Thinking about getting a "big camera"

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by c.w., Mar 1, 2011.

  1. c.w.

    c.w. Member

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    With spring fast approaching, i've been thinking about getting a "big camera" to use for my landscape / nature -ish stuff.

    Before now i've been using 6x9 cameras. I started with a rittreck / optika SLR at first that i got from a fellow APUG member. Despite it weighing about 30 lb it was great - i actually used it handheld most of the time, which was surprisingly easy with the waist level finder. Unfortunately the shutter conked out. After that i tried a mockba 5, which i got cheap because the shutter was off on the slow speeds. I cleaned it out and got it working again. It's a really fun camera, but i'm a little disappointed in the lens.

    So, i've been looking over my options and thinking about going from 6x9 to 4x5. Not in small part because there aren't a lot of 6x9 options. There's the Mamiya Press, the fuji rangefinders, the fuji 680 and the baby graphics.

    In 4x5, there are a ton of options from monorails to SLRs, and it's messing with my head. Add to that the fact that some of the 6x9 options have limited movements, and that you can get 6x9 and 6x12 backs for 4x5 cameras, and I really have no idea what to get.

    So i guess i'm looking to figure out what to look for. :tongue:

    I guess of utmost importance would be speed. I don't want to spend more than 5 minutes to set up and tear down the kit, including packing it in and out of the truck. Being able to go handheld is a great bonus, but not entirely necessary. Something that i can get a nice wide and a normal for. Maybe movements, except i've never used them so i've no idea if i need them or not. And hopefully it won't break the bank.

    Sorry if my post is a little incomprehensible, my brain is a little fried from thinking too hard about something that should probably be fairly simple. :blink: Thanks.
     
  2. Barry S

    Barry S Member

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    Since you sound like you're not at all sure of what you want or need--maybe start with a Speed or Crown Graphic. They're inexpensive and very fast to set up--at the expense of many movements. It would be a good starter camera to get a feel for what you might want in the future--or maybe it would fill your needs. They're durable and easy to throw in the vehicle--and go.
     
  3. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The best options for all-round LF work including hand held are MPP Micro Technical VII or VIII, Super Graphic and Linhof Technika late IV or V, that's in order of costs.

    All 3 offer a good range of movements and are classified as Technical cameras because of their versatility, they are all metal bodied. Field cameras are wooden bodied & a touch lighter some offer slightly more movements but they aren't practical for hand held work. Press cameras like the Speed & Crown Graphics and MPP MicroPress have minimal movements and while cheap aren't ideal, I don't recommend them as a first 5x4 camera.

    I have all three types (plus I had 2 monorails), my Wista 45DX field camera has been my main LF camera since the mid 1980's, however I began using a Crown Graphic for hand-held work about 4 years ago. More recently I've begun using a Super Graphic instead of both (here in Turkey) because it's great hand held and still has all the movements I require as well. I could have just as easily bought an MPP or Linhof, it was just a case of what came up first at a good price, and that was the Super Graphic. In practice I sold a monorail then bought the Super Graphic.

    Hope that helps.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 1, 2011
  4. degruyl

    degruyl Member

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    What he said: my Crown graphic can go from packed to shot in 30 seconds, including a flash charge (assuming the batteries are fresh).

    On the other hand, I would recommend you think about what you are trying to shoot. If you are seriously trying to do landscapes, you can't beat a field camera (and you can use a roll film back on most, if you really want to). Taking an extra minute to set up the camera and think about what you are doing is not the end of the world.
     
  5. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The Super Graphic (or MPP/Lihof not forgetting Japanese clones) can do the same and have significantly more movements as well as revolving backs.

    Try using a Crown Graphic in portrait mode there's ZERO tilt capability :D

    Ian

     
  6. rjmeyer314

    rjmeyer314 Member

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    I have a Super Graphic that I've used, mainly for landscapes, since about 1980. I like the fact that I don't need a tripod for most of my work.
     
  7. ronlamarsh

    ronlamarsh Member

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    I'd vote for the linhof if you can find and afford one. I have a Tech III(ancient I know) but its as quick as a speed or crown to setup, has range finder if that's your bag. I've shot it from tripod and handheld and it works great for both.
     
