Good 4x5 beginner set up

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Silverpixels5, Apr 15, 2003.

  1. Silverpixels5

    Silverpixels5 Member

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    I was thinking about getting getting into large format photography, and was wondering what a good 4x5 camera and lens would be to start out with. I'll be mainly doing B&W, with 75% of use being non-field work. I'm looking for something used, with a budget of $1500, although I'd like to spend $1000 or less. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
     
  2. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    An old Linhof Color, if you can find one.
    A really basic, rugged, light monorail which can also be used outdoors. I put mine in a Lowepro S&F Rover Lite, along with 5 lenses or so for landscapes. I do 99% field work...

    Spend money on lenses. Good shutters are more important than good optics. Spend the rest of your money on film [​IMG]
     
  3. Silverpixels5

    Silverpixels5 Member

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    What focal length lenses should I consider? Two to 3 lenses is what I'll usually have for each format...a wide angle, normal, and close-up. Also, who makes good large format glass? My knowlege is limited to 35mm and medium format. Thanks.
     
  4. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    When you say 75% non-field, what does this mean exactly? Does this mean you do mainly studio stuff or street shooting. The recommended setup should be tailored to your specific needs. If you can elaborate on your shooting requirements that would help.

    Eric
     
  5. Silverpixels5

    Silverpixels5 Member

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    Yes, mainly studio work, or location work where taking the camera to one spot will be all the carrying I'll do. Therefore weight really isn't much of an issue seeing how I won't be trekking miles with it on my back.
     
  6. Dave Mueller

    Dave Mueller Member

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    I chose a Sinar F monorail - it has enough features to last me a lifetime, parts are widely available, and it's well made. The type and brand of camera is going to be a very personal choice.

    For lenses, pick something close to what you normally use in 35mm or MF. 150mm is "normal", 75mm is very (but not extreme) wide, 300mm is equivalent to about 100mm on 35mm. For brands, there are 4 main players (current): Schnieder, Rodenstock, Fuji and Nikon. Anything made by any of these vendors will be plenty sharp. The old/used market is overflowing with lenses from various companies.

    Calumet has several starter kits aimed at students. Their "Caltar" lenses are made by Rodenstock.

    After (or even before) you figure out what you want, check Midwest Photo Exchance (www.mpex.com). They're extremely helpful. I bought my first kit there for less than $1200, and had everything I needed - monorail camera, mounted lens, film holders, film, tripod head, dark cloth, and even a Polaroid holder and film.
     
  7. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    Calumet has a sale on a bunch of thier used 4x5s for $150. It would be hard to wrong with something like that! Robert White was closing out thier 150mm G-Clarons. I'd check with both those places to see if they've got anything left.--Cheers!
     
  8. Johnny V

    Johnny V Member

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    This is my first post at the Forum - but have been shooting large format for 20 plus years - ekk!

    If you are just starting out and have a limited budget I would shop around the used camera market. EBay is one of your best bets. Last year I sold my trusty Calumet 4x5 on eBay and purchased an Arca-Swiss Discovery 4x5 also from eBay. With all the accesorries I would have paid about $1900. but purchased for $1100. It was one year old and in mint shape! You will find many large format cameras in excellent shape. I purchased the Discovery to do light back-packing photography, location and studio work.

    Here's a link to an older model Arca-Swiss on eBay:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewI...&category=15247

    The Buy It price is a little high!

    Also you might consider the Cambo/Calumet 4x5 - shot with one for years mostly in the studio and it's light enough to set-up on location. But not good for back-packing as the camera does not close down like the Arca.

    There is one on eBay: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewI...&category=15247

    Not sure how much the new ones are going for but the Buy it Price is fairly good.

    Either one will get you started!

    Also lens are going for cheap on eBay also.

    Best of luck,

    John V.
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    Lots of options. Check largeformatphotography.info for camera reviews, general advice, and links to more information.

    A good three lens kit would be 90mm, 150mm and something in the 210-360mm range. On a budget you might consider a Schnieder convertible Symmar either to cover the mid range and longer range or to extend your range at the long end, giving you a fourth option.
     
  10. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    If you are going to be shooting mostly indoors, an older calumet C-400 series is a perfect beginning camera. Very sturdy, has full movements and there are always a few on Ebay for $150-$200 with out lens. What ever your choice of lens if used make sure you have the shutter CLA or purchase a lens new. I would also purchase new film holders to eliminate any variables you can find wth older holders. New Fidelity holders are adequate.

    Don't forget the tripod. A lightweight 35mm tripod is not good enough. You need something more sturdy to eliminate vibration and camera shake from the wind when outdoors. This component is usually an afterthought but should be as carefully choosen as the camera. Search the forum for discussions on tripods. I would give you some ideas but mine are custom made with Ries heads.
     
  11. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm an old-camera-and-lens user.

    Also, I like bright lenses, which may be even more important for studio work...

    A 150mm f:4.5 or so is basic - and ubiquitous. Lots to choose form, and (dirt) cheap. At present, I have two Voigtländers: An APO-Lanthar and a Heliar. I once had a Schneider Xenar, but traded it (and a camera) for another camera. Schneider Symmar 150mm f:5.6 are also good (I've got one of those, too...), and they are convertible into a (softish) 265mm f:12.

    You'll find that 150mm seems a bit wider than a 50mm lens on small format, so my suggested next lens will be 210mm. Again, I like vright glass - but those lenses come in #3 shutters which (depending on your system) may be too big for the lensboard. Old Compound #3 shutters will fit a technika lensboard (the closest there is to a standard); I don't know about newer shutters. Xenar is great, so is APO-Lanthar. The Lanthars are so good I sold mine, and spent the money on the 150mm same type, a 90mm Angulon, a Pentax Spotmeter, and still had a little left. Translation: They're EXPENSIVE.

    How wide do you need - what are you used to using? Most of the time I find I need nothing wider than 135mm or 120mm. Old Schneider 120mm f:6.8 Angulon is a great wide-ish for 4x5", providing plenty of coverage for movements. An 80mm Symmar XL would be nice, but with the 2-3 times per year I feel one would have been useful, it's not going to happen.

    Tripods are important. Maybe not as important as with 35mm (which need a lot more enlargement to make a decent-size picture), but very, very important.
    Mine's a wooden one from Stabil (http://www.stabil.nu), a Swedish one-man company. Highly recommended!
     
  12. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    Well you have received a lot of great advise. I will wade in with my 2cents worth. I started off with a Cambo studio type 4x5 and love it. Still use it a lot and take it into the field when I'm not backpacking. You can get them for a reasonable price on eBay. The lenses I recommend are 90mm, 150mm and 210mm to start. Once you have mastered them you could look at a 75mm and something over 300mm. Get a Grafmatic back or two or three as it will make your life much simpler. I just got some and wonder how I managed without them.

    Get some books, ask lots of questions and more importantly shoot lots of film. I find you can not think in the same terms as 35mm. Just becuase a 90mm lens in 4x5 is roughly equivalent to a 28mm in 35mm, it doesn't mean it "looks" the same in 4x5. Especially when you start to get good at using all the movements at your disposal in 4x5.

    There seems to be a major resurgence of interest in LF. Welcome to the wave of the future!

    Eric
     
  13. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    I'd suggest a cheap setup like the CC400 or 401. This way you could see if LF is for you or not (unless you already have in which case ignore me. Most people do anyway....).

    If you want a truly cheap, but good setup to try and work with, get something like the CC400/401 and a Graphic board adapter. This will let you buy cheap Graphic lenses that are already mounted which you can just pop on and off. Not exactly the latest and greatest lenses, but they are very servicable and great way to start.
    And you can always sell them later....
     
  14. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi Member

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    I started with a Calumet C400 and a Graphic type Raptar 135mm lens. From there, I added more lenses as I could get them, and mounted them on spare Calumet boards. If you get one of these cameras, you will need a strong tripod with a good head... they are heavy for a 4x5.
     
  15. Silverpixels5

    Silverpixels5 Member

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    Thanks for all the info! It seems I'm going to add something to my question now. I was wondering if it would be a good idea to just go right up to an 8x10 view camera. This way I could make 8x10 contact prints. Is it possible to still shoot 4x5 on an 8x10 camera using a mask? The enlarger I have handles up to 4x5, and so I'd like to still have the option of shooting that format for enlargements (seeing how I know i'll never get a 8x10 enlarger). Are there particular brands of 8x10 cameras that I should consider? Are there limitations on the choice of lenes (as far as focal length goes)? Thanks again for any help you all can offer!
     
  16. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    After trying 4x5" and 8x10", I felt that 8x10" was more intuitive to me, and I love the contact prints, but I've also come around and found a place for 4x5". A great thing about large format is that lenses can often be used on different formats, so it's not too hard to expand.

    You can get a 4x5" reducing back on many cameras, and Toho Shimo even makes a reducing filmholder that will hold a 4x5" filmholder inside the reducing holder, for cameras that do not have reducing backs.

    What camera--depends on your priorities (cost, weight, precision movements, portability, system accessories, expandability, rental options, etc.). Again, check out the reviews at largeformatphotography.info.
     
  17. LFGuy

    LFGuy Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Silverpixels5 @ Apr 17 2003, 06:23 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> Are there particular brands of 8x10 cameras that I should consider? Are there limitations on the choice of lenes (as far as focal length goes)? Thanks again for any help you all can offer! </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    Again, there are a lot of choices in 8x10 cameras as well, you can even buy them new from several manufacturers, or just look on eBay. If you're looking for monorails, there always seems to be a lot of used wooden field cameras, but if you're doing studio shooting, you may want to look for a used Calumet, Sinar or Arca Swiss.

    As for lens choice, the focal lengths you can use are generally limited by focal length. If the camera has (for example) 35 inches of bellows draw, you could use a 35 inch lens focused at infinity (but not closer) or you could get 1:1 with a 17.5 inch lens by stretching the bellows out all the way.
     
  18. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

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    Cameras come and go but if you love photography, you will not settle for poor lenses. I sold a C400 monorail for $125. It worked VERY good. But don't try to save too much on the lens. It would be hard to find a good 210mm lens for less than $450 that was any good. A good 75mm lens under $600 would also hard to find. The lenses I got cheap (they are out there) were lenses I had to replace with crappy shutters and poor coatings. It is hard to go wrong with Nikon, Schneider, Rodenstock(Caltar) - be careful about Wollensack some Fuji and old press lenses. If you are looking for crisp sharp images - newer (in last 20 years) is a good thing - There are those that do soft portraits and still life that like certain special lenses but I think you really need to know what you want. Old Cooks and Goertz and Zeiss lenses will cost you full inheritance and will give certain photos a very unique look - but they are not general purpose - all things to all people type lenses. - I hope this is helpful - frank