View Full Version : Wooden Field camera + 150mm. Tight budget!

Peter Josefsson
11-Jun-2010, 16:23

The past year I've borrowed a Toyo 45A from school and got used to the process rather quickly and find myself grabbing the Toyo more often then my 6x7 camera (MF).
Now when I graduated I will start studying for a BFA in the fall. The sad thing is that they only have a monorail camera. I've used a Horseman and a Sinar a couple of times but I prefer a more lightweight field camera.

Now I'm in great need of buying my own! I'm not that into the technical part (wich brand, the sharpest lens etc.). I only know how to work it, don't know how to buy it. To buy a great equipment is easy if you have a pair of goldpants, but my budget is tight as hell! I'm a poor Swedish student and will probably have about $750 to spend on a camera after this summer (this must also cover the shipping costs to Sweden)... Therefore I hope you guys could give me som help where and what to buy. Right now I'm only looking on Ebay untill I get access to the "For Sale/Wanted" section on this forum.

I'm looking for a lightweight wooden field camera with a 150/5.6 lens. I'm not that into all this crazy movements where the camera looks like an angry cobra. Sometimes I have to straighten up some lines, but that's about it. The Toyo has served me well. But now I want wood. Toyo is great, but uggly!

ps. excuse my bad English...

Best Regards
Peter Josefsson

Steve Feldman
11-Jun-2010, 17:18
hej dĺlig fotograf,

My Swedish is probably worse than your English. But I understand you perfectly. Here's a few thoughts for you:

Camera: Crown Graphic press camera (the case really is wood) - Ebay average price $150 - $200 USD. IMHO don't pay more than $200 - Always many for sale at Ebay. Usually a 135mm Schneider included in that price. Some movements. Folds up easily. Not too heavy. As basic as 4x5 can get.

Or . . .

Burke & James wood view camera. 5x7" will also shoot 4x5" with adapter back. More movements possible than your crazed angry cobra. Has very long bellows so it can take very long lenses. Not very light. (about 8 lbs.) Ebay average cost $200 USD. Careful, many of these have been used hard and put away badly. IMHO $200 should get you a good one. A lens from 135mm to 165mm is normal for 4x5. Here's your biggest investment. Expect to pay $100 - $200 USD for Schneider or Rodenstock. Think about a Kodak Ektar f7.7 203mm - a bit longer than normal, but who's looking? - old but VERY SHARP at about $200 USD. (My favorite).

You'll also need film holders - get them used for about $5-7 each; a meter - start with and incident meter and get a spot meter later on when you're famous - A Gossen Luna Pro SBC is about $60-100 USD. A tripod - Good ones can get pricey. My advice: Get the one you're prepared to carry. See what's available in your area. They can get really heavy. But heavy means stability and a view camera needs stability. A dark cloth. A black T-shirt or jacket will do. Or make one. Keep it cheap. Oh, and get some film too. Try Ilford HP5 asa 400. Maybe a filter or two.

There you go for less that $700 USD. Oh, plus shipping. I'm sure that much of what you'll need is available somewhere in Europe.

And then you can get a darkroom set up . . . . . . But that's for another day.

lycka till,

~Steve (L.A., CA - USA)

Brian Schall
11-Jun-2010, 17:31
Actually, I have a Tachihara with 150mm (plus other lenses) that I plan to put up for sale beginning next month (I'm on vacation until then). Definitely will be in your price range. The Tachihara only weighs 3.5 lbs.

Peter Josefsson
11-Jun-2010, 18:07
Steve: Thanks, but I did'nt mean it has to be wood just because i like te material. I like the classic look on the wooden field cameras. A friend of a friend showed my his last fall and since then I decided that if I had to buy my own 4x5 camera sometime it definitely has to be one like that. I don't remeber what brand it was, but it was really small with silver details.
I have never used a Speed Graphic but what I've read about it, it sound ok. But it's not what I'm looking for.

I allready have a ok tripod and a lightmeter. I will probably not go for a spotmeter. I allways meter the same and allways get the exposure as I want.
But something I was thinking about, that maybe you could help me with, is what loupe I have to buy, and what a good one cost? I think i've used a horseman 8x loupe the last couple of months, and it felt expensive...?
I will get some filmholders from ebay. But no need for film. I have literally the whole fridge full of Kodak 160nc/vc and Fuji 160s ;)

Tack för att du tog dig tid, Steve!

Brian: I am definitely interested! I actually just read about Tachihara and didn't thought it would fit my budget. Do you have any photos of the camera and the lens?
Next month suits me then I will have got paid and have the money.

Thomas Greutmann
11-Jun-2010, 22:39
if you really want a wooden field camera I suggest you keep on checking on ebay for Tachihara or Wista DX, maybe also Shen Hao. You might find just what you are looking for.

With a $750 budget it will be a close fit, though. A Crown Graphic (as Steve suggested) or an older MPP (can be often found on the UK ebay site) will give you more room, moneywise.

Keep in mind that if you buy from outside the EU (Asia, US) you will have to pay import VAT and custom duties. That is usually around 25% on cost of goods plus shipping. That will eat into your budget.

Suggestions for a budget 150mm lens: Schneider Symmar or APO Ronar. The APO Ronar just covers 4x5 with very little movement, but it is a lovely little lens, very sharp.

Greetings, Thomas

Emmanuel BIGLER
12-Jun-2010, 01:56
Hello from France, Peter !
In those days where the Euro currency exchange (ahem : do not know for the Swedish Krona..) drops with respect to the US dollar, Thomas is right to point out "hidden costs" when buying outside the EU.

Classical American press cameras are probably the kind of camera you should consider, and some of our readers will be happy to help you with first-hand experience
but the offer in Europe for American press cameras is not as plethoric as in the US.

You should have a look at the "for sale / wanted' section of our French forum galerie-photo.info ("occasions" is the word for "second hand" or "used")
American press cameras do not surface there very often, but most of the people there do read and speak English. You could also find a lens.

You could also have a look at this range of wooden cameras made in Switzerland by a small team of ingenious people in the Watch Country :

And even if this range of cameras does not fit (yet) within your budget, you should have a look at this nice offer of wooden field cameras made in Hungary under the brand Argentum Cameras by a passionate craftsman, István Soltész.
You'll find an interview of István Soltész here (in English)

12-Jun-2010, 02:33
Don't go for a Press camera because the movements are very limited, I use them but only really for hand-held work, I much prefer my Wista on a tripod/

In Europe Press cameras are fetching ridiculously high prices for what they are. MPP Mk VII or VIII are excellent, plenty of movements, rotating backs etc but metal and pricey, nice cameras though based on the 1938/9 Linhof.

Ebay,co.uk & Ebay.co.de are worth keeping an eye on, the login name & password is identical regardless which you use, as is the US .com, The searches work differently as the categories don't always overlap in the same way, save & watch on one and it carries through to all.


Ulrich Drolshagen
12-Jun-2010, 02:57
What about a Shen Hao PTB 54 (//www.robertwhite.co.uk/product.asp?P_ID=2336&PT_ID=437") should be about 600€ including VAT. For 150€ and a little patience it should be possible to get an older 150mm in good condition.


Peter Josefsson
12-Jun-2010, 03:49
Thanks guys!

A press camera is out of the question. I rather stick with the railcamera school has to offer me untill I get enough money. Maybe I could take some extra hours at my summerwork. But I wouldn't get more then maybe... $850-900 to spend, and not a penny more.

I got some great offers in private messages wich I will consider. I know about the tax and all the fees if I buy overseas. I have bought lots of things through globa.ebay.com. I got my 6x7 camera from US and no fees except shipping. But somehow everytime I buy film I have to pay all this stupid fees that's killing me.

Shen Hao looks really really nice! Someone here who has one?

Steve Feldman
12-Jun-2010, 14:20

OK. No Press camera. A Crown / Speed Graphic really is made of wood. It's under all of the metal and leatherette.

As for a loupe try a Omega or Toyo 3x to 4x power. High power loupes (8-10x) will have you focusing on the grain of the ground glass not the image. More is not always better. And they're not expensive. About $30-$50 USD.


12-Jun-2010, 15:20
It sounds like a press camera would suit your needs well. (small budget, enough movement to straigten some lines, light weight). It would also fold into a nice rugged case (the body) unlike most field cameras.

How the camera looks is really overrated. Borrow someone's speed/crown for a weekend or buy one, use it for a couple weeks and sell it. Unlike a car (which I think should look good as a condition of ownership), it's what the camera helps you do that matters.

A Fuji 150 5.6 will be a very nice inexpensive lens for the camera, whatever you get. Nothing wrong with the other suggested choices either, just providing more options. Some sort of older tessar lens would be good and versatile too (for B&W work). Just budget some money for a CLA if the seller doesn't know exactly how the shutter is working (for any lens)

For 4x5 and smaller, $100 will get you a nice tiltall tripod. You can use bigger cameras on it, under certain conditions if you are careful.

$100 should buy you a stack of film holders and 50 sheets of film.

You might want some darkroom/processing stuff as well. Some schools have nice facilities, others have junk that frustrates.

Wade D
12-Jun-2010, 18:06
If you can find one in good shape a Graflex Crown View is very compact and light weight. Not much in the way of movements but you said that didn't matter. I mentioned in good shape because they are old (mid 1940's) and most have seen better days. I used one for back packing for years and really liked it.

13-Jun-2010, 00:02
I'd suggest looking into a Gaoersi x8 loupe - I've tried four others and this wins hands-down! The others are now paperweights :p

For example. . .


I shoot with a Shen Hao HZX45 IIA wooden field camera but the controls are a bit flimsy for me. The reason I bought it is because my 4x5 Arca Swiss is about 3 times the weight, but I love the ease of use of the AS – if I'm not traveling far from the car that's what I prefer to use.

May I suggest you find a few other LF shooters in your area and ask to have them 'demo' their cameras to you? That way you will actually have a camera or two in your hands and feel the movements before plopping down some of that money from your last bank heist. . .er. . . withdrawal :rolleyes:

Good luck,