thinking of giving 4x5 a try, a few questions

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by msbarnes, Jul 1, 2012.

  1. msbarnes

    msbarnes Member

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    I'm not sure how much better a 4x5 negative will be in comparison to a 6x6, but the difference is noticeable to me, even on flickr.

    My reason for getting into 4x5 is for the larger negative mostly. My 6x6 negatives blow my 35mm negatives out of the water so I'd like to give 4x5 a try. My photographic interests is in on-tripod available-light portraits. I want something that is light, sturdy, and easy to carry and use. I don't care for many if any movements, a rangefinder, or 120 backs. I don't think that those will be very useful (but I may be wrong ofcourse).

    Now from my limited research it seems that a folder fits my criteria pretty well. The graphics seem to be the best-value while Linof's seem to be the cream of the crop. The focal length that I'd want to start off with is a 150mm.

    I need to do more research, but maybe a little help can narrow it down a bit.

    Some questions:
    1. Which camera models would you recommend that I look into? What what would be a starting price? I'd probably start with a 150mm f5.6 lens. If I were to start today I'd probably go with a graphic but if a Linof isn't that much more, then I'd start with that.

    2. What mount do I need for the lenses? I looked at keh.com and I see db mount, 32 mount, 42 mount. The lenses, are universal, right? Would a 150mm f5.6 lens fold into my camera? I'd want a lens that does.

    3. Any particular brand of lens I should look into? Or is this a Canon vs Nikon Vs Leica Vs Zeiss type of thing? I see Fujinon's, Sinaron, Symmar, etc. I really do not know what qualities they have but I figured that the jump from MF to LF would make a bigger difference than between brands.

    4. What do I need to start. I guess a tripod, film, 4x5 holders, dark cloth, lens (board too?), and a folder camera? Are film backs universal?
     
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  2. Discoman

    Discoman Member

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    A graflex is a good start. And it also happens to be a good use camera as it is quite portable and fairly easy to use. A graflex is around a few hundred bucks, I paid about $200 for my Pacemaker Speed Graphic. From experience, I would suggest a Pacemaker Crown with the top rangefinder.
    I have a 135mm lens on mine and a 150mm on my sinar. On both, the lenses screw into a shutter which mounts to a lensboard. Lensboards are rarely compatible between cameras. They are usually compatible with various shutetr and lens combinations, as long as the shutter is the right size. On my graflex, the 135mm does not need to be dismounted for the camera to fold. My 150mm is not much bigger, but I have no interest in trying it.
    Lenses, to start, if you can find a camera with one already included is the best start. Again, graflex cameras on the bay of e frequently have a lens included. Most all LF lenses are quite good. Even the older lenses made by places like kodak and who knows where are still quite good. Fujinon, sinaron, rodenstock, and new schneider lenses are really good. There are plenty of more brands, but I can't think of them all. Then of course, there are things like process camera lenses.
    To start, a tripod is useful. I personally started with a borrowed graflex and shot handheld. You will need 4x5 film and some film holders. Avoid wood holders, go for newer metal or plastic ones.
    My big tip is to buy a complete graflex set. They have a nice lens and shutter combination (usually) as well as wire frame, viewfinder, rangefinder, and ground glass focusing. They also have a folding piece in the back that works as a focus hood, negating the need for a dark cloth.

    My big bit of advice is that you browse graflex.org and join their forum, as well as read the articles at largeformatphotography.info and join the forum there.
    Basically, the stuff I mentioned gets covered in multiple articles and many books. There is a lot of info on what to choose and how to use it, as well as how to get the most out of it, it is simply amazing.
    Also, I suggest picking up a copy of the book View Camera Technique. Get the newest edition you can.
    Bets of luck.
     
  3. MDR

    MDR Member

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    If you can get a field camera with a longer bellow draw at the price of the Graflex get it otherwise there is nothing wrong with buying the Graflex. For portraiture you don't need the sharpest lens, old single coated ones are fine. Film backs are more or less universal, there even exists a six sheet holder for the Graflex the Grafmatic, if you buy one make sure that none of the inserts has bend corners.

    Good luck
    Dominik
     
  4. raoul

    raoul Member

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    Graflex is a good start - cheap and has everything you need (camera & lens) in one package. You won't want it after a year, but it's an easy sale on the bay or elsewhere -- when I did this, it ended up costing me nothing.

    You'll need film holders and a light meter (but even that may be optional).
     
  5. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    One thing about the Graflex press cameras, is that if you are doing portraits in what I assume will be in 'portrait mode' (vertical orientation), you will always be using the camera turned 90 degrees. My older Speed Graphic does have a tripod mount hole on the side as well as the bottom.

