View Full Version : My 1st LF camera. But which one?

28-Jul-2011, 03:26
Back in the good'ole days, I was weened on 35mm (Nikon FA, FM, the last film body being the F90), shooting Kodachrome 64 then b&w then colour neg. 15yrs ago I had a couple of fully manual 'Blads and a Leica M6 set up. Lovely!
Now I have D700's and a Mamiya 7.

The thing is, I have just spent 7 months in Antarctica and Patagonia and came across several LF photographers and deep down, I too wanted to adopt a slower, more methodical, considered approach to my picture taking.

Now, back in the UK, I feel I owe it to myself to explore this LF way of life myself.
I envisage landscapes, both urban and mountain but also people being the subject of this project. I really don't care for too many filters (if at all beyond ND's) which seems to be very much in vogue in the typical British landscape photographer's backpack (yes, the kit needs to be as portable as possible).

Not one to start off at the proverbial bottom of the ladder and then sell & upgrade as I become more familiar with the format, yet not wishing to splash out on brand new kit or even the top-of-the line gear, there must be a middle ground where I can cut my teeth without being restricted too much in what lenses I can add.

I would appreciate any comments you might have.

28-Jul-2011, 03:35
Use the search key to avail yourself of the countless threads on this subject, but it sounds like you want a folding field camera.
Get a metal one; Linhof, Wista, Toyo, etc.

David Higgs
28-Jul-2011, 03:59
I went to LF for UK Landscape stuff a few years back

I'd thoroughly recommend a field camera such as a Linhof - they are robust, literally bullet proof, and I still managed to get off the shelf parts for it - I can do everything with it apart from extreme wide angles

for me getting the image onto film is the easy part, its the bit after that - scanning, correcting and printing that seems to be the trick - you might want to bear that in mind too

I have 2 filters, an ND 0.6 grad, and a red one :-)

28-Jul-2011, 04:26
Indeed a field camera is the way to go! I've bought a monorail, which is nice to learn to understand all the movements, but it is a pain if you want to shoot outdoors (by which I mean really outdoors, not next to the boot of your car :)
I'am also looking for something more backpack-able myself, and it seems to me that in the EU there is quite small and quite overpriced market for large format - try patiently watching ebay - and while looking for Linhof Technikas do not leave out of your search stuff like Chamonix, ShenHao or Wista.

28-Jul-2011, 05:44
The Chamonix 4x5 is very light, compact, sturdy, and can take lenses over 400mm.

Kent in SD

Steve Barber
28-Jul-2011, 06:52
I would look at Robert White in Poole for an Ebony RSW45 or the used SW45 that they have listed:


There and the classifieds here and on eBay for 90, 150 and 210mm lenses. Spend more on the 90 and 210, less on the 150.

Brian Ellis
28-Jul-2011, 07:27
There are enough threads here about first LF cameras to literally fill a large book if they were all put together. Use the Search function and a couple appropriate terms such as "newbie" "first camera" and other things like that and you can probably spend as much time as you like reading and learning. Plus the home page of this forum has reviews of many large format cameras and those too would be useful. I'm not being critical of your question, just pointing to a vast resource that's already out there.

28-Jul-2011, 08:25
Chamonix or Shen-Hao are perfect (albeit maybe slightly more expensive but not too much more) choices for a camera for backpacking.

If you were not backpacking (i.e. driving) a monorail like the Toyo G is perfect.

If you want real cheap, a Crown or Speed Graphic is hard to beat. But very little movements.

John Kasaian
28-Jul-2011, 08:34
Handle as many different cameras as you can---monorails, Technicas, woodies, and then take your pick.

Frank Petronio
28-Jul-2011, 08:48
It's just like your smaller format cameras, figure that if you like it, you'll want to try several. I think it is a oversight to ignore the monorails and handheld cameras in favor of the oh-so-popular folding woodies.

I'm a big fan of getting an inexpensive but solid metal monorail (Sinar, Toyo, Cambo, etc.) for learning, based on the fact that they are simple, fast, and obvious... with a robust tripod and medium to long normal lens (150-210mm) and just keep it real simple and minimalist. Then once you have the basics down, diverge into the ultra-light backpacking camera or whatever.... you'll be more apt to learn and use movements with a solid kit that doesn't require a lot of futzing around.

In the same vein, a $200 Crown Graphic backpacks beautifully and is not so precious out in the rain or sleet. And it can make exactly the same picture as the $5000 Titanium and Ebony wood camera.

A $300 Sinar F and a $200 Crown can give you more capabilities than most $$$$ luxury cameras. Just saying....

Dan Fromm
28-Jul-2011, 09:05
T, whatever you do will be wrong.

Buy a camera that appeals, use it, and it will teach you what does and doesn't suit you. Then sell the first camera and buy one that suits you better.

28-Jul-2011, 10:37

Some guys just do it better than the others ;-p

Interesting, Frank, but I fail to see how that helps the OP in pursuit of a camera :)

Frank Petronio
28-Jul-2011, 10:40
Opps wrong thread, that was meant for the "sick of nudes" thread just to mess with that guy's head....

Dan Fromm
28-Jul-2011, 11:18
Opps wrong thread, that was meant for the "sick of nudes" thread just to mess with that guy's head....Eh? Wot? Innit messed enough already?

Alan Gales
28-Jul-2011, 12:02
T, whatever you do will be wrong.

Buy a camera that appeals, use it, and it will teach you what does and doesn't suit you. Then sell the first camera and buy one that suits you better.

Truer words never spoken. Also applies to 35mm, medium format, and digital! :D

Ole Tjugen
28-Jul-2011, 12:20
Portable camera which won't limit your lens selection - look for a second-hand Gandolfi. Either the Variant (best) or the Traditional (almost as good, in some ways better).

28-Jul-2011, 12:24
Stick with your Mamiya 7, just always put it on a tripod and compose carefully when shooting a landscape.

28-Jul-2011, 17:38
Don't be afraid of a cheaper first camera - as others have said, you'll probably decide you want something different, and end up selling it. I started with a Speed Graphic with no movements, then jumped to a Toyo monorail with every movement imaginable. Neither were just right, and I eventually settled on a Technika, which I found to be a good compromise.

John Kasaian
28-Jul-2011, 17:54
If I had the $$ and needed a 4x5, I think a Linhof Technika would be an excellent choice--lots of movements, handholdable if need be, and built like a tank. John Sexton and Roman Loranc sure use theirs to good effect! Serious back packers would likely opt for a lighter wieght woody like a Tachi or Shen (or Baby 'dorff!)

My current 4x5 is a Graphic View 2 and along with the Calument 400 series are excellent monorails that certainly won't break the bank.

28-Jul-2011, 18:48
I have Shen Hao HZX45 IIA, it is very lightweight, wish i have more money to go with Linhof or Ebony.

Kirk Fry
28-Jul-2011, 23:00
An old CC401 Calumet is a great starter. I still have mine after 40 years. Ja, ja I now have a half a dozen other ones but the good old Calumet took lots of great pictures.
For $100 you can find a good one. And as Frank said, a Crown Graphic, which is really just a box camera with a large negative you can hand hold is good too. Folks get too hung up on the camera's. If you can't take interesting pictures with a CC401 and a 210 mm lens maybe LF is not for you! KFry

Ole Tjugen
29-Jul-2011, 05:16
My first LF camera was a Technika - the 13x18cm model you see me hand holding in my profile pic. I haven't regretted a minute that I replaced it with an elderly 7x5" Gandolfi Traditional. The weight difference is similar with 4x5" cameras - although the best Gandolfi option may well be a 7x5" camera with 5x4" back.

Robert Hughes
29-Jul-2011, 11:21
My Busch Pressman "D" is solid, almost indestructable, and makes as good a picture as I can frame. It cost me a grand total of $150 off the Dreaded, and has worked fine with minimal problems ever since.

john biskupski
30-Jul-2011, 01:17
If you haven't already done so, have a read of Steve Simmons and Jack Dykinga's large format photography books, you'll get a sense of how different types of camera suit different shooting objectives. Also, try to borrow a camera or two, see how they work for you. My first purchase was a Horseman 45FA as I had decided I liked the preciseness of the metal camera, but I learned later, from those books and from using a friend's Wista DX, that I preferred the ease of rear focusing. And later, a longer bellows. You keep learning.
The Graphic cameras are a nice basic choice, but you won't enjoy using their limited movements, and as someone said you'll achieve about the same result in IQ putting your Mamiya 7 on a tripod.
From your previous choices of 'Blad, Mamiya 7 etc, you may well find the Linhof Tech or Arca Swiss cameras appeal, but more expensive.