New to large format - any tips / suggestions?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by peanutbutterwrench, May 18, 2012.

  1. peanutbutterwrench

    peanutbutterwrench Member

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    I shoot MF right now (absolutely love it) and after awhile of debating, I've decided I want to get into shooting large format. I'm currently looking to purchase a 4x5 but honestly - I don't know where to even start! Ideally, I'm looking for something I can use both on the road and in the studio without completely breaking the bank. The option to shoot Polaroid would be great too.

    The large format section of KEH seems like it'd be a good place to start looking. They have a Calumet CC403 body for under $150 and I'm curious to hear some opinions on that. Some normal range lens suggestions would be fantastic, too.

    Hopefully this isn't too broad of a question! I've been reading up on 4x5 a lot and I'm curious to see what others think in regards to finding a camera that would suit my needs.

    Thanks!
     
  2. M.A.Longmore

    M.A.Longmore Subscriber

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    .
    Welcome Home PeanutButterWrench !

    I Use An Omega45F Monorail Camera.
    I use it indoors, and I use it outdoors.
    I've never had the pleasure of using a
    Field Type Folding 4X5 { 5 X 4 } Camera.

    The Omega View Cameras are reasonably
    priced, and extremely versatile !
    It's a wee bit too heavy for outdoor adventures,
    so I attached my box to a jogging stroller.

    Enjoy The Weekend !

    Ron
    .
     

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  3. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Read all the articles on the front page of LFPF if you haven't already. You need a basic camera (monorails are cheap/flexible/heavy/unwieldy so if you primarily shoot landscapes/outdoors, you'll want a folder pretty soon and a decent entry-level body is $500+) with a graflok back, a lens (probably a cheap modern 150/5.6 in Copal 0) in a board that fits the camera, a couple of film holders (they're all interchangeable) and a tripod. Pretty soon you'll want a dark cloth (jacket works OK for a bit) and a loupe, but initially you can get by with the absolute basics. Plus a changing bag for loading/unloading holders of course.

    LF isn't really hard, there's just lots of opportunity to make dumb mistakes.

    The biggest hurdle for me getting into LF was getting hold of the developing gear affordably.
     
  4. 36cm2

    36cm2 Member

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    You may want to also buy a book like Using the View Camera, by Simmons, or View Camera Technique, by Stroebel, before you shell out any real dough. The books are excellent in helping you understand movements and the type of camera, lenses, accessories you'll want. Better to buy well once than so-so twice. Best of luck. You'll enjoy it. Large format is cool.
     
  5. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I have a couple of Calumet cc-4xx series 4x5's monorails that go out in the field and are perfect for studio work. They are work horses and nearly indestructable. They can be purchased for small money, full movements to learn on.
     
  6. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    The Calumets are solid cameras, nice to use, friendly to learn with, and inexpensive.
    But they are heavy, a bit ungainly for landscape use, at least if you're going to be traveling far.
    That said, I've hiked all around Pt Lobos with one.

    I'd say that monorails offer the best bang for the buck considering movements, bellows draw and features. You can go from basic cameras like Graflex Graphic Views, Calumets, Omegas, to fancier cameras like Horsemans, Sinars and Linhof Kardens and not spend half of what a good field camera runs.

    There are some in-between choices like Crown and Speed Graphics or the Burke and James cameras, they are more field camera like, but don't have a full complement of movements. That works fine for lots of stuff, but for doing indoor still lifes and outdoor architecture especially, it will be a problem.
    Also kind of in between are cameras like Koronas, which are wood and fold compactly like the metal press cameras, but are light in comparison, offer slightly more movement and cost quit a lot less than true field cameras.

    In addition to the reading mentioned above, you should establish what your budget will be, then look to what gives you the best value for that money and what you'd like for the primary function. One nice thing about large format is that for optics you are not married to one line of cameras as you are with 35 and MF. With only a few exceptions any large format lens can be mounted on any camera.
     
  7. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

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    Today will be my 9th day shooting LF, I have been on a crash course in getting it down before the big shoots come my way in a few weeks, so it has been lots of fun getting it dialed...

    I specifically decided to add it to my tool kit because I have the full ability to print it well. So I knew that I wanted a field camera, studdied up on what was good and created a budget. The point made a few posts above in deciding what you are going to use to soup the film is a good one to think about though...

    I ended up getting two Mod54 6-sheet inserts that go in my already existent Paterson 5 reel tanks, they are simple and fun to use, not hard to load and to avoid mistakes on. I am however looking for a second option as the Rollei Infrared film I am planning to use a lot of is super thin and can easily become dis-lodged from the slots if the slightest current of chemistry or water pushes the film around. I would like to hear what other people are using in order to come up with a backup plan.

    So my advice would be to create a budget and figure out how you want to go about developing the film, then get your self set up and let er' rip!
     
