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Thread: Rethinking my 4x5 Field Camera choice

  1. #1

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    Rethinking my 4x5 Field Camera choice

    At this time, I have an older Nagaoka field camera. Nice and light, and good wide angle capability. Plus, getting it at a dirt cheap price didn't hurt. However, as an earlier model, it uses a very small lensboard that is actually smaller than the ubiquitous Technika lensboard. This sort of led me down a financial rabbit hole, since I didn't want to be constantly swapping out lenboards in order to share some of the lenses with my 4x5 monorail, and an 8x10 field camera. I wound up purchasing properly sized newly made lensboards from a supplier in the greater Chicago area (whom I recommend!). However, I wound up duplicating some lens choices, as a result.

    Well, I have finally realized my mistake (not my first one!! :0( ), and want to go about correcting that. I think it would be best to replace this camera with something that would allow me to maintain commonality of lensboards, and to reduce the lens count, which would free up some cash to help pay for the replacement camera.

    I like the light weight, and the wide angle capability of the existing camera. My needs are simple in regards to the other specifications. I want wide angle capability, so that I could go as wide as a 65mm, or at least 75mm. I enjoy architectural photography, and have had cause to use a 65mm in really tight circumstance, but would prefer not to have to haul around the monorail if possible. Front/rear tilts, and a decent amount of front rise are a must. Set up for or at least compatible with the Technika lensboard is a must. I haven't had much need for front swings, but I have used front shift on occasion.

    I have done some checking, and it seems that my best bet would be to go with one of the following:

    Newer model Nagaoka w/ Technika lensboard compatibility
    Tachihara 4x5
    Wista 4x5
    Horseman wood field camera

    I've thought about Wisner and Zone VI, but am concerned about the wide angle capability, and the lensboard compatibility. The Shen Hao and the Chamonix didn't appear to offer the features that I am looking for.

    I'm not sure if I am overlooking anything here, but would like some comments. I am leaning towards the newer Nagaoka or the Tachihara, but am not firm on that.

    Thanks,

    Ed
    Last edited by EdC; 16-Nov-2019 at 13:38.

  2. #2
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    Re: Rethinking my 4x5 Field Camera choice

    Perhaps it would be easier just to have an adapter lensboard made so you can use the Nagaoka boards on your monorail, rather than going through a lot of selling and buying to completely rearrange your outfit.

    Also, for clarity, since you're talking about Technika boards I take it that you're referring to the Horseman Woodman 45 camera. Otherwise, when you say "Horseman field camera" people will assume the metal-bodied technical cameras (45HF, 45FA, 45HD) that take a very small (IIRC it's ~80mm square) lensboard.

    Also, what features are you looking for? Shen Hao and Chamonix each offer a wide array of 4x5 camera models with different features.

  3. #3

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    Re: Rethinking my 4x5 Field Camera choice

    As mentioned previously, work backwards. What kind of print, image making environment, lenses required to produce the prints in mind, choose a camera based on lens and finished print requirements.

    IMO, too many believe camera alone is the prime factor in the creation of sheet film images.. This is simply not correct.


    Bernice

  4. #4

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    Re: Rethinking my 4x5 Field Camera choice

    Very good points, Oren! I went back and edited the original post in order to address some of the excellent points that you brought up. Appreciate the commentary.

    Ed

  5. #5

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    Re: Rethinking my 4x5 Field Camera choice

    Thank you, Bernice! I have been thinking about the nature of what I am normally looking to photograph, which dictated the lenses that I bought for the camera. I'm a little wide angle heavy, which is in tune with what I am normally after. As an example, I made a point of getting a 90mm with a larger maximum aperture in order to assist with focusing for interior shots. Appreciate the comments!

    Ed

  6. #6

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    Re: Rethinking my 4x5 Field Camera choice

    A few ideas.

    First, if you use short lenses and movements, you really want a camera that has a bag bellows or a "universal" bellows (combination of bag and pleated bellows). There are many cameras out there that offer this feature, either as standard universal bellows or interchangeable bellows.

    If you do architectural work a lot, you really want a camera with shift. I simply won't buy one without this feature.

    And, if I read your intentions correctly, you're looking for a lightweight, portable wooden camera that has the above features. A full-featured monorail would give you all the capacity you'd ever need for short lenses, but is unwieldy.

    Of the cameras you mention, I've owned and used most. Here are my thoughts: Anything without a bag bellows will not easily allow full movements with a 90mm lens (and certainly not on shorter lenses with generous coverage). I crinkle the bellows on my Wista DXs with the 90mm all the time and can "make" the camera do my will, but it's not pretty. The Horseman Woodman has even less flexibility, although it is about the lightest camera I've ever used. The Nagaoka would be similar to the Wista DX and the similar designs from Shen Hao, etc.

    There are models from Shen Hao and others that are intended specifically for use with short lenses. These have limited bellows draw, so using longer lenses with them is not an option. If you need longer lenses from time-to-time, this family of cameras is ruled out.

    I believe that Chamonix offers cameras with a universal bellows and can be compacted to use very short lenses. This coupled with the possibility to use really long lenses makes a Chamonix with the universal bellows (and possibly the bag bellows too) a tool to consider, IM-HO. I certainly would take a look at one if I were in the market for another camera.

    As it is, my go-to camera for portability and flexibility for architectural work is the Wista SW. It is basically a Wista DX, but with interchangeable bellows. I have the "wide-angle bellows" and the standard bellows for it. The wide-angle bellows is a short universal-type bellows, part pleated, part bag. I will allow me to use lenses as short as 65mm easily (maybe even shorter, I haven't tried) and extend enough for city work with a 210mm lens. Longer than that, and I have to mount the 300mm standard bellows. With the bag bellows, I can easily vignette my Nikkor 90mm f/8 lens and my 135mm Wide-Field Ektar; i.e., movements to spare.

    Cameras like the Zone VI (late model) and some of the Tachihara models have interchangeable bellows too. I find most of these cameras a bit on the too large/heavy side for me. My Zone VI lives in the car mostly and makes it into the field only rarely. On the other hand, my Wista SW gets toted around everywhere, including around cities on my bicycle.

    Here's a photo of the SW in action. Note that I've used shift and front rise plus point-and-swing for both to get more effective rise and shift. The 135mm WF Ektar covered just fine

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Hope this helps a bit,

    Doremus

  7. #7
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    Re: Rethinking my 4x5 Field Camera choice

    Quote Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder View Post
    The Nagaoka would be similar to the Wista DX and the similar designs from Shen Hao, etc.
    Minimum flange-to-film on my late-model 4x5 Nagaoka is about 55mm. Of course, no useful movement at that point, but if I extend it for a 75, there's a bit of wiggle room. I'd guess that the older Nagaokas are similar; my old-style 5x7 Nagaoka can also accommodate FLs that are very short for the format.

    But a high-precision device it's not. If I were doing a lot of demanding work with ultrawides on 4x5, I'd go for something with more finesse.

  8. #8

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    Re: Rethinking my 4x5 Field Camera choice

    I switched from a nagaoka to a chamonix. In your list of requirements, I don't see anything that it can't do.

  9. #9
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    Re: Rethinking my 4x5 Field Camera choice

    I've been happy with the Chamonix 045n for doing a lot of small town/rural architecure. I use lenses down to 75mm with the standard bellows. Also available is a universal bellows that gives more movements with wide angles, and finally they have a full on bag bellows too. The camera is lightweight and sturdy. You might want one of their more advanced models though.


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

  10. #10
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    Re: Rethinking my 4x5 Field Camera choice

    I bought a couple Horseman Woodman 4x5s for the University after the students were too tough on the Tachiharas. We only used 150mm lenses on them, so I do not have experience with short lenses on them.

    I was quite happy with the cameras. Light and sturdier than their prettier cousins the Tachaharas. A clean simple camera. From what I have read, it should take a 75mm lens.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

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