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Thread: As expected: another LF newbie :)

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Poznan - Poland

    As expected: another LF newbie :)

    First, hello all on this forum! I'm Mikolaj and I want to start the journey into large format (it won't be so soon though)
    Seems that's the largest LF forum so it' best source for kind information :)
    Please read my below observations and questions patiently and point any mistakes or add suggestions and answers :)

    I'm not a professional photographer, but I'd descirbe myself as experienced enthusiast.. I hope.. ;)
    I worked a lot of years with 35mm and lately in 6x6 MF with lovely hasselblad.
    MF will remain as my main tool forever I think, but Large format offers amazing learning and skills perfecting possibilities. It's very "exacting" and forces
    to think and work a lot BEFORE even taking a photo, and that's what I may like. I also love to work in full analog way which includes wet-darkroom too.

    Don't worry! To avoid asking typical question "what camera should I choose" I did a lot of reading, digging and researching on my own. And now I'll precise what I already know:
    You won't be surprised that my bet (for now) is 4x5 Tachihara - either new or used.
    FIRST is use: I'm mostly interested in ladscape, people and portrait. Landscape includes buildings and architecture but more in artistic way, not in strictly technical and "architectural" way that would require high precision monorail.
    Sure, studio still-life and commercial photography work is also interesting for me but good stable and heavy monorail may wait.
    SECOND, size and weight: I like photo trips on my bicycle or by foot, and even when I go somewhere with a car, I'm walking a lot of kilometers away from parking place - this also excludes monorail.
    THIRD, from my research: Tachihara (and other similar cameras) still have a lot of movements which cover most of LF needs, and that will allow me to learn large format technique.
    FOURTH is simple: It's nice looking and quite affordable for me :)

    NOW it's time for questions!
    I'm choosing Tachihara but the biggest confusion for me is compatibility.
    What equipment should I look for?
    What type of filmholders fit to this camera, what type of lensboards etc..?
    Can I fit ANY lens to ANY LF camera? (assuming it fits bellow possibilities of course)
    In technical data of tachihara there Is note about min and max bellows extension from 65 to 330mm. Does that mean I can put 65mm lens min. and 330mm max? And all in between?

    I've read that when choosing lenses, I have to "double" focal lenght of favorite lenses from my current camera format.
    So I have 50mm 80mm and 150mm set for 6x6.
    Should I look for 100mm 160mm and 300mm for tachihara? Or maybe there are any other equivalents? What brands, types, mount sizes, symbols etc. to look for Tachihara?

    Last question (for now) is about shutters! If I understood correctly, shutter in LF is a separate part and can be mounted to different lenses. When I usually buy lense (new or used) should it be with shutter or is it usually sold without it? Can I have one shutter for few lenses? I.e. for this 100, 160, 300mm set? Or maybe construct differences make it impossible and every lens need its own shutter?
    I found out there is a shutter numeration #1, #2 and #3 What does this mean? Which to choose?
    And again what types and brands are tachihara compatible please :)

    As a conclusion, please feel free to suggest any minimal set of holders, lensboards lenses and other equipment I should gather to get started!
    Remember that I chose Tachihara and don't want to discuss about pros and cons of sheng-haos, Toyos and others. I've read a lot of posts about it and I'm sure Tachihara is right for me. Period. :))))))))))))

    Thank You for Your patience, and can't wait to read Your answers!

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Foster City, CA

    Re: As expected: another LF newbie :)


    Welcome to the exciting world of LF! I'm not an LF guru at all, but I'll try to answer some of your questions.
    I own Wista field camera, which has design similar to Tachihara. As for film holders - I decided not to mess with sheet film and Fidelity holders and bought Polaroid 545 film holder which accepts Fuji Quickloads. The advantage is that you don't have to load your film in the dark room, and you only carry ONE holder. Unfortunately the cost of the film in quickloads nearly twice as much as the loose sheet film.
    As for lenses, yes, you can use 99.99% of LF lenses on 4x5, but some lenses won't cover larger formats, like 5x7 and 8x10. If you are not planning to migrate to larger formats, you can buy less expensive lenses.
    Shutters in LF are separate parts, but I usually buy lenses with shutters, because if you get lens elements and shutter separately, you have to recalibrate shutter aperture scale for your specific lens. Probably not a big deal for many gurus on this forum, but I'd prefer not to mess with all the technical issues and concentrate on shooting
    There was a focal length comparison chart somewhere on this site, but I don't remember where it is. Anyway, think of 75 to 90mm as wide, 135 is normal, 210 is moderate tele, etc. 65mm would be ultra-wide on Tachihara, but you won't have any room for movements.
    As for extra equipment - well, you will need lensboards for all your lenses, shutter release cables, focusing cloth, light meter and tripod. That's what I have in my bag - plus I also have cokin filters and adapter rings. I only use polarizer and ND grad filters.

