Camera guidance (new to LF)

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by walter23, Sep 20, 2006.

  1. walter23

    walter23 Subscriber

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    I'm figuring out what first (and perhaps only) LF camera to buy. It's going to be 4x5, and I'm thinking most likely a field camera for the portability since I'm more interested in landscape than studio work. In fact, I'm heavily swayed towards a Shen-hao or Tachihara right now. My questions concern a) the range of movements available, and b) the ability to use different backs (especially polaroid for practice shots).

    I know that when you get a field camera you're sacrificing the range you'd get from a view camera, but as someone who has NEVER used a large format camera before it's hard for me to really understand what I'm sacrificing in photographic terms. The shenhao does have most of the regular movements that a view camera has (all except for front shift, I think), so it's appealing in that respect, but I'm not sure how the ranges will affect my photography. If you're not familiar I can look up the specs, but the shift/rise/fall ranges are on the order of 30mm each way, and the tilts are in the 20-30 degree range I think (except base tilts which I think may be bigger).

    For what it's worth, I'm mainly interested in landscapes, but I really want to be able to correct perspective when needed (e.g. I've seen nice photos of canyons and stuff where the verticals are kept vertical even when the horizon is up near the top of the frame), I do shoot architecture and city streets from time to time, and I would like to occasionally use tilts to give strange depth of field effects. For example, I had an opportunity to use a tilt-shift lens for 35mm the other day and did this (just as a whimsical quick test of swing movement), which is not great but it illustrates the kind of effect I'd like to have at my disposal:

    [​IMG]
     
  2. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    The Shen Hao has a full compliment of movements. I don't think you'd out grow it for quite a while. Do youself a favor though and invest in a good book on L.F. Photography. I can recommend the following (in order of increasing detail and difficulty).

    "Using the View Camera" by Steve Simmons
    "A User's Guide to the View Camera, Third Edition" by Jim Stone
    "View Camera Technique, Seventh Edition" by Leslie Stroebel

    Jack Dykinga has also writen a book on the subject but, it is not so much about how to use a view camera as it is about how Jack uses his...It is a great book but, I don't recommend starting with it.
     
  3. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    The main thing you'll lose with the Shen 4x5 is the chance to use longer lenses. IIRC the bellows are just over 300mm. Other then that for what you're talking about it should work just fine.
     
  4. walter23

    walter23 Subscriber

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    I took out Steve Simmons' book from my university's library. Term loan, it's basically mine indefinitely unless someone recalls it :smile:

    I have small format for when I want long telephoto shots, so that's not a problem for me.
     
  5. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    Hello walter23,

    I am using a Shen-Hao HZX45A-II for urban scenes and architecture. Current lenses include 135mm and 210mm, and I have borrowed and used a 75mm on it. In practice there are enough movements available to go out of the image circle of some lenses, basically more movements possible than you might use for most images.

    I am mostly using the Fuji Quickload and Kodak Readyload back systems for 4x5. My test shot back is a Polaroid 405 holder, which uses 10 shots per pack film (slightly smaller than 4x5). I do plan on getting a roll film back at some point, though probably a lever wind back due to the many night shooting situations I do. The worse aspect of the Polaroid 405 holder, or some roll film holders, is the ground glass needs to be removed to put those backs on the camera.

    I had never owned a brand new camera previously, which was one of the things that led me to get my Shen-Hao. However, you might want to compare the new Shen-Hao pricing to the cameras that you can find used.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat
    A G Studio
     
  6. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    I agree it should be fine. You probably won't need the large range of movements outdoors doing landscapes. I've usually used very little of the available movements on my cameras.. i also don't think I've ever used front shift in 25-years of using view cameras. I do, however, frequently use back shift.

