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  1. #1
    childers-jk's Avatar
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    Field or Mono Rail

    I am very interested in LF photography, and I have been shooting MF and 35mm for some time. I am interested in venturing into the world of LF and I am debating between a field format 4X5 or a Mono rail. What are the benefits, if any of a mono rail vs. field? I know a field camera is lighter and more mobile, but lack some of the adjustments of a mono rail. Also, is there a difference in the lenses for each? I understand that the standard lens work well on both, but is there a functional difference as far as dof between a field and mono rail camera?

    Again, thanks in advance for any advice or opinions.

    Jeff C.

  2. #2
    roteague's Avatar
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    It is like the difference between driving a sedan and a sport utility. Both do the same thing, but for various reasons. You need to tell us more about what your interests are, before we can provide more detailed answers.
    Robert M. Teague
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    www.apug.org/forums/portfolios.php?u=2235

    "A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist" -- Louis Nizer

  3. #3

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    Short answer is it depends.

    Some field cameras are heavier then some monorails.

    Some have more movements then some monorails.

    Lenses also depend on the camera.

    I guess if you look at the top of the line studio monorails then you'll have more movements and easier to use movements. But most people won't want to haul something like that into the field.

    If the camera you buy can handle the lens you want then DOF will be the same. Some cameras are easier to haul. Some are easier to setup. Some can handle long or short lenses easier.

    You can make general statements but enough cameras of both types exist to make any rule of thumb iffy.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by roteague
    It is like the difference between driving a sedan and a sport utility. Both do the same thing, but for various reasons. You need to tell us more about what your interests are, before we can provide more detailed answers.
    Great analogy!

  5. #5
    childers-jk's Avatar
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    I am mostly interested in landscapes for the LF. I do, however, wish to experiment with LF portraiture. So I would like to have the flexibility for both. Weight is not so much an issue as control. I am not sure what other information you might need, but some model suggestions would be great, along with lens recommendations, especially for portrait work.

  6. #6
    roteague's Avatar
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    We, landscape photographers, use field cameras because of weight and size restrictions primarily. To get those savings you generally give up some movement capability. While I am not a portrature guy, I don't think the lesser movements of field cameras will impact your portraiture work.

    There are many good field cameras, either wood or metal (my choice), ranging from the cheap Chinese cameras to the more expensive European cameras. You will find as many opinions on cameras as there are photographers. My choice is the Toyo 45 AII.

    For lenses, generally a wide angle lens (90mm or so) is the most used lens for landscapes. That lens wouldn't be a good choice for portraits - I'll leave the recommendations on that to the portraiture guys - I imagine that you would need a longer lens. So, you are looking at needing two lenses.
    Robert M. Teague
    www.visionlandscapes.com
    www.apug.org/forums/portfolios.php?u=2235

    "A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist" -- Louis Nizer

  7. #7
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    Focal Length

    One important consideration, in addition to movements and weight, is focal lengths. Most entry level field cameras have a max extension around 300mm, which is good enough for a portrait lens but nothing longer (except telephoto designs). Some are also limited at the wider end, by lack of bag bellows or other design shortcomings. Monorails are usually more flexible in this regard, at both extremes. Look into the cost/availability of bag bellows for any system you look at if you'll be using anything wider than a 90mm (about 28mm equiv in 35mm).

  8. #8
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    If portability isn't an issue, then a monorail will give you the most control and should be considered. Most have a full array of movements of both front and rear standards while many field cameras are more limited, especially in adjustments of the rear standard. Having said that, landscape photography generally requires fewer movements in the first place which is why field cameras are just that...field cameras.

    As to lenses, a 150 or 180 is pretty much the 'standard' lens for 4x5. However, a 210 lens (sort of 70mm..ish lens in 35mm) can serve as a decent portrait lens and a perfectly useful 'standard' lens as well.

    If cost matters, a monorail can be had for less than most field cameras at entry level quality, and used. But there are wonderful choices of new field cameras (Shen-Hao for instance) to be considered too. Good luck!
    John Voss

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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by childers-jk
    I am mostly interested in landscapes for the LF. I do, however, wish to experiment with LF portraiture. So I would like to have the flexibility for both. Weight is not so much an issue as control. I am not sure what other information you might need, but some model suggestions would be great, along with lens recommendations, especially for portrait work.
    I am no where near as experienced as the rest of the individuals on this board, but I still feel as if my input may be of assistance.

    I would go for a monorail camera due to the absolute flexibility that it has. Although you pay a weight penality, it seems that you (as I am) aren't too worried about it. Most field cameras limit you in front movements, and all field cameras will limit you as far as bellow draw. With a monorail, all you need to do is add another rail, standard, and bellows (which now adays is fairly inexpensive).
    Take a look at the Sinar system. For the beginner, it is the easiest (I feel) to use, as it comes with a host of 'calculators' on it. It takes a lot of the guess work out. Plus, it is infinitely upgradable (Even to do 8x10 if you catch the 'bug').
    I'd say try a 210mm lens for portraits. Its the 'standard' focal length for that sort of thing. I am a fan of the Rodenstock Sinaron series, but Schneider and Fuji also make excellent stuff.

  10. #10
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    I use the Linhof Technikardan 45S. These cameras are a field monorail camera. They may be a little heavier than some metal field cameras. They have an unusual way of collapsing and rotate on the collapsible rail for packing. It does take a bit to get use to the opening and closing of the camera. They offer more movement capabilities than most field camera. These cameras and their predecessor the Technikardan 45 can be purchased on eBay for a substantial discount from new. Both of these cameras use the Linhof Technika lensboard. The clamshell Linhof Technika (preferably IV through Master or 2000) could be another option.

    Rich
    Richard A. Nelridge
    http://www.nelridge.com

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