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Thread: Interested in 4 x 5

  1. #11

    Re: Interested in 4 x 5

    Quote Originally Posted by Dugan View Post
    I would recommend a Calumet CC-400 monorail...maybe a 135 or 150mm lens. Basic and bulletproof camera, and they made a gazillion of them..very easy to find cheap. A Crown Graphic (press camera, not a lot of movements) would work, too...but it won't teach you as much.
    double recommend!! you can find deals on these with a lens for around $200 all you need is film holders and film...

  2. #12

    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Oxfordshire UK

    Re: Interested in 4 x 5

    Well I started with a Wisner 'Traditional' a beautiful Camera indeed, I then added a Sinar F1 and even though the Wisner had plenty of movements, the Sinar had
    the lot and then there's the extensive Sinar system to build on, can't go wrong imho with Sinar

    best of luck and welcome on board


  3. #13

    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Re: Interested in 4 x 5

    Don't forget to look around YouTube for view camera information.

  4. #14
    jp's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Re: Interested in 4 x 5

    $750 is a reasonable budget.

    A cheap monorail and 135mm lens to get started, or a press camera like a speed graphic pacemaker / crown graphic with such a lens to get started. Functionality versus portability. I mostly use speed graphics, but other people would rather have something with more features/adjustments.

    When corona quarantine is over, attend some events or outings with other LF photographers to see in person the variety of camera options.
    Add good used film holders, some antistatic plastic bags for the film holders, a rugged tripod (tiltall or something new in the >$150 range)
    For developing, I like the combiplan tanks, other people use stearman or jobo tanks. 6 sheets at a time and probably $1 in chemicals. If you have a dark place to load films holders, you can load your tanks. Add a thermometer of some sort for consistent results. I use a digital kitchen timer for film developing.
    Printfile pages or other filing system for when you get something worth keeping.
    For contact printing, get a spring back contact printing frame and some 5x7 variable contrast paper. I use a smaller format enlarger with a VC head for contact prints, other people use a light bulb.

    For paper, I think it's fun to try different options and I think highly of some of the Foma papers, Oriental, Ilford, etc... For film, I don't mess with anything except Kodak/Ilford/Fuji.

  5. #15
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Fond du Lac, WI, USA

    Re: Interested in 4 x 5

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Plume View Post
    Well I started with a Wisner 'Traditional' a beautiful Camera indeed, I then added a Sinar F1 and even though the Wisner had plenty of movements, the Sinar had
    the lot and then there's the extensive Sinar system to build on, can't go wrong imho with Sinar

    best of luck and welcome on board

    Right, and I've seen Sinars for not much more than what a Calumet CC-400 goes for. The latter are fine cameras, but I've owned two, and the locks didn't really lock. I'm sure the washers could've been replaced.
    May tomorrow be a better day.

  6. #16

    Join Date
    May 2010
    St. Louis, Mo.

    Re: Interested in 4 x 5

    I've seen old monorails go for as low as $50 on eBay. You can spend a couple hundred dollars and get a really nice one with a light tight bellows. I used to recommend a Cambo or Calumet but as mentioned above Sinars have come down in price and are not much more. Toyo monorails are nice too. There are a lot of accessories easily available for Sinar here in the Unites States.

    For a first lens I would recommend a 150mm, 180mm or 210mm to start. Nothing wrong with a 135 but they have a smaller image circle so less room for movements. A "normal" focal length is 150-180. The 135 and 210 are slightly wide and slightly long. A lot of monorails came with 210 lenses. You can get a better bargain if you buy a camera kit with a lens or two, film holders, and accessories. Don't worry about the brand of lens. Modern Schneider, Rodenstock, Nikkor, Fujinon, and Caltar are all good. Let price and condition be your guide. You want a modern, accurate shutter for starting out.

    Nothing wrong with a Speed or Crown Graphic except you are limited in movements. A monorail has all your movements and if you decide later that you want a lighter camera, you can add a Speed or Crown and only take the monorail when you need those movements.

    For a light meter you can use a cell phone app, a 35mm camera or a digital camera. You can use an oversized black t-shirt for a dark cloth. Just make sure that your current tripod is up to the weight of a 4x5 camera. The large negative isn't going to help you if your camera isn't steady.

    Good luck finding a lab near you that will develop sheet film. If you don't have a dark room you can load and unload film holders in a photographic tent like a Harrison Tent. You can use a Jobo Expert drum and a cheap used Beseler drum roller for development. Of course you will have to scan your negatives on a flat bed scanner if you don't own an enlarger.

    I also highly recommend the Steve Simmons book. It's not as detailed as some but is very easy to understand. It's the first book that I bought.

    Welcome to large format. It's a lot of fun!