    But something with a rotating or reversable back might be nice. (The more expensive Super Graphics have one, I believe). But even wood folders can be carried around on the tripod. Many of the lightweight wood folders like the Tachihara, Horseman Woodman, etc, weigh under 4 pounds. An alternative to consider. I have a Calumet PocketView, which is a lightweight rail 4x5. With the Caltar IIN 150mm on the it, the camera weighs 2.5 pounds. Some people's tripod heads weigh more than that! So there are several alternatives.

    A 210mm lens might be nicer for head-and-shoulder portraits, but if you like the look of your MF portraits with an 80mm lens, then the 150mm with the 4x5 will suit you fine. I don't think you'll find a 210mm that will fold into the camera. The Caltar IIN 150mm/5.6 lens is sweet and usually inexpensive (it is actually a high quality Rodenstock). The Copal 0 shutter is small and dependable. It is a good all-purpose lens. You can easily work with older lenses, some even have a softer look to the images that can well suit portraits, but one must deal with some less-than-perfect shutters.

    You camera, whatever you decide to get, will have lensboards that fit on to it. These lensboards often fit only one brand of camera, but there are exceptions. These boards are drilled with holes sized to fit a particular lens or shutter. For example, you might have a board with a hole sized to fit the Copal 0 shutter...all lenses mounted in Copal 0 shutters will fit on that lensboard. The lenses usually require a retaining ring or jam nut on the back to attach it to the lens board, so make sure a lens you buy comes with one.
     
  6. jnoir

    jnoir Member

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    Last year I was in more or less a similar situation as yours. In my case, I have already shoot plates, but always with classic gear: mostly 6.5x9 with a Patent Etui / Tessar 12cm, and 9x12 with a Voigtlaender Avus / Skopar 13,5cm. These sizes are easy to find here in Europe, and since I do mostly B&W I do not care of color emulsions for these sizes (although I still have several boxes of both negative and positive at the freezer). I enjoy shooting 6.5x9 on my Plaubel Makina IIIR, but usually I load it with any of the rollfilm backs.

    Last year I decided that I wanted to dig my toe a bit more seriously into LF. In my case, I hunted down a Linhof Super Technika V with a Schneider-Kreuznach 150mm lens. I like Wide Angles best, and therefore I settled for a Technika V. A Technika IV may have been a good alternative too (MkV) but I found my V at a very good price. As you know I am sending it to Münich for a CLA, but even with this expense on top of my purchase price, it is still a good price. With patience, one can find bargains. The Tech V also has rear movements, something that I very much wanted.

    Graflex are also a good way to start, much cheaper than Linhof. In my case, I went for it knowing what to expect of LF and with a bit of background, if only with limited movements from my classics.

    Your questions are easy to answer: as soon as you pick up with your readings, you will discover the basis and understood the idea behind LF. I'd say that you should either a) go cheap for now while you decideif it suits you, with something preferably holding its value in the meantime; or b) read and learn what you need for what you want to do, and buy accordingly :smile:
     
  7. ambaker

    ambaker Subscriber

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    The Busch Pressman, was a competitor of the Graphics, back in the day.

    Post war, the bodies were aluminum, and they did have limited movements. Similar to the Crown Graphic, there was no focal plane shutter. The upside is the back rotates, so you do not have to turn the whole camera. The downside is it is not a Graphlock back. It will take the same 4x5 holders as a Graphic, but not holders that require the Graphlock mechanism.

    They are also cheaper than the Graphics in the current market.
     
  8. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    the quality increase from 35m to mf is huge. don't expect the same when stepping up to 4x5. you won't get it!but you are getting into'real' photography. welcome to the lttlelarge-format!btw. don' worry about movements too much most camera movements are beyond what the lenses cn cover anyway.
     
  9. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    I'd suggest you borrow some lenses, and perhaps a camera, before you buy, from a store that sells second hand ones. Or arrange to buy one of those with the option to return, if you are not sure yet, before you spend bigger money.

    Regarding your question about lenses, they are generally all suitable regardless of makes, as they are just mounted to a board. What can make a lens unsuitable for your camera would be its focal length vs the length of bellows extension/compression, or physical size, especially with larger shutters. Don't be afraid of 2nd hand lenses, I bought a few from others on this and other forums.

    Have a look at largeformatphotography.info for lots of good articles, and pick up AA's The Camera, if you haven't got it yet.
     
  10. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Graflex, Speed Graphic or Crown Graphic can all be shot hand held or on a tripod.
    Graflex and Speed Graphics can use barrel lenses.
    Most Graflexes have Rotating Backs.
    All can be sold for around the same price if you decide that you do not want to continue shooting 4"x5" or if you decide that you would rather have a field camera.
     
  11. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    I disagree with Ralph, and believe the qualitative difference from 6x6 to 4x5 is even greater than from 35mm to MF; but it really all depends on what you're trying to accomplish, your skill level, and
    how big you need to enlarge things. Working with a view camera is very different discipline than with
    regular cameras. There will be a distinct learning curve. Even modest movements can dramatically increase versatility - so once you have them and know how to use them, there will be a whole new
    range of opportunities (speed won't be one of them). Most of the old hand-holdable "technical" 4x5's
    have some movements built-in. But working without a tripod ain't particularly easy.
     
  12. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    Good Speeders and Crowns aren't going for cheap these days, at least the one's I've seen aren't. Calumet 401s and Graphic Views generally go for a pittance and mores the pity---these are great cameras to learn on---metal monorails so more awkward to carry but way more movements.
    Keh has 215mm lenses quite cheaply and a Nikon, Schneider, Rodenstock or Fuji should serve you well for your initial foray. You may even find a Kodak or Wollensak 203, or Ilex 215 for less money. Any of these are capable of giving you superb negatives if you do your part. For 4x5 holders used plastic ones in good condition should work fine---IMHO stay away from the Tlitalls(no locking ridge to hold the holder in the camera) or newer Riteways with those wierd darkslide handles(the old Riteways are excellent, btw)
    Have fun!
     
  13. msbarnes

    msbarnes Member

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    Thanks for all the advice. I'm researching this some more and it's quite exciting but I have lots to look into. Jumping into 4x5 seems a bit more complicated in comparison to jumping into 120. I'm not sure exactly what I need as of now but my main concern is in the camera body/style and after that I'll worry about compatibility of parts and such. I guess the difference in print quality is quite subjective and depends more on technique. I'll let my eyes decide.

    The non APO Schneider and Rodenstock lenses seem pretty cheap (in comparison to German 35mm and MF lenses, atleast), so I can probably get a 150mm and 210mm for not-too-much; maybe even a bit longer. <$200 seems pretty common. I don't plan on shooting color so the value of an APO lens isn't much to me.

    Initially I wanted a folder but now I'm thinking of maybe even a monorail. It seems a bit of a pity to go into 4x5 and not play with the movements. Originally when I jumped into 120 I wanted a larger negative but I learned that shooting from the waist was a completely different way of shooting.

    If I get a folder I'd probably get a Super Graphic because they have rotating backs. I thought maybe a Linhof III, because they are cheaper than the IV's, but it seems that they are pretty much a dead system so more difficult to deal with in the long run, but same can be said with Graphics.

    1) Can you cam a 150mm lens on a Super Graphic? I read that someone does it, is it costly? How does it work with a Linhof III?

    2) Can you easily change a lenses? Maybe not as quick as on smaller formats, but do I need special tools to mount a 210mm or do I need to calibrate the rangefinder every time I go from a cammed lens to a non-cammed one? Not sure how it works?

    3) If I do go with a Linhof then only they can cam the lenses, right? I'm not sure how camming works either.

    I might just go monorail because they seem cheaper and more useful with movements. I figured that if camming lenses isn't practical then I might as well go Monorail.

    My main intention is to use one of these on a tripod but I do value portability. I don't have much interest in using one by hand but if I can, then I'd give that a try although I'm not sure how comfortable that would be. I might have to go through a folder and monorail, eventually, and see which suits me best. The difference between the two seems similar to the difference between a Rollei vs Blad. They both are great but one is more suitable for handheld use while the other is arguably more suitable to tripod use.
     
  14. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    Most wooden folding cameras have adjustable backs - you un-clip them and put them back in the new orientation. I like technical cameras such as the Linhofs and the MPP, but they have their trade-offs. Using wide lenses is more difficult, there is a limit on the size of the rear lens element that will fit into the front standard, and rangefinder cams are best customized to the individual lens.

    The movements one actually uses depends more on the sort of photography one does. My MPP does not have convenient front forward tilt. It can be done, but not simply. Using rear tilt affects image proportions. So I tend to use the Wista for landscapes where a little forward tilt can be useful. The MPP gets used when I need front shift and rise, something to focus a 400mm lens, or something a little more robust for travel.

    You can do practically anything with any 5x4 camera (except possible hand-hold a monorail as a general thing), but the designs are optimized for different things.
     
  15. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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    I go along with the recommendations for a Graphic of some version. These are good sturdy cameras, well-designed and plentiful.
    BTW, I strongly prefer the original side-mounted Kalart rangefinder to the later top-mounted rangefinder. YMMV
    The Kalart is adjustable for different lens focal lengths; the top-mounted rf requires cams, which are unobtanium.

    The original "normal" lens for these cameras was in the 125mm to 150mm range (roughly 5" to 6"). Contemporary lenses included
    Kodak and Wollensak, with Alphax, Betax, or Ilex shutters (probably other combinations also).

