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Thread: Advice for my first 4x5 purchase

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Melbourne, Australia

    Advice for my first 4x5 purchase

    Hi all,

    Please go easy on me, Im new here!

    I am about to leave to study my last semester of my photography degree in China where I intend to do landscape and architectural work with a wide angle lens (70 - 90mm).

    Ideally I would prefer a Toyo field camera but I cannot afford one at this time. I was wondering what a good cheap alternative would be? Should I consider traveling with a rail system overseas? (I will be living in the same location for three months so I wouldn't be traveling too much.)

    I have been offered a sinar Alpina which has only been used once by a lecturer.. ? Would this be good for what Im considering to shoot?

    I would like something which I can fit into a normal size backpack even if this means dismantling the unit each time etc.

    Or am I a little crazy to even be considering using a rail 4x5? I just dont like the idea of being restricted in movements.

    Any help is appreciated!
    Last edited by gilestown; 10-Jul-2011 at 23:08.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    the Netherlands

    Re: Advice for my first 4x5 purchase

    I you only want to shoot with a wide angle lens, why not use a Cambo Wide? The current model is very expensive but the previous one described here:
    can be found for much less money. Just keep in mind that the regular 47mm and the 100mm lenses supplied for this camera do not cover 4x5 inch.

    A Cambo Wide with a 65/72XL/75 or 90mm lens is a small light weight package, easy and quick to set up and focus and it can even be used handheld. The crash bars are easy to remove to use the camera with the Lee filter system or make the camera even smaller. Basically it is a cheap Alpa 12 without sacrificing quality.

    Good luck with you choice and your trip/study. I hope this advice was of some help,

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Feb 2010

    Re: Advice for my first 4x5 purchase

    Isn't there an old wide calumet floating around here somewhere that would be perfect? I thought there was one for sale for a while.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Re: Advice for my first 4x5 purchase

    A Linhof technikardan would be perfect for you, except maybe for the price. You may find a deal on the older non-s version. A field camera might not be ideal, since many folding field cameras will limit your movements with wide lenses. I've never used a Toyo field though.

    I think a small monorail would probably be the best fit for your needs and budget. A specialized wide-angle camera like the cambo wide seems like a particularly bad idea. Lenses in the 135-210mm are useful for architecture and urban landscapes and those lenses would be difficult to use with a cambo wide. Also, it would require special lens mounts for each lens, which adds bulk and cost.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Re: Advice for my first 4x5 purchase

    Why not a Shen Hao? For heaven's sake you're going to China!
    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.

  6. #6
    God loves a tryer Scotty230358's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Lancashire UK

    Re: Advice for my first 4x5 purchase

    A Shen Hao TZ45BII fitted with bag bellows will allow you to use lenses in the focal length range quite conveniently. I had this set up for a couple of years and had no trouble with my 75mm and 90mm lenses.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Calgary, Canada

    Re: Advice for my first 4x5 purchase

    A schneider super angulon 90mm F8 is the main lens I use on my Wista 45SP technical metal field camera. No experience with a 75mm (supposedly can go as wide as 60mm or so with the 45sp? Can somebody verify?). I think the technical metal field camera is great for traveling/field-work because it folds up to a nice box that's extremely durable. It's very easy to transport with the leather strap, whether it's closed up or set up with a lens in it. I've attached it to the front straps of my camera bag with the unit closed, banging it against ladder railings and other nasties and never really worried about it. Extremely tough and it doesn't attract attention (one person asked if it was an old radio).

    At some point I need to get a bag bellows because while the camera provides plenty of movements the accordion bellows does not. It's starting to see wear & tear since getting the 90mm because I keep accidentally cranking it too far, causing it to get ground up slightly by the gears in a few spots or the rear element presses against the bellows. I don't know how easy to fold up the system would be with a bag bellows installed, no first-hand experience there.

    In case you're wondering I paid $330 USD for the camera including the fuji 180mm 5.6 multicoated lens. The bellows was in pristine condition when I got it. It was from a used/new camera seller in Honolulu (lighthaus cameras). Mine's a slightly older model without front twist but I've never run into a need for horizontal twisting of the front element. I use my camera for a bit of architectural work and a fair bit of landscape. It has front vertical tilt, front horizontal/vertical shift, rear vertical/horizontal tilt. The front tilt is axial which is nice for me.

    While I'd like the freedom of movements of a rail camera I'm pretty rough on my gear and I know I'd kill a monorail in no time using it in the field. Plus I would need a MUCH stronger tripod because I'd want to transport the camera over the shoulder attached to the tripod compared to removing the camera from the tripod and carrying it by the strap like I do now.

    I think it depends on what you mean by traveling, too? Are you going to a new location frequently or are you only going to have to pack your gear up tight a few times and getting the gear to China is the main worry?

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Palo Alto, CA, USA

    Re: Advice for my first 4x5 purchase

    I would recommend that you pick your lenses then decide which camera can handle them. For instance a 72mm SA XL is neither small nor cheap. If you pick a smaller, less expensive lens you will have less coverage and the camera would not have to handle large movements at short focal lengths. In terms of specs the Canham DLC would be hard to beat but at about $1200 used it might cost more than you want to spend. A Toyo, Horseman, Wista, Linhof, metal box camera may have plentiful movements for the lenses you get. It would be hard to beat a used Sinar F for price and flexibility but the weight may limit your travels.
    Jeff Keller

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Carmel Valley, CA

    Re: Advice for my first 4x5 purchase

    While some of the cameras mentioned in this thread have rather limited moves, and are way over budget, the Sinar Alpina the OP mentioned would seem be a great choice for architecture. They are very capable cameras, and only lack interchangeability with other Sinar cameras and pieces in the matter of the monorails and extensions, if I'm not mistaken. Just starting out, that won't be much of a problem so long as all the pieces are present. Sinars are also quite reasonable in the used market since there are large numbers of them, being the most popular commercial studio large format camera over several recent decades.

  10. #10
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Fond du Lac, WI, USA

    Re: Advice for my first 4x5 purchase

    An Alpina is a nice camera, kinda in the middle between and F and F2 in quality. The only downside is the big rail, which is bulky to pack. You may need a bag bellows to get a lot of movement with the 90. I used to backpack with an Alpina, and so I don't think you're crazy.
    “You often feel tired, not because you've done too much, but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you.”
    ― Alexander Den Heijer, Nothing you don't already know

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