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Thread: Complete Newbie to LF Photography

  1. #1

    Join Date
    May 2009

    Complete Newbie to LF Photography

    Hey all, my name is Brooks. I have been a photographer for quite a while now, having cut my teeth on 35mm before going digital and "upgrading" to a Nikon D40. After obsessively shooting with my D40, I couldn't manage to find what I was looking for, so I went back to film in the purchase of a Nikon FG-20. I've shot the heck out of that thing, but began feeling the need for something more "manual" or "old school" or something... So I picked up a Yashica A TLR and have shot quite a bit through it as well. I love both my FG-20 and my Yashica, but am seriously considering selling my entire D40 kit.

    So here I am today, pondering another upgrade, this time to a Large Format camera. I've tried to do quite a bit of research on the topic, I've read a ton on the Bender and Bulldog kits, I've learned (I think) the difference between a field camera and a monorail, etc... So I am asking for some purchase advice. My budget is limited, as in I would like to be able to buy my entire LF outfit for what I could sell the D40 kit for. (50% of retail value would get me about $750, but if I find an eager buyer, I could likely get more)

    Here is what I know that I want:

    * Folder/Field camera, not a monorail.

    * Ability to shoot at a rather wide angle. I really like landscape and nature photography and will likely focus almost solely on the "wide view" of things.

    * I prefer the "look" of the wood cameras, but that isn't a necessity.

    * Reasonably compact, as in I would like to be able to take it hiking/camping with me.

    * Decent movement abilities. However, keeping my LF experience level in mind, even a very modest amount of movements will likely befuddle, bewitch and delight me for a long time to come.

    That's really about all I've got for my criteria so far. I have no problem (and would in fact prefer, given my budget) to buy used.

    I know these types of posts are very common on any hobby forum, and I've fielded quite a few of them myself on a digital photography forum I frequent, so I hope I have made this informative enough to warrant a response, instead of the typical "So, which LF camera is the bestest EVER?!" type post which I assume must pop up here on occasion.

    Thanks so much in advance for any responses and help! This looks like it's going to be a great place to learn and grow in the LF hobby.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: Complete Newbie to LF Photography

    You should be able to find a basic used wooden field camera for about $450; a single used lens for about $300; use your camera as a meter; a few used filmholders.

    I assume you already have a tripod and head.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    May 2009

    Re: Complete Newbie to LF Photography

    Yes, I already have several tripods with heads, everything from a cheap $20 walmart rig to this huge all solid metal ultra industrial grade thing my dad bought me. I swear, that tripod could hold a truck up if it could balance it.

    Got any specific recommendations on a field camera / lens combo to look for?


  4. #4
    MIke Sherck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Elkhart, IN

    Re: Complete Newbie to LF Photography

    Call Jim at Midwest ( and see if he has anything he can put together for you in your budget. Perhaps a used Tachihara, or something of that nature, a lens, some film holders. It ought to be doable.

    Politically, aerodynamically, and fashionably incorrect.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    SF Bay Area

    Re: Complete Newbie to LF Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by MIke Sherck View Post
    Call Jim at Midwest ( and see if he has anything he can put together for you in your budget. Perhaps a used Tachihara, or something of that nature, a lens, some film holders. It ought to be doable.

    Excellent advice. I talked to Jim today and he is a busy man. Trust him, without too many questions, and he will set you up with what you need to get started.

  6. #6
    Tim Meisburger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    McLean, Va.

    Re: Complete Newbie to LF Photography

    I think there is a Busch Pressman on the For Sale section for $200 right now. Based on my own experience, which is similar to yours, that would do you fine until you learned you either loved it, or not. I got my first LF camera last September, and now have three, and am afraid I am on the slippery slope. I had a D40, but gave it to my wife

  7. #7
    Wayne venchka's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007

    Re: Complete Newbie to LF Photography

    I was about to say craigslist. However, you could get hosed not knowing what's good and bad. Jim will take care of you.

    In 30 days you will get access to the toy store at this forum. All manner og goodies come and go.

    For starting out in 4x5, lenses of 125mm-127mm-135mm are plenty wide and plenty good and plenty cheap.

    If a Crown or Speed Graphic with a Kodak Ektar 127mm lens jumps at you for little money go for it. Great learning kit. Great handheld street kit.

    Good luck!
    Deep in the darkest heart of the North Carolina rainforest.

    Wayne's Blog


  8. #8

    Re: Complete Newbie to LF Photography


    Many of us have been down this path. It is filled with periods of ignorance and information overload, and often frequent swaps--all part of the fun and adventure.

    I've tried to organize some of my experience here to leave a trail of breadcrumbs.

    There is also a lot of useful information in the articles listed on the LF Photo home page.

    Reserve judgement about movements. Learning to use them is a little like learning to drive--in a rearview mirror. It is initially confusing, but with use, they become automatic and techniques that you wonder how you ever got along without.

  9. #9
    jp's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Re: Complete Newbie to LF Photography

    I'm pretty new at LF and this is what I've spent so far. You might want to make yourself a spreadsheet.

    Already had:
    light meter
    pelican case for film holders/lightmeter.
    shutter release cable
    can of air for dusting
    All the computer/printer things for digital including a epson 7600 printer.

    Have spent money on:
    $105 Graflex speed graphic with 135mm lens (Ebay)
    $7 touchup paint (Autozone)
    $110 shutter/lens cleaning,lube,adjustment (SK Grimes)
    $70 12 film holders (Ebay)
    $80 HP Combiplan processing tank (B&H)
    $10 black felt for darkroom or hotel bathroom door cover. (Walmart)
    $120 100 sheets Tmax 400 film (B&H)
    $20 4x5 negative pages (B&H)
    $40 chemicals (B&H)
    $15 new leather strap for graflex (local cobbler)

    At some point I will want:
    4x5 enlarger & lens (currently have a 6x7)
    Epson Scanner
    2nd lens/shutter/lensboard of longer focal length
    Pelican case and/or backpack suitable for the camera and accessories.
    2nd processing tank to let me process 12 images at a time and/or two different processing variations at a time.

    I've bought all the cheap stuff I need, and there are still some big ticket items to go. Until then, I'll have to live with contact prints and scan them in on a normal flatbed scanner if I want to put them on the web. No big rush on the wishlist of items.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    May 2009

    Re: Complete Newbie to LF Photography

    Thanks for the replies everyone, I appreciate it. Also, thanks for the link Brian. You have compiled a lot of good info there!

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