Interested in getting into 4x5 photography

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by hazardsg, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. hazardsg

    hazardsg Member

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    I am currently considering buying a 4x5 camera. I used to shoot a Mamiya RB67 Pro. What would be the best option for an entry kit? I'm not in a hurry and would be willing to piece together a camera if needed. From looking online I am leaning towards finding a Sinar F1. What lens should I look for? I plan to use the camera mainly for landscapes. I'd like to keep the price around $400.

    Thank you for any advice,

    Steven
     
  2. mjs

    mjs Member

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    Really, there's no telling. So much of the differences between cameras, lenses, films, tripods are a matter of personal taste that whatever advice you get is going to have to be considered in that light. Some generalities might apply, though. For $400 you're most likely to find a monorail; wooden "field" cameras tend to sell for more than that. A Sinar F1 is one possibility. More often found might be something like a Calumet CC-400, a Kokak Master View, a Burke & James (B&J) monorail, etc. They all work pretty much the same and the "perfect" camera for you, if there is such a thing, will only emerge after experience. Ditto with lens: if you tend toward wider lenses in your medium format work then it's likely that you'll prefer them in large format but not necessarily. Don't worry about finding something the "exact" equivalent of your favorite medium format lens, though: that often doesn't translate all that well for some reason. Make your best guess, go with something inexpensive and try to learn lessons before you spend more than you're comfortable with. Take your time and you'll figure out what works for you, then next year you can be giving the advice to some new entrant! Have fun!

    Mike
     
  3. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Afternoon, Steven,

    There is a lot of information (and opinion) in various threads here on APUG. A good tutorial/introduction to large format is on the Large Format Photography web site. The books by Stroebel and Simmons may be available in your local library.

    Konical
     
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  4. LJH

    LJH Member

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    As you write that your primary use will be landscape work, I'd STRONGLY recommend avoiding a monorail. They are heavy, bulky and slow to set up in the field. Not only that, they are heavy, bulky and slow to set up in the field (get the idea??!?).

    I'd also avoid the press cameras (such as the Speed Graphics),as, IMO, they just aren't a good design for field work.

    So, that leaves the folding/field cameras. There are plenty of older folders that should be around $500. Occasionally, you'll see newly purchased cameras such as Shen Hao's, for about $600-700. I'd get one of these. (I know that you wrote $400, but you'll probably be buying someone else's problem at this price. And you'll end up buying a "better" one sooner or later once you realise this, fulfilling the old saying that "A fool spends his money twice").

    But, don't get too hung up on the camera. It's pretty much just a box. As long as there are no light leaks, most field cameras will do what you want (at this stage).

    Way more important are the lenses you buy. Don't get hung up on either the number of lenses you want, nor their age. A 1970s MC lens' results will be almost indistinguishable from a new lens.

    If you're a wide angle shooter, look at something like a 90mm. If you're shooting "standard" lenses, look at 150mm (or the real sleepers, the 180mm lenses). A 210mm lens is probably the best "bang for your bucks" lens, as they were a staple back in the film days, meaning that there are both plenty out there, as well as plenty of really good examples. And, they're cheap!

    As Konical wrote, do some research. And then a little more. Ask plenty of questions here, regardless of how basic they are. No point spending your $$ twice!!
     
  5. Michael W

    Michael W Member

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    I agree with LJH.
    Make sure the camera has a rotating back and decent movements.
     
  6. Mark_S

    Mark_S Member

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    I agree and disagree with LJH. For landscape work, I would steer clear of a monorail and look for a field camera - Tachihara or it's ilk are good, but looking for a full kit with a budget of $400 is going to make that hard. As a result, I would probably spend more money on a nice lens - depending on the type of landscape stuff that you are interested in something between 90mm and 150mm, and then go for a low cost camera - which will probably put you with a graphic camera. If you get bitten by the LF bug, you can keep that lens, and sell the camera for whatever you paid for it, and upgrade to something else. One of the nice things about LF is that everything is interchangeable- the film holders that you buy to use with a graphic camera will work with any other 4x5, similarly with lenses etc.

