Cost to get into LF camera setup?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by ezwriter, Sep 7, 2012.

  1. ezwriter

    ezwriter Member

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    Having gone from 35 to MF, i'd like to try LF field camera like Ansel used,one day.
    What would it cost for landscape lens, camera and all the assc?
    And what brand would u reccomend for a beginner LFer? camera swap meet? ebay? thanks!
    ez
     
  2. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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    You can spend as little or as much as you want, from an old beat-up Graphic with the original lens/shutter for maybe $100 total,
    to a large kit with numerous lenses, each of which costs thousands of dollars.

    I would strongly recommend you start with an inexpensive used camera and a decent lens with a modern shutter (this is important).

    The 'normal' lens for 4x5 (equivalent to a 50mm on a 35mm camera) would be 135mm to 150mm.
    The most common aperture for LF lenses is f/5.6, but some wide-angles are larger, and some long FLs are smaller.

    Read the introductory pages at LFPF (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/) for a good over-view of the topic.

    - Leigh
     
  3. Len Middleton

    Len Middleton Member

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    There are many options to get there, but first you really need to know where you want to go...

    Are you looking at studio work (portraits, still life, etc.), or more location / landscape?

    Those will impact both your camera (monorail versus field) and lens options (e.g. wide=> may need bag bellows capability, long=> may need a lot of bellows or telephoto lens design, large heavy portrait lens=>need robust front standard).

    Do you have a LF (4x5) enlarger that you are using for your MF darkroom work, or will you need to buy one, or looking at contact printing?

    Short answer until you answer the above questions yourself, is to befriend a LF photographer who is photographing the types of subjects you want to photograph and see what works for them and what does not work, and what they would suggest.

    If you are using a MF system, you no doubt know the cost in acquiring all the extra bits, besides the camera and one lens, so you are better buying someone's kit, than trying to assemble one yourself from scratch.

    The good news is that as a result of the move of many professional photographers and serious hobbyist to digital, good quality equipment is much cheaper than it has been, and people are getting out, as well as others like yourself getting into LF...

    And the other good news is that if you are patient and careful in your purchase of used equipment, should you decide to abandon LF, you can re-sell the equipment and just consider the difference in purchase versus selling price, rent on the equipment to experience it.

    Do be aware that for some of us who have tried LF, it can cause an addication type of behaviour, and you will find yourself pondering bigger and bigger formats, until you find yourself not just looking at the APUG LF section, but also the ULF section too.

    Good luck with your search,

    Len
     
  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Cost depends on your location, LF cameras are much cheaper in the US compared to the rest of the world particularly Europe, Australia etc.

    The best place to buy is probably here on APUG or the LFP Fourum Leigh's mentioned. However I'd recommend finding an LF user near you and looking at a few cameras first then decide and then sit patientlt for one to come up for sale. Better still place a wanted advert.

    To give you an idea though I can & have put together LF outfits for less than £500 ($750) here in the UK, you'd possible do the same in the US for $500-$600. (Super Graphican 3 lenses but a lot of waiting buying at camera fairs - slight restoration).

    Ian
     
  5. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    You can find monorail cams for as little as $75-$100, then you will need a lens , sturdy tripod(Tiltall's go for $100 new), focus cloth, film holders, loupe, etc. 8x10 and larger will start at least three time more than 4x5,but you can contact print the larger sizes and won't need an enlarger. You don't need an enlarger for 4x5, but who wants to look at post cards for prints, I like my prints a bit larger. Field cameras, or folders, are far and away more expensive than monorails, but lighter in weight, have fewer movements(a must have for architecture). Just a few things to think about as you venture into the wonderful world of LF.
     
  6. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    there is a range expensive to cheap
    ... it all depends what you want.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2012
  7. johnielvis

    johnielvis Member

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    things can be had cheap if you're willing to wait and you know what you're doing.

    if you don't know what you're doing you better find someone you trust to help out.

    if you can't find anyone best is to buy from a reputable place that accepts returns--don't go bargain hunting right away. most bargains require some sort of repairs. if you don't know what you're doing you WILL learn...it ain't rocket science and just about any problem you will encounter can be remedied with solutions found from searching these forums or asking--best to learn yourself and search though--if just depends on how much time you want to spend fiddling with stuff.

    you want the least amount of problems learning the photography aspect, spend the money on a decent, known good equipoment from a reputable place--there's already enough variables in photography and iffy equipment causes problems learning. You search and you will see all the "what causes these streaks" problems that are ususally caused by faulty equipment....if you like to spend time doing that then that's your bag.

    alternatively, you can build one and learn that way--a camera is a light tight box--I have built a bunch out of cardboard--they work. you can build a pinhole camera for FREE from stuff laying around the house.

