Good 4x5 starter kit

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Marvin, Dec 21, 2009.

  1. Marvin

    Marvin Member

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    I have been thinking about 4x5 for a while and checked out some cameras on ebay but I am not sure what would make a good starter kit. I have seen a lot of Calumet 4x5 cameras on ebay but most don't have lenses. I would probably use it for lighthouses, seascapes, and mountain scenics so I guess a normal to moderately wide angle lens would be OK. I currently have 35mm Nikon, Bronica medium format and Digital Nikon so 4x5 seems like a next step.
    Marvin
     
  2. mikebarger

    mikebarger Subscriber

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    At the prices Sinars original F's are going for, might be hard to pass on one of them.

    Mike
     
  3. SchwinnParamount

    SchwinnParamount Subscriber

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    Crown graphic or speed graphic would be fine for the seascape and mountain scenes. A lighthouse can be tricky if you are close enough to it that you have to tilt the camera up to catch the top of the lighthouse. In that case, you would need a camera that had both a rear and front tilt. Movements like that cannot be done with a crown or speed graphic. Some of the better 4x5 field cameras can do this. A monorail camera will do it but it is such a pain to use in the field. There is a Chinese company (shen hao?) that has been putting out a decent 4x5 field camera for a few years.

    As long as you don't intend to use a long focal length, you should not concern yourself with bellows extension. For example, if you will not be using a 14" lens with your 4x5, you won't need a field camera with 14 inches of bellows extension.

    You will probably be able to find one used if you look around on a few online sites like Ebay or craigslist.
     
  4. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    If you want to carry it any distance, I'd avoid a monorail if possible unless you are going to shoot a lot of architecture or long lenses. The nice thing about monorails, though, is that you can get a very high quality camera (e.g. Sinar, Linhof, older Arca-Swiss) for little money. A field camera is probably a better bet for what you are looking to do. If you can swing it, Shen-Hao or Tachihara are nice cameras for not too much money, but more than a monorail or a Crown Graphic. I have a Tachihara that I use with a 240mm all the time for close ups. For the lens, I'd try to get a used 135 or 150mm f5.6 lens....I wouldn't worry too much about brand.
    You might call a place like Midwest Photo and see what they can offer you. They have a good selection of new and used equipment. I bought a new Tachihara with a used 150mm from them about 5 years ago and I found them great to deal with.
     
  5. Tom Nutter

    Tom Nutter Member

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    My first 4X5 was a crown graphic---good to get started with, but yea, if you don't mind the bulk and weight of a rail camera...a calumet would be a cheap option---The 45 SF was a pretty light and manageable model.. Don't overlook Caltar lenses either...They're made by Rodenstock, but less expensive on the used market.
     
  6. Seabird

    Seabird Member

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    From your description of intended use (scenics) I'd lean more towards a field camera than a monorail (others, with some justification, may disagree eg there is a very sexy little Toho monorail....).

    You'll also probably be able to sell most 2nd-hand LF stuff for what you pay for it (assuming you dont pay over the odds) so no need to worry too much about making a dud choice. If it doesn't work for you just trade it for something else.

    And given those two premises: if you can afford the entry price I'd start with the best: Linhof Technika IV or later.

    Mind you, a camera is just a camera - a light tight box. Another valid school of thought says get a cheap camera and sink the cash into the lenses - you'll be able to use them with any camera (within reason).

    For your uses something in the 90 - 135mm range sounds useful. eg Nikkor 90/f8 or Apo-Sironar-S 135. If money is no object then Schneider SS-XL 110... (But having said that, if you are new to LF a lot of people recommend learning with a slightly longer lens eg 150mm to 210mm - it might make it easier to get the hang of camera movements if you are not used to them).

    Probably the best piece of advice I can give you: just get *something* and start shooting. There is a lot to learn besides just the equipment - particularly if you will be developing and printing yourself. Once you start taking pix you can refine your needs from there.

    Hope this is of some assistance and enjoy!

    Carey Bird
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 22, 2009
  7. Mike1234

    Mike1234 Inactive

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    I've been doing quite a bit of research for cost vs. features (that I want) and Shen Hao or Chamonix are tough to beat but there is some concern that the Chamonix focus panel needs either an easy modification or replacement... otherwise it's great.

    There are zillions of lens options but it sounds like a good kit for you might be a 72 SA XL, 110 SS XL, 150 SS XL, and at the longer end 200 Nikkor-M (make sure the 200 has the coverage you need) and 300 Nikkor-M.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 22, 2009
  8. dfoo

    dfoo Member

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    The argument on the Chamonix focus panel from what I understand is the fresnel. The fix is to the remove the fresnel from the back of the GG, and place it on the front.
     
  9. mikebarger

    mikebarger Subscriber

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    I started with a Sinar F, they fold up nice to fit in a bag. Not as nice as a field camera though. Hard to find a better camera at the 200 they are selling for now on ebay.

    I now have a zone VI field and rarely use the sinar

    Mike
     
  10. 36cm2

    36cm2 Member

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    Marvin, Carey's advice is right on. I put together a the following kit after a ton of research focusing on the following criteria: quality, low weight/compact portability, price point, and flexibility. Tachihara field camera, nikon SW90 F/8, rodenstock Sironar-N 150, fujinon A 240. I have no complaints. The kit is light, the lenses are compact but cover the right range of focal lengths and permit ample movements, and the quality of each component is excellent. For a starter kit I don't think I could have done better. It took a while to compile and I suggest you buy carefully and slowly if you're on the used market. If you're wondering which lenses to get first, I shoot primarily landscape and find myself using the 150 and 240 most, although others' experience may differ. Best of luck to you and sorry if I've repeated what others have said; I can't read most of the posts due to technical problems with Apug's mobile system.
     
  11. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I agree about the Sinar, if you have any sort of budget. They are top-notch cameras, and the prices they are going for are ridiculous. Additionally, their component nature makes them very easy to travel with and to use in "the field." I would start with a F1. No need for an F2. You only need focusing on one standard, and the F2 is a bit heavier. My Sinar F1 with bag bellows, 12 inches of rail, and standard rail clamp (model 1) is just under 6 lbs. There is a low-profile rail clamp you can get that is lighter. I have a P front standard that I put on when I am shooting in the studio, but this is replaced with the Multipurpose Standard to make it an F1 most of the time when I take the camera out and about.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 22, 2009
  12. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Unless you are like me...

    I did my research, decided what features I needed, and what I found sexiest... I really needed a sleek, beautifully grained and polished wood folder. I had already turned my nose up at 4x5, I needed 8x10 or larger. I would have put it off for years waiting for the perfect camera.

    In the end, accepted an offer from a friend to try a Calumet CC400. It's the camera my research told me not to buy. It's big, and ugly, and weighs 700lbs, (or something thereabouts) but it is light tight, and has all the movements I am likely to need for a good long time. I know it's bottom of the line, but apart from weight and portability, I can't think of what it's missing that I cannot live without at this stage of my development. I may still get that dream camera some day, but until I do, I've got wheels on my carrying case, and I'm out there taking pictures.

    Cheers,
     
  13. dfoo

    dfoo Member

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    I very recently picked up a Sinar F1 from ebay. Very reasonable price ($250 USD). I also got a bag bellows and a 6" rail extension, along with another lens board, two lenses, bunch of holders, and new tripod and a box of film. Total price was around $700 for everything. Sweetness.
     
  14. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    If you can find a Calumet 400 or Graphic View (I have a preference for the GV2) for around $100-150, that will give you more money for film holders, glass, etc.... and that is 1/4 of what you'll likely spend on a comparable wood field camera and about 1/2 what a good Crown or Speed Graphic will cost you.
    On a tripod and carried over the shoulder infantryman style, I doubt if you'll find much difference between any of these cameras if you find yourself needing to cover a moderate distance cross-country (at least not enough diffeence to justify 2X-4X the money!)
     
  15. Peter Black

    Peter Black Subscriber

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    I'd advise you to consider which focal length you normally shoot with in 35mm, then check out the chart at the link below to work out the nearest equivalent in 4x5. The other thing you'll need to know about LF lenses is their coverage, since this tells you how much you have spare for movements.

    http://photo.net/photo/lens-table
     
  16. SWphoto

    SWphoto Member

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  17. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

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    You don't mention a budget which will significantly affect the definition of "starter."

    For a modern, basic kit for field work, get a modern field camera. A used Toyo, Zone VI, Tachihara, Shen Hao, Wista would be fine. You should get 1 or two modern lenses, ideally lenses that are relatively light and take the same filters natively or with step rings. I suggest something in the 90-135 range for wide/normal and something in the 150-240 range for normal/long. Adjust the set to your tendencies.

    I started with a Toyo AX field camera, Caltar 90mm lens, Schneider 150mm lens, and Caltar 210mm lens all of which can take 67mm filters.

    The other item is a tripod and good head. You need at least a Bogen 3021 with the 3 way pan-tilt head which are reasonable used. If you have the budget, a Feisol tripod and ball head are hard to beat.

    You also need some film holders (might be worth buying new unless you find some that were actually taken care of). Also a good cable release like a Gepe 20 inch and a loupe like a Toyo 3.6x focusing loupe. For a darkcloth anything will do from a dark T-shirt on the cheap end to a BlackJacket on the high end.

    If you have a minimal budget and just want to try large format, then get a Crown Graphic with an antique lens, use it on your existing tripod, and buy a couple of used film holders.
     
  18. Marvin

    Marvin Member

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    Thanks for the info I guess what I am looking for is a inexpensive 4x5 and one lens for now and see where that leads me. I have seen CC400 Calumet's on ebay for around 150 and some other view cameras but most don't have lens or lens board. I know the old cameras are bulky and heavy but may be a low budget way to try 4x5. I have film developing tanks for 35mm and 120 film but nothing for 4x5 so I will have to look at that too.
    Marvin
     
  19. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    I just found a great calumet set up with a lens on ebay for $175 and I am thrilled to bits with it! It is too heavy for certain things but I am extremely happy with it. Keep looking.
     
  20. Dave Pritchard

    Dave Pritchard Member

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    I would be happy to loan you a couple of 4x5 cameras to try. I have a mono-rail Orbit, and a couple of Speed Graphics. Send a PM, and we'll talk. I am in NC, too.