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Thread: Monorail cameras

  1. #1

    Monorail cameras

    I own a 4x5 Shen Hao camera and I am satisfied with its performance in the field with the exception of its limited bellow draw that is limiting the usage of this camera when above all when using my Nikkor 300 M. I was then thinking to purchase an Ebony 4x5 SV, when I came across the sites of a couple of renown American second hand camera traders. I could realise that the prices of monorail cameras have really dropped alot (what is the reason for that by the way ?) and I am now considering to buy a monorail 4x5 camera with longer bellows to be used also in the field. Is it a good move ? Do you have any suggestion for me ? I was thinking about a Sinar (F1 or F2 or a Toyo) but I fear that I will have to buy also 5 new boards for my lenses that are now assembled on Linhof type boards.

  2. #2
    All metric sizes to 24x30 Ole Tjugen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002

    Re: Monorail cameras

    A Linhof Color uses Technika boards, has 42cm of bellows, and can be bought for around $100...

    It's not the most versatile camera, but it's fairly lightweight and easy to use in the field.

  3. #3

    Re: Monorail cameras

    Salve Luca,
    After years of Toyo field camera I started to use a Sinar f1 six months ago with great pleasure and efficiency. But yet if I have to hike for many hours I still take the Toyo field (a CF in this case). As far as lensboards are concerned you can purchase a Sinar to Linhof adapter.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    Re: Monorail cameras

    Luca most monorails are intended to be used in the studio or not that far from the car. So it'll depend on how you use the camera.

    I wouldn't worry about the lensboards. Shen Hao sells an adapter to fit Linhof 96mm boards to it's 5x7 and bigger cameras. You might be able to order just the adapter. If you can't other companies also make similar adapters.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Hudson Valley, NY

    Re: Monorail cameras

    I switched from a field camera to a monorail for partly the same reason. I found a folding field camera to be too illogicial in its movements and too limiting by design. As with most things it is a compromise. I ended up choosing an Arca_swiss F-Line field. I love using the monorail and it is very logical in its movements and is very versatile - all while still being realtively light weight and compact. The biggest compromise is price - these do no come cheap. But there are other monorails suitable for field use.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    May 2002

    Re: Monorail cameras

    A monorail has no downside in the field, if you shoot like Edward Weston. That is, within 500 feet of the car.

    Monorails are notoriously unpopular with photographers who must load their camera into a backpack and schlep it any distance to the scene of the crime. They (monorails) are large and heavy compared to field cameras. You may need to disassemble a monorail to get it into a backpack, and it may still weigh 10 - 12 pounds, vs 4 pounds or less for a field camera.

  7. #7

    Re: Monorail cameras

    A no brainer. You need a Linhof Bi Karden that accepts your linhof boards as they are.

    Precise adjustments, long bellows and Linhof - need one say more?

    I have an extra 4x5 Bi camera in near new condition if you are interested. I use one in 5x7 and 4x5 and they are simply marvelous to use. View Camera did a story on the Kardan series a while back.


  8. #8
    Daniel Geiger

    Re: Monorail cameras

    For every camera there are some pros and cons, so you have to prioritize. If you are unhappy with your field camera, you will have to accept a bit more weight. I went from 35 mm straight to monorail (Arca F 4x5): I want to add movements, and I want to get as much movement as I can. I use the monorail almost exclusively outdoors.

    Re weight and carrying it around, it may be good motivation to get into better physical shape. And schlepping it around is good excercise. There are issues with longer than day hikes, but possibly more due to space than weight. One of the compromises I do is only to do dayhikes, and try to start already at a promising spot (no walking in for miles). The most I've done is possibly around 6-8 miles over lava field in Hawaii, and about 15 miles +2000 ft elevation on Catalina Island on a trail. Usually it is just 2-6 miles on a trail.

    Re lensboards, there are adaptors, or you can bite the bullet, get new boards (not that expensive anyway compared to a new camera) and sell/trade the old ones. I would select the camera on its own merits, and get the lens board solution that is required, not the other way around.

    my 2c

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    New Jersey

    Re: Monorail cameras

    Is there any compact monorail other than arca F-field or misura?

  10. #10
    Marco's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005

    Re: Monorail cameras

    Ciao Luca, you have received lots of great advices!!

    I've used and owned a Gandolfi Variant 4x5", a Calumet C1 8x10" and a Sinar F2 8x10" (now with a 4x5" back too), and yes, mono rails are at the top for what concern performances and are a joy to use (very precise, rigid, the movements are smooth, Sinar has a dof/tilt "calculator" too that can help in some situations), but I would never bring a Sinar (even one of the F, field, line), or any monorail camera if I have to hike a lot or have to do landscape photography in "extreme" conditions/locations (i.e. Dolomiti, Alpi, deserts), it's not only a question of weight/portability, it's a question of "easy" of use in the field too, in those situations I think that a folding camera is the way to go...

    So it depends on what kind of photography are you interested in and, as other said, how far from the car are you going to take your large format camera ...


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