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Thread: Seeking the perfect monorail

  1. #1

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    Seeking the perfect monorail

    I'm working on a project that I need a monorail camera for, and I am drowning a bit in the options.

    I've shot a variety of monorails and field cameras before, but nothing I currently own will work for this (I am mostly an MF shooter).
    Without going into too many details, I am looking for a monorail that allows for the following:

    1) Able to use a broad quantity of lenses with some movements (75mm at the wide end and probably 420 at the telephoto end).
    2) Reasonably light as work will be in the field and involve moving location frequently.
    3) High rigidity and with smooth geared focusing and movements (I will need to be able to make very precise adjustments).
    4) Preferably I'd like something not too fiddily to break down and set-up, as I will have to do so frequently.

    Of course, I am also a bit at mercy of what I can find available. In my research I've been most attracted to the Arca-Swiss C (if I can find a good copy). The Sinar Alpina also seemed like a possible option, as it appears to be lighter than the F series (which I think is just a touch too heavy for this). The Canham DLC and Linhof Technikardan 45s both look great but are usually be out of my price range - if either is head-and-shoulders going to be better I can probably cough up the dough though.

    Other suggestions/thoughts from those who have shot with a greater variety than I? I am trying to keep the camera under 6lbs w/o lens, preferably closer to 4.5lbs although I am willing to sacrifice weight for quality build and smooth operation.

  2. #2

    Re: Seeking the perfect monorail

    Calumet 4x5 with case maybe a lens and holders
    $200...as good as any

  3. #3

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    Re: Seeking the perfect monorail

    IMO, one of the main issues you'll have is trying to hit your weight class (4.5 lbs), yet still get all the functionality you're looking for. Both the Canham and Linhof are certainly beautiful cameras, but quite expensive; the Technica is fiddly, IMO. My Arca-Swiss F-line, with 6x9 front standard, universal bellows (for wide angle), and long bellows for telephoto meets all your criteria. It seems that you've looked at the F-line already and dismissed it so my opinion probably ain't worth much.

  4. #4
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    Re: Seeking the perfect monorail

    It breaks the weight barrier by a good bit ... but the Horseman LE? Here is a good review of that one by the way: https://www.largeformatphotography.info/mono-field.html
    "Be still and allow the mud to settle."

  5. #5

    Re: Seeking the perfect monorail

    New Sinar Norma second 4x5 one by Nokton48, on Flickr

    I recently bought this 4x5 Sinar Norma for $220. Would a Norma fit your bill?
    “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
    ― Mark Twain

  6. #6
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    Re: Seeking the perfect monorail

    Geared + (relatively) lightweight + long FL range + easy transport/setup = $$$$. There's no way around it. If you can compromise on price, one of the Toyo VX125 flavors or a suitably-configured Arca-Swiss F-Line might be your best bet.

  7. #7

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    Re: Seeking the perfect monorail

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan9940 View Post
    My Arca-Swiss F-line, with 6x9 front standard, universal bellows (for wide angle), and long bellows for telephoto meets all your criteria. It seems that you've looked at the F-line already and dismissed it so my opinion probably ain't worth much.
    Definitely not dismissed! It looks quite interesting, especially the C series which is a bit lighter. I've been a bit confused looking at options since there are multiple eras of their cameras. I am guessing that the specs I've seen are for the F-C which seems as pricey as another option...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimi View Post
    It breaks the weight barrier by a good bit ... but the Horseman LE?[/url]
    Horseman LE looks beautiful, but unfortunately almost 10lbs as camera weight is going to pose a rather big restriction for intended use.

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    Geared + (relatively) lightweight + long FL range + easy transport/setup = $$$$. There's no way around it. If you can compromise on price, one of the Toyo VX125 flavors or a suitably-configured Arca-Swiss F-Line might be your best bet.
    Yeah, that's kind of my fear. I'll probably just have to cough it up. The VX125 looks great, I hadn't looked at it before. Any idea how it would compare to a Canham DLC? It seems like I can find them on the used market for a similar (high) price.

    I am looking kind of closely at the Sinar A1/Alpina also, since they seem to be much lower priced but largely viable. Geared focus but friction adjustments and on the wide end it sounds like I might be constrained to 90mm though... I suppose I could actually get to separate body for wide angle use for less than the 'perfect' cameras... I am sure I am being overly prickly with what I want...

  8. #8
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    Re: Seeking the perfect monorail

    Quote Originally Posted by jspillane View Post
    The VX125 looks great, I hadn't looked at it before. Any idea how it would compare to a Canham DLC?
    Radically different cameras. The Toyo is a monorail, the Canham is a folding field camera, and to my taste one that's very fussy in handling to boot. There are plenty of happy owners of metal Canhams, so you should absolutely not take my somewhat jaundiced viewpoint as the last word. But if monorail handling and controls are what you want, a Canham ain't it.

  9. #9

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    Re: Seeking the perfect monorail

    You are not looking at this correctly.
    What you need to know is the total weight of the camera plus required accessories to accommodate the range of lenses you will use. Like extension rails. Plus factor in how close you want to be able to focus with the longer lenses as that may require more or longer rails. Then how short a lens can the camera use with the standard bellows and/or a wide angle bellows?
    Geared movements will add weight unless they are friction movements which would not be that precise compared to geared movements, including focus.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    Re: Seeking the perfect monorail

    ~No such item as the "Perfect" Monorail camera.~

    Possible to share-describe what this project is and what the print goals are?
    Once the limit of 4.5 to 6 pounds is expected, the limits on camera is no longer simple as this weight range is closer to a light weigh field camera (folder).

    *That said, make the print goal and needs to achieve these prints as the driving factor for a view camera. Know a view camera is nothing more than a light tight box with a flexi center, one end of the box is a lens holder, the other end of the box is a film or image recording device holder with mechanical supports that can be adjusted with precision and remain stable-rigid after adjustment.

    *Allow the print image goals to drive the lenses and all related to determine the camera needed as the choice of camera should be FAR lower on the priority list and never the top of the list. Making the camera as top priority often results in grief from lens compatibility, lack of bellows choices, lack of supporting accessories that allow the print goals to be achieved.

    *This view camera stuff is distinctly different than medium or small format fix lens cameras where picking a particular camera brand tends to peg the user to that camera brand's lens-optics offering. This simply does not hold true for the more than a few view cameras.


    Bernice





    Quote Originally Posted by jspillane View Post

    I've shot a variety of monorails and field cameras before, but nothing I currently own will work for this (I am mostly an MF shooter).
    Without going into too many details, I am looking for a monorail that allows for the following:

    1) Able to use a broad quantity of lenses with some movements (75mm at the wide end and probably 420 at the telephoto end).
    2) Reasonably light as work will be in the field and involve moving location frequently.
    3) High rigidity and with smooth geared focusing and movements (I will need to be able to make very precise adjustments).
    4) Preferably I'd like something not too fiddily to break down and set-up, as I will have to do so frequently.

    I am trying to keep the camera under 6lbs w/o lens, preferably closer to 4.5lbs although I am willing to sacrifice weight for quality build and smooth operation.

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