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Thread: Hunting for that special 4x5, my first LF camera

  1. #1

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    Hunting for that special 4x5, my first LF camera

    Hi folks, newbie to LFPF and about to jump into the LF pool. I've learned so much reading various posts (thanks to all!) and think I've narrowed camera choices to two. It was mentioned to me at another forum that this might be worth bringing up to you LF experts, so here goes. If this topic has already been discussed to death (and variations have, for sure) my apologies in advance (I'll do better next time!).

    Some basic info - I like to shoot (Appalachian) landscapes, old (mostly small) structures (barns, houses, etc.), and macro shots of flowers, foliage, etc. All of my work is done in the 'wild', no studio work. I love the greater detail and control that LF provides.

    Macro is my favorite - moving from 35mm to medium format was a great leap in macro possibilities, I can only imagine how much more LF will provide! I've got the idea that I can better control where the narrow DOF falls in my macro photos by playing with movements. Getting the DOF in the exact right position with my Mamiya c220 and Mamiya 645 1000s is really difficult. Also, I like to hike into the wilderness to take photos, so a portable and tough camera is needed.

    Within my very limited budget I've narrowed choices to 2 technical cameras - Horseman 45FA and Wista 45SP. I'm leaning toward the Wista (longer bellows and a little nicer back movements), but it is heavier than the Horseman! I've been hauling around a mamiya 645 1000s + prism meter + 120mm macro +2-3 more lenses, I don't think the Wista will be heavier than that!

    So the question is - are these cameras a good start in LF, given my needs? I considered field cameras but (1) they are very expensive right now and (2) the cheaper ones I might afford just don't look like they could survive the crazy trails (or lack of trails) I hike.

    Sorry to be so long winded, and thanks for any and all suggestions and comments!

  2. #2
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Hunting for that special 4x5, my first LF camera

    The Horseman FA is a beautifully made clamshell fold-up style technical camera but with limited bellows. Not ideal for lenses longer than 210 unless you use a tele. A "tophat" extension board would allow you to use a 240. It's a reasonable priced and lighter wt alternative to a 4X5 Technika. But you would probably have enough bellows draw to do closeup work with a 150 G-Claron or, even better, a 180/f9 Fuji A-series lens. With respect to lenses, just realize that many large format lenses are really lightweight compared to medium format ones, often even lighter than 35mm lenses. So that offsets the camera weight itself somewhat. I'm not familiar with Wista cameras except for the little wooden folding ones.

  3. #3

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    Re: Hunting for that special 4x5, my first LF camera

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    The Horseman FA is a beautifully made clamshell fold-up style technical camera but with limited bellows. Not ideal for lenses longer than 210 unless you use a tele. A "tophat" extension board would allow you to use a 240. It's a reasonable priced and lighter wt alternative to a 4X5 Technika. But you would probably have enough bellows draw to do closeup work with a 150 G-Claron or, even better, a 180/f9 Fuji A-series lens. With respect to lenses, just realize that many large format lenses are really lightweight compared to medium format ones, often even lighter than 35mm lenses. So that offsets the camera weight itself somewhat. I'm not familiar with Wista cameras except for the little wooden folding ones.
    Thanks for the information! 150-180mm lens for macro work sounds good, though the longer bellows of the Wista may help in this regard. I'm not that familiar with the practicality of a 'tophat' in the field. I haven't spent much time looking at the variety of lenses, your suggestions help! Thanks so much!

  4. #4

    Re: Hunting for that special 4x5, my first LF camera

    Ha, I think most of us are serial monogamists when it comes to cameras, so I wouldn't spend too much time and energy trying to get it perfect right out of the gate. It might make more sense to settle in with a "generalist" camera (e.g. a Chamonix folder, etc.) just to get a feel for your own eccentricities--i.e. whether you tend to see "wide" or "long," or just what kind of form factor you want to tote around--before you commit to a specialized camera. Another approach would be to pick a first camera that makes the operations of a view camera most transparent, which for most people means starting with a monorail. (FWIW, while I owned a Horseman HF for a number of years I quickly made a Sinar my main field camera--Horseman fit better in the toplid of my pack, though.)

  5. #5
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Hunting for that special 4x5, my first LF camera

    Sinar monorails can be a lot faster to set up and shoot than a technical camera, but tend to take up more pack space if configured ready-to-go. I've worked with Sinars all along in the mountains, but not exclusively. The Sinar system is Wunderbar for closeup work.

  6. #6

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    Re: Hunting for that special 4x5, my first LF camera

    Quote Originally Posted by justlikeswimming View Post
    I've been hauling around a mamiya 645 1000s + prism meter + 120mm macro +2-3 more lenses, I don't think the Wista will be heavier than that!
    I'm used to hauling around a 645ProTL with reflex finder and motor drive, 2 backs, 3-4 lenses and a lightmeter for the holidays. In 4x5 use a Wista and I feel the Wista is heavier. Don't stare too long on the camera, take all the rest in account as well. You'll need to take also a separate lightmeter, loupe and filmholders. Compared to 120 film, a filmholder is heavy. Maybe you'll need a heavier tripod as well.
    Expert in non-working solutions.

  7. #7

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    Re: Hunting for that special 4x5, my first LF camera

    You haven't said what your budget is. I don't know the used price of a Horseman 45FA or Wista 45SP, but as I understand it these were not cheap cameras new. Having regard to what you want to do with your new camera, I'd like to suggest that you consider an Arca-Swiss F-Line Discovery monorail. I've attached B&H's old catalogue page for it. A forum search will bring up quite a lot of information on the Discovery. There was one for sale here last week, but it looks like it sold within a day or two.

    The Discovery came with a 300mm/12" rail, but if desired for hiking there are two ways to set it up with a 150mm/6" rail. The seller of a used Discovery may already have it set up with a short rail - it was a popular option - in addition to the 300mm rail.


    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by r.e.; 31-Oct-2021 at 08:39.

  8. #8

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    Re: Hunting for that special 4x5, my first LF camera

    Further to the above post, here are three phone photos of an Arca-Swiss F-Line Discovery, using the 300mm/12" rail. As noted, one can also use a short rail to make the camera more compact. The first shows the camera with the standard bellows, the second with a bag bellows and 75mm wide angle lens. The third is a rear view showing the ground glass. I've changed out the original rail carriers, which work with friction, for geared carriers. While I have two geared carriers, one actually needs only one for geared focus. I carry the camera at my side with the camera upside down and one hand holding the middle of the rail.

    Arca-Swiss Discovery, Standard Bellows

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    Bag Bellows

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    Rear View, Ground Glass

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    Last edited by r.e.; 31-Oct-2021 at 08:38.

  9. #9

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    Re: Hunting for that special 4x5, my first LF camera

    Quote Originally Posted by Havoc View Post
    I'm used to hauling around a 645ProTL with reflex finder and motor drive, 2 backs, 3-4 lenses and a lightmeter for the holidays. In 4x5 use a Wista and I feel the Wista is heavier. Don't stare too long on the camera, take all the rest in account as well. You'll need to take also a separate lightmeter, loupe and filmholders. Compared to 120 film, a filmholder is heavy. Maybe you'll need a heavier tripod as well.
    Thanks for the comments, Havoc. That's quite the 645 rig you haul around, you've provided a whole new perspective on the weight of the Wista + equipment, thank you! Thankfully, I have a very sturdy tripod...

  10. #10

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    Re: Hunting for that special 4x5, my first LF camera

    Quote Originally Posted by r.e. View Post
    You haven't said what our budget is. I don't know the used price of a Horseman 45FA or Wista 45SP, but as I understand it these were not cheap cameras new. Having regard to what you want to do with your new camera, I'd like to suggest that you consider an Arca-Swiss Discovery monorail. I've attached B&H's old catalogue page for it. A forum search will bring up quite a lot of information on the Discovery. There was one for sale here last week, but it looks like it sold within a day or two.

    The Discovery came with a 300mm/12" rail, but if desired for hiking there are two ways to set it up with a 150mm/6" rail. The seller of a used Discovery may already have it set up with a short rail - it was a popular option - in addition to the 300mm rail.


    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	B&H Arca-Discovery.jpg 
Views:	39 
Size:	110.7 KB 
ID:	220826
    Thanks r.e. for your comments and suggestions. As for my budget, I'm one of those ebayers buying old cameras that are in decent shape and getting by (many times the cameras are great, sometimes not). My budget is <$1000 for the camera and lens (I know, a tall order!).
    I haven't really considered a monorail system because I was under the impression it can't broken down and placed in a backpack. If this can be done it may be an option for me. The monorails are selling for a lot less than the technical and field cameras, and they do appear very sturdy! I'll do more research to see if such a rig would work for me in the field - a bit more time with set-up is no problem for me, but I have to be able to haul it on the trails. Thanks so much for your comments, I'll research further!

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