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Thread: best low-cost field 4x5 for LF newbie?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Frederick, CO

    best low-cost field 4x5 for LF newbie?

    I'm seeking some advice. I apologize if this question is commonly asked in some form or another, but I'm new to the forum as well. Sorry.

    I want to get a 4x5 camera. I have my eye on either the Chamonix 0-45n-2 or the Shen-Hao PTB45 (or any Shen-Hao really). I've used a tilt-shift lens (Canon) before and the technical movements don't scare me. I am attracted to the light weight of this type of camera, and the improved technical movements compared to, say, a Graflex. I'm strongly considering getting a 6x12 roll film back for this camera as well.

    Is there a better choice for low-cost field 4x5?

    I need the camera, a lens, a dark cloth, a loupe, a light meter, and some film - anything else? I have a sturdy tripod - Induro CT314 and PhotoClam PC48NS head, and a couple of extra Kirk or Wimberley camera plates.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Re: best low-cost field 4x5 for LF newbie?

    Gonna hike with it, stay in the studio or work out of the trunk of your car? Or a little of each? New or used?
    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.

  3. #3
    Lost mike rosenlof's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 1998
    Louisville, Colorado, USA

    Re: best low-cost field 4x5 for LF newbie?

    I recommend a monorail 4x5 unless you really want to pack the thing into the mountains. There are a ton of them out there and prices are very low now.

    A good monrail is sturdy, has all the movement you could ever want, might have a bunch of accessories available especially if you go with Sinar or Toyo, but the old Calumets are just fine and cheap.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Hampton, VA

    Re: best low-cost field 4x5 for LF newbie?

    Quote Originally Posted by kevwil View Post
    I need the camera, a lens, a dark cloth, a loupe, a light meter, and some film - anything else?
    You'll need some film holders too. A film changing tent, though definitely not essential, can makes things a bit more convenient.


  5. #5

    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Chicago, IL

    Re: best low-cost field 4x5 for LF newbie?

    I appreciate Mike's suggestion, but I'd recommend that you at least look at the Super Graphic. It has more movements than most people use, it's compact, it's light, and it's quick to set up.

    In my opinion, a monorail is overkill for most types of photography. They're useful for close-up or product photography, but not many other subjects require the full pretzel. On the other hand, they tend to be cheap but heavy, so if you can drive to your subject, you can buy a very sturdy 4x5 for $150.

    If you're interested in the technical capabilities of movements, it would help to know what you're trying to do. But if you're more interested in the artistic possibilities of tilt/shift for isolating subjects, then you should even consider the Speed Graphic. There are simple modifications you can do to the camera to add swing and other non-standard movements. For an example, look at Rommel's amazing 4x5 work that utilizes an Aero Ektar and a modified Speed:

  6. #6
    8x10, 5x7, 4x5, et al Leigh's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Maryland, USA

    Re: best low-cost field 4x5 for LF newbie?

    If you're looking for a decent monorail, I could put together a very complete kit using a Plaubel Peco Profia 4x5,
    with everything you need to take pictures except the tripod.

    Let me know if you're interested.

    - Leigh
    If you believe you can, or you believe you can't... you're right.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jun 2002

    Re: best low-cost field 4x5 for LF newbie?

    Monorails have all movements, unlimited but more so, you can actually see the movements and how they work. The knobs are larger, the controls are easier to distinguish. This is no small feature because most every field camera design obscures and limits their movements... even if it is only a psychological block, you tend to use them too sparingly or rationalize none at all.

    Go for freedom, especially for learning.

    Get a good beefy tripod.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    San Gabriel Valley, California

    Re: best low-cost field 4x5 for LF newbie?

    Way back in time, when I attended my local college. The large format camera that was available to our sticky, sweaty hands, were the Calumet monorail cameras. They are built to take on a beginner's abuse and experiments. They work great in a studio or architectural work. Maybe not the greatest for long hikes tho.

    When I purchased my Calumet, I found the owner's name in the camera case. He purchased the camera back in the 70's while attending Brooks Photography School in Santa Barbara, California. Like I said, the camera can take the abuse, and you can find them for less than $200.

    Oh, and don't forget a good cable release, a dusting brush or air can, and lots of patients.
    Last edited by joselsgil; 24-Aug-2012 at 21:31. Reason: spellling

  9. #9

    Join Date
    May 2010
    St. Louis, Mo.

    Re: best low-cost field 4x5 for LF newbie?

    If you are going to backpack with it then you should also check out used Toyo A and All (A2) 4x5 metal folding field cameras. They have come down in price lately on the used market. A good friend of mine has the A. They are really nice cameras!

  10. #10
    C. D. Keth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Salt Lake City, UT

    Re: best low-cost field 4x5 for LF newbie?

    If I were in your position, I would find a used monorail camera. Shoot with it for a while closer to home or shorter walks from the car. Get to know it and how you like to shoot. Note what movements and degree of the movements you actually use. That experience will inform a future purchase of a field camera if that's what you want. The monorail could pretty easily be sold for roughly what you bought it for. Many accessories like film holders and lenses you get will transfer to a field camera.

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