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View Full Version : Which 5x7 for my first LF camera?



Ranger Bob
9-Jan-2013, 15:05
A few weeks ago I joined this forum to ask about a 4x5 for a digital conversion. I have somewhat abandon that plan for now but, after all the research I've done, I'm still very interested in getting a LF camera. So, I'm leaning toward 5x7 for a couple reasons. It is scannable on a flatbed scanner and it makes a decent size contact print without the camera being too large. I would likely use it for landscape and still life only. I do not do portraiture and everything else I shoot requires a DSLR. I realize that I would be limited in film choices with the 5x7 but I think I can live with that. So, I'm looking at ebay and I see a lot of old field cameras. I will not hike with the camera I choose but I will need to carry it perhaps up to a half-mile to setup. I am looking to spend up to $700 ready to shoot. Right now I'm looking at a B&J, an Agfa, and a Conley. Are these worthwhile choices or should I be looking for something else?

Bob

Leonard Robertson
9-Jan-2013, 16:26
As a starting point, you might read this post on Agfa/Ansco 5X7s:
http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?8794-Agfa-Ansco-5x7
At the bottom of the page are links to other Agfa/Ansco posts. Much of the information on the 8X10 version will be more or less the same for the 5X7. As a broad generalization, I'll say the Agfa/Ansco is sturdier than the B&J, Conley, or Eastman 2D (another 5X7 in this general class that should be easy to find), with more movements than some of the others. However, the A/A is probably the heaviest in the class. I just weighed my gray Ansco and it rocks the scales at over 9 1/2 pounds, without lens or board. But that includes a built-in extension track which some of the other 5X7s have as a separate piece (often missing from the camera and not easy to find. Be careful buying anything without the rear track included). Maybe someone else can post weights for a B&J, Easman 2D, or others. If you should decide on an A/A, the later gray painted Anscos used a plastic covered bellows which can stiffen with age (making the movements harder to use), and possibly crack at the corners causing light leaks. On the other hand, most of the later Anscos have the built-in front tilt feature, which I consider important. This is identified by a half-moon metal shape to one side of the lens board with a single knob to lock it. If you do a Google image search for "Ansco view camera" you can see cameras with this feature. Some of the earlier natural wood finish cameras appear to have the front tilt, and possibly better bellows materials. The lens board is a generous 5 1/4" square so mounting larger lenses is doable.There is a portrait version of the gray Ansco with no front movements which I wouldn't consider buying. Another thing I like about the Ansco is quick set up. Once it is on the tripod just drop the tailboard and spin the lock knob tight, then pull the rear standard back and remove the lens cap, as the lens can be left in place on the camera. A Deardorff, while lighter and more elegant, is much slower to set up. I know a view camera shouldn't be about speed, unless the light is changing rapidly.

Len

mdm
9-Jan-2013, 17:56
Of the cameras you mention, I had a 5x7 B&J and have a 5x7 2D. If you like lots of movements and front tilt, a B&J is the one. A 2D is a much sturdier camera and a sliding tripod block makes closeups much easier but it has no front tilt. I think the B&J has more usable extension. My preference is for the 2D. Dont get a monorail, it might do the job well but its heavy and difficult to use outside of the home and most importantly, very difficult to sell if you decide you dont like it. If you like LF and then later decide your camera is inadequate and you can live with a monorails impracticalities, you can always pick one up then for chicken feed. I am guessing mobile DSLR shooter and monorail wont gel very well.

Ranger Bob
9-Jan-2013, 17:58
For a fraction of that price you could get a 5x7 monorail that's much more precise, stronger, and offers full movements. Look for a Toyo, Sinar, Cambo, or Linhof. There are also metal folders from Toyo and Rittereck (Wista) that often sell for under $700.

Buy based on condition of course.

I've been looking at monorails for months on ebay and have yet to see a 5x7 in the U.S.. I've seen pieces of Sinar's but nothing near complete. I had considered a Sinar P 4x5 and then changing out the standards at a later date but considering how little 5x7 there seems to be, it might be a much later date.

Len, thanks for the great insight. Good stuff.

