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Thread: Suggestions for LF field camera

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2020

    Suggestions for LF field camera

    Hi everyone,
    I would like to know if the forum could suggest a field camera that has a graflok back, more than 300mm/12" bellows and cost around $1000 used. I shoot mainly still life, landscape/nature and non-extreme macro. Thanks very much.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    SF Bay Area

    Re: Suggestions for LF field camera

    I'll go first and suggest you take a look at the Toyo A models. Bellows not much more than12", but well within your price range. I have used one for twenty years and find it works well with my requirements.

    You will get many good suggestions on this forum; there is no "perfect" camera. What camera are you presently using, with what lenses?

  3. #3

    Join Date
    May 2006

    Re: Suggestions for LF field camera

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Aug 2000

    Re: Suggestions for LF field camera

    Toko - Japanese, 15" bellows. Hard to find, as few were made.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    Re: Suggestions for LF field camera

    Back up, camera should be MUCH lower on the priority list.
    print goals first, what optics or lenses are needed to achieve print image goals, film, film processing, print making process, then camera choice along with camera support and camera case.

    ~IMO, do not over spend on any camera, lens and all related as that is not what is most significant. The long term and real cost of doing this LF stuff is in film, processing and print making.

    "View camera is essentially a light tight box that is flexi in the middle with a method of holding a image recording device (film, digital imager or _) at one end, lens support holder at the other end with flexi supports at the ends that can be adjusted then stable.

    That said, not much into style or appearance, it's all functionality and meeting the needs of the lenses required to produce the print image goals. There is nothing romantic or vintage appealing to me about any camera, it MUST do its job with precision, no real limitations on lenses to be used, reliable, durable and be essentially transparent as a image making tool.

    Having been and done the wood folder thing, then the metal folder thing.. these don't do what a Sinar system can do, except not all images makers need what the Sinar system is fully capable of..

    Essentially, any view camera, any lens and all related is mere tools to achieve the print image goal. Once any experiences image maker is up to speed on using a view camera, the camera essentially become mostly the same, choice becomes a preference much like paint brushes, musical instruments and such. Other factor, what would an experienced image maker willing to tolerate in their Camera, Lens, Film holders, Film, Loupe, Dark Cloth, Tripod-camera support, Light meter, Cable release and...."



  6. #6

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Newbury, Vermont

    Re: Suggestions for LF field camera

    For around 1K you could probably purchase a fairly decent, first-generation Linhof Technikardan - as long as you could ascertain that the bellows haven't been too badly crunched! I owned one of these for a while and although I do admit that its design and dynamics are a bit "out of the box" (leading, for some, to the "crunchy bellows" syndrome due to improper folding), I do think the camera is brilliant, once one gets used to its quirks!

    Another contender in this price range might be a Sinar Norma - so long as it has not been too badly abused.

    Thing about both Linof and Sinar are that even older ones share crucial, and very deep, DNA with newer models - which equates to a tremendous number of options and great versatility.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Madisonville, LA

    Re: Suggestions for LF field camera

    Deardorff V5 is just a bit more used with 23” bellows!

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Forest Grove, Ore.

    Re: Suggestions for LF field camera

    Consider a Sinar F model. With a simple customization to a 6" rail, it can become a convenient field camera that includes both a bag and standard bellows. Cost can be less than $500 for a good, competent, monorail camera with both a bag and standard bellows.

    The customization of the 6" rail can be found here.

    This thread shows how one can also make an end cap for the customized, 6" base rail. But, the end cap is more cosmetic than it is functional.

    The camera shown also has a shorter clamp that was the original clamp sold with the model F cameras. Because they're shorter, they're more convenient for backpacking. But the longer clamps typically sold with these cameras can work fine by turning them sideways in the backpack.

  9. #9
    Vaughn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Humboldt County, CA

    Re: Suggestions for LF field camera

    Yes, back up...perhaps not as far as Bernice suggests.

    What percentage of the time will be spent carrying the camera? If one plans any landscape work any distance for one's home (if on foot) or from one's vehicle, then a majority of one's time will be spent carrying the camera...therefore weight and size can become as important as maximum movements. Movements won't move you miles.

    But "mainly still life, landscape/nature and non-extreme macro" is a wide range of needs. Perhaps a rail camera as suggested above, and down the line, keep an eye out for a deal on a lightweight folding 4x5 field camera if the idea moves you...or something like a Deardorff Special which can handle 4x5 and 5x7.

    5x7 is pretty sweet...

    Two redwoods in Redwoods National Park...only a mile hike in or so.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Two redwoods.jpg  
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Oregon now (formerly Austria)

    Re: Suggestions for LF field camera

    I'm in agreement with Vaughn here: First decide how lightweight you need your camera to be. And then assess what features you need. The use you will put the camera to should determine what type of camera is best for your needs. Form follows function.

    Do you need longer bellows? Are you really planning on using lenses longer than 300mm? If so, you'll need a sturdy enough camera and lots of bellows. Are you going to do architectural work seriously? Then you'll need lots of movements, especially lots of front rise and you'll need a really flexible bellows; universal style or even an interchangeable bellows. Do you want to do tabletop work at close distances? Then a monorail is almost a must, and one with lots of features like geared movements will make your life a ton easier. Etc....

    My kit is chosen based on my need for portability and light weight. I've opted for a lightweight 4x5 kit because I work in the field, over fairly long distances and in rough terrain a lot (or, carry my camera on my bicycle around the city, or travel internationally, etc.). My lens kit is also appropriately light. I've settled on the lightest of the family of wooden folding cameras for my needs. If mine are similar to yours, then the following may be of use.

    Metal folders like the Linhof Technikardans and Metal Toyo and Wista cameras are great; precise and fully-featured. But they're out of the running for me due to their weight. Even among the wooden folding cameras there are many I wouldn't consider just because they are larger, bulkier and weigh too much for my style of working. (I've got a later Zone VI camera that weighs in a just over 6lbs that I rarely use just because it's too large and heavy).

    On the other end, there are a lot of folders out there without the movements I need, e.g., I would never buy a camera that didn't have lateral shift on one of the standards. And, I like to carry a 300mm lens, so I need a camera that will somehow accommodate that.

    I've opted for the smaller, lighter wooding folding cameras that weigh in at around 3-4 lbs apiece but still have the movements I need. I have two Wista DXs, a Wista SW and a Horseman Woodman currently. The latter is by far the lightest of the bunch; also the least flexible in terms of movements. The Wista SW has interchangeable bellows and is really nice to use in close quarters with lots of movements applied; it's my go-to city and architectural field camera. The DX is nice because it has the capability I need and is lightweight, sturdy and folds up with a lens mounted. With a top-hat board, I can use lenses up to 300mm and with recessed boards, down to 65mm.

    There are Tachihara cameras that would fit my bill as well as the Chamonix models. If I were in the market for another lighter camera, I'd seriously look at them. There are others out there too.

    If you don't work like me, though, you may want a kit that looks entirely different. Bottom line: assess your needs well and the tool you need to do the job will become apparent.



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