Outdoors, I use either a Toyo folding field camera (4x5), carried in a backpack, or a Cambo monorail view camera (4x5 or 8x10).
The monorails (with full motions on both lens and film holders) are much better for critical perspective control (e.g. high-rise architecture), but are quite awkward to move.
If you want to use a monorail outdoors, invest in a good collapsible cart to move the equipment around on city sidewalks--most cost-effective accessory I ever bought.
#1, Why do you want to get into large format? I decided to do it when I realized that I needed movements, and LF was the best option. Getting into LF because photographer X does it or due to G.A.S. means you won't be happy with it in the long run.
Originally Posted by peanutbutterwrench
#2, You don't have to spend a lot of money. A folding field or press camera can be purchased cheaply. I bought my Graflex Super Graphic years ago for $500, and I still have it. I'm sure that the price has dropped a little bit. Although I have other lenses, I mostly use it with the Wollensak 135mm Optar that came with it, and that's a sharp lens. A Super Graphic is very close to a Toyo 45AX in functionality.
#3, "Road" and "studio" is a pretty wide application range. Do you do a lot of macro work? If so, you'll want a monorail with a lot of bellows, maybe something that can take extensions. The Super Graphic and Toyo have a maximum extension of about 12 inches, so you can do 1:1 with a 135mm-150mm lens. (add 3 stops, and you're good)
#4, Sheet isn't as easy to develop as roll film. It's easy to scratch negatives until you get your technique perfected. And it's easier for development to come out wrong due to one thing or another.
#5, If you don't have a LF enlarger, then get one. They are cheap now, and maybe you can pick up one that's free.
At then end though it's worth it for me. I like it!
^^^ "Like" is more lasting than "love" and "love" is more lasting than "lust". What do you "like"?
The rails are cheaper as they are less desired and can be heavy. If anything they are more of a pain to travel with since they don't close up like a field camera. On the positive side they usually have greater movements, front and back for such as architecture and are cheap. Be careful of certain models where the tripod blocks that attach the rail to the tripod can crack.
Many people get into LF thru one of the Graphic models. Not a lot of movements but with a spring back they can be pretty light and hand hold-able. Check the auction sites for going prices.
By the time your done you should have about $600-$700 out of pocket depending on camera, lens and incidentals which may include some b&w developing stuff, as long that is if your tripod is heavy enough and doesn't need to be replaced. Color film is many times sent out and costlier to buy. Polaroids of course are more costly then B&W. Best way to figure it all out if make a list and shop prices online. Don't forget to include some film and holders for the Polaroid stuff if need be.
Oh, Wayne mentioned Polaroids.
No more Polaroid film, except maybe someday from New55Project. There is Fuji instant film, which comes in a pack. The larger pack size has been discontinued, and Fuji is only producing the smaller size. Still good material, though, and the negative can be recovered, but not easily. There is no more Type 55. There are no more Readyloads or Quickloads.
ONF: What I like about LF is that a 4x5 isn't much larger, and is the same weight as, my Pentax 6x7. I like the large negative, including 8x10. I like the movements. Wow, do I ever like movements! I like LF chromes. I am *so* going to miss Kodak E6! Ah, well, life goes on, for Chuck and Diane, two kids, living in Spokane. I like having a real selection of soft-focus and portrait lenses. I like being able to crop a sharp sub-Minox frame out of an 8x10, using a lens made about 1935, on Delta 100.
Thing is when I see someone like peanutbutterwrench considering LF, I think about someone else on LFPF who tried LF, spent a lot of money, and found out he didn't like it. And now what for that fellow? Disappointment and reassessing values. Not a bad thing, but buying cheaply and resisting GAS would have been good for him. I still have my Super Graphic, and I'm still using it. No problems. Maybe peanutbutterwrench will find that LF is wonderful for him, maybe not. He just needs to think about what he wants to do.
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First off - thanks for all the helpful replies! Definitely a lot of info for me to sort through.
Right now I shoot primarily with a Mamiya RZ so I'm pretty used to carrying weighty gear around, but don't really mind it . It tops in at around 5-6 pounds I believe. I'm guessing a 4x5 will obviously weigh a little more than this. I'm not planning on straying too far from the car when using it outdoors, but then again I always like to push my limits...
I think I might be more interested in a monorail than a folder at the moment. Having the option to use the movements is something I'm interested in, as well as polaroid use (that is, if I can find any film...) My local library has a few books on view camera technique (also some of the ones mentioned) that I plan to check out.
A few of the questions I had were mostly resolved. I take it that you can use pretty much any lens with a body, and aren't restricted to using ones of the same brand like with 35 and MF? What lenses would be considered "normal" range? The one I seem to find most on my RZ is a 127mm. I used a 90 for awhile but found it too wide.
Gear and everything aside - I just think 4x5 is a gorgeous format and would love to start to incorporate it into some of the series I'm working on.
I've decided on a budget $400 or less, after some more research it seems like I can get a basic used set up for around that... I'm a very tactile learner and think that my best bet might just be to figure out the camera / glass I want to purchase and to go from there? I've found a few Calumet CC-4xx series and Toyo 45cx cameras floating around for fairly cheap. Definitely going to research a lot more and see what my options are before committing to buying a system. We'll see...
Thanks again for all the info!
I too use an RZ and recently started with the LF thing. A 3-lens LF setup can be (a lot) lighter than the equivalent RZ setup, though it's slower to use. However, that will be not true at all with a monorail - expect to have to carry a rigid case of a couple cubic feet and weighing maybe 20kg. You can totally do landscape with a monorail, but it's a hard, hard slog.
A good field camera (I have a Toyo 45A) will give you lots of movements. Not extreme movements, but I find that my lenses generally run out of coverage before the camera runs out of motion. Polaroid (if you can find it) is no different on a field or monorail - you just need to have the right polaroid back.
Yes, lenses are all compatible; what matters is the lensboards. Each camera has it's own size and some manufacturers share sizes. You can get undrilled boards and drill them to suit your shutter, but happily there are 3 standard shutter sizes (Copal 0, 1 and 3) that cover 95% of the lens market, so you can just buy boards in those sizes. The only oddballs are barrel (no shutter) lenses; using one of those means you need a focal plane (e.g. Speed Graphic; good luck finding one in good condition) or other shutter in the camera or are happy with long exposures controlled with a lenscap. When starting out it's much easier to just buy a lens in shutter that lets you just dial in a speed and go.
4x5 is 1.66x larger than 6x7 (115mm vs 69mm on the long edge) and the same aspect ratio. If you like 127mm, look for a 210mm lens - it's a very common focal length and will give you identical perspective. $400 for body and lens is easily doable if you're OK with monorails or press cameras; your budget might struggle a little if you have to pay up for a new enlarger and/or enlarger lenses instead of lucking into a good deal.
$400 is a bit tight for a 4x5 kit, but if you shop carefully you should be able to get a decent Calumet or Omega monorail, a 150mm or a 210mm lens, a lens board and some film holders.
Modern folders are much more expensive and will not likely meet your budget. Just don't buy junk. You don't want to waste time trying to figure out whether you're making the mistakes or whether the camera has problems.
Absolutely, buy a book. Study it. Study it some more. When you do get a camera, keep the books available
Originally Posted by 36cm2
Fuji still makes 4x5 film instant film and backs to hold it.