Bob

John Kasaian
9-Jan-2013, 18:05
If I had the $$ I'd get a Nagaoka---a svelt little wooden field camera that takes most 4x5s to task in the size and weight department. But I'd still keep my Agfa Ansco and Speed Graphic 5x7s.

Carsten Wolff
9-Jan-2013, 18:08
I bought a used Arca-Swiss B 13x18 (same back as 5x7) with w/a leather bellows for about $500 a while back. [And also made myself a 6x17 adapter for a Canham 617 back for it.] Sensational camera. So they are out there. Keep looking.

Ranger Bob
9-Jan-2013, 19:46
Yes it appears there are very few 5x7 monorails sold on eBay.

So, if this is supposed to be sarcasm, I'd say it is poorly placed considering you were not able to produce a single link to a current auction. I'm personally not against a monorail but, I also enjoy projects so an old wooden field camera might be fine for me. The only decision I have made thus far is that I want 5x7. Other than that, I'm open to all suggestions.

Bob

Gem Singer
9-Jan-2013, 21:07
You might be able to find an older wooden 8x10 camera,with a 5x7 reducing back, in your price range.

They are more readily available on the used market than 5x7 cameras.

Leonard Robertson
9-Jan-2013, 21:18
I think it is unfortunate Gittime deleted his last post. I thought he made a good case for 5X7 monorails being available, although not commonly so. Maybe a bit sarcastic, but I didn't feel he was being malicious about it. The examples he posted of actual eBay sold prices were much less expensive than I would have expected for quality 5X7 monorails.

I must admit my current love affair is with a 4X5 Sinar Norma monorail, and I have recently been watching eBay for bits and pieces to expand it to 5X7 or 8X10. Although I'm afraid when it comes to parting with the money I'll probably end up sticking with my wooden cameras. But monorails have much in their favor as far as extendable monorails for long extensions and interchangeable bag bellows for ease of using wide angle lenses. Of course they tend to be bulkier than wooden cameras, and possibly heavier, depending on which wooden camera is compared to. I'm not familiar with any of the "system" 5X7 monorails other than Sinar, but if you could find a Toyo or Cambo or similar in 5X7 size, it would be worth considering. The same with the metal "lunchbox" style folders. I suspect these are great, but have never handled one. Metal cameras of either type will be much newer than the wooden Ansco, B&J, Eastman style and will have less wear on them. Bellows may be less risky too. But there is a certain "style" to wooden cameras that is enjoyable. After I got my Sinar Norma I did considerable reading of back posts on the large format forums. I was quite surprised how many people use Sinars as field cameras. Not just the lighter weight Sinar Fs either, but the heavy Sinar P studio cameras. The point is not everyone thinks a light weight "field" camera is the only possibility for use outside the studio.

Bob, is your $700 budget for a complete outfit including a lens and film holders? Quality 210mm lenses are on eBay in the $200 range. I don't know what used 5X7 holders can be had for. I tend to think of the older wooden cameras Eastmans and Anscos as $250 cameras, but I haven't been watching actual sold prices, so I might be way low in my thinking.

Len

Jim Jones
9-Jan-2013, 22:55
Bob, My first 5x7 was a B&J flatbed bought used in 1974, I still occasionally use it, but with a 4x5 reducing back. It weighs about 6.5 lbs without lens, and the extension bed about 1 lb. Bellows extension is about 15 inches, and the extension bed adds 10 inches more. The lens board is 5.25 inches, and easy to make from plywood or MDF. The B&J flatbed evolved somewhat over the years, with the later ones perhaps a little more stable. There certainly are cameras that are more beautiful and many that are more precise and versatile. However, the B&J lets the photographer take photos about as fine as any of the others.

Michael_qrt
10-Jan-2013, 05:27
Speaking of the 5x7 B&J flatbed, there's one on ebay at the moment for quite a low price. I have one that looks to be in similar condition to the one for sale and I'd say that it'd probably be a bit rough to use without some work (I got mine with the plan to fix it up although I havn't really had the motivation as yet as I also have a Chamonix 5x7). It'd possibly not be a great first experience with large format in the sense that you might want a camera where everything works smoothly so you can focus on all the other aspects of large format photography rather than fighting with the camera. On the other hand if you're willing (and have the time) to do some work on it it could well be a fine working camera in the end.

