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Thread: New to LF, need help picking a camera

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Nellis AFB, NV

    New to LF, need help picking a camera

    I hope someone can help me out here, i'm a little bit lost as to which way to go. I'm currently looking a few different cameras:
    1. Toyo View G + 250mm extension rail & case - $325
    2. Toyo View CX - $310
    3. Sinar A-1 - $299
    4. Cambo SCX - $339
    5. Cambo SC - $225
    6. Calumet NX - $379
    I plan to use the camera for everything, I shoot alot of landscape (a big reason for getting a LF camera) but plan to use it for architecture and also in the studio for still life and portraiture. I want to buy the best camera I can for the money without going over $350 for the body. Also will the rotating Graflok accept cut sheet film holders or is only for roll film holders? I haven't really decided on lenses either, what would you recomend? I was thinking of a 135 F5.6 Nikkor copal, 150 F5.6 Nikkor copal, or a 210 F5.6 SIRONAR for a first lens.

    Thanks in advance,

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Cape town, S.A.

    Re: New to LF, need help picking a camera

    I don't know the other models, but the Cambo is simple, reliable and easy to use. I've used the 4 x 5 and 6 x 9 for years and haven't had a day's trouble with either. It's easy to customize too. The graflock takes standard sheet film holders, and rollfilm holders if you unclip the groundglass.
    I'd go for the 150 nikkor over the 135, i use one and it's sharp and compact, and has more coverage than the 135. I suspect the Sironar would be sharper than the nikkors, but possibly a little long for a lot of landscape applications, and also bigger, heavier and more expensive.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Southern California

    Re: New to LF, need help picking a camera

    Ditto for Cambo. Get the SC, the only difference between SC and SCX are cosmetics. Parts and additions are plentiful and cheap and some are interchangeable between a lot of models, including 8 x 10 of the same type if you decide to go that route later.

    There is nothing subtle about these cameras, they're built like tanks and will take almost anything and yet are pretty flexible and provide all the capabilities you really need. Your money is better spent on lenses.

    Speaking of which, I bought 210 first and didn't regret it, but if you know you want landscapes, 135 will give you slightly wider than normal and IMHO also more natural angle of view. Any modern version of the Big Four should do.

    Good luck.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Indianapolis, Ind.

    Re: New to LF, need help picking a camera

    The Cambo rotating Graflok back adds both cost and weight to your purchase. I am very content with Cambo's non-rotating Graflok back. It easily switches from landscape to portrait, but does not offer the intermediate positions.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Washington D.C.

    Re: New to LF, need help picking a camera

    I am a big believer in Sinar. Plenty of accessories are available, they sell pretty cheap on the big auction site and are extremely well engineered. They do have a Graflok back (for use with the roll film backs you mentioned, it can be turned in either direction but does not rotate, it does easily remove and reinstall in seconds). I use mine for architecture, portraits, landscapes and everything else. I would look for a good Sinar F2.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Aug 2008

    Re: New to LF, need help picking a camera

    You can get a Cambo/Calumet NX/NXII for somewhere around $150 on ebay these days. Nothing wrong with the SC (it's very similar to the NX/NXII) but everything will likely be years older. A Caltar II-N 210 (same as Sironar N 210) is a winner, and recent ones have gone for around $200 (same for the Caltar II-N 150mm).

  7. #7

    Re: New to LF, need help picking a camera

    I used a Toyo G for landscape once at Point Lobos and the California coast. It's too heavy in the long run. Great in the studio but in the field you will not be taking it far from the car unless you are a body builder.

    The 210 lens is a great first lens. The Toyo G is a very nice and precise camera that would be perfect for studio, portrait, still life.

  8. #8
    SF Bay Area 94303
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    SF Bay Area

    Re: New to LF, need help picking a camera

    You can save about $200 and get a Calumet CC400 for ~$100. Built like tanks and will do most everything except wide angles less than 90mm. I started with a 210mm and still use it the most. The old SIRONAR's of 1970's vintage have a bad habit of their lens adhesives separating. I would avoid an old one. (Hint, mine did.) K

  9. #9

    Re: New to LF, need help picking a camera

    I agree with Turner Reich with this addition, the Toyo G has all geared movements and is a higher end camera than the rest on your list. If you can live with the weight, it would be your best buy. If you plan on backpacking with it, you would want to plan carefully. Working close to a car would work. The nice thing about the Toyo G is that most, if not all current accessories will work on it, and there are lots of used pieces around. You can even move to digital backs, and the thing is a tank. If you pick up one in good shape, it can last almost forever, and parts are available. You can call Toyo (Mamiya) and they will send you parts that seem very resonably priced.

    All the cameras on your list will do the job, but the geared movements for about the same money seems like a reasonable plus.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: New to LF, need help picking a camera

    Weight is important for landscape, but if you find you like LF you can easily resell a camera, or buy an additional field camera.

    I owned and sold a number of lenses before I settled on my current kit. It really is a personal choice and depends on what you like to shoot. I used to shoot with a good friend and between us we carried 9 lenses, all different focal lengths. But surprisingly we rarely borrowed lenses because we liked what we had.

    My most used lenses are 90, 135, 200. They account for about 80% of my shots.

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