    P.S. I see you are the BBQ guy. I'm also a member of the Pitmaster Club at


  7. #17
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    South Dakota

    Re: Interested in 4 x 5

    I suggest going cheap on the camera.. Buy a lens or two, incident light meter, 2 or 3 film holders, tripod magnifying loupe to focus. Black jacket or t-shirt for dark cloth. Black & white film is economical and easy to process at home. I suggest a Stearman sp445 for that.

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

  8. #18
    Jim Jones's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Chillicothe Missouri USA

    Re: Interested in 4 x 5

    Don't start with the ideal camera. Only you can know what is ideal for you, and that is learned through your own experience. My second view camera was a flatbed Burke & James, and I used it more than any other view camera over many decades. A view camera's lens should cover more than necessary to best utilize full movements. That is more important than the camera itself. The lens does not need to be new. Multi-coated lenses are a significant improvement when shooting in some light, but otherwise even quite old lenses may work well enough. Remember, great photographs were being produced with the lenses of a hundred years or more ago. Cameras come and go over a long lifetime, but the right tripod lasts forever. Developing B&W film in trays in an improvised darkroom saves money and gives you an important tool for image quality,

  9. #19

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Oregon now (formerly Austria)

    Re: Interested in 4 x 5

    I'm going to make a contrary recommendation/suggestion than many of the above. It may cost you slightly more in the beginning, but may make your LF experience a little more pleasant.

    If you intend to carry your camera around outside (you mentioned landscape), then forget about a bulky monorail camera. Yes, they are more simple in design and straightforward in operation than many field cameras, but really not designed to be carried around in the field. They are fine for studio, tabletop and even location work (think drive to the location, unload, shoot, pack up). But, if you plan on hiking even relatively short distances (say a few miles) with your camera, then you'll likely find that a heavy monorail like the Calumet, etc. are just not suited to your needs. The reason these cameras are so cheap these days is partially because they are not as much in demand as lighter, more portable cameras.

    There's a good reason why folding wooden cameras are called "field cameras." They are portable, light and small. I carried a Graphic View II monorail (my first LF camera) around outdoors for several months before it finally became just way to much work to bother with and I got myself my first wooden field camera (a Wista DX). I still have both cameras along with a few others now, but my Wista DXs are still my go-to cameras for field work. My monorails are relegated to the studio.

    Field cameras like mine have tilts that are a bit harder to deal with at first than monorail cameras because you need an extra refocusing step when using them. IM-HO, it's well worth the time it takes to master base tilts as a trade-off for portability.

    Field-camera movements are not necessarily bare-bones. Yes, many models are lacking some movements (e.g., shift) and many have limitations on the range of movement with rise/fall, shift, and even tilts. Some have tilts only on one standard. However, there are many full-featured field cameras out there with a full range of movements, interchangeable bellows, and the capacity for lenses from very short to very long.

    I will also recommend against the press-style cameras (Graflex, et al.) if you plan on using camera movements regularly (did you mention architecture?). Similarly, the metal folding cameras, while really well-made and full featured, can be a bit on the heavy side.

    If I were presently looking for a new camera, I'd look seriously at the Chamonix folding cameras. If those are out of your price range, there are lots of used wooden folders for less. Do look for a camera with a full range of movements, i.e., tilts and swings on both standards, front rise/fall and shift on at least one of the standards if you plan on doing anything like architectural work or close-ups.

    FWIW, I use my Wista SW (basically a DX with interchangeable bellows) for all kinds of architectural work. After a bit of practice, it is every bit as fast and capable as most monorails.

    As for lenses: I recommend you look ahead and plan a three-lens kit of short - normal - longish, then choose the one of these three that you will likely use the most and start with it, filling in the others as you need/can. I'd recommend looking at a 90mm - 135mm - 210mm set. If you want portable and lightweight, look at the smaller, slower versions of the two outside lenses (e.g. a 90mm f/8 lens instead of the much bulkier 90mm f/5.6 and a smaller lens in the 200mm range instead of the usual 210mm f/5.6 lenses, which are rather heavy).

    FWIW, my most-used focal length is 135mm. Yes, they limit your movements a bit if you're doing architecture, but are fine and dandy for most everything else, plus being a very usable focal length for close-up work.

    Hope all this helps,


  10. #20

    Join Date
    Apr 2020

    Re: Interested in 4 x 5

    I've already learned a lot in a short few days. This forum is a wealth of information.

    I'm seeing quite a few Toyo field cameras listed on eBay today as well.

    I was originally leaning toward the metal monorail style based on some You Tube reviews and the recommendations in the thread here.

    I think I'll be leaning towards a Field Camera, but I'll adapt to whatever I end up with to learn with. I do want to avoid accumulating multiple cameras and finding an excuse why one won't work. I'd prefer to just adapt to whatever I end up with.

    I enjoy learning new skills and once I figure out a development strategy I'll be ready to go.
    Last edited by thebbqguy; 16-Apr-2020 at 17:07.

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