I'd also say that I think 5x7 is a fine format to work with. The size is usefully larger than 4x5 but I feel like it still handles as easily as 4x5. As long as you're planning to work with black and white I don't see there being a real problem with film availability now or for the forseeable future (as long as you're not too picky). It's become a bit of a go-to format for me, the "goldilocks format" in many ways.

goamules
10-Jan-2013, 07:48
A few weeks ago I joined this forum to ask about a 4x5 for a digital conversion. I have somewhat abandon that plan for now but, after all the research I've done, I'm still very interested in getting a LF camera. So, I'm leaning toward 5x7 for a couple reasons. It is scannable on a flatbed scanner and it makes a decent size contact print without the camera being too large. I would likely use it for landscape and still life only. I do not do portraiture and everything else I shoot requires a DSLR. I realize that I would be limited in film choices with the 5x7 but I think I can live with that. So, I'm looking at ebay and I see a lot of old field cameras. I will not hike with the camera I choose but I will need to carry it perhaps up to a half-mile to setup. I am looking to spend up to $700 ready to shoot. Right now I'm looking at a B&J, an Agfa, and a Conley. Are these worthwhile choices or should I be looking for something else?

Bob

All the field cameras are about the same, except for the AGFA/ANSCO ones with the front tilt which would be a plus. A quick look through ebay shows a AGFA for a little too much for me, and an ok deal on a black Seneca Improved, with a rough finish. If you're in a hurry I'd consider either. I had a Seneca in 8x10 that I loved. If you watch for a few weeks, you should be able to get a nice 5x7 field camera for about half your budget. Don't base your prices on the Buy It Now ones, which are almost always a lot more than they go for on auction.

A big advantage is 5x7 has never been as popular as 8x10 or 4x5, so they are about the cheapest in a field camera. Contact prints are big enough too.

Greg Y
10-Jan-2013, 09:14
Ranger Bob, I hear you on the monorail comments, however since you asked, I'll suggest a different direction. $700 is a pretty skimpy budget for a view camera. Look at it this way...what could you buy for a DSLR for $700? My guess is that for $700 you'll be able to get some project camera, a cheap old lens & maybe a holder or two. If you're serious about the idea of large format, why not get a 5x7 field camera in good condition that you won't need to buy a new bellows for and that you won't be looking to replace. There are also far more choices in 4x5 field cameras & if you buy a lens that will cover 5x7, you can move up when you run across a good deal. You can also shoot a lot of 4x5 film to tune in your technique for a lot less money.

goamules
10-Jan-2013, 09:52
...

Ranger Bob
10-Jan-2013, 10:05
Ranger Bob, I hear you on the monorail comments, however since you asked, I'll suggest a different direction. $700 is a pretty skimpy budget for a view camera. Look at it this way...what could you buy for a DSLR for $700? My guess is that for $700 you'll be able to get some project camera, a cheap old lens & maybe a holder or two. If you're serious about the idea of large format, why not get a 5x7 field camera in good condition that you won't need to buy a new bellows for and that you won't be looking to replace. There are also far more choices in 4x5 field cameras & if you buy a lens that will cover 5x7, you can move up when you run across a good deal. You can also shoot a lot of 4x5 film to tune in your technique for a lot less money.

I've definately considered this as well. One of the reasons I think I'm partial to the 5x7 is that I tend to print a lot of 5x7 images on 8x10 paper now. Of course scanning and cropping during PP on a 4x5 exposure would get me to the same place. I just wouldn't be able to do the contact prints which is probably just wishful thinking for me anyway. Finding the time to set up and use a darkroom is not something I see in my near future.

So along this line of thinking, anyone have any comments on the Toyo Field 45CF? Other recommendations in a modern, economical, 4x5 field or even a monorail? I know, I know...now I'm all over the place. That's why I need all you experts to help me sort it out.

