
a Calumet monorail (under $100) w/o lens, or a used Crown Graphic (~$250 with lens). Of course the Osaka (Tachihara, etc.) are great (I have a Tachihara), and would be wonderful for portraits and landscape work. For that matter, I have an 80-year old 4x5 Korona that I picked up for under $150 with a 7" Zeiss lens, and it's wonderful, too.

for lenses, pretty much any will be good enough if the shutters work and they are reasonably clean. Shorter lenses are more common and affordable--particularly 127 and 135mm press lenses, or older 150mm anastigmats.

Longer lenses that are affordable are harder to come by.

I recommend picking up a 127 Ektar (or 135 Schneider or Optar) and something like a 152 Ektar and/or a 203 Ektar. The above cameras will take lenses as short as 90mm (Optar, Raptar) or as long as 300mm (I use a Nikkor 300 M, but they run about $550). The press lenses (Ektars, Optars, Raptars, some Schneiders and Rodenstocks) have limited coverage and so don't allow a lot of camera movements, but if you are just beginning in LF, and primarily interested in portraits and landscapes, they should be fine.

I suggest you try for 3-4 less expensive lenses like the Ektars above; these will give you a lot more options for composing landscapes than only two lenses. Check out the May portrait thread for an example of what can be done with a 127 Ektar....

Give some thought to filters, filter holders, etc., esp. for landscapes. Check out the Cokin P system. If you go with Ektars, you will need Series VI to VII and possibly to VIII step up rings for your filter adapters. Filters are critical. You may know this already. Likewise for a light meter.

I have printed 40 x 50" from 4x5 scanned on an Epson 4990; it can be done, with stunning results, although I have found someone with a drum scanning business who is very, very reasonable. All my large prints in the future will be drum scanned.

Frankly, I would put together a relatively inexpensive kit and plan on spending relatively more money on film and developing to learn the process. Expect a learning curve. For example, I think of my first 50 or so sheets of film, I blew half of them b/c I wasn't loading the film properly.

5-May-2010, 15:25
Thanks guys, there is some great information here and thanks for the help. I'm expecting a big learning curve as you say Michael but I'm looking forward to it. You asked will I be shooting B&W or Colour and I would say a mixture of both but predominantly colour. I think a field camera sounds more practical for me as I have a series of pictures I plan to do on a mountain range here later in the year and I reckon there'll be some walking andclimbing involved. The lighter the better I think.
I will check out the rest of the forum. Looks like there's lots of great stuff there..Thanks again

5-May-2010, 16:22
Hi Kingfisher, with a bit of searching, these forums will give you lots of info and thoughts about the various cameras available. You might also like to check out the UK LF forum at http://www.lf-photo.org.uk/forum Lots of helpful people on there too.

The availability of LF gear is different in the UK compared with the USA (e.g I found that the Osaka/Tachihara 5x4 field camera isn't available new in the UK and is even hard to find used).

In your last post you mentioned that you're thinking lightweight for travelling. The wooden Tachihara or Wista DX models would certainly fit that bill but in your original post you also mentioned that you want to do very long exposures at night. In that case you might find that a more stable, metal camera like the Wista metal models, Toyo 45A or Linhof Technika would be better, if heavier. There are people on here who can better advise about stability for long exposures than me, though.

Good luck


6-May-2010, 02:59
Cheers Gavin..The Long exposures will be of more importance to me overall, so I will definitely look into this. I might be able to find a compromise..something sturdy enough for this type of work but not too heavy. Thanks again for the advice

Michael Roberts
6-May-2010, 05:14
Check this thread for more info on using a Crown Graphic for landscape work:


I find it a good combination of light weight and rigidity (but, again, very limited movements).

If you decide to go with the Osaka type camera, your original idea of using two lenses is certainly not a bad idea. With this camera, you would probably want lenses that would allow more movements than press cameral lenses.

My first lens was a Schneider 150/265 convertible. The 150 is very very sharp. They can be found for under $200--maybe as low as $150. The 265 gives you a longer option for b&w only (not corrected for color).

But then you would have to decide whether to go shorter or longer for a second lens....tough decision. I use my 150/152 lenses most often on 4x5 so I wouldn't want to do w/o one. 90mm Super Angulons run about $300. There are a plethora of good lenses in the 210 range that are affordable. The difference between 150 and 210 may be too small for a two-lens kit. Any longer than 250mm is tough to find an affordable lightweight lens.

6-May-2010, 05:53
Great...Thanks for the help. This is helping to narrow down the search

Robert Hughes
6-May-2010, 08:41
Its been recommended I look into an Osaka 4 x 5 with two lenses..one for landscape and one for portrait??
You'll need two kinds of film holders too - one for black, one for white. :p

You don't need to spend a mint to get into LF photography. I started with a Busch Pressman D with 135 Raptar lens - cost was about $150. And I still use that camera; it does what I need a camera to do - hold film and lens, with some dark empty space in between.