Large Monorail Beginner

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Joburger, Dec 23, 2012.

  1. Joburger

    Joburger Member

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    Hi everyone and thanks for having me on this amazing forum. I'm looking at buying a Camulet 4 x 5 monorail camera to do portraits in my studio under monoblocs and before I do, I have a few questions that no amount of searching the internet has so far been able to completely clarify. If there is anyone out there who can help me, I'd be very grateful.

    1. Are medium format lenses and shutter separate items that are a required purchase separately? After looking at Keh, it seems that some of the lenses have built in shutters and other older ones screw in and the shutter is a separate entity, is this correct?

    2. I imagine I'll have to connect my key light through a synch lead. Do these 4 x 5 set ups take a standard modern synch lead and if so, where on the combination does it attach?

    3 My work involves taking the same colour portrait with a different subject every time. Basically head and shoulders. Can anyone suggest a good portrait lens from the current Keh stock? Since my work is currently done on 35mm, I have been using an 85mm f1.4 so I was thinking perhaps a 150 or a 210mm, is this correct?

    4. In terms of shutter speed selection, do view camera shutters offer the same range of speeds? I currently shoot everything at 1/200 at f5.6 at 100 but I have heard that this all goes out the window when you are using a view camera.

    5. Can anyone recommend a tripod for this set up which won't leave me bankrupt?

    6. In terms of film, I have heard that you can load your own (I'd have to use a bag so have dust risk) or you can purchase film 'pre-packaged' - can anyone tell me what the general term for this 'pre-packaged' film is so I don't appear like a half wit when I ring the camera store.

    7. Lastly, I assume I buy a board with a hole in the middle for the lens. There seems to be a lot of variety in this simple item. Some list several holes as a feature which I can't get my head around. Do I just buy a 4 x 5 board?

    Thank you in advance. I'm hoping to place an order with Keh as soon as I have these questions clarified. Have a fantastic Christmas and a happy and successful New Year. Cheers Chris
     
  2. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Hi Chris,

    Let me give you my advise, and I'm sure there will be a lot of additional wisdom from others too.

    1. I think you meant "large format". Yes many come with shutter and otehrs are "in barrel" meaning no shutter. You'll get most use out of one with shutter.

    2. The newer ones (1980s or so, and later) have PC. Some earlier ones use other connectors. Paramount can make cords with virtually any connector you need so the older styles are a minimal impediment.

    3. For head-and-shoulders -- 210 or even better a 300 would be my suggestion.

    4. The bigger the shutter the slower the top speed... generally speaking.

    5. Someone else will have to answer this one... I don't really know the current tripod market.

    6. Readiloads and the like are gone. You'll need to load film holders yourself. It is easy.

    7. For the Cambo it is a metal board. They come in the basic shutter sizes and it is much easier to buy the board to fit your shutter than adapt the wrong size.
     
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  3. Alan Gales

    Alan Gales Subscriber

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    Look for a used Majestic tripod with head. They are big, heavy and cheap. If you prefer a studio stand than a tripod sometimes they sell cheap on Craigslist.
     
  4. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    Chris,

    You're shooting strobes so, you'll need a (modern) shutter that has a flash synch connector. The Copal shutter is common and usually, pretty reliable. I don't think I've ever seen one with out synch. So, the way it works with the vast majority of modern lenses is that the lens is really two groups of lenses. One group is screwed into the front of the shutter and the other screws into the back. Usually, the shutter and lens all come together as a unit. In your situation, avoid lenses in barrel - that is, the ones with out a shutter. Also avoid the ones in "DB Mount" this is peculiar to Sinar and not generally useful unless you have a Sinar Shutter thingy.


    The lens mounts to a lens board. Generally speaking, you will need a lens board that is specifically made for your camera. A few types/sizes have become defacto standards...but, again you will need the right lens board for your camera. Here's the neat part...only the lens board is specific to the camera...that is, Copal Shutters only come in a few sizes...so, once you have a lens board that fits your camera and has the right sized hole in the middle of it you're set. The copal #0 shutter needs a 35mm hole, Copal #1 needs a 42 mm hole and the big Copal #3 shutter needs a 65mm hole...

    My personal preference for "head and shoulders" on 4x5 is 240mm...but, that is just because I happen to have a really nice 240mm f/5.6 lens. Prior to that I used a 210mm lens - which is fine. (caveat: I rarely do tight head and shoulders).

