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Thread: What features do you look for when buying a new LF Camera?

  1. #1

    What features do you look for when buying a new LF Camera?

    Hello All,

    I am working on a little project and would like some of your constructive input on cameras. When it comes time for purchasing a new LF camera 4x5, 8x10 etc. wh at are you looking for in that camera? I would like to stick to folding field t ype cameras for comparisons.

    Do you go to the used market or new and why? Are there brands that you consider to be the best and why, is it because of price, movements, manufacturer? What m ovements are critical for you? How much bellows extension do find most useful 1 2?, 24? and/or interchangeable bag bellows? Do you feel there is a need for a m oderately priced folding field camera made in the US? Is there a consideration in lens board design and what is the most universal lens board? Why is a price tag of approx. $2500 the norm for 8x10 field cameras and do you feel this is ac ceptable? Maybe from a retailers perspective, what is the normal markup on LF e quipment?

    And, to boil it all down I guess what I am trying to figure out is if you could buy a US made 4x5, 8x10 or larger view camera for a little more than the prices of what you pay for a tachihara or shen hao, what features would it have to have to sway your decisions to stray to something new?

    I know there is a lot of questions here, so don?t feel the need to answer them a ll unless you want to, just looking for a nice well rounded view from everyone.

    Thank you for your time and help. James

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 2001

    What features do you look for when buying a new LF Camera?

    If you are looking for a field cammera, it should be fairly light in weight. The movements I would look for are front tilt and front rise/fall and front swing. It should also have rear tilts and swings. I find I use tilt and rise more than swing. A revolving back is nice, but not necessary. Many cameras have a removable back which gives the same results (vertical and horizontal format). I went to the used market for one simple reason.... cost. For the rst of the questions I will defer to the experts, but other than each person's loyalty to a particular brand, they are all very good cameras, no matter if they are Wisner, Gandolfi, Wista, Deardorff, Tachihara etc. They will all last a lifetime.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 1999

    What features do you look for when buying a new LF Camera?

    technical matters: bellows for lenses from 72mm to 450, So a camera with interchangeable bellows, since very few single bellows are pliable enough to handle this array of lenses with movement. Levels, fora and aft easily viewed. Rise/fall front, rear optional. Shift front, rear optional. Tilt/swing front and rear. Better yet, axis tilt front/rear geared. ( Note: Presently I own Wisners.) Ease of operation. The Wisner Pocket Expedition, which I own, has been described as a Chinese puzzle in opening/closing. While not nearly that bad( I was never good with Rubik's cubes either) it is certainly more complex than my Technical field camera to open/close.But hey, I am considering a Technikardan also, and it requires some skill in opening/closing also. From my viewpoint opening/closing should resemble putting a cd into your car cd player. You should be able to do it without hardly watching what you are doing. All gears, tracks, knobs, etc. should turn easily, no hesitation, lock firmly, and be usable with gloves on. Weight: I don't care. I use an old Ansco 8x10 occasionally which is way too heavy. But cameras in the 4-7 pound range seem ok. Reliable mfgs. Wisner, Canham, Linhof, Ebony--the lsit goes on and on. An mfg, distributor, dealer with whom you can actually speak and get real world responses and advice is a must. Bulk. The entire system must fir into a Tenba PBL or an F64 case, the former for air travel, the latter for everything else. So large rail cameras are out. Price; Well the cost of the cameras I own indicate what I am willing to pay. Anything outside the Linhof 45S is too much. The cameras in those ranges are clearly outstanding. But I am have to consider the cost as does anyone else. Also, I use my cameras in the four seasons, in dusty grain elevators, in rain, in lakes, etc. So I want the thing to last. if it gets scarred a bit who cares. But if its beauty means it won't last or requires extraordinary care, then I would pass on it. Ultimately it isn expensive tool, a $2000 hammer. I use it to make images that please me, that i can exhibit, sell and teach with. Bob Esthetics; Well made, designed so your hands can find the controls while under a dark cloth in a darkened room.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Oct 2001

    What features do you look for when buying a new LF Camera?

    1. ease of use is surely the most critical thing in my book. especially in folding cameras, the knobs need to be large and easy to access and control, and the uprights need to be large enough and sturdy enough to be secure, smooth and accurate. rise and fall are by far the most important movements. focusing system needs to be easy to access and secure in locking. 2. i also look for the absolute minimum number of things that can be broken or get out adjustment. i want simplicity and rugged manual controls - nothing fancy that relies on small, intricate, or difficult to find parts.' 3. the ability to handle wide angle lenses easily, super fast setup and take-down. 4. price is generally not an object. high-quality construction is. fancy, ornate, and complex are not appealing - something that looks like it will last forever is appealing. 5. something that offers a variety of accessories, like reflex finders, at reasonable prices.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Nov 1999

    What features do you look for when buying a new LF Camera?

    Whether or not it is engraved, "EBONY".

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Dec 1998

    What features do you look for when buying a new LF Camera?

    I'm with Dan on this one. Deardorff 8x10 with front swings, light- tight bellows and tripod mounting plate. I use my 5x7 back a lot, but I sold the 4x5 back. I figure if I'm going to lug around an 8x10, there's no way I'm going to waste my time with 4x5 negs.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    What features do you look for when buying a new LF Camera?

    I agree! For an 8x10, a good used Deardorff is one heck of a camera-- -easy to use and built like a locomotive and when folded its as light and as compact as one could expect from an 8x10. Some day soon, a used 'dorff will probably approach the price for a new Wisner, Canham, Phillips,etc...making buying a brand new camera probably a better deal. My experience with 4x5 is very limited, but with the 'dorff you have a trade-off that could go either way. Nearly all 4x5 'dorffs are really 5x7s, so if you get an extra back(5x7 for a 4x5 or vice-versa) you end up with essentially two formats. Modern designs like the Wisner and Zone V1 4x5s are much smaller and lighter. While a 5x7 back may be available for these as well I can't say, but if I were only interested in 4x5 I might be better served by a newer camera---then again if I were more in tune with 5x7 I'd opt for the larger Deardorff which would be better suited for mounting a wider variety(bigger and heavier) lenses. All that said, I think you'd be better off getting a camera YOU enjoy using. IMHO, nearly any camera thats light tight has adequate bellows extension, and locks down good and solid will serve you well enough. Creativity will show even with the most basic equiptment if you use your camera as a tool rather than a crutch. Good Luck and Good Light!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jan 1999
    Redmond, WA, USA

    What features do you look for when buying a new LF Camera?

    1. Ease of use. To wit, large well-place knobs with smooth action and good lock down; a bright, ruled ground glass that doesn't need to be replaced with somethi ng better; 2. My needs for movements are few as, like many, I do primarily landscape work. I find that about all I need are front rise/fall and front tilt. 3. I don't require much bellows draw (maybe enough for a 210mm - 240mm lens)but having the camera be very wide angle friendly is a must! 4. Not having to replace a pleated belows with a bag bellows every time I want t o use a wide-angle lens. 5. Inexpensive but good quality lensboards. 6. At least two easy-to-read bubble levels on the rear standard. A couple on the front standard would be nice too. 7. Light weight (about 1.5 kg) yet rigid (i.e. relatively impervious to wind str ess and changes in temperature/humidity).

    That's just off the top of my head.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Mar 1998

    What features do you look for when buying a new LF Camera?

    support from the manufacturer.

  10. #10
    Yes, but why? David R Munson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Saitama, Japan

    What features do you look for when buying a new LF Camera?

    I also vote for something exactly resembling a Deardorff 8x10 WFS. After using mine for about 2 years now, about the only things I wish were different were that it had separate locks for front rise/tilt (though this is partially solved by the sliding lensboard), and that some of the knobs were a little more finger- friendly. My 'Dorff weighs less than my 4x5 monorail, and cost about half as much. True, Deardorffs continue to go up in price, and if prices were the same, I'd be likely to go for a Lotus, Canham, or Ebony if for no other reason than starting out with a new camera, but for now you can still find 'em relatively cheap if you know where to look.

    The Deardorff 8x10 has about 36" of extension, and can focus down to at least a 90mm on a flat board, albeit with almost nonexistant movements (at least with my ancient bellows). The longest lens I've put on it was an 24" and it wasn't a bad setup. I really couldn't see needing any more extension than 36" on an 8x10. Less might be limiting when using long lenses. The 'Dorff doesn't have interchangeable bellows, but then I can't really imagine a situation where you would need there to be.

    I've found the 6x6" round-cornered boards to be plenty big enough for some of those huge old barrel lenses, but not so big that they're objectionably so. Being as thick as they are, it can be a bit of a challenge to attach lenses in modern shutters, but that's only a minor challenge.

    Oh, and perhaps the most important feature on a field camera: a Ries tripod underneath.....
    So apparently my signature was full of dead links after a few years away...

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