View Full Version : Help on 4x5 Camera choice. :)

Jade Cocoon
30-Oct-2011, 10:41
Hello! As of now I do not have a Large Format Camera, YET. And I plan to remedy that this coming November. :p Based on my research on the net (not that extensive) it looks like the camera that fits my wants (and budget, below $600 hopefully) are the Speed Graphic and Crown graphic. I know the basic difference about them, like no FP Shutter on the Crown. Also, I think 4x5 is the biggest I will go (I know that is like "small" format compared to the other LF sizes). But can I do wet plate collodion on them? It looks difficult, but I want to try it. There are kits that I can buy at bostick-sullivan. I am not a pro photographer, all I want is to experience using these wonderful cameras and for me, very cool processes. I will be using this for portraiture, but not indoors. Portraits of people in their environment. As for landscapes and still life, that would be like 10% of what I shoot. :) The film I plan to use would be Fujiroids, and I believe I have no problem using those via the proper film holder. So is the Crown/Speed (leaning more towards the Crown) the right camera for me? Or is there something a bit better for my needs that I can get for $600? If there is something a bit above that price range, I can save up for it until December. I am in no hurry. Thank you and good day to all! :)

Bob Salomon
30-Oct-2011, 10:54
Are you planning on hand holding large format? If not buy a view camera, not a press camera. Then you can learn what large format can really do. Back tilts and swings let you control the shape of the subject and control the plane of sharp focus. Front tilts and swings let you control the plane of sharp focus also. But they do not allow you to control the shape of the subject.
They most also allow you to use a larger range of lenses, larger lenses and perhaps get greater magnification, depending on how much bellows they have.
Used view cameras can also be in your price range but they might not be foldable.

Jade Cocoon
30-Oct-2011, 12:04
I will most likely use it with a tripod. Aren't view cameras bulky? I don't mind that they cannot be folded. But I need to be able to put them in a bag or something, because some of the people that I plan to take a picture of involves taking quite a long hike.

Bob Salomon
30-Oct-2011, 12:47
I will most likely use it with a tripod. Aren't view cameras bulky? I don't mind that they cannot be folded. But I need to be able to put them in a bag or something, because some of the people that I plan to take a picture of involves taking quite a long hike.

Some fold like a Graphic and some are monorails.

30-Oct-2011, 13:21
If you are partial to folder cameras take a look at the Toyo 45a-- a nice rig for thigh burning hikes into Mother Nature.

30-Oct-2011, 13:28
I have an MPP (folding press type camera made of metal with a rotating back and some limited movements) and also a Sinar monorail. Since I picked up the monorail it goes everywhere with me as it is much more versatile for me personally and there is not much difference in the overall weight. It also fits into a bag which I can carry over my shoulder, but if it is just for portraits and occasional landscapes I imagine a Graphic would not be too bad if a wooden folder is out of your price range.

30-Oct-2011, 14:01
I would forget about the wet plate until you learn how to shoot negatives consistently. You'll probably want a different camera to shoot wet plate. You could do it with a modified 4x5 but it's not ideal and the liquids can make a mess of a camera not designed for it.

You can get a whole lot of 4x5 for $600. Personally I'd get a cheap camera and a good lens.

John Kasaian
30-Oct-2011, 14:01
A wooden 4x5 of the clamshell type is actually quite light---much lighter than most medium format camera. Look at Wistas, Tachiharas, etc... but if you want cheap, Graphic View & Calumet 400 monorails are what I'd look for if you're not planning on shooting too far from the trunk of your car.

If you want a Speeder or Crown Graphic, the Supers have a lot more movements to play with than the older earlier models plus they are handholdable.

30-Oct-2011, 14:03
PS I would avoid a speed unless you anticipate shooting with older lenses. You don't need to pay for a working focal plane shutter unless you are actually going to use one. A Crown is a lot more compact a camera.

Jade Cocoon
30-Oct-2011, 15:16
Oh. So wet plates stain camera? Are they realley "wet", or when you apply the chemicals on the plate they dry up? I'll take a look at the graphic view and the Calumet. The Toyo is quite expensive. What specific models should I look at? Yeah, the Crown is where I am leaning at right now.

Jim Jones
30-Oct-2011, 16:01
For a few decades I used a Burke & James flatbed http://www.cameraeccentric.com/img/info/bj_2/bj_2_06.jpg in addition to a Speed Graphic. It was a little heavier than a Crown or Speed Graphic, but much more versatile. The Calumet and Graphic View that John mentions above don't fold up like the B&J, but are more rigid. All three have extensive movements. If you buy online, be sure the camera is not missing important components like a tripod block. Lens boards for these cameras can be made with basic equipment.

A good book on large format photography is valuable to a beginner. There are several that cover view cameras. For Crowns or Speed Graphics with top rangefinders, Graphic Graflex Photography, 11th edition or later, by Willard Morgan is the book.

30-Oct-2011, 16:23
Look at the inexpensive Omega/Toyo 45d. Gives you all movements in a 7.8 pound package. It is a monorail and costs less than $400.

