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Thread: Hiking with LF equipment

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    eastern Austria

    Hiking with LF equipment

    Hiking with LF equipment

    I became interested in LF not so long ago while looking at a book of landscape photographs and realizing that the ones I liked best were 4x5s (or larger). Largely thanks to the information on this website and in the forums, Iíve already been able to learn a lot. However, now that I want to get some equipment I would be grateful for some advice.
    I live in the East of Austria and above all want to do landscapes of various kinds, perhaps a little bit of architecture, but thatís not very important. I also want to be able to do a dayís walk with my equipment and go up some large hills to get good vantage points. Iím fairly fit, but only slightly built. There doesnít seem to be much in the way of used equipment around here, and even if there was I donít think Iíd be in a position to judge its condition, so I tend to think Iíll buy new. My questions are:
    1) Which cameras might be suitable? Iíve been considering a Tachihara, but the comments about wooden cameras possibly being destroyed by a fall are rather worrying. The Discovery sounds good, and doesnít seem to weigh much more than the Tachihara (around 5lbs compared to 3.8), but how much bulkier would the whole package be? What about the Wista VX?
    2) Roughly, what sort of total photo equipment weight might I be carrying with me with the above (or alternative) set-ups with a not-too-generous lens selection?

    Any advice would be much appreciated.


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Forest Grove, Ore.

    Hiking with LF equipment

    On backpacks, I've found those with large cloth rectangular interiors to be the lightest, versus those with a bunch of compartments, heavy padding, made for camera gear, etc. I cut a large piece of black coarse foam rubber to fit inside with holes cut out for lenses, camera, etc. I use a 1" thick piece as a base, and a 6" thick piece with the holes cut out.

    My 4x5 pack is about 50% larger than my Domke pack that's made for photo gear and which I use for medium format. Yet the 4x5 pack is lighter in weight.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 1999

    Hiking with LF equipment

    Before buying any equipment may I suggest some reading


    Large Format Nature Photography by Jack Dykinga

    Using the View Camera that I wrote

    User's Guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone


    Getting Started in Large Format which is a free article on our web site

    steve simmons

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Orange, CA

    Hiking with LF equipment

    With regards to cameras, I think the Toho FC-45X is arguably the most versatile lighweight camera around, if you don't mind using a monorail. See Kerry Thalmann's review at The Toho provides quite a bit of capability while weighing less than 3 pounds.

    With regards to lenses, this recent thread has some good suggestions:

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Oslo, Norway

    Hiking with LF equipment

    I hike with a Shen-Hao 4x5, a couple of lenses, 10 filmholders, darkcloth, litghtmeter ect...
    It`s not really much more than a serious 35mm shooter brings, two camera bodies 17-35, 70-200, 300mm, 200mm macrolens, flash ect... My lightweight 4x5 pack I can carry as long as I want to, and I`m in pretty bad shape physically :-)
    Digital is nice but film is like having sex with light.

  6. #6
    Eric Biggerstaff
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Denver, Colorado

    Hiking with LF equipment

    I think Steve gave you some sound advice above.

    In terms of the Tachihara, I have used and abused mine for 10+ years and it keeps going. Any LF camera if dropped is going to get a bit messed up. Seriously consider what you like to photograph and build your kit around that. What I use may not be right for you. Also, if there are photographers whose work you greatly admire, drop them a note and ask their opinion, they are usually happy to assist.

    In terms of backpacks, I have used them all I think. For many many years I used a LowePro Super Trekker but lately have switched to a nice light day pack and put my camera in the Gnass Gear cases ( they have them made for cameras and lenses). Often I will just wrap the camera in my darkcloth, put my 150mm lens in a pouch, grab a few film holders and head out the door. Very light.

    Good luck and I hope you find large format photography rewarding and enjoyable.
    Eric Biggerstaff

  7. #7
    Scott Davis
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Washington DC

    Hiking with LF equipment

    Second what Amund said - that's almost an exact description of me - Shen Hao, five (soon to be six) lenses, a dozen film holders, carbon-fiber tripod, meter, focusing hood, changing bag, in a photo backpack, and more spare pounds around the waist than I care to admit. It is quite doable, and no worse than dragging a proper 35mm rig around. In addition to a proper photo backpack that will fit your camera, I highly recommend investing in a pair of proper hiking boots.

    Wood cameras are no worse durability-wise than metal cameras. If your camera decides to throw itself at the ground from the top of your tripod, metal or wood, it is unlikely to survive the fall intact. Even a metal camera is likely to come seriously out of alignment if it hits a rock, any lens you have on it is likely to be wrecked, and there is a good chance your ground glass will crack.

    Look into the Shen Hao as a new camera - it is very durable (teak wood), has all the movements you would want in a field camera, is very reasonably priced, and is quite good looking to boot.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    May 2005
    Olympia, Washington

    Hiking with LF equipment

    In addition to the great advice above, don't forget to think through your non-photo gear. I hike with a Sinar, 3 lenses, quickloads, etc....about 25 lbs of photo gear and film. I'm usually going 3-4 days and 20-30 miles. Instead of buying a second, light weight view camera and saving maybe 5 lbs, I cut back on everything else: Hilleberg tent (watertight and only 4lbs), down bag (small and 2lbs), only one change of clothes ( means a daily dip in the ocean or stimulates the circulatory system [i.e. near heart attack]), only two meals a day (justifies the winter reserves I store around my waistline), a new pack (lighter with same capacity), and lastly, I no longer carry bottles of wine into the back country (now I decant them into waterbottles at the trailhead). I don't get crazy and rip the lables out of my clothes and drill holes in my toothbrush. But I was able to cut out more weight this way than any new configuration of photo gear. Good luck and happy trails.

  9. #9
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    USA, North Carolina

    Hiking with LF equipment

    I'm using the 5x4 Toho that Eric talked about. Also four mostly lightweight lenses (Schneider 80mm and 110mm SS-XLs, Rodenstock 150mm Sironar-S, Fujinon-A 240mm). I normally carry 12 film holders, Pentax digital spot meter, various filters, darkcloth, etc. For a tripod I'm carring a Gitzo 1227 with an Arca-Swiss ball head. I modified the Toho to use the Arca-Swiss quick release plate. All of this goes into an Osprey Eclipse 42. For long hikes I then add three or four liters of water. Total weight in the range of 16 to 17 Kg.

    With this kit I can comfortably cover 15+ Km in a day, including a 800-1000m altitude change. I have run out of film on a day like this - but what a day it was!

    Finally, I'm not a big guy either - 1.75m, 75Kg.

    To work like this, I think the most important single piece of equipment I have would be my hiking boots. But that you'll have to figure out on your own ;-)

    Bruce Watson

  10. #10
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Honolulu, Hawai'i

    Hiking with LF equipment

    For day hikes I don't feel that I have to trim every ounce. I'd say I'm in okay shape, and like you a person of slight build. I carry my Technika with 6 lenses and 3 or 4 Grafmatics and the usual accessories in a Crumpler Fux Deluxe (a messenger style bag), and a Tiltall on a strap over my shoulder.

    With 8x10" I carry an ultralight Gowland and 6 lenses and maybe 3 or 4 filmholders in a knapsack made for laptop computers. I can get away with the Tiltall, because the Gowland is so light, but I usually carry a heavier Bogen 3233 with a Gitzo M1570 low-profile head.

    If you're backpacking and have to camp in the wilderness with a tent, water, food, and camping supplies, then there is more reason to look for an ultralight setup.

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