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Thread: My first 4x5

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Apr 2019
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    My first 4x5

    Hello all,

    I'm interested in getting a 4x5 and could use a little advice. There's a decent chance I'll want to get a used camera but I haven't been looking for very long so I don't know how common it is to get certain models on the used market. As well, I could probably use a bit of general advice on camera choice.

    I really got into b&w photography in the early 90's (I was in my early 20's). At the time I thought that I would eventually get a 4x5. Life happened, work happened (more money but less free time), family happened, digital happened. Then a few weeks ago I was having a beer with a co-worker and a friend of his. It turns out that his friend shoots 4x5 and that got me thinking... At first I thought about 3d printing a camera - I'm an ex mechanical engineer and I came up with a simple monorail design years ago that I never made. That very day I received my new Make magazine and they had an article on 3d printing a 4x5. I tried printing a few parts for that camera (The Standard) but I don't think my printer is quite up to it. I'm not convinced it's really what I want anyways. So I started some web searches on what's out there.

    I was reading about different wood field camera models when I came across some info on a Toho monorail design. I saw a video of one being used and that really got me interested - while I value small size and weight, I don't necessarily care if the camera folds up into one box. That reminded me of my old monorail design, which at the time I thought would be lighter and easier to make than a folding camera.

    Even though I've never used a LF camera before I'm pretty sure I know mostly what I need: vertical shifts and tilts. I don't know if I'd need back movements very often or at all. The 4x5 would primarily be used for landscape photography while hiking. I think I'd try to get a 90 mm lens - almost all of my landscape photos over the years have been shot between 24 and 35 mm. Weight and cost are important to me. The Intrepid 4x5 is interesting and available. I'd really like to check out a Toho but I have no idea how long it would take before I find one of those turning up on the used market. A Chamonix would be great but probably too much money unfortunately.

    Any idea on the liklihood of getting a Toho? I also read about a Badger 4x5 that is a copy of the Toho. What other models should I look at? I'm in Vancouver BC btw, for some reason I haven't been able to update my profile.

    Thanks!

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
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    San Joaquin Valley, California
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    Re: My first 4x5

    Get a camera you find attractive, that calls to you.

    LF is so much work, the chances are that your 4x5 camera will collect dust in the closet unless you really want to get out and use it.

    So look at cameras that make you want to spend the time and use them.

    Shooting with your camera will sort out all the details for you and you'll be able to figure out which features are useful, and which are not for a better informed decision---if the relationship should go South---the next time 'round.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Sep 2015
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    151

    Re: My first 4x5

    You might check Standard Cameras (standardcameras.com). They make a light-weight monorail camera that can be purchased as a kit. Looks pretty interesting. I have not seen one in person, but may be worth a look.

    Other than that, you might consider a press camera like the Graflex or Burke & James. These have decent front standard movements and can be found at very attractive prices. They are a bit heavier but, as metal cameras, they can take a good deal of punishment. I started 4x5 with a Burke & James and it was a great place to start. Enjoy!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  4. #4
    Moderator
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    Re: My first 4x5

    Quote Originally Posted by shmish View Post
    Any idea on the liklihood of getting a Toho? I also read about a Badger 4x5 that is a copy of the Toho.
    The Toho is pretty scarce on the used market. The Badger clone of the Toho was offered only very briefly and will be even harder to find. If you are looking specifically for an ultralight monorail, a Gowland will usually be easier to find.

    My own preference for a first 4x5 camera would be a lightweight folding wooden or metal field camera. There are many options at reasonable prices second hand.

  5. #5
    Foamer
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    Oct 2010
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    South Dakota
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    Re: My first 4x5

    I suggest watching here or ebay for either a used Chamonix, Tachicara, or Shen Hao. Buying used you would be able to get your money back if you resell. I love my Chamonix!


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

  6. #6
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: My first 4x5

    I saw an Intrepid 4x5 for sale the other day for $175, with a lens. I haven't used one and some people don't like them, but considering that price I don't think the quibbles about build quality matter.

    That or a simple beat-up Crown Graphic for $200 or less.

    The suggestion of getting a camera that you "find attractive" is fine, but IMO it's a tool and you should want to shoot the format because of the inherent qualities of that format and not because the camera looks cool. Anyway, finding something to learn on that is cheap is fine and if you decide you need something else, the used market is robust for most field cameras.
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    All comments and thoughtful critique welcome

  7. #7
    Joe O'Hara's Avatar
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    Marlton, NJ
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    Re: My first 4x5

    Agree with Two23. Or a Wista, or a Canham... the point is, if you are into landscape, a field camera may be a better starting point than a monorail camera,
    if only because they are easier to pack and haul. Of course we are only talking different degrees of "easy". (Real easy is a camera phone...)

    Which is NOT to say that many outstanding landscape photographers do not use monorail cameras, and would never look at anything else. It's a personal
    thing, sort of like whether you like ballheads for your tripod or 3-axis heads (the ballhead people are mistaken, by the way ). I see their work; I cannot
    gainsay their results. Use the tool that feels natural to you.

    Press cameras are certainly an inexpensive way to start, but are not particularly flexible movement-wise, from what I've heard. Never tried using one myself.
    Where are we going?
    And why are we in this handbasket?


    www.josephoharaphotography.com

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Feb 2014
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    Phoenix, Az.
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    35

    Re: My first 4x5

    My first was a speed graphic and in the years since I've used many different LF cameras. Personally, I've never been that particular about gear as long as it does what I want. That means not leaking light and moving and tightening down as it should. They come and they go, so start with what is realistic for your budget. Glass is probably more important. Have fun.

  9. #9

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    Oct 2006
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    New Jersey
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    Re: My first 4x5

    With your interest in an easily packable camera for landscape, I would look for a wooden folder. They are the lightest and most compact. I suggest you take a look at keh.com and their selection of LF cameras. While I have dealt with them, and they are actually a reasonable source for used equipment, my suggestion is rather to give you a sense of what is out there used, and the price ranges. Also, while you mention vertical shifts and tilts, especially for landscape you may want rear tilt. Even though you are thinking of a moderately wide angle lens (90mm) many of us use rear tilt to accentuate the foreground-background relationships.

  10. #10

    Join Date
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    Re: My first 4x5

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Lewin View Post
    With your interest in an easily packable camera for landscape, I would look for a wooden folder. They are the lightest and most compact. I suggest you take a look at keh.com and their selection of LF cameras. While I have dealt with them, and they are actually a reasonable source for used equipment, my suggestion is rather to give you a sense of what is out there used, and the price ranges. Also, while you mention vertical shifts and tilts, especially for landscape you may want rear tilt. Even though you are thinking of a moderately wide angle lens (90mm) many of us use rear tilt to accentuate the foreground-background relationships.
    Both front and rear tilts and swings do the same Scheimpflug controls to control the plane of sharp focus.
    Rear tilts and swings, in addition, change the shape of the subject, front tilts and swings do not.

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