View Full Version : Plunged into Calumet (model ???)

Leszek Vogt
30-Dec-2011, 15:34

Wrote a message and the system bumped me off it ?

The other day I missed the Sinar F+ and found Calumet rig locally. Amazingly, it's like new condition....everything! The lens is super clean, the shutter times respond briskly and have that 'happy snap' to it. I've looked around the web and I'm not getting the answers I wish to get. At the same time I'm not sure where to go for info. The info I'm getting is contradictory. I've been told that 45N does not have rotating back....and the rail comes without markings....and 16" long. All great, except my rail is 16" (no marks) and the back does rotate from portraiture to landscape configuration....so I'd like to hurl a v. large Linhoff at them and scream WTF...simultaneously. Pardon, just a little theoretical drama...I'm not a violent person. Any help would be appreciated.


At the moment there are lots of decisions to make. I need a good tripod head like Majestic....though I'm open for alternative (quality oriented) suggestions. Same thing with tripod. For time being I'll likely grab a surveyor tripod (w/adaptation)....and this later can serve me as a support-aid, flash support, etc. I know, I know it's almost a contradiction to Majestic. In any case, I need to find a tripod (sticks) that will support my D700 (even 500mm if need be), as well as the newly acquired Calumet.

I would like to get 10 film (4x5) holders and most of the time I see them included with the camera package. Yet, I look at B&H and the cost for one is $100. Ouchie! I have no problem with used ones...so long they are in good condition...and where would I find those ? I've never seen film holders advert on CL.

For time being I'd like to get a nice trigger release (cloth or vinyl ?), 4-6X loupe, and some 4" filters. Would Tiffen filters (sheet type) work ? The camera came with a shade that accommodates filters. This is down my alley since I intend to do B&W work with it. The lens (Caltar II E 210mm F6.8) has a 49mm front opening....so with a step-up ring my pola filter will work great.

Anyway, please chime in as to what else I could use in the field. DOF table ? Till I shoot and be satisfied with results (I'm rather particular)....I'll remain a noob.... True, I'd have preferred to be better camera/lens set up, but I think I can make this work quite well. Not bad at a price of couple of hundred bucks.

Thanks in advance for your input.


30-Dec-2011, 15:59
Film holders are sold here and on ebay frequently, and at good prices.

I'm really having difficulty understanding what else you want to know. Yes, get a cable release, and a loupe, and some filters if you want to use filters. With a 49mm lens you can just buy regular 49mm screw in filters. You need a tripod and something to serve as a dark cloth. maybe a changing bag so you can load film in your holders. How about an exposure meter... got one?

Brian Ellis
30-Dec-2011, 15:59
I know nothing about your camera. However, there are two types of backs on LF cameras, both of which can be used in horizontal and vertical positions. On some cameras the back remains on the camera as it's turned from one position to the other. These kinds of backs are often referred to as "rotating" backs. Other cameras have backs can be used in either position but they have to be removed from the camera, repositioned, and put back on to change from horizontal to vertical and vice versa.

When someone says a camera doesn't have a "rotating" back they may just mean the back has to be removed and repositioned to change from vertical to horizontal and vice versa, i.e. that you can't change its position while it remains on the camera. So even though you can make photographs in both positions with your camera you nevertheless may not have a "rotating" back, depending on exactly what someone means when they use the term "rotating" back.

Typical 4x5 film holders don't cost anything like $100 each, I'm not sure what you're looking at. When they're sold new they're usually in packages of two so if you see a new price from a retail store it's usually not a per-holder price, it's a price for two. But even two don't typically cost $100. You can find used ones on ebay, in the used department of retailers like B&H, Adorama, and MidWest Photo Exchange, in the large format section of the photo.net classified ads, etc.

I don't have any suggestions for your other questions. It sounds like you kind of want someone here to tell you what to buy, which is not really possible. You need to do some research, look at specs, do some reading maybe, and narrow the choices down.

Alan Gales
30-Dec-2011, 16:06
I believe the 45NX has the rotating back and the cheaper 45N does not. Of course you can replace the standard back on the 45N with a rotating back.

A rotating back is just a little more convenient than a standard back which as Brian explained you have to remove, turn and replace.

Dan Fromm
30-Dec-2011, 16:32
To quote from the ad, "45NX is similar to the 45N with more features such as a 2''-19'' longer monorail. Reversing back found on the 45N has been replaced with a revolving type." Its the 45NX that has the rotating back, the 45N that has a reversing (also called reversible) back.

I'm sorry, Leszek, but you misread the ad. Don't throw a Sinar at the seller, drop it on your foot.

The Calumet 45N is a rebadged Cambo SCN, is much the same as the original Cambo SC (Super Cambo). Lotsa bits available and what fits the Super Cambo fits the successors and vice versa.

The big change in the Cambo line's development came with the SF. It and the Legend don't use the same rail as the earlier SC. The SC uses a 1" square aluminum extrusion. If you can to without the little spring-loaded stops at each end, which are there to keep a careless user from inadvertently running a standard off the rail, 80/20 brand 1" square t-slotted aluminum extrusions work as well as original equipment and are a lot less expensive.

Craigslist is a terrible place to look for specialized photographic equipment. Look here in the for sale section, and on the feared and hated and very useful eBay.

Tripod? There are many, many and everyone has an opinion. Head? Likewise. In my experience, some surveyor's tripods are very solid -- my K&E absolutely isn't -- and all are hard to level. Suggest that you look into a Manfrotto 438 leveler with, a Manfrotto 229 head on top of it. But that's my prejudices speaking, as well as more or less what I have. They sit on a Berlebach 8023 leg set. An adapted surveyor's tripod would cost much less.

30-Dec-2011, 16:42
These Calumet cameras are made by Cambo, and essentially this is a Super Cambo II. (II meant 4x5, according to an old catalog I have. The SC was 2x3, the SCIII was 5x7, and the SCIV was 8x10. Maybe that catalog was wrong.) It does not have all the scales on it that some iterations of the SCII had--that was part of what Cambo did to keep the Calumet price point down. But the camera still works great and you don't really need those markings unless you are trying to design specific and repeatable setups in the studio.

Any Cambo SCII part will work on this camera, including bellows, boards, backs, rails, compendium shade, and tripod clamps.

The backs on the SC series are like the backs on the Sinar: Square. That means that can be repositioned 90 degrees. The rotating back of the 45NX was in a round slide that allowed the film stage to be rotated to any position. Infinite rotation is not necessary and a lot of cameras (including the Sinar) don't have that feature. It's handy in a few situations but there are other ways to deal with it.

Any Cambo or Calumet square rail will work with this camera. You can find 22" rails easily, and you can also cut them down if you need a really short rail. The Cambo bag bellows are very nice to have, particularly for lenses 90mm and shorter.

The only weakness this camera has (other than consuming quite a lot of volume with those large U frames) is with really short lenses--65 and shorter--that one might use with a roll-film holder. The standards just don't get that close to each other happily.

The large Manfrotto heads (sorry, I don't know the Manfrotto numbers--the Bogen numbers are 3036, 3046, and 3051 for the legs, and 3047 or 3039 for the heads--google for the conversions) are more than sufficient for this camera. I used a 3036/3047 combination, which is often available on the used market quite cheaply, with a Calumet 45NX for many years. These are strong, well-made metal tripods that don't cost a fortune. If you want wood, Berlebach makes excellent tripods. The high-dollar equivalents to these are Gitzo and Ries, respectively. I've used Majestic tripods and they work. All of these are much more adjustable than a surveyor's tripod, which are designed to be strong and stable but not necessarily free of the sorts of vibration that bother photographers.

The vinyl-covered cable releases have been better than the cloth ones in my experience, though I keep a really short cloth release that has a tiny tip for use with the tiny #00 shutters. But any cable release will work if you don't abuse them.

Rick "who made a lot of photographs with that 45NX" Denney

Alan Gales
30-Dec-2011, 17:13
Cambo/Calumet model differences can be as confusing as their rebadged Caltar lenses. At least lens boards and bellows exchange between cameras. I once swapped a rotating/revolving back from a Legend to a Master. It fit but wouldn't rotate due to hitting the "L" bracket!

30-Dec-2011, 19:57
I believe the 45NX has the rotating back and the cheaper 45N does not. Of course you can replace the standard back on the 45N with a rotating back.

A rotating back is just a little more convenient than a standard back which as Brian explained you have to remove, turn and replace.

Actually I prefer the removable back over the rotating back. Rotating backs get stuck, get hard to rotate, and kind of a pain to press in the right direction. Removable backs - just pop it off, turn it, and pop it back on.

30-Dec-2011, 20:24
Cy... sometimes I think they invented rotating backs just for me. With removable backs I tend to break the GG.

Leszek Vogt
4-Jan-2012, 00:39
Thanks to all that tried to answer my questions. I remain confused because the back revolves at all angles...so it's possible that someone transplanted 45NX back onto 45N ? This particular back is like new so it travels smoothly between the detents.

Ended up poking around and decided to get Manfrotto 410 head, used Schneider 8X loupe, cable release, etc from B&H. Pretty much have the rest....and seeing a surveyor tomorrow who will sell me $35 wooden sticks...that is till I decide which carbon fiber tripod I'll go for. For time being, I'll use my D700 as my exposure meter...though I'd rather use Pentax spot meter....just too much stuff to haul around. Yeah I know, I might as well get used to it.

Part of my confusion as to availability of film holders etc., it had to do with not being able to access that part of the forum for 30 days....so I'm still on hold in regard to that.

@Rick - Would it be possible to get a manual from Calumet ? I've looked at their website but saw no indication that they carry anything even slightly outdated. At this point I'll be happy with what's the 210mm will offer. Also, I had a chance to see what a 90mm is capable of....so I truely doubt I'd go below 75mm.

Like I indicated, I am a noob and I needed some coaching with some of the details. Thanks again to those that showed patience and tried to get me through the 'detail' process. Indeed, it's all details.


Dan Fromm
4-Jan-2012, 04:52
In the Cambo way of being, SC backs are modified boards. They all interchange freely between, um, revision levels of the camera.