  8. mikebarger

    mikebarger Subscriber

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    You can buy a Sinar F on ebay for $150. A lot of bang for the buck. I sold mine when I got a Zone VI 4x5. To be honest the Sinar was a lot better camera. If I didn't want to go through the hassle of sellilng the Zone VI I'd have another Sinar. I've still got extension rails, lens boards, and other Sinar pieces. I haven't been able to make myself sell them as I suspect I'll have another Sinar F at some point.

    Mike
     
  9. rince

    rince Subscriber

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    Hi,
    I was I'm a similar situation just a few months ago. I opted for a ShenHao view camera to be a little more mobile. I currently use a 150mm Nikkor and a 210mm Rodenstock for lenses. I absoluteley love the Nikkor and like the Rodenstock. The already recommended 'Using the Viewcamera' book is an amazing read. I can only recommend getting one if you are not already familiar with LF. I was hooked after the first contact print I did and love the whole experience. Make sure you get a decent loupe and a decent dark cloth as well. Have fun with experimenting and welcome to the dark (cloth) side!
     
  10. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    RE: Lenses...

    What format is your current camera? What focal lengths do you prefer with that camera?
     
  11. TimFox

    TimFox Member

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    Outdoors, I use either a Toyo folding field camera (4x5), carried in a backpack, or a Cambo monorail view camera (4x5 or 8x10).
    The monorails (with full motions on both lens and film holders) are much better for critical perspective control (e.g. high-rise architecture), but are quite awkward to move.
    If you want to use a monorail outdoors, invest in a good collapsible cart to move the equipment around on city sidewalks--most cost-effective accessory I ever bought.
     
  12. Brian C. Miller

    Brian C. Miller Member

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    #1, Why do you want to get into large format? I decided to do it when I realized that I needed movements, and LF was the best option. Getting into LF because photographer X does it or due to G.A.S. means you won't be happy with it in the long run.
    #2, You don't have to spend a lot of money. A folding field or press camera can be purchased cheaply. I bought my Graflex Super Graphic years ago for $500, and I still have it. I'm sure that the price has dropped a little bit. Although I have other lenses, I mostly use it with the Wollensak 135mm Optar that came with it, and that's a sharp lens. A Super Graphic is very close to a Toyo 45AX in functionality.
    #3, "Road" and "studio" is a pretty wide application range. Do you do a lot of macro work? If so, you'll want a monorail with a lot of bellows, maybe something that can take extensions. The Super Graphic and Toyo have a maximum extension of about 12 inches, so you can do 1:1 with a 135mm-150mm lens. (add 3 stops, and you're good)
    #4, Sheet isn't as easy to develop as roll film. It's easy to scratch negatives until you get your technique perfected. And it's easier for development to come out wrong due to one thing or another.
    #5, If you don't have a LF enlarger, then get one. They are cheap now, and maybe you can pick up one that's free.

    At then end though it's worth it for me. I like it!
     
  13. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    ^^^ "Like" is more lasting than "love" and "love" is more lasting than "lust". What do you "like"?
     
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  15. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    The rails are cheaper as they are less desired and can be heavy. If anything they are more of a pain to travel with since they don't close up like a field camera. On the positive side they usually have greater movements, front and back for such as architecture and are cheap. Be careful of certain models where the tripod blocks that attach the rail to the tripod can crack.
    Many people get into LF thru one of the Graphic models. Not a lot of movements but with a spring back they can be pretty light and hand hold-able. Check the auction sites for going prices.
    By the time your done you should have about $600-$700 out of pocket depending on camera, lens and incidentals which may include some b&w developing stuff, as long that is if your tripod is heavy enough and doesn't need to be replaced. Color film is many times sent out and costlier to buy. Polaroids of course are more costly then B&W. Best way to figure it all out if make a list and shop prices online. Don't forget to include some film and holders for the Polaroid stuff if need be.
     
  16. Brian C. Miller

    Brian C. Miller Member

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    Oh, Wayne mentioned Polaroids.
    No more Polaroid film, except maybe someday from New55Project. There is Fuji instant film, which comes in a pack. The larger pack size has been discontinued, and Fuji is only producing the smaller size. Still good material, though, and the negative can be recovered, but not easily. There is no more Type 55. There are no more Readyloads or Quickloads.

    ONF: What I like about LF is that a 4x5 isn't much larger, and is the same weight as, my Pentax 6x7. I like the large negative, including 8x10. I like the movements. Wow, do I ever like movements! I like LF chromes. I am *so* going to miss Kodak E6! Ah, well, life goes on, for Chuck and Diane, two kids, living in Spokane. I like having a real selection of soft-focus and portrait lenses. I like being able to crop a sharp sub-Minox frame out of an 8x10, using a lens made about 1935, on Delta 100.

