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Thread: Kit recommendations for a complete beginner

  1. #1

    Kit recommendations for a complete beginner

    I've worked as a photographer for nearly 15 years, but that has been entirely digital until this year, when I played about with medium format. But I'm very keen to take up large format, which I think offers that something extra that I've been looking to add to my photography.

    I'm looking for something for portraiture and landscapes. I've been watching videos and reading as much as possible, and I know there's a huge amount to learn - and that it may not be as easy to learn as digital/MF were, given that this equipment isn't used as widely and that there are fewer sources of information. But I am keen to simply get started, and so I thought I'd see if someone can recommend a camera (and lens) that would be suitable.

    I am not wealthy, so I will be buying used and I certainly won't be buying the best. But I am looking for a camera/lens combination that does either 4x5 or 8x10. I don't mind using something old and tatty (as long as the bellows are good and it works of course). Weight isn't hugely important. I can deal with considerable inconvenience - as long as I can get the results. I would need to be able to get some tilt. My only real concern is image quality and flexibility. I only want to have my cake and eat it, how hard can that be?

    I've been looking at some of the cheaper Graflex 4x5 cameras, or perhaps a Toyo, but I'm open to absolutely anything. However, as I say, my budget is low. At the moment, my absolute maximum is £250/ $465 US. I appreciate this doesn't buy you a lot, and that I may have to scout around a bit, or wait for something cheap to come up on eBay.

    I would be very grateful for any advice you can offer on what might suit, or what compromises I might have to make.

  2. #2
    Foamer
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    Re: Kit recommendations for a complete beginner

    I would start with a monorail camera as those are very reasonable and plentiful on the used market. You're only going to be able to afford one modern lens and I suggest a 150mm or 180mm. You could go for older, pre-WW2 lenses and get a 210mm Tessar in a Compound shutter (or Velostigmat) and a wider 4 or 5 inch (100-125mm) Dagor in a Compur shutter. Use a black jacket for a dark cloth. You can use an inexpensive plastic 6x magnifying loupe for focusing. I would also buy maybe two film holders. I assume you have a decent tripod. With your budget don't even think of 8x10.


    Jeeves
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

  3. #3

    Re: Kit recommendations for a complete beginner

    Thank you, Jeeves

    Are the pre-WW2 lenses good quality? Sharpness is important to me. I don't mind strange effects though, such as swirly background blur. A bit of character is never a bad thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Two23 View Post
    I would start with a monorail camera as those are very reasonable and plentiful on the used market. You're only going to be able to afford one modern lens and I suggest a 150mm or 180mm. You could go for older, pre-WW2 lenses and get a 210mm Tessar in a Compound shutter (or Velostigmat) and a wider 4 or 5 inch (100-125mm) Dagor in a Compur shutter. Use a black jacket for a dark cloth. You can use an inexpensive plastic 6x magnifying loupe for focusing. I would also buy maybe two film holders. I assume you have a decent tripod. With your budget don't even think of 8x10.


    Jeeves

  4. #4
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Kit recommendations for a complete beginner

    Good luck!

    Why not post this exact post in WTB, in 30 days when you are allowed to view the sales sections.

    Don't buy the first thing that pops up.

    I suggest you try to buy a complete ready to use LF kit. Research the seller, here, eBay, or....

    Many here have all you need, just sort the offers.

    I will not be offering anything FS.
    sin eater

  5. #5

    Re: Kit recommendations for a complete beginner

    Quote Originally Posted by Tin Can View Post
    Good luck!
    Why not post this exact post in WTB, in 30 days when you are allowed to view the sales sections.
    Thank you, I might do that. I am extremely impatient as a rule, but a recent experience in buying a medium format camera has taught me a bit of a lesson in that respect.

  6. #6
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Kit recommendations for a complete beginner

    Large format photography is an exercise in patience. Kumar Brahmajosyulahas a very nice-looking Sinar Norma for sale. He's also on Facebook. That, or similar, would be buying into a great system with plentiful pieces available used for a good price. For lenses, a 210mm f/5.6 lens would be a great choice. There are lots of options on Ebay from Fujinon, Nikon, Schneider, Rodenstock. Then you need film holders, tripod, meter, cable release, film, a place to develop film.....
    “You often feel tired, not because you've done too much, but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you.”
    ― Alexander Den Heijer, Nothing you don't already know

  7. #7

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    Re: Kit recommendations for a complete beginner

    Bertie, Tin Can does a very good Aunt Agatha

    Kumar

  8. #8

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    Re: Kit recommendations for a complete beginner

    If your want to do landscapes in addition to portraits, don’t rule out a press camera. I started with a Burke & James press and it was a good starter 4x5. Has most movements, with the exception of swing. Can be found for a very modest amount and are very rugged to boot.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  9. #9
    Drew Saunders drew.saunders's Avatar
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    Re: Kit recommendations for a complete beginner

    The non-forum part of this site has lots of good articles. Some are 20 years old, but the cameras and lenses you'll be looking at are at least that old, so it won't matter. Here's a good start: https://www.largeformatphotography.i...tos-begin.html

    Some of the information is about "new" cameras that have long since been discontinued. The suggested prices for used cameras and lenses are from 1999, but may not have changed all that much. Polaroid film is long gone, so that's no longer a good learning tool for new photographers.
    Flickriver (to avoid Flickr's annoying new format): http://www.flickriver.com/photos/drew_saunders/

  10. #10
    Foamer
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    Re: Kit recommendations for a complete beginner

    It's lenses that generally limit what you can photo. Portraits call for longer lenses (180mm to 240mm), landscapes are usually done with wider lenses (90mm to 135mm). You are being pulled in two directions. Sharpness really isn't critical for portraits. I like to use 100 yr. old lenses for that. Otherwise, why wouldn't I just shoot my digital camera? If you are trying to stay within a very limited budget you're going to find you may have to choose between one modern lens or maybe two older lenses. I shoot both but mostly use the older lenses. I like them, they are quite different from modern digital lenses.


    Jeeves
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

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