Beginner to 4X5

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Ektagraphic, Dec 3, 2009.

  1. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    Hi Guys-
    I have shot 135 and MF and now I would love to try 4X5. I am stunned with the cameras, negs, and prints after seeing some in person last night. I want to get a beginners camera and want to keep it very economical in the beginning to see if it is something I really want to do a lot of. I was looking at the older Calumet monorail cameras. The price is definatly right. I have looked at a couple with Schneider lenses which seem to be highly reccomended from what I have read. I have not come across many recent thoughts on this cameras though.....Thanks for your input.

    Patrick
     
  2. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Hi. Those cameras are fine. I used them quite a bit when I was learning 4x5, as well as several other old low-level monorails. There is one that seems nice and has a case, but no lens in the APUG classified section right now. For a camera of that style, I suggest a Graphic View II with the Graflok back, instead, however. IMO, they are much more solid, and not that much more expensive. Newer Cambos and Toyos are also an incredible bargain, and often come with a case and a modern lens, and are full-on system cameras unlike the old cheap metal ones. However, if you can get started with a normalish lens (135 - 210), there is nothing wrong with the old metal ones, and they are certainly cheap. Just get a lens that allows ample movements. I suggest a 210 to start.
     
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  3. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    2F- did you happen to get my PM?
     
  4. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    What is the advantage to the Graflok back?
     
  5. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    2F,

    Just curious, why do you suggest a 210mm for starters?
     
  6. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    More than ample image circle for learning how to use movements. When I first learned with a 150, I vignetted quite often when applying my desired and/or required movements.

    I also think that the 210 gives a nice working distance for a wide variety of subjects, and gives more bellows draw, which I think helps when using movements.

    If you just want a big neg and a little bit of shift, IMO, choose a FL that will simply give you the desired angle of view. However, if you want to learn how to use movements (which I assume you do, given that you are looking at monorails and not press cameras), it helps to have some breathing room at first. 210 is IMO the most versatile FL, especially when first learning. If you want to really learn movements and learn them extremely solidly and quickly, you will start by keeping the camera indoors and shooting still lifes at close working distances.

    Never got the PM, Ektgraphic. It seems to happen quite a lot on APUG, actually.
     
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  7. domaz

    domaz Member

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    I would go with a 180mm or wider to start. 180mm are dirt cheap on KEH- even modern multicoated optics. The only problem with Calumet monorails is that they are heavy. If you don't plan on hiking with them though it doesn't matter much.
     
  8. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    I am not going hiking...would it be too much to put on one of the older Tiltall Tripods?
     
  9. DanielStone

    DanielStone Member

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    great little cameras from what I've found! Personally, I would look more at the Cambos or Toyo's, since there are more options down the road in terms of goodies(bag bellows for your 90, extension rails for your 600mm, etc...) but this is just hypothetical guessing :wink:.

    besides, they are DIRT CHEAP on the auction site. lensboards for the older Calumet monorails are a little hard to come by if you don't have the tools to make your own lensboards. Cambo and toyo boards are like ants, they're everywhere :smile:.

    as 2F stated above, 210 is a great way to learn 4x5. However, it will kind of like using an 85mm in 35mm focal length specs, so you will have to back up if you shoot people or other things.

    get what you can afford, but definitely wait if you don't feel 100% right on something. there will almost always be another one down the road(hopefully)

    -Dan
     
  10. Whiteymorange

    Whiteymorange Member

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    The older Calumet (400 series) are great, but don't plan on walking too far with one - they're ungainly beasts. Still, the fact that you can make your own lens boards (4x4) and that, if you get the long bellows you can buy an extra long monorail, cut it in two pieces and have a short one, a regular length one and one for long lenses. Add a bag bellows and you have a pretty extensive system for very little money. One point, however, if you have the long monorail you will find that shooting with a "normal" lens means the rail is in the image or poking you in the chest. Don't pay more than about $120 for one- they are plentiful.
     
  11. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    2F,

    Thanks for the explanation. I have been focusing :smile:p) on the 150mm I have. I will do more, as you suggest with the 210mm and see how it goes, doing the things you suggest.

    Ektagraphic,

    I'm currently going down the road you are considering, with an old Cambo monorail. It's fun. My images are not yet the greatest, but I'm having a good time trying. They are a heavy cam, I don't 'hike' and have found a large tackle box into which I can get the camera and quite a bit of other 'stuff.' The camera is completely set-up when stored in there so it's just a matter of popping onto a tripod. The tripod is one I have been getting by with, definitely not suited for this size/weight, but as long as it is not windy, it works.

    Having said all that, I'm about to get a bit more portability in the form of a field camera and a better, more stable tripod. I think you too will have fun. :wink:
     
  12. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    Now you guys are saying they are heavy...So are they solidly built too? I read on one site that they are flimsy...
     
  13. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I have put a 4x5 on one of those cheap plastic giveaway tripods.....so, technically, yes...

    However, a better tripod will give better results. They are cheap on the used market (usually no more than 1/4 of other new price in excellent condition with a head), and it is probably the most important piece of equipment you can purchase short of the camera itself, so I would invest in a high-quality one. I like the Bogen 3033, 3036, and 3051 as far as used tripods go. They are great deals.

    The cameras are not heavy, IMO...at least not heavy enough to call "heavy".

    Bob, you don't even have to shoot film to learn movements. Everything is right there on the glass. However, Polaroids are a nice luxury that allow one to compare two pictures side by side. A packfilm back for a Graflok back is a great tool. You can shoot instant prints for about a dollar a piece instead of four dollars a piece for the 4x5 version.

    Be sure to learn about bellows extension factor before you start shooting still lifes.
     
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  15. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    Is there a good online resource where I can read about the use of the bellows?
     
  16. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    I think you make a good point about my 'heavy' statement. It's probably more a case of bulk when set up.

    Ekta,

    I'm sure there is an on-line resource on this somewhere, but I have been using and referring to Steve Simmons "Using The View Camera." It's available quite cheaply in the secondary market. If interested, try;

    http://www.alibris.com/
     
  17. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    As you'll soon discover, LF is an entirely different thing than the smaller formats. At least for me, it was like I could play trumpet, and I was moving to saxophone. What I knew about music helped, what I knew about trumpet was meaningless.

    That said, I found it well worth pursuing. So worth it in fact that I no longer do any small format photography. Sold the equipment. My 5x4 is my only camera now.

    People are harping on the weight of the old Calumets because they are really heavy. Weight means more in LF, because as the film size scales upward, so does everything else. And in LF there are no zoom lenses. You'll be using a handful of "primes" each of which takes up space and contributes weight. Similarly, just about all LF photography uses a tripod. And just about all tripod work uses a tripod head. More weight and more weight. I'm just sayin' that the weight issue is a serious one.

    The old Calumet monorail cameras were meant for the studio. You mount it on a studio stand and roll it where you needed it. Fine in a studio, but hideous beyond the studio.

    So... it all comes down to what kind of photography you are thinking of doing with LF. If you want to photograph sports, current events, or do portraiture, you might be better off with an old press camera like a Speed Graphic. These are designed to be used hand held, but it's not as easy as using a 35mm SLR. But they can also be used as a conventional "field camera" also -- mounted on a tripod and focused through the ground glass. This level of versatility is why many people start out with press cameras.

    If you are going to do landscape work, you'll probably want a field camera. These are lighter, and fold up for easier packing. Just about all require a tripod to use.

    If you are going to be working inside doing table top work like still lifes or product photography you may be happy with a monorail. Maximum flexibility and precision if you want it.

    Few LF cameras come with lenses. The exceptions are often press cameras and many times people are selling whole kits which include camera and lenses. But any lens from any lens maker will work with any camera (once you fit it in an lens board appropriate to the camera). LF lenses often include shutters. You may OTOH want a barrel lens without a shutter. You'd want this if you were using a press camera that has a focal plane shutter, or an 10x8 or larger camera where shutter speed is usually in the multiple seconds (and you just pull the lens cap off and replace it to expose the film).