    Get a lens with a shutter. Don't rely on the focal-plane Graphic shutter. It may not produce accurate repeatable speeds.

    I prefer modern lenses from the "big four": Schneider, Rodenstock, Nikon (Nikkor) and Fujinon. They're all good, and basically
    indistinguishable for image quality except under the most critical examination. Get one in a modern Copal shutter.

    A couple of things to avoid...

    Don't get a lens with a 'db' mount. Those are unique to Sinar view cameras, designed to work with the separate Sinar shutter.
    They're often cheaper than the same lens in other mounts because they don't have an integral shutter.

    The Sinaron lenses are actually Rodenstock Sironar lenses re-branded for Sinar. May be more $$ than the regular Rodenstocks,
    but with no obvious advantages to justify the higher price.

    - Leigh
     
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  16. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    To echo what Leigh said, the side range finder is a better choice. I was told by the retired Graphic and Graflex repairman from whom I bought both my cameras, that the top rangefinders has a nasty habit of "loosing their marbles". That is the ball bearing will drop out without a warning and that there are many postings on the internet asking how many ball bearing should there be in the top mount range finder. He gave me a choice of range finders, but he was quite adamant that I get the side mounted one, which I did.

    By the way, the retired Graphic and Graflex repairman is on the board of graflex.org.

    Steve
     
  17. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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    To clarify Steve's comment...

    On the top-mount Graphic rangefinder the flexible coupling between the front-to-back movement of the bed and the lateral movement
    of the cam beneath the rangefinder consists of a group of ball bearings inside a bent metal tube.

    One or more of these ball bearings can be lost when changing rangefinder cams, or as a result of damage to the mechanism.

    - Leigh
     
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  18. Alan Gales

    Alan Gales Member

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    A monorail is cheap and very straight forward. The easiest large format camera to learn on.

    You can pick up a Cambo or Calumet Camera for $200.00 or less. Old models which will work fine often sell for below $100.00. I have seen them sell as low as $50.00. If you have a little more money to spend then step up to a Sinar F for $300.00.

    You can pick up a great 210mm lens in a modern shutter for easily less than $200.00. Probably for $150.00 or less if you are patient.

    A lot of people sell their monorails with a 210mm for an even better deal.

    If you later decide to sell the monorail you will probably get what you paid for it or a little less. It can be a good idea to keep the monorail in addition to your new field camera for portraits and still life's if you do that sort of thing.

    It's easy to change lenses. They are mounted on lens boards so you just swap them out. If you need to mount a lens to a board there is a very cheap tool you can buy to do this. It's just a flat piece of metal able to remove retaining rings or flanges.

    I think everyone who shoots film should try large format but alas sheet film is not for everyone. That is why I suggest getting into it cheaply so If you decide it's not your bag you can get out without being hurt. :smile:
     
  19. aterimagery

    aterimagery Member

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    It sounds like maybe I do want to try a monorail, even if it's not as easy to travel with. I'm not planning to backpack with whatever LF camera I get anyway, and I want a camera with as many movements and range of movement as possible. I'll have to look up the Cambo or Calumet. Thanks
     
  20. graywolf

    graywolf Member

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    Look into the Toyo-View too, often go for cheap. Before you buy anything it is good if you can check it out. Stripped controls are a bummer, and a lot of older view cameras have bad bellows.

    One interesting thing about view cameras is that most of the manufacturers who were around 40-50 years ago are still in business, unlike most of the makers of smaller cameras. But if you look at new cameras be prepared for sticker shock. For instance, the current version of the camera I've got $270 into, costs $4400.
     
  21. Mark_S

    Mark_S Member

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    Just an observation but for me, in the transition from small format to larger format, the biggest issue was the upgrade of the darkroom. My biggest cost factors were in the 4x5 enlarger, the enlarging lens, figuring out how to develop the negatives etc. The bulk of the investment in the camera side comes in the lenses, and one nice thing about large format is that the lenses can be used across different camera platforms - invest in a good lens, and put it on a graphlex first - if you find that you want more movements, get a monorail and use the same lens, or if you are hiking and want less weight, a Tachihara folder may be the answer - again, you use the same lens.
     
  22. Alan Gales

    Alan Gales Member

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    Check out Large Format Photography Forum. Their home page has a wealth of information about large format and it's free! It has really helped me out. Also check out "Using the View Camera" by Steve Simmons. Steve's book is available on Amazon and has also taught me a few things.

    Membership is free at Large Format Photography Forum and after I believe 30 days you can access the for sale section.

    I'm a member and I recognize a lot of the APUG members here also being members.
     
  23. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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  24. aterimagery

    aterimagery Member

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    graywolf: Thanks. Well, I'm taking a Large Format class this semester so I'll probably spend a few weeks learning stuff there before I shell out the $ for the camera....