    Hope this helps.

  3. #3
    4x5 - no beard Patrik Roseen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Stockholm, SWEDEN

    Re: As expected: another LF newbie :)

    Hello Mikolaj,
    I do not have a Tachihara but will try to answer some of your questions anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikuda View Post

    NOW it's time for questions!
    ...Can I fit ANY lens to ANY LF camera? (assuming it fits bellow possibilities of course)
    In technical data of tachihara there Is note about min and max bellows extension from 65 to 330mm. Does that mean I can put 65mm lens min. and 330mm max? And all in between?
    A lens of say 100mm needs a distance to the filmplane of 100mm when focused at infinity. If you wish to focus on something closer you need to increase the distance to the filmplane. Say you want to reproduce an object 1:1 on film you need to increase bellowsdraw to 200mm.Therefor the bellows will work for a 330 mm lens at infinity but for closer objects you probably need to stay with a 'shorter' lens or a teledesign lens requiring shorter bellows draw (or having an extension tube etc in front of the bellows).

    The widest lens (shortest length) you can use is determined by how close to the filmplane you can get when the bellows are squezed together. The more squezed the harder it will be to use movements.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikuda View Post

    I've read that when choosing lenses, I have to "double" focal lenght of favorite lenses from my current camera format.
    So I have 50mm 80mm and 150mm set for 6x6.
    Should I look for 100mm 160mm and 300mm for tachihara? Or maybe there are any other equivalents? What brands, types, mount sizes, symbols etc. to look for Tachihara?
    You need to check if the lens covers 4x5" and/or larger if you plan to go to 5x7" or 8x10" later.

    Important for a lens to fit your camera is:
    - the size of the shutter. A too wide shutter might not allow for your fingers to change aperture and shutterspeeds, if it at all will fit mounted on the camera.

    - the size of the rear lens sticking out on the back of the lensboard/shutter (consider both width and length)

    It is usually wise to buy a complete lens (lens, shutter and retaining ring to fit it onto the lensboard).
    Usually modern lenses come in Copal-0 Copal-1 and Copal-3 and lensboards with these sizes are easy to find. Shutters in other sizes might require tailor made lensboards for the correct size of the center-hole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikuda View Post

    As a conclusion, please feel free to suggest any minimal set of holders, lensboards lenses and other equipment I should gather to get started!
    Remember that I chose Tachihara and don't want to discuss about pros and cons of sheng-haos, Toyos and others. I've read a lot of posts about it and I'm sure Tachihara is right for me. Period. )))))))))))

    Thank You for Your patience, and can't wait to read Your answers!
    You will need:

    A lens: My first lens was a cheap Wollensak Raptar 135mm/f4.5 in a Rapax shutter.

    Filmholders: One will get you going but you will have to load/unload frequently depending on how many sheets you shoot. I usually carry about 6 holders which makes 12 exposures before needing to change film.


    Film changing bag: A light tight changing bag is convenient since you do not need a darkroom to load /unload film.

    Used sheet film boxes: Exposed film sheets can be stored in used film boxes while waiting for processing.

    Light meter: I like spotmetering but any lightmeter with accuracy will work.

    Darkcloth: for looking on the groundglass.

    Loupe: for focusing accurately...although I have never used one in 4x5".

    A steady tripod: to carry the weight of the camera.

    A shutter release cable.

    Good luck!

