4x5 field camera vs monorail

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by msbarnes, Jun 4, 2013.

  1. msbarnes

    msbarnes Member

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    I'm still weighing the pros and cons of different LF formats (4x5, 5x7, and 8x10) and had mostly wanted a folder because I just plan on using one normal lens (or maybe slightly longer than normal) and I wanted to maximize portability.

    Well I was looking into some 4x5 options (Wista VX, Horseman FA mostly) and I read that a 150mm/210mm plasmat doesn't fit. I can probably get an alterntive lens or reverse those but then that got me thinking about a monorail since they are usually cheaper and easier to use....I'm still unsure because I've never owned one.

    I want a LF camera for portraits and want the flexibility to take it on-location but I don't plan on using it hand held (hence no desire for a VF/RF or a press camera). I'm not going to be hiking up mountains and so maximizing portability isn't the biggest concern (but I do really like portable cameras).

    1. What are some portable 4x5 monorail options? Of varying price ranges.
    2. Do you feel that they are more cumbersome to carry than folding cameras for my intended use? (ofcourse subject to varying opininos).
    3. How do you transport them? My thinking was just to keep the camera mounted on the tripod and the lens in a bag or something...I'm unsure...the cases seem kind of bulky and weighty...
    4. I haven't looked at the compatibility of ALL 4x5 folders but are there 4x5 folders that would collapse with a 150mm/210mm plasmat? I haven't looked too much into the compatibility and I'm not 100% set on those lenses...just trying to see which options are viable and which are not.
     
  2. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    I just switched to 8x10, and I have a Horseman view. And I intend to do field camera work with it. That camera is a MONSTER. You can't carry it around on a tripod. Wish I had a field camera, but this is all I could afford. Having said all that, when I think now of a 4x5, it sheds a whole new light on the question. In comparison, ANY 4x5 would be acceptable to me as a field camera. A Calumet is one rugged as heck 4x5 and has all the movements.
     
  3. johnielvis

    johnielvis Member

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    get the monorail--they're ALL portable. Folder limits you and costs more. it's a no brainer. i've never seen a 4x5 that can't be carried on a tripod...with the lens attached--a lightweight tiltall tripod in fact--but you'll want a heavier tripod for stability and why not--the camera's so light you can afford a heavier tripod weight wise--with a nice gear center column maybe. you want portraits, maybe alonger lens than 210...telephoto if you want to keep the extensions smaller.
     
  4. Doc W

    Doc W Subscriber

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    Are you saying that you want the camera to fold up with the lens mounted so it will be more portable? If so, this is probably overkill. You will need to bring more than just the camera - e.g., holders, light meter, perhaps a foldup reflector for portraits, cable release, loupe, and probably a few other things. You can easily solve the portability problem with a decent camera backpack, like a Lowepro. I use one of these to carry my Wisner 4x5, about a dozen film holders, loupe, light meter, spot meter, notebook, cable release and so on. The whole package is light and very easy to lug around. Keeping a camera on the tripod is a pain, and lugging a monorail around is a bigger pain.

    Given your other post about expense, and given that it looks like you want to shoot mainly portraits, check out the Super Graphic. They are very light, easy to use, very durable (metal body), and have more movements than most people think (although you won't use that much for portraits). There are a few on ebay at pretty nutty prices but look at the "Completed" listings. They usually go for no more than $500.
     
  5. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    +1 exactly. I've carried a Calumet around on my Tiltall since 1977. Now I'm putting that Horseman monster on it. Can't carry around a Tilltall with a Horseman 8x10 on it. It's like a Mack truck sitting on top of 3 toothpicks.
     
  6. Doc W

    Doc W Subscriber

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    You guys never heard of a backpack? :tongue:
     
  7. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    For that Horseman, I plan on using a handtruck. Don't laugh.
     
  8. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi msbarnes:

    i wouldn't let not being able to close the lens up in the camera deter you from seriously thinking about it.
    as doc w mentioned, you will be bringing a handful of other things with you, .. the lens+board in a lens wrap
    is pretty inconsequential seeing all the other things needed to schlep with a large camera.

    john
     
  9. msbarnes

    msbarnes Member

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    Well my thinking was that people get folders because they are more compact and easier to transport. If I were to choose to use a lens that does not fold up in my camera then is a folder still "benefitial"?

    I can understand the advantages for folding if I were to use roll film and a rangefinder but for my intentions, the folding requirement which I had previously imposed on myself seems maybe unnecessary for the 4x5 format.
     
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  10. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    There's still a weight difference in most cases. I can't speak to all monorails, but I have a Cambo 4x5 that weighs around 9 pounds without a lens or holders. It takes a sturdier tripod to hold it since it isn't as centered as my smaller cameras. I've been eyeing the Chamonix and Shen Hao folding 4x5s and they weigh around 4 pounds. I have taken my 4x5 into the woods, but not that far and not to some places that I'd really like to shoot 4x5. If you want to just try out the format, monorails are usually cheaper.
     
  11. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    sure its beneficial .. the camera isn't the only things you bring with you when you use it. with a small format camera you don't need to bring film separately, or a light meter or a dark cloth.
    with a large format camera everything is separate .. film holders, meter, filters, meter, dark cloth, sand bag &c. if the film was installed in the camera ( roll film adapter ) and you
    were sunny-16-ing all your exposures and used a kalart rangefinder specifically calibrated for your lens, then i would still say bringing a lens on a lensboard is minimal to bring.

    a lot of people use roll film and a range finder. with linhof cameras some say the rangefinder focuses more precisely than the eye on the ground glass, and roll film,
    why not there are more choices for lenses, from old and brass to new and sharp to magnifying glasses even, much more fun to use roll film and a not so boring lens ..
     
  12. Doc W

    Doc W Subscriber

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    I can only offer my opinion, based on experience, and, of course, our tastes and needs will differ. My opinion is that a Crown Graphic or Super Graphic would be ideal for you. They are inexpensive, light, and very portable. Crowns and Supers fold up to the size of a kids' lunch pail and easily fit into a small bag or backpack with everything else you will need. I used both for quite a while and they are great for portraits. The Super can also do a pretty good job on landscapes. They set up in seconds and you can even hand-hold them (after all, they are press cameras). And roll film backs for either are not that expensive. Once again, it is just my opinion, but the idea of carrying around a monorail, on a tripod no less, gives me a migraine.
     
  13. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    Graflexes are nice, but it sounds like the guy needs some movements. For the money and ruggedness, Calumets and Tiltalls are way to go. They're not that hard to carry around. And you have no limit on movements.
     
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  15. Doc W

    Doc W Subscriber

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    Tom, in another thread the OP said movements were not that important to him. Nonetheless, the Super has full front movements: rise, axis tilt, swing. It also has a rotatable back. It is a great camera.
     
  16. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    Didn't know that. In that case a Graphic and a Tilltall would be perfect. Notice I am a Tiltall pusher. For a hundred bucks, it's the best tripod money you could spend.
     
  17. DannL

    DannL Member

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    Here's my experience FWIW. This all occurred withing the past 3-4 months so it is still perty fresh in my mind. I purchased a Sinar F1 because I wanted a "portable & modern" 4x5 camera. I got a 150mm APO Symmar to put on it. I put it all in a f.64 back-pack with 6 holders, a meter, filters, and a cable release. That weighs out to about 12-13 lbs. I considered that set-up to be a big bulky pain in the arse. So, I decided to search out the lightest & cheapest "modern" field camera that I could fit into my budget. I ended up ordering a newer Horseman 45HF from Tokyo. I now understand the 45HF's are somewhat rare on the US market. It was touted in the 80's advertising as being the lightest all-metal 4x5 field camera on the planet. I put a 150mm Geronar on it. I carry it in a over-the-shoulder bag with 6 holders, a meter, cable release, filters, and that set-up weighs in at about 7-8 lbs. Much less pain and bulk, by far. Carrying a lens board with a lens that doesn't fit "in" the camera is no big hurdle.
     
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  18. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    I'll leave this thread to you guys. Don't want to hog it. Getting that big 8x10 late-model Horseman a few weeks ago, with the "L" arm on the rear standard, and hauling that around has given me a whole new perspective on seeing guys debating 4x5's. In the end, all you guys have good arguments on your favorites. As for me, I'm seeing in full glory why they call them Horseman. Actually a mule would probably be better to haul this boat anchor. A 4x5 is looking more like a Minox to me, here lately.
     
  19. Doc W

    Doc W Subscriber

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    Tom, I love the Horseman. Even the way they look. One of the coolest big cameras around and certainly one of the most well-made.

    My 8x10 is a 1950s all-metal Kodak Master 8x10. It is not that heavy - around 12-13 lbs, I think - and it folds up beautifully. I have two different methods of transport:

    1) For urban photography or in any situation where I am only hauling it a short distance from the car, I used an old suitcase on wheels. It holds the camera, a 14 inch Commercial Ektar, a 600mm Artar, 5x7 back, holders for both 8x10 and 5x7, incident meter, spot meter, loupe, cable release, note book and a few small odds and ends. I strap the tripod on top.

    2) For hiking in the woods, I use a large Lowepro backpack and it barely holds all the junk mentioned above. I usually have to bring a few less holders. Sometime I decide to go either 8x10 or 5x7 in advance, which lightens the load. Of course, when I get to where I want to go, I always want the other format. Rather than strapping the tripod to the pack, I carry it in hand, partly to balance the weight of the backpack and partly to defend myself in case of a zombie attack.
     
  20. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    :munch:
     
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  21. 250swb

    250swb Member

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    Tom, you really must see how Joel Meyerowitz carries his 8x10 over his shoulder on the tripod.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UspoolSnZtg

    it is a nice little film, but if you want to miss out the bulk the bit in question is right at the end.

    Steve
     
  22. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I agree with Doc W, if you're on a budget or not the Super Graphic is a great camera, I don't really recommend Crown Graphics due to their lack of movements, I do use one at times.

    Choice of camera is quite personal, I had a couple of monorails, I bought the first a De Vere WP, HP & 5x4 in the mid 1970's and it was just impractical to use outside a studio because of it's weight and size so I switched to a Wista 45DX for its portabiity. In 27 yeras I've never run out of movements with the Wista and the De Vere sat unused until sold last year, I had a second monorail (A Cambo) and used that in the UK on occasional trips back it was practical to use out in the lnadscape but I much prefered a field camera.

    By chance I found a Speed Graphic for a bargain price - it had some issues which I resolved (replaced some parts). This became my main5x4 camera in Turkey, enough movements for my uses and very quick to set up reasonably light and easy to use hand held.

    I like to work quickly and once I'm in the locations Im shooting in carry my LF cameras set up ready on a tripod, (as in the above video). I also shoot 10x8 and carry my agfa Anscos thesame way.

    Ian
     
  23. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    After packing Calumet cc-400 and cc-401 cameras around on Tiltall tripods for the last few years, I finally broke down and bought a B&J press 4x5. The difference in weight is astonishing. I love the capabilities of the monorail, but can live with the limitations of the folder. I can actually get down a trail easier now without catching that danged long rail on bushes.
     
  24. joh

    joh Subscriber

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    Maybee if you use a Nikkor-m or or a Apo-Ronar, your camera will fold with the lens attached.
    This lenses are small and light and verry sharp....
     
  25. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    An Ektar 203mm f/7.7 and Burke & James press camera make a fairly light, compact, and rugged outfit. The B&J has a revolving back for verticals. The coverage of the Ektar 203 permits limited use of the front tilt and rise, and fits into the closed camera. A Super Graphic has the same advantages at a higher price.
     
  26. mikebarger

    mikebarger Subscriber

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    My experience is just the opposite. I also started with a Sinar F, sold it and bought a nice Zone VI (both 4x5) I give the advantage to the Zone VI for being compact (easy to get in the back pack with other gear), but every other comparison I'd give to the Sinar.

    Is the difference enough to make me go back to the Sinar, no....but now having hindsight I would have stayed with the Sinar because there isn't enough of an advantage with the folder to have gone through the trouble of selling all the Sinar pieces and buying a folder....and the Zone VI was more expensive to boot. I use a back pack, with extra pouches attached, and don't mind the weight.

    Everyone shoots differently, so YMMV.

    Mike
     
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