Searching for the perfect 4x5 field camera...

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by BradS, Apr 11, 2009.

  1. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    Does anybody know of a 4x5 field camera that...

    1) weighs less than 4 pounds
    2) uses technika style lens boards
    3) has front rise/fall
    4) front axis and base tilt (tilts must lock down independent of rise/fall)
    5) front swing (optional)
    6) rear base and axis tilt

    ...so far it is easy....
    ...here is where it gets difficult...

    7) triple extension
    8) removable bellows
    9) rear focussing
    10) front standard moves forward back to accomodate focal length

    I explicitly do NOT want Rear rise/fall or shift

    Basically, I'm looking for something like a *Walker Titan SF on a diet....or a triple extension Ebony RW45 with a removable bellows...any ideas?

    (* note: the Walker Titan does have rear shift but, it is so study that I am OK with it. and it has a way to lock it out - which is probably why it is so rigid back there).

    Does Ebony build custom cameras (at somewhat reasonable prices?)
     
  2. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I think you might check out the shen hao hzx4x5, although it has more movements than you want, but that should be easy to fix. Not sure what you mean by triple extension, you got me there! But shen hao will do some custom stuff if you wish, as will argentum, probably. I also am not sure about the independent locking, you might need to do some of your own minor engineering with these light field cameras. I mean, you could easily remove whatever movements you don't want and add extra locks.
     
  3. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    Thanks Keith. The Shen is a beautiful camera and comes close but it is double extension...and, it doesn't look like you can focus with the back...and it simply weighs too much. Same as the Walker Titan - which is perfect except for the weight and lack of zero detents.
     
  4. Oren Grad

    Oren Grad Subscriber

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    Ebony does build custom cameras, but figure on a substantial premium over the most similar non-custom model, especially if the customization involves more than a straightforward recombination of existing options.
     
  5. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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  6. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    That's actually encouraging. I don't think I'm looking for anything they couldn't build from existing parts...I imagine something like a SV45Ti with the back assembly from an RW45...or something like that.
     
  7. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    I have owned both the DLC and the 4x5 wood field....I sorely regret selling the DLC - that was a NICE camera. The woodie is a really nice camera too. Fit my requirements pretty well - especially when I was still doing 5x7. When I decided to bail out of 5x7, I sold the Canham wood field and all that went with it....am happy to say that it went to a very good home. Anyway, it is kinda big and heavy as a 4x5 camera....but, it is almost the perfect 5x7 camera and oh, so beautiful to look at and fantastic in actual use.
     
  8. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Shen has just done some custom work for me. Just ask 'em- chances are that you can get whatever you want, at ebony-like level of quality, for a low price.
     
  9. Steve Hamley

    Steve Hamley Member

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    SV45 in mahogany and don't use the rear rise.

    Cheers, Steve
     
  10. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Ask Keith Canham- he does do custom work too, but not exactly at a rabbit's pace.

    You can kinda-sorta focus with the rear on a Shen-Hao, but it would be friction focus, not geared. But you're right, it is still only a double-extension camera, which eliminates the basic HZX from consideration. I can't see why it couldn't be converted to a triple, though, without too much work.

    Keith-

    double vs. triple extension refers to maximum bellows extension. Double extension is a rough measure, where single extension is the front standard and rear standard positioned at their respective ends of the base plate of the camera. Double then would be the front standard extended out beyond the baseboard an equal amount, and triple would be the rear also extended a similar amount.
     
  11. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Ah okay my shen 4x10 is 'triple' then and I figured the hzx was too.

    Brad, may I ask, why do you need triple extension for 4x5, are you using long focal lengths? Or is it just that you prefer rear focusing only? (I do prefer rear focus)
     
  12. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    Tried that too - although only briefly. My beef with rear rise and rear shift is that these things tend to make the back less rigid and, more importantly and less controversially, the extra movements require extra setup time.
     
  13. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    It'd be really easy to eliminate the rear rise and tilt, no? Just take those flimsier parts off and replace with sturdy L brackets.
     
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  15. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    Exactly! Like the RW45. :smile:
     
  16. Thingy

    Thingy Member

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    Ebony* will do custom cameras but this is an expensive route to take. You would probably find it cheaper to buy a higher spec camera . I have just bought the 45SU (after waiting almost 6 months for it to be made & delivered from Japan to England). The standard model is in Ebony but they will make it in the lighter weight mahogony wood if you prefer.

