Taking the plunge into LF... on a budget?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Xia_Ke, Jan 18, 2009.

  1. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

    Messages:
    604
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2007
    Location:
    Maine
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I had been thinking about making the move from MF to LF for a while and after much internal debate, have decided to finally go for it and take the plunge. Problem is, I'm on a budget. I'll have about $600 to spend on a new set-up. As much as I would love to be able to get a nice Wista/Wisner/Linhof/etc field camera it's just not in the cards right now. I'm leaning towards either a Speed Graphic or a Super Graphic. The Super Graphic would be nice because of the movements while the focal plane shutter of the Speed Graphics have me intrigued with the possibilities of petzvals and other barrel lenses. Considering the age of these cameras is there anything in particular I should be looking for when shopping around? Are there any other cameras I should be looking at besides these? My main concern for now is packability as I want something to take out on the trails. I had considered a older monorail for budget reasons but, they don't seem like they would be as portable. You guys have always been a big help in the past and your guidance would be much appreciated before I dive in head first. Thanks in advance :smile:

    Aaron
     
  2. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

    Messages:
    1,504
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Location:
    Westminster,
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I prefer a Crown Graphic as a LF starter, but good luck with what you get if having a focal plane shutter with barrel lenses is you thing.
     
  3. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

    Messages:
    604
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2007
    Location:
    Maine
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hi Walter, thanks or chiming in. I wouldn't say barrel lenses are my thing, just thought they would be fun to play with at some point. Any particular reason you would pick th crown over other Graflex incarnations?
     
  4. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,727
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    a speed would be cheaper, and, as mentioned, has a fp shutter that gives you flexibility. Od course, any shuttered lens can always be used later on a view camera, so you have that advantage. Id you must have a view, I'll put out a plug for my Ansco Universal View--a great camera, I think, for the money.
     
  5. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

    Messages:
    7,114
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2005
    Location:
    In a darkroo
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'm a LF newbie but I would still like to offer two pieces of advice. Well, they both actually tie together. STABILITY! Make sure your cameras movements do not sacrifice the stability of your camera and make sure you have a tripod that is up to the task. There is nothing more discouraging than 'AW! Frickin thing moved! Start over again!" So if you jump on a budget as I did be prepared for some setbacks. And thankful if you encounter none. And by the by, you are starting out with even more than I did. Good luck.
     
  6. DJGainer

    DJGainer Member

    Messages:
    150
    Joined:
    May 10, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I had the same intent you did, going budget with a cheap camera. What I eventually decided upon was a strategy of building my kit over time. I started out spending about 450 on a Horseman Woodman camera that needed a tripod socket and 200 on a 150mm lens. From there I eventually got a 90mm then a 300mm lens. I am still acquiring film holders, enlarger, etc, but it was the way I choose to do it and stay within what I could afford at any point in time.
     
  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    19,586
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    local
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    hi aaron

    the thing to remember about a press camera is there are very little
    movements, so if you wanted to shoot the same sort of things, the same sort
    of way, that u do now ( with a mf or 35mm ) you will be good to go.
    you don't need a gigantic tripod with a speed or crown graphic, a tiltall
    has been my friend whenever i use that sort of camera.
    a speed can use lenses as wide as 58mm to 15" ( tele )
    and you can use pretty much any lens you find for IT on a view camera if
    you decide to upgrade at some point in time.

    good luck! and have fun :smile:

    john
     
  8. keithwms

    keithwms Member

    Messages:
    6,075
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2006
    Location:
    Charlottesvi
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Honestly I kinda cringe when I see "LF" and "budget" in the same sentence.

    Yes, you can do LF on a budget, and you can get wonderful results that way. But particularly if you are new to LF then you will do a whole of experimenting and you won't want to feel hindered in the learning process by materials costs.

    A few things you can do to keep costs under control: shoot good but nonpremium b&w films like foma, make up your own developers and chems in general, avoid the temptation to enlarge every single masterpiece, and so forth.

    But probably the biggest single money-saving thing you can do is get to know an LFer in your area and arrange to share equipment/chems/etc. I am totally happy to share with others in my area, including all manner of gear and work space etc. And I find this to be generally true of LFers- that's the good news. The bad news is that despite the rockbottom upfront cost of the gear, it's just not an area for pennypinching. I figure that on average every LF shot that I take runs me about $5-10. I'm not complaining... I'm just saying. The cost of my cameras and lenses is a small fraction of the overall cost of me doing LF.
     
  9. MenacingTourist

    MenacingTourist Member

    Messages:
    895
    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2004
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Aaron,

    I started out similar to your budget but got an inexpensive monorail. A Calumet I think. Looking back I wonder if a press camera would have been better. At this point I would say to spend as much as you can on a lens/shutter. This was what gave me the most headaches to start out.

    Good luck,

    Alan.
     
  10. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

    Messages:
    604
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2007
    Location:
    Maine
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thank you all VERY much for your input. You have given me some great food for thought. The $600 is what I should have to put towards a camera, lens, and film holders. I have another $300 budgeted for stocking up on film, paper, and chemicals. I realize in this price range, there will be trade offs. I'm not too worried about having tons of movements at the moment. I shoot primarily landscapes and I should think some simple front rise and tilt should suffice for now, I think anyway??? Of course more movements would be fun for experimenting. The graphics have my main interest right now because of price, availability of parts, and they seem like they could hold up to a little bit of a beating being schlepped around in my pack on the trail. The focal plane shutter of the speeds also sound like fun to allow playing with some barrel lenses. I've also seen some old Linhof Technicka III's go pretty reasonably and a few old Korona's as well. I should have cash in hand to start shopping with in about 2 weeks. I'm not in any hurry to have a kit this very second. I plan to take my time shopping around to try and build the foundations of a LF outfit.
     
  11. VaryaV

    VaryaV Member

    Messages:
    1,255
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2008
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hi Xia - I recently did the same and took the plunge into LF. My first attempts at it with a Crown Graphic 4x5. I have yet to turn out a negative that is even in focus, grrr - but I do love the camera and the slower process of working. Good Luck to you in your pursuits.
     
  12. OldBikerPete

    OldBikerPete Subscriber

    Messages:
    369
    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2005
    Location:
    Melbourne, A
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I started with a Crown Graphic becuase I couldn't get a speed graphic at the time. Since then I have read on this forum that the speed graphics are inherently less sharp than the Crowns becuse of the vibration associated with movement of the huge focal plane shutter.
    If ultimate sharpness isn't an issue and you want to play with soft-focus barrel lenses then go the Speed. If you want very sharp landscapes then you would probably prefer the Crown.
    I have traded up to a Wista metal field because it has film plane movements for my landscapes.
     
  13. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

    Messages:
    604
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2007
    Location:
    Maine
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    VaryaV, any idea what the sharpness issues are due to?

    Pete, if I go the speed route, the only time I would be using the focal plain shutter would be for older portrait lenses. I've been looking at some of the Wista and Toyo field camera but they just are a little out of reach at this time :sad:
     
  14. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,727
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    ******
    You should always be able to get your $ out of whatever you start with. With a speed you probably would not be using the focal plane shutter much anyway--rather the leaf shutter in your lens. Don't be scared off by any "unsharpness" issues using the FP. With a proper tripod all things are possible. The SG is a bit heavier than the Crown. I have both and love them both. And I can pop the lenses off the boards and mount them on my Ansco View Camera if needed. Since you are interested in landscapes to start, try to find a longer lens than often "normal" (127mm) on the 4x5 graphics. A 203 Ektar would be perfect; and it is a smallish lens and would fit your back packing needs better than some.
     
  15. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

    Messages:
    2,577
    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2004
    Location:
    san jose, ca
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Aaron,

    Here's the kicker. I looked at your published work on Flickr. Not much different than mine. http://www.flickr.com/photos/7482381@N03/

    Here is what I offer. I 5x7 Burke and James Field Camera (Watson) and a 5x7 Studio (Grover) Camera. 5x7 Back, 4x5 back. A couple of lens boards. Backs and lens boards are interchangeable. This way you get the portability of a field camera, and the flexibility of a studio camera.