    I think you'll find that you'll use whatever movements you have and adapt to not having what you don't have.
    juan
     
  7. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    I'll put in another vote for the Shen Hao. It is somewhat heavier than the Tachihara, but I believe it will be more robust in the long term as a result. The added weight also increases the vibration dampening factor. There is virtually no difference in terms of maximum bellows between the Shen and the Tachi - they are both about 300mm. Another plus for the Shen is wide-angle use. You can focus a 75mm to infinity on a flat board with the standard bellows, and use a 90mm with movements. The bag bellows (which is easy to change in and out, and only costs $100) will allow you to use a 65 or maybe even a 58mm with a flat lensboard. You can slide the rear standard forward to use with wideangle lenses, which is a big plus, since you don't have to worry about the camera bed intruding into the image area that way.

    The very best way to decide between the two is to get them both in your hands and give them a whirl. You may find the weight difference to be significant for you, or you may not. You may find the additional movements on the Shen to be critical, or you may not. Same with the wide-angle capacity. I'll just leave it at I have had my Shen for close to six years now and been very very happy with it.
     
  8. walter23

    walter23 Subscriber

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    Thanks Juan and Gordon. Gordon, is it a big hassle to remove the ground glass and insert the polaroid holder, or is this something you can do fairly easily without disrupting your composition / focus?

    Juan, as far as adapting to the movements I have goes, I guess that's a good point, but if I don't have the movements to play with I might as well stick with small format because the image quality is good enough for me - I don't need the huge negatives. I want camera movements, and I can think of a lot of cases in my real world photography where they would have been very useful. But it does sound like the shenhao probably has enough for me.
     
  9. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    Walther,

    Polaroid holders have always slipped into my 4x5s spring backs quite easily. Some cameras have projections that make using Plaroid backs almost impossible, so thats one thing you'll want to check out before going shopping. Most field cameras offer plenty of movements for landscapes--more than you'll probably ever need .OTOH you'll need a lens with the coverage to permit you to use those moves.

    By all means read Steve Simmon' book and give some thought to what lens you'll be using. I can't speak for others, but the 'equivalent' 35mm focal length is (for me) quite misleading. Normal 150mm LF lenses look much wider to me than a 50mm on a 35mm and few 4x5s can handle lenses longer than 300mm. Maybe I'm being trivial, but depending on the subject you might find a longer lens more satisfactory (the 203mmf/7.7 Ektar and 162mm Velostigmat are my current 4x5 companions)
     
  10. walter23

    walter23 Subscriber

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    John, your question reminds me of something. Can you compress perspective by using back tilts? What I mean is, in small format land, I'm accustomed to using wide angle lenses to exaggerate foreground and diminish background, but can you counteract this effect with a wide angle by using movements? Ie, capture a wide field of view, but keep the foreground size a bit more managed relative to the background? I guess movements are more restricted in the 90mm kind of range because of bellows compression and/or the standards being so close together... but assuming you have the movement available.
     
  11. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    walter, to a certain extent you can do that. But the shape of things will also be distorted, and it usually takes a lot of movement to get any usable change in size ratio.

    I happen to have a camera where 90mm is nowhere near limiting on movements - two cameras, incidentally, and very different. Made about a century apart. No, I wouldn't recommend either of them to anyone just starting out, they're a bit too different.

    I have found myself using wider and wider lenses the larger the format, much of the time I use 150mm lenses from 35mm via MF to 24x30cm (9.5x12"). If I want a wider view I use a bigger camera...

    For 4x5", my most used lenses are 90, 150, 240 and 355mm. With the occasional 121, 135, 165, 180, 210 or 300mm thrown in.

    I suggest you start with an elderly 150mm with plenty of coverage - the 150mm f:5.6 Symmar is a good one. Quite sharp enough, plenty of coverage for that kind of focal plane games, and (comparatively) cheap. Although I admit that last time I did something like that, I used a 165mm f:6.8 Angulon for even more coverage. And the bellows was almost twisted to a pretzel. Maybe I shouldn't have told you that...

    Another low-cost camera worth looking at is the new Hungarian Argentum. I know next to nothing about them, but they seem to be very well designed.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 20, 2006
  12. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    They've got an 8x10 for 610 Euros and it's only 2kgs???
     
  13. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    Yet another one who spotted the obvious attraction :D!

