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  1. #1

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    4x5 cameras with truly parallel/aligned standards

    I'm not sure if this will be a worthwhile thread or a can of worms, but the title is my question. I'd like to hear about some of the more ridiculously expensive cameras out there - Linhof TK45s, Toyo VX125, Arca Swiss, Sinar, (any others), in case I can afford one someday.

    Does all the extra money for the cameras I listed above buy you front and rear standards that are accurately square with eachother when the camera is "zeroed" out of the box?

    I have been thoroughly disappointed with the two cameras I've owned so far (one of them just purchased new) when it comes to parallelism/alignment. Neither of these cameras were cheap, though nowhere near the price of a Linhof or Arca. I have wasted thousands of dollars so far, after doing tons of careful research beforehand. If only there was some way to try these things in a store before buying.

    I don't have another purchase in me so I guess it's back to 35mm again until I am less poor. But I don't know how to avoid this in the future. I could not have done more research, spoken to more people etc.

  2. #2

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    I'm racking my brains to undertsand why such precise alignment is required unless you are doing scientific work? I'd have thought just eyeballing the square alignment of the standards would be sufficient in order to not have converging this or that, if the camera was also set square on the tripod. True close up's and wide aperture photographs may need a more precise alignment, but wouldn't you do that via the ground glass screen and empirical knowledge about what is going on rather than trusting to a camera setting?

    Steve
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  3. #3
    wildbill's Avatar
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    My chamonix 45n-2 wasn't very expensive (used) at all but I'll sell it to you for $3000 if you'd like. Or I'll take that Walker and a few grand. Are your prints suffering from standarditis?
    www.vinnywalsh.com

    I know what I want but I just don't know how to go about gettin' it.-Hendrix

  4. #4
    Barrie B.'s Avatar
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    4 X 5 Squiare back.

    Quote Originally Posted by wildbill View Post
    My chamonix 45n-2 wasn't very expensive (used) at all but I'll sell it to you for $3000 if you'd like. Or I'll take that Walker and a few grand. Are your prints suffering from standarditis?
    The Walker has a ` Fixed ' back with only movements on the front, excellent for wide to normal lenses . Cheers Barrie B.

  5. #5
    BradS's Avatar
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    Used Sinar gear is dirt cheap. So too, are the used Toyo monorails (admittedly, no the VX125 however). Even old Linhof monorails are pretty darn inexpensive...

    but, I too wonder why such precision alignment is required? Isn't that what the ground glass is for? I mean, you can see the the alignment, or lack there of, on the ground glass...

    I agree that some cheap cameras make it difficult. Several of the popular less expensive models do not have separate controls for front rise and front center tilt for example.
    Last edited by BradS; 09-25-2012 at 06:50 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  6. #6
    aleksmiesak's Avatar
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    Yeah, I'm confused. Especially by the fact that you've tried two, weren't satisfied and gave up to go to 35mm. How is that a logical progression when aiming for perfection? These cameras maintain their value incredibly well so you could easily sell them if they didn't fit what you were looking for and upgrade to something else. Somehow the 35mm thing doesn't fit in that equation.
    Aleksandra Miesak

    "One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you'd be stricken blind." - Dorothea Lange

  7. #7

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    Thanks for the comments so far.

    To clarify a few things, first, it's not like I went out recently and bought two cameras. I've gone back and forth between 35mm and LF over the years. In the early 90s I started working in LF for the first time, then gave it up some years later to go back to 35mm. Etc. Then recently I decided to go back to LF again, purchased what I thought would be an excellent camera (I sold the old one some years ago). I'm not trying to compare the two formats. The first LF camera I had was not great, but with a lot of extra work for each shot, and a good deal of frustration I was able to make it work. That was not enjoyable though. There was a thread on here recently in which some people made the point our tools should be extensions of ourselves, and pleasurable to use, rather than things to fight in an effort to get a shot.

    Wide angle lenses demand a pretty accurate camera. I'm not saying it has to be perfect, but come on, these things should be pretty damn close for the money they cost. I do a lot of urban landscape/architecture-type work, usually under low light conditions. It would be nice to at least be able to rely on the camera being squared up properly when starting in zero/null position instead of having to fiddle for 20 minutes with bubble levels, rulers and whatever else just to get the damn thing aligned. It is not easy to do all this on the ground glass. Some help from the expensive equipment would be nice. My camera doesn't have markings or detents, but these would be useless anyway if the camera is out of alignment when they are zeroed.

    I put a lot of hard, careful work into my pictures and prints. I really don't think I'm asking too much for the camera to be accurately aligned. Perhaps if I had "cheaped out", but I didn't.

    What tolerance is acceptable to people? 1 degree out? 2 degrees out? Is an Arca or Technikardan that much better than a cheap Shen Hao? Or is it the luck of the draw and maybe I just always end up with the duds for some reason?

    This plain sucks. Anyway if I remain this pissed, look out for great deals on some brand new gear in the classifieds.

    And thanks, wildbill, for rubbing it in all the time. I do the best I can.
    Last edited by Michael R 1974; 09-25-2012 at 07:45 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  8. #8
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    A camera's alignment is only as good as the person setting the zero detents. If you are talking about brand new cameras, then they should come setup, but used cameras are a mixed bag. It reads like your current cameras just need to be setup properly (though some 4x5 cameras don't have adjustable zero detents).

  9. #9
    dlin's Avatar
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    Sounds like you'd be best served by a monorail camera with clear detents on the zero positions and good levels on both front and rear standards. If you're working with primarily wideangle lenses, a bag bellows would be necessary. There are a number of good options available: Sinar, Arca Swiss, Linhof. You'd be trading off portability/compactness for this level of precision, but it sounds like a solution to your frustrations.

  10. #10

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    ic: The first camera I had had zero detents, though not adjustable. The one I currently have has no detents, scales etc. It is supposed to be zeroed by "feel" (for example, you can easily feel with your fingertip when the front tilt is zeroed when the frame around the lens board is flush with the uprights on the front standard). The problem is, as it turns out when that is done and everything is flush, the lens is actually tilted forward slightly relative to the back.

    Dlin: I think that is the direction I'm leaning in. My first 4x5 was a monorail. With the more recent purchase I really thought I'd be best served by a "technical"-type folding camera since it is sort of a jack of all trades. But I think you are right that in the end I'm better served by a monorail for my purposes despite the increased bulk. I must admit however I'm having a very hard time figuring out which camera would be best for me (Sinar, Arca, Linhof...). I will have to get a second job though. Have you seen the price of a bag bellows for a Technikardan? Thanks very much for the feedback so far. It is indeed frustrating right now.
    Last edited by Michael R 1974; 09-25-2012 at 08:03 PM. Click to view previous post history.

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