    Clearly there is much to learn and much to consider. Pick up a good book on using a view camera (there are a bunch), and look at the LF photography forum pages (there are a bunch of useful articles). Then come back and ask more specific questions as you need more information. LFP.info and APUG are extraordinarily good resources with a lot of really nice and helpful people willing to help.
     
  18. pocketfulladoubles

    pocketfulladoubles Member

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    Before you do anything, read Steve Simmons Using the View Camera. It will clarify a lot for you. A lens in the 150 to 240 range is a good starter lens. Don't worry about picking a certain brand. All modern lenses are very good, and you will undoubtedly end up with several lenses anyway. Just get one with a decent image circle so you can learn some movements. You will want quite a sturdy tripod as the cameras are heavy, especially if you have them leaning at an angle. I personally use and would recommend a geared head, because it makes leveling the camera very simple. Loading film using Fuji Quickloads will make learning easier, but there is an added cost to the film, you are limited to Fuji, and you need a Quickload holder. The more traditional approach is to use sheet film holders, and you will need to learn about dust control, but it will save you money in the end and you can use any type of sheet film you like. You will need a light meter, preferably a 1-degree spot meter. You will need a focusing loupe. You will need a darkcloth. You will need the right lensboard to mount your lens, and a spanner wrench to do so. You will need a shutter release cable. And, I think that is all ;-) It is a lot of fun - good luck.
     
  19. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    That is good info, but the type of light meter you "preferably" want is totally independent of format, and totally dependent on how you would like to meter for the given situation. I have used flash meters, incident ambient meters, reflected ambient meters, and spot meters (which are also reflected ambient meters, BTW) for all formats, depending on the situation.
     
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  20. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Being relatively new to LF, (just going on six months... definitely still in the honeymoon period) I can attest to the enjoyment of shooting 4x5. I have an old Calumet CC400, and find very little to complain about. (except the bulk/weight, as others have mentioned) The Calumet has virtually all the movements I need except for rear rise and fall, but that can easily be achieved through rail movements. I am more than happy with this camera for now. (thanks, Jeff :smile: )

    As regards switching from trumpet to saxophone, I did so when a 1953 Conn 6M sorta fell in my lap. They are definitely not the same instrument, but 35 years of trumpet playing made the learning curve much more manageable, and gave me great appreciation for the new experience. I'd say the analogy still holds. :smile:

    Cheers,
     
  21. Venchka

    Venchka Member

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    Did anyone answer the why get a Graflok back question?

    Get a camera with a Graflok back. The Graflok (or International) back will accept many more cool toys than a plan back. Like Grafmatic holders, Fujiroid holders, roll film holders, etc.

    GOOGLE knows. Large Format Photography Forum and the home page. Hours of good reading.

    In this time of falling prices, one thing seems to be stable: Nice Speed Graphic cameras with 127mm or 135mm lenses, a few holders and a working rangefinder for $250 (plus or minus). Graflok back. Focal plane shutter for old exotic barrel lenses. Use it. Learn on it. Keep it. Sell it and get your $250 back.

    Enjoy!
     
  22. John NYC

    John NYC Member

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    My advice is start with a 150mm, as it is extremely versatile but still easy to work with, focus and has tons of image circle for movements (even cheap ones). I bought a 210 to start and quickly then bought a 150 and a 90. Only been doing 4x5 two months, but I never use the 210 at this point. It's a weird focal length (longer than normal but not long enough to feel like 85mm on 135 film or 150 on 120 film) and I don't really understand why there is all this advice out there to start that way. You can always crop a photo taken with a 150 to look more like 210, but you can't do the reverse.
     
  23. Mike1234

    Mike1234 Inactive

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    I can only speak for myself but for 4x5 I've always liked the 90/135/200/300 combo because this is a 1.5x mathematical progression with even spacing and this works for me. Of course, a 210 could replace the 200.
     
  24. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    Another question...Will standard 4X5 inserts fit in these old calumets? Also, can I put a Poaroid 4X5 back in? Thanks
     
  25. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I lucked into a Calumet, I think it's a cc400 and has a 150mm Schneider that has been a real joy to learn with.

    The one I have has a shortened rail which is it's only true flaw. Someone before me decided they did not want or need long lenses or to do really close macro.

    That flaw has not hurt me one whit! I'm a fan or normal to slightly wide perspectives so it's just right for most of what I shoot and if I had to pick another lens right now I'd go shorter, but I'm in no rush. If I had started with a 210 or longer lens I'd probably be in a rush to go short, but that's just me. I can twist the bellows in to a pretzel and get vignetting but I really have to try. On the rail cameras you can also swing the back if the front won't give you everything you need.

    I picked up an old Peztval to use for portraits and effect, same 150mm/6inchish length, just got the lens board yesterday and looking forward to shooting with it in the next few weeks. I got this lens specifically to use the vignette and softer edges.

    I also bought a Calumet 220 back for it, this essentially gives me a longer perspective. Haven't used this much yet, so far this perspective pushes me back too far from what I want to shoot.
     
  26. lectroliner

    lectroliner Member

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    Wisdom(?) from LF old-timer

    I started shooting 4x5 as a newspaper photographer in 1960, using Speed Graphics. I had a 2x3 Century Graphic of my own for a while, and bought a Calumet wide-angle 4x5 when they first came out around 1970. But I didn’t stay with LF. Drifted off into 35mm, sold the big gear.

    Then, about three years ago, I started hankering after big negatives again, and I found myself in much the same position as you – wanting to get (back, in my case) into LF, but not sure the best way. I started with a Crown Graphic, but wanted to do more, so I started looking at the other options.

    That was when I figured that dealing in LF equipment was a good way to try (and acquire) a wide range of gear. I’ve done over 400 transactions on Ebay, and a lot of cameras and related stuff have passed through my hands – and some of them stuck. I now have (in addition to the Crown) a Toyo G (4x5 and 8x10), a Toyo A (4x5 field camera), and a Toyo D45M (4x5 monorail), as well as a plethora of lenses (65mm to 240mm).

    Here’s my opinion on your question, for what it’s worth:

    Remember that the Calumet was intended as a low-end LF camera, marketed to those who wanted to dabble in LF without the investment in very expensive equipment. The older Graphic view cameras were aimed at much the same market. There’s nothing wrong with these cameras; if you put decent lenses on them, they’ll take as good of photos as you could want.

    In this low-end market, I think the Graphic View II is the best choice. The Calumet is bulkier and heavier, and I think less well made.

    There’s also an esthetic issue. In my mind, the camera itself should be as much a pleasure to look at as the photos it produces. And I find the Calumet just butt-ugly, with that skinny little monorail (looks unstable, even if it’s not) and hulking front standard. The Calumet comes out of the utilitarian ‘60s. The Graphic View still has traces of 1930s Art Deco grace and thoughtful design.

    If I were you, though, I’d shoot higher than either of those cameras. Assume that you’re going to love LF and want to grow and expand in it. Look for a camera that can grow with your skills and aspirations.

    I acquired my Toyo D45M almost by accident. I was part of an outfit that included three very nice lenses I wanted. I fell in love with it instantly. It’s smaller and lighter and more attractive than the later model Toyos; it’s similar in size and weight to a Calumet; and it has the full features of a professional camera.

    Unlike the lower-end cameras, it has interchangeable backs and bellows and an extendable monorail. It disassembles easily for easier packing when travelling. And, maybe best of all, it’s still part of a living photographic system. Pretty much everything Toyo makes for its current model cameras fits on the D45M as well. You have access to the full range of viewing backs, bellows, lens boards, shades, and other accessories.

    Check out the camera online and keep an eye on Ebay. They’re not common, but they show up, and they’re usually cheap.

    As to lenses, that depends very much on what you’re shooting. Get a 210 for portraits and still lifes, wider lenses for landscape, architecture, etc.

    Just another two cents worth: One of the lenses with the D45M was a 120mm Super Angulon, which I also will never let go of. It’s only a moderate wide-angle on a 4x5, but it was designed for 5x7 format and will cover 8x10. If you’re looking to explore the extremes of 4x5 camera movement, this is a lens to do it with. These show up pretty regularly on Ebay and typically are not very costly.