First large format camera recommendation ?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Havoc, Jun 12, 2012.

  1. Havoc

    Havoc Member

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    I'm looking at getting a large format camera some time this summer hopefully, i currently shoot with Nikon DSLRs (D3's and D700's) and also have MF cameras which are a Mamiya RZ67, Fuji GW690III and a Minolta Autocord. Any recommendations on what camera for my first large format purchase, i don't want to spend a boat load of money but want something that will produce great images. Thanks in advance as usual for any feedback or help.

    John.
     
  2. Brian C. Miller

    Brian C. Miller Member

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    Recommendation? YES!

    All of them produce great images, even the Titan pinhole camera. My first LF camera is one I still use, a Graflex Super Graphic with the Wollensak Optar 135mm. No, the lens doesn't have a lot of coverage, but if you keep it within its boundaries, it's tack sharp. Like bicycle spokes at two blocks sharp.

    What you want is really dictated by what you can afford and what you want to photograph. It really takes a lot to make a LF image look bad, like the front lens is smashed with a hammer. (If there is intact glass, then you just get a "soft focus" effect. Seriously.) You want good bellows, as cruddy bellows will leak light into the image. The movements should all still be good.

    If you want something that folds up nice, buy a "field" or "press" camera. If you want something with lots of movements, you may need a monorail camera.

    Just remember this: all types of LF cameras will make fabulous images, even with lenses from the 1930s and earlier.
     
  3. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    As already pointed out which camera depends on what you want to shoot and where. Field or Studio, lots of movement, easy to carry? There are many geat cameras, but buy good lens. I also started with a Speed Graphic followed by a Crown, then a New View which is sort of an odd bed type camera. I dont shoot in a studio so a press or feild camera works best for me. the New View is light and easy to carry if I need more movements. I keep considering a Lindhof tech camera which like the press cameras has a rangfinder but has much more movement, just have not gotten to the point to make a purshase.
     
  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    You need to do some reading and decide what style of LF camera you want, Monorail, Field, Technical or cheap and cheerful Press camera.

    There's fewer LF cameras here in the UK and so prices tend to be higher than in the US, if you import from the US there's a chance you'll get stung for Duty and VAT on the camear & postage, that's around 30% plus another £10 approx for the PO or other delivery company to handle the collection of the taxes.

    If you keep your eyes peeled on the Forums this one and the Large Format Photography one you may get a bargain.

    Ian
     
  5. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    Just sticking your toe in the water you should go for cheap but sturdy.

    For in a studio type situation you might look at a Calumet monorail.

    For landscape or outdoors take a look at a Tachihara.

    there are plenty of other options but those are what I started with and it worked well.

    Dennis
     
  6. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    I am also mostly a MF photographer, with much the same gear as you use. But I do venture into LF from time to time, and my experiences with the equipment have left me with some opinions. I work mostly in the field, and a field camera (as opposed to a monorail) is better there. it is just a lot easier to set up and to carry. If you are a studio type, the monorail is easier to use and more versatile. The Speed Graphic (I have a Super Speed Graphic as well as a traditional field camera) is an excellent camera - rugged, fast to use. It has limited movements, but they are usually adequate. The more traditional field cameras are more versatile, however. Wood vs. metal is usually not an issue; the camera is well protected most of the time. Ease of adjustment, and stability of the adjustments, is a very big issue. If possible, fool with the adjustments a quite a bit before you buy. Front rise with a 90mm lens can be very difficult with some cameras. Many cameras have adjustments that slip easily, and that can be a disaster. You also want a camera that takes a standard, readily available lens board (or one that you can make easily, if you are into that). You will pick up a variety of lenses over time. Most cameras, but not all, are quite stable when inserting and removing the film holders. Make sure that works easily and well with the camera on the tripod. You often take more than one shot without moving, and it is nice not to have to readjust the camera much. The same goes for mounting the camera on the tripod. Usually it is easy and convenient, but check it. Also be sure it works well with your tripod, head, and quick mount system, unless you intend to invest in something just for the LF camera.
     
  7. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    Is LF 4x5, 5x7, 8x10 or other?
     
  8. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

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    4x5 & 5x7 are "Grande" while 8x10 and up are "Venti"....:D

    My Chamonix 4x5N-2 with a holder and 135 Apo-Sironar weighs the same as my D800 with a 17-35. I find it, well, smaller than I expected it to be.

    Since I am about 90% field work and 10% portrait, I started with a Toyo 45CF and loved it! Light as can be and stows with a lens, more well protected than the 45N-2 as well, I still have it and three lens boards as a backup.
     
  9. ronlamarsh

    ronlamarsh Member

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    I started with a Linhof Tech III and have never regreted the purchase, $500 about 10 yrs ago. It and the others like it horseman et al will all suffice for quite a bit of studio work also you just can't twist them up like a pretzel. I have a cambo monorail also and find it best at architechual studies but have used it in the field also. I used to cruise the palouse country here in washington with cambo/90mm on a tripod in the back of my van and the linhof with a 150mm, handgrip and sports finder on the passenger seat. Be careful of LF its addictive just like rollieflexes and leicas.
     
  10. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i'd get a 5x7 camera, a sturdy one, and a reducing back.
    5x7 cameras are barely bigger than 4x5 but you get 2x the negative size,
    and with the longer bellows you can use longer lenses / bigger lenses for your 4x5 work.

    good luck !
    john
     
  11. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear John,

    Seconded! AND you get a decent sized contact print.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  12. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    If you are considering 5x7, then go all the way to 8x10! You can go the "bare bulb" route and follow in the foot steps of the Westons and other by using Azo ( now Lodima ), a bare bulb, and Amidol. Free from the need for an enlarger...

    Feel free to PM me if you need further information. There are a tremendous number of 8x10 cameras available on that web site...

    Elliot
     
  13. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    Well, I'm gonna throw a wrench in your works. A good 4x5 field camera will give you more image control but you'll not see a huge leap in image quality vs your very fine MF cameras.

    If you're doing B&W it's nice to be able to process single sheets but I always just dedicated an entire roll of film to an image. If I didn't think a photo was worth shooting an entire roll of 120 then that made me realize it wasn't worth shooting anyway.

    The ability to use a seemingly endless array of very different lenses is also a plus.

    How large do you want to print and at what aspect ratio?
     
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  15. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    Agreed....that is why I was suggesting 8x10...I venture to say that at the prices available now, that if you buy and 8x10 and find that you want to go either smaller or larger, then you can sell the entire outfit without taking too much of a financial "hit". On that auction site, every type of 8x10 camera is available at prices that few thought possible....get a used Kodak 2D with one lens and a few 8x10 holders. Try "it" out....if "it" is not for you, then sell the outfit at a possible small loss and try another format. Obviously, my opinion only. You have already received much valuable advice from others on APUG. There will be as many opinions as there are members of APUG.....
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 12, 2012
  16. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    I'll ad to what Mahler wrote: If you get an 8x10 with lots of shift (rear shift is preferable IMO) then you can shoot two or three sheets of film to stitch (*gasp*) them together for wider formats. Six inches of shift and two sheets of film will make 8x16's and ten inches of shift and three sheets of film will make 8x20's. It's pricey but we only live once.
     
  17. mkillmer

    mkillmer Member

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    For a first 4x5, i would recommend a Cheap Sinar P (monorail camera) or a Crown Graphic (press camera), preferably both. It is difficult to explain the feel of a monorail camera - all the movements, and the feeling of control. My old graphics have a charm which is not beaten by any of my other cameras - they are light, fold up into a small box, and surprisingly quick to set up.
    Make sure you have a tripod and mounting system that will support your camera - IMHO those little manfrotto RC2's are not up to the task. I have upgraded to RC4's, and would never go bath. Plenty of other large quick release mount systems are available.
    I would not recommend 5x7 (certainly not 8x10!) for a first LF camera, develop the feel in 4x5 then upgrade if you desire.
     
  18. mrsmiggins

    mrsmiggins Member

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    Seconded. A well engineered 4x5 camera is the best intro to this format. It will help you appreciate what can (and can't) be done and will give you a much wider film, lens and accessories choice. The equivalent cameras in 5x7 and 8x10 become exponentially more expensive, and a poorly engineered (cheap?) 5x7 or 8x10 may just put you off all together.
     
  19. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Another comment about thinking hard before taking the 7x5 route rather than 5x4.

    In the UK 7x5 was not a standard format, pre WWII Half plate was common but most cameras took book-form double dark slides. There were some Kodaks taking more modern half plate holders. This means that 7x5 DDS are quite hard to find in the UK and tend to be expensive.

    Another downside is there's almost no colour film available in 7x5 now.

