View Full Version : B&J 4X5 ?

Victor Fernandez
17-Oct-2003, 13:06
Greetings to all,

I have been using a 4X5 camera that I have not been able to find information about. Can any one tell me what they might know about it, good/bad etc. and maybe its value ?

B&J Saturn "75" monorail 4X5 camera with Copal press No.1 61/2" 6.3 Ilex Paragon

This forum has been a great resource in my journey into LF, thank you to all for sharing your knowledge.

MIke Sherck
17-Oct-2003, 13:30
A search on e-bay shows only two sold in the past month; a kind of beat-up one for US$100 and a better one for $145. Each had only one bid. Ilex Paragons are a little tougher to price, but they don't sell for much on e-bay. US$100 would be generous, unless it were a late-production, coated model in perfect condition, in which case it *might* bring US$140 or so.

Nevertheless, I've used this lens for black & white and it showed reasonable performance, especially for the price. I have several Ilex Paragons, all late production and coated, because they are decent lenses for their prices. The camera looks a bit heavy to carry around in the field, but what do I know: I carry a B&J 5x7 field camera which weighs almost nine lbs.! It ought to work. One advantage it has: lots of bellows draw, about twice what a modern field camera will have. Good for long lenses and close-ups. It ought to be a perfectly servicable camera and even better if you don't have to carry it very far.


17-Oct-2003, 14:29
Hi Victor,

The BJ Saturn is the same camera as the early Kodak. I used one some time ago with adequate results. It IS on the heavy side, and pretty bulky to carry. This was, after all, intended as a studio camera. It has a solid steel monorail (appx 1"Dia). The camera is not nearly as steady as you would think a metal camera would be.

If your intent is to do field work, I'd look elsewhere. IMO you'd be better served with an old BJ wood 4x5 than the heavier/bulky monorail.

17-Oct-2003, 16:28
The B&J was a low priced, and considerably less robust, knockoff of the Kodak Master. Other than that, there's nothing really wrong with it. If you've got one that works, use it gently and don't sink a lot of money into accessories for it.

Ernest Purdum
17-Oct-2003, 17:16
Victor, I think MattO was thinking of the B&J 4" X 5" "Orbit". The Saturn 75 is related to the Orbit, and therefore to the Kodak and the early Calumets, but it is basically a 5" X 7", although it is common to find one that, like yours, now has a 4" X 5" back attached. B&J took the whole front of the Orbit, attached a hollow square monorail and built a wooden back in 5X7 size, attaching it with more Orbit hardware. Unlike the Orbit, its back is removable, and can be rplaced with a Graflok back, a sliding back, or a two exposures on one back, either 4" X 5 or 5" X 7".

The major strength of the Saturn is its ability to effectively use a wide range of focal length lenses. Its monorail is long, 25", giving about 21" of draw, and it closes up pretty well for a fixed bellows vcamera. It has all movements except back rise and fall, and you can get around that by using your tilts. The swings and shifts are less than on the B&J wooden cameras, but are adequate for most purposes, particularly if used together.

The limiting factor of your combination is probably the lens. If ir is the usual Tessar type Paragon, it has a rather small image circle, which means that you would be quite restricted when using your movements. If you should ever want to put a 5" X 7" back on the camera, the lens wouldn't be adequate even with all movements centered. The Copal shutter, though, suggests that it could be something else since, if original, not a later replacement, it is a very late Ilex production, made during a time when they were enlarging their range of lenses. Try it out with substantial movewments and see what results you get. Otherwise, I'd suggest selling the Ilex, and buying a lens in the 203 to 250mm range. One of the least expensive is the 203mm f7.5 Graflex Optar. One nice feature is that it works well even at very close distances. It is a real "sleeper" at the prices it uasually goes for on eBay. The one caveat is that the condition of the shutter is very important. There are, of course, many other very useful lenses in this size range. They will cover 5" X 7" and give a reasonable use of movements on 4" X 5".

Regarding value, I'd suggest that its utility value is greater than what it would probably sell for. If you are fairly new to LF, its a fine camera to grow with.

17-Oct-2003, 17:24
Ernest is correct, of course. I stand corrected.

Victor Fernandez
19-Oct-2003, 06:42
I'll have to agree that it is a heavy and bulky camera,(my rollei 6008i is not very lite either!) and also the length of the monorail can be a pain while trying to look at the GG under the dark cloth. But it has served me well so far. Thank you for all your responses.