View Full Version : Yet another"which LF should I buy" post -- but w/ redeemable qualities

John Elstad
4-May-2002, 21:55
Hi guys, first I'd like to say that I've already spent literally dozens of hours researching LF cameras and visiting photo stores, but I've become almost parali zed with too much information. Fortunately, I?ve been able to narrow my choices down to three monorail cameras. I'd like to turn it over to you all to help me through the final stretch.

The camera I buy will be used almost exclusively in the field and possibly on hi kes. I'm not too worried about the weight of the camera, but bulk is an issue. My subjects range from macro to landscape. I'd like something that is reliable , easy-to-use (and relatively quick on setup/breakdown), precise, and affordable (probably the most important feature).

I'm currently using a Speed Graphic which I outgrew in about a week. I want lot s of symetrical movements that I feel only a monorail design could provide. How ever, I should note that I?m still very new to large format (<5 months) so the l ittle gizmos that Sinar offers are very tempting (DOF, tilt, and swing calculato rs).

Anyway, here are the finalists (in no particular order) along with their prices and their perceived strengths and weaknesses:

Sinar F1 ($700): Good: easy to use; yaw-free; DOF, tilt, and swing calculators; Graflok compatibi lity Bad: not particularly precise, kind of heavy and bulky, not highly regarded

Sinar Norma ($800-$1000): Good: very stable and well built, relatively cheap, light (~5 lbs.), compact, hi ghly regarded, compatible with current Sinar accessories, easy to use, Graflok b ack Bad: not yaw-free, no DOF or swing calculators

Arca Swiss Discovery w/ Caltar 150mm II-N & accessories ($1200): Good: yaw free, cheaper than AS F-line w/ most of features, quality build, Grafl ok compatibility, precise Bad: poor product support, no DOF calculator etc.

Sorry for the exceedingly long post. I hope there?s enough information here to give you an idea of what might be a good match. I?m still open to suggestions o f other cameras, but please bear in mind that I?m only considering monorail desi gns that can be purchased for less than $1,200 used.

Thank you all very very much. I really do appreciate your time and consideratio n to my current situation.

Dave Schneidr
4-May-2002, 22:06
If you ask me you should use the Speed Graphic for a while longer until you really understand what you are lacking or what is is that you need. Where exactly is the Graphic lacking?

Matthew Runde
4-May-2002, 23:24
<a name="1">John,</a>

I, too, am new to LF, but I'm using a spectacular camera. It's a used Linhof Kardan Bi, and I would recommend that you check it out if you haven't done so. It's rock-solid, has base- and axial tilts, geared focus and shift, and looks like such a precise piece of technical equipment that people say "Wow" when they see it.

As with any camera, there are reasons not to buy it. It's a bit heavy (about 10 pounds). Also, accessories and parts may be hard to find (I'm not sure whether or not the camera can be used with new accessories or parts). Linhof accessories are, in my opinion, best left to buyers with deeper-than-normal pockets - buyers such as the Department of Defense.

The Kardan Bi would probably be near the top of your price range, but the quality of the camera is amazing. I think that you would be very happy with it.

David R Munson
4-May-2002, 23:55
Like Matthew, I use a Kardan Bi and it really is a great system. I second everything he says and have a few things to add myself. First, accessories to fit the rail are no longer made and can be hard to find and expensive when you do find them. On the other hand, all accessories like backs, bellows, and lensboards are standard and you can use current accessories of that type. The basic rail is 12" long and 12" rail extensions don't seem to be too terribly hard to locate if you know where to look. I've found that for most stuff the 12" rail is fine, and in circumstances when I've needed more extension, I've just used rise, base tilt, and axis tilt to cantilever the front and back out, and in this manner you can essentially double the extension without a rail extension. While it has its limitations, it really is a fantastic camera system on par with almost any current offering.

Kevin J. Kolosky
5-May-2002, 00:11

When I started in large format a long long time ago I had a calumet. today I own a sinar, but there are many times when I would just as well have that calumet back, or maybe the cambo that I traded it in on. I would definitely spend less money on the camera and alot more money on the lenses, a good tripod, and a good light meter. That is because unless you are doing architecture or table top stuff you will be surprised at how little camera movement you use, and how easy it is to do by just watching the ground glass. So why put all of that money into the box, when it is the lenses that will give you the quality you are after. I think you can get a nice calumet with a revolving back for a couple of hundred bucks or a cambo for not much more. Buy yourself a Pentax 1 degree zone vi modified meter and a carbon fiber tripod with the money you save.


John Hicks
5-May-2002, 00:55
FWIW long ago I found monorail cameras to be an incredible pain in the posterior as far as toting the things around goes. They can be lightweight but they can a lso be really bulky.

Of the ones you mentioned, if I had to choose from monorails, the Sinal F/F1 w ould be the one simply because it can be taken apart and packed relatively flat and it's plentiful on the used-gear market so can be had for a reasonable price.

I strongly feel that the way to proceed, and the way you _will_ proceed either intentionally or unintentionally, is to buy _something_ and go shoot lots of fi lm and you'll surely learn what sort of camera you really want. You can't possib ly know that yet, so don't get bogged down. Buy a used camera in decent conditio n and you'll most likely get pretty much what you paid for it back when resale t ime comes.

5-May-2002, 01:11
I agree with Kevin. you may WANT a monorail to use in the field,.. and you may THINK you need a lot of movements. But after shooting for awhile, you will find that you don't. The only really useful movement for most field work is tilt, and nearly all LF cameras offer that in some form or another. You said that weight is not so critical as bulk - well, I know of no monorail that is more compact than a field camera (nor lighter).

John Elstad
5-May-2002, 03:01
Thanks for all the very helpful replies. I appreciate that I'm still very new to LF and that it's very difficult at this point to know exactly what I'm missing and where I might take LF as I move forward. I must admit that the only movements that I'm missing right now are front tilt and rise. The Speed Graphic has very limited rise (~20mm) and no forward tilt at all. I'd like to be able to eliminate converging verticals in city scapes and also increase DOF in landscapes. If I could say that this was all I was going to need for the rest of my life I'd see the obvious advantage of sticking with a field camera (the Shen Hao in particular is very tempting), but if at all possible, I'd like to get a camera that will allow me to experiment and grow in whatever direction I decide to go.

One last point, I totally agree and understand that ultimately the camera is just a black box and that lenses are key. I already have a Schneider f/8 90mm Super Angulon, and intend to get a good lens in the 180-210mm range in the near future. I also already have a tripod and light meter that I'm very happy with.

Thanks again for all your help!

Ole Tjugen
5-May-2002, 05:01

I started with a Linhof Technica III 5x7". Nice camera, built like a tank, limited movements, and difficult to find film for. I also only had one lens; a 300mm/f:4.5 Schneider Xenar. Some months ago, I came across another oldie, a Linhof Color (NOT Kardan) 4x5, with four lenses. This old camera has all the movement I need, film is (relatively) easy to find, the four lenses (135 Planar, 150 Symmar, 210 APO-Lanthar and 340 Tele-Xenar) cover just about every situation (I've since bought a 90mm Angulon), and it has rotating back. Total price was around $1000 - including the trade-in of my second Technica 5x7 (yes, I had two of them!)

If you're serious about macro, long bellows and stable rail/bed should be more important than tilt/swing/DOF calculators.

Matthew Runkel
5-May-2002, 06:44
I went through a similar decision process within the last year and chose the Arca-Swiss F-C as a first large-format camera. The Discovery seems to offer features very similar to the F-line cameras, and the same relative compactness.

I approached the process much as you have, with a lot of reading and an acknowledgment that the decision would be based on incomplete knowledge not just about view-camera photography but about what my needs were and would become. Incomplete knowledge ruled out a flatbed camera because I couldn?t be confident I understood, or even fully recognized, the interplay of the design compromises involved. Nor, as a beginner, could I be sure that I might not eventually want a longer or shorter lens than a particular flatbed could accommodate, or that I might not someday fall in love with architectural or studio applications I hadn?t yet explored. Not knowing my way around the various camera movements in actual practice, I wanted a straightforward, transparent user interface that would allow my learning curve to be as purely photographic as possible.

One piece of knowledge I did have was that I would be taking the camera outdoors and perhaps carrying it some distance. The Arca- Swiss seemed much less bulky than the Sinars, and people on this board and elsewhere supported it as a fully viable camera for field use short of overnight backpacking. Today I?m sure I wouldn?t want anything bulkier than my Arca-Swiss.

I?ve been delighted with my choice. Not only has the Arca made it very easy to learn things that I could likely have learned with any number of other cameras, but it never leaves me wondering what I could do if more tilt, rise or shift were available. For me, having a lot of not-strictly-needed rise and shift (and lens coverage) has been a nice compositional luxury for landscape work, especially if time is short, conditions are changing, or I am lazy.

As these things often go, of course, I began to do my first overnight backpacking some months after getting my camera, and I sometimes wish I had known about and considered the lightweight Toho FC-45X monorail camera that Kerry Thalmann reviews extensively on his website (http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/toho.htm). It weighs just over 3 pounds, has a longer maximum extension than the basic F1 or Discovery, and sells for $1,295 at Badger Graphic Sales.

Conrad Hoffman
5-May-2002, 09:43
I too started out with a Calumet and was able to do everything I wanted, but not with wide angle lenses. Within its physical limitations, it does as well as any other light-tight box. I sold it then later bought an inexpensive Omega/Toya 45-something. That does just fine too, but with similar limitations on WA use. I wouldn't think extreme motions are often needed for landscape and field work, and I can't imagine taking a monorail camera on a hike! Yuck. The flat bed cameras vary widely in features, but even some of the old Graphics can give you more movements than you might think. First, decide where the subject, lens, and film planes need to be. Then, use any available movement to get the lens and film in the correct relationship, by dropping the front bed, or whatever. Then, align the warped mess to the shot. "Pure" movements are nice if the camera is that flexible, but sometimes you have to get a bit creative with whatever mechanics are available.

Conrad Hoffman
5-May-2002, 09:45
Also, there is no state or federal law that says lenses have to be mounted in the center of lensboards...

Jennifer Waak
5-May-2002, 14:22
John, I will second the vote for the Discovery. I love mine. Fairly lightweight, easy to use, well built, more movements than I have ever needed. It's true there is poor manufacturer support in the U.S., but the few retailers who sell them are FANTASTIC. As a previous poster mentioned, the Toho should probably be in the running based on Kerry Thalmann's reviews as well.

Are you sure the Speed Graphic doesn't have front forward tilt? I just got a Super to play with and it does. I will admit I am not a Graphic expert, but you'd never find the tilt on your own if you didn't know it was there. Takes some playing with it -- from the CameraQuest web site "* Front Tilts are ingeniously hidden. Look at the bottom of the front lens standard, on either side, inside of the knobs which control the back tilt. You will see what appear to be chrome clips which have no obvious purpose. After loosening the lower outside knobs, push down on each of the chrome clips at the same time, and tilt the lens standard forward. Amazingly, the standard tilts forward, who would have thought it?" Welcome to the group!


Henry Ambrose
5-May-2002, 14:25
The Arca outffit seems like a good deal and they are wonderful cameras. Since yo u already have a 90mm lens the 150 that comes with the Arca will give you a nice 2 lens set-up. The camera is simple and I don't really think you'll need any su pport. Can't imagine why you'd worry about the DOF thing - make a chart on paper for your 2 lenses and carry that with you if you need. Oh yeah - keep the Super Graphic for the times you want it for its advantages - compactness toughness an d RF focusing. You do still have the 127 (or whatever) and the cam don't you? Ha ve fun and shoot lots of film.

5-May-2002, 14:52
The Toho looks like a very nice camera, butI have a Gowland pocket view camera (monorail with full front movements, rear swing and tilt) There are no positive detents, so it is a pain in the rear to center, but it weighs in at 2 pounds. That is almost as light as my 35mm camera! I use the velbon maxi325I (very light and cheap).

Price: Gowland view $250 on ebay, tripod $90.00 B&H. Has a spring back, but you can get this camera with the graflock.

John Elstad
5-May-2002, 15:15
Thanks, Jennifer, for the tip on how to get the front standard to tilt forward. Unfortunately, the clips you mention don't exist on the Speed and Crown Graphics, only the Super I think. However, I should mention that I received an email from Erik Ryberg in which he stated that the front standard can be reversed using basic jewelers tools to achieve downward front tilt. Just thought it was worth mentioning.

Brian Ellis
5-May-2002, 15:29
I've never understood why anyone would take a camera (monorail) designed for one purpose (studio and other indoor work) and then try to adapt it to a use (landscape) for which it was never intended when there are plenty of cameras out there (Wisner, Wista, Technika, Canham, Tachihara, Walker, Shen Hao, et al) designed specifically for the intended use (landscape) to which the ill suited monorail camera is going to be put. I've never heard anyone say they needed the extensive movements of a monorail camera for landscape work - quite the opposite - the movements normally needed for landscape are fairly minimal. And even if for some reason you think you'll need those movements, plenty of field cameras have very extensive movements.

This is in no way intended as a criticism of monorail cameras. It's just that I don't think they're the best choice for landscape work. IMHO you should do yourself a favor, forget about monorails for your landscape work, and get a camera designed for the use to which you plan to put your camera - i.e. a field camera for field use.

Ellis Vener
5-May-2002, 15:54
The only folding camera I know that will fit your needs ("My subjects range from macro to landscape. I'd like something that is reliable, easy-to-use (and relatively quick on setup/breakdown), precise, and affordable (probably the most important feature). ) is the Canham DLC. It will easily do 1:1 macro with a 210 or 240mm lens, yet fits all of your other criteria as well... except for price.

Of the three you mention, the Norma and the Discovery are better than the Sinar F1.The Norma and the Discovery are more rugged, more stable and certainly less bulky.<P. But you want a depth of field/tilt angle calculator. Rodenstock distributes a terrific one: the Rodenstock Depth of field / Scheimpflug calculator. This little device (it is about 8.5 x 11.5 x .5 cm) work s really quickly, is very accurate and costs about US$35.00. it is actually more accurate than the one built into the Sinar F1 camera as it lets you take into account reproduction scale, angle that the camera is tilted at and various formats from 6x4.5cm to 8"x10" -- this last bit is very important as it lets you take into account the more critical focusing requirements of smaller format cameras. it is very easy to use, even for the mathmatically challenged.

Marshall Arbitman
5-May-2002, 16:39

Before weighing in, full disclosure: I'm the one selling the Discovery kit. That said, any of the cameras you and others mentioned might fit easily the bill, as well as some of the others recommended here.

It comes down to which one gets in your way the least and that's entirely personal. If you like your tilt control on the right, it's the Sinar F; on the left, the Arcas. Do you loop your fingers underneath the standards to lift them? Then the Sinar F might feel best. Prefer a geared focus track? Get an Arca, or a Linhof Kardan. There's no right answer and no substitute for laying your hands on each.

Regarding the advice to stick with a "field" camera for the field, I think the whole question's somewhat silly. A Discovery's 6.2 pounds; the Sinar F, about 7; the Linhof Technika 6.6; the Toho monorail about 4 (?). So there's not always a weight advantage to the field camera. Jack Dykinga carries an Arca into the field. So did Saint Ansel in the early '70's. Richard Avedon uses a Wisner Technical Field in the studio. A lunatic friend of mine lugs around a Sinar X.

Yes you can fold a field camera, but not always with the lens still attached. You can set up an Arca OR Sinar in less time than, say a Wisner or Linhof. Sure you don't need extreme movements in the field, but I'd argue monorail movements enjoy the advantage in that they are more, for want of a better word, transparent-- i.e. less fiddly, more secure, fewer knobs and struts to twiddle. But again, this is so personal.

As for the bulk: Arca lensboards are HUGE, so Advantage Sinar. But the Sinar's tripod mount stands very tall, so Advantage Arca. The Arca takes a folding and/or telescoping rail. It mounts directly to Arca, Kirk and Acratech ballheads. Sinar does enjoy better dealer and service support, although there's practically nothing to go wrong with ANY large format camera-- they're incredibly simple devices.

In short you can't go wrong with either. Some help, huh?

David A. Goldfarb
5-May-2002, 19:21
Eric: I have an 8x10" Gowland and I've scribed alignment markings for rise/fall and swing on the camera to make setup quicker. If you're hesitant to take a sharp object to your camera, you can use a pencil.

Kerry L. Thalmann
5-May-2002, 21:15
"I've never understood why anyone would take a camera (monorail) designed for one purpose (studio and other indoor work) and then try to adapt it to a use (landscape) for which it was never intended when there are plenty of cameras out there (Wisner, Wista, Technika, Canham, Tachihara, Walker, Shen Hao, et al) designed specifically for the intended use (landscape) to which the ill suited monorail camera is going to be put."

But... not all monorails are intended to be used in the studio. I don't own a s tudio, never have and likely never will, but all three 4x5 cameras I currently o wn are monorails. Two, the Gowland and the Toho are lighter than any of the "fi eld" cameras mentioned above. In fact, the COMBINED weight of my Gowland (1 lb. 14 oz.) and Toho (2 lb. 12.5 oz.) is lighter than just about all the "field" ca meras mentioned in the quote above. Just because a camera rides on a rail does not mean it is ill suited for use in the field. Certainly cameras like the Gowl and (lightest 4x5 camera ever made) and Toho (lightest 4x5 currently available) are specifically designed to be used in the field - and it is their forte'. "IMHO you should do yourself a favor, forget about monorails for your landscape work, and get a camera designed for the use to which you plan to put your camera - i.e. a field camera for field use."

I think the division of "monorail vs. field" is very imprecise. It makes no all owance for cameras like the Gowlands, Tohos, Arca Swiss F Line, Toyo VX125, Linh of Technikardan, etc. that are monorail cameras designed and sold for use in the field. "Studio vs. field" maybe a better delineation, but is nearly equally va gue.

I understand Brian's point that some of the cameras the original poster asked ab out would be primarily considered "studio" cameras by most. What I object to is the generic sentiment that you should "forget about monorails for your landscap e work". Given that I am a landscape photographer who uses monorails for all of my work, I find that statement a too restrictive and perhaps misleading to anyo ne looking to purchase a "field" camera. When it comes right down to it, if I c ould own only one 4x5 camera for all of my landscape work, it would be the Toho FC-45X. It is not perfect, and it has it's limitations and design compromises ( all cameras do). It does, IMHO offer a very attractive combination of weight, s ize, movements, ease of use, min/max bellows draw, rigidity and price. It also happens to be a monorail. I've used a lot of traditional flat bed folding "fiel d" cameras, and IMHO, none come close to matching the Toho as a lightweight "fie ld" camera for hiking and backpacking.

It may, or may not be the ideal camera for the original poster, but I do think i t is worthy of his consideration. Also, he is not the only one who will read th is thread. So, I wanted to get in my 2 cents on this whole "monorail vs. field" issue for those who may be faced with a similar decision.


dan nguyen
6-May-2002, 00:01
Hi John...

I just came back from Joshua Tree National Park.. a weekend whith Per, Hugo, Gregory, and Nicolas.. tell you this... I've seen the set up of my dream...man.. a Linhoff (Gregory)... if you want light weight ..then talk to John (a beautiful Wisner..) :)...ahhhhhhhhhhh...

Per Volquartz
6-May-2002, 00:13
I have owned a ton of different view cameras:

Speed graphic 4X5, Linhof Kardan B 4X5, Sinar P 4X5 and 8X10, Deardorff 8X10, Cambo 4X5, Wisner Pocket Expedition 5X7 and now a bastardized Sinar 5X7 (a combination of a Norma 5X7 back with a Sinar f2 front).

It is a fact that when you shoot larger film sizes = 5X7 and up the camera body itself is no longer the main weight and volume. Film holders, lenses, lightmeter(s), and tripod will account for the most weight and bulk.

Of all the cameras that I have owned and now own the Sinar P allows for the most direct, no fumble creative approach. All movements offer quick and precise adjustments. You can fully concentrate on the subject matter (and what you see and want to communicate) instead of going through a series of movement adjustments - not only to determine the best perspective and depth of field but also to correct for camera design problems. But the Sinar P is heavy and a bit cumbersome to haul around. Therefore my preference would be a Sinar "C" = a Sinar with a P or P2 back and a simpler, leight weight front standard...but then again that is only my personal preference. Looking at the length of this tread it is obvious that there are many cameras out there that people have adapted to, swear by and prefer over other designs.

So, unfortunately you will not know what your own preference will be until you try a camera (or several cameras) under different conditions.

Struan Gray
6-May-2002, 05:31
I occasionally use a Sinar Norma belonging to my lab for personal stuff. Both standards and the tripod attachment (rail clamp) will fit onto a 6" rail with the standard bellows, so it does fold down into a compact package even if it isn't as light as the Toho. Collapsed like this it fits into a small Arctic Zone cooler and is easy to carry around or fit into a larger rucksack.

Others here have a better idea of the tradeoffs between cameras, but I can't see how the Norma would limit you for the usage you mention, and it would leave money over for more film and travel. They hold their value as well as modern cameras, so provided you don't drop it down the Grand Canyon you will be able to recoup your investment if you feel you need to change later.

Tom Westbrook
6-May-2002, 07:01
Just wanted to note that the product support for the Arcas in the USA isn't all that horrible. I broke a spirit level when my F-line Field blew over in the wind a month or so ago. I got a replacement level vial in about a week after talking to both the Chicago rep and the repair guy(who told me how to replace the level so I wouldn't have to send the standard in). There was some delay in getting the call from repair (confused by which was my home or work #), but all things considered, it was a good experience. Bob, the repair guy, said he had a pretty complete stock of parts and could turn things around quickly, so I wouldn't be too concerned about support from them. The vial cost $10, BTW.

howard singer
6-May-2002, 08:28
you can get front tilt with a crown graphic by attaching the camera to the tripod via the hole under the strap and then moving tripod head to get the camera upside down. i've been doing lf about a year and have resisted the tendency to go for another camera; using graphic view II and crown graphic and via searches find "new" features all the time that allow me to learn more and more without having to go for more expensive equipment so far. putting the money into lenses.

Michael S. Briggs
6-May-2002, 08:46
You can rig up a DOF calculator for almost any view camera--all that is needed is a way to measure the change in focus position of the lens or camera back required to focus on the near and far objects that you want to have in focus. Knowing this value, a table tells you what f-stop to use. See the articles "How to select the f-stop" and "making a DOF calculator for your camera" on the large format photograph page http://www.ai.sri.com/~luong/photography/lf/. For setting the tilt or swing, I think most photographers use an iterative procedure rather than a calculator. Howard Bond gives an excellent description of how to do this: http://www.ai.sri.com/~luong/photography/lf/articles/bond-checklist.html. The point is that the existence of manufacturer supplied calculators doesn't need to be a top criteria for choosing a camera.

Brian Ellis
6-May-2002, 11:26
Hi Kerry - You're right, I should have made it clear that there are monorails designed for field use and I didn't intend to include them in my diatribe.

John Elstad
6-May-2002, 13:58
Thanks again, everybody. As usual, your contributions have been very useful and definitely represent the wide range of experience that comes together in this forum.

Well, I decided to get the Discovery. The combination of low price, precision, capability, and quick setup were the factors that pushed me to make the decision. If this thread hasn't been erased in a month or two I'll drop by to give an update on how it's worked out for me.

Edward Kimball
6-May-2002, 14:04
Hi Brian,

I use a monorail in the field. A cc400. It is a real tank. The reason I bought it was price. Camera and lens were under $200. I have heard that I could get a Speed graphic for about the same price but it would have greatly limited movements. Now that I have the camera I love it. I am a very large man with very large hands and the nobs are easy to use. I have gone out with a friend using a Wisner and the controls seem absolutely tiny. I am still working on an optimal way to carry the beast. If I can all future money will be spent on a sturdy tripod and on glass.

Jerry Flynn
6-May-2002, 17:48
There are a lot of different views offered here, and everyone has some sort of brand loyalty or other storng opinion.

I can only cite 30 years of experience here rather than having a strong theoretical basis for what I say.

I have used both monorail and wooden cameras for landscape photography. I hardly ever take a picture that does not use some movement -- if only a lateral or vertical shift to center the image precisely. I prefer to use back shifts so a not to change the point of view of the lens, if possible. Some wooden cameras have only front movements. I use swings and tilts for DOF for near/far elements in the scene to keep from stopping down all the way -- usually the tilts are not so extreme as to require stoppng down a great deal to cover vignetting. Some cameras do not have full movents both front and back.

Long story short. I use a Sinar -- it has 12" rail which makes it reasonably compact. Therefore, I am accustomed to base tilts and do not find them an undue hardship. The yaw-free part is good for anything approaching tabletop or architectural work -- read, closeups in nature and natural forms you want to keep rectillinear but where you are pointing the camera up or down. Yaw-free is, in my opinion, a minor consideration most of the time. I use the DOF calculator because it is quick and easy. Again, I prefer not to stop down any farther that I have to, and also prefer not to carry a separate calculator or work out hyperfocal distances in the field. The older F and F+ models could fold down on the rail which made them even more compact. The configuration of the A1/F1/F2 does not permit this in quite the same way. A 6" extension packed in a separate compartment may come in handy. I used a Norma 5X7 with my 4X5 F -- mix'n'match works fine.

I happen to use this particular camera. Arca and Linhof and Horseman and all the rest are better if the user believes them to be better and if that gives them added confidence. To each one's own.

So, I use a monorail because that is what I like. If a monorail is what appeals to you, you are not "crazy" -- you should use what appeals to you and works for you. Let other people do likewise without placing value judgements.

What matters is the work.

John Elstad
14-May-2002, 23:43
Well, I just thought I'd follow up with some quick comments about my Arca Swiss Discovery. First of all, I absolutely love it and now understand why people get so emotional when describing Arca Swiss equipment. Everything works better, smoother, and smarter than I anticipated.

The main thing I'd like to address (as became the meat of this thread) is the use of monorails in the field. Last week I took the camera in its soft case (with top handle and shoulder strap) and it was a pain. I spent most of the hike thinking of ways of either converting the case into a backpack or buying a backpack to store the camera. I think that with this setup I'd be reluctant to take the camera to locations where a hike of more than 1/2 mile in each direction was required.

However, once I got the camera to the location, pulling it out of the case and setting it up on the tripod took about as much time as it normall does with my 35mm equipment. From bag to tripod with open shutter takes about fifteen seconds.

So, at least for me, the question becomes one of transportation, not setup. I decided to convert the Arca Swiss soft case into a backpack. I bought some loops and webbing, sewed them to the case, then attached the shoulder straps from my LowePro Trim Trekker. The result was a reasonably comfortable backpack with an awkward weight distribution (far behind my body). I haven't taken it out on a long hike, but I have a feeling that having so much weight so far back will force me to walk in a way that's less sustainable than my normal stance. However, I think I've effectively doubled the comfortable distance to two miles round trip.

Anyway, that's where I am now. If I come up with any further modifications or useful insights I'll add them here.