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Baraboo, Wisconsin

    Re: As expected: another LF newbie :)

    I've used two different Tachiharas at different times for about four years. It's an excellent choice for the purposes you mention. As to your questions:

    Tachihara accepts the Linhof Technika-size lens boards, which is the same size that's accepted by many other wood field cameras such as Wista, Shen Hao, Calumet, and Horseman. So you shouldn't have any trouble finding lensboards to fit your camera. The boards can be metal or wood and a hole has to be cut in them for the size of the shutter on your lenses (Copal 0, 1, and 3 are the standard shutter sizes for newer lenses, see below). You don't have to, and in my opinion shouldn't, buy Linhof brand boards, they're very expensive. Just buy a board made by another maker that's the same size. Most lenses, new and used, come in shutters. Those that don't are called "barrel" lenses and for now you probably shouldn't buy a barrel lens.

    Holders for 4x5 film are basically all the same size and the Tachihara will accept any normal 4x5 film holder (i.e. any film holder that will fit a 4x5 camera will fit your Tachihara). The Tachihara will also accept Polaroid 545 holders, Kodak Readyload holders, and Fuji Quickload holders. It won't accept the type of roll film holder that requires a Graflok-type back but Calumet here in the U.S. sells a type of roll film holder that can be used with the Tachihara, I don't know about Poland.

    You can fit any lens to your camera as long as the lens doesn't have such a big rear element that it bumps up against the internal camera parts or that requires a shutter so big that it won't fit the front standard and that isn't too heavy for the front standard to hold rigidly. As a practical matter all lenses that are usable on your camera (i.e. normal lenses in the 65mm - 330mm range and telephoto lenses up to about 400mm but see below) will all fit your camera. You could use a normal lens longer than 330 with an extension type lens board, probably up to about 360mm but stability of the camera would be an issue when you get longer than about 300mm.

    I wouldn't worry too much about basing lens selection on what you use with your Hasselblad. The film aspect ratios are very different and many people find they photograph differently with large format than they did with smaller formats. If you're planning to buy three lenses to start with, a common selection would be a 90mm wide angle lens, a 150 normal lens, and a 240mm long lens. Another common choice would be a 75mm short lens, a 210mm normal lens, and a 300mm long lens. Or any combination of those focal lengths. While the bellows extension on your Tachihara in theory would allow the use of about 65mm-330mm lenses, as a practical matter a 330mm lens would only allow you to focus at infinity if that. A 65mm lens is feasible, I've tested one on a Tachihara, but because the bellows is so scrunched up at that length you don't have a lot of room for movements. A more practical range in my opinion is 75mm to 300mm and anything in between.

    You need a shutter for each lens, you don't want to spend all your time switching lenses back and forth among only one shutter even if that shutter would fit all your lenses.

    Years ago many different companies made shutters for large format camera lenses. Today almost all new lenses are sold in Copal shutters. Copal is the brand name used by a Japanese company that is the principal remaining manufacturer of large format shutters. The numbers actually aren't 1, 2, and 3, they're 0, 1, and 3. 2 got discarded somewere along the way as did 00. Those numbers refer to the dimensions of the opening in the lens board in which the shutter fits. The lower the number the smaller the required opening. So a Copal 0 shutter is pretty small, a Copal 1 is larger, and a Copal 3 is quite large and heavy (sorry, I don't have the exact measurements handy). Most short and medium length lenses use a Copal 0 or 1 shutter, Copal 3 shutters tend to be found on longer lenses of 360mm and up though there are exceptions. If you backpack a lot you probably would want to avoid lenses in a Copal 3 shutter. Copal 0, 1, and 3 shutters will all fit in your Tachihara but if the lens in the Copal 3 shutter was also a big, heavy lens things might not be so stable when the bellows was fully extended.

    The four major manufacturers of modern large format lenses were Schneider, Rodenstock, Fuji and Nikon. Nikon recently stopped making large format lenses but they're still plentiful on the used market. Most people agree that the quality of lenses of the same design made by those four companies was pretty much the same so lens choices tend to be made on the basis of things like cost, size, weight, image circle size, etc. rather than brand name as such. There used to be many other manufacturers of large format lenses, such as Kodak and Wollensak, that are still commonly found on the used market, many of which are perfectly usable (in fact some people prefer the older lenses). Those lenses will often be found mounted in shutters other than Copal, e.g. Ilex, Compur, etc. Those older shutters have numbers attached to them that don't correspond to Copal sizes, i.e. an Ilex #3 shutter isn't necessarily the same size as a Copal #3. However, they do follow the same pattern of the bigger the number the bigger and heavier the shutter. Most of these older shutters will also work with your Tachihara. However, an Ilex #5 shutter is very big and heavy, I'm not sure it would fit or work well with your Tachihara even if it did fit.

