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Thread: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

  1. #1

    Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

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    If you find this article useful, so do not Be unwilling to talk to your friends
    Last edited by strayblank; 9-Apr-2018 at 22:19.

  2. #2
    Angus Parker angusparker's Avatar
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    Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    Now is the time to start. There is something of a renaissance in analog photography right now. B&W 4x5 film will be around for at least another 30 years.

    As for resale value if you buy pretty much any decent condition 4x5 camera, and two modern lenses and a few holders youll be able to sell them back for more or less the same price you bought them for.

    There are also some very cheap but adequate new options like the 4x5 Bulldog and the Chroma which will not hold their value as well but are a cheaper way to get into LF. Think of owning them as paying a rental fee.

    8x10 is a whole different level of expense and complication for relatively modest benefit over 4x5. So Id start with 4x5 and learn the craft and if (big if) you decide to go bigger you can always sell you 4x5 rig.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

  3. #3

    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by strayblank View Post
    would this be a poor investment?
    ;-) ... No

    Quote Originally Posted by strayblank View Post
    This is complicated by the fact that many of the brands and models detailed in the books I've read no longer exist. The used equipment remaining from before is then contrasted against modern equipment, like Chamonix or Calumet, which I have absolutely no knowledge of. So where ought I begin? Considering the tenuous future of film negative production,
    Well, maybe you should take a mono-rail into consideration. For instance, you can find a 4x5 Sinar F1 or F2 for a price around $ 500.
    300 to 500 more for a modern APO 150 mm, 20 for each sheat film holder, 150 a tripod, 300 a spotmeter.

    Then you'll have to buy film...

    A monorail is symmetrical and this is going to help you a lot in understanding movements (and has the biggest freedom of movements).


    Quote Originally Posted by strayblank View Post
    I'd really like to get a hefty 8x10, which would probably clear out my savings. Perhaps it would feel well worth it, though. I've considered a 4x5, but my worry there is that by the time I decide I want to try out another camera, I might not be able to get enough resale value out of it to recoup enough cash to upgrade.
    You should be able to resale it for the same price.

    8x10 quadruples 4x5 in every things ;-)

    J

  4. #4

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    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by strayblank View Post
    Considering the tenuous future of film negative production, would this be a poor investment?
    Yes, in the case of your 8x10 choice! Think about the fact that the LF photography will just give you pictures (at your expense!), not any financial reward. In this sense it is not any investment, just an expense. Don't start LF photo with a film format that carries additional problems to solve. Start with a 4x5, more than enough to please you with its photographic results.

  5. #5
    Foamer
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    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    I highly advise staying away from 8x10 to start. It will eat money faster than you can replace it. The suggestion of buying a used monorail camera, something like a Cambo NX2, will be a cheap but good entry. I see them selling on ebay for <$400 with a nice lens! They are bulky and not what you'd want to hike all day with, but otherwise you are getting a lot for your money. You should be able to get most of your money back out of something like that. Most all of my camera gear was bought used, generally from ebay.


    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

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    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    A used Calumet 400 series with a lens will set you back under $200 if you look around a bit. 6 film holders, a light meter and a cable release less than $100 more. You can make a dark cloth. Carry bag is simple. Smallish drink cooler from a thrift store if you don't already have a bag to use.

    The old monorail cameras are easy to use. The Calumets, Burke and James and Kodak metal monorails were not expensive when new and are still inexpensive on the used market.

    A 4x5 enlarger can be had for low cost to "please take this thing off my hands".

    If and when you decide to move to a larger format you don't lose much at all because you did not pay much for the gear.
    "My forumla for successful printing remains ordinary chemicals, an ordinary enlarger, music, a bottle of scotch - and stubbornness." W. Eugene Smith

  7. #7

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    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    I would start with a 4x5. There are so many things that are simpler. You can develop the film in a tank, not a tray so you don't need a darkroom to do it. Lenses are a lot easier to find and cheaper, you should be able to find a standard lens for under 200. I got a monorail, lens and various boards and accessories for 350, and that was enough to get me started. You can get everything you need online, in a day and be ready to start shooting when it arrives. It would be a lot harder and more time consuming to source a 8x10 kit, things like film holders are just that much more difficult to find. All decent, non-electronic film equipment seems to be holding its value or apprieciating, so if you buy carefully all you are doing is storing your money in that equipment. With luck you should get it all back or maybe even make a profit.

  8. #8
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    Another vote for 4x5. The main advantage of 5x7 or 8x10 is where the larger negative is needed for contact printing esoteric processes. However, these large negatives can be digitally reproduced from smaller negatives. Your first LF camera should be used, not new. It is a learning tool, not a lifetime investment. Only after hands on experience can you know what features you need. The better cameras from several generations ago have most or all of the capabilities of most new products. Many of these, unlike many new cameras, use simple lens boards that are inexpensive and easy to improvise. Perhaps the most significant improvement in lenses in many years is multicoating. However, some hundred-year-old uncoated lenses are still in good use. Remember, great photographs from the past were taken with what seems to us to be primitive equipment. Pursuing the latest and best camera is less productive (but much more expensive) than making the most of whatever equipment is at hand. The one photographic lifetime investment is a tripod. I prefer the old well designed and built Tiltall to new, but more expensive and relatively unproven, designs.

  9. #9

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    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    What you want to do with your new camera should indicate to some extent which type of LF camera to choose. Back packing? Studio work? Hand held? Architecture?
    Then consider your lens----what does it require as far as bellows length? Size of lens board? Will it be compatible with your camera selection?
    That would be a start.

    Tickets to the dance can be all over the place. You can still find old US built monorails for $150 or Linhofs for $1000s. My advice would be to look for a camera that's in good condition. No negative ever will tell the viewer the name on the camera used to take the shot, but it will tell you if there are pinholes in the bellows, or the movements don't lock down firmly, or the film holder didn't fit correctly.
    Regarding build quality, any of the major brands should be sound if their designs have withstood the test of time, so don't sweat that part of the equation. The important thing is to get out and make photographs.

    As far as format, 4x5 is the entry drug. Larger formats are more costly in terms of film, chemistry, film holders, tripods(larger cameras need greater stability) and lenses. Spend your $$ as you see fit.
    I prefer 8x10 and have done it on a budget so it isn't entirely out of the question, but it's going to cost.

    Willie in post #6 above offers excellent advice, but don't forget the Graphic View I or II
    "I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for men if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority"---EB White

  10. #10

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    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    Another vote for a "beater" 4x5. You don't say what type of photography you do, but there will be a learning curve, and you will develop preferences for what type of camera you want. An old 4x5 monorail with a couple of older lenses will let you figure out what you want, or if you really want portable and camera movements are less of an issue, pick up a speed or crown graphic. Chances are when you are done, you can sell it for close to what you paid, and pick up the camera that meets your needs. Who knows - the camera may be what you want! I started on an old Graphic View, and I'm going to pull it back out again for some wet plate work.

    Cheers!
    Bill

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