    Strobe lighting and exposure basics don't change just because you move from 35mm to 4x5. You may want to give consideration to fact that you'll e using a longer focal length lens on 4x5 than you do with 35mm...the effect that the longer focal length lens has on depth of field may entice you to use a smaller aperture with 4x5 than you are used to with small format.


    Modern Copal #0 shutters (150mm lens) have the usual shutter speed progression that you are accustomed to - except that 500 is the highest speed. Copal #1 shutters (210mm lenses) go to...hmmm, is is 400? Anyway, the progression is the same as you are used to but the highest speed will be less than 500. Sometimes much less (Copal #3 only go to 125). The Copal Press shutter also stops at 125). In anycase, you will likely find little use for the highest speeds.


    Film holders and hand loaded individual sheets are the order of the day. As Brian said above, the packets, called "ready loads" or "quick loads" are all gone now.

    All of these questions and more are easier to demonstrate than to write about (well for me anyway). You may wish to find somebody nearby to help you understand how this all works - it is not complicated...but, it is a little different from 35mm...to that end, I also suggest that you take a moment to add your location to your profile info. It helps in so many ways.

    Tripods and heads are too personal a matter for me to comment on. To each his own I say. Try a bunch and figure out what works for you.
     
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  5. Joburger

    Joburger Member

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    Wow, so much information and so quickly, and on Christmas Eve to boot! Thank you so much. Brad I'm based in Melbourne, Australia and I will update my profile shortly. Thanks so much for the clarification on lenses, I think I'll look for a modern 210mm lens from Keh to begin with as the ones on Ebay all seem to have some issue or other.
    Alan, thanks for the suggestion regarding a tripod, I will begin looking for a Majestic as soon as I finish typing this.
    I'll let you know when all this kit arrives as I'm bound to have more questions but just while you are here, could I bother you with two more?
    I understand that generally speaking a monorail will not be tilted or shifted for portraiture unless of course I want to deliberately change the focal plane as an artistic consideration. I'm anticipating that I will be using this camera bang on straight ahead directly in front of the subject for the most part. Is this the general situation with portraiture when using a view camera?
    Just one more.
    With my kind of portraiture obviously, a 5 x 4 frame is more suitable than 4 x 5. I believe that the ground glass on the later Camulets may be turned. Does this change the frame from landscape 4 x 5 to portrait 5 x 4 or do you have to turn the whole camera that way as in 35mm? Excuse my profound ignorance but this is one I forgot to ask and I can't get my head around it.
    Thanks again Chris
     
  6. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    Chris- the back rotates, so it's not an issue. 5x4, or 4x5, no problem.
     
  7. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    With regard to camera movements. I definitely recommend starting with everything zeroed up...that is, front and back parallel. You'll have enough to do without fiddling around with movements. remember that everything takes longer with large format and you still have the subject to deal with.


    It's not christmas eve here yet... :smile:
     
  8. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Hmm. You like an 85 on 35 mm still. The normal focal length for 35 mm still is 43 mm (I know that's not what the small format shooters think, but their minds are prisoners of an historical accident). So you like a lens whose focal length is twice normal. Seriously consider a 300 mm lens instead of a 150 (that's normal for 4x5) or 210 (1.4x normal).

    Educate yourself about Calumet 4x5 cameras. Calumet manufactured what are really Kodak Master View cameras for some years. These have fixed bellows, bail backs, rotating backs, came in three lengths. Look here http://www.cameraeccentric.com/html/info/calumet_2.html for more information. The bail back is a sort of super spring back, won't accept roll holders. Not a loss for what you say you want to do.

    Calumet also distributed Cambo view cameras and sold Cambos badged as Calumets. These are fully modular cameras, can be made as long as wanted with additional standards and bellows and, yes, a longer rail. Here's http://www.cameraeccentric.com/html/info/cambo_1.html a Cambo catalog, for their SC series. Newer Cambos and Calumets that use 1" square rails are minor variations on the SC. The SC and offspring were sold with bail backs and rotating international backs (not shown in that early catalog). The international back accepts roll holders. The bail backs are what's called reversible, can be attached to the rear standard in landscape and in portrait orientation; switching requires detaching the back, rotating it 90 degrees, and reattaching it.

    The Calumet CC-401 is a very capable camera, will do all you say you want to do. The same is true of the 4x5 Cambo SC and later versions.

    A CC-401 should cost a bit less than a 4x5 Cambo/Calumet, is a bit more limited. If I haven't said it yet, for what you say you want to do the two cameras are functionally equivalent. If you decide to buy a Cambo/Calumet, make sure that the camera you buy has a back and that the back has a ground glass in it. I've seen many offered without backs, just a rail, two standards, bellows and tripod mounting block. Loose backs aren't cheap.
     
  9. Ed Bray

    Ed Bray Member

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    Another thing you will have to take into account is that when using the monorail to take full frame Head & Shoulder portraits you are likely to be closer than the 8-10x focal length distance (at which it is deemed not to require exposure compensation) which will require you to make an exposure compensation for the length of the bellows (increased fall off of light).

    The easy way to do this is to take the focal length in inches (say 10" 250mm) and the length of the bellows between the standards in inches (say 14"), transpose the two figures into f nos f10-f14 and calculate the difference between them, in this example it would equal approximately 1 stop.

    200mm lens (8") with 13" bellows would give f8-f13 = approx 1 and 1/3 stops to be added.
     
  10. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Since your studio, I assume, is set up to use the 85mm lens on 35mm then you should understand that a 210mm lens is going to see a bit wider, something like a 60mm lens might see on your 35mm camera.

    Just understand that with the 210 you might need to move the camera position forward a fair bit to keep the camera from seeing past the edges of your background. You might want to consider a bit longer lens say 300ish if moving forward would put you in a bind or you simply want to keep the same camera position.

    When I do the math I use the short edge of any film as my reference vs. the focal length. In your case I get a 24mm:85mm ratio. For 4x5 film 4"=~100mm which is essentially 4x24 so then we go 4x85 which suggests a lens that focuses on the subject when it is 340mm from the film.

    This isn't an exact suggestion for focal length on LF because, unlike 35mm cameras where the lens is solidly attached and focusing doesn't change the angle of view appreciably, focusing on a close subject with a LF camera means moving the lens furthar away from the film which will narrow the cameras angle of view.

    A 300mm(ish) focal length lens would be a reasonable guess to get focused on a portrait subject with the lens somewhere close to 340mm from the film.
     
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  11. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    If you now shoot at f/5.6, to get the same depth of field you'll be stopping down to about f/22 on a Calumet. You may need to provide more light for this. You can also use faster film in a LF camera and still get fine quality.

    Lens boards for the Calumet are easy to improvise from thin plywood with basic woodworking tools.

    Over many decades I've accumulated several tripods, but almost always use an old American made Tiltall, not the newer imported models. Many other tripods would do as well. Price is not necessarily an indication of function and durability. Don't skimp on tripods. Cameras may come and go; a good tripod can last a lifetime.

    The Calumet and Cambo are decent cameras, but so are many others such as the Graphic View II and the Burke & James. Rather than search for a specific brand and model, I'd settle for whatever is available in good condition at the right price. Often buying a view camera with a lens that fits your needs is cheaper than buying them seperately.

    Knowledge is power. One or more good books on LF photography are worth their cost. This site and http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/ are treasure-troves of information.
     
  12. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    The other thought here is to make sure the camera has a long enough rail to deal with your chosen focal length plus a fair chunk. Some have been shortened.
     
  13. Joburger

    Joburger Member

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    Thanks Dan, The more I hear from you guys, the more I realize I should hold back and educate myself rather than diving in. Assuming I purchased a Camumet CC-401, and they come in 3 sizes, what size would I need if I did decide to use a 300mm lens? Thanks also for those links, I'll take a look now.
     
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  15. Joburger

    Joburger Member

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    Thanks everyone, The more I hear from you guys, the more I realize I should hold back and educate myself rather than diving in. Dan & Mark, assuming I purchased a Camumet CC-401and they come in 3 sizes, what size would I need if I did decide to use a 300mm lens? Thanks also for those links, I'll take a look now.
    Jim, I'm currently using my monoblocs on pretty low settings so I'm sure I can crank them up for an eqivalent exposure. Can you recommend a good reference on large format as I'm heavy with book vouchers following Christmas!
    Ed, I've printed out your reply and I'm going to try to get my head around it later tonight.
    Thanks again, I appreciate you taking the time to help me out. Chris
     
  16. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Chris

    There also several lengths of bellows. I'd say for what you are considering 18" extension would work nicely.

    A 300mm/12" lens racked out to 24" extension gets you 1:1 macro which can be nice for detail/product shots.
     
  17. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Go here http://www.cameraeccentric.com/html/info/calumet_2.html and read. The dimensions are on page 8. The CC-401 is the longest Calumet.

    I suspect that the only posters in this thread who actually have a Calumet view camera are me and Mr. Jones. I have a CC-401. Those of you who don't have one should read the catalog (the link is in this post) so that in the future you'll post less silly advice.
     
  18. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    My favorite LF photography book is View Camera Techniques by Leslie Stroebel. It is the most technical in my library. Early editions are somewhat dated, though. The many books, fairly new and rather old, by Ansel Adams are good. Often recommended is Using the View Camera by Steve Simmons. Two others are A User's Guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone and The View Camera by Harvey Shaman. I'd have to go through all of these to refresh an aging memory before ranking them. For us who use older equipment, newer books have few advantages over some of the old classics. If possible, examine the books available in libraries and book stores to select what seems most suitable to you. No one book covers every aspect of LF photography lucidly and thoroughly.
     
  19. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    SC-IIR, since about 1982.

    p.s. Where in the thread did the CC series become the primary subject? Given the good prices available on SC series... that might be a better option.
     
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  20. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    See posts #14 and #8 in this thread. As I read the thread, post #8 was the first to point out that Calument offered at least two very different ranges of 4x5 cameras. Post #14 makes it clear that the OP is focused, for better or for worse, on Calumet CCs, not on Cambo SCs, also gives the impression that the OP is somewhat resistant to advice, i.e., doesn't follow links ...

    Brian, as teaching instruments go the bulletin board has many weaknesses. You've just provided a nice example of one. Failure to pay attention to questions.
     
  21. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I understood the question in post 1, Dan. The way I read it, the OP is doing a lot of thinking... some "out loud". Yes, after you mentioned the CC the OP started thinking along that line. But I read it that the thinking has not yet been sufficient to reach a concensus on opinion or direction and is still fairly open to alternatives.

    So... to the OP: Of Dan's two suggestions, I'd add that you might consider looking at the SC series as an better option if you are focused on a Calumet/Cambo camera. It is newer and there are more accessories/options easily/affordably available.
     
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  22. Joburger

    Joburger Member

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    Dan, I couldn't get the link on my computer for some reason (it has developed a number of issues recently) I just got it up on my wife's and page 8 ansers my question so thank you.
    Jim, thanks for the references, I managed to find a copy of Jim Stone's book.
    Brian, you are dead right, I'm thinking out loud and having trouble just working out how to post on a forum which I've never done brfore let alone decide on what view camera equipment to purchase! Thanks gentlemen.
     
  23. Ed Bray

    Ed Bray Member

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    Thanks for that, No I do not have a Calumet, but unless they have managed to change the laws of physics what has having a Calumet got to do with my post, and at which point does it become silly exactly? I suspect many new users of large format cameras are not immediately aware of the requirement of allowing for the bellows extension and are thus surprised when their first attempts are under-exposed.
     
  24. dpn

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    I second the Tiltall recommendation for a sturdy, cheap tripod. I have an old Leitz-branded one that I bought at an estate sale for $50. It stinks like rancid lubricant grease and cigarette smoke, but it's quite solid with my RB67 + 180mm lens. I have to imagine that it'd be great for a 4x5 view camera as well.
     
  25. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Ed, what set me off was a suggestion to the effect that the OP would need 24" of bellows to shoot at 1:1 with a 300 mm lens. This is absolutely true, but seems a little odd in context because the OP seems to want a CC-401. Very capable camera and all that, but its catalogued maximum extension is 21".

    What was missing was the news that a CC-401 won't go to 1:1 with a 300 mm lens and a suggestion to the effect that if that was very important to the OP then a CC-401 probably wasn't the right camera for him. Funny thing is, in post #1 in this thread the OP said that his goal was to shoot portraits with flash in a studio. I worked for most of my life as a statistical/management consultant and one of the first things I learned was to pay attention to -- extract it by torture, ideally without refinements of cruelty, if necessary -- what the client wanted to accomplish.

    IMO the best advice in this discussion came from Jim Jones, who suggested that the OP read a few books before doing anything else. I've suggested the same books to beginners, am a little ashamed that I didn't beat Jim to it.

    Cheers,

    Dan
     
  26. Alan Gales

    Alan Gales Subscriber

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    Tiltalls are great. I use one with my Crown Graphic 4x5 press camera but I wouldn't think of using it with my heavy Sinar P 4x5 monorail.

    Even using a lightweight monorail you need a heavier tripod. Just think about it. At one end you have your heavy 300mm f/5.6 lens and at the other end the ground glass and film holder. For close-up portraits you will have your bellows racked out so your weight will be at each end and not directly over the tripod. For close-up portraiture I like a big, heavy monster that is like a rock. Even if I bump into the thing it won't move. :smile: