Camera choice 4x5 field.

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Thomas Bertilsson, Feb 27, 2005.

  1. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Hello,

    I have been struggling along with my Crown Graphic for about 6 months now. It's easy to use, but is very limited in movements, specifically front standard tilt to increase depth of field. It's irritating to have to shoot at f/64 all the time, and I'm starting to look for something different.
    My dream is to get a lightweight, rock solid wooden field camera with enough movements to shoot the occasional frame of architecture as well. I absolutely do not want too vast of a plethora of movements, as I believe it will weaken the camera.
    I know what I want, but it's way too expensive. At eBay I see hundreds of view cameras pass by, but I am unsure of every single one of them. I have a budget of roughly $500 or so for the camera (not counting lens board and lens). What, in your opinion, is my best choice?

    Thank you for your time!

    - Thom
     
  2. Mongo

    Mongo Member

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    I'd think a Tachihara could be found used for your price. Enough movements for landscape, and front rise for architecture...about what you're looking for. It's not the world's sturdiest camera, though. Read the review of it on the largeformat.info site for more information.

    If you can stretch your budget a bit, look into the Shen-Hao. It has all of the movements you'll ever want, and it is not weakened by the presence of those movements. More importantly, it has a Graflok back, so you can use the thicker roll-film holders easily, as well as any other accessories that fit the International standard. The Tachihara has a regular spring back, which is fine if you're using standard film holders, Grafmatics, Polaroid 545's, or an under-the-glass roll-film holder. The roll-film holders that go under the glass tend to fetch a premium price. With the Shen-Hao you also get the possibility of using a bag bellows; this might be important for short lens architecture work.

    I can tell you this about the stability of the Shen-Hao: I've mounted my Fuji 250mm on the front (a heavy lens), extended the bellows all of the way out, and shot close-ups a lot. The camera worked just fine. I've pretty much abused it for the last few years, and it still works like new. A sturdy camera with loads of movements at a great price.

    Good luck with your decision.
     
  3. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Thanks for the tip on the Tachihara and Shen-Hao. I'll look into the Shen-Hao. First hand tips from actual users is worth so much more than any advertisement!

    - Thom
     
  4. Mongo

    Mongo Member

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    You're very welcome. One other note: The Shen-Hao people are great to work with. If you email them, they'll get back to you quickly. They seem to want their customers to be happy...a nice touch in this day and age of reduced customer service.
     
  5. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    I've got the Tachihara and find it very suitable for the work I do (landscape with the odd [low] architectural shot). It is quite stable under normal working conditions, but I've never used anything else so I have no experience for comparison.

    The Tachi only accepts lenses to 300mm (without resorting to telephoto designs), but it's capable of holding my 75mm Schneider SA without using a recessed lensboard. It's light too, tipping the scales at about 1.4kg - great to hike with.

    Having given it a glowing review, I'd still look at getting a Shen Hao. I think you get more for your money with the Shen Hao. However, I'm happy to keep using my Tachi for next 5 years or so.

    Cheers,
     
  6. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    There is a Shen-Hao User Group:

    http://www.phpbbforfree.com/forums/index.php?mforum=shug

    They are very friendly and answer a lot of questions.
     
  7. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    I bought a Shen-Hao 4X5 from Badger Graphics for a little over $600. It is a pleasure to use compared to my Crown Graphic. Looks & feels like a knock-off of an Ebony (one of our LF group members has an Ebony). I'm currently using it with 90mm, 135mm & 160mm lens, and hope to get a telephoto in the future. The 90mm Caltar lens no problems with movements. The only change I'm making to it is a Satin Snow screen, the existing one way too dim especially with the 90mm.
    Best investment I've made.
     
  8. steve simmons

    steve simmons Inactive

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    The most important thing for you to decide is what features you need. Everyone as ther favorite camera but that may or may not meet your needs.

    Here is some reading that might be helpful

    Getting Started in Large Format

    this is available in the Free Articles section of or web site

    www.viewcamera.com


    steve simmons
     
  9. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Agreed. I would also not rule out metal field camera, there are some excellent, well built metal ones. I have a Toyo 45AII and I have found it to be an excellent one; it has even survived being dumped into the ocean on one occasion.
     
  10. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    "Lightweight and rock solid" - sounds like Gandolfi to me. I received my old well-used 5x7" "Traditional" a few days ago, and I'm impressed. Considering that my other 5x7" is a Linhof Technika, I'm difficult to impress with solidity. But the Gandolfi IS solid. It also weights less than half of the Technika...
     
  11. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Thanks all,

    I appreciate your expertise. Robert, I think I have to revert to a wooden field camera, basically because the winters here in minnesota are really cold, and anything metal will destroy my fingers. (thank God for wooden tripods).
    So far I've gotten really good impressions of the Shen-Hao cameras. Lots of people have recommended them.
    Steve, the only other thing I would need is tilt and swing of the front standard to control depth of field. I don't need a lot of movements, but I do need to be able to have full control of the DOF. Without it I'm confined to work at really small apertures, due to the nature of the work that I do where the camera is really close to the ground, and everything (mostly) is in focus.

    I'll be looking around for new and used cameras, and I have a better hunch now than I did before. Thanks a lot!

    - Thom
     
  12. wildbill

    wildbill Member

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    When I ordered my Shen-Hao from badger graphic, they didn't have any cases left so he knocked $25 off the price. Jeff said the case was chintsy anyway and i've got no use for one. He may knock $25 off the price if you don't want a case.
    Overall i'd say its a good camera with all the movements you'll need. It doesn't have front shift though. Get some loctite and add it to all the screws on the moving parts if you want to avoid missing them. I use a 90mm with mine quite a bit and i've really been wanting the bag bellows. It gets hard to focus when the bellows are jammed together and the front standard settles after you lock it down. The only problem with the bag bellows is they don't allow the camera to fold up when installed.
     
  13. dtomasula

    dtomasula Member

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    That's surprising since the case that came with my HZX45-IIA is anything but "chintzy." It's pretty substantial protection.

    I would highly recommend the Shen-Hao for field work. But then, I'm a bit biased on the subject.
     
  14. Mongo

    Mongo Member

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    I got my Shen-Hao from MPEX with the aluminum case (for the same price as Badger was getting at the time without the case), and it's a nice case. Nice dense foam inside; strong, solid aluminum sides; a decent luggage lock.

    Unfortunately, it's just big enough for the camera and nothing else...which makes it pretty worthless for anything other than storing the camera. My camera hasn't been in the case since the day I got it. My advice is to skip the case if you can save $5 or more by doing so.
     
  15. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    If it's like the 5x7 case the problem is it weighs too much. Mine is fine for storing the camera [and not much elses] but it almost out weighs the camera. Have to admit I'd like it more if it was bigger. Then I could store all it's stuff together.
     
  16. richardjx

    richardjx Member

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    Dean

    I have registered but can not log on.
    Please contact me at:richard.ilomaki@fmglobal.com
     
  17. SLNestler

    SLNestler Member

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    Robert,
    Are you familiar with their 45CF? It's a lightweight ( I believe 3 1/2 lbs) carbon fiber version: http://www.toyoview.com/Products/45CF/45CF.html

    It's relatively inexpensive, too. I wonder if anyone out there has one.
     
  18. Mongo

    Mongo Member

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    The 45CF lacks rear movements. Make sure you can live without those if you consider this camera.
     
  19. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    Remember, the is no substitute for long bellows, close work or long lenses. The 12/14 in bellows cameras are limited. This leaves the Zone iv and Wisner, maybe others.

    I am happy with my Zone 6 and accy bag bellows. $500 is is not.
     
  20. roteague

    roteague Member

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    The CF is limited in a number of other ways as well. Here is a link to the CF's data sheet: http://www.toyoview.com/Products/45CF/45CF.html
     
  21. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    For less then Wisner charges for the 4x5 Technical Field I got:

    5x7 Shen Hao
    4x5 back graflock
    bag bellows
    6x12 rollfilm back
    case
    adapter lensboard
    FEDex air delivery

    Even the lower priced Wisner isn't much less then I paid for everything.

    The deal with the Shen Hao isn't just the camera. It's the whole package.
     
  22. Barney

    Barney Member

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    4 x 5 field Camera

    For the Money: Graphic View 2 by Graflex. Make sure you get the tripod mount and the proper case that will allow camera to be stored upside down with the tripod mount attached. You can back pack this whole outfit on a back pack frame. The case camera and gear will weigh right at 22 pounds with cut film holders, polaroid back, filters, 2 or 3 lenses, and light meter. You can store a full 8 x 10 grey card in it, a darkcloth, etc. A 127 Kodak Ektar and Kodak 203mm Ektar and you will have a nice outfit. Plenty of movements with the 203 . Just enough with the 127 for landscapes straight on. Easy to set up, easy to use the movements. Get one preferable with a Graflok back but a regular spring back will suffice.
     
  23. ddolde

    ddolde Member

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    I have a custom Ebony SW45. Very light...only 1.5kg. I use the top hat lensboard extender for my 180mm APO Symmar. The back tilt with this camera is great...in fact I like it better than Ebony's assymetric tilt.

    [​IMG]
     
  24. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Nice, what is the custom part of this camera?
     
  25. ddolde

    ddolde Member

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    The back is different, it's like the back extender in the way it extends and tilts. I just push the bottom of the back in for tilts...works extremely well.

    Natively it only extends sufficiently for 150mm lenses. WIth the 37mm top hat lensboard I can use the 180mm. Adding a back extender would add another 90mm of extension.