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View Poll Results: Equipment upgrades?

19. You may not vote on this poll
  • Get a camera

    1 5.26%
  • Get a lens

    11 57.89%
  • Get a job

    1 5.26%
  • Nothing major to fix

    6 31.58%
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Results 1 to 10 of 18
  1. #1
    mobtown_4x5's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    4x5 Format
    What do people always say on radio call-in shows... "long time listener, first time caller"- glad I finally took the time to join his forum!

    I would respect your expert opinions on a few items...

    I am somewhat of a beginner, I have been shooting 4x5 B&W cityscapes (Delta100 and Tri-x developed in D-76 1:1) with some hand-me-down equipment (and a few purchases)for a while now, but I sort of flailed around..now it's time to get serious and I want to make sure my equipment is up to the task of making the best possible quality images my meager talent will allow.

    BUT ..... I'm not sure where is the best area to apply the cash, in other words if you were me where would you upgrade?

    So... here is what's in the tool shed, and some of the questions/doubts I have about it...

    4X5 Graphic View-
    This camera seems fairly stable, but then I have never used a high-quality monorail. I would like to stick with a monorail, (I think) But from what I can see/have heard... there is pretty much Sinar-level ($1K+), or everything else (< $1K). I can't afford a Sinar/etc, so how much real difference would something like a Cambo, ect make over the GV?

    210 mm f6.3 Komura (Copal Elec No1)-
    Does anyone know anything about this lens/mfr? Does it compare favorably with modern offerings from Schneider, Rodenstock, Nikkor? Design? It seems to be coated. I have some other older lenses to experiment with, but I need a good sharp, modern coated lens as a baseline so I can worry about the other stuff.....Also, the shutter is not the original which semi-failed (regular Copal 1 -defaults to fast speed for all speeds over 1/2 ), so I switched it to this Copal Elec 1 [shutter from another lens that I think I ruined by over -zealously cleaning :bag: - lesson learned] which takes a battery but seems otherwise the same (I also switched the aperature marker plate)- is this OK? No one I have talked to so far had any info on these Electric shutters, this lens manufacturer, or on switching shutters...

    Beseler 45MX- any pro's use this?

    (old) 150 mm Schneider Componon enlarging lens- How to quantify/test sharpness on this?

    Pentax 1/21 analog meter (looks like batteries are a BIG problem- anyone else still using this meter, or should I upgrade to Seekonik/etc?

    I better end this thread here I hope you stuck with me, any info on this equipment or comments on whether or not I have the best tools to get serious about my photography or potential upgrades would be most appreciated!

    And thanks for everything I have learned from you folks so far, just by listening to this forum!


  2. #2
    DrPhil's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    4x5 Format
    Lots of people really like the graphics. There's a huge difference between a monorail and a graphic. In the end though it comes down to your preferences and the cameras end use. Monorails, with some exceptions, don't wrok as well in the field. However, they usually have more movements, which are often geared.

    I can't say much about the komura lens. Certainly someone else here knows something about them. I've used many beseler 45mx enlargers. Ansel Adams really liked them.

    The pentax analog spotmeter is a nice meter. Most people seem to use the newer pentax digital. That's what i've got. However, I remember reading somewhere that Michael Smith still uses an analog pentax spotmeter. I've seen adds for a battery adapter. Might be worth checking into. In other words, if it aint btoke, don't fix it.

    My thoughts on spending your money. I'd put it into lenses. Perhaps a 90mm and a 150mm. There are lots of options here depending upon your cash flow. The older schneider 90mm angulons are quite popular. One of the later versions would make a great wide lens.
    Facts are facts; however, perception is reality.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Large Format
    Hi Matt,

    A great deal depends on what you want to photograph. If you are doing architecture or table top photography the monorail may well be your best choice of camera. If you are planning on doing landscape/nature photography you may want to consider a field camera at some point because of portability considerations.

    But aside from that the single most important factor aside from film is the taking and enlarging lenses. The camera is only a conduit to transmit light from the lens to the film. Your electric shuttered lens is reportedly a good lens, the electric shutters are reportedly not in good favor. The other consideration is that when you switched your lens into this shutter the aperture scale may no longer be accurate (depends on the original focal length lens in the shutter).

    Considering that you are enlarging these negatives, I would look toward a good multicoated taking lens. The focal length will depend on your preference and intended use. Many excellent lenses are available in the used equipment market.

    I used an older Componon lens for enlarging at one time. I have switched to a 150 El Nikkor and the results were improved and apparent immediately.

    If I were you, I would check my enlarger alignment. Many use the Bessler enlargers and like them. I have never used them so I can not comment.

    Good luck in your photography.

    Donald Miller

  4. #4
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Honolulu, Hawai'i
    Large Format
    First off to DrPhil--The Graphic View is a monorail, not a Graphic press camera, like a Speed or Crown.

    A Graphic View is a perfectly servicable camera, maybe kind of heavy and it doesn't have the fancy geared movements and scales of a high-end studio monorail, but these are really more conveniences than essentials. If weight is not an issue, I'd say stick with it for now until you're more sure of what you need.

    Komura made some LF lenses that were mostly fairly traditional designs like Tessar-types and such, and they should be at least single coated. They also made a line of budget-priced lenses for the classic Bronicas, a few aftermarket lenses for Nikon F-mount, and I believe today they make very high-end lenses for television broadcasting. The 210 is probably okay, but I'd agree with the suggestion above that you might add another lens or two, maybe a 150 and a 90. If weight is not a factor, I'd recommend a 90/8.0 Super-Angulon over an Angulon. The S-A is a much sharper lens and has a larger image circle. Good modern 150s include the Symmar and its descendents (Symmar-S, Apo-Symmar), the Sironar and later versions, and the Nikkor.

    If you upgrade your camera later, your lenses can be transferred to the new camera easily enough.

    Your enlarger and meter are fine. Used enlarging lenses are cheap these days, so if you wanted to upgrade to a newer Componon-S, Rodagon, Nikkor, Apo-Componon, or Apo-Rodagon, it might not be an unreasonable investment.
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  5. #5
    dr bob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Annapolis, Md
    Medium Format
    It my opinion only that most amateur photographers make a mistake in concentrating funds on equipment new or used, before their particular problem is defined. E.g., are you unhappy with the way your prints are coming out? Are you changing your approach? Or do you merely wish to modernize? You must answer these questions first then decide on a solution. I believe that expending funds for replacement purposes is unsound unless the item replaced is in failure.

    As others have mentioned previously, more details would help better define advice from those here at APUG who are cognizant of these matters. Sorry, I ain’t one. My most modern equipment is a circa 1973, 150mm Symmar-S for my circa 1945 Speed Graphic. Yes the Grandkids are pushing me kicking and screaming into the Millennium. Signed: Dino.
    I love the smell of fixer in the morning. It smells like...creativity!
    Truly, dr bob.

  6. #6
    juan's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2003
    St. Simons Island, Georgia
    Multi Format
    I like my Graphic View a great deal - I don't mind the weight and I like the sturdiness of the all metal camera. That said, I would spend money on lenses.

    I also wonder about your meter. You say 1/21 degree. Is this the old Honeywell Pentax meter that takes the mercury battery? If so, batteries are indeed a problem and you would probably save yourself a lot of trouble replacing the meter. If it is the Ashai Pentax 1 degree meter (Spotmeter V), it takes three readily avialable batteries and is perfectly usable. I prefer the needle to the digital readout, but that's just me.

    I'd agree with Dr. Bob - don't start spending money until you identify what you think is a problem. That said, I'd probably start with the meter, if it's the old Honeywell one, as everything else seems to work. Then I'd be concerned about lenses.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Before you buy any equipment I suggest doing the following

    read the article Getting Started in Large Format. It is free on our web page along with several other articles that might be helpful. Go to

    www.viewcamera.com and then to the free articles section.

    If you can travel to Monterey, CA April 23-25 come to the View Camera magazine trade show and conference. You will be able to see more large format cameras in one place than anywhere else on the west coast (the only way to see more might be to go to the trade show in NYC in the Fall). You can see them, fondle them,, and see which one fits your hands and eyes.

    Read one of the following

    User's Guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone
    Using the View Camera that I wrote


    Large Format Nature Photography by Jack Dykinga

    you can find these on our web site or get them from Amazon.com

    Be careful about advice such as

    I have camera X and I think it is great! TBefore deciding on a camera you need to decide first on the range of lenses you want to use and the subjects you want to photograph. Advice like that above does not give you any context for knowing why someone thinks camera X is great. Ask the advice giver to give you some context for what they photograph and what lenses they use.

    You can write me and ask for advice anytime.

    steve simmons
    publisher of View Camera

  8. #8
    Ed Sukach's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Ipswich, Massachusetts, USA
    Medium Format
    I'll pass on the advice that I've found to be invaluable over the years - from a photographer I respect a *bunch*:

    "Before you buy anything, ask yourself one question: What am I going to do with this new *whiz-bang" device that I could not do with my old ... fill in the blank...?"

    Too many of us ... at the time I was one of them ... buy equipmant we do not need for the "prestige" factor: "Gee, he has a Leica - he must be good". My friend advised me, "If that is what you are out for, get a gold amulet and hang it around your neck. The prestige factor will be about the same, and it will depreciate *much* less."

    An "Extra-Sharp" -- excruciatingly sharp -- lens is an example. Probably of extreme importance in copy work, and a definte disadvantage in portraiture... witness the "Softars".

    What do you intend to do in the near to intermediate future? - Let that be your guide.
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

  9. #9
    Alex Hawley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Kansas, USA
    Large Format
    Expanding upon some of the good advice already given:

    Steve is right. Many people give advice that doesn’t go past “I have camera/lens/meter XYZ and they are all the greatest in the world”. That’s no more than subjective opinion, usually based upon limited experience (like most of us have). What you really need to ask yourself is “does my current equipment serve my needs”. Sounds like you haven’t really come to grips with that question yet. Spending money just for the sake of different equipment will not do much except empty your pocket. Lets take a look at a few of your items.

    Camera: I have a Graphic View 1. It was my first LF camera, and I’ve used it for a year now (limited experience) in windy Kansas and it has served my needs without fail. My only quibble with it is that the front rise doesn’t have a positive lock and sometimes it will fall after being set. A minor inconvenience in my view.

    Is a new camera better? New cameras typically have a better way of tilting/swinging and locking. They typically have scales marked on the rail and swings so one can actually have a measurement of the extension/swing/tilt/rise/fall. I have yet to feel deprived for lack of these conveniences. If I need to know bellows extension for exposure adjustment, a handy simple tape measure works just fine. I don’t know why its necessary to know how much tilt/swing is applied. I haven’t mis-focused yet using the ground glass. A new camera may have a longer rail for more extension. Whether this is needed depends on your lenses which depend on the focal lengths needed for your work.

    Second camera question: Does the monorail work for me or is a field camera needed? Again, this must be answered based upon experience and need. Fully evaluate this question in light of your needs as the work dictates them. Personally, I have not felt hindered or inconvenienced by the 4x5 monorail. In the 8x10 world, it’s a whole different story and I use a field-style camera. An 8x10 monorail would be wholly inconvenient for my needs (and I’m not about to put up caring for the pack mule to carry it!).

    Lenses: This is the part I see as being worthwhile to spend some money on. Lenses are always transferable between cameras. Buy a new one, of a focal length you are sure to always need, and see if it makes a noticeable difference in your prints. The print is the only real measure.

    Next question; do the focal lengths I have meet my needs? If not, add another lens, new/classic depending upon how you feel about the new lens. Currently, all my lenses are classics (read old). No one has yet to be able to point out where a new lens would make a difference in my prints (limited experience again). Remember, Adams, Weston, and the other past Greats used lenses that are obsolete by current manufacturing standards. (Same thing can be said about their cameras.) Several of the current Greats still use the classic lenses.

    Enlarger: I used an Omega for several years and thought they were the last word until LF brought a Beseler 45 MX into the house. Now I believe the Beseler is an overall better design. Firstly, one doesn’t need the Omega lens cones for each lens focal length. Secondly, I think the Beseler has better adjustments and a better system for holding filters. Check your alignment as Don suggested before spending any money on a lens. I would try a different camera lens way before switching enlarger lenses. For whatever its worth, Ansel used a Beseler.

    Meter: The Pentax 1/21 is a long-established standard. If batteries for it have become a problem, then upgrading may be justified. Don’t be fooled into believing the digital meter is better than the analog. Most people base this argument on the “digital must be better because its digital” theory. This is not true. My opinion is that the digital meters have too many features that are non-useful. An analog meter is still the easiest to read and interpret.

    Sorry for the long-winded reply, but I totally appreciate your questions. Being relatively new to LF myself, I have pondered the same issues.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Multi Format
    I sure wish I'd gotten some of the above advice before I filled my storage room with gear I don't use.

    Like they've said.

    a) Don't buy it till you need it.
    b) Can't have too much film, paper and chemicals around.


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