What's a decent 4x5 View camera for landscapes for a beginner?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Wookie, Oct 1, 2008.

  1. Wookie

    Wookie Member

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    Hi,

    Looking at purchasing a second hand 4x5 camera for use with Landscapes, Cityscapes and Architecture.

    Any suggestions on brand/model and lenses?

    Plus what accessories are a must and/or nice to have?

    I'm in Australia so things are a bit more expensive from what i have found so far and it looks like it may be cheaper for me to look in the US and have it shipped over. So if you have prices on what i should expect to pay, use the US price and I'll look atthe conversions and shipping expenses.

    Cheers
    Paul :smile:
     
  2. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    The old metal Calumet 400 series monorails are excellent values. They aren't the best for backpacking but that isn't in your criteria.

    If back packing is in the cards, you'll probably prefer a wood clamshell folder. There are quite a few new ones coming out of asia and some are enthusiastically recommended by others more knowlegable than myself.

    A good 1st lens is a 210mm, sometimes you'll come across a 203mm Ektar for under $200 and thats a real steal IMHO. If your serious about architecture sometime you'll probably want a 90mm Super Angulon.

    Accesories? Light meter, tripod, film holders, filters, cable release, dark cloth, focusing loupe.

    I strongly recommend getting a copy of Steve Simmons Using The View Camera before buying any gear.

    Have fun!
     
  3. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    If not for the architecture pix, I would recommend a Crown Graphic, which is cheap and folds down into a nice package. However, there are still the Graphic Views, which are nice and cheap, and also light. It's the glass that matters most, a camera is just a light tight box, and there are lots of cheap 4x5s that are plenty good, but I find these to be one of the best bangs for the buck, because they are actually reasonably well built. Get one without a Graflok back if you really want to get one cheaply. There are three models: 1. GV, which has a short rail, tilts from the bases of the standards, and a spring back, 2. the early GVII, which has a longer rail, movements from the center of the standards, and a spring back, and 3. the later GVII, which is the same as the early GVII, but with a Graflok back. Make sure the rail clamp is included if you get a Graphic View. It is a combination rail clamp and tripod head with a long arm to loosen or lock the tilt.

    Any large format lens from a well-known maker, and many from not-so-well-known makers will be good. The big and common names are Fuji, Rodenstock, Nikkor, Schneider, and Kodak. Calumets and Sinars are relabeled Rodenstocks, and Linhofs are relabeled Schneiders, to my knowledge. IMO, the thing to do is assume that all large format lenses will be more than high enough quality, and just research the coverage of the lens, so you can see how much shift they will allow you. The standard two-lens beginner kit that offers a ton of versatility would be a 210 convertible and a 90. Get older glass and smaller max. aperture models, such as 90mm f/8 or 210mm f/6.8 (instead of f/5.6 or f/4.5 models) to save money. If pinching every penny is not necessary, very nice 210s are so common and are being dropped like bad habits by many students and professionals who bought them in the '80s and '90s. These are usually multicoated glass, more modern shutters, and usually less beat up.

    As for accessories...IMO, a good tripod comes first. A gnarly used Bogen 3051 or 3036 will be more than enough for the camera, and are usually under 200 USD used in nice shape with a nice 3047 head and quick release plate included. You could get by with something lighter, like a 3021, but not for much less money. It will work fine, but heavier does = better, in general. If you are going to walk or hike a lot with it, that's another (and much more expensive) story. Also, these lighter tripods more often do not come with the nicer 3047-type heads that are usually on the two big ones I mentioned above. I would invest in the purpose-made $35 strap for the tripod. I was reluctant to spend so much a a strap of material, but after much use, I feel that it was a worthwhile purchase. I happen to have, like, and know Bogens, but I am sure other brands have comparable models that you can find used.

    After that, a decent loupe, preferably with squared off corners. (I need to get on the ball in this dept., as I have always used crummy plastic $5 loupes. I borrowed a nice loupe once and DANG! It was NICE!)

    A lightweight black coat (I have several that I use) has always worked well as a focusing cloth for me. When carrying heavy crap, things that have multiple uses are your friends! If this doesn't work for you, then a focusing cloth is the next thing I would suggest. If you are going to bite the bullet and buy one, I will say that the ones that are silver or white on one side are very very nice to have in hot weather!

    Of course, a light meter. Budget aside, the one you should get depends on how close to your subjects you will be and whether you will ever use flash. I have a preference for the Sekonic Studio Incident Meter and the Pentax Digital Spotmeter or Spotmeter V. Whenever possible, I use both. (I have always borrowed a meter for the rare occasions when I use studio flash. With speedlites, I use the scale on the flash or a guide number.) There are some very reasonable combined incident/flash/reflected meters out there, and there are also spot attachments, or more expensive models that have a built-in spot meter as well.

    An extra bellows and a frame to use it as a lens hood can't hurt.

    If you get a GV, try to get one with an original case. They are quite nice and easy to carry, and are designed to accept a strap as well. You can also get the cameras into a backpack without too much hassle.

    Film holders can be hit or miss used, but usually hit. I have had about a 80% success rate with the holders that have come with my cameras or been given to me. Test them all in daylight with a fast film before using them for anything super important. I save the slides from the bad ones in case I lose one from a good holder, or get some holders in the future with a missing slide, and then I chuck the leaky bodies in the trash 'cause they are so cheap. Even with my good holders, I shield them from light as much as possible when shooting. How many holders you need depends on you. Personally, I have 40 holders, which is overkill, but they all just came to me through various camera purchases and gifts. I usually don't use any more than 25 sheets at a time. I would say that 13 holders is a good number to start with, as you can load a whole 25-sheet package of film that way. If you have money to spend on it, I cannot speak highly enough of the Fuji Quickload system. No dust, no light leaks, huge weight reduction, less chance of user error, etc. I don't use them all the time, but when I do, I find myself wanting to use nothing but Quickloads in the future!

    So, IMO, the musts: tripod, something to use as a focusing cloth, good film holders, case, cable release.

    IMO, the "nice to haves": loupe, light meter, backpack, Quickloads, lens shade, "actual" dark cloth, tripod strap, cable release for each lens.

    Wow. This got horribly LONG. Sorry...
     
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  4. Uhner

    Uhner Member

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    I think John and 2F/2Fgave you good advice.

    I might add that, for me, 210mm is a bit on the long side to be a good first lens.

    Another good book on the subject of large format photography is View camera technique by Leslie Stroebel. It can usually be found for very little money on the used market.

    Another advice is to check out the articles on http://www.largeformatphotography.info/

    Welcome to Apug

    C
     
  5. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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  6. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    graphic view II great camera
    comes in a case that will fit EVERYTHING you need.
    places like equinoxphotographic.com usually
    have used lenses in good condition for a fair price.

    good luck

    john
     
  7. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Whats your budget? The new budget 4x5s are good value. Shen Hao etc. They don't have very long bellows but can go wider then many older cameras.
     
  8. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Beginners, and many others, should be aware that a Graphic is not a field camera or a view camera. It is not even good for a general scenic if maximum DOF is desired because it does not have any front tilt, probably the most utilized movement. Many can be altered to provide this movement,but they are no inherent.
     
  9. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Consider that some very good Japanese models can be had for a song. Look at the Horsemans and the Rittrecks. They are not Linhofs but they are well made.

    I used to think that crown/speed graphics were good for starters, but... IMHO the prices are getting a bit silly for what you get. And for architecture, neither is a good choice: you will want lots of shift and possibly the ability to use bag bellows, and if you do get a field camera, you will probably want to be able to drop the bed appreciably. On these points, my little horseman kicked my crown graphic all over the place.

    Maybe the best starters overall will be the cambos. Very robust, inexpensive.... lots of accessories floating around.... By the way, even when shooting 4x5 or 5x7, I still prefer to use a big-ass 8x10 cambo. I prefer to compose on the big ground glass. But man oh man that 8x10 cambo is heavy! Anyway you will see a number of these going for a song on the bay, with 4x5 reducing backs. I've had no need for bag bellows [yet] with mine, you can reverse the standards and fold up the bellows and voila, no problem shooting just about any focal length.

    The cambos are kind of like the rb67 of large format. Basically indestructible, inexpensive and lots and lots of good kit on the used market. Eventually you may covet a sinar or similar, but the simplicity of the cambos can be quite refreshing. And did I mention they are indestructible?! Which means a used one is likely to be perfectly good.
     