    RECOMMENDATIONS: a good, known working crown graphic 4x5 with graflock back--best bang for the buck--you'll keep it a lifetime. you can use it as an enlarger if you're clever. You can shoot direct positive paper in it you can put a rollfilm back on it. it folds up to a tiny box. thehy are extremely well built and have lasted for decades and still deliver.
     
  8. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    OP, if you stick with LF you'll realize within a year after you started that you bought the wrong camera. This happens to everyone. Until you've used the gear, you won't really know what you enjoy and need.

    About buying at a swap meet. Not a good idea. LF cameras are poorly represented at them, so are lenses, buyers rarely have any recourse, prices are often not good. If you don't know prices and can't afford to overpay, don't buy at a camera show.

    If I had to do it all over again, given today's prices, I'd probably start with a Cambo or Calumet-badged Cambo. Monorail cameras with full movements front and rear, very modular, not very expensive used and fairly plentiful. The best monorail alternative is probably Sinar, but I don't know that system (or prices for Sinar gear) well enough to know whether a Sinar would be a better starter camera than a Cambo.

    I shoot 2x3 Graphics and a 2x3 Cambo. If you want a view camera, you don't want a Graphic, they are just too limited. And nowadays decent 4x5 Crown Graphics cost more than decent 4x5 Cambos.

    Re lenses, start slow. Its easy to go overboard. I started out with a normal lens for 2x3, recommend that you start out with a normal lens for 4x5 (150 mm). Every so often someone runs a little poll here or on the LF forum "your most-used focal length." Normal for the format always wins. There's a hint.

    Good luck, have fun.
     
  9. photovestad

    photovestad Member

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    Or, you could buy my complete kit that I posted here a couple of weeks ago. I'm days from either breaking it up or ebaying it. See my post Chamonix kit for sale.
     
  10. PanaDP

    PanaDP Member

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    Dan's lens advice is spot on. Even shooters who use a plethora of lenses on 35mm often find themselves straying less from normal. I use three: a 90mm, a 150mm, and a 210mm and am very happy with the range. I will likely add one longer lens eventually but it's really not necessary.

    The LF forums at the site Leigh refers to are a good resource to watch the classifieds and get an idea of what is available at what prices.
     
  11. kbrede

    kbrede Member

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    If there are any community colleges in your area, take a look. I know the one in my area has a LF class. Some programs provide cameras for the duration of the class.
     
  12. Alan Gales

    Alan Gales Member

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    Excellent idea!


    Start off with a cheap camera with a "normal" focal length lens (135-210mm) and go out and shoot it.

    Cambo/Calumet monorails with 210mm lens go for dirt cheap on Craigslist and Ebay. They make great, straight forward cameras to learn on until you decide what you really want.

    The later "entry" models are light weight so you may be able to use the tripod that you now use for medium format.
     
  13. ezwriter

    ezwriter Member

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    Super thanks for all the advice! Im in the USA, interested in landscapes mostly ,would like to go 8x10 but need to save up.
    So prob be an 8x10 field camera with 150mm or shorter lens. There is a camera show every month in Pasadena, CA that i might check out. Thanks again.
    ez
     
  14. Len Middleton

    Len Middleton Member

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    ez,

    The diagonal for the 8x10 format is about 325mm, so the 150mm on 8x10 is going to be extraordinarily wide, and to cover the format with some movement (i.e. excess coverage for tilts and swings) somewhat limited in availability, and potentially breathtakingly expensive.

    A standard 150mm lens (e.g. Symmar, Sironar, Nikkor W, etc.) that covers 4x5 (approx. 160mm diagonal) will of course not cover 8x10.

    I do not know what your constraints are with respect to cost, but you might want to do much more research before you start looking at a 150mm lens and put your money down.

    Good luck,

    Len
     
  15. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Buy the best you can afford. You won't want a clunker. Don't get a flimsy one either or it will shake in the wind. And you'll need a solid tripod and good filmholders - beware of old warped ones. 8x10 will give you a workout, so keep your knees and back in shape. When it comes to lenses, make sure they have enough coverage for 8x10 film. You don't need a lot of them to start out. Get used to one
    at a time and save the rest of your money for film. 8x10 is an expensive addiction!
     
  16. Alan Gales

    Alan Gales Member

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    You said that you are starting out in large format so we all assumed that you were talking about 4x5 since most people start there. You can certainly start with an 8x10 if you want but most recommend starting out with 4x5 due to costs. Everything is more expensive with 8x10, camera, lenses, tripod, film holders and film. A lot of people try large format and find that for some reason or other that sheet film is not for them. This is why we suggest starting cheap so if you decide it's not for you then you won't get hurt if you later sell.

    If you do decide to go with an 8x10 most people start with a normal lens around 300mm (240-360mm). A real good inexpensive choice would be a Fujinon 250mm f/6.7 single coated lens. I paid just under $300.00 for mine.
     
  17. sly

    sly Subscriber

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    How much money do you have? Send it all to me, plus $100 dollars for postage and maybe I'll send you a camera.

    Seriously, if you've not worked in large format before, try to get your hands on a few different ones, hang around with people who own them, or buy a crown graphic as an entry level camera.
    I paid way too much for my first LF. I was just so excited about getting an LF camera. It's a big heavy beast of a 4x5. Fine as a studio camera, but not very portable. Can't remember the last time I used it. I got a crown graphic as part of a "selling everything I've got so I can go digital" deal. I was after the 4x5 enlarger, and other darkroom gear, not the crown, but I love it. I've shot thousands of sheets with it. It's travelled internationally with me, and I never go camping without it. As a middle aged woman I find it quite portable, and hike around local trails, and off the trails on a regular basis.
    I have an ancient wooden 8x10, acquired by barter a few years ago. Too big and clunky for me to take anywhere, but I enjoy using it for studio work.
    I'd love to have an 8x10 (or a 7x17!) I could hike with, but realistically, given my age, size, and chiropractor bills, it's not going to happen. It's not just the weight of the camera, but the tripod, film holders, light meter, and all the other bits and bobs you need. I don't know your age, or what kind of shape your back is in. Weight may not be an issue for you. I'd still recommend getting your feet wet and familiarizing yourself with LF with something inexpensive and 4x5. Once you get a feel for LF, have repeated the numerous mistakes a few dozen times each, then go ahead and move up to 8x10 (or larger). You'll have a much better idea about what you want and need to get the images you want to take.
    LF is wonderful, but it's definately not one size fits all. Have fun with whatever you get. Look forward to seeing your images.
     
  18. Tom Taylor

    Tom Taylor Member

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    About a year ago I picked-up the following 8x10 system for about $1,400US:

    Toyo 810G in excellent condition with a new bellows, extension rail and A&S case.
    Gitzo G1500 tripod and G1575M head.
    360mm Schneider Symmer-S lens in mint condition.
    Copal 3 lens board
    BTZS 8x10 focusing cloth (my 4x5 Toyo cloth was too small)
    5 new Fidelity Elite film holders (Unbelievable purchase from Calumet).
    8x10 film holder case from Quality Camera.
    Acrilic GG protector and 1 locking device from Toyo repair (missing from camera and I had to pay a local camera repairman to replace a rivet).

    I'll admit the stars were truly aligned when I bought the above system but... it can happen!

    Thomas
     
  19. Bruce Robbins

    Bruce Robbins Member

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    Cheap DIY option

    I've put together a DIY 5x4 camera for £30. Unlike some other projects that require some pretty decent engineering skills, my camera should be within the capabilities of most people. I've written about it in two parts starting here. My intention is to see how I get on with large format using this set-up and, if I like it, start saving for a gorgeous Ebony RSW45. :D
     
  20. afrank

    afrank Member

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    I wonder, why aren't Plate cameras considered as cheap entry to LF? 70$ for a 130mm lens f3.5-32, 4x5 / 9x12 negative, Fomapan 50 sheets for like 30$ @ fomafoto.com and a lightweight setup! I think its great to learn and eventually resell to get a more modern setup. Of course those cameras are better examined in person, but trustworthy online sellers can also be used. Or am I missing something?
     
  21. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Not everyone has access to the superior driftwood found on Barry sands :laugh:

    Interesting project BTW, I have a few 9x12 cameras.

    Ian
     
  22. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Have you priced 150 mm and shorter lenses that will cover 8x10?
     
  23. Bruce Robbins

    Bruce Robbins Member

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    Boom!

    Just remember to keep an eye out for unexploded ordance from the nearby army firing range, Ian, if you're ever up here again!
     
  24. Someonenameddavid

    Someonenameddavid Member

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    But remember. " No man is an Island.... except for Barry"

    David
     
  25. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    The cost can be anywhere between $400 and tens of thousands.It depends on how much research you do, and how much thought you put into your first outfit.

    I am still using the first and only two LF cameras (4x5 and 8x10) I bought, in the late 1980s.