Bob

Bernice Loui
10-Jan-2013, 10:25
Hello Bob,

It really depends on what your goals are for the resulting images. From the point of my experience and needs, Sinar is the way to go (I'll stand by this for a host of reasons). For anyone starting into LF, what they need is a camera and lens that works with ZERO hassle, problems and grief with plenty of product support, flexibility in capability and good value. What can easily discourage any new image maker in the world of LF is problems with leaky bellows, poor camera stability, difficulty using camera movements, poor camera alignment, difficulty setting up the camera, lens shutters that are not reliable and ...

If possible, purchase an entire camera system with lenses as they are usually a better value on the used market.

Moving up or down format size (roll film, 4x5, 5x7, 8x10, 11x14 or other) within the Sinar system is easy and if your interest brings you to venture into the world of optics without a shutter, the Sinar shutter makes all the difference.

As for 5x7 -vs- 4x5 (baby bear), yes 4x5 & 8x10 (papa bear) IS more popular, but that does not mean they do not have inherent limitations. The ideal format really depends on what the imaging goals are and a far broader view of what are the limits of each format based on physics (laws of nature). Do read this page on why 5x7 (just right).

http://www.largeformatphotography.info/5x7.html


Bernice





I've definately considered this as well. One of the reasons I think I'm partial to the 5x7 is that I tend to print a lot of 5x7 images on 8x10 paper now. Of course scanning and cropping during PP on a 4x5 exposure would get me to the same place. I just wouldn't be able to do the contact prints which is probably just wishful thinking for me anyway. Finding the time to set up and use a darkroom is not something I see in my near future.

So along this line of thinking, anyone have any comments on the Toyo Field 45CF? Other recommendations in a modern, economical, 4x5 field or even a monorail? I know, I know...now I'm all over the place. That's why I need all you experts to help me sort it out.

Bob

Greg Y
10-Jan-2013, 10:48
Bob, Thanks for being so forthcoming with your goals. I have to start by saying that I love 5x7 & it is my format of choice. I both contact print on Azo & Lodima &/or enlarge with a Durst 138. But, & this is a big but....if you don't see having a darkroom & you aren't working professionally...why go to the extra expense? I do understand dreams...we all have them. I have seen wonderful silver gelatin enlargements from 4x5....large ones too...from folks like Bruce Barnbaum & Craig Richards. They hold up incredibly well. As for the Toyo CF...I took one home for the weekend & it is light, but I thought the bellows draw was too short for me. There are many many 4x5s out there, and lots available used. My personal favorites of the ones I've had in my hands are the Chamonix, the venerable Toyo 45A, & the Ebony RW 45. When it comes to weight...& I do drag my LF camera into the big mountains. The camera weight is only part of the equation. Good luck with the journey.

Ken Lee
10-Jan-2013, 10:58
Since 8x10 is twice the size of 4x5, we need to stop down our lenses (which are twice as long) by 2 stops to get the same depth of field. With 5x7, we need around 1 stop.

If we routinely shoot at f/22 with 4x5, we need f/32 to get the same depth of field with 5x7. Past f/22, many lenses degrade, and when we reach f/32 we are diffraction limited. Since we enlarge less and have less grain, 5x7 still takes the cake (I presume).

To get equivalent exposure, we need a correspondingly longer shutter speed. Depending on the subject, this can be critical or irrelevant.

When depth of field is critical (or shutter speed) smaller can sometimes be better. When shooting distant stationary subjects - where depth of field and motion are less important - bigger can be much better, particularly if we want to see every blade of grass.

All things being equal, if I were doing a serious landscape series (to paraphrase Ansel) I'd bring the biggest camera I could carry. For closer shooting and enlarged prints, 5x7 would be the max, unless I wanted that "look" of extremely shallow depth of field, which like everything else can be beautiful when done well, but tiresome otherwise.

Noeyedear
14-Jan-2013, 12:31
Well if you see a Plaubel 5x7 monorail going, Grab it. Every bit as well engineered as a Linhof but often a fraction of the price. Just make sure the back takes standard DDS. Plaubel will still sell you a new back, but at a price. I bought one, it came in a metal case with lens hood, filter holder and a 5x4 reduction back, plus other accessories for I think about 350. so about $500 ish at a guess.

Kevin.

Robert Langham
14-Jan-2013, 19:39
I'd spend a little more and go Deardorff. Plenty of videos of me using mine on the Blackfork6 Channel on Youtube including one from last weekend.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLc5eEIUSP0. 5X7 great format. Fits landscape. Don't overlook the fact that it can be enlarged!

87345 Horned Owl, Red river County, Texas.

I carry mine in an old case were it can be left deployed or in an F64 pack that carries it pretty well.

joselsgil
14-Jan-2013, 21:48
If you are searching for an inexpensive 5x7. I have one for sale.

/www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?95246-F-S-Burke-amp-James-5X7-monorail-camera

ramon
19-Feb-2013, 07:50
Hi Bob,

You should take a look to Rittreckview 5x7 cameras.

This is a metal view camera (I prefer metal to wood). Its not a lightweight camera, but OK for small travel.

Two tips:

1) look for the later models (made by wista). There are some Japanese sellers and good deals.

2) buy a linhof lensboard adapter so you can reduce size (I use a horseman 8x8cm but only allows copal 0 a 1 sizes. For me its ok because I only use 4x5, but if you want the camera for 5x7 maybe you have some copal 3 lens).

Price for a Rittreckview with 4x5 back is around $300. 5x7 back is around $250. And linhof lensboard adapter is around $100.

John Kasaian
19-Feb-2013, 08:08
What do you intend to do with it? An ideal back packable 5x7 would be a different beast than one that stays in the studio or works out of your trunk. I like Agfa Anscos but I'd seriously consider a Nagaoka or Gowland Pocket would be my pick if I were back packing.

sanking
19-Feb-2013, 08:18
What do you intend to do with it? An ideal back packable 5x7 would be a different beast than one that stays in the studio or works out of your trunk. I like Agfa Anscos but I'd seriously consider a Nagaoka or Gowland Pocket would be my pick if I were back packing.


For landscape work where some hiking is involved I would recommend a Nagaoka (or Ikeda of the same type), or an older folding Toyo field camera with 5X7 back. Both have limited bellows draw but are fairly light and compact, especially the Nagaoka which weighs only about three lbs and folds to less than 8"X8"X3". Bellows draw will limit you to a maximum of about a 12" lens.

My second choice would be a 5X7 Deardorff which would offer more versatility, but at the expense of a larger and heavier camera.

Sandy

Bill_1856
19-Feb-2013, 09:32
If I had the $$ I'd get a Nagaoka---a svelt little wooden field camera that takes most 4x5s to task in the size and weight department. But I'd still keep my Agfa Ansco and Speed Graphic 5x7s.

I've been looking for one for months. Haven't seen a single one for sale. Meanwhile, I use my 4x5 Nagaoka with the 5x7 extension -- not really a satisfactory arrangement.

Robert Langham
19-Feb-2013, 09:49
Deardorff. Folds up for transport. Plenty of controls. Ebay.

89770 89771

premortho
24-Feb-2013, 14:22
I've never owned or operated a Kodak 2D, but I now own 3 5X7's. I think it matters how you are built and how old you are as to what camera works best. I'm 6'2", 285 lbs. To me my old Ansco 5X7 was just the right weight, easy to carry. Bausch&Lomb Tessar in a B&L compound shutter, 9 inch. Ansco wooden film holders. Usually shoot Arista Ortho-lith or Ilfords' Ortho-+. Far and away the stiffest and toughest LF camera I've ever used. I use a B&J Commercial View in what I laughingly call my studio. It has more movements, but is not very rigid. My little Seneca Black Beauty is about half way between. But if I had only an Ansco 5X7 to use the rest of my life, I would not be looking back. I think people worry too much about gear, and not enough about composing on the ground glass. All of these cameras work...do you?

premortho
24-Feb-2013, 14:25
I should say that now that I'm 75, I use the Seneca more than I used to. I started LF at my grandfathers knee in 1947 with his old Speed Graphic.