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  1. #1

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    Large Monorail Beginner

    Hi everyone and thanks for having me on this amazing forum. I'm looking at buying a Camulet 4 x 5 monorail camera to do portraits in my studio under monoblocs and before I do, I have a few questions that no amount of searching the internet has so far been able to completely clarify. If there is anyone out there who can help me, I'd be very grateful.

    1. Are medium format lenses and shutter separate items that are a required purchase separately? After looking at Keh, it seems that some of the lenses have built in shutters and other older ones screw in and the shutter is a separate entity, is this correct?

    2. I imagine I'll have to connect my key light through a synch lead. Do these 4 x 5 set ups take a standard modern synch lead and if so, where on the combination does it attach?

    3 My work involves taking the same colour portrait with a different subject every time. Basically head and shoulders. Can anyone suggest a good portrait lens from the current Keh stock? Since my work is currently done on 35mm, I have been using an 85mm f1.4 so I was thinking perhaps a 150 or a 210mm, is this correct?

    4. In terms of shutter speed selection, do view camera shutters offer the same range of speeds? I currently shoot everything at 1/200 at f5.6 at 100 but I have heard that this all goes out the window when you are using a view camera.

    5. Can anyone recommend a tripod for this set up which won't leave me bankrupt?

    6. In terms of film, I have heard that you can load your own (I'd have to use a bag so have dust risk) or you can purchase film 'pre-packaged' - can anyone tell me what the general term for this 'pre-packaged' film is so I don't appear like a half wit when I ring the camera store.

    7. Lastly, I assume I buy a board with a hole in the middle for the lens. There seems to be a lot of variety in this simple item. Some list several holes as a feature which I can't get my head around. Do I just buy a 4 x 5 board?

    Thank you in advance. I'm hoping to place an order with Keh as soon as I have these questions clarified. Have a fantastic Christmas and a happy and successful New Year. Cheers Chris

  2. #2

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    Hi Chris,

    Let me give you my advise, and I'm sure there will be a lot of additional wisdom from others too.

    1. I think you meant "large format". Yes many come with shutter and otehrs are "in barrel" meaning no shutter. You'll get most use out of one with shutter.

    2. The newer ones (1980s or so, and later) have PC. Some earlier ones use other connectors. Paramount can make cords with virtually any connector you need so the older styles are a minimal impediment.

    3. For head-and-shoulders -- 210 or even better a 300 would be my suggestion.

    4. The bigger the shutter the slower the top speed... generally speaking.

    5. Someone else will have to answer this one... I don't really know the current tripod market.

    6. Readiloads and the like are gone. You'll need to load film holders yourself. It is easy.

    7. For the Cambo it is a metal board. They come in the basic shutter sizes and it is much easier to buy the board to fit your shutter than adapt the wrong size.
    Last edited by BrianShaw; 12-23-2012 at 06:34 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  3. #3

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    Look for a used Majestic tripod with head. They are big, heavy and cheap. If you prefer a studio stand than a tripod sometimes they sell cheap on Craigslist.

  4. #4
    BradS's Avatar
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    Chris,

    You're shooting strobes so, you'll need a (modern) shutter that has a flash synch connector. The Copal shutter is common and usually, pretty reliable. I don't think I've ever seen one with out synch. So, the way it works with the vast majority of modern lenses is that the lens is really two groups of lenses. One group is screwed into the front of the shutter and the other screws into the back. Usually, the shutter and lens all come together as a unit. In your situation, avoid lenses in barrel - that is, the ones with out a shutter. Also avoid the ones in "DB Mount" this is peculiar to Sinar and not generally useful unless you have a Sinar Shutter thingy.


    The lens mounts to a lens board. Generally speaking, you will need a lens board that is specifically made for your camera. A few types/sizes have become defacto standards...but, again you will need the right lens board for your camera. Here's the neat part...only the lens board is specific to the camera...that is, Copal Shutters only come in a few sizes...so, once you have a lens board that fits your camera and has the right sized hole in the middle of it you're set. The copal #0 shutter needs a 35mm hole, Copal #1 needs a 42 mm hole and the big Copal #3 shutter needs a 65mm hole...

    My personal preference for "head and shoulders" on 4x5 is 240mm...but, that is just because I happen to have a really nice 240mm f/5.6 lens. Prior to that I used a 210mm lens - which is fine. (caveat: I rarely do tight head and shoulders).

    Strobe lighting and exposure basics don't change just because you move from 35mm to 4x5. You may want to give consideration to fact that you'll e using a longer focal length lens on 4x5 than you do with 35mm...the effect that the longer focal length lens has on depth of field may entice you to use a smaller aperture with 4x5 than you are used to with small format.


    Modern Copal #0 shutters (150mm lens) have the usual shutter speed progression that you are accustomed to - except that 500 is the highest speed. Copal #1 shutters (210mm lenses) go to...hmmm, is is 400? Anyway, the progression is the same as you are used to but the highest speed will be less than 500. Sometimes much less (Copal #3 only go to 125). The Copal Press shutter also stops at 125). In anycase, you will likely find little use for the highest speeds.


    Film holders and hand loaded individual sheets are the order of the day. As Brian said above, the packets, called "ready loads" or "quick loads" are all gone now.

    All of these questions and more are easier to demonstrate than to write about (well for me anyway). You may wish to find somebody nearby to help you understand how this all works - it is not complicated...but, it is a little different from 35mm...to that end, I also suggest that you take a moment to add your location to your profile info. It helps in so many ways.

    Tripods and heads are too personal a matter for me to comment on. To each his own I say. Try a bunch and figure out what works for you.
    Last edited by BradS; 12-23-2012 at 10:08 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  5. #5

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    Wow, so much information and so quickly, and on Christmas Eve to boot! Thank you so much. Brad I'm based in Melbourne, Australia and I will update my profile shortly. Thanks so much for the clarification on lenses, I think I'll look for a modern 210mm lens from Keh to begin with as the ones on Ebay all seem to have some issue or other.
    Alan, thanks for the suggestion regarding a tripod, I will begin looking for a Majestic as soon as I finish typing this.
    I'll let you know when all this kit arrives as I'm bound to have more questions but just while you are here, could I bother you with two more?
    I understand that generally speaking a monorail will not be tilted or shifted for portraiture unless of course I want to deliberately change the focal plane as an artistic consideration. I'm anticipating that I will be using this camera bang on straight ahead directly in front of the subject for the most part. Is this the general situation with portraiture when using a view camera?
    Just one more.
    With my kind of portraiture obviously, a 5 x 4 frame is more suitable than 4 x 5. I believe that the ground glass on the later Camulets may be turned. Does this change the frame from landscape 4 x 5 to portrait 5 x 4 or do you have to turn the whole camera that way as in 35mm? Excuse my profound ignorance but this is one I forgot to ask and I can't get my head around it.
    Thanks again Chris

  6. #6
    eddie's Avatar
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    Chris- the back rotates, so it's not an issue. 5x4, or 4x5, no problem.

  7. #7
    BradS's Avatar
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    With regard to camera movements. I definitely recommend starting with everything zeroed up...that is, front and back parallel. You'll have enough to do without fiddling around with movements. remember that everything takes longer with large format and you still have the subject to deal with.


    It's not christmas eve here yet...

  8. #8

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    Hmm. You like an 85 on 35 mm still. The normal focal length for 35 mm still is 43 mm (I know that's not what the small format shooters think, but their minds are prisoners of an historical accident). So you like a lens whose focal length is twice normal. Seriously consider a 300 mm lens instead of a 150 (that's normal for 4x5) or 210 (1.4x normal).

    Educate yourself about Calumet 4x5 cameras. Calumet manufactured what are really Kodak Master View cameras for some years. These have fixed bellows, bail backs, rotating backs, came in three lengths. Look here http://www.cameraeccentric.com/html/info/calumet_2.html for more information. The bail back is a sort of super spring back, won't accept roll holders. Not a loss for what you say you want to do.

    Calumet also distributed Cambo view cameras and sold Cambos badged as Calumets. These are fully modular cameras, can be made as long as wanted with additional standards and bellows and, yes, a longer rail. Here's http://www.cameraeccentric.com/html/info/cambo_1.html a Cambo catalog, for their SC series. Newer Cambos and Calumets that use 1" square rails are minor variations on the SC. The SC and offspring were sold with bail backs and rotating international backs (not shown in that early catalog). The international back accepts roll holders. The bail backs are what's called reversible, can be attached to the rear standard in landscape and in portrait orientation; switching requires detaching the back, rotating it 90 degrees, and reattaching it.

    The Calumet CC-401 is a very capable camera, will do all you say you want to do. The same is true of the 4x5 Cambo SC and later versions.

    A CC-401 should cost a bit less than a 4x5 Cambo/Calumet, is a bit more limited. If I haven't said it yet, for what you say you want to do the two cameras are functionally equivalent. If you decide to buy a Cambo/Calumet, make sure that the camera you buy has a back and that the back has a ground glass in it. I've seen many offered without backs, just a rail, two standards, bellows and tripod mounting block. Loose backs aren't cheap.

  9. #9

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    Another thing you will have to take into account is that when using the monorail to take full frame Head & Shoulder portraits you are likely to be closer than the 8-10x focal length distance (at which it is deemed not to require exposure compensation) which will require you to make an exposure compensation for the length of the bellows (increased fall off of light).

    The easy way to do this is to take the focal length in inches (say 10" 250mm) and the length of the bellows between the standards in inches (say 14"), transpose the two figures into f nos f10-f14 and calculate the difference between them, in this example it would equal approximately 1 stop.

    200mm lens (8") with 13" bellows would give f8-f13 = approx 1 and 1/3 stops to be added.

  10. #10
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Since your studio, I assume, is set up to use the 85mm lens on 35mm then you should understand that a 210mm lens is going to see a bit wider, something like a 60mm lens might see on your 35mm camera.

    Just understand that with the 210 you might need to move the camera position forward a fair bit to keep the camera from seeing past the edges of your background. You might want to consider a bit longer lens say 300ish if moving forward would put you in a bind or you simply want to keep the same camera position.

    When I do the math I use the short edge of any film as my reference vs. the focal length. In your case I get a 24mm:85mm ratio. For 4x5 film 4"=~100mm which is essentially 4x24 so then we go 4x85 which suggests a lens that focuses on the subject when it is 340mm from the film.

    This isn't an exact suggestion for focal length on LF because, unlike 35mm cameras where the lens is solidly attached and focusing doesn't change the angle of view appreciably, focusing on a close subject with a LF camera means moving the lens furthar away from the film which will narrow the cameras angle of view.

    A 300mm(ish) focal length lens would be a reasonable guess to get focused on a portrait subject with the lens somewhere close to 340mm from the film.
    Last edited by markbarendt; 12-24-2012 at 01:02 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

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