John Kasaian
30-Oct-2011, 17:44

I'm not a doctor, but I'll bet that not make sheet film a part of your diet will likely prevent these from occurring.:D

Jade Cocoon
30-Oct-2011, 18:12
I do have some sheet film, out of date tri x that was given to me by a friend. :) I just want to try those instant films. :) I'll be checking the B&J and the Toyo a bit later.

John Koehrer
30-Oct-2011, 19:56
I don't remember if the film can be rotated to the portrait position or not which means it would get stained on the bottom and on one side..

BTW Wet plate collodion is light sensitive when it's wet and I believe has to remain wet until processed.
Someone will correct me if I'm wrong(wouldn't be the 1st time) =)

30-Oct-2011, 20:47
Yep, wet plate is wet. You need to coat the plate and shoot it while still wet, which means you have to have a crazy (compared to negs) quantity of equipment on-hand while you shoot. And it will drip in the camera and at best stain it.

If I were you, I would ignore the wet plate thing for now and just learn to shoot LF reliably from B&W negs. Once you have that down, you'll know more about what you need to shoot wet plate. There are plenty of other cool processes (e.g. in printing) that you can experiment with with a bit more convenience.

In terms of camera, I recently got a Toyo 45A ($600 body-only; I think there's another one for sale here for about the same price, an AII or AX is a couple hundred more) for outdoors purposes and love it except for the fact that movements are not geared. However, geared movements are heavy and expensive on a field camera, which to me is a poor compromise. You can also get a wooden folder (e.g. Shen Hao) for about the same price, which will have similarly basic movements but be lighter and more fragile. All these 4x5 folders fold up to approx 250x250x70mm but they're generally more flexible with the movements than a Graphic.

Or you can get a monorail, which are cheap ($100-$300), big (300x500x500mm), heavy and ultimately flexible. I wouldn't bother travelling with one just because of the bulk but they're great if you have a dedicated place where you shoot (e.g. studio), even if it's just for a session of a few hours on one street corner. A decent 4x5 monorail kit will take up a large hard case and weigh in at 15-20kg. You probably don't need their flexibility for portraits, but it's a cheap option if you don't need the portability.

And get a tripod. Really.

Jade Cocoon
30-Oct-2011, 21:22
Hmmm. Thanks about the info in the wet plate. I thought you will apply the mixture then wait for it to dry or something before shooting. Gotta read up on a lot of stuff.

As for the tripod, I have a metal one that's frickin big and heavy that was given to me. I use it with my koni omega. So monorails are that heavy huh. I don't mind carrying a bit of weight, but 15kgs is a lot for me. :)

30-Oct-2011, 22:46
So monorails are that heavy huh. I don't mind carrying a bit of weight, but 15kgs is a lot for me. :)

It's also a lot more than what a monorail must weigh. I doubt my whole kit weighs more than that, and my kit includes a Sinar F2, six lenses (most of which are the big, heavy kind), various roll-film holders (including the very beefy Sinar Vario), and a substantial pile of accessories. Oh, and the heavy flight-style case.

I could easily put together a single-lens Sinar F or F2 kit with all the basic necessities that would not weigh more than maybe 5 or 6 kilos.

Rick "who rolls his kit on wheels" Denney

Jim Jones
31-Oct-2011, 06:33
My 4x5 Inba Ikeda kit with three lenses, four film holders, light meter, and a few small accessories in a canvas bag weighs about 11kg with a Tiltall Tripod. The B&J flatbed would be well over a kg heavier. This wouldn't be heavy in a good backpack. Little Edward Weston used an 8x10 outfit that weighed at least 15kg, not including a heavy tripod. Ah, those iron men with their wooden cameras!

John Kasaian
31-Oct-2011, 06:59
Jade Cocoon, consider the possibilities---
If most of your work will be in a studio, a monorail will likely be the most enjoyable.
If most of your work will be in the field, a field camera is made for that sort of stuff
If most of your work is handheld, a press camera is ideal.
A technical camera will do it all, but will be heavier.
A flatbed will do it all (except for handheld) but will be heavier.

There are of course exceptions--for example Gowland and Toho monorails are quite light and break down into tiny packages. Some 4x5 field cameras are really 5x7s with 4x5 backs and they'll tend to be heavier than a true 4x5.

Then you budget will also come into play. Flat beds, monorails and press cameras are often less costly to acquire (depending for the most part on age & condition) and also bellows length & the size of the lensboard, since you'll want your camera to be able to accomodate the size lens you want to use.

All this of course is in an ideal world---IMHO we tend to not really know exactly what qualities we want in a LF camera until we've used a LF camera, so I'd recommend a modestly priced kit to start, use it for at least a year and then reassess your needs.
Another option is to take a course at a community college and use thier cameras for a semester---that'll give you some valuable insight as to where to spend your $$.

Good luck!

31-Oct-2011, 13:03
Some great advice here - one thing to clarify on money: I take it you're looking for camera and lens for $600 or less.

You already know how much the lens matters, so I'll just chime in with the fact that I shoot my 4x5 Crown Graphic as my primary camera now precisely because of the lens. Older lenses and cameras are like vintage guitars, no two are alike.

Jade Cocoon
31-Oct-2011, 13:08
Thanks for the wonderful advice. That is so true John, about not knowing what we want unless we have tried it for quite some time. I am 90% going with the crown graphic, I'll start with the basics. Thanks. :)