I recently purchased a (silghtly) used Linhof Master Technika on eBay; I received it last Thursday, and was out photographing with it twice over the weekend. Herewith are some of my thoughts on this camera, and ones I've owned in the past...
My previous camera was a Gandolfi Variant Level 3 4x5. For those of you who are not familiar with this camera, you can read about it at www.gandolficameras.com. I consider this camera to be a flat bed camera on steroids - it has all the movements, a massive amount of bellows draw, and can even be modified into a 5x7. Unfortunately, with all this flexibility, it takes a bit of time to setup.
I am, by nature, an impatient person. Regardless of what I'm doing, I tend to jump into the deep end, and worrying about learning how to swim later. So far in life, this has served me well. Learn by doing, I always say.
Back to the Gandolfi. I have pretty varied tastes when it comes to photography - I photograph architecture, abstracts, and landscapes. I had a Toyo 45A-II, but hated how the front standard locking mechanism worked - if you have one, you know what I mean - combining front swing/shift are a nightmare; based on my interest in photographing architecture, I thought I needed a camera with more (better) movements than the A-II. After much research, I decided on a Gandolfi. I purchased a used Variant Level 3, and initially loved working with it - the flexibility was great! However, over time I became annoyed with how long it took to setup the camera, especially when the light was changing. Opportunities missed, don't ya know.
It got to the point where I was spending more time looking at a scene trying to figure out if it was worthwhile to photograph, rather than getting the camera out and exploring the scene with the camera. I used to use my viewing frame almost to the exclusion of the Gandolfi, since it took so long to setup.
The last straw was last October when I was out photographing with a few friends, and the one fellow got off two negatives before I even had my camera setup. I missed out entirely, as the light died before I even got under the dark cloth. His camera? A Tech V. The writing was on the wall.
So I decided then to purchase a MT. It took about 6 months to find the right one, but I finally got one.
This thing is an absolute joy to use. It takes no time at all to setup, and is so well made, just using it is a joy. Exploring a scene is no longer tedious; quick setup, quick teardown. Movements silky smooth, and the entire camera is rock solid. I am very, very happy with my purchase.
I think what it came down to, for me anyways, is that it felt like I was spending more time setting up the camera than I was taking photographs. Now, this is obviously not the case, but it's certainly what it felt like. Yes, I know, to many people LF photography is about more than the final product; it's about the *process*. But, as I mentioned above, I'm an impatient person - I'm really only interested in the final image. As long as I have a big enough negative to make the print I want, how I get there, or what I use to get there is immaterial. What's important is that the tool in hand is as unobtrusive as possible (it's like any tool - if it's a pain to use, you won't use it). For me, all my other cameras have gotten in the way of my photography - the MT is the first camera that helps the process along, and because of that, I'm a very happy camper right now. Well, until the Visa bill gets here :-D
My past experiences have taught me that I am *not* suited for formats larger than 4x5; I don't think I have the patience (nor the stamina) to lug around anything larger. I certainly have respect for those of you who shoot ULF - I know I couldn't do it.
BTW, in case you're wondering, I've owned these LF cameras, in chronological order:
1. Calumet 4x5 monorail
2. Toyo 45A-II
3. Gandolfi Variant Level 3
4. Cambo 4x5 monorail (bought on eBay, and immediately resold).
5. Master Technika.
See you in the landscape.....
Welcome to the world of Technika! As you may know, I use a Technika III 5x7" and know what you mean by ease of use. However my 4x5" camera is a monorail - a Linhof Color - which is certainly no more difficult to set up! On the ohter hand, that camera is basically the front and rear of a Technika mounted on a tubular rail, so it shouldn't be a surprise that it's quick and easy to use.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
I shot with a Tech III for a couple years and, while the movements were smooth, they were too limited for me. Then one day the wind tipped over the tripod and the camera fell flat face down to the ground and part of the cast aluminum front standard broke. Two unsuccessful attempts to patch her together later, I realized I needed another camera.
I went for the Shen-Hao. It was cheap, has plenty of movements, and from the day I bought the thing I've kept it set up and pretty much permanently mounted to its tripod. I'm not even sure I could collapse the thing down again if I wanted -- there's some trick to it that I've forgotten. I keep a small, Kodak 90mm mounted to it, which is light weight enough not to stress the front standard too much while I'm walking around. Anyway, it's three years old and probably has another three years in it. While I've missed plenty of shots, none were due to setup time.
Ken, Its nice to hear a new found love story especially when it is a Linhof. It is not often that Linhof people speak up, even though there a thousands of them being used. Many photographers get weak in the knees about Deardorfs and Ebonys but I think Linhof users just use them. My Linhof IV is decades old and I have to drape the darkcloth over the bellows to cover a few pinholes but it is still just as smooth to use as yours.
I settled on a IV after 5 previous cameras. All 4x5 cameras come down to a bunch of compromises and I found that the Linhof had the fewest drawbacks of any that I tried. BTW we share the Cambo and the Toyo experience and opinion.
Poco I also used a III and it is limited in comparison to the IV-V but any of them will give you a lot more years than the half decade you are expecting from your Shen-hao. Never seen one in person, are they really that fragil?
I'm just going on the assumption I'm particularly rough on my cameras -- it's got to be a distinction of sorts to have broken a Tech III. The Shen-