    Yes, it seems correct. And they can even cut cost and weight on that, by making it horizontal or vertical format only!

    Communication with them have been great so far: I'm looking into a 8x10" camera specially adapted to wide-angle use - 120mm to 240mm covers just about 99% of everything I shoot in that size. Something like a vertical xl, size XL...
     
  14. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member

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    A polaroid holder works quite easily with either camera. You dont have to remove anything, it slides in just like a film holder. The Tach is lighter, more compact when folded and is a little bit better camera for backpacking and such. It is more elegant, cosmetically, with brass hardware, and pretty cherrywood. (won't help you take better pictures, but the chicks dig it)
    The Shen has more movement, and can shoot a shorter lens. I like the sheepskin bellows on the Tach better than the papery bellows of the Shen. They are both very good cameras for the money.
    A friendly pointer on terminology, field cameras are view cameras. The cameras you are referring to that have more movements than a field, are called monorails, and they are view cameras as well.
    Welcome to the darkslide.
     
  15. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    Yep, I am looking into a horisontal 5x7 Explorer. I estimate I'll get the weight down to between 1 and 1.2 kgs with lens. The build time for the camera should be 1 to 2 months. István is a nice guy. I think he has a lot to do, so don't expect an answer in three seconds flat.
     
  16. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Would they do an 11x14 in just landscape mode?
     
  17. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    Nick,

    I think they would. They mention of a 24x24" they've done and they are very clearly interested in making "the camera of your dreams" - so why don't you get in touch with them? :smile:
     
  18. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    They'd want to be paid :surprised: Maybe after Christmas.

    11x14 landscape mode. Plus 8x10 reducing back. Bails on both. 120mm to 650mm bellows. Sounds pretty good :D
     
  19. ronlamarsh

    ronlamarsh Member

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    New to LF

    I don't want to start an argument but I have found my linhof Tech III to be everything I ever need in a view camera plus easy and convienent to use. Yes its old but far from wore out. It will handle lenses up to 360mm and does fine with my 90mm SA. There is an MMP forsale in the classifieds with a lens and this should also be a perfect starter.
    As to front shift and rise I find that i have used them more often than not in outdoor landscape work.
     
  20. Campbell

    Campbell Member

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    For the type of work you describe I'd suggest the Tachihara. You'll appreciate the 2+ pound weight savings in the field, the extra inch of bellows extension that allows you to use a 300mm normal lens without going through the Shen Hao front standard gyrations, and the fact that you can use lenses as wide as 65mm (some say 58mm) without the inconvenience (and cost) of a bag bellows. The extra couple movements the Shen Hao has aren't needed for landscape work. I used a Polaroid back and the Calumet 6x7 roll film holder without any problem on the Tachihara I used to own. However, the Shen Hao is a fine camera too so you won't go wrong if that's what you choose.
     
  21. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    If your budget allows a 4x5 Arca F camera is very desirable. You will not out grow it.
     
  22. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    Hi Walter,

    At this point as a member and not a subscriber, I am not sure if you can access this, but there was an older Arca Monorail (Model A???) just posted for sale in the Classifieds. It is not a current Arca Swiss, but it might be a good option and probably a great starter camera. If you can contact the seller, you might get some additional info inculding how small it collapses and the weight. The seller has posted a price of $350 or Best Offer.

    Rich
     
  23. Richard Kelham

    Richard Kelham Member

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    (wave of nostalgia)
    I had one of those about 20 years ago; great little camera and a lot more rugged/heavy than a ShenHao. I suppose it all depends on how far Walter wants to go in search of his landscapes...



    Richard
     
  24. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    My Arca Swiss I once had (I think this was a an A model, because mine had base tilts, while the B has axial tilts?) was very light and easy to put in a smaller backpack. For being such lightweight (complete with lens it weighed less than my RZII with a 110), it was sturdy and good to handle. Beware of the foam on the standards, which on mine was close to crumbling into oblivion (just).

    As almost always; "I wish I had it still..." :smile: