First LF Camera: Crown Graphic or a Linhof Super Technika III

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by chrism, Aug 13, 2009.

  1. chrism

    chrism Member

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    I am looking to get in to LF photography, because I think it will give me the benefit of slowing down my photography which should be beneficial and trickle down to other formats.

    Right now I am looking at a couple of kits. One is a Crown Graphic 4x5 and the other is a Super Technika III. I'd like to keep it under $1000 for the whole setup, including the developing equipment and film.

    Of these two, which one would be a better starter? I've heard the Super Technika is a better camera, but the price is about $300 higher, so I am not sure if it is justified. Is there anything else I should be looking at?
     
  2. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Well, I think the crown is an excellent first LF camera and one that you will keep and continue to use even if and when you do decide to get another.

    A good crown with decent lens and working rangefinder should cost ~$350 +/- $50.
     
  3. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    I had a Pacemaker Speed Graphic as my first LF camera and I replaced it with a Shen Hao field camera, which is not expensive but is orders of magnitude easier to use. Something else to consider.
     
  4. Fotoguy20d

    Fotoguy20d Subscriber

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    I have a couple of nice Crown Graphics I'd be happy to sell you, but have you considered something like a Graphic View? I use my Speed when I need a shutter in the body, but otherwise I prefer the movements of my GV-II to the limited ones of the Pacemaker.

    Dan
     
  5. Seabird

    Seabird Member

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    I'd think seriously about getting any Technika that is older than a model IV. As I understand it, the IIIs have fewer movements on the front standard, and use less readily available lensboards.

    If you cant do a Tech IV within your budget, then I'd lean towards the Crown Graphic.

    More useful details about differences between the Tech models can be found here:

    http://www.cameraquest.com/techs.htm

    You might also find this article comparing Techs and Graphics (from the same site) interesting:

    http://www.cameraquest.com/techgrap.htm


    Hope this is of assistance

    Carey Bird
    http://members.iinet.net.au/~cbird/index.html
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 13, 2009
  6. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I'd only get a Tech III if it comes with one or more cammed lenses. The serial number on the top of each cam should match the serial number on the lens, and the serial number on the bottom should match the body. Without cammed lenses, it's still a nice, sturdy, precise metal field camera, but the possibility of using the rangefinder adds a lot of options that you don't have with other nice wooden or metal field cameras, like handheld shooting or more dynamic portraiture, where you can check focus using the rangefinder with a filmholder ready to shoot.

    You don't need to have all lenses cammed, but having one or two lets you take advantage of that option.
     
  7. chrism

    chrism Member

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    The Linhof III that I am looking at it has a matching cammed lens which is something I definitely want.

    My understanding was that the Linhof had a little bit more movements available than the Graphic, and I have heard is better made, so that is why I was leaning that way.

    Fotoguy, send me some pics and details of what you have. I am really looking for something that is "ready to go" out of the box (ie, doesnt need to be serviced right away) and comes with a few film holders.
     
  8. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    Tech III a better camera than a Crown Graphic ?!?!?!?

    I guess it depends on what you what to do with it. Many who've owned and used both will say that the Crown is better for hand held work, for example...simply because it is lighter. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. I don't think either is absolutely better than the other. They are each excellent in their own respective areas.
     
  9. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    Personally I would get a Crown Graphic, but if you can find a Speed Graphic, it's even better.
     
  10. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    The Tech would be nice, but the Crowns can be had very cheaply at times. My Crown Graphic came complete with the old OEM case, OEM lens, and two spare lens boards for $CDN 120. It had a worn out lower tripod bushing, that I replaced with a 1/4-20 flange nut from Home Depot for a whole $0.83, and a fair bit of patient fiddling to get the old one out and the new one in.

    The nice thing with this rig is it is nice and light to backpack with, with about 6 film holders and a a smattering of bits - light meter, a few filters, notebook, etc. all handily fitting into a day pack. I have built a divider for a small backpack out of foam core board and packing tape to keep things in their place, and avoid too many sharp corners digging into your back when you carry the load.

    If I know that only moderate movements are needed, or if I am to do on location portraiture, then I give up on using the range finder, and put a 210mm symmar lens in the camera. It will just close with this lens.

    With this lens I ground glass focus. If I am doing portraits I 'string distance focus', by setting focus on the end of a string clipped to the front of the camera base. I have the sitter hold the string to their nose, back up til the string is taught, and know In am in the right focus range. I have a bit of cardboard mask that I have calibrated the size of to slip over the pop up finder to compensate for the narrower filed of view.

    Yes, a cammed set of lenses for a field camera would be nice, but my work arounds work for me. I do not yet have the desired 90mm lens. When that comes, the limitations of the Crown might make me move on. Until then, if the situation is knowm I wheel out my cambo monorail, and have movements galore. It is not as portable assembled, buy can be disassembled to fit a backpack, however there is quite a bit of set up and break down for every site you move between.
     
  11. archphoto

    archphoto Member

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    If you don't need the RF I would seriously look at the Shen Hao wooden camera's.
    I have the HZX-IIA and will be building a PTB54 myself.
    They are cheap, well made and have more movement than a Linhof III or Graphic plus the added advantage of rear standard focussing if needed on the HZX and a bed that is not in the way with vertical wide angle shots if set-up propperly.
    You will get yourself a more versitile camera !

    If you need even more movement have a look at the mono-rails, with Sinar as the ultimate Lego box: build the camera you need.

    My 2c

    Peter
     
  12. Pupfish

    Pupfish Member

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    This page discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the Tech III at length:
    http://www.cameraquest.com/techs.htm
    and this one compares the Technikas with the Crown/Speed Graphics:
    http://www.cameraquest.com/techgrap.htm

    The main thing that jumps out for me with most of the early folding metal press/field designs is that they weren't designed to accept modern lenses because these didn't exist yet. Ergo, the ubiquitous and cheap but excellent 210 f/5.6 Plasmats won't fit inside some with the camera closed, rendering moot the folding camera advantages of speed of set-up and lens protection inside the housing. So you're stuck using old Tessar designs. Further, many have very limited moves (early Technika IIIs, no forward tilt, no bed drop!) Too, most early press cameras and even the Technikas aren't well suited to wide angles.

    After a year of patient Googling and Ebay searching, I found a Meridian 45B that covers all these bases well.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 14, 2009
  13. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Most folding flatbed cameras won't accept a 210/5.6 plasmat closed. Fortunately, it's quick and easy to change lenses on a Technika.
     
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  15. Robert Budding

    Robert Budding Member

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    There's always the 203mm Ektar. It easily folds inside a Crown Graphic.

    I love my Crown Graphic - it's great fun to use it hand held with the rangefinder. I even use it for street photography at times. Yes, movements are limited, so you may eventually want another camera. All the same, I'm keeping my Crown.
     
  16. chrism

    chrism Member

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    Sounds like the Crown is the winner. Does anyone use one with a Graflite?
     
  17. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I have used my crown with 4x5 polaroid (now fuji-roid, ahem, fuji instant film), 4x5 sheet film in normal holders, fuji quickloads, and with 6x9 and 6x12 rollfilm backs. I haven't tried the septum-based quickfire things. When I needed to go quickfire I just went to rollfilm with it.

    I'll just make a point that may be blazingly obvious to everyone but perhaps not to others: the crown (and speed) are press cameras. They were never meant to compete with a fully-featured view camera. It just so happens that the crown can be used as a pretty good field camera as well. It's actually quite nice for landscape, I can furnish some examples: here and here. Because it can be focused by RF, I find the crown very nice for infrared.

    Also, of course, the phrase "f/8 and be there" is usually attributed that most famous user of a graphic press camera, Weegee. If you know what the hyperfocal distance is of your lens on the crown, you can refer to the markings and scale focus very well or just wing it and have quite adequate DOF for Weegee's kind of work. Minor focus errors usually don't matter at all with the standard lens, because for press photography, the enlargement factor is going to be pretty small from a 4x5 neg. What would wind up in print would be around the size of a 4x5 contact print. So "f/8 and be there" actually works quite well with a press camera if used as intended.

    On the subject of the speed graphic, now that is something very very powerful for shutterless brass lenses. But I (and many others, I am sure) have hand-shuttered various shutterless lenses on the crown and it's no big deal, 1/25 is easy.
     
  18. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Keith,

    I like your IR photographs.

    Steve
     
  19. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Thanks Steve!
     
  20. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Yes, often. But not a Crown... an Anniversary Graphic.
     
  21. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    All things being equal, I'd go with the Linhof if I had the $$ to spare. Other than both cameras are hand holdable, I feel there simply is no comparison----the Linhof will give you "more" (albeit at a price, especially in terms of wieght and complexity) That said, the Crown is a superb camera for what it is, and a real bargain in my book. Both will serve as a learning platform and both can (have) been used to take very exceptional photographs.
    Since you want to explore lf, I'd go with the Linhof and it's additional movements, however if you want a 4x5 point and shoot, the Crown will do everything you'll ask of it, for far less expense and wieght than the Linhof.
     
  22. Pupfish

    Pupfish Member

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    Might also want to look at the Graflex Super Graphic. It has more movements than a either a Crown or a Tech III, and a rotating Graflok back.

    I'd also be leery of any 50+ year old camera with a leather and not synthetic bellows (Tech III) and would specifically ask for a guarantee that the bellows be supple and light-tight or your money back.
     
  23. chrism

    chrism Member

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    Here's an update:

    I found and bought Super Speed Graphic kit (w/ box, 18 film holders, graflite, other misc stuff) on eBay. Seller seemed knowledgeable and claims it's all in good shape. It was a little more than the Crown Graphic kit (but less than the Linhof) I was looking at but I think it will be a better learning platform.
     
  24. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    You did the right thing there Chris.

    The Super Speed was a camera that Graflex should have made years earlier than they did, it addresses the lack of movements & poor functionality of the Pacemakers (Speed& Crown) and earlier models which just couldn't compete with the MMP's and Linhof's being made in Europe.

    Far better as a first LF camera, I do use both Speed & Crown Graphic's and constantly run up against their limitations :D

    Nice buy.

    Ian
     
  25. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Yes, good call.

    Let me suggest also picking up a used fuji pa45 holder and some 4x5 instant packfilm, it's pricey but will save you a lot of learning time in the long run. Instant film is very useful for checking speeds and learning about bellows factor and checking RF focusing etc.... plus you can get some damn nice prints, actually.
     
  26. Pupfish

    Pupfish Member

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    Congratulations!

    The Super Speed Graphic originally came with a unique lens and shutter with a top speed of 1/1000-- did yours?