Thanks to everyone for taking the time to share their expertise here...
At any rate--and, not to throw a wet blanket on this dynamic thread topic--I have looked into lens boards for the Calumet (not cost prohibitive at all...) and all that remains for me to begin exploring 4X5 is the matter of the lens. Here is my (clumsy) question:
As it would seem to be the case that a lens for this 4X5 may run upwards of four hundred dollars (or more) have any of you encountered a photographer who has made a go of--for lack of a better term--gerryrigging a lens/shutter front from an inexpensive camera (garage sale, ebay, etc.) to the Calumet lens board? Or, is it more likely than not that by attempting same I would be throwing away fifty or so bucks? Or--and, if that is somehow feasible (and not to press the issue) is it within the realm of practical possibility that I might then purchase, e.g., a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D (about a hundred bucks) and attach it to the lens board?
I dare pose these tedious/tacky suggestions as temporary remedies to a temporary scarcity of funds--i.e., until I can manage the proper Calumet lens from keh, and, in order to get started loading b & w 4X5 film in the Calumet and, off I go! Just the mathematical possibilities kindle excitement: 4X5 = 20 sq inches of negative--a HUGE canvas for me to fill (pardon the metaphor: I also paint murals w/acrylics)!
Well if you are doing macro or even tight portrait closeups then you don't necessarily even need an LF lens at all. I use smaller format lenses for macro all the time, and I recall Per Volquartz using a 50mm lens from a 35mm camera for macro work. People also use shutterless enlarger lenses which are mostly dirt cheap. If you have the slightest musical rhythm, you can easily hand shutter down to 1/8 or 1/16 or so.
Do not feel inferior because you don't buy a nanocoated apo aspherical moneygon! Plenty of people do what I describe or LF pinhole and get great results.
Where you get into serious money with LF optics is when you need a big image circle and good coatings and apo correction for colour work. Otherwise I htink you'll find that many LFers are quite proud of their inventiveness, when it comes to getting the job done at lower cost. It's quite a relief if you come from a certain 35mm culture
depending on what lens you want to use some might work, some might not work for general photography.
some may work if you use them for macro type photography, but in general smaller format lenses
won't work on large format cameras because of the image circle and they just don't cover the whole negative.
you can sometimes find lenses from old folders that will throw off enough of an image circle, but then ... you run into
the problem of not having a shutter ( unless you harvested the shutter off of the folder too )
i often use a speed graphic and a graflex slr because ... they are both large format cameras and because the cameras
have internal shutters so using junque lenses, enlarger and copy/process lenses, magnifying glasses, prescription glasses
or anything else you might want to try to get an image out of, are no problem.
if you are using a 4x5 camera, or looking for one, primarily because of the negative size, and not because bellows camera
allows you to do perspective control ( straighten out diverging/converging lines, selective focus &C ) than maybe a camera
with an internal shutter might be a better pick than a traditional bellows camera ( like the monorail cameras you mentioned before ).
I don't quite understand what you intend to do. My LF lenses have front and rear elements and each is mounted on a lens board that was drilled to accommodate a lens of a particular size. Also you want a lens that will cover your format and whatever movements you intend to do. I would think that with some searching you can find a 100, 135, 150 or 210 lens in a decent shutter as a starter for a reasonable price. Find a studio that is closing or has gone digital and has some good equipment sitting around. Not long ago a pro that I know gave me an old 135 with a broken shutter. I bought a new shutter and lens board and now have a nice extra lens.
The latest, greatest large format lenses will cost you a fortune. Luckily, there is 150 years worth of photographic equipment out there for you to choose from. Take some time and learn about the lens types and manufacturers. Some great bargains can be had from as recently as the 1980s. Improvements since then have been incremental.
Figure out what your subject matter is likely to be and go from there. A "normal" focal length lens for 4x5 is 150mm, and those are relatively cheap. The next most common is a 210mm focal length, which is excellent for tabletop work, landscapes, and portraits. A 90mm wide-angle lens would fill out your kit, but save that for last unless you photograph a lot of architecture or work in tight spaces. 90mm is valuable in landscape work as well. A 90-150-210 lens kit is the basic setup for a lot of folks. The 150 and 210mm lenses are my most-used focal lengths. Rodenstock, Schneider and Nikon are the big names, and there are lenses by Fuji out there, but not as common, that also are excellent. Calumet lenses were rebranded Schneiders and Rodenstocks from the 1980s on. Earlier ones are decent lenses but not as highly regarded in some instances. A 150mm lens in a shutter is relatively cheap and easy to find, so I'd start there if you're on a budget. I prefer lenses in a shutter.
Calumet/Cambo cameras were standards for students and professionals, and many used components are available. You will find many used lens boards for sale that are already drilled. Standard shutter sizes for modern lenses are "0" "1" and "3". Most 150mm-and-shorter lenses will use a "0", most 180-210mm lenses will use a "1", and many but not all longer focal length lenses will take a "3".
If money is tight, go ahead and buy the camera and a used lens board. Get a copy of Eric Renner's book on pinhole photography and start playing! Also check into the Large Format Photography Forum, http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/ and read the back posts on cameras, lenses, film, etc. It's free and a great resource. Good luck and have fun!
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I think one of the challenges you will face with the Calumet boards (and the Toyo Omega boards for that matter) are that they are metal as opposed to wood. Making wood boards and drilling them for lenses is a piece of cake, while working with metal is somewhat more complicated. However, if you have source for the metal boards that is cost effective and can get the holes drilled, go for it.
Concerning lenses for your 4 x 5 - you will see prices on auction sites for lenses in the 90 - 210 mm range (which are standard sizes for 4 x 5) for several/many hundreds of dollars. However, these are overpriced and are from dealers hoping someone will be desperate enough to pay that much. Those lens sizes are very common and if you are patient, you'll be able to find those for less than $200 (Schneider lenses in Copal shutters). I was patient and got a 150mm Symmar for about $130 a couple of years ago. There also older versions of the Schneider lenses that sell for less - and I'm assuming similar versions from Nikon, Rodenstock, etc.
It is always possible to fit older lenses to modern boards. However, they may mount differently than a more modern lens - a mounting flange rather than a threaded ring with retaining ring. However, if you're handy with tools, there isn't any reason why it can't be done. The one challenge you will find is if you get an older lens that has no mounting flange - you will find that mounting it to a metal board will be challenging.
One thing to keep in mind when trying to us old lenses from "junk cameras" is that if the flee market camera lens is from an old camera that uses smaller film than 4 x 5, the image circle for the lens probably won't be large enough for the 4 x 5 film.
Hope this helps.
I got the same 150 as Dan for $78 four years ago and paid only two hundred for my Symmar S 210mm. You should be able to get a couple of good lenses for three to four hundred and many only have a total set of 3 or less lenses. Buy one and use it until you know 1) what other lenses you might want and 2) if you even like LF
Visit large photography forum for more advise and a more active LF market place
I found that as my cameras grew in size I was still shooting about the same amount of film in square inches. Just fewer, and much better exposures. Once I hit 4x5 and got past making mistakes (like, say, shooting an entire day with empty holders) my keeper ratio got up to about every other exposure, give or take. I ascribe this to the distillation of effort and attention enforced by the format.
I save my roll film cameras for times when I wan't to shoot impulsively, spontaneously, etc.
When I use a bunch of time to visualize my end print the slow and methodical LF workflow is a contributor, and I'm trying to take, trying to wring, everything out of the emulsion that my skill set can steal. I am taking care of the film.
OTO, when I'm shooting off the cuff, stream of coincidence, happenstance, looking for HCB's decisive moment, the shot isn't going to wait around for a bunch of LF antics, and I'm looking for what the film gives me, for how it takes care of me, for it's inherent forgiveness.
For me these are two entirely different yet equally valid areas of photographic creativity, and I'm very glad that there are tools suited to both.
That's just, like, my opinion, man...
Originally Posted by JBrunner
Let me try to explain a bit about lenses. When a lens is designed as a "50mm" lens, that means that it's center of focus is 50mm from the film plane. When then lens is moved away from that spot towards the subject, the lens will then focus on something closer. So if you were to use a 50mm lens designed for a 35mm camera, or an entire 35mm camera with the back removed, the distance required for a focused image would be like hair's width in front of the lens.
Originally Posted by Dean Taylor
Lenses have an "image circle." This is the area of light the lens illuminates. A lens designed for a 35mm camera has an image circle just large enough to cover a 35mm-size frame. (And some lenses are still dark in the corners!) A lens designed for 4x5 will illuminate the entire sheet of film.
Like has been said, there's lots of excellent lenses to buy for very cheap! Be patient, and you will find something good. If you are impatient, then you can always use a pinhole "lens" on the front of your camera.