    Thing is when I see someone like peanutbutterwrench considering LF, I think about someone else on LFPF who tried LF, spent a lot of money, and found out he didn't like it. And now what for that fellow? Disappointment and reassessing values. Not a bad thing, but buying cheaply and resisting GAS would have been good for him. I still have my Super Graphic, and I'm still using it. No problems. Maybe peanutbutterwrench will find that LF is wonderful for him, maybe not. He just needs to think about what he wants to do.
     
  17. peanutbutterwrench

    peanutbutterwrench Member

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    First off - thanks for all the helpful replies! Definitely a lot of info for me to sort through.

    Right now I shoot primarily with a Mamiya RZ so I'm pretty used to carrying weighty gear around, but don't really mind it . It tops in at around 5-6 pounds I believe. I'm guessing a 4x5 will obviously weigh a little more than this. I'm not planning on straying too far from the car when using it outdoors, but then again I always like to push my limits...

    I think I might be more interested in a monorail than a folder at the moment. Having the option to use the movements is something I'm interested in, as well as polaroid use (that is, if I can find any film...) My local library has a few books on view camera technique (also some of the ones mentioned) that I plan to check out.

    A few of the questions I had were mostly resolved. I take it that you can use pretty much any lens with a body, and aren't restricted to using ones of the same brand like with 35 and MF? What lenses would be considered "normal" range? The one I seem to find most on my RZ is a 127mm. I used a 90 for awhile but found it too wide.

    Gear and everything aside - I just think 4x5 is a gorgeous format and would love to start to incorporate it into some of the series I'm working on.

    I've decided on a budget $400 or less, after some more research it seems like I can get a basic used set up for around that... I'm a very tactile learner and think that my best bet might just be to figure out the camera / glass I want to purchase and to go from there? I've found a few Calumet CC-4xx series and Toyo 45cx cameras floating around for fairly cheap. Definitely going to research a lot more and see what my options are before committing to buying a system. We'll see...

    Thanks again for all the info!
    -Sedona
     
  18. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    I too use an RZ and recently started with the LF thing. A 3-lens LF setup can be (a lot) lighter than the equivalent RZ setup, though it's slower to use. However, that will be not true at all with a monorail - expect to have to carry a rigid case of a couple cubic feet and weighing maybe 20kg. You can totally do landscape with a monorail, but it's a hard, hard slog.

    A good field camera (I have a Toyo 45A) will give you lots of movements. Not extreme movements, but I find that my lenses generally run out of coverage before the camera runs out of motion. Polaroid (if you can find it) is no different on a field or monorail - you just need to have the right polaroid back.

    Yes, lenses are all compatible; what matters is the lensboards. Each camera has it's own size and some manufacturers share sizes. You can get undrilled boards and drill them to suit your shutter, but happily there are 3 standard shutter sizes (Copal 0, 1 and 3) that cover 95% of the lens market, so you can just buy boards in those sizes. The only oddballs are barrel (no shutter) lenses; using one of those means you need a focal plane (e.g. Speed Graphic; good luck finding one in good condition) or other shutter in the camera or are happy with long exposures controlled with a lenscap. When starting out it's much easier to just buy a lens in shutter that lets you just dial in a speed and go.

    4x5 is 1.66x larger than 6x7 (115mm vs 69mm on the long edge) and the same aspect ratio. If you like 127mm, look for a 210mm lens - it's a very common focal length and will give you identical perspective. $400 for body and lens is easily doable if you're OK with monorails or press cameras; your budget might struggle a little if you have to pay up for a new enlarger and/or enlarger lenses instead of lucking into a good deal.
     
  19. glstr1263

    glstr1263 Member

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    $400 is a bit tight for a 4x5 kit, but if you shop carefully you should be able to get a decent Calumet or Omega monorail, a 150mm or a 210mm lens, a lens board and some film holders.
    Modern folders are much more expensive and will not likely meet your budget. Just don't buy junk. You don't want to waste time trying to figure out whether you're making the mistakes or whether the camera has problems.
     
  20. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Absolutely, buy a book. Study it. Study it some more. When you do get a camera, keep the books available
     
  21. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    Fuji still makes 4x5 film instant film and backs to hold it.
     
  22. Shootar401

    Shootar401 Member

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    If campy made a LF camera I'd buy it. But it would be made out of carbon fiber and titanium.
     
  23. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    What are you going to use it for?
    Hand held and a view camera with limited movements: Pacemaker Speed Graphic or Pacemaker Crown Graphic or the Burke and James cameras
    Hand held portraits: Graflex
    View Camera in a Studio: Monorail camera
    View Camera in the field: Wooden folding view camera

    Steve
     
  24. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    If you want LF, buy something big enough for a decent-sized contact print (5x7 inch/13x18 cm/half plate at least). Don't piddle around with 4x5 inch 'super rollfilm'.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  25. TimmyMac

    TimmyMac Subscriber

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    5x7 film is hard to find and an enlarger even harder :sad:
     
  26. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    Most folks don't call shooting 4x5 "piddling around". :wink: