View Full Version : jumping into LF - found this camera on craigslist

5-Dec-2010, 08:36
Good Morning -

I have been reading this forum for weeks and I am looking to LF because I enjoy making large prints (20x30in) but am finding limitations with the resolution of my DSLR. I would primarily be shooting landscape, and although an 8x10 would be awesome price and size would be limitations.

So it boils down to 4x5 vs 5x7. I have used neither so I cannot speak from experience. I did, however, find this deal on craigslist:

"I have for sale a new Calumet 45NXii camera body that has only been used for a semester of school. And it comes with everything you need to start shooting !!
-Calumet Travel Case
- Caltar 150mm lens f6.3 mounted on board with cap.
-Extra lens board Copal 1
-Three double sided film holders
-Polaroid 545 film holder
-Cable release
-Dark Cloth
-Camera Manual
This camera is in perfect condition, Bellows are new, lens clean, shutters speeds were just tested and work accurately. The Camera back is on a swivel mount so you DO NOT have to take the back off to rotate from vertical to horizontal which is a great feature."

Asking price is $500.

I have a small apartment so i would most likely send film off for developing. Looking to shoot a mixture of both black and white and color

any suggestions?

Thanks in advance!

5-Dec-2010, 09:10
Seems like a good deal.

You will need to look around for a good tripod. You won't get good 20x30 prints if the tripod is shaky. I notice our local pro-photograph shop does not ever have anything in the showroom that would be sturdy enough for a 4x5 camera. Search to forum for some recommendations.

Dan Fromm
5-Dec-2010, 09:19
Take a look at what's on offer at www.keh.com.

The Calumet 45NXii is also sold as the Cambo 45NXii. It is a lightly improved Cambo SC. The Caltar 150/6.3 is a rebadged Rodenstock 150/6.3 Geronar.

Read about the Calumet 45NXii here: http://www.calumetphoto.com/eng/product/calumet_45nxii_4x5_camera/cc4020 It doesn't have a rotating back, it has what is called a reversible back, which can be changed from landscape to portrait orientation and back again. No big deal.

Given KEH's prices the deal isn't too too bad, but haggling is in order.

Read the FAQs on this site before you spend a penny. And think hard before you choose a format.

Bob Kerner
5-Dec-2010, 09:35
I'd suggest before spending any money you find someone (perhaps through the forum here) who has a LF camera and test one out. The workflow is quite different from SLR shooting and almost certainly you're first images will look "rough: compared to what you are producing now, since you'll have to learn the camera movements.

I don't mean to discourage you but test driving someone else's rig may show you that it's not for you and thereby save you $500. If $500 is not a heavy lift or you can resell it, then that price for a full kit is not bad.

You'll likely need a few more film holders. You may find that having only 3 slows down the learning curve some, since you'll have to take time out to reload, send for developing etc.

Vlad Soare
5-Dec-2010, 09:42
That's a good camera, and the price is not bad at all. $500 for a complete kit sounds like a good deal to me.

Bob McCarthy
5-Dec-2010, 09:47
If you take the time to learn the essentials, you will greatly exceed the performance of virtually any digital setup at larger print sizes.

The camera just has to be sound and properly adjusted to do everything you need. Many use 50 + year old equipment with complete success.

This deal is fine and if the LF passion sticks, you can always personalize the system.

Good tripod is "Very important"' BTW material is less important that solid carrying capacity.

My suggestion is stick with 4x5 if your interest is color. If exclusively B+W then larger formats can be considered. But honestly at this print size, 4x5 is you best choice.


5-Dec-2010, 09:50
It seems like an excellent deal. If you decide you don't like LF, I'm sure with a bit of patience you'd get your money out of it on a sale - if the camera is as described. You will need a suitable tripod and some more film holders though.

Brian Ellis
5-Dec-2010, 10:11
The price is o.k. assuming the camera is in good condition and, most importantly, suits your needs. Don't buy it just because it's there at a fair price. As a landscape photographer my guess is that you'd be happier with a field camera rather than a monorail. I didn't notice the weight in Calumet's specs. You certainly should check on that, you don't want to be lugging a 10 pound 4x5 camera around when there are better alternatives.

Oren Grad
5-Dec-2010, 10:12
That's a fair price for what's offered. But it's a heavy and bulky camera, IMO not well-suited to backpacking.

My advice to someone just getting started, especially if interest is primarily in landscape work, would be to look at folding wooden field cameras as well as monorails. Each type has its strengths and weaknesses, but if nothing else, the former tend to be lighter, more compact and much more easily carried in the field.

I'd also look for a six-element plasmat-type lens, such as a 150 Caltar II-N, Sironar-N, Symmar-S or the like, rather than a triplet such as the Caltar II-E. The latter is a competent lens and you can certainly use it to make excellent pictures. But plasmats that are one or two generations old are very fine lenses and are so cheap on the used market these days that I think it pays to go for the better lens.

David Karp
5-Dec-2010, 10:26
That Caltar is a nice lens, but not a lot of room for movements on 4x5, especially compared to a Plasmat design or a 210 Caltar II-E.

The camera is fine too. They go really cheap on EBay. The case is probably expensive when new. That makes the price reasonable.

You can backpack with that camera, but Oren is right. It is not designed for that sort of activity. There are short rails available (approx 12" that you can use with lenses up to 300mm at infinity - 240mm would allow you to move a bit closer). The short rail was designed for use with short focal length lenses. That makes it a bit easier to pack in a backpack.

It is a fine camera for learning LF.

If the back rotates and is not the reversible type that has to be removed and replaced to change orientation, then that makes the deal better. The revolving back is an expensive add-on to the NX-II. It used to be standard on the 45NX. It is not a huge deal, the reversing back is pretty much the standard for view cameras. The revolving back is a nice luxury. I really liked that feature, but it did not stop me from changing cameras when I decided to move on to another monorail.

One way to tell if it is an NX-II is to check the length of the monorail. The NX had a 21.25" monorail. At least when first introduced, the 45NX-II had a shorter rail.

5-Dec-2010, 11:25
Although it is a good deal it is not an unusual good deal. You can also find good deals on cameras much better suited to your needs. If for you the main reason to buy it is the good deal element then restrain yourself - read more about LF cameras and find a good deal that will be much better suited for you. Like that you kill two birds with one stone...

5-Dec-2010, 12:35
Calumet, over the years has specalized in the student market. They make no camera's or lenses, but rather buy from mainstream companies and have the products branded under their name.

That's not to say it's not good equipment. It's just that Calumet is often found for sale by photo schools and colleges. As such, Calumet equipment is often well used, and does not draw much interest in the used market. Looks like you found a private owner example and while in good shape, may have some haggle room on price.

The Caltar lenses were re-branded from Schneider and Rodenstock and good glass. Not seconds as some think. However, when (if) you decide to move up in size, the resale on your Calumet gear will be less easy than the same camera as a Cambo, or the same lens as a Rodenstock.

It's decent stuff and the package deal is a good price, considering the chasing around you will do to put all this stuff together. If I were starting out and not fixated on 5X7, I'd go for it, although I'd love to shave a bit off the price... $400-450?

More and more of these deals pop up, and you should consider your future with this camera, simply because of the brand, not necessarily the quality.

My thinking would be to get a year out of it and try to peddle the camera/lens ONLY for $$300 to $350, unless you are getting out altogether. If you get out altogether, sell it as a kit, just like you bought it.

5-Dec-2010, 13:09
If you like, you can buy my 4x5 field camera (Toko but identical in every way to a Wista field camera, as far as I can see) for $350 and 135mm Sironar S for $550, and I will include a lensboard, cable release and 12 darkslides. Thats more than $500 but a better deal and you will end up with something like that anyway. PM me if interested.


5-Dec-2010, 13:39
You are correct that even a 4x5 can produce images that have noticeably more detail than a good DSLR. I started shooting my SHen Hao field camera again for that reason. However there is one little detail you are overlooking. You will also need a scanner. I just bought a used Epson v700 for $300. That jumps your $500 to $800 pretty quickly. I'd go with 4x5 rather the 5x7 as there is more film choices.

Kent in SD

Jim Michael
5-Dec-2010, 15:14
When you shoot landscape where do you go? Do you hike a bit to the site? Are you carrying camping gear? Do you tend to shoot at extremes (wide or tele)? A more sensible approach might be to determine what camera meets your requirements, then go from there.

5-Dec-2010, 15:38
Wow tons of great advice here - thanks for all of the help

I agree a field camera would be a better fit. I shoot mostly wide angle - a few tele, but i'd say 80% wide.

I wont be traveling far from my car - and no camping with it (yet). As I live in the city shooting urban environments is also an interest

So I suppose narrowing down what im actually looking for Im guessing a field camera, light weight, and some decent wide angle glass. Does that sound reasonable?

a $500 starting budget is what I had in mind - is that reasonable?

mdm i will keep this in mind


6-Dec-2010, 09:39
There is a really similar deal on Seattle Craigslist right now for $225.Calumet camera (can't tell what type but it's a big rail model) and a Caltar II-N 135mm.

6-Dec-2010, 11:25
Toprock, You have yet to address the question of a tripod and if you have that either in-hand or in-budget. Lots of folks here recommend a Tiltall. They can sometimes be found in these parts for something like $65.

It would be difficult to get started in LF for $500 other than with an entry level monorail like the Calumet. Field cameras seem to start around $350, usually with some condition problems, and without a lens. There are a lot of very capable lenses selling for $150 or less these days, for example a 150mm/9 G-Claron, a 210mm/5.6 Caltar SII (Schneider Symmar -S) or a similar length or slightly longer Xenar or other tessar design. Beyond 254mm (10 inches), a tessar becomes a capable 8x10 lens and so commands a premium. For bargains in longer lenses you need to look for a barrel mounted Artar-like process lens and learn to uses a lens cap as a shutter.

I have no experience with the 150/6.3 Caltar-IIE, but I would be wary of any triplet of that length on 4x5. If you stop down sufficiently, it will probably provide acceptable sharpness for moderate enlargements, but it will have no extra coverage. One good thing is that they do seem to hold their value well, probably because they are relatively modern, are mounted in modern shutters and are made by Rodenstock.

I own the Calumet NX with a bag bellows mounted on a 12" rail, which I find useful for lenses from 65mm to 240mm. (Using the 65mm requires a recessed lens board and clamping the rail behind the rear standard to focus to infinity.) The short rail makes the camera much easier to transport the way that you intend. On the other hand I will almost always leave it at home and take out my 5x7 field camera instead.

I am not a fan of the Cambo revolving back. To me it just adds weight. These too seem to still command a fair price, so others obviously value them.

I am afraid that the Polaroid 545 is a doorstop unless you have some well cared for, out-of-date film.

I would consider negotiating the best price for the package you found and be prepared trade away the lens if it is not satisfactory, and the revolving back too, if you need to fund a tripod.

Finally, I love 5x7, but would recommend sticking with 4x5 to start. Not only is it cheaper to acquire the camera and film, but also it would simplify finding a capable lab (and maybe darkroom equipment of your own someday.)

8-Dec-2010, 11:06
If I wanted a 4x5 camera for an urban enviornment I might look for a decent Crown or Speed Graphic. Something I could use hand held or on a tripod. One that came with a decent Kodak 127mm Ektar lens. The lens approximates 35mm on 35mm film. We all know that the 35mm lens is the darling of street photographers everywhere. You won't have all the movements that a monorail or field camera offers. You will have significantly more "movement" as in portability.
As you use the Graphic, you can make mental notes on what it won't so and therefore what to look for in a second camera.
The original deal you mentioned is a $500 tip of the iceberg thing. There are more things to buy. Film. Developing stuff. Etc. It ads up.
I restarted my 4x5 adventure with a 1952 Speed Graphic, 127mm Ektar lens, 5 holders and few odds and ends. Best $100 I ever spent.
Good luck.

8-Dec-2010, 14:37
I can't recall but, itsn't this a monorail studio camera? You'd prolly do much better with a Crown or Speed Graphic; Small, portable and, you won't need much bellows for landscape. Your tripod required might also be smaller.

You can also get a real nice setup for $200 and they generally resell relatively quickly.

17-Dec-2010, 13:28
fwiw I saw a Sinar F go for $135 about a month ago on THE auction site. No lens, but had GG and back. I saw a BOGEN 3033 Professional Tripod, Manfrotto Head #3047 go for $115 in the same place. That leaves you $250 for a lens, which is easy if looking for a 210, 150, or even a 90/8. If you're ultra frugal you might be able to get 2 (e.g. 135 Ektar/Optar, and 90/6.8 Angulon) lenses for $250. Buying into LF can be done on the cheap, but patience is key, and timing and luck take care of the rest.

Doug Herta
18-Dec-2010, 00:11
There is a really similar deal on Seattle Craigslist right now for $225.Calumet camera (can't tell what type but it's a big rail model) and a Caltar II-N 135mm.

I've been watching that one too - I can't imagine why it hasn't sold.