    You can discuss your requirements and prices by emailing Hiromi directly. ( hiromi@ebonycamera.com ). I think the 45SU might be too heavy for you weighing in at 2.6 Kg. You could go for the cheaper 45S model but that does not offer assymetrical focussing and the bellows are not interchangable. With the 45SU you can use a 58mm Schneider XL lens without any movements with the standard universal bellows or with some movements using the bag bellows. Ebony do offer the option of non-folding field cameras which are easier & quicker to set up, and you can leave the lens mounted. Ebony are so expensive because the whole camera and parts (including even the screws) are handmade! The best quality titanium & Ebony are very hard to work, so the labour costs are much higher. That said, they are VERY sturdy, "Matelot-Proof" cameras! :wink: :D

    If you are interested you can get them from Bruce's Field Camera Store, via ebay, link below.
    http://shop.ebay.com/items/_W0QQ_nkwZEbonyQ20cameraQQ_armrsZ1QQ_fromZR40QQ_mdoZ

    *Ebony cameras: http://www.ebonycamera.com/cam.html
     
  17. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    You might also contact Zhang Fu Ming at Shen Hao (zhangfmli@vip.sina.com).
     
  18. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    Thanks, I am very well acquainted with Ebony cameras having owned two and kept one. I got rid of the SV45Ti because of the rear rise. I buy my cameras from Fred and Denis at the View Camera Store or Jeff at BadgerGraphic. Bruce...well, I'll just give an example of why I refuse to even call him anymore....He had an Osaka 5x7 camera advertised. I wrote him an email and asked simply if he could forward a few photos of the camera to me - I had never seen one before and a picture is worth 1000 words in cases like these. His reply was simply "Are you serious about buying one? ". I told him I might be if I could just get an idea of what it was / how it worked. He gave me more attitude and directed me to photos of the Osaka camera on the web site of another retailer!!! so, I went and bought a Canham from Fred and Denis.



    Good idea.....I could probably fly to China and stay in a local hotel for a week to personally observe them building a camera to spec for less than...well, for a fairly reasonable price by comparison to other options. Still, I'm not impressed by their curent offerings...
     
  19. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The Gandolfi Variant 2 should fit the specifications nicely.
     
  20. Maine-iac

    Maine-iac Member

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    I probably have a camera that comes close to what you're asking for: It's a Wista SW. I've never seen it in this country (bought mine from Robert White in the UK while living in France), though it may be sold here. It's almost identical to the Wista DXII (commonly available) EXCEPT that it has interchangeable bellows (you order the WA bellows as an addition). It also can be fitted for a folding metal reflex viewing hood that has its own fresnel lens and mirror (also extra, but not exorbitant). I found the reflex viewing hood useful only with lenses in the normal range or longer. With WA's there's a lot of vignetting on the screen.

    It does not, however, have triple extension. Depends on whether you need to use long lenses a lot. I don't, and it'll handle up to a 270-300 just fine, but anything over that would need to be telephoto design rather than a long focal length design. However, Wista does make a bellows extension device which appears to mount on a lensboard, and has some sort of metal support that goes between the camera bed and the tripod. I'm looking at the picture in the brochure that came with the camera, but since it's in Japanese, I can't read it. I can make out that it will take lenses up to 800mm. But it's in rosewood (also comes in Walnut or Cherry), lovely to look at, light to carry, and has a sliding and swinging and tilting back, but no rear focus.

    If memory serves, it was only about $100 or thereabouts more than the DXII, though the WA bellows was another hundred, and the viewing hood about the same. I think I got all three bits for approximately $1400. Wista also sells a very clever WA lens board (Technica-style) that is not recessed. I used it with my 65 Super-Angulon, which I have since sold. But it was a lot easier to get at the controls than a recessed board. I should think it would be available for any of the Wista cameras.

    Larry
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2009
  21. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    Keith, how do they charge for the custom work, is it by the hour, nature of the work or other?

    What did they do for you? I was looking at my 4x5 Shen last night and realized that it could extend another four inches with a modification at the rear. It would be interesting to see how they would do the work. I have a good idea of how it could be done and I could do it but I don't really have the time.
    Curt

    Brad when you find the camera you are describing let us know, I personally would like to see one in a 5x7. I'm looking at the Ebony models, the others are fine but they all have one limitation, short bellows.
     
  22. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    The closest I have found is the Walker Titan SF 4x5. The design of this camera is brilliant and sublime. It is a joy to work with. I just wish it weighed about 2/3 what is actually does. At just over six pounds, it weighs almost 50% more than the four pound goal.
     
