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  1. #11

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    Sep 2002
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    You'll probably end up doing what most of us did - draw up a shortlist on paper. Go through all the pros and cons of each type (field/monorail), what you intend shooting but most of all decide first what lenses you want to use - not all can cope with all lenses! I would suggest consulting a table that roughly compares 35mm lenses (focal length) against other formats. Then there's lens coverage! Welcome to the crazy world of LF!!

  2. #12

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    Sep 2002
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    Ross, a Sinar f1 is not the type of camera you would want to take out into the field. You need to balance your needs with your wants. For example, field work does not require as many camera movements as studio table-top work. A field camera needs to be portable and somewhat resistant to foul weather conditions. Read as many books as you can on outdoor photography with large format equipment. Flat- bed field cameras, and monorail cameras that are useable in the field, are easy to find, both new, and used. They come in many format sizes and shapes. They are made of metal, plastic, wood, and various combinations of these materials. When you discover what your needs are, come back and ask for opinions on one, or two cameras. Each one of us has his/her opinion of which type, brand, size, etc. camera is the best.

  3. #13
    b.e.wilson's Avatar
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    Sep 2002
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    I've had alot of luck with an old Super Graphic: metal field, most movements, and cheap. Sets up very quick, too. I've inadvertantly bashed in into many a rock over time, and it's hardly scratched. And when the day comes when I accidentally drop if over a cliff, it's not that big a loss (as long as one of my wide lenses isn't on it when it goes).

  4. #14
    Sean's Avatar
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    Aug 2002
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    Thanks for the great advice! I have plenty of time to give this a lot of thought. I'll post again when I am closer to my purchase.

  5. #15

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    Sep 2002
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    33
    Well, here's my two cents worth....

    A big disadvantage of some (most?) monorails is that they're incredibly bulky. Not heavy but huge. The Sinar F series isn't bad in this respect; you remove the bellows and swing the standards parallel to the rail and it's flat. It's pretty big in square footage but it's not thick.

    Of course an objection is that you have to take the camera apart (no big deal, just flip levers) and put it back together but otoh with a lunchbox camera you still have to open it up, raise standards etc.

    I think the best compromise is the collapsing-rail style such as the Linhof TK (I use a similar Canham). IMHO the extremes, the big non-collapsible monorail especially and the movement-limited Graphic, are often _very_ off-putting to new LF photographers.

    The important thing is to buy _something_ and get started. Frankly I'd advise against buying one of the really expensive top-of-the-line cameras to start with simply because you have no experience from which to judge what camera is most suitable. If you lean towards a rail camera, a clean used Sinar is a good choice, while otoh if you lean towards a lunchbox camera a used Wista or Zone VI would be good . You may decide that your first camera is sufficient but if you don't you'll at least know what you _do_ want and be able to resell your first camera without losing a lot of money.

  6. #16

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    Sep 2002
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    That last part is GREAT advice! Seriously. You can get into LF pretty cheaply if you shop around.
    Official Photo.net Villain
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  7. #17

    Join Date
    Sep 2002
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    I'll disagree somewhat with the idea of cost. Unless you're able to buy a good used camera in an area where you will have no problem reselling and not losing vast amounts of money, I would tend towards spending a bit more cash! Half the problem is that people will buy cheap to see if they "like it" and a lot of the time the nature of the cheap camera ends up putting them off!! You then get very little return, if any, on your cheap camera. I personally knew that I REALLY wanted to get into LF. I used medium format but was very aware of the limitations that not having camera movements imposed on my photography. I wanted a camera that I WOULD'NT outgrow!! I thought long and hard and did a great deal of research as the nearest LF stockist is a 7 hour round trip! I decided to spend my hard earned cash wisely and bought (an expensive) camera that will outlast me - I don't drink or smoke so decided that this camera could be my vice!! I would advise not rushing into a purchase (very difficult) and do your homework and then spend your money wisely. Here in the UK, there is only a small market for used LF gear and if the same applies to you then think carefully.

  8. #18

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    Sep 2002
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    Over the years I have used various models of Toyo and Calumet monorails both in and out of the studio. Also Tachihara both in 4x5 and 8x10. Each had its pro's and con's. I now use a Super Graphic exclusuvely for field work. It is all metal body, compact, easy to set up and very flexible when in use. It has more than adequate front tilts.swings and shifts along with a drop bed that are more than enough for all but the most extreme situations. The Super will also take all size lenses fro 90m to 250mm without adaptors and will close with a 150 Schneider Symar attached.
    I find it easy to pack along with 5 lenses,a dark cloth and filters in a small L.L.Bean backpack. I have hiked the Rockies of Colorado with this combo and never felt that I lacked anything in the way of usefullness. Much easier to handle than my Mamiya Rb systems on long treks. Can't beat that big negative either and most adequate to the task. Just my two cents worth.

  9. #19

    Join Date
    Sep 2002
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    243
    You've gotten a lot of good advice, I would add the following. You need to analyze how you are going to use the camera. If you plan on not going much further than 200 feet from your car, then any type of 4x5 will work - monorail or folding field camera.

    If you plan on carrying the camera any distance over that, then you should look at a field camera. Without a doubt, and with all deference to those people who have given their opinions on the "best" field camera (usually because they own it) - the absolute best is a Linhof Technika.

    In a field camera, you will need on occasion, to use corrections involving the camera back. Any field camera that does have or allow corrections (swing / tilt) of the camera back is, in my book, useless. I do not own a Technika (although I have used them extensively).

    I own a smaller, all-metal camera that has the same type of adjusments as the Technika - the Horseman FA . I would not recommend the FA as it requires modification of the front lens standard in order to use lenses with fairly large rear lens elements.

    I would suggest that you look at a used Linhof as they are all metal, extremely rugged, have a built-in market should you wish to re-sell the camera, and really are hard to beat for all around field use.

  10. #20

    Join Date
    Sep 2002
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    158
    In my opinion:

    One of the most overlooked aspects of camera selection is how the weight of the system will affect your creative mind. Not only do heavy cameras, bags, tripods, and holders make it difficult to move very far, they wreak havoc on your enthusiasm and willingness to continue photographing, once you've begun.

    Also, the weight of one component can increase the weight of another. A heavy camera often requires a heavier tripod and a stronger, heavier bag.

    I think that unless you're going to need extensive movements or other features for a special application, you should increase your creative possibilities by limiting the weight of a 4x5 field camera to about 5lbs. My opinion only, but doing so has helped me greatly.

    There are many items to carry in addition to the camera. Film holders, lenses, meter, darkcloth, filters, etc. increase the load. The bag itself probably will weigh at least 2lbs.

    It's not hard to build a 4x5 system that weighs on your mind as well as your body. Think light!



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