Looking for a 4x5 recommendation

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by rince, Oct 4, 2011.

  1. rince

    rince Member

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    Hi,

    I was developing some film the other day in a community darkroom and at the light table I saw a guy working on his 4x5 negs. We talked a bit and he showed me some prints and they blew me away. I usually shoot a Mamiya 7ii and thought I was spoiled when it came to neg quality, but little did I know ...
    I guess I really would like to give 4x5 a try. Do you have any recommendations for a versatile 4x5 beginner set? I looked at 4x5s but got lost in all the different models and manufacturer. Sure, every camera has strength and weaknesses, I am looking for a camera to mainly shoot landscapes, some city scopes and maybe an occasional portrait thrown in. The priorities for me are in the order listed.

    Thanks for your thoughts
    Dennis
     
  2. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    For versatile, a monorail system is a reliable choice. If you start talking light weight, compact, ruggedized, choices will differ.

    You can usually get a monorail system on c-list or the forums here from a retiring pro or a student who no longer needs it for $100-200 plus lens. Calumet and graflex made decent inexpensive monorails. Sinar is the name for higher end ones which blow that budget but are still a good value. You'll be able to sell it for what you paid for it, as long as you didn't overpay. Buy as nice a quality as you can afford in terms of how beat up or missing parts it is. defective bellows or missing parts can add up.

    If you want to pay more, you can get a field camera, which are more portable and have different amounts of versatility.

    A wider lens choice will be for city/landscape options (75-90mm), and a slightly longer than normal lens for portraits (200-240mm). Lens brand isn't critical; shutter operating condition is more important; if the shutter is gummed up, it'll be $50-150 to get that right again.

    My needs are different from yours. I like lots of subjects and use a speed graphic for it's portability and to use non-shuttered lenses.

    You will want a solid tripod for 4x5 as well. I use a tiltall, which is about as small a tripod as you want to go.
     
  3. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    There are both field cameras and those on rails. Each have their virtues. For portability a field camera is easier. I've been using a Toyo (metal body field) for many years. It's not high tech or fancy but has worked flawlessly and is compact and not too heavy. A sturdy tripod and good lenses should give you good results with any body you select.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  4. Jeff Searust

    Jeff Searust Member

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    Go Cheap

    I have a Toyo/Omega 45D that I bought several years ago that goes a lot of places with me. I think I paid about $150 for it. It's dirty, it's got a big scratch in the ground glass, and if I destroyed it I would walk away knowing it served me well. I have several lenses for it, none cost over $100 but all have a place. from a wide angle 90mm to a 300mm zeiss for portraits.

    My advice is to find a cheap camera that works, but several film holders and a couple lenses and just shoot. I am partial to rail cameras in 4x5 and field cameras for larger formats. --- buy one GOOD lens, it will last--- buy a 4x5 enlarger---
     
  5. Wilcoxson David L.

    Wilcoxson David L. Member

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    Welcome to the Dark Slide. Mr Searust makes some good suggestions above, but whatever you do, don't cheap out on the tripod and head. Cheap tripods suck and will make your life miserable. Do yourself a favor and buy a good one. You'll be glad you did. Cheers!
     
  6. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I'd stay away from a monorail because they aren't as portable and practical moutside a studio. Get a reasonably priced field camera, wooden or metal, anything from a Super Graphic/Toyo 45A to a Wista 45DX, Shen Hoa etc.

    Steer clear of Press camears with their limited movements, and all my comments are based on experience of using Monorails, Press cameras, and metal & wooden field cameras extensively.

    Ian
     
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  7. rince

    rince Member

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    Thank you all so very much. You all gave me some great things to think about and I have a better idea of what to look for. Are there any brands to stay away from?
     
  8. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    If the landscapes you want to do include long hikes, a field camera. If they're short walk from the car types, a monorail will work. One advantage to a monorail is it has more movements than field cameras. If you'd like to fully explore what movements can do, it's a great way to begin. That being said, I started with a metal Kodak Master-View monorail (about 30 years ago), but sold it about 10 years later to get a wood field.
    The advice you've been given about a sturdy tripod is spot on.
     
  9. mikebarger

    mikebarger Member

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    I carry a Sinar F in the same bag I use for a Zone VI 4X5. The F's fold up pretty flat.

    Mike
     
  10. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Subscriber

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    Agree with all this.

    A monorail isn't necessarily impractical, and is likely to be less expensive for a given quality level as well as have more versatile movements, but it depends on how far you are going and the monorail.

    I'd disagree slightly with the advice about avoiding press cameras. It depends on how much you want to spend and how much you already think you'll like it. If you mainly want the quality of the large negative, a press camera will give you negatives every bit as good (leaving aside focus plane manipulation) for little money and let you get started with 4x5. You can use the same lenses and move them to other cameras later. OTOH it's true that the movements are quite limited and you won't be able to do the things you can do with other cameras.

    An available budget figure would help us to give advice.

    Also bear in mind of course that you will need a lens or lenses, some film holders, probably a dark cloth (though a black tee shirt will do so that need not be expensive) and of course film, which isn't that cheap for 4x5, a fact that is somewhat offset by being slower to shoot.

    Expect a learning curve and to make mistakes. LF does exactly what you tell it and absolutely nothing for you and there are almost a comically large number of ways to mess up a sheet of film. Even after stumbling on most of those and getting over the initial learning curve so that I rarely made those silly mistakes, when I took it up again over 10 years after quitting I found I made a lot of them all over again!

    Also if you shoot anywhere there are other people get used to fielding questions and getting odd looks ranging from fascination to a sort of "look at the Luddite" kind of thing. :wink: Even if you are used to that from shooting with a medium format rangefinder a 4x5 camera will take it to another level.

    It's fascinating, frustrating, a lot of fun, and can produce incredibly good images.
     
  11. mikebarger

    mikebarger Member

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    Wisely spoken.
     
  12. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Subscriber

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  13. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    ditto these comments
     
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  15. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    Dennis ...

    you are used to shooting a mamiya7ii ...
    it is a camera with no movements ...
    if you are interested in a 4x5 camera with no movements
    one that you can open the lens and shutter, focus on the ground glass
    and expose your film ... and not worry about perspective control, making looming forground
    or wacky distortions .. a speed graphic press camera night be something to consider.
    they have a focal plane shutter and allow you to use anything you can imagine as a lens
    ( magnifying glasses, enlarger lenses, cheap inexpensive lenses, brass lenses &C )
    they also allow you a large negative. think newspaper camera from the 1940s ...
    but if you hope to have perspective control, the ability to alter what is in focus and not in focus
    making things "loom" then i agree with ian grant suggested ...
    monorails can be cumbersome, folding field cameras are portable and allow for movements,
    and press cameras are bare bones ...

    they all have pros and cons .. it all depends on what you need ...

    good luck !
    john
     
  16. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Subscriber

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    Yep, and you may not KNOW what you need until you dip into it for a while.

    That's ok. Unlike 35mm or MF where a lens system marries you to the bodies for those lenses you can pretty much put any LF lens (at least, the ones mounted in a shutter and there are ways of using barrel lenses) on any camera. Start out with a decent deal on a used body and if you find you want something else later moving on won't cost much. You should be able to sell your first camera for as much or close to what you paid and move on, keeping everything else. (Well, you may need new lens boards.)
     
  17. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    if all he needed is something but a glorified 35mm
    no movement camera ... then maybe that is all that is needed
    with a 4x5 camera ...

    perspective controlling movements aren't the be-all and end-all of photography
     
  18. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    That's why I'd advise staying away from any camera with very limited movements, like a Press camera.

    The benefits of LF over medium format are the larger film size and the ability to use movements, compared to conventional MF TLR's, SLR's and Rangefinder cameras.

    In the 35 years I've been using LK the only LF cameras that have restricted the images I've been wanting to shoot have been Speed/Crown Graphics purely because of their poor range of movements. The big advantage of a Press camera is for hand held use.

    With some thought it's possible to find a good compromise with a Technical camera, MPP MicroTechnical, Super Graphic, Toyo 45A, Linhof Technika etc. These combine the best attributes of a wooden field camera with the practicality of a Press camera for hand held work.

    Yes a monorail has more potential for movements but I've never got close to the extremes of movements with my Wista 45DX (field camera) in the landscape (and architecture) or the studion.

    Ian
     
  19. johnjohnc

    johnjohnc Member

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    I have a Top of the line Toyo 4x5 G

    which in its day was a top of the Toyo Line ...It has all the movements swings and tilts .. There are some nice asseories that your can get for it .. Wide angle bellows, recessed lens holders, bellows shade, and various viewers.... Every thing is metal on it where other Toyo models have plastic rail clamps which are easliy broken..

    I am going to be selling mine if you have any intrest...It has a top of the line case, wide angle bellows, the regular bellows is light tight, has extesion rail, and adjustable lens shade....It also has a revolving back which is nice... It will do every thing you want it to do plus. It also has removeable bellows .......Price with the listed assessories ( no lens or lensboard ) is $600 complete...

    John Cremati 216-651-9949 johnjohnc@att.net
     
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  20. r.e.

    r.e. Member

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    In earlier posts, you say that you carry the Mamiya 7II around regularly and that what you like about it is that, for the format, it is relatively light and compact. I also use a Mamiya 7II, as well as an Arca-Swiss 4x5 and Arca-Swiss 8x10, and I wonder whether the larger negative that a 4x5 camera will give you is worth the tradeoff in greater weight and bulk. Unless you want to make very large prints, or have decided that you need to make in-camera perspective corrections, the Mamiya will fulfill your priorities (unless you want to do head and shoulders portraits) every bit as well as a 4x5, with less weight, bulk and hassle.

    I think that you should step back a bit and take your time on this. I'd like to suggest that you ask the gentleman that you met at the darkroom whether you can go with him on a shoot. Most people who use large format cameras would be delighted to do this, and it would give you an opportunity to use a 4x5 camera and perhaps to process and print some film.

    I'd also suggest that you have a look at Jack Dykinga's book Large Format Nature Photography. It contains many examples of landscape photography, which is your primary interest, with detailed information about how they were shot. You will come away with a clear understanding of how 4x5 cameras operate and lens options. If you are technically oriented, I would also suggest that you have a look at Leslie Stroebel's View Camera Technique.

    If you decide to purchase a view camera, one of the key considerations is what lens or lenses to get. As I understand it, you are using your Mamiya 7II with the 80mm lens. In 4x5, a lens around 150mm would be roughly equivalent. I would suggest that you have a look at the depth of field tables on the Schneider Optics site to get an understanding of the impact on apparent depth of field of the longer lenses used on large format cameras. The tables are at https://www.schneideroptics.com/info/depth_of_field_tables/index.htm. These tables apply not only to Schneider's lenses, but to those of any maker of large format lenses (e.g. Rodenstock, Nikon, Fuji). All of this said, I do wonder whether you might be better off buying an additional lens for your Mamiya, if you think you need one, or a good tripod and head, if you don't have one, than buying a 4x5 camera and all of the paraphernalia that goes with it.

    Hope this helps.
     
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  21. Thingy

    Thingy Member

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    I suggest you get yourself a copy of Steve Simmons excellent introductory book into the world of LF photography, below.

    Steve Simmons
    Using the View Camera: A creative guide to large format photography

    Avavailable from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Using-View-Camera-creative-photography/dp/0817463534

    It is a much easier read than Stroebel's excellent but very technical book - and significantly cheaper!

    For landscape photography one of the principal advantages of using a view camera, is the ability to tilt the front lens. Through the Scheimpflug principle, which uses this facility, you can get a sharp image in both the foreground and background, if you wish.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheimpflug_principle

    You may also find this YouTube video helpful... :smile:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR4m70xr9mE
     
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  22. rince

    rince Member

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    Thank you so much R.E. !
    I really appreciate your inside and bringing up the comparison between the Mamiya and a possible 4x5. I guess I was just really impressed with the negative quality, which is great form the Mamiya, but I felt that the transition between tones were smoother on the 4x5 neg. In this case I was lucky enough to look at a negative of acros 100, a film that I also usually shoot.
    But you are right, I maybe should step back and be rational about it. As you mentioned correctly, I love my Mamiya 7 for the ease of carrying it with me wherever I go. I started using the 150mm as well and I rented the 43mm on occasion. I have excepted that I can not do headshots with my Mamiya as I used to do with my RB67. The Mamiya 7 is a great camera and I am not looking to replace it. I just would like to add a 4x5 to the mix. So to put it in one sentence, do I absolutely need one? Probably not! Still I am really intrigued looking at the great extra possibilities and being able to have perspective control in a camera.
    I think I will follow your advise and find someone to shadow on a 4x5 shoot and maybe even rent a kit and see if it is really what I want. Thank you again!!!
     
  23. rince

    rince Member

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    Again, thank you very much everyone! I really appreciate the great answers and all the help that you are giving me, even though I know my question was very hard to answer, you all gave me great direction of thoughts to follow.
    I guess I will get myself one of the recommended books and after reading it I will try and shadow a 4x5 shooter and make a decision then.
     
  24. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Subscriber

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    The Simmons book is quite helpful.

    As for focus plane, you can get sharp foregrounds either by tilting the lens or the back. Some cameras, including my Technika III, have back tilt but only backwards lens tilt, which is the wrong way for sharpening the foreground. They include this for use with a dropped bed. Dropping the bed is something you can do with these cameras to prevent getting the bed in the image area with a very wide angle lens, but you then have to tilt the lens back to vertical. There is a work around if I need it, but I'll get to that in a minute.

    The choice between tilting the back or the lens comes down to this: tilting the lens changes only the plane of focus and not the shape or relative size of objects. Tilting the back moves the film plane farther away in one area than another and thus changes both the apparent shape (much as tilting the camera up causes converging verticals) and relative size of foreground objects. For many landscape shots many of us prefer tilting the back for just this reason. By making things in the foreground appear slightly larger it can add a sense of depth to the image. This is sometimes called "looming" of foreground objects. That makes it sound more pronounced than it usually is. The effect isn't that radical, but it's sometimes helpful and more often at least harmless. But if you have geometric shapes in the foreground or things that you don't want to emphasize or distort (faces, parts of buildings, whatever), it's better to tilt the lens.

    In that case, one thing to learn about large format is there's often more than one way to get the exact same subject-lens-film plane relationship. I can't tilt my lens forward, but I DO have front swing, and I can simply turn my camera up on its side on the tripod, as if shooting a vertical (not necessary with large format to actually shoot verticals since we generally have either revolving or reversible backs - mine is revolving) and then the front swing effectively becomes front tilt. Likewise, many field cameras lack front shift. I have it but rarely need it. But if you need it and don't have it you can re-aim the camera and swing the front one way and the back the other and end up with exactly the same lens-film relationship. This won't be clear form any amount of text description but is obvious with a couple of photo illustrations, a big reason for getting a book or two.

    I shoot both LF and MF for exactly this reason.

    I just had a few prints in a little show some friends did, sort of a thing to show of the various art of people in our loose knit community. Two of them were 11x14 prints from 4x5 negatives and tack sharp and apparently grainless even from a very close viewing distance. The third one is about 10.5x10.5 (very slight rectangular crop actually) from a 6x6 negative. That one could have been shot on 4x5 and would have been slightly better (it's on FP4+ and unlike the 4x5 from TMY, if you get very close and look very close you can barely detect some grain, for example) and considerably easier to print if I'd taken the time for a 4x5 shot. I'd have done more metering, given more shadow exposure and probably given N- development so I wouldn't have been printing the main image with a grade 3 1/2 filter and burning down the sunlit tree highlights with a softer filter. BUT - the shot was of a courtyard where we stayed on a trip to New Orleans. I took it while heading out to somewhere or other, with my Yashicamat. Taking that negative probably took 15-20 seconds including a meter reading with the Luna Pro. To shoot it on 4x5 I'd have dragged out the big camera, set it on a tripod, and probably taken 10-15 minutes to carefully compose, focus, spot meter etc. I had other things to do and places to go, which is why I shoot both.

    Large format is great when I'm going out for the purpose of photographing and feel like spending some time at it. When I'm going out for other purposes too and might see something I want to photograph, medium format gives me quality closer to large format than to 35mm with speed and ease of shooting much closer to 35mm than to large format. It's a great compromise, but I'm glad I have all three (including 35mm.)

    Do you need it? I dare say not. I don't really even need a film camera. But something I learned in other expensive hobbies, the relevant questions are: 1) can you afford it? and 2) do you enjoy it? If the answer to both is "yes" then get it and quit worrying about need or trying to justify it. :wink:
     
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  25. jdimichele

    jdimichele Member

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    Dennis,

    Welcome to your large format journey, you are really going to enjoy it! Most people find the proper camera for them after they've used them for a while. So I will give you my thoughts and history with my cameras:

    1) I started out with a super graphic because it was cheap and portable. I shoot mostly landscape and scenic subjects so it seemed the right tool for the job. It had very nice front movements and could handle a decent variery of lenses. You don't need that much movement at all for landscape specific work, unless you want to start playing around with perspective in which the back movements are important.
    2) I moved on to a Cambo 4x5 monorail which I backpack into the field with a Lowepro Super Trekker. I find that my large format kit is lighter than my digital kit because I have less lenses and accessories for it. I got the monorail for a song and absolutely love the amount of control and higher quality of workmanship with the camera. It takes less than a minute to get the front and rear standards out of the backpack and put them on the rail.
    3) I recently purchased a Busch Pressman for that ultra-light 4x5 folding camera because I also got it for a song. I still use the Cambo 4x5 monorail 99% of the time.
    4) I also recently purchased an 8x10 Cambo monorail. I work out of the car with it because it is so bulky (although again, lighter kit or equal to my 4x5 kit). I also got it for a song.

    Bottom line is that you won't be disappointed with any 4x5 camera you get. If you are used to backpacking and carrying weight, you can get away with most monorails. Sometimes the extra movements are great, and the while you can get folding cameras with full front and back movements, you're probably going to pay a lot more.

    Cheers,
    Jay
     
  26. Paul Jenkin

    Paul Jenkin Member

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    A really interesting and very useful thread for me also. I've just acquired what I believe is a bit of a bargain - a Wista "Field" 5x4 complete with a Wista 150mm "press" lens.

    The only negative is that one of the brass locking nuts from one of the front boad is missing. However, I'm taking the camera to a local nuts and bolts emporium and I'm sure I'll find something that will tide me over until I find a way to obtain a Wista replacement. If anyone has contact details for the manufacturer, I'd be grateful to receive them. I've asked the UK distributor for the details but they have not been forhcoming and say they can't obtain a replacement part on my behalf. A bit frustrating but I'll work round them.

    I have a couple of "Toyo" film carriers / dark slides. I'm looking for more. Which are the best / most compatible / cheapest options, please? Also, as I'm a complete newbie to 4x5, I would like to get my hands on a Polaroid back - so I can get instant feedback on what I'm doing - right or wrong.

    I'm going to get the Steve Simmons book as that looks like a good source of sound advice and something I can carry around with me.

    One of the things I like about the Wista is that it fits very easily into a Billingham Hadley bag alongside a few film carriers and my Minolta IVf meter. I have a lightweight travel tripod with an 8kg rating (I also have a Manfrotto 055 X ProB as well - but not so portable), so I just need to get a hood / blackout and I'm pretty sorted.

    My main subject will be landscape. I get the impression that a 150mm lens on a 5x4 gives a similar view to a 50mm on 35mm. That being the case, will a 90mm be approximately the same as a 28mm field of view?

    Sorry for the brain dump / questions but I'd be really glad to receive any tips pointers.

    Good luck and best wishes to the OP as well.

    Paul.