Monorail for semi-field use:any experience?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by gbenaim, Jul 14, 2005.

  1. gbenaim

    gbenaim Member

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    Hello again,

    Having considered my options, I'm tending towards getting one of the lighter monorails, like the Sinar F or A, given long lens use, weight, and price considerations. Basically the only field cam that allows some long lens use under $1000, the Shen HAo, is almost as heavy as a light monorail (6lbs SH vs 7lbs Sinar A/F). Since I don't backpack, because of back problems, but rather carry my gear using a little cart, I'm wondering whether it doesn't make more sense for me to go w a monorail. So I was curious if there are any photographers out there using monorails in the field, and what you can report from such use. I especially want to be able to use lenses in the 400mm range, and the price difference is also tempting. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    If you are transporting your gear on a cart, a few ounces of weight probably doesn't make any difference. My personal choice is a Sinar (I have a 4x5" F1 and 5x7" and 8x10" Normas), these two models are plentiful and not expensive (with the Norma, this was in production from I think 1948 to 1970, there is no reason to buy one in anything less than excellent to pristine condition).
    If you are in the US, the Graphic View is equally plentiful and cheap and would also give the rigidity you need.
    Sinar also gives you the option of buying a Sinar shutter, which clips straight in like any other modular component and of course allows the use of barrel lenses.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 14, 2005
  3. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I use a Linhof Color as a field camera, even for backpacking. It's quicker and easier to set up than a "proper" field camera!
     
  4. David

    David Member

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    I use a Sinar base on an 11x14 and also an 8x20. It has seen some serious field work and is definetely worth the bother. Getting a large baby carrier works well for hauling it around although I have put it in a very large backpack with only moderate trauma.
     
  5. John Cook

    John Cook Member

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    A metal monorail camera represents a modern improvement in the old-fashioned wooden flatbed camera design. It is more rigid, easier to use and has all sorts of other nifty advantages. When you add in the weight of tripod, lenses and film holders, the weight difference between a monorail total outfit and a field total outfit is insignificant.

    The only two claims to fame for a wooden field camera are that they look sexy and fold into a much smaller package (suitable for a backpack).

    I spent many years dragging both a 4x5 and an 8x10 Sinar around Southern California, assisting an advertising photographer. We were never more than a few hundred feet from our 4WD location truck. It was standard operating procedure for all photography crews.

    My only caveat is that our top-of-the-line Sinar, with its many tiny complicated micro-drives, was definitely built for a clean sterile studio environment. I spent many hours after a beach shoot cleaning sand out of nylon worm gears with a toothpick and Q-tip.

    My favorite camera for location work (from much experience) is the Calumet/Cambo 45NX. It has all the movement and rigidity you require but is quite simple in design and reasonably light in weight. Compared to the Swiss alternatives, the price is right, as well. All in all, a nice compromise.
     
  6. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 14, 2005
  7. medform-norm

    medform-norm Member

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    We use a Graphic View II. It wasn't a real first hand choice, but we had accidentally gotten the bellowed body on rail for very cheap and slowly reassembled the entire camera. It's now in full working condition since a few months and we absolutely prefer this over the Linhof Tech V we had previously and sold out of frustration. The Graphic View offers more control over movement, has better knobs, is pretty sturdy and relatively cheap. It doesn't have all the movements of its more modern and pricy brethren, but it works for us for the time being. We lug it around in a big tool bag and soon we will add a backpack caddy to keep our hands free while on the bike with it. It sets up pretty easy, probably much like Ole's Color Linny. We have no experience with the kind of beach work as mentioned by last poster.

    We have a friend who is a fine arts photographers doing lots of travelling with his camera in a small cart like yours and he is now contemplating getting a new Master Kardan instead of his Master Technika. What he was thinking of getting also is a new type of (carry on) cart that allows him to wheel it along where possible, but that has backstraps to use for places that are awkward to reach with a cart, like buildings/streets with lots of steps and no elevator.

    On the whole, if you move things with a wheeled cart, it seems to be wise to invest in a good one with adequate wheels rather than compromise on comfort.

    Hope you got something out of this post.
    Cheers, medform-norm
     
  8. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    I use an Omega view in the field mounted on its' tripod and carried over my shoulder (covering the legs with foam pipe insulation makes it not too uncomfortable). On a cart, it would be even easier. The bellows would easily allow a 400mm lens. Having done some photographing with a friend who carries his 8x10 Zone VI the same way, I don't feel I'm missing much using the monorail, as his camera (and bigass Zone VI tripod) weighs a whole lot more than my stuff does.
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    If you don't have to fit it into a backpack, a Sinar F/F1/F2 would be an excellent choice. You can find them lately for under $400, they are very expandable, parts are plentiful, and they are a pleasure to use. Also, in major cities, it's easy to rent lenses on Sinar boards.
     
  10. Frank Petronio

    Frank Petronio Inactive

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    Sinar Normas are excellent cameras. So are the older versions of the Arca-Swiss, and they also have a simplier focusing mechanism that is easier to keep clean. John's comment about Cambos is true in that they are a good value. But when I was an assistant I worked for a cheapskate who had several and hated the suckers because they were loosey-goosey and I had to wedge paper into the standards to keep them from sliding down when doing any tilted shots.

    Used monorails are so cheap that you should do yourself a favor and spring for an extra $100 to get a good one!

    I've used both monorails and folders, and prefer a technika for the sheer abuse it's clamshell (with its folding focusing hood protecting the ground glass) will take. But I do know that I am more inclined to take advantage of a fully range of movements when using a monorail, wheras with a folder I am more apt to say "screw it" lets stop down abit more...

    But you may be more disciplined than me...
     
  11. marko_trebusak

    marko_trebusak Member

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    I have an Arca Swiss F-line, and when buying, I had long lenses in mind. Now that I have it and have some experience working with it in the field, I'm even more sure that I made the right decision going with monorail.

    Marko
     
  12. medform-norm

    medform-norm Member

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    Frank, we didn't know you had a habit of abusing yor cameras. Is it something you want to talk about with us or should we seek out professional help for you? :wink:

    And, Frank, it's okay, we don't think any less of you just because of it. I'm sure it happens among the best of us.
     
  13. gbenaim

    gbenaim Member

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    Sinar A or F

    Thanks all for the quick response. Are there any major disadvantages to the Sinar A1 models over the F1? Thanks.
     
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  15. jjstafford

    jjstafford Inactive

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    Linhof Color (not the Kardan) is compact, light and the semi-expressed body helps protect the bellows when compressed for carry - downside is that it uses the Technika lens boards which don't permit the use of large diameter lenses.
     
  16. jjstafford

    jjstafford Inactive

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    If one isn't going for the standard Sinar rail, then you might look at the Sinar Alpina. Used ones are very reasonably priced, they use the Sinar boards (nice large board), and the rugged plastic bellows.

    You might want to actually handle the cameras you are considering. IMHO most studio cameras are a hassle in the field - they live best left on a tripod head. Field cameras have the ergonomics that let one manhandle them as usually happens in the field.
     
  17. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Get an F-series if you go with Sinar. The A-1 uses a different rail and the standard bearers are designed for that rail. The F cameras use the same rail as the P-series and is compatible with everything else in the Sinar system, and a used F or F-1 isn't likely to be much more expensive if at all than a used A-1.

    As far as large diameter lenses on a Technika go, when there's a will...

    [​IMG]
     
  18. richard littlewood

    richard littlewood Member

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    For years I used an Arca Swiss light weight monorail in all sorts of outside places and I loved it - so easy to set up and use. Sadly it had to go. I got hold of a couple more lenses and other bits and pieces and it became a burden to carry round due to the bulk and not really the weight. I've got a 'proper' field camera now, but I do miss the simplicity of use of a lightweight monorail.
     
  19. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I regularly use lenses like the 210/4.5 Xenar and 360/5.5 Tele-Xenar, both in Compound #3 shutters. This is the practical limit on a Technika board as to shutter size. For rear element size the 121/8 Super-Angulon is possible but hardly practical.

    The Linhof Color (in the unmodified version) handles a 90mm lens with very limited movements, and bellows will stratch to about 420mm - almost but not quite enough to focus the rear half of a 240/420 convertible Symmar.

    But still a range from 90 to 360mm is handled with ease, and this is as much as (or more than) most LF photographers use.

    Another nice thing is the Technika back, with GG cover and focusing hood. It makes it a lot easier to pack it in a backpack!
     
  20. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    For my longer lenses for 8 x 10 I use a toyo monorail....I put in on the small 6 inch rail and the others fit nicely in a back bag....this allows me up to 1200 mm of bellows....

    I also have been testing an Orbit--B and J- 5 x 7 monorail....quite light....I am considering having a machine shop chop the rail at the smallest retracted position and threading and tapping....I paid 150 for the 5 x 7 and 500 for the 8 x 10 but use an old Omega front on the Toya 8 x 10
     
  21. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    I have done quite well with my Cambo. I don't know the model number but it appears to be the same as the Calumet 45NXII. Frank, I am curious which ones you were having trouble with as perhaps there are some models that should be avoided. Either that or John and I are luckier than you were with our particular cameras. (And I am admittedly very inexperienced and may find out soon that I start having similar problems to yours!)
     
  22. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    I just sold a mid '60's Linhof Color. I would concur that it is certainly an elegant solution. Collapses to 5" and stows nice even in a small ruck sack. It just wasn't for me I guess. I don't do enough 4X5 and actually I'm doing some soul searching about selling my Wisner too. The 4X5 back for the 5X7 'dorff could suffice fine at the cost of a few pounds.
     
  23. jjstafford

    jjstafford Inactive

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    I thought so too, until David Goldfarb nuged us with his solution. (Thanks for that, David.) I went to the shop and front-flange mounted a 200mm Imagon in no time. Now, that's a good day!

    FWIW, the 75mm Super Angulon also works on the Linhof Color.
     
  24. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Why front-mount a 200 Imagon? The 240 Imagon fits in a Commpund #3 shutter just like my other lenses - or at least mine does :smile:
     
  25. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Don't thank me, thank Adam Dau and the folks at SK Grimes who came up with that. The light trap on the back of the board is machined out a bit, but is basically intact. There is a ring that screws into the rear threads of the lens, and another ring behind the board that screws into the first ring and holds the lens on the board. They say they've done a few of these to get a big lens on a small board.

    As far as the issue of lenses having a rear element too big for a Technika, it's not an issue with too many 4x5" lenses. The maximum rear element diameter is 86mm, if I remember correctly. I think the only lenses likely to cause a problem are modern (and expensive) fast 90mm-120mm lenses with really huge coverage.
     
  26. jjstafford

    jjstafford Inactive

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    I'm not near the shop right now to check, but I think mine is in an Alphax #4 (2.618-30 size nut).

    I have no jam-hut (retaining ring) for the lens so I had to use a front flange mount. I even tried using the flange as a jam-nut, but it's just too big. I'd like to find the correct retainer. SK Grimes, Inc. will make one, but it's simply too expensive for me right now.