Help me decide which 4x5 camera to buy...

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by gr82bart, Oct 24, 2005.

  1. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    So coming back from the PhotoPlus Expo has got me in the mood to get my first 4x5. I saw two that were very interesting and wanted some feedback from owners with hands on experience. No theories please!

    The first one is the Arca Swiss. I see it has very detailed and thorough engineering built into this machine. Knobs are well positioned - all geared with rubber grips, rulers are etched where every movement is concerned. Cost is about $3900US.

    The other one is the Canham. I really like this because of the fold up design. It's very compact. It doesn't have knobs, but more lock in place handles where you have push or pull the movement. Not every movement has a ruler - seems only the linear movements. Cost is $2200US.

    So I'm not too picky about costs, as long as I get some value. Right now, I see the engineering put into the Arca Swiss, but is it worth the extra $1700?

    How many people have the Canham? Honestly, until Bob pointed it out, I never heard of them, but I am so glad he did tell me. Call me vain, but I like the idea the Canham comes in different colours too for an extra $300.

    Feedback would be greatly appreciated. Any others I should look at as well? I mean small manufacturers that I wouldn't have heard of.

    Thanks, Art.
     
  2. luvmydogs

    luvmydogs Member

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    well, if price isn't an issue...I'd be getting a Linhof Master 2000 if I was getting a 4x5! Or...an Ebony SV45UE if I wanted a folding camera.
     
  3. laz

    laz Member

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    Ditto on this. (and also your color comment. That red one at the expo was mouth watering, it even caught the attention of my digital son!)

    Back to add: If I were you I'd go straight to 8x10; that's where you'll end up anyway! :smile:
     
  4. markbb

    markbb Member

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    I think you should help us a bit before we can help you....

    You mention two cameras only, does this mean you are trying to decide between these two, or are these the only two you have seen? What do you want to use the camera for - studio only, 'luggable', daypackable or mountaineering? What sort of lenses do you intend to use - what type of bellows do you need? Do you intend to shoot 5x4 only, or are you interesting in using roll-film? What range of movements do you need? Must it be new? What sort of after-sales support do you want? Will you be using in in a very cold/hot enviroment? Very humid? You mention vanity - is the camera's appearance more, less or of equal importance to the factors mentioned above?
     
  5. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Member

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    I know I am inherently CHEAP but I have picked up some nice cameras from that "on-line auction place" (which shall remain nameless :wink: ) at VERY reasonable prices.

    Since you are just starting out in 4x5, you can't go too far wrong by starting with an "economy camera". If you start with an inexpensive older camera to get your feet wet, you will know what features are important to you when it comes to buying a new camera. You will also get more of your money back for the older camera if you decide to move up or to go 8x10 :D Buying an older used camera will also leave you $$ to convert your darkroom, buy film, pay for processing, etc.
     
  6. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The Canham is a really fine camera, and so is an Arca-Swiss. If you want to spend more time looking at them, B&H usually has Arca-Swiss, and Photo Gizzmo usually has Canham. In the same league, you might also look at the Linhof Technikardan and Sinar F2 monorails or the Linhof Tech 2000 mentioned above for a metal folding camera (I gather you seem to have a preference for metal cameras, or no?).

    Alternately, find yourself a used Sinar F or F1 for under $500 and you'll still have a top-quality portable monorail with tilt and swing scales and calculator, DOF calculator, geared rear focus (front too, if you put a rear standard bearer up front, but it's not really necessary), and put the savings into some high-end glass.
     
  7. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    I know about the Linhoff already. These are the two that I liked from the show. I wanted feedback because I haven't heard of the Canham at all and I only hear passing comments about the Arca Swiss.

    All of the above.

    I'd start with the 'standard' lens. Then go wide angle. Bellows? It comes witha bellows.

    Whoa! I'm just starting out here. Just 4x5 sheets for now.

    I don't know. All new to me. I figure whatever movements the camera gives me.

    That my preference, but I might buy a decent used one from a rep company.

    Why? Do these break often?

    Yes, yes and yes.

    Well, I'm quirky this way. The look of the camera is important to me. Why? Who knows? And I can't tell you what about the camera, just show it to me and in my on wierd little mind, I'll decide if it looks good or not.

    Thanks for the responses. Good questions. I hope this helps you help me!

    Regards, Art.
     
  8. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    I'm planning to spend time at PhotoGizzmo this week.

    I know about these already. Seems to be very popular cameras.

    Yeah. I think my only wooden camera will be the one I make.

    Hmmm...It's sound logic like this that doesn't make it easier for me.

    Regards, Art.
     
  9. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    If money were no object, I'd see if Jack Deardorff would build me a Baby 'dorff!

    Since you've narrowed the field to two very different types of cameras, you can decide which type will suit you best----a compact folder or a monorail with almost unlimited moves. So which will be more useful to you? Is the added expense of the Arca justified or will you find the less expensive Canham limiting?

    FWIW, if I was into serious architectural photography and/or tabletop work I'd opt for the Arca. If I wanted to hike around searching for the grand landscape I'd pick the Canham. For portraits and landscapes 'near the car' it would be a draw--the 'brass ring' goes to Canham because of price. Of course theres no reason why you can't hike with an Arca---but I wouldn't spend the additional $1700 for the priviledge unlsess I had a very good reason. Nor is there anything wrong with shooting buildings or doing tabletop work with the Canham as its quite likely you'll never run out of moves, however working with a monorail that can turn itself into a pretzel and locks down like a bank vault is very reassuring--- qualities folders aren't especially noted for.

    Both the Arca and Canham are very fine cameras.

    OTOH, I think you should get something cheap and used with good bellows, like a Crown Graphic or Calumet C-401. Don't spend more than $200-300. Buy a good quality older lens and a few holders and play with it for awhile. You'll learn 1) If LF is for you, and 2) What features you really want in a LF camera. Then you can 'move up' accordingly.

    Cheers!
     
  10. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Actually, if you want one camera for overnight backpacking and everything else, that's going to be the limiting factor (leaning toward the lighter, more compact cameras like Arca-Swiss F-line with a collapsing rail and Canham, more than Sinar, but you could still probably get a used Sinar and a Gowland for less than a new Arca).

    If you're in town and want to check out my Sinar F or P, drop me a line.
     
  11. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    Ebony

    I own an Arca-Swiss 4x5 field system. Great Camera.

    I own a KB Canham 8x10 lightweight wood field system. Great Camera.

    Also look the Ebony line of cameras.

    Jeff at Badger Graphics (http://www.badgergraphic.com/) can be very helpful. He takes the personal time for his customers.
     
  12. laz

    laz Member

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    Art, I was thinking about your question as I drove to work. Since it was not all that long ago when I asked a similar question about 8x10 I have a few reflections on the process of choosing a LF camera.

    I think one of the biggest changes when moving to LF was that of mind-set. As a 35mm user I was used to paying close attention to many details of camera construction and operation that just don't apply to LF, or at least not in the same way. Begin the most basic issue; in 35mm what lenses are available for your brand of camera is probably the most important issue. In LF any LF lens that will cover your format is yours to use. Think of how that frees you! The more you think about it the more 35mm details you will find that don't impact LF. Metering, shutter, film advance etc. just don't depend on what LF camera you have.
    Outside of movements and any portability issues you might have a LF camera is basicly an expanding and contracting box.

    So the best advice I received was to spend my money where it most matters, on lenses.
    -Bob
     
  13. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    Thanks! His website so far is the best one to do a quick comparative analysis.

    Regards, Art.
     
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  15. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    Hi Bob,

    This is sage advice! I agree. I haven't forgotten about lenses, and for those that know me, I will NOT scrimp there.

    Yeah, you know it's like when I bought my first medium format - my yellow Hassey - I mean it's a metal box! A very expensive one at that! Completely different than 35 SLRs with all the fancy gizmos attached to it.

    So I guess what I am looking for is a LF camera that is:

    1. Portable first, but can be used in studio. This means small and compact when 'collapsed' and relatively light.
    2. Durable. So I think metal will be the material of choice here.
    3. Has all the movements I could want. I know there are specific names for each of them. I'll try to list them in my novice terms:
    • Front tilt (face swivels around centre line parallel to bottom edge)
    • Front lift (up and down)
    • Front lateral (side to side)
    • Front swivel (face swivels around centre parallel to side edge)
    • Front linear (forward and backwards)
    • Rear tilt
    • Rear lift
    • Rear lateral
    • Rear swivel
    • Rear linear
    4. Easy to switch from 4x5 to 5x4.
    5. I assume all cameras will accept all the shutters and lenses designed for them by Schneider, Rodenstock, Nikon, etc....
    6. I think I'll pass up on the roll film capability for now. If the camera can accept the 'standard' backs like the Kodak Ready loaders and also my Polaroid 545i back.
    7. Has to look appealing to me <--Let me worry about this one!

    Regards, Art.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 24, 2005
  16. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Translation from "gr82bart-speak" to English:

    tilt=tilt
    lift=rise and fall
    lateral=shift
    swivel=swing
    linear=focus

    For most purposes, any LF camera will accept any lens, as long as it is physically not too large for the lensboard or the front standard, and as long as it covers the format. With ultrawide lenses, a recessed lensboard or bag bellows may be necessary to focus to infinity, and at the long end you'll be limited by the maximum bellows extension of the camera (plus any extension lensboards, etc., that you may use).

    Most modern cameras have a Graflok/international back that can take rollfilm holders (probably all the ones in the price range your looking at should have one), and there are rollfilm holders that can slip under the groundglass as well.

    A reversible back that unlocks and remounts to go from horizontal to vertical is usually lighter in weight than a revolving back like the Linhof Technika has. Most cameras have one or the other, with a few exceptions like the ultralight Gowland.
     
  17. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Oh, and "looks appealing to me"--Do a google search for "Carbon Infinity." You know you want one.
     
  18. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Instead of trying to find the perfect compromise why not go with two cameras. Something for the studio and something for hauling around. With some planning you'll be able to use the same lenses on both. A used big studio camera won't cost much today.

    Also why not consider the Canham 5x7 with the 4x5 back. A little more money but I think that's the only drawback.
     
  19. fingel

    fingel Member

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    Hi Art,
    I have the Canham DLC (the metal one). I have never found it limiting for anything that I have wanted to do. I usually run out of lens coverage before I run out of movements.
    I have never had a problem with it so I don't know how the service is, but I have heard that it is very good.
    The camera itself is quick to set up and pretty light weight so you don't need to have a massive heavy tripod to use it.
    Overall it is a great camera.
     
  20. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    Art, If you seriously want to go mountaineering with the thing, I guess you're talking about the Canham DLC 4X5 or, a wood field camera (which you seem to have ruled out). The Arca and the Sinar are portable and can be easily carried that proverbial 100 feet from the car (in a small suitcase) but, of the three serious contenders mentioned so far, only the Canham DLC is likely to be considered packable.

    Well, that said, I have to say that if I were in your position, I'd buy the MPP technical field camera offered in the APUG classifieds by one of our members....but, don't do that because, I'm trying desperately to scrounge together the $295 to buy it myself. :smile:
     
  21. Frank Petronio

    Frank Petronio Inactive

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    Not to jinx Brad, but that MPP for $295 is a really good deal
     
  22. laz

    laz Member

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    Buy it quick will you Brad! It's been tempting me something awful! Hell, want me to lend you a few bucks? It would save me in the long run!

    :smile:
     
  23. laz

    laz Member

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    Me too. I could carry it around in my Roll Royce, time shots with my Patek Philippe watch while sipping Dom P. out of a Waterford crystal glass! :smile:
     
  24. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    I had briefly used an older ARCA F with the 171mm lensboards. It was a little big for field work, but otherwise almost perfect. So I was looking at the “field” model 4x5 with the 100mm lensboards when ARCA introduced the new 141mm lensboard model. I think it’s perfect. Collapsed onto one 15cm rail, it packs as small as most field cameras, and has all movements for studio work. Bellows are easily changed, and it will take a 450mm Nikon M with the regular bellows. The modular design has so many benefits.
     
  25. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    I've got a nice black Nikon FA with a 28mm, f2.8 AIS lens...three way trade anybody?
     
  26. big_ben_blue

    big_ben_blue Member

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    Art,
    it really all depends on your intended use for the camera: for studio work and architectural stuff I would go with the ARCA (geared movements are a big bonus); for hiking and backbacking stuff it's the CANHAM. I don't like the Sinar F2's; when I went to college, the media department had just gotten a whole batch of these cameras for their students to replace old and battered Linhofs (some 25years old), and these abusive kids are a good testing ground. Well, let's just say, I honestly don't believe that these cameras will still be around in 10 years from now (too much breakage).

    BTW, I have a DLC45, bought from Badger many years ago - works great, BUT if you want to use anything shorter than a 90mm, you would have to get a bag bellows as well, or at least a recessed lens board. Yes they say that the camera can use shorter lenses with it's regular bellows, however, you would have to compress the bellows very tightly, and that puts enough pressure on the standards to potenitally cause unintended moves (most of the movements are by friction only). Other than that, it's a fine camera.

    Cheers,
    Chris