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Thread: Comparing Currently In-production 4X5 Field Cameras

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2013

    Comparing Currently In-production 4X5 Field Cameras

    Hi, everyone,

    So I'm getting a brand new field camera for myself. I set out at the beginning of 2019 to drop 105 pounds. I'm 57 down so far. So it's time to start planning that 105-pound goal prize to keep the motivation up. This camera is going to replace all my 4X5 cameras (currently, a Cambo II SCN, Anniversary Graphic, and Super D) and I'll be parting ways with my barrel lenses (this makes me pretty sad, but it's a compromise.) I'll be using (more will probably be added) a 75mm (Super-W-Komura retrofocus with 103mm register distance), 90mm f/6.8, and 210mm f/5.6. And I need to fit the camera and lenses in my hiking day bag (film backs and tripod are carried separately.) So I made the attached PDF table of all the in-production 4X5 field cameras that I could find to compare specs. I figure it will be helpful to other people, too. It includes Canham, Intrepid, Gibellini, Stenpeika, Shen Hao, Chamonix, and Toyo (all of these except the three set aside at the bottom were for sale new in at least one location.)

    But really, I want to hear from people who have used the Canham DLC2, Gibellini ACN45, and Stenopeika 45SE2 about your experiences with them. Those are the three that I'm most leaning towards. What I'm hoping to learn are things the spec table cant' tell me, such as how easy they are to pack and unpack, how well they handle, if they're rigid in the wind, etc. Basically, all the user-experience-type of stuff. Also, the A.G. up front was for my reference as a comparison for possible new cameras versus what I know I can hike up foothills with. Double question marks means that I couldn't find the data online anywhere.

    Thank you, everyone for your input. I hope that the table is a helpful reference.

    P.S., Hello from the top of Horsetooth Mountain (Ft. Collins, CO), from OP and his Anniversary Graphic.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jan 2013

    Re: Comparing Currently In-production 4X5 Field Cameras

    I think I was supposed to put this in the gear forum. I apologize for categorizing it incorrectly.

    Moderator's note: no problem, this is indeed the appropriate subforum for getting help with a camera choice. Carry on, and good luck!
    Last edited by Oren Grad; 26-May-2019 at 08:27.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Elko, Nevada

    Re: Comparing Currently In-production 4X5 Field Cameras

    For 4x5 I picked up an Intrepid from backing the Kickstarter back in 2015 and I have been busy trying to wear it out for the past three or so years. So far it has held up exceptionally well. This is probably my favorite 4x5 camera right now and has been since it arrived. Not so beautiful to look at but it handles very well (in many ways similar to my Chamonix), and it is an absolute breeze to carry around. The other factor that makes it so nice in my opinion is that it was a very economical camera to buy and if it were badly damaged out in the field I can almost certainly replace it just as economically.

    The Intrepid is light, and the little Slik tripod I use on hikes really is not intended to be used in windy conditions, but overall the combo works out OK in breezes up to about 10 mph. It isn't perfect but none of my large format cameras are great in those conditions so you learn how to deal if you want that shot. Of course heavier breezes/wind makes sharp landscape photography impossible so I rarely even try to set the camera up if conditions get too bad.

    Though it certainly is not common I have had the Intrepid set up in light rain and it doesn't seem to have harmed it. I use a water resistant dark cloth and I try to cover the camera as much as possible in those conditions and I wipe it down good before packing it away.

    If I were in the market for a new 4x5 camera today I would certainly buy the Intrepid all over again. Mine has stood up very well to use and abuse in the great Nevada outback and if you hike a lot, the price and weight is very, very hard to beat.

    Of course the great majority of my large format work is out in the hills taking landscapes or close ups of nature. If I wanted a studio camera I wouldn't even consider the Intrepid since there are monorail cameras that are far better for that work.

    There are others who prefer more traditionally constructed cameras and that is just fine. Everyone has their own personal preferences and perspective on what a nice camera should look like. For my purposes the little Intrepid and I have bonded nicely.
    The Viewfinder is the Soul of the Camera

    If you don't believe it, look into an 8x10 viewfinder!


  4. #4

    Join Date
    Nov 2017

    Re: Comparing Currently In-production 4X5 Field Cameras

    Thanks for taking the time to write that down. I'm looking for something lighter than my Wista and this is a great help.
    Expert in non-working solutions.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    May 2006

    Re: Comparing Currently In-production 4X5 Field Cameras

    If you are in Denver, your Chamonix prices are not right.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 1998

    Re: Comparing Currently In-production 4X5 Field Cameras

    Why leave out Wista and Linhof?

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    New Jersey

    Re: Comparing Currently In-production 4X5 Field Cameras

    Let's try to actually answer what you asked, rather than lots of alternatives. My one 4x5 is a Canham DLC which has been upgraded with the DLC^2 stronger rear standard. Previously I used a Sinar F monorail and a ZoneVI/Wista. The Canham was my effort to combine the strengths of those into one camera, and minimize the failings. I'm happy with my choice.

    In terms of set-up, the Canham is a bit slower than either of the others, because of the way the front standard folds up. The "worst part" is sliding the somewhat fiddly "sliding braces" which lock the standard to the verticals (almost impossible to describe in text, you have to do it or see a video) into place. But all said and done, this adds less than one minute versus unfolding something like the Wista or the SInar F. Folding the Canham up to put it away adds maybe a symmetrical minute. So this downside, which I consider minor, adds up to two minutes or less per set-up and take-down. The reward is a compact folding field camera.

    Other "weaknesses" are the bubble level on the front standard (because it is on the top it is hard to see, I wish the front standard had the same leveling bubbles as the rear), and the lack of strong detents on either standard (they are there, but I find them hard to "feel").

    But I find all of these, listed for an honest review, outweighed by the strengths of the design. Since everything is CNC cut from thick aluminum, it is more rigid than the Wista, or other folding field cameras I have tried. It works easily with all my lenses, from an 80mm through a 300mm. It has an interchangeable bag bellows which is needed for the 80mm if I want any significant movements. (The standard bellows works with the 80 as long as you have only limited displacements.) It has every movement one can expect from a field camera except for rear rise/fall, and while that is common on monorails, I already lost that one movement on my Wista, and have never missed it in the field, because you can get the same displacement indirectly. When folded, the camera is almost as compact as the Wista, and significantly lighter than a Linhof Technika. I like the "feel" of the controls, and a very small set (I think it is 3) of Allen Keys let me adjust anything on the camera if I want looser or tighter.

    A final positive is that Keith Canham is incredibly responsive should anything go wrong and you need a replacement part. I dropped the camera once and broke the GG. Keith mailed me a replacement right away, and when I thanked him for his speed, commented that he did his best to keep all of his cameras out in the field.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    Re: Comparing Currently In-production 4X5 Field Cameras

    Suggest the Canham DLC having used one in the past after using Wista, Linhof Technika (several versions), Graphic, Deardorff, Kodak Master, Rahja field, Wisner, ....

    *It is light weight, stable with enough rigidity to resist common problems with field cameras.

    *Bellows is long enough and flexi enough for wide angle lenses.

    *Good range of camera movements.

    *Customer support from Keith is GOOD.

    *It is not a press camera or once press camera made to be a field camera. The design has the needs of LF image makers in mind from the very beginning.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    South Dakota

    Re: Comparing Currently In-production 4X5 Field Cameras

    I've been using a Chamonix for the past ten years and love it. They are very finely made and mine has held up well in the rough Dakota environment. What I like best about it is it's very light/compact and pretty. All of the cameras you mentioned will work just fine. I bought the Chamonix because it seemed to be the best value on a first rate camera. Parts are available and come quickly, and there are a number of accessories available too. Looking at the Stenopeika, it has a lot more movements than the Chamonix, which would be good if you plan on doing a lot of architecture. It looks considerably heavier though. The Chamonix is made for hiking, which is how I often use it.

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

  10. #10

    Re: Comparing Currently In-production 4X5 Field Cameras

    First of all...


    When you are out shooting the Colorado vistas, how many of the camera movements do you really use? I used a Crown Graphic for years, only thinking a few times i wanted movements. I’ve had my 90/8 SA on the camera and it seems to work fine.

    I have no experience with any other field camera, but I like the Chamonix. Many good reports and a good mix of weight, cost, functionality, and interchangeability.

    OH! And the (insert fav camera here) looks pretty good too.
    --- Steve from Missouri ---

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