    Movements are nice, but not as needed in landscape as in other types of photography.

    FWIW, I use a plastic field camera (Walker Titan), which has far more movements than I ever take advantage of. I upgraded to that from a Crown Graphic, and kept the same set of lenses, film holders, hood, focus loupe etc that I had invested in earlier with the press camera.

    IMO a Rotating back is a nice to have. Tripod is a necessity, and it can't be too sturdy.
     
  7. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I wanted a 4"x5" camera that could be used hand held or as a view camera with limited movements and a choice of focal plane or lens shutter, so I bought a Pacemaker Speed Graphic.

    Welcome to APUG!
     
  8. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

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    yes, a speed or crown graphic (difference: crown lacks rear shutter you never use anyway) is an excellent beginner choice. Cheap -- under $300 with a good lens and shutter, built like a tank (finest straight grain mahogany under that leather cover) and has enough swings and tilts for a beginner to play with.

    also readily marketable if you decide you don't like it after all.

    advantages: build like a brick and has three separate viewing systems so the camera is actually hand-holdable. virtually indestructable. Old Ektar lenses on most of them are really really good glass. Maybe not as good as modern new lenses, but some of the greatest photos of the 1940s and 1950s were shot with those old lenses. Really, they're very good.

    bad points -- it's isn't ideal for landscape but it will do in a pinch -- consider it an investment in learning -- if after 6 months you decide you like 4 by 5 work, and feel cramped by the graphic, sell it for what you paid for it and buy something better.
     
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  9. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I use the rear shutter more often that the front shutter. Especially if I am using a barrel lens.
     
  10. TareqPhoto

    TareqPhoto Member

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    Welcome to the site!

    I started with MF film too [after digitial MF], then upgraded to LF, bought Pacemaker Speed Graphic without lens then Crown Graphic[don't know which model?] with 162mm Wollensack lens but didn't use them both yet, then Shen Hao HZX45 IIA with Rodenstock Sironar-N 150mm and did shoot 5 sheets[one is double exposed so i lost one as blank] and the results shows what is LF quality is.

    Good luck with whatever combo you will choose, all will give you something nice if you have time to learn/experiment/use.
     
  11. hazardsg

    hazardsg Member

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    Thank you for all of the replies. I am still doing quite a bit of research. I have been reading The Camera by Ansel Adams. I still have to decide how I will process the film. I also plan on buying a scanner since I don't have access to a darkroom.
     
  12. fotch

    fotch Member

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    Hello hazardsg and welcome to APUG. You don't need a darkroom to develop film. Its nice to have but don't let that hold you back.
     
  13. hazardsg

    hazardsg Member

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    Ive been looking at different daylight tanks. I will be developing my own negatives. The comment about not having access to a darkroom was more geared to how I plan on doing prints. I would like to get an epson v700 to scan the negatives.
     
  14. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    true, quite a few kitchens and bathroomms turn into darkrooms every evening. just go for it and welcome to APUG:smile:
     
  15. ac12

    ac12 Member

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    @hazardsg
    You will have to search a LOT.
    $400 for body, lens and a few backs seems pretty tight.
    If you shop, you should be able to find something.
    I think you could find a Speed Graphic with lens for your price.
    I really doubt that you will find a Sinar + lens for that price. Consider a Toyo as a more affordable starter 4x5 camera. There are several other brands that are good starters, but I can't remember the names. Spend some time browsing through eBay, to get a feel of the brands and prices. That is what I did before I got my Toyo (on Craigslist).

    As the guys suggested, think about what kind of view camera you want; press, field or rail. You can take rail camera into the field, but is NOT as convenient to do as a press or field camera.

    Be patient and watch eBay and Craigslist, and maybe you might get lucky. I have seen great deals come up every once in a while, but you have to move FAST when you see a deal. I've seen "buy it now" deals scooped up soon after they were listed.

    Also consider long term. If you get a GOOD lens, you can move that to a better camera (like a Sinar) later. So I would put more of the budget to the lens. On the other hand, you could consider getting a learning camera and get a complete camera (body+lens) in the form of a Speed Graphic. Not the best lens, but plenty adequate to learn on.
     
  16. nicholai

    nicholai Member

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    Well, i wonder i didn't post my answer in this thread. I too ascended from RB67 to 4x5 recently. My first choice was a MPP Micro Technical, at first i chose it over the other press cameras due to the movements it offers. It's not huge amounts, but its way more portable than a monorail. I then later decided i didn't need that as much as a focal plane shutter, so i bought a Speed Graphic. I just got it in the mail two days ago and haven't had time to have any experience with it yet. All i can say is, the Micro Technical is very portable and has decent movements.
     
  17. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Revolving backs are nice, but they make the camera much bigger and heavier (and in most cases more expensive). Best to stick to one that is reversible (you unlock it, rotate it 90 degrees, and re-attach it). I'll just re-iterate what's been said so far about pricing - you are unlikely to find a Sinar (even an F or A1) in useable condition with a lens for that price. Most of what you'll find complete with a lens and a few film holders will be press cameras and OLD monorails like the Calumet CC-4xx models (they made three, one normal - 16"-18" rail, one wide - 6"-8" rail with short bellows, and one long -24" rail IIRC) or the Graphic Views. Nothing at all wrong with them but they will be bulky because the rails neither extend nor collapse and they'll have few to no accessories beyond lensboards and maybe lens hoods. No matter what, your first camera will not be your last one because as others have said, you'll use it and find out some things work well for you and others you can't live with. But no big deal - there's plenty of other cameras out there. I don't know if there's a camera club in your area where someone else might already have a large format camera, but I'd try to find one and see if someone will let you borrow or at least handle theirs so you can get a feel for using a real one instead of reading a bunch of opinionated web posts.
     
  18. Brian C. Miller

    Brian C. Miller Member

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    hazardsg, welcome to the forum and good luck on your research. My first LF camera was/is a Graflex Super Graphic with a 135mm Wollensak Optar. It's a great starting platform, and many people use them for landscapes and whatever else. The camera is too limited for architectural photography, but it's more than enough for landscapes and such. The Wollensak lens is sharp, but it doesn't have a lot of sharp image circle for movements. However, the camera folds up with that lens into a nice compact bundle.

    Another choice is the Toyo 45AX, which is currently in production, and you can find them used for reasonable prices. Toyo bought the Graflex camera line, and initially produced a Toyo Super Graphic. I have a 45AX, and it has the same amount of front movement as the Super Graphic. It adds some rear swing, though, and the bed can be locked into elevated positions to give you a tremendous amount of rise.

    As for developing at home, I develop in my bathroom. I blacked out the windows, and I can develop on the sink counter. I usually use a Jobo, but for just one sheet I use a tray.

    Good luck!
     
  19. hazardsg

    hazardsg Member

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    Well I just purchased a Speed Graphic on ebay for $350. Here is what was included:

    1. Graflex Speed Graphic 4x5 Large Format Camera
    2. Kodak Ektar 127mm f/4.7 Graphic Supermatic (X) Lens
    3. Kodak Wollensak Rapax "Raptar Wide Angle" 90mm f/6.8 Lens
    4. Original Kodak lens cap
    5. FIVE Film Holders (Graphic Riteway Fidelity Elite)
    6. Kodak Professional Tri-X 320 TXP film (50) Expires 12/2013 [40 frames left in box]
    7. Large Film Changing Bag (double layered with dual sleeves and double zipper)
    8. THREE Kodak Darkroom Tanks and ELEVEN Film Guides
    9. Delsey GoPix Carrying Case Backpack[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]

    From the pictures and description everything appears to be in great working order. The seller said he used the camera around Christmas time. There was also a polaroid back that I believe is included as well shown in the pictures. I look forward to getting the opportunity to start shooting film again as the weather warms up a bit. I think having both lenses will be nice to figure out what I like best.
     
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  20. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Sounds like a nice package of gear, and it's a great starter camera at a very reasonable price for the set.