View Full Version : Which cameras to buy?

David Solow
1-Mar-2011, 02:55
I haven't used a view camera, since I was in school 30 years ago. I would like to get back to using one (or two, as the case may be). I have been reading this site and doing research concerning LF cameras and lenses. I have a few different uses for the camera(s). I shoot landscapes and architectural interiors and exteriors, in both daylight and very low light (long exposures). In 35mm, I use 14mm to 24mm at least 90% of the time. I shoot portraits and fashion both on location and in the studio with 500 W monolights (no natural light in the studio). For portraits, I use 85mm to 135mm at least 90% of the time with my 35mm camera. For fashion, I use a wider range of lenses. I also do some product work for small objects, for which I use a 105mm macro much of the time. For the architectural and product work, I would like a large range of movement for the tilts, swings and shifts. For the landscape, portrait and fashion work, not as much. I have been looking at the Sinar P2, the Linhof Karden GT and the GTL for monorails and the Linhof Master Techika Classic and 3000 for field cameras. I would appreciate any comments as to which camera or cameras would cover my needs. I would consider getting two cameras, if one doesn't work for all my uses. Thanks.

Bob McCarthy
1-Mar-2011, 03:06
Welcome aboard. Seems like you have a grounding on what you want. If you have any questions to fill missing gaps fire away.

As to cameras the choices you have made will all fit the bill. Its more a question of economics. Unless you just like to burn money, there is a surplus of cameras out there as some of our weaker brothers departed film a few years back. The knowing stayed behind and the resulting glut of cameras made it a buyers market.

So you can find a newish P out there for 20 cents on the dollar verses new. Same with lenses.

Don't get me wrong, it's nice to own "new".

Your bias is to metal cameras, no reason to change.


David Solow
1-Mar-2011, 03:27
Thanks for your response, Bob. I'm looking to shoot 4x5. Although, I listed cameras I was looking at, but I am very happy to consider others, including used equipment. For field work, are there pros and cons for using the Linhof Master Techika 3000 versus the classic versus other field camera that might fit my needs of using lenses from 47mm to 300mm or even 360mm, for landscape, fashion and portraiture?

David Solow
1-Mar-2011, 04:21
To be more clear about my initial posting:
Is there one 4x5 camera (either monorail or field) that I can use that has a generous range of precise movements (for use with architectural and product work) and the ability to easily use lenses from 47mm to 360mm (including a 180mm Macro at maximum magnification)? For instance, I am shooting a tall building at close range using a 58mm lens and needing to use a significant range of movements, as far as tilt, swing, shift and rise and fall are concerned. What camera would be best? or I'm in the studio, shooting a diamond ring with intricate filigree work on a lighted shooting table, with studio strobes and a 180mm macro lens at 2:1 or even 3:1 shooting ratio. Again, what camera would be best? Would that same camera be ideal for fashion and portraiture? How about with a 47mm lens, shooting a landscape of a city skyline at night? I know these are a wide range of uses, but I would want to shoot all of these things.

1-Mar-2011, 04:33
Based on the Architecture requirements I would look at a Cambo or Sinar F2 both of these have scales that help fine tune the movements for perspective control. They both allow for longer bellows which may be used for longer focal length lenses and can have rail extensions. I normally use a wooden field camera, Shen Hao, for most of my landscape work and picked up a Cambo SC for occasional architecture use.

Gem Singer
1-Mar-2011, 06:48

Take a look at the Arca Swiss line of metal monorail 4x5 cameras.

There are several models that will fit your needs.

Noah A
1-Mar-2011, 07:03
I'd look into a Linhof Technikardan. Preferably the newer S model which adds more rigidity and center detents on the swings and tilts.

The TK45S combines (most of) the movement capabilities of a monorail with (most of) the portability of a field camera. It can be used with a large variety of lenses and really shines with wideangles.

Truth be told, you could use any inexpensive monorails for the studio fashion work--it doesn't require a lot of movements and weight (I would assume) isn't important. A Sinar or one of the Linhof monorails you mentioned would work fine, as would pretty much any monorail.

The problem is with the architectural work...it sounds like that's where you wanted to use the field camera, and, while the MT3000 is great with wideangles, I'd argue that you can't beat a monorail for interiors, architecture and cityscapes. I switched from a Wista metal field camera, which admittedly is no MT3000, but I was constantly running into limitations with movements. I could not max out the capability of, say, 90mm or 115mm Grandagons.

With the TK45s and the (excellent) bag bellows, I can max out the movements on all of my lenses. The bellows never interferes, which was a problem with the smaller field-camera bellows. The standard bellows is also great, no problems with bellows flare like you might have in a field camera and again, you can get more movement than you'd ever need with lenses 150mm and up. The camera is a real pleasure to use, and it has a very nice, well-engineered 'feel'.

You'll here some comments about the camera being hard to fold (it isn't really, I picked it up after a few tries). It seems a bit fiddly at first and because of the misinformation I read online, I resisted trying one for a while. But the camera really grew on me. It's actually very intuitive and once you get to know it, it's very fast to shoot with.

For studio work, it's precise and has plenty of extension for most purposes. For field work, it folds down and is compact enough to fit in a Domke satchel with a few big lenses and film holders.

Another camera that could work for all of your needs is the Arca-Swiss F-metric. I used one in 8x10 format a few years ago and it was great. It's a compact monorail that works well in the field and in the studio. Advantages are geared rise and shift and the fact that it's more modular, so you can add extension rails, etc. (Though this can be a disadvantage in the field, where the TK is self-contained so there are no extra bits to mess with or lose.) The main disadvantage is that the cameras are pricey, and cameras/accessories can be hard to find used (or even new, in some cases).

When I bought my TK it was basically because I couldn't afford the Arca F-metric I really wanted. In the end, I like the TK better. You should be able to find one on the used market for $1500-2000 for a really nice one and sometimes that will include a bag bellows.

Frank Petronio
1-Mar-2011, 07:03
Any of the "system" cameras that allow you to interchange bellows and standards, extend rails, etc. will suit you, from the Toyo G, Cambo, Horseman, Sinar, Linhof, and Arca-Swiss lines that are popular-readily available, at least used on eBay.

You get a lot of value from the Cambo, Toyo, and Horseman lines. The Linhof monorails are probably the very best quality but Arca-Swiss has come a long way and is perhaps a bit more compact for travel. Sinar is widely available and very serviceable.... If you buy their better, later models in good condition then they're all going to work fine.

That said, with a generous budget and no concerns about weight/bulk I'd get a full on Linhof GTL system with a heavy tripod (yes it has depth of field scales too lol). I don't know what it might cost, it is that expensive....

But a near mint 4x5 Sinar P2 set-up with all the accessories (less lenses) can be had for under $2K on eBay and that is pretty sweet.

If you want rugged and compact, a Linhof Technika can't be beat. You give up the most extreme movements with the extreme lenses but it manages to handle wides and longs better than any other folding clamshell camera. You only need the rangefinder model if you want to handhold with cammed lenses.

On a budget, you see older but still decent Sinar Ps selling for $600 and Toyo/Cambo/Horseman and even some Linhofs and older Arcas for less. They are all going to make just as good a picture as a $10,000 camera.

From a real-world, practical point of view, you could get a nice Sinar monorail (an older Norma is great) system for architecture and more careful stuff, and a compact folding field camera for quicker, travel shooting -- for less than the cost of, say, a Sinar P2 or fancy pants Arca set-up. Then you'd have the right camera for the right situation....

1-Mar-2011, 07:36

Welcome aboard.
I have several models but keep going back to the Linhof Master Technika for its ease of use and ruggedness. It folds quickly and with a reflexright-angled viewfinder allows for work in the field without a darkcloth which can be a real pain in the neck especially in the blazing sun. It works better in windy conditions as well! The 65mm, 75mm and the 90mm lenses work great for landscapes.
Good luck in your search.

Bob McCarthy
1-Mar-2011, 08:07
Thanks for your response, Bob. I'm looking to shoot 4x5. Although, I listed cameras I was looking at, but I am very happy to consider others, including used equipment. For field work, are there pros and cons for using the Linhof Master Techika 3000 versus the classic versus other field camera that might fit my needs of using lenses from 47mm to 300mm or even 360mm, for landscape, fashion and portraiture?

I had a Technika 2000 and was very happy with it. I prefer it over the master, because I didnt need a rangefinder, and the inner focus rail within the box allows for very wide lenses. The 3000 changed the setup to allow an external knob to focus the inner rail instead of a lever. Nice addition, but forces one to buy new.

I use Sinar's as I want the extensive movement of a monorail and I found a way to use an F in the field without needing to go to the less capable field camera. You will no doubt fine others disagree on the limits of the folding field camera.

I use an 8x10 P for my main (close to the car) work.


David Solow
1-Mar-2011, 11:20
Thank you all for such great information. I should have joined weeks ago and saved myself hours of research. I'm not sure exactly which direction to take--a lot of that will depend on which cameras are available in the used market, but I definitely have more ways to go.

Thanks again,


1-Mar-2011, 13:31
If you want rugged and compact, a Linhof Technika can't be beat. You give up the most extreme movements with the extreme lenses but it manages to handle wides and longs better than any other folding clamshell camera. You only need the rangefinder model if you want to handhold with cammed lenses.


Although I agree with you about the exceptional quality of the Linhof Technika camera the rangefinder model is useful for more than just handhold photography. It makes photography on tripod easier and quicker as well. If only all view cameras could have their rangefinder with cammed lenses!

Scott Davis
1-Mar-2011, 14:03
One more camera to think about, more as a field camera than a studio camera, is the Canham DLC 45 (since you're aiming for metal cameras). It has the movements you'd need for architecture and can handle the full range of lenses you're looking for for general purpose work, all on a single bellows. It's not a system camera or a technical camera like a Sinar, so for studio work you'd probably still want to look into one of those, but for field work they're awesome. Very lightweight and compact and versatile.

Frank Petronio
1-Mar-2011, 14:25
I'm probably one of the worst examples of this but most of the regulars here are fairly promiscuous with their choice of cameras. It truly is a buyers' market these days so you can have a wonderful monorail camera for pennies on the dollar. I say it's fun to experiment and sample the different types of cameras and experience some of the more exotic items that were too expensive to touch, from 180 to about 10 years ago, back in the heyday of commercial large-format photography... when there was a purpose for using these things.

The exceptions are the premium prices paid for lightweight, wooden cameras made from rare hardwoods, mostly from Asia, for the well-off retired hobby photographers. While they can be a bit flimsy and impractical for real photographers, they are quite pretty to some people's eyes. But it's hard to take them seriously, when you can buy a masterpiece of Swiss craftsmanship like a Sinar Norma or sheer German quality like a Linhof Technika for a fraction of the price of a Chinese copy of the Japanese copy of the Phillips camera (from Michigan) ;-)

So go screw around!

Rod Klukas
1-Mar-2011, 14:26
I know I am biased and many of the above cameras can do the job, but Arca stand for: 'all'round camera'. The field camera has a bellows allowing for wide angle use with full movement and with small extension rail will do life size as is, with a small rail extension and no bellows change. These are also one of the few cameras mentioned that are precise enough to use on digital if you ever went there. It also breaks down very compactly and allows the use of several ultra wide lenses which the others won't easily allow, due to the size of the rear elements.

Bob McCarthy
1-Mar-2011, 14:26
You're getting good commentary,

a couple of things to concider

If you are going to shoot in a studio and or on location which is served by a car then a monorail with geared adjustments is very nice. To me this means Sinar P/P2 if looking used. There equipment is almost ridiculously cheap. It's the price of success, from when the studio photographer went digital. Used Sinars flooded the markets and now garner really depressed prices. If you want latest then spend up for an Arca Swiss with orbix, not any better, but newer and a very nice design. I use a P that I am in process of restoring to new (bellows on order-using old one with plenty of sealant). Doesnt take much, new bellows and overhaul kit (gears). Very inexpensive compared to new.

If you're going to walk far afield with a backpack, their are tons of folding field cameras that will suit your budget and desires. The TK2000 was my personal favorite but many others make fine products.

If your going to go afield, but not too far from the car (my limit is a mile or three) then a lightweight monorail can work great too. My personal tool is an old Sinar F that is in pristine condition. It is less robust than the later F2's but is minimal and doesnt try to emulate a P with big knobs and unnecessary additional complication. Dirt cheap too. Hot rod it with a great GG (Maxwell) and you still have less in it that a cheap-cheap beginner camera. ARCA makes a field version of their monorail, very sweet, but rarely on used market.

I don't think you can really make a bad decision, unless you buy a beater described as mint!!


Darin Boville
1-Mar-2011, 14:33
Given the prices on the used market why not buy two cameras? A Sinar P and a Technika IV/V should do the trick. Get the lens board adapter and share boards.


Len Middleton
1-Mar-2011, 18:33

As you are still asking quesitons, one thing you might want to consider in your purchasing decisons is the use of multiple cameras and mounting lenses that could be used on those cameras.

I have owned a couple of Linhof Technika's, and my smaller lenses are all mounted onto Technika lensboards. This allows me to use them on my Technika of course, but I could also you them on my Linhof Karden with an adaptor lensboard, and now on my 8x10 field camera. Similarly you can get adaptor boards to use the standard Technika boards for most other camera systems (Sinar, etc.).

Just one of those other things you might want to consider when purchasing.

Good luck and good hunting,


1-Mar-2011, 18:54
Just my two cents:
I like a monorail for architectural/technical work. A good one will have full movements, and a really good one will have those movements geared.
I shoot some LF fashion as well, and for some reason, I can work better and faster with a field camera, in my case a metal Wista. I think that type of camera is better suited to working faster, while the monorails are for when you have more time to tweak and adjust your settings and movements.
All the cameras mentioned above are great, but I would stay away from non-metal cameras A-for the price; you're paying for exotic wood, and B-indoors or outdoors, the metal cameras will serve you better and longer.
There are so many choices, and sadly, there is no such thing as a perfect all-around camera. I own three- a handheld RF, a metal field, and a monorail.

Rod Klukas
7-Mar-2011, 08:41
The Arca-Swiss Field is now available in a metric form(geared rise/fall, geared Shift) and will allow full movement with 47mm to 360mm or 500mm T, without having to change bellows. A lens board is available to allow use of lenses on both it and an R camera if this was purchased as a hand held as well. The Arca Fline Field camera allows for all the uses listed above. Plus has an excellent screen and silky movements in a compact body under 5 lbs.

8-Mar-2011, 07:57
Something to also consider in your budget is lighting for studio fashion work. When you move to LF, you'll need to consider stopping down to f22 for 4x5 and f32-45 for 8x10 to get the necessary DOF.

How many 500W monolights do you currently use for 35mm? (Are these continuous light, or did you mean Ws ?)

I've read several accounts suggesting that 5kWs to 15kWs are what an LF studio would need, which means floor packs.

(I've been investigating doing 8x10 portraits with 800-1600Ws, without expecting to be able to do brightly-lit full body work).

William McEwen
8-Mar-2011, 08:37
4x5 Sinar Alpina.

That's what I used before switching to 8x10. If I were to return to 4x5, I'd get that one and need no other. I recommend it highly.

David Solow
11-Mar-2011, 07:29
Thank you all for all your help. I have bought a used 4x5 Sinar P2 for my monorail camera and am mostly set on a Linhof Master Techinka for my field camera, although that's for a future purchase.

In response to JamesFromSydney, I do intend to shoot brightly-lit full body-work with my LF cameras, I do have two Bowens 500Ws monolight strobes. Shooting the work mentioned above at 100 iso film at f/22, I am concerned my lights won't be enough. I will do tests with my Sinar using my current light setup and see what happens. I expect I'll ending up getting more lighting. I wasn't expecting a 5kWs to 15kWs. What's going to run?

Uri A
31-Mar-2011, 20:35
I can sell you a Tech 2000 kit with lenses and case if youre interested.. email me.