    I think this answers most of your questions. In some cases I've over-generalized a little for the sake of simplicity and there are exceptions to some of the things I've said but I think it's sufficiently accurate for your present purposes. I'd strongly suggest reading a good book on large format photography, a book will do a much better job than I or anyone else here can do in answering your questions given limited time and space. There is also a wealth of information in the other sections of this forum.
    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.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Apr 2005

    Re: As expected: another LF newbie :)

    Hi Mikuda,

    before Steve Simmons steps in, have you got 'The Viewcamera' book by Steve Simmons?

    It's great to see another EU state member on the forum - welcome!

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Poznan - Poland

    Re: As expected: another LF newbie :)

    Hello! Thank You for all replies, they have straighten a lot. :)

    But to make it clear: In 35 and medium format, the lens let's say 100mm is a set of glasses fixed in tube which mounted to a body gives proper 100mm focusing distance (for infinity of course).
    In large format that tube is substituted by extension bellow, and "the lens" is just that glasses set, which I have to position manually at 100mm on some scale at the bellow, yes?
    I was just confused why 300mm LF lens itself was few centimeters long :)))

    The best solution then, is to have every lens mounted on its own lensboard and shutter yes?

    How is the lens with shutter attached? Is the lensboard hole threaded or is the lens held in place by some "restraining ring" from the inner side?
    Are there any lensboards I should avoid for tachihara?
    Is it possible/easy to make the lensboard by myself?

    I think that 90-150-250 (more-less) set would be better for me, I need longer lenses for portrait rather then for telephoto shots, so 300 would leave me too little place for macro extending.

    Unfortunately as I see from evil-bay, prices for lenses start from 200$ so all equipment will at least double the Camera price (if I'm lucky)
    Do You know some European source for used LF equipment? Safer and with more friendly prices than evil-bay?

    And yes! I have ordered Steve Simmons' "Using the View Camera", along with Ansel Adams' "The Camera" "The Negative" "The Print" triplet - yet I'm still waiting for delivery :)))
    I've seen few more LF books on amazon, can You recommend any other titles besides those I already mentioned?

    Thank You for reading!

  7. #7
    All metric sizes to 24x30 Ole Tjugen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002

    Re: As expected: another LF newbie :)

    Most 35mm cameras have a fixed lens mount, so all lenses include the necessary "spacing" to get the lens itself at the proper distance from the film plane. With LF there isn't really anything that is fixed, so the lenses are (relatively) small and simple since the bellows are used for focus. You got that right.

    Having each lens mounted in its own shutter is definitely a good idea. Swapping lens elements and remembering the aperture differences with different focal lengths is an invitation to a whole new set of things that can possibly go wrong.

    Lens boards are a bit different. I would recommend having each lens on its own lens board - at least unless you are like me and simply can't find money and space for 25 lensboards for each of four different cameras. I also use the same lenses on some or all those cameras...

    Shutters are mounted on the lens boards with retaining rings. The holes in the lens boards are (usually) not threaded. Lens boards to avoid are any that don't fit your camera.

    90 - 150 - 210 are more or less what I started with. It's a very good combination.

    There is very little technical information in this book, but I find it one of the best sources of inspiration there is - especially for architecture and still life:

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Germany, Aalen

    Re: As expected: another LF newbie :)

    Hello Mikolaj,

    welcome here around. Yu got plenty of great advices here already, I would just add a few. I started myself in LF with Tachihara just a year ago. But first to answer yuor questions:

    90-150-250 shld be OK, but I would advice you to get just one lens for the beginning somewhere in 125 -210 range: LF feels diferent than 35mm or 120 format. You may (or may not) find out that you focal length preferences are different here. I started myself with 125 (Fujinon CMW) and than got 210 (Caltar II-E) and finaly Osaka 400.8 (tele design). Wide angle is still on the shopping list.

    One more point - if you want to make head-and-sholders portrait you may find that 250 will not allow you to focus close enough. If youare not sure, you can compute this easilly as:

    1/A + 1/B = 1/f

    where f is the focal length of the lens, A is the distance of the object to the lens and the B is the distance of the lens to film. In your case the B is limited to cca 320mm - so for given focal lenght ofthe lens you can compute how close you can get - and - finaly with a bit more math - what is the minimal size of the object.

    For a first lens - get some plasmat in 125 - 210 range in a good shape in a Copal shutter that will work properly. Whether you will go with Schneider (Symmar), Rodenstock (Sronar N), Nikkor (W) or Fujinon (W) is just a matter of taste - all of them are good more than enough. Especially Fujinons are sleepers - you can get multicaoted ones (marked from outsiede on the lens barrel) for ~ $200. Also Caltar lenses with "II-N" in the name (e.g. Caltar 150/5.6 II-N) are actually Rodenstock Sironars N.

    Good wide angle lenses will cost you much more - the cheaper option would be again Caltar II-N lenses like 90/6.8 II-N (Rodenstock Grandagon N). There is also faster 4.5 version but is rather large and heavy.

    For longer lenses there are also many options among older lenses (browse this forum) or process lenses (often optimized for 1:1 ratio, but many work greatalso at infinity) like Clarons, Fujinon A (have great reputation), Fujinon C, Nikkor M etc. Clarons are the cheaper ones.

    For the source of the LF stuff in Europa - I am here as well (in Germany) and most of my stuff I bought via eBay. You just have to be carefull and if you are going to spend more - just ask the seller a question or two and see how he/she reacts.

    good luck

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Melbourne Australia

    Re: As expected: another LF newbie :)

    You really have enough to read at the moment. If you read the books from front to back you will take a while. I think you will be able to skip some of the sections and still get by.

    The books you are getting are very good, I have all of the Ansel Adams books and the local library has the Steve Simmons book I have read all of them cover to cover over a lengthy period of time.

    If you wish to really get technical with a view camera, either field or studio, then the best book I have seen is the View Camera Technique 7th edition by Leslie Stroebel. This is a hard cover book. I believe that the 6th edition is also extremely good. I think the major difference between these editions is the addition of some digital information and adding to the view camera list of what is available in contempory View Cameras around the world.

    I purchased my copy second hand via this forum, it is the technical depth of many interesting ways of working with a view camera and the design and why and how to use different lenses that really make this book as far as I can see, the best instruction manual for this type of photography. It is an easy read, although there is a lot of information.

    The ISBN is:- 0-240-80345-0

    If you are inclined to do your own darkroom work and also wish to have technical excellence in film and printing, then another quite good book is:- “Way Beyond Monochrome”. By Ralph Lambrecht and Chris Woodhouse.

    This is a soft cover book but is printed on extremely heavy stock and is an unusual size, 250 x 250mm and 25mm thick.

    I have been fiddling in darkrooms and with cameras for well over 40 years, this book really is well written, and written by two people who really have been using view cameras and darkrooms.

    Ralph is German and according to the inside front cover, has a masters Degree in Manufacturing Engineering, the precision of his ancestry shows through in the techniques he brings to the book. Chris is English and combines his love of photography and his background, which is Electronic engineering. Chris according to the inside rear cover of the book has patents on some darkroom devices.

    The book has a wealth of information and is full of different things you can photocopy and use for the view camera, or any camera for that matter. The explanations of darkroom techniques and the generous supply of graphs and tools for you to either copy of hand make for yourself make this possibly the best book I have as an all round film exposure and darkroom printing book.

    The ISBN of this book is:- 0 86343 345 5

    I bought this book quite cheaply as a secondhand book via an English, Scottish actually, book shop.

    This is the best search engine I know of for looking for many books, but I have found it to be really good for photographic books.

    I do not really like Amazon, haven’t had much success and their prices are too high.

    Secondhand is quite good for these kinds of books as the people who purchase them usually are careful as to them these books are precious.

    Good luck.


  10. #10
    Wayne venchka's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007

    Cool Kodak 100mm Wide Field Ektar

    This lens is for sale now here at Large Format Forum

    Link to Lens

    It was good enough for Ansel Adams. It should be fine for you.
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