  8. TimmyMac

    TimmyMac Subscriber

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    Try a Busch Pressman D then. Revolving back!
     
  9. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    You don't really need the size of 4x5 unless you print big all the time, i.e. larger than 16x20. If you use nothing but fast films, there would probably be an advantage too. There is a lot to be said for the convenience and cost factor of roll film (not to mention the availability of different products to fill your backs with). There are 6x9 options out there with plenty of movement for decent prices. I would look into the Horseman medium format technical cameras with their matching lenses.
     
  10. c.w.

    c.w. Member

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    Exactly! :blink:
    I'm not really sure how to explain... I tend to get close to the "subject" of the landscape, in a more... selective way? It's why i'm interested in movements - being able to get more control over focus or even perspective seems like an interesting ability. The problem is that i've never had them on any other camera, so i'm not entirely sure what i want in terms of extremity.

    Before this i hadn't heard of the super graphic, but it looks really nice! No rear movements, but it's a tenth the price of a Linhof. Should i be worried about the electronics and stuff in it?

    I don't think i need the size of 4x5, but far as convenience and cost go, i'm not too concerned. It takes me quite a while to get through the 8 shots i get out of 6x9. I probably won't get more than 3 or 4 film holders. I'm leaning towards 4x5 because there are more options, and if necessary i can slap a 6x9 back on it anyway. I already have a 645, so it would be nice to have something way bigger.
     
  11. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Remember that Toyo make cameras based on the Super Graphic as well, they bought the tooling, and there's similar Japanese clones.

    While the Super Graphic lacks the rear swing and shift of my Wista it has more than enough front swing & shift, these tend to be the least used movements anyway. The drop bed gives greater tilt as well.

    The electronics in a Super Graphic are irrelevant unless you really want to use them.

    Ian
     
  12. Lars Daniel

    Lars Daniel Member

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    Hi C.W.
    If you are going to shoot landscape with movements on a 4x5, don´t worry about whether it takes you 30sec to setup or 2 minutes. I have a lovely Ebony 45SU which I believe is very quick to setup. It is just a matter of mounting the lens. Still I spend in average 20 minutes in preparation of an exposure. In my opinion it is just an entirely different realm than shooting smaller formats.
    What I am saying is: You may think you need a "fast" camera, but I think you may find that you worried about the wrong parameter.
    I would say go for those movements. And for a 120 back go for the Horseman 6x12. I thought I would use my 6x8 back too, but it just does not make any sense for me. And with 5cm back shift I can shoot two 6x12 frames and get a sweet 6x22 pano without moving the lens :smile:
     
  13. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    Part of the appeal for me for 4x5 is the access to 150+ years worth of lenses you don't get with medium format systems. Lots of interesting styles and methods and choices for photography.

    I do like the quality to be inherent to be able to make 16x20 prints. I don't do too many of them for cost and darkroom time constraints. I print mostly 8x10 & 11x14 for silver photos, and contact print for 4x5 alt-process. Sometimes I enlarge MF onto xray dupe film and contact print from that too.
     
  14. djacobox372

    djacobox372 Member

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    True, but the resolution is so high that I never need to shoot in portrait mode, I don't mind cropping off an inch to make a portrait print.
     
  15. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The resolution of 35mm camera lenses is a touch higher so I take it you do the same with a 35mm camera :D

    Many of us shoot full frame, no cropping so a revlving back or full movements is important.

    Ian
     
  16. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    The only thing that I can add to the consideration is the difference in format dimensions between the 6x9 and the 4x5. I always thought the 4x5 blocky at 1:1.25. Landscapes, to me at least, just look better when wider, where I look at the 4x5 frame as a nice portrait dimension. Now this does not mean that there aren't a ton of great 4x5 and 8x10 landscape pictures, cause even a 1:1 format can look great if composed properly.
    If you find yourself use to the longer frame which incorporates more, you may just find yourself starting to shoot wider lenses on the 4x5 as I did, and of course that pushes the subject matter back and widens the near far perspective. So all in all, it's not just that the working characteristics of the 4x5 may be slower for most, it's adopting a different perspective in your photography. I'm personally returning to the 6x9 format in the baby Graphics; I like the smaller body sizes and the compression I get in using a normal to wide 4x5 lens in the smaller format especially when out in the American west. It's just something to think about and of course it can be overcome by cropping. BTW, the sheet film camera really lens itself to self developing with the cost of sending off to a lab much higher nowadays, and of course the restricted selection of good color films at decent prices.
     
