When we sell our house, I'll be ugrading to 4x5. I've been doing a lot of research and it's almost impossible to choose a system. Does anyone own a 4x5 system they can rave about, or recommend? I won't be doing any major hiking so weight isn't a huge issue. 4x5 dealers are scarce in New Zealand. The main shop in auckland sells Sinars, but I'm not sure if a Sinar F1 would be too much for the field?...
I have a Sinar P2 and a Calumet Wood Field 4x5. I have used both in the field. The P2 is much larger and requires a heavier tripod, consequently it validates the Brett Weston quote "There's nothing worth photographing that's more than 50 feet from the car." I think he was shooting 11x14 at the time. Anyway, it can be done and the Sinar is an excellent camera.
The Wood Field camera is much easier to haul. It fits easily into a large backpack with a couple of lenses and some film holders. On the down side the movements aren't as big or precise, the bellows is fixed so I can't add extensions for macro work. For landscapes it's the hands down winner. For close work I'm always tempted to lug the Sinar.
I thing the F1 is a bit lighter than the P2, (I've never used one) so it's probably easier to haul around. You might also want to use quickloads or readyloads they're a lot smaller than film holders. Personally, I don't use them. I had quite a bit of trouble with readyloads when I started out and have never gone back to them. I hear they've been improved.
I switched to a field camera a few years ago and eventually sold my monorail. I use a Tachihara 4x5 (which is the same camera as the Calumet Wood Field with minor 'improvements' like nylon washers). This camera, as stated folds up quite compactly and only weighs around four pounds (less than 2 kilos).
I use it with the "standard troika" of 4x5 lenses- 90mm, 150mm and 210mm. Movement with the 90mm is limited but when I am using the 90 I don't usually require much movement.
It is the least expensive new field camera available in the US (however the new Shen-Hao costs about the same now). The Shen-Hao has rear shift and I believe it has rear axis tilt. The Tachihara doesn't have any shift and tilt on both the front and rear is base tilt. However, axis tilt can be used on the front by slipping the front standard out of the track. To use this feature however you must be doing substantial tilting.
I have been using the Tach for a while now and it has never let me down and seems very stable and solid. (A vast improvement in the field over my Cambo 45NX!
I am personally one of many VERY happy users of Ebony field cameras. They are expensive when compared to other makes, but they are superbly crafted and "do the job" . Maybe one to consider?
After using a wood field camera for A DECADE, I HAVE SWITCHED TO A RAIL, AN aRCA-sWISS fIELD CAMERA. oNCE i DECIDED HOW i COULD PACK THE CAMERA EASILY/SECURELY, I FOUND THAT THE PRECISION OF THE CAMERA AND ITS VARIOUS ACCESSORIES WERE A WELCOME CHANGE TO THE PROBLEMS i HAD EXPERIENCED WITH THE WOOD CAMERA. fROM wa TO LONG LENS, i HAVE FOUND A CAMERA i CAN USE EASILY [FONT=Arial][[FONT=Times][FONT=Arial][SIZE=1]
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I guess it depends on what you need in the end. I mean do you need full movements or just a basic rig?
One way to go would be to split the difference. Look for a light monorail or flexible field camera AND buy something like an old Crown Graphic.
Those Crowns are relatively light (well, for me they are, my other LF camera is a Calumet CC-400.... ), and they are CHEAP. Well made, but CHEAP. This way if you need a....ummmmmm...."stunt camera" you have one. So when it is raining, or you have to do some walking in the wilds where the camera might be exposed to the nastier aspects of the great outdoors you have a camera that you won't be too upset about loosing/damaging. Likewise in an urban situation. If someone snags your backpack with a Crown and an old Ektar on it, no big loss. Not compared to a new Sinar.....
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Just to be a bit contrary to Sherman, I also have a Tachi and 45NX, and as much I am delighted with the Tachi, the 45NX can be a fairly decent field camera, albeit a bit heavier - the secret is to set it up with the short rail and the bag bellows - in that form it will handle lenses to at least 240, and will fold reasonably compactly by turning the standards - the bag bellows allows this quite easily. When fitted with the fresnel you get a brighter screen, more movements, and you can fit the compendium bellows if you want it. The long rail can be stuck in the pack if you need a closeup.
What exactly would you like to photograph with 4x5?
Ross, the best compromise I found was the Linhof TK45, now TK45S. It is of a monorail design but it folds thin enough to carry on a backpack. Has all the movements you could want, and it is light enough to carry. Ok, it is not a 3 pund Tackihara, but then it offers much more than most field cameras.
I tried using a Cambo for field work. But I didn't fancy developing major back problems before my 40th birthday. So I bought a new WISTA DX III for $ 1300,- I've been using it for several years now.
Maybe Wisner, Toyo, Linhoff etc. are better, but I couldn't mind less. The Wista fulfills all of my needs. It's kind of an improved Tachihara. Very light (3 lbs). Well finished. Back swing, shift and base tilt. Front swing, shift, base tilt, and rise. Linhof compatible lensplates. Mine doesn't have interchangeable bellows (other models do), but it has an international groundglass. So, I'm assured of accurate groundglass positioning, and compatibility with tons of accessories.
The movements are plenty for landscape and portrait photography. Although architecture calls for an optical bench camera, I do some architecture with it, and never encountered major problems. I use a 90mm SA and a 75mm SA with recessed lensboards. A bag bellows would be easier, but I manage to get my shots anyhow. Maximum bellowslenght is about 360 mm. For my 210 that's enough. For longer focal lenghts than 270mm I would need a tele-lens or extension tubes (which Wista sells). But untill now I never needed one.
Because the small weight of the camera I don't need a heavy tripod. My Manfrotto 55 (Bogen ??) is plenty sable enough. I carry all my gear (Wista, 3 lenses, filmloads and some small stuff) in a medium sized backpack. My Nikon F4 equipment weighs more...