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  1. #1
    Wookie's Avatar
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    What's a decent 4x5 View camera for landscapes for a beginner?

    Hi,

    Looking at purchasing a second hand 4x5 camera for use with Landscapes, Cityscapes and Architecture.

    Any suggestions on brand/model and lenses?

    Plus what accessories are a must and/or nice to have?

    I'm in Australia so things are a bit more expensive from what i have found so far and it looks like it may be cheaper for me to look in the US and have it shipped over. So if you have prices on what i should expect to pay, use the US price and I'll look atthe conversions and shipping expenses.

    Cheers
    Paul

  2. #2

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    The old metal Calumet 400 series monorails are excellent values. They aren't the best for backpacking but that isn't in your criteria.

    If back packing is in the cards, you'll probably prefer a wood clamshell folder. There are quite a few new ones coming out of asia and some are enthusiastically recommended by others more knowlegable than myself.

    A good 1st lens is a 210mm, sometimes you'll come across a 203mm Ektar for under $200 and thats a real steal IMHO. If your serious about architecture sometime you'll probably want a 90mm Super Angulon.

    Accesories? Light meter, tripod, film holders, filters, cable release, dark cloth, focusing loupe.

    I strongly recommend getting a copy of Steve Simmons Using The View Camera before buying any gear.

    Have fun!

  3. #3
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    If not for the architecture pix, I would recommend a Crown Graphic, which is cheap and folds down into a nice package. However, there are still the Graphic Views, which are nice and cheap, and also light. It's the glass that matters most, a camera is just a light tight box, and there are lots of cheap 4x5s that are plenty good, but I find these to be one of the best bangs for the buck, because they are actually reasonably well built. Get one without a Graflok back if you really want to get one cheaply. There are three models: 1. GV, which has a short rail, tilts from the bases of the standards, and a spring back, 2. the early GVII, which has a longer rail, movements from the center of the standards, and a spring back, and 3. the later GVII, which is the same as the early GVII, but with a Graflok back. Make sure the rail clamp is included if you get a Graphic View. It is a combination rail clamp and tripod head with a long arm to loosen or lock the tilt.

    Any large format lens from a well-known maker, and many from not-so-well-known makers will be good. The big and common names are Fuji, Rodenstock, Nikkor, Schneider, and Kodak. Calumets and Sinars are relabeled Rodenstocks, and Linhofs are relabeled Schneiders, to my knowledge. IMO, the thing to do is assume that all large format lenses will be more than high enough quality, and just research the coverage of the lens, so you can see how much shift they will allow you. The standard two-lens beginner kit that offers a ton of versatility would be a 210 convertible and a 90. Get older glass and smaller max. aperture models, such as 90mm f/8 or 210mm f/6.8 (instead of f/5.6 or f/4.5 models) to save money. If pinching every penny is not necessary, very nice 210s are so common and are being dropped like bad habits by many students and professionals who bought them in the '80s and '90s. These are usually multicoated glass, more modern shutters, and usually less beat up.

    As for accessories...IMO, a good tripod comes first. A gnarly used Bogen 3051 or 3036 will be more than enough for the camera, and are usually under 200 USD used in nice shape with a nice 3047 head and quick release plate included. You could get by with something lighter, like a 3021, but not for much less money. It will work fine, but heavier does = better, in general. If you are going to walk or hike a lot with it, that's another (and much more expensive) story. Also, these lighter tripods more often do not come with the nicer 3047-type heads that are usually on the two big ones I mentioned above. I would invest in the purpose-made $35 strap for the tripod. I was reluctant to spend so much a a strap of material, but after much use, I feel that it was a worthwhile purchase. I happen to have, like, and know Bogens, but I am sure other brands have comparable models that you can find used.

    After that, a decent loupe, preferably with squared off corners. (I need to get on the ball in this dept., as I have always used crummy plastic $5 loupes. I borrowed a nice loupe once and DANG! It was NICE!)

    A lightweight black coat (I have several that I use) has always worked well as a focusing cloth for me. When carrying heavy crap, things that have multiple uses are your friends! If this doesn't work for you, then a focusing cloth is the next thing I would suggest. If you are going to bite the bullet and buy one, I will say that the ones that are silver or white on one side are very very nice to have in hot weather!

    Of course, a light meter. Budget aside, the one you should get depends on how close to your subjects you will be and whether you will ever use flash. I have a preference for the Sekonic Studio Incident Meter and the Pentax Digital Spotmeter or Spotmeter V. Whenever possible, I use both. (I have always borrowed a meter for the rare occasions when I use studio flash. With speedlites, I use the scale on the flash or a guide number.) There are some very reasonable combined incident/flash/reflected meters out there, and there are also spot attachments, or more expensive models that have a built-in spot meter as well.

    An extra bellows and a frame to use it as a lens hood can't hurt.

    If you get a GV, try to get one with an original case. They are quite nice and easy to carry, and are designed to accept a strap as well. You can also get the cameras into a backpack without too much hassle.

    Film holders can be hit or miss used, but usually hit. I have had about a 80% success rate with the holders that have come with my cameras or been given to me. Test them all in daylight with a fast film before using them for anything super important. I save the slides from the bad ones in case I lose one from a good holder, or get some holders in the future with a missing slide, and then I chuck the leaky bodies in the trash 'cause they are so cheap. Even with my good holders, I shield them from light as much as possible when shooting. How many holders you need depends on you. Personally, I have 40 holders, which is overkill, but they all just came to me through various camera purchases and gifts. I usually don't use any more than 25 sheets at a time. I would say that 13 holders is a good number to start with, as you can load a whole 25-sheet package of film that way. If you have money to spend on it, I cannot speak highly enough of the Fuji Quickload system. No dust, no light leaks, huge weight reduction, less chance of user error, etc. I don't use them all the time, but when I do, I find myself wanting to use nothing but Quickloads in the future!

    So, IMO, the musts: tripod, something to use as a focusing cloth, good film holders, case, cable release.

    IMO, the "nice to haves": loupe, light meter, backpack, Quickloads, lens shade, "actual" dark cloth, tripod strap, cable release for each lens.

    Wow. This got horribly LONG. Sorry...
    Last edited by 2F/2F; 10-01-2008 at 07:03 AM. Click to view previous post history.
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

  4. #4

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    I think John and 2F/2Fgave you good advice.

    I might add that, for me, 210mm is a bit on the long side to be a good first lens.

    Another good book on the subject of large format photography is View camera technique by Leslie Stroebel. It can usually be found for very little money on the used market.

    Another advice is to check out the articles on http://www.largeformatphotography.info/

    Welcome to Apug

    C

  5. #5
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=I might add that, for me, 210mm is a bit on the long side to be a good first lens.[/QUOTE]

    Thanks.

    I agree about the 210. I like anything from 135 to 210 as a standard lens. I would love to buy a 150, but I am forcing myself to be frugal and live with the gap I have between 121mm and 210mm!
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

  6. #6

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    graphic view II great camera
    comes in a case that will fit EVERYTHING you need.
    places like equinoxphotographic.com usually
    have used lenses in good condition for a fair price.

    good luck

    john
    if my apug gallery looks empty you might check these places

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  7. #7

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    Whats your budget? The new budget 4x5s are good value. Shen Hao etc. They don't have very long bellows but can go wider then many older cameras.

  8. #8
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    Beginners, and many others, should be aware that a Graphic is not a field camera or a view camera. It is not even good for a general scenic if maximum DOF is desired because it does not have any front tilt, probably the most utilized movement. Many can be altered to provide this movement,but they are no inherent.
    [FONT=Comic Sans MS]Films NOT Dead - Just getting fixed![/FONT]

  9. #9
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    Consider that some very good Japanese models can be had for a song. Look at the Horsemans and the Rittrecks. They are not Linhofs but they are well made.

    I used to think that crown/speed graphics were good for starters, but... IMHO the prices are getting a bit silly for what you get. And for architecture, neither is a good choice: you will want lots of shift and possibly the ability to use bag bellows, and if you do get a field camera, you will probably want to be able to drop the bed appreciably. On these points, my little horseman kicked my crown graphic all over the place.

    Maybe the best starters overall will be the cambos. Very robust, inexpensive.... lots of accessories floating around.... By the way, even when shooting 4x5 or 5x7, I still prefer to use a big-ass 8x10 cambo. I prefer to compose on the big ground glass. But man oh man that 8x10 cambo is heavy! Anyway you will see a number of these going for a song on the bay, with 4x5 reducing backs. I've had no need for bag bellows [yet] with mine, you can reverse the standards and fold up the bellows and voila, no problem shooting just about any focal length.

    The cambos are kind of like the rb67 of large format. Basically indestructible, inexpensive and lots and lots of good kit on the used market. Eventually you may covet a sinar or similar, but the simplicity of the cambos can be quite refreshing. And did I mention they are indestructible?! Which means a used one is likely to be perfectly good.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Noel View Post
    Beginners, and many others, should be aware that a Graphic is not a field camera or a view camera. It is not even good for a general scenic if maximum DOF is desired because it does not have any front tilt, probably the most utilized movement. Many can be altered to provide this movement,but they are no inherent.
    The Graphic View john nanian refers to is a view camera. I have one and you can nearly tie the bellows into a pretzel there are so many movements! As a practical matter these are very similar to the Calumet 400 series I suggested and will usually cost a bit more (probably because they look a whole lot cooler)

    The Graphic cameras the poster above is referring to are the press cameras (Speed and Crown) which have minimal movements (actually the Super Speeds and Super Crowns have quite a bit IMHO----certainly more than enough for landscapes)

    About lenses---Take a look at the work of Roman Loranc (a search should turn up his website) Much of his landscapes were done with a 210mm on a Linhof
    Last edited by John Kasaian; 10-01-2008 at 04:38 PM. Click to view previous post history.

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