    Ian
     
  20. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    John,

    Why do you want to shoot LF? That may tell us what format and type of camera. What budget are you willing to commit? You probably will need a larger tripod, all new lenses, dark cloth, hand held meter, loupe, film holders, film and maybe enlarger. Do you want to shoot Color or B&W? I’m color blind so it was an easy choice. How large do you want to print? You can make very large prints with the cameras you have. Do you want to go up in size in steps or go directly to your goal? What is that goal? What advantage are you seeking in LF?

    I went from 35mm to RZ to 4x5, to 8x10 and 7x17. If I were to redo the process I would probably skip 4x5, but on the other hand the mistakes I made in 4x5 were much cheaper in film costs than 8x10 and 7x17. You will make mistakes.

    What do you want to do and why?

    John Powers
     
  21. Bertil

    Bertil Subscriber

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    I'm in strong agreement with John.
    5x7 seems to me "ideal" LF. 8x10 is quite clumsy, 4x5 Ok, but just to hold a 5x7 film holder is a nice feeling, the right LF size!
    Unfortunately my 5x7 is a monorail (SinarF2 (and P1)) and perhaps not ideal out in the field, but possible with some packing ingenuity!
    If LF is 4x5 I agree with many above: try starting with a Speed/Crown/Super Speed Graphic camera. Later going for something else depending of type of work, it's always nice to have the Graphic at hand.
    /Bertil
     
  22. ronlamarsh

    ronlamarsh Member

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    I agree to a point: I have some great 16X16 prints shot with a Rolleiflex using rollei superpan 200 but i have been shooting LF since 96(that's 1996) and find it hard to really like my prints made from smaller formats: it goes beyond grain and sharpness there is just a smooth tonal transistion quality to 4X5 and larger that cannot be duplicated with smaller formats. Does that make it better or best? No! Just different and to argue it to death is like Gauguin and Van Gogh arguing about which brush is best. While I'm at it the same comment goes for the endlessly boring film/digital debate.
     
  23. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    maybe ... but

    8x10 is 2x as large ( at least ) as a 5x7 camera
    5x7 contact prints look beautiful,
    and if hybrid is a chosen route, you can fine scanmachines ( like the 4780 i use ) that
    can numericalize a 5x7 sheet no problems ....
    4x5 lenses often can cover a 5x7 sheet without problems
    and it (5x7) is like the golden mean ... everything tends to look good in
    that rectangle ... portraits, landscapes, architectecture ..

    8x10 is a pretty big camera ... heavy bulky = bigger tripod, longer set up and use time ...
    lenses often cost a lot more to cover that size negative
    film costs a ton more scanmatics cost more
    not to mention processing color 8x10 costs a few pennies,
    and hand processing 8x10 can be a bit trickier than 5x7/4s5 ...

    a 4x5 reducing back on a 5x7 gives all the options of the aspect of an 8x10
    (and enlargements if that is what is looked for ) some choices in color negative and chrome films
    as well as black and white

    8x10 is a nice format though, i have one, and 8x10 paper negatives are sweet
    and an old wollensak 1a triple works like a charm . ... :wink:
     
  24. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    I learned a long time ago that, IMHO, any less than a quadrupling of film size isn't worth the trouble and expense. I'll be shooting 6x12cm roll film (lightweight kit) and 4x10in (stitched 4x5) and I might cut 8x10 down to 5x7 and stitch 5x12in (bigger/heavier kit). For the type of images I'll be shooting I just can't see any significant benefit of having a size in between my chosen formats. I don't want to go smaller than 6x12cm because I want really nice big prints and I can't go bigger than 5x12in (5x7) because I don't think I can handle 8x10+ in the field anymore. If I was shooting studio portraits I'd have a 6x7cm or 6x8cm MF and an 8x10... nothing smaller nor bigger and nothing in between.
     
  25. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    It depends on the gear and how it is set up. He has carried an RZ. My RZ, my Linhof TK45 and my Phillips 8x10 all weigh eight pounds.

    John Powers
     
  26. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    To answer the original question.....:smile: If you want a studio camera, get an old Sinar. It will be nice to use and you can resell it for what you bought it for. If you are shooting in the field, get an inexpensive used field camera....Tachihara or Shen Hao. I wouldn't bother with a Crown or Speed Graphic. They are good if you are very limited on funds and only want a larger neg. For me, the main advantage of LF is to control perspective so rise, swing, and tilt are really needed. That said, I haven't used mine in a few years because I now have an enlarger that I can control perspective to a limited extent. The conversations about a larger format has some merit if you need to contact print for alternative processes. If you are enlarging, I see no reason to go bigger except for the fun factor.