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Thread: What field camera to purchase?

  1. #1

    What field camera to purchase?

    hi. i am looking into buying a large format camera this month and have been doing quite a bit of research. i know how the cameras i have looked at differ in purpose and materials, but now i would like to get some feedback on what lasts, what works, and what camera(s) are preferred. so basically i want your scoop on what you use and why.

    i want a wood 4x5 field camera. i will shoot a wide range of subject matter-from small still lifes to landscapes. the movements are important to me, so are the bellows length. these are the camera companies i have narrowed it down to:

    -canham
    -ebony
    -gandolfi
    -wisner

    any feedback what be much appreciated. thanks!!

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
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    Baraboo, Wisconsin
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    7,695

    Re: What field camera to purchase?

    Which models? Ebony makes a whole bunch of different models, Wisner made a whole bunch when they were still in business, and Canham and Gandolfi make several as well though not as many as Ebony and Wisner.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Posts
    9,472

    Re: What field camera to purchase?

    Do a search for Wisner regarding customer support. You can eliminate that one right away unless you get a smoking great deal on a good used one.

    If you are in the USA, Canham is made here and you can talk to the man who designs and builds them, so I consider that a nice advantage.

    But the Canhams, Ebonies, and Gandolfis are all fine cameras -- the subtle differences that makes one person favor one over the other usually come only after you use a camera for a spell -- which is why so many people trade cameras around on this forum. That and the usual (mostly male) gearheaded equipment lust and keeping up with the Joneses...

    If you identify the range of lenses you might use it will help you narrow the decision making process down. But if you stick to mainstream 90 to 240 lenses the mainstream cameras will all work well with them. The superwides and 300+ longer lenses tend to push you towards one design or the other.

    Ebony makes a good basic all arounder called the RW -- get the one with the special bag bellows on the end -- I think it is in the $1700 range -- not the top of the line but a very nice camera. The Canham will be larger but maybe more versatile down the road. Both will hold their value.

    The Gandolfis are rare in the USA but perhaps a Brit will chime in with their glories.

    Don't overlook the Walker from the UK that people praise a lot - but it isn't really made of wood

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    2,952

    Re: What field camera to purchase?

    Frank has given you very good advice below.

    I will only add that if I had to choose a wooden field camera it would be the Canham.

    But selecting a camera is a very personal choice. One persons dream camera is anothers also ran. Try to get to a workshop to try a few different models before you buy. But if that is not possible it is no great hindrance since there is a lively market in used LF gear and it should be possible to sell most cameras with only a minor loss.

    The Canham is versatile, well built and still in production. It is a 5x7 with a 4x5 back. There is a 4x10 bellows/back conversion kit available for a reasonable price. It can handle a wide range of focal lengths. I could say much more but you should see the link below to a review of the Canham on this site:

    http://www.largeformatphotography.in...am/canham.html

  5. #5

    Re: What field camera to purchase?

    Hello! The Tachihara is great for field work. I think it may be the lightest one around. So, if you plan to backbpack to your sites and weight is an issue, the Tachihara is a good one. Best regards.

    Mike

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
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    God's Country
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    2,077

    Re: What field camera to purchase?

    Anna,

    You shouldn't exclude the Shen-Hao line from consideration... for the dollar, they are still one of the best on the market.

    If you have LOTS of money available... IMHO, the Ebony line are beautiful cameras made from beautiful, exotic woods. Lots of users love them.

    Cameras are really quite personal and you should keep in mind that the first camera you buy may not be the one that you'll keep. Camera have their own unique character and personality quirks... some are acceptable; others you'll just be unable to live with and, therefore, you'll trade/sell it and move on to another!

    Personally, I absolutely dislike using my field camera for still life shooting. Instead, I much, much prefer using a monorail camera and find it a far, far better instrument to use.

    Just my 2 cents worth!

    Good luck with the decision.

    Cheers
    Life in the fast lane!

  7. #7

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Westminster, MD
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    1,654

    Re: What field camera to purchase?

    Get whichever one you want, as long as it's in your favorite color. Grin.

    Seriously, you shouldn't buy sight unseen. It doesn't matter what others like (me included), it matters what works for you. A camera is simply a tool for achieving your vision. No one camera can do it all. Each has its engineering limits, strengths, and weaknesses.

    You can't really go wrong with an Ebony or Canham. That said, Shen-Hao and Tachihara have their place, too. But none of these cameras are worth a darn, without the correct selection of lenses that match the way you see.

    You may want to shoot only wide-angle, so a short bellows or bag bellows camera is right for you. You may want to shoot only macro and landscapes so a more rigid camera is needed for longer glass.

    It's up to you to do more homework.

  8. #8

    Cool Re: What field camera to purchase?

    Something SteveSimmons recommended to me when I started was to go to NY and look at several hands on. If I had spent say a grand on that trip I would still be way ahead of buying selling buying selling the many cameras I have had since. I had two SHEn Hao's , a 4x5 and a 5x7, and was not happy with the quality. Canham Ebony, and Walker would be my list, with a special place for ARca swiss, not technically a field camera, and VERY expensive, but I like it.

    When you handle a camera you will notice the things you like and do not like. No other way to tell.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Location
    Baraboo, Wisconsin
    Posts
    7,695

    Re: What field camera to purchase?

    "If I had spent say a grand on that trip I would still be way ahead of buying selling buying selling the many cameras I have had since. I had two SHEn Hao's , a 4x5 and a 5x7, and was not happy with the quality."

    Rather than spending a grand on the trip couldn't you just have bought by mail and then returned the cameras if it was their quality that bothered you? You can learn much more about a camera by having it at home and using/playing around with it for a few days, then returning it if the quality doesn't suit you, than you'll be able to learn by messing around with cameras in a camera store. And even with a few days at home, it's hard to tell how much you'll eventually like a camera until you've used it for a while. We each have our own ways of doing things but personally I can't imagine that the benefits of playing with cameras in a camera store outweigh the cost for someone who has to spend a grand to do it, especially since we're presumably talking about new cameras that could easily be returned if bought by mail from a reputable dealer.

    And just out of curiosity, if the quality of the first Shen Hao didn't satisfy you, why'd you buy a second one?
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  10. #10

    Re: What field camera to purchase?

    the ebonies i am looking at are from the SV45 series, possibly the TE or the U2.

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