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Thread: Used or New for Beginner?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Houston, Texas
    Posts
    36

    Used or New for Beginner?

    I am a new member of the forum and I am shopping for my first serious LF camera. My large format experience is very limited compared many of the posters on this forum. I shoot landscapes and some architecture and want a camera that has movements so I can learn and apply the standard functions of a LF camera. A good workshop would also be of interest to me. Anyone know of any good LF workshop in Texas?

    I currently own a medium format Century Graphic, 2 lenses (101mm Kodak Ektar and an 8" Wollensack Raptor) and two 6x9 Graflex backs. I have used this gear about 30 times or so with marginal results. I have been frustrated with inaccurate focus perhaps due to my limited experience and the backs not holding the film flat. The adjustments on this camera seem flimsy.

    I like the 6x9 format because I am so comfortable with the 2x3 composition of 35mm which I have used for many years. However, it may be better for me to start with a 4x5 that can easily be adaptapted to 6x9 and perhaps even a digital back further down the road. I have been doing research on the Arca Swiss and Ebony & Linhof Technika cameras and have read several good threads on this forum which compare them. The prices new are pretty steep though.

    I think a used camera would be better for me than a brand new one. I understand that my first LF camera probably won't be my last. It would be great to get a used setup with a few lenses that I could get comfortable with awhile. I have noticed some used models on Ebay that seem quite affordable. I could use some feedback on other reputable used camera dealers.

    It would be nice to be able to visit a store to try these out. I am based in Houston, Texas and have found next to nothing locally. I will be in Austin in a week if anyone knows of a good resource there.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    477

    Re: Used or New for Beginner?

    Welcome aboard Scott. I think your thoughts make good sense. They mirror what I tell people in the same situation. Buy used to get good at using LF and also to not overspend on a first camera that is mainly a learning vehicle. You will find that things you thought were important may not seem so after you have more experience, and vise versa, and why pay extra to learn you want a different camera?

    Best,

    C

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Stevens Point, WI
    Posts
    1,543

    Re: Used or New for Beginner?

    My advice is to buy the Arca Swiss Discovery for sale on another post for $850 (I don't have anything to do with it). That is a good price for an Arca. I tried 2 other systems before gravitating to Arca. It should retain its value well if for some reason you want to try something else later.

  4. #4
    Dave Karp
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    2,954

    Re: Used or New for Beginner?

    Buying used is a good idea. I have only one piece of new gear. I have lots of pieces of used gear that looked and performed like brand new when I received them.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Houston, Texas
    Posts
    36

    Re: Used or New for Beginner?

    Quote Originally Posted by jeroldharter View Post
    My advice is to buy the Arca Swiss Discovery for sale on another post for $850 (I don't have anything to do with it). That is a good price for an Arca. I tried 2 other systems before gravitating to Arca. It should retain its value well if for some reason you want to try something else later.
    Hi Jerold - I will have privilages to access the For Sale section of the LF Forum in about a week. I read in a post that there are several listed there. By the way, I started college at UW Stevens Point in the 70's. Man, was it cold walking to class from the dorm! http://www.largeformatphotography.in...ilies/cool.gif

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Posts
    1,791

    Re: Used or New for Beginner?

    If you like 2:3 why not get a used 5x7? You can even add a 4x5 back if you really want 4x5.

    Won't a 8" raptor cover 5x7? Or is that a tele?

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Location
    Forest Grove, Ore.
    Posts
    3,696

    Re: Used or New for Beginner?

    I've never purchased anything new for large format. I theorize that there are people out there who buy new. Otherwise, how else could I buy used? But, I can't name anyone in particular.

    The thing is, used equipment can be excellent, and it's SO MUCH less expensive. So, why would one WANT to buy new? The logic evades me.

    Of course, some common sense should previal. Don't purchase anything that's been obviously knocked about. Also, it's a good idea to buy name brands. Ask questions about whatever you purchase.

    But buying new? I'll leave that to someone else.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    196

    Re: Used or New for Beginner?

    Hi Scott,

    I'd be hesitant to buy new until you are sure that you are happy with the format. There are a lot of great deals on used equipment as people either get out of LF, upgrade their gear, or just clean out their closets to make room for new stuff. Once you can, check out the for sale forum here, and you may wish to check Midwest Photo (mpex.com) as they do a brisk trade in used gear. E-bay is a good source if you know exactly what you are looking for and how to get the seller to describe the condition; lately for myself I find I'd rather go through some place like Midwest, where you know the seller actually knows what they are talking about.

    As for the Century - are you using the rangefinder? If so, are you sure the rangefinder is calibrated to either of the lenses (it won't be calibrated to both). Have you tried focusing using the ground glass to focus? I use some of the old graphic 6x9 backs, and while they're not perfect, they're not too bad (at least the couple I have) for film flatness. I wouldn't want to do huge enlargements from them, but they should give you satisfactory 8x12's at least. You might have someone take a look at the camera and lenses they are set up correctly. One of my hobby cameras is a 6x9 Graflex RB series B (Graflex's SLR, rather than rangefinder press camera) from the 40's with a Kodak 127 Ektar and a 6x9 120 back from the same era, and I've had pretty decent luck with the sharpness of the negatives.

    Cheers!
    Bill

  9. #9

    Re: Used or New for Beginner?

    I recently bought my first LF kit. I bought used because I was able to get an amaIng deal. If their is a photographers swap meet in your area you might go and see what the locals are selling. You would be supprised at how some of the retireing pros are willing to deal.

  10. #10

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

    Re: Used or New for Beginner?

    Used is the way to go. A LF camera is a pretty simple piece of equipment (compared to something like a used car), anything wrong with it can usually be seen just by looking closely and playing around with it.

    You could check out the following dealers in used LF gear: MidWest Photo Exchange (my favorite and the favorite of many others here), KenMar Camera (seldom mentioned but reputable and usually with a good selection at good prices), Lens and Repro (good selection, high prices), KEH (fair selection, high prices), Quality Camera (a one-man outfit, his web site seldom works, but people who've dealt with him say he's fine), Igor Camera (or Igor something), good selection, good price, my one experience wasn't great, he sold me a Shen Hao that wasn't a Shen Hao but the return and refund went smoothly), and the used photo departments of Adorama Camera and B&H (though my experience with B&H was bad most other people like them). IMHO for overall good selection, good price, honesty, and ease of dealing MidWest is the best. I'm sure there are other places that I haven't dealt with and that are fine too.
    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.

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