  10. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    The Graphic View john nanian refers to is a view camera. I have one and you can nearly tie the bellows into a pretzel there are so many movements!:D As a practical matter these are very similar to the Calumet 400 series I suggested and will usually cost a bit more (probably because they look a whole lot cooler)

    The Graphic cameras the poster above is referring to are the press cameras (Speed and Crown) which have minimal movements (actually the Super Speeds and Super Crowns have quite a bit IMHO----certainly more than enough for landscapes)

    About lenses---Take a look at the work of Roman Loranc (a search should turn up his website) Much of his landscapes were done with a 210mm on a Linhof :smile:
     
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  11. Robert Brummitt

    Robert Brummitt Member

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    This is great info! What would be a great camera for traveling on a bike?
     
  12. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    You want a biking 4x5? For landscapey stuff?

    For that I would definitely deploy my crown graphic. With the 127mm or 150 Schneider convertible folded up inside, it's like a tidy little lunchbox. If you bite the dust on your bike or drop it, you truly won't care.
     
  13. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Architecture is the filter as landscapes and cityscapes are les demanding. You'll need movements (mostly rise) and a camera that can take short lenses. I'd skip the heavy Calumet's and graphic views and get an Sinar F1 or 2 or a Arca Swiss F-line. I'd also get a shorter lens 90-110 and a 6x9 or 6x7 roll film holder. The shorter lens will allow exteriors of buildings that are two stories or higher and the roll film holder will allow you to turn the wide angle lens into a normal lens. The problem with old heavy mono rails are that they are old, heavy, and a PIA. If you learn to love LF, in spite of the camera, you'll want to upgrade. If you buy the better camera now you are more likely to fall in love and less likely to have to upgrade as soon. The Sinars and Arcas hold their value better.
     
  14. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    The one you enjoy shooting!:smile:
     
  15. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    The Speeds and Crowns do have front tilt. With the bed flat, it is a rearward tilt, and with the bed dropped, it is a forward tilt..and more than enough for pretty much any scenario outdoors. They also have a vertical shift.

    Additionally, any camera where you can directly view what will be the film plane on a ground glass is a "view camera". They are definitely "view cameras". View cameras include monorail cameras, flatbed studio cameras, field cameras, and press cameras. Even the Mamiya Press system are view cameras when outfitted with the ground glass back.

    Graphic Views, which I suggested, are full-on monorail cameras with all movements.
     
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  16. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i think he thought we were talking about the press cameras, not teh view cameras.
    i wish i still had my graphic view II it was a a great camera, and when i had my tripod extended all the way UP i could stand on the fiber box to focus!
     
  17. weasel

    weasel Member

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    You are correct about the movements with the speed graphic.
     
  18. freygr

    freygr Member

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    I really like the Graphic Views. The Graphic View II has AXIS tilt, as the Graphic View I has base tilt and that is only difference. The backs, lens boards are interchangeable between the I and II (4 inch square lens boards). The later Graphic View II's do not come with a pan head just a mounting block.
     
  19. Robert Brummitt

    Robert Brummitt Member

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    What about the 2 1/4 x 31/4 graphics? They have roll film backs but do they offer movements as well?
     
  20. Ross Chambers

    Ross Chambers Member

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    To get back to the question:

    The best I can do in checking out Sydney is
    (hardly a field camera, but not impossible. Make sure the bellows ore OK)

    Otherwise KEH in Atlanta, always reliable:

    http://www.cameras.net.au/secondhand.php

    Toyo 4x5 G View Camera c/w 58mm Grandagon Lens #5708522, Standard and Wide Angle Bellows, Extension Rail, Compendium/Bellows Lenshade, several Lenspanels, 6x9cm Rollfilm Holder, 6x7cm Adapter, Polaroid 545 back and 4x5 inch Cutfilm Holders x6 - (Very Good) $795

    Regards - Ross
     
  21. Russ Young

    Russ Young Member

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    My first field camera was a venerable KORONA and there are times I still regret parting with it (replaced by a Canham 5x7). It was a 5x7 with a 4x5 back with the extension rail. I mostly used a 150 Fujinon which was fairly well protected when the front rail was folded up. It was very light, rigid enough, compact enough and had enough bellows for any application I ever put to it, from macros to a 300mm lens.

    The Agfa/Ansco wooden field cameras are similar and all are often seen on FleaBay at under $200 with a few boards. Some of the models have a significant front tilt capability and i think all have a fair front rise and some back swing and tilt.

    Oh, and yes, it went hundreds of miles in northern New Mexico on a Blackburn bicycle rack...

    Russ