  23. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    If the injected material had some voids in places that didn't make it structurally deficient and the stainless steel was titanium it could loose quite a bit of weight. The bottom line is the design, get the design right and the rest will follow. A good design can be made better if someone thinks outside the box. I'm not shooting anyone down but there is usually someone who has that right connection.
     
  24. ki6mf

    ki6mf Member

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    Field cameras choices for you criteria are limited. Shen Hao does let you focus with the back standard. I have been really happy with mine and you almost never see them come up on E Bay or Criags list! There is an alternative call the Chamonix. Also you do see Burke and James cameras occasionally. The Chamonix has received great reviews from those who bought them. The down side is a long lead time to order as there is not stocking distributor here in the US. Shen Hao has distribution in the US from Badger and Mid West Photo Exchange both are very reputable. Keh has a 4X5 BADGER M1 rail camera and you occasionally see the Peter Gowand mini 4X5 on E Bay. Also the Toho Shimo FC-45X is another small rail view camera to consider. You may want to search for a Meredian B which is a knock off of a Linhoff and was made in the 1940's
     
  25. ReallyBigCameras

    ReallyBigCameras Advertiser Advertiser

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    Actually, there is. My company, Really Big Cameras, is a Chamonix dealer (and an APUG sponsor) and I have the 045n-1 in stock.

    However, the Chamonix 045n-1 doesn't meet all of Brad's requirements (actually, I don't know of any camera that does).

    Specifically:

    Check. The Chamonix 045n-1 weighs between 3.0 and 3.2 lbs. depending on type of wood and bellows selected. A carbon fiber bed, wood body and anodized aluminum hardware keep the weight to a minimum without sacrificing rigidity.

    Check. The Chamonix 045n-1 uses Technika style boards - some inexpensive Chinese-made boards sold on eBay are too thick to properly fit the Chamonix Cameras. Some newer genuine Linhof boards are also a bit too thick. The older Linhof boards I've tried fit fine. Wista boards fit fine, and generic boards available from Badger Graphic, Midwest Photo Exchange and (of course) Really Big Cameras are available that properly fit the Chamonix camera.

    For the lens to be centered on the ground glass when the front standard is in the neutral position, center drilled lensboards are recommended. However, off-center drilled boards (like Linhof and Wista) can also be used with slight adjustment of the front rise/fall to center the lens.

    Check. 45mm direct front rise, 30mm direct front fall.

    The Chamonix 045n-1 does not have front base tilt. Axis tilt only on the front standard. Also, one set of knobs locks both front rise and tilt. However, there are "defeatable detents" that prevent introducing any unwanted tilt when adjusting the front rise/fall.

    Check - and front shift.

    Rear base tilt only. No rear axis tilt.

    I suppose it all depends on how you define triple extension. The Chamonix design, based on the Phillips 4x5 (with Dick' blessing) is different than conventional 4x5 field cameras. The stock camera has a total extension of 395mm. This is enough extension to use 14"/360mm lens for general purpose (non-macro) applications - or a 500mm telephoto such as the Nikkor 500mm T-ED. Most double extension 4x5 field cameras have about 300mm of extension. Chamonix also offers an optional carbon fiber bed extender that allows using a 450mm lens, like the 450mm f12.5 Fujinon C on the 045n-1.

    Check. The default camera comes with the standard bellows. However, for a nominal fee, it an also be ordered with the optional universal bellows. I highly recommend the universal bellows as it makes the camera more usable with wide angle lenses - and still offers the same maximum extension as the standard bellows. An optional bag bellows is also available, but unless you shoot with REALLY wide lenses and a roll film back, the universal bellows should be sufficient for most 4x5 wide angle use.

    Nope. Front focus only. The front standard is focused using a lead screw that is driven by a single knob located at the back of the camera below the rear standard (like the Phillips cameras).

    Check. Both the front and rear standard on the Chamonix can be moved forward or back to accommodate a wide variety of focal lengths.

    Check. The Chamonix 045n-1 does not have any rear rise/fall or shift. Like the Phillips design on which it is based, the goal is to provide the best combination of light weight and maximum rigidity. To meet this goal, unnecessary, superfluous features have been eliminated.

    Kerry Thalmann
    Really Big Cameras
     
  26. Frank Szabo

    Frank Szabo Member

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    There's no such thing as "perfect" - only tolerable.