Making the leap to LF

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by 77seriesiii, Feb 1, 2009.

  1. 77seriesiii

    77seriesiii Member

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    Hello all, I have been lurking here for awhile and have been absorbing as much information on LF as I can before I started asking questions. Most of the photography I am interested in is outdoors, little studio work so I thought a foldable camera would be best. I like hiking and architecture and am drawn to this style of photography. Both my wife and I (she is budding pro photographer and I like gadgets...) are into photography and have recently started shooting film again. I cant stand digital and it has nothing to do with not likely tech, it has to do with the time warp that occurs when I strap a computer on and I just lost 6-8 hours of a day and not really knowing what I did for that lost time...

    Anyway, I just read this on Ebony's site: http://www.ebonycamera.com/articles/fold.exp.html

    Sorry for the delay up front but a bit about my self I guess helps. So my question: For the type of photography I like which type of camera should I research, foldable or non-folding?

    Thanks for the help

    ./e
     
  2. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Styles, you mean :wink: Hiking and architecture represent the two equipment extremes of LF. The former is often done with a lightweight, folding field camera with limited movements and lenses with just-adequate coverage; convertible lenses are often just fine for this sort of thing. Architecture usually calls for a heavy monorail camera, perhaps with bag bellows, capability to do pretzelbellows movements, and substantial lenses with big image circles to make use of that flexibility.

    I think you need to decide for yourself which of those camps you'd fit into, most of the time. Frankly, I am not much a fan of the one-camera-does-it-all approach... just decide whether you want a field or technical for now, and you'll buy the other one eventually anyway :wink:

    P.S. I should hasten to add, you can do landscape with monorail and architecture with a folding camera... you really can. But there are good reasons why these are two separate camps in LF.
     
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  3. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    I would, of course, begin with the camera. I would check the reviews and, as Keith points out, get something light if you have ANY intention of hitting the trails with it. The second thing I would look at would be stability. Go for as light weight as you possibly can but do not skimp on sturdiness. A slight breeze comes up and that bread box you're hauling around would dance in the breeze on a lesser tripod making perfect focus nigh immposible. Thirdly I would look to lenses. View camera has a great size comparison between formats so you could take your 35mm a-typical focal lengths and fin a more-or less-LF equivalent.

    Word to the wise, there are deals to be had but be prepared to start shelling out some major league moolah.
     
  4. 77seriesiii

    77seriesiii Member

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    Damn, this will be painful then as we are in the big city as much as we are in the woods. I live in Germany have the forest/vineyards in my backyard and 3 major cities under 40 minutes to chose from. I understand the one doesnt do everything approach and if you attempt it there will be a compromise of one over the other. Of the two types foldable vs non, which is the better, ok read easier, to learn LF basics? I am probably 6 months from buying a camera and am trying to get as informed prior to purchase, to make sure I get what I want out of the equipment. I think I have a retired military guy in the area that is film pro and I will be hitting him up for suggestions/help he just doesnt know it yet. ;-) I'm not worried about the weight of the equipment did a lot of carrying large rucks/equipment in woods, so the foldable vs non is not a weight issue I guess it is the using the right tool for the job issue.

    Thnx

    ./e
     
  5. 77seriesiii

    77seriesiii Member

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    Sturdiness I am ok with, winds do get preeetttty steep so a solid camera is something I am looking for. Tripod wise, I have a bogen/manfrotti that doubles as a war club bought it for a DSLR and it was overkill, almost never used it but would easily hold a LF camera. I think the head (pan n tilt) can take 15-18lbs and weighs 12...like I said I bought when i was younger and wasnt thinking clearly...a girl was involved (wife...mine ;-)

    ./e
     
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  6. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    Not knowing your budget, but assuming you don't own your own country, I'd start with a less than top dollar camera. The Ebony is royalty; the Shen Hao is working class, and like a good worker, gets the job done nicely. That way you can save for some seriously good glass in the focal lengths you find you choose most often (wide, normal, short tele, or long). There's also the matter of what you expect to do with the negatives/trannies you shoot. Will you be enlarging your own negs, contact printing, or scanning and printing d********y? Except for contact printing, the other options can be costly as you may already realize. OTOH, perhaps you do own your own country in which case you should disregard everything I just wrote and spend like crazy! :D
     
  7. 77seriesiii

    77seriesiii Member

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    no dont own my own country. But we do own an Epson 7600 (22inch roll printer) so that may help. I dont own an enlarger yet but after a turn or two will go that route. I will start with developing the negatives and then scan or maybe borrow equipment time from a soon to be acquaintance (the guy I mentioned earlier...). I have taken a look at a few of the camera places KEH and Mid-West Exchange are the only ones to date. I know that good glass is important and that is where I need to sink the first big money. the camera will need to be a sound solid performer. I am not sure on ePray, yes a good deal can be found, but the buyer beware risk runs high with little recourse.
    But as stated earlier, too soon for me to be salivating on camera name (but I already am...), still more to read and information to collect. thanks for the tip on the Shen Hao, I hadnt heard that name yet so I will look into them.

    ./e
     
  8. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Since it sounds like an inexpensive camera is possibly in the works then there's no reason not to cruise ebay for a bargain basement, get you started kind of camera. I am currently on my first camera, someone's hand-me-down homemade camera. I fashioned a new base for it to make it more solid and my wife got me a transit tripod for Christmas. Bigger, more solid and I was able to expoxy a 5/8"-11 hex nut into a hole in the base I made so that I could affix the camera to the tripod. I think I got started LF for under $350.00 USD all told, including Arista.edu 4x5 sheet film from www.freestylephoto.biz I even picked up an old Alice LC-1 ODG backpack on ebay for the occasion of lugging it around.

    So to just get the hang of it it doesn't have to be QUITE so painful. Once you get the feel for the large format photography and find your niche, where you want to go, you might have a little more direction to work from.
     
  9. SteveH

    SteveH Member

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    I agree with all the above posts. My first LF camera was a studio type (Sinar F2) that I lugged around EVERYWHERE in it's case...Roughly 40lbs of stuff. Mountains, on the back of my mountain bike, etc. You can make anything work - its just a matter of how 'inspired' you really are.
    The biggest thing that I would concern myself with is getting a good tripod; because you will need that regardless of the sort of camera you use. Beyond that; get something cheap and take it from there.
    As for myself; I just (today !) bought my second LF camera...But more on that later. I have been looking on ebay and there are a BUNCH of calumet and cambo 4x5 cams on there pretty cheap. Might be worth a look.
     
  10. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Welcome back, Steve.
     
  11. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    I know what you're asking. You want a tough camera that is small enough to actually put in a backpack. And you also want versatility.

    Get a Speed Graphic. Simple, rugged and fairly compact. Trust me on this one, For intro to LF, a Crown or Pacemaker graphic with a good lens will not let you down. Very flexible. I wouldn't recommend a monorail camera as a first camera when doing LF, unless your not leaving the studio. That's just me though.

    You won't get the super extreme tilt out of a Press Camera as you would get out of a monorail, but if you are just starting LF, this isn't going to be much of an issue.
     
  12. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    I know what you're asking. You want a tough camera that is small enough to actually put in a backpack. And you also want versatility.

    Get a Speed Graphic. Simple, rugged and fairly compact. Trust me on this one, For intro to LF, a Crown or Pacemaker graphic with a good lens will not let you down. Very flexible. I wouldn't recommend a monorail camera as a first camera when doing LF, unless your not leaving the studio. That's just me though.

    You won't get the super extreme tilt out of a Press Camera as you would get out of a monorail, but if you are just starting LF, this isn't going to be much of an issue.
     
  13. SteveH

    SteveH Member

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    Actually - even better would be a super graphic. No need to look for the super speed graphic really; it just has a faster shutter speed. The super graphics had the most movements of the graphic line; and were as bulletproof as the rest of 'em.
     
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  15. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    I think a Speed would be just the way to dive in. Was my plan until what I have practically fell into my lap.
     
  16. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Remember, you need to enjoy using your camera. If you try something and it feels less like a tool than an encumbrance, then try another, and another... until you find what you want to keep. It's not unlike dating.
     
  17. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    Well, I don't think you can put your bad dates up on ebay, but Keith makes a good point. You need to get a few cameras in your hand before you make a decision. Operate both a monorail and a field camera. Set them up on a tripod and see how you feel operating them.
    My first LF was a monorail, which I dragged into the field. After realizing I didn't need to "pretzel" the bellows for landscape work, I went to a lighter folder (Calumet Wood Field/Wista/Tachihara type).
     
  18. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    Lots of people do very well with architecture and landscapes with a Tachihara. It'll handle a 90mm as well as a 210mm. If you want to get a dedicated architecture camera, those are around but a Tachi will sure get you started on your way---and that's what you want, right?

    If a monorail is something you'd consider, Peter Gowland makes one that is light and small enough to fit in your pocket----thats why it's called a Pocket 4x5.

    Of course something like a Technika will do it all. A bit on the heavy side compared with a little wooden tachi or a minimalist Gowland, but they are stout and rugged and even hand holdable!
     
  19. kenmeyersphoto

    kenmeyersphoto Member

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    If money is not the critical issue, get the ebony. It is one of the finest cameras made. Period. I will give you tons of bellow draw. You can use a 90 mm or wider lens on out to a 450mm fuji (non-telephoto). The camera is rock solid and an absolute joy to work with. The construction and materials are top-notch. Just my 2 cents worth.
     
  20. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

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    I own a couple of Speeds, a couple of Crowns, I usually recommend them as good first field cameras. I get this feeling though... you are looking for something a bit finer.

    I suggest a 4x5 or 5x7 Deardorff. A bit heavier than your modern carbon fiber delicacy, but when it comes to stability, it is a quite nice field camera. A camera you will probably never part with, no matter what direction your photography takes. A bit more investment than your run of the mill Speed, but not anywhere near what an ebony would cost...

    A 5x7 Deardorff with a 4x5 back gives you so may options... 4x5 enlarger printing, 5x7 contacts... all in a beautiful mahogany case and incredibly intuitive movements.

    tim in san jose
     
  21. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I would never recommend anything expensive like that to a beginner. I'd get a cheap camera and find out if you even like large format first, IMO. A Crown, Speed, Graphic View, etc. will get you used to the process of shooting sheet film, and will cover much of what you would like to do. You can get a nice modern Toyo, Omega, or even a Sinar monorail with a nice lens for under $500, and the same for a Speed or Crown in a nice kit with case, holders, etc. Then you will need a 4x5 enlarger, and 4x5 developing stuff. If you dig it after all this, then I'd look into the nicer cameras. If you don't, you can sell off without much loss.
     
  22. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Thanks for the link to the Ebony site...I never considered their non-folder before. I see where the non-folder would be a good choice for architecture, with the ease it handles short lenses and its axis tilts. It would certainly have worked well for me in my 4x5 days...even just doing landscapes. A padded bag of some sort to slip over the camera would be all good. And the non-folder seems to be a better (sturdier) camera to carry on the tripod. The major disadvantage would be the relatively short bellow extensions, but I was fine with my Gowland Pocket View that only has 12" of extension (but then I only have a 150mm lens!). I would go for the 45SU with the longer bellows (365mm). I have a larger selection of lenses for my 8x10, and the non-folding 8x10 cameras have too limited of a bellows draw for me...I like my 19" lens (480mm).

    It does seem a bit much to go for the higher priced camera at the start, but at least if you decide 4x5 is not for you, you will know that it was not the camera to blame -- and I bet Ebony cameras have a good resale history. Just the fact you are considering an Ebony puts me off recommending a press camera style of camera. It seems like suggesting a pale ale when someone asks for a recommendation for their first bottle of wine.

    In the end, I find that if I wanted a non-folder, the Ebony 45SU is what I would get. I would end up needing to carry a lot more film holders...the quickness of working with it by keeping it on a tripod would allow me to burn through more film in a day. Much of my pre-editing happens when I ask myself, "Is it worthwhile to haul the camera out of the pack and set it up?"! If I found that I preferred the box-like storage and the longer bellows of a folding camera, I would then consider other cameras as well as the Ebony. For well-made simplicity, I like the Horseman Wood Field. I really like my Gowland Pocket View, but it is not a camera for everyone.

    Tough choice! But have fun with it!

    Vaughn
     
  23. 77seriesiii

    77seriesiii Member

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    Thanks everyone! The Ebony wasnt really a choice to be honest, I found a link that kind of explained a difference between folding vs non and it was on the Ebony site. Granted the Ebony is pretty to look at but the $ is a bit dear for a beginner...meaning me. I have liked the look of the Graphicas, the old press cameras always remind me of the old movies., much like the Linhof's but that is a price for a different day...

    So I will be doing some more research...re-read this forum...re-read this thread and then ask a few more questions.

    Thanks,

    Erick
     
  24. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    There was an APUGer at the Beijing Olympics court side with, I beleive, a Speed Graphic. FILM PHOTOGRAPHY LIVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
  25. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    I have to disagree! Product photography lends itself to big heavy monorails. But Architectural thrives on having a light and smaller camera with a full range of motions. Linhof makes such a camera, which provides full movements but with the light weight and size of a folder...a 'technical' camera.
     
  26. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Fair enough, it's true that for wide angle architecture you don't need much bellows draw and there are a number of quite compact cameras with bag bellows and lots of movement.

    Let me propose, then, that hiking and product are the two extremes of LF :wink: