Arrrggg! Too many choices!

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by laz, Aug 18, 2005.

  1. laz

    laz Member

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    Hello folks, My head is about to explode. I've been searching for an affordable LF camera for a few weeks now and I'm really no better versed in what to choose than I was at the start. Well, that's hyperbole; I've read much of this forum and do have some ideas. But, my problem arises when I cruise ebay and try to decide between, brands, with or without lens, if w/lens is it a good quality lens, and of course what price.

    For example here's a current LF on ebb: Cambo/Calumet 4X5 monorail camera, versatile and sharp Fujinon 210mm lens. Buy it now is $525 I'm thinking this might be a good deal but.....

    Anyways you need to know that I'm looking for a field camera 4x5 up to 8x10 exclusively for landscape/nature work. Weight is less of an issue to me than for most as I'm an experienced backpacker and used to quite heavy packs (in other words I will sacrifice weight for cost). I would very much like a complete camera, lens and back for <$1000 (my wife will freak if I spend much more)

    Any advice? feel free to tell me to not ask such a silly question and go back and read more of the old APUG threads.

    Thanks,
    Bob
     
  2. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    I bought a similar camera from someone on APUG a few months ago and I really like it. It does have a few limitations, it is not as stiff as more expensive cameras, the movements aren't as smooth and they are not geared, but I was also in the market for something cheap and good, and it really fit the bill. If you want to pack it, the weight isn't the best, but the bigger problem will be size. It does not break down into an easy to pack size, because the rail is one piece. You could remove the standards and pack them seperately or you could remove the bellows and turn both standards so that they are parallel with the rail, but either way, you still have a lot of bulk.

    There are folding cameras from various manufacturers that can be had used for maybe $300 - $600 and will fold up really nicely. They have fewer movements, so that is the trade off. Also, the Shen Hao sells for $600 new and it has quite a few movements for a folding camera. Any of those will pack a whole lot more neatly than a monorail. If you hadn't said you were going to pack, I would have really recommended a Cambo monorail, but packing one just ain't that easy.

    I looked at the auction and it isn't a bad deal, personally I would bid $325 right now if I wanted it so that no one would use the buy it now and then hope that it ends for less than $525. I think it probably will. The Fujinon lens is a bit older, but it should be a good performer. It is probably single coated rather than multi coated. It is nice to get a bunch of holders with it, they would probably be between $50 and $100 if sold as a group seperately from the camera. The polaroid sheet film holder is nice to have, the pack film holder is not to helpful since they have discontinued pack film.

    Whatever you decide to do, have fun!

    Paul.
     
  3. luvmydogs

    luvmydogs Member

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    Hi Bob,

    I know how you are feeling because I just went through the same thing. It took me a while just to nail down the format. If I were you, I'd do that first. That way, at least you would've narrowed down your choice a little. You also have to keep in mind that accessories for a 8x10 will be more expensive than 4x5.

    I ultimately settled for the 5x7 format with a 4x5 reducing back. I thought about going right to 8x10 but unlike you, I do not want to haul anything too heavy in the field!

    Ultimately you will have to decide what features you want/need in the camera, and then go from there. I have learned that there is no "perfect" camera and that there will always be some trade-offs. Thus it is important to narrow down what features you are willing to live without, and what features you absolutely must have. Have you tried making a list?
     
  4. laz

    laz Member

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    Thanks Paul, All good to know stuff especially the packability factor, I didn't think of that. I may be used to 70lb. packs but if I can't pack it properly that will not matter. I work in NYC and I'm thinking I should hop a train downtown and bother the LF guys at B&H and Adorama and get a feel for what's out there.

    I did what you suggested on ebay. I'm trying real hard not to jump into what might look like an deal on ebay. I'm remaining flexible, if I see a camera deal I will forgo the whole package desire and be patient, Thanks again -B
     
  5. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    Bob,

    Do you plan on contact printing or enlarging? There is a big difference between 4x5 and 8x10, splitting the difference with a 5x7 might be an attractive option for you. You can also put a 4x5 back on a 5x7 camera and with a little extra bulk than a 4x5, you'll have the option of both formats. OTOH if you're gung ho about 8x10---go for it!
    Pick what format you want first and that will cut down the options.

    Another approach would be to grab a good Crown Graphic with a good lens and 'have at it.' You'll learn the basics and you'll also learn what the Crown can (which is quite alot) and can't do--maybe that will give you a better idea of what features you want in a lf camera and you can move up accordingly.

    My kits for my adult school class I'm planning is:

    Camera: Agfa Ansco Universal with 5x7 back
    Lens: 215mm Ilex Caltar/Paragon single coated f/6.3
    Light meter: Weston Master IV
    Cable release: Gepe
    Loupe: Agfa 8x
    Holders: Assorted used Liscos, both wood and plastic.
    Tripod: (I'm still working on this one!)

    The cameras cost between $150-250 average. The lenses were less than $100 but I'll have them cla'd so that will add a bit more(approx $40) The light meters--$9.00 will be cycled through Quality Light Meteric for rebuild so I can expect to add $70--$90 to the bill. The Agfa loupes were $8. Film holders approx $10 each, three per student.

    As you can see it is quite possible to get started for very llittle $$$ (comparatively to a pro MF or advanced amatuer digital set up) Condition, when buying used on eBay is everything. If you feel 'weak in the knees' contact Jim at Midwest, tell him what you want and how much you want to spend and let him put a kit together for you.

    Still more---Some monorails are back-packable, some IMHO are not. For landscape I'd suggest limiting yourself to a field camera. It you then feel hampered by limited movements and want a mono you can move on to one with a better idea of the features you want(unless of course, your rich dentist brother in law gives you his old arca for a birthday present!) YMMV of course.

    Back pack-able 8x10 cameras are a different matter. With the exception of the Gowland, The only other truly lighter-wieght (notice I didn't use the term 'light-wieght')
    would be clamshell types would be either classic Deardorffs, Kodak MV, Century Universals, etc... or the new ones by tachihara, ebony, etc... These are wonderful cameras but would probably exceed your budget. The Ansco or Agfa Ansco is a swell camera but folded it is a boxy package and IMHO would be a bit much for serious hiking around. Once again YMMV---apparently it didn't bother Ansel Adams too much. Maybe others can comment on the suitablility of the Kodak 2d on the trail.

    Good luck!
     
  6. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    You have a Calumet there, don't you? You could see the current incarnation of the camera there. Calumet has an exclusive on Cambo here in the US. The camera in the auction is similar to the Calumet 45NX model, so you could play with that to see what it behaves like for packing. It might actually work. Also, Badger Graphic in Wisconsin (slightly longer train ride!) has the shen hao listed on their site with a lot of info. Here is the link: http://www.badgergraphic.com/search_product2.asp?x=2594

    For $1000 you could easily buy the Shen Hao, one used 150 or 210mm lens and some used holders and a dark cloth. If you have a decent tripod already, you would be ready to go for under your $1000 budget.
     
  7. laz

    laz Member

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    Oh lordy I can't believe the common sense things I've not done yet! So glad I overcame that "boy do I feel stupid" feeling and posted here!

    As far a format goes, you're correct I should nail that down better than I have. It's all the 4x5 temptation out there, but, I do believe I shall at least nail it at 5x7 or 8x10.

    btw I try to be a better person than my dogs think I am as its clear from their behavior that they don't think mujch of me!
     
  8. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    What do you want? What are you taking pictures of? You need more info to make a choice.

    You can easily pickup an Ansco 8x10, a lens plus other goodies for less then your budget. But it depends on what you want to do.

    I know you said weight isn't an issue but you'll still want to think about it. My Ansco and tripod is over 20lbs I think. Add a few lens,film holders other goodies and 30 lbs is well within reach.

    You still need something to carry the camera.
     
  9. laz

    laz Member

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    Somewhere up above I mentioned I would be using it exclusively for landscape/nature work.

    30lbs. still is not scary seeing as I hiked the Grand Canyon with a 70lb. pack. I've got a number of backpacks to choose from (former Scoutmaster and more than a bit of a "gearhead")
     
  10. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    But were you carrying 30lbs of camera gear in that 70lbs? If not you're looking at 30lbs in addition to your 70lbs.

    If the weight isn't an issue the Ansco fits your budget. It won't go super wide but then super wide 8x10 lenses are expensive. Keh shows a couple of big fast 300mm Fuji lenses. Pick one of those up and an Ansco and you're looking at between $700 and maybe $800. Plenty of money for used film holders.
     
  11. laz

    laz Member

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    Thanks Nick I take a look at what you suggest. Right now I don't see anything but day trips so camera and a sandwhich would do. I didn't have 30lbs. of camera in the GC but I did have 5lbs. of bacon and a frying pan to surprise my boys at the bottom (what can I say, they loved bacon and I'm a little nuts) - Bob
     
  12. raucousimages

    raucousimages Member

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    If you shoot LF you are totaly nuts, welcome to the club.
     
  13. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    I don't know about the 8x10 version, but my 5x7 Agfa Anscos can go "superwide" in as much as you can reverse them on the bed, so you can make them "tailboard" cameras and get that front standard hangin' out there so no part of the bed will get in the shot. Pretty slick! Also they come with sliders, so on an 8x10 you could (if you wanted) get two 4x10 or two 5x8 exposures on a sheet of film. Not bad for versatility.
     
  14. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    The problem with mine isn't the bed. The shortest it can focus is about 140mm. If somebody was nice enough to give me one of those Nikon 120mm then I'd need a recessed board to focus at infinity. Worse my bellows are fairly stiff.

    I don't think they all came with sliders. I have a slider back for the 5x7 but it's thicker then normal.
     
  15. laz

    laz Member

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    Well thank you very much! I am totally nuts for many reasons so there's no way I could avoid LF any longer!

    All of your responses have been very helpful and I thank you all.

    Now if one of you would just send me a gift of the perfect camera with all the trimmings I'll be set!

    -Bob