Frank Petronio
4-Jan-2012, 05:42
I think this is the nicest teaching text: http://www.amazon.com/Users-Guide-View-Camera-3rd/dp/0130981168/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325680840&sr=1-1 - the Jim Stone book.

As you can see, forum people will fall all over themselves to help and spend your money....

I wouldn't worry about which model camera it is or the need to use filters at first. Just get some holders and figure out how to load and process your film.

If you like the format you may change the camera to suit your preferences - most hobby photographers gravitate towards less bulky field cameras but classic monorails are great to learn with because all of the movements are obvious and transparent. They are also easier to set up, more rugged, and less fussy than these expensive wooden contraptions that are so trendy.

I strongly recommend a Harrison Pup Tent (over a changing bag) if you do not have access to a darkroom. It does not have to be an official photo darkroom - just any darkened room with a clean flat surface to load the holders from. Use a closet or bathroom, put a towel at the base of the door, stand in the dark for a minute or two to make sure it is dark. A pinhole of light isn't usually a problem if it isn't casting a ray, but do the best you can to darken the room (turning off adjacent lights and loading at night isn't a bad idea).

If you need a good mail order lab, http://www.4photolab.com/ Edgar is your man.

If you want to buy five 4x5 Fidelity or Lisco (identical) holders that are older but clean and working well, contact me and I can put together a set, along with some empty film boxes for off-loading film, for a reasonable price. Have a PayPal account. Five is a good amount since you can load an entire ten-sheet box at once.

The 210/6.8 Caltar lens is a good all-around starter lens and all you need at first (or maybe ever).

Let your equipment list settle out before deciding on a case. Some people use Igloo coolers to hold a monorail upside down and ready to go. Other people disassemble their cameras and pack them as tightly as possible into backpacks. Calumet sells dedicated hard cases, etc. For now just use a cardboard box!

The Manfrotto 410 head is great. I am not a fan of Manfrotto legsets but they are not the worst choice... the Majestic is very solid, look for the lighter single tube legs, the twin shanks are overkill. The popular and well made Gitzos are nice - probably a "3" series legset would do well with the 410 and 4x5 and still be manageable with the DSLR. Better to go larger than too light.

You probably didn't need to spend so much on a loupe -- if you are tight you can return it and buy a $8 plastic job that will do the same thing. Cloth cable releases are more flexible but less durable than the plastic coated ones, but it is a minor difference and don't waste too much money on them - better to buy a spare. Darkcloth can be a jacket, t-shirt, or towel at first.

4-Jan-2012, 08:51
Les, for manuals on the Calumet/Cambo line look under both "discontinued products" and "downloads" at http://www.cambo.com/

Jim Jones
4-Jan-2012, 09:51
For a tripod I've used Tiltall most of the time for 35 years, despite having several others, both lighter and massive. It will support the Calumet as well as long lenses on the D700.

View cameras are basically simple enough that a model specific manual might not be necessary, but a good book on general view camera operation can be valuable. Several are available. Leslie Stroebel's View Camera Technique may be the most thorough. It was published over quite a few years in at least 7 editions. Manuals by several others might be available in later editions. Even older manuals cover basic view camera operation well enough. Over time you might learn more from this site than from any book.

John Kasaian
4-Jan-2012, 10:14
It sounds like you bought a very nice kit! I agree with Frank---use screw in filters as it is a common size and good ones aren't expensive--if you have a Nikon slr you probably already have some laying around.
Cable releases aren't exactly rocket science. Determine which type of locking mechanism you want (I like the disc) and if you can, compare them at a camera store before buying (some older shutters need a long throw, but you have a modern Copal so thats not an issue for you)
Good used film holders are plenty good. I have a small dedicated Shop-Vac and vacume mine before each loading session and store them in zip lock plastic bags.
Three holders are enough to get you started. When you're comfortable loading them I suggest buying a stack of used holders from a reputable dealer (like Midwest Photo) and test the holders with cheap photo paper. Any leakers you can then exchange for good ones. My favorites are the old (not newer) Riteway Graphics, Bacos, and Lisco Regals---but this is a personal choice, of course!
Have fun!

5-Jan-2012, 01:20
I second Frank's recommendation of the Stone book (it's used as the manual for the Large Format class at PCNW in Seattle) but not Frank's field camera bashing ways....

Though he might be right, look at this hipster with his trendy wooden view camera, no doubt taking some snaps to upload to his Facebook page:


5-Jan-2012, 08:40
You have a Calumet 45NX, no matter how it might have been designated. When I bought my Calumet (back when they cost five times what they do now, in real dollars), I also thought I had a 45N, but it also has the rotating back.

The stuff you have works. Use it. Any standard 4x5 film holder will work, but the Calumet will accommodate any holder made of any type, if it was made for 4x5 cameras.

Don't buy a bunch of accessories until you have some experience. If you use a 90mm lens at some point, though, you'll find a bag bellows preferable to a recessed board. You can deal with that when the time comes. I had to learn that one the hard way, but back in the day, bag bellows were not cheap. They are now.

Rick "listen to Frank" Denney