  17. c.w.

    c.w. Member

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    See, that's something i have a hard time wrapping my head around. 20 minutes? What are you doing all that time? I guess i tend to think about how i want the photo before i even go get my camera, not with the camera out. Once i actually get it, it's a very fast process. Set up, focus, wait for the light, take the photo. 2 minutes.

    I'm not terribly worried about it - i shoot 645 a bunch, which is a pretty close aspect ratio. I think i'd also like a 6x12 back.

    I actually plan on doing mostly B&W myself in my darkroom. I actually already have a 4x5 enlarger and the necessary lenses. I'm thinking i'll just tray develop at first.

    If it helps, i've finally been able to get a budget together - i'm thinking around $400 - $500 US for the lot, body, lenses, holders, ect.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 8, 2011
  18. degruyl

    degruyl Member

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    It is quite possible to spend 20 minutes fiddling with focus / perspective. I, personally, don't typically do that all that much but it does take more than 10 minutes to go through the entire routine (set-up, focus, meter, filters, take picture. take another. knock it all down). But that's with a Chamonix, which is quite handy but has some screws where I would have put snap on connections.
     
  19. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

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    As Mr. Dundee would say... "That's not a Big Camera". 8X10 is starting to be a big camera. *L*

    That said, it often takes twenty minutes to set up, compose, decompose, compose again, focus, set up movements, check for vignetting, meter, record values, make decisions on exposure, etc.

    Part of the great part of LF photography. And when you see the detail you get on an 8x10 negative... whooo wheee!

    Get a Speed or Crown (very few movements to deal with at first), a nice 150 to 210 lens (135 if you are into that really wide POV) and some 125 or so 4x5 film (I really like FP4, use to like APX100). Addictive.

    tim in san jose
     
  20. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    It really doesn't need to take much longer than shooting with a medium format camera, once at a location I keep the camera on the tripod ready it's just a case of removing my backpack to get film holders & light-meter, although often I keep one in a pocket (when in the UK).

    Having said that shooting LF is more disciplined, most people shoot far less exposures and spend more time finding the image they want to shoot. Often I'll find the shot, if the lights constant I might set up the tripod & camera, then wander about a bit before deciding on the shot, most times I've already put the tripod in the right spot. Now in comparison an MF user would most likely shoot more images and work around a subject more.

    So now if we put that 20 minutes into perspective, it should take no more than 2 minutes to set up and actually make the exposure with an LF camera, the fact that you night spend 5 minutes or even an hour in the location is quite different, often I've gone out with an LF camera etc and spent 3 or more hours walking and never made an image.

    Ian
     
  21. Lars Daniel

    Lars Daniel Member

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    Most aspects have been mentioned, except the use of filters. For landscape I use a set of ND grads, and I want to pick the right one. Also if I shoot BW I might use BW filters (yellow/green/orange/red). Or I might want to use a pola filter and set it the best way possible. I want to put the focus plane right where I want it, and I want to put exposure where I want it. In the whole process there is about a million possible fuck-up combinations, so I have found that rushing it is rarely a good idea. There is so many little ways of fine tuning your setup for exposure, and I just like to try to make the absolute best of it. And whoops, there went 20 minutes. But they were good minutes :smile:
     
  22. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

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    An 80-90 year old 5x7 would be nice. I got rid of my Shen Hao 4x5... found it too small and too fussy. I don't (NEED TO) use all the movements it had to offer. I like the 5x7 size with it's somewhat novel size and extremely large size, yet easy to cary (Seneca City View).
    THe 80 year old lenses are plentiful easy to service and can be had cheap (for B+W) work.