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Thread: Looking for a versitile "budget" field camera

  1. #1

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    Looking for a versitile "budget" field camera

    I've been using a Bender 4x5 camera to do some large format photography. I quite enjoy it and it's fun to work with, but it has some limitations for the kind of photography I'd like to do. In particular, it is a real pain to travel with, and the bellows only compress so much, making it pretty much impossible to use a lens shorter than about 130mm, a 120 is just barely usable under duress. I have 90mm, 120mm, 180mm and 210mm lenses. I've got it in my head it'd be good fun to get a field camera that would work with the 90, 120 and maybe 180mm lenses, that I could take out hiking, etc. I don't really want to spend more than about $1,200 on a camera body, but also looking for something that won't require too much futzing. I've been thinking of something like an Intrepid 4x5 mark 3, a Shen Hao, or perhaps used. Just curious if anyone else has made a similar purchase or have suggestions.

    While I'd like to get something with even more pedigree like a Toyo, it's out of budget at the moment!

  2. #2
    45er
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    Re: Looking for a versitile "budget" field camera

    A Shen Hao TZ45-IIC is a great value camera for the price and if you are willing to spend enough to get a TZ45 then I would recommend it over the intrepid, it is a solid and versitile camera.

    BUT, be aware that although they are available second hand (just in case you see one going cheap) there has been a small change in the design which is worth mentioning.

    The front standard on the camera has base tilt with the option to unlatch lens plate holder frame so the bottom of the frame can axial tilt forward, this extends the overall reach allowing the bellows to expand to maximum length. The problem with this type of system is that the unlatching of the frame from the plate holder uses some tilt which is just a little too much for landscape focusing using axis tilt. Shen Hao have recently overcome this little problem by allowing the tilt to come out backwards as well as forwards therefore making it easy to make very small adjustments from the vertical like tilting the lens down 1 or 2 degrees. This is not immediately apparent when you look at pictures of the camera online unless you know what you are looking for but it makes a difference when focusing.

    If you look at the differences between the front standard supports on https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shen-Hao-TZ.../dp/B01N5QLEW0 (Revised version) and http://www.shen-hao.com/PRODUCTSabout.aspx?i=952&id=n3 (The older version). See the difference between the two verticle supports holding up the front standard?

    Make sure you get the new version with the channel type and not the flat bar type like the picture on the Shen Hao website which has not been updated yet.

    I bought the original one with the flat bar support and had to notch it myself to allow the bottom of frame to escape backwards, now focusing is very easy instead of having to use base tilt only I can swing the frame back past vertical to it's max and unlatch the lens board frame the forward tilt it. The penalty of doing this is you loose a sliding parralel rise and fall - some re-adjstment is required if using rise or fall after changing the tilt but hey ho!

  3. #3

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    Re: Looking for a versitile "budget" field camera

    Are you limiting yourself to only new cameras? It seems like $1200 would be plenty to buy most used field cameras. There was a very nice used Tachihara 4x5 in the classified here not long ago...I think you could buy two of those for $1200 (even when they were still available new).

  4. #4
    loujon
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    Re: Looking for a versitile "budget" field camera

    Quote Originally Posted by BradS View Post
    Are you limiting yourself to only new cameras? It seems like $1200 would be plenty to buy most used field cameras. There was a very nice used Tachihara 4x5 in the classified here not long ago...I think you could buy two of those for $1200 (even when they were still available new).
    I could not agree more with BradS but folks LOVE NEW stuff. I'll take a mint used LF camera for half the asking price of NEW and buy film/chemistry w/ the cash I save.

  5. #5
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: Looking for a versitile "budget" field camera

    For a lot of us, "new" is anything younger than us...
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  6. #6
    Serious Amateur Photographer pepeguitarra's Avatar
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    Re: Looking for a versitile "budget" field camera

    I really like the look of the Tachihara, and this review says a lot about it.
    "I have never in my life made music for money or fame. God walks out of the room when you are thinking about money." -- Quincy Jones

  7. #7

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    Re: Looking for a versitile "budget" field camera

    I own seven 4x5 cameras at the moment. None of them cost me anywhere near $1,200. I bought used, waited for deals, and made sure the condition was good before I bought. I have two Wista DXs (which would work well for you with a recessed lensboard; I use 75mm-300mm lenses on mine), a Wista SW (my go-to camera for architecture shots now; it's basically a DX but with interchangeable bellows), a Zone VI late-model field camera (takes 450mm lenses, but is kind of big for my purposes), a Horseman Woodman (lightweight, but limited in movements; still, I used it a lot in Europe), a Sinar monorail and an old Graphic View II (that still gets used a lot; it's a real workhorse).

    The point is, you could likely have your choice of two of the above for the amount you're willing to spend. Take time and shop wisely and you'll find a deal.

    I'd recommend the Wista DX or DX III (not the DX II that doesn't have shift), the smaller, lighter Tachihara models (some of them are pretty big and bulky, so do your homework here; there's a specifications page on the web somewhere), the Chamonix cameras (lots of flexibility and bellows draw, but maybe a bit fiddly) and even the Woodman if you don't need a lot of rear tilt. My personal opinion; don't get a camera without shift on one of the standards; front or rear, it doesn't matter.

    There are a lot of metal press/field cameras out there too, Toyo 45s being popular. Many of those would be in your price range as well.

    Best,

    Doremus

  8. #8

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    Re: Looking for a versitile "budget" field camera

    Quote Originally Posted by BradS View Post
    Are you limiting yourself to only new cameras? It seems like $1200 would be plenty to buy most used field cameras. There was a very nice used Tachihara 4x5 in the classified here not long ago...I think you could buy two of those for $1200 (even when they were still available new).
    Yeah, I buy most of my lenses and gear used. I guess I'm just looking for the (relative) ease of use of new for this. That said, you make a really valid point, I do see a lot of good view cameras come up for sale.

  9. #9

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    Re: Looking for a versitile "budget" field camera

    Quote Originally Posted by Louis Pacilla View Post
    I could not agree more with BradS but folks LOVE NEW stuff. I'll take a mint used LF camera for half the asking price of NEW and buy film/chemistry w/ the cash I save.
    I'm definitely not a guy that needs everything new, but definitely looking for something in really good shape or new. I'm a tinkerer, but for this I'd really prefer something that I can get out and start working with.

    Sadly a really good used camera shop in Ottawa closed a few years ago... if they were still in business I'd definitely be going there to see what they had in stock.

  10. #10
    Jac@stafford.net's Avatar
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    Re: Looking for a versitile "budget" field camera

    For wide ranging focal lengths I am happy with Sinar's economy Alpina (or A1) with a type-2 bag bellows. They usually come with the typical, longer excellent bellows as well.

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