    275.00 including shipping to Maine. Need cleaning up, bellows are light tight. Not a Deardorff, but then again, not $1000 plus.
    Pmail me if interested.

    tim in san jose
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 22, 2009
  16. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,675
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2003
    Location:
    Chicago
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    My 2 cents....get a Century or Super Graphic and a modern 135 or 150mm lens. The cameraquest.com web site has some nice info on these and the Linhofs.
     
  17. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

    Messages:
    17,797
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    Location:
    West Midland
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The key is the modern lens. Many older lenses just don't have the same edge/corner sharpness unless stopped well down. I discovered this using a 1931 135mm f4.5 Tessar. Also coating makes a huge difference in many lighting situations.

    Tessar type designs don't reach their peak performance until f16 - f22, Doctor Optic, the company who took over Carl Zeiss Jena's LF optics manufacture Kerry stated this clearly in their Tessar data-sheets, KerryThalman/Chris Perez did a series of lens tests that confirm this.

    Some later Tessar designs like Xenar's perform a lot better, but the slower versions perform better than the faster versions. The 150mm Xenar was made as an f3.5, f4.5, f4.7 and the last production run were f5.6.

    More modern designs like Symmar's, Sironar's, Planar's and various Japanese equivalents all perform well at most apertures. I should add that a lens that performs well at all apertures is far more important with hand-held work where it's often not possible to stop the lens down sufficiently.

    Ian
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 22, 2009
  18. VaryaV

    VaryaV Member

    Messages:
    1,255
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2008
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Xia - some bloke by the name of Weegee used to use his body to focus - I tried that and failed miserably, or maybe I just needed a better cigar....:D
    In all seriousness...... the sharpness issues are simply "user error." I am used to MF very quick and dirty style of shooting and I need to slow waaaaay down and start using a tripod, like suggested by Christopher. Sooner or later, it will all come together. My number one fault is patience.

    Good luck and let us know how it turns out for you.... I appreciate the tips myself, everyone.
     
  19. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

    Messages:
    604
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2007
    Location:
    Maine
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks again guys :smile:

    Thank you Tim and thank you to the others who have pm'd me with set-ups to get me started. I have a line on a Nagaoka field camera which I think will work great for me to start off with.

    Ian, thanks for the info on the lenses. What are your thoughts on the Symmars? I've seen a couple good deals lately and have started shopping around a bit for those. Also, stupid question, can a modern field camera fold up, with lens attached, like you can with the old press cameras?
     
  20. joncapozzi

    joncapozzi Member

    Messages:
    9
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2008
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    You can find a Tachihara or Wista fairly cheap. I'm picking one up for 265 with a lens and film holders. Join the forums at largeformatphotography.info. The classifieds there always have great stuff. Look into a Busch Pressman as well. More movements and a bit nicer than any of the Graflex's. They have revolving backs and some real nice features for a press camera.
     
  21. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

    Messages:
    604
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2007
    Location:
    Maine
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hi Jon, I had actually just joined over there about a week ago. I went to check out the classifieds but it said you need to be a member for at least 30 before you get access. No problem though. I have spent about $325 of my budget so far on a Nagaoka field camera with 4 lens boards and 5 Fidelity Elite film holders. I've found a few good lens deals too but, haven't gotten myself to pull the trigger on one yet. I can't make up my mind if I want a 135mm, 150mm, or a 210mm. The 135 or 150 would be the easiest transition because those are the closest to my Rollei. On the other hand quite a few of the landscapes I have shot, or plan to shoot, need a little longer of a lens.
     
  22. joncapozzi

    joncapozzi Member

    Messages:
    9
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2008
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Ideally, I would like to have a 300 and a 135. I have a very cheap Fujinon 150 5.6 that I plan on purchasing in the mean time, until I get settled in.
     
  23. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

    Messages:
    604
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2007
    Location:
    Maine
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Sounds good Jon. I ended up picking up 2 Ilex-Calumet Caltars, a 90mm and a 215mm, off the classifieds here. There were a few pinholes in the bellows and just got in a bellows repair kit from Bostick & Sullivan. Will still be a couple more weeks before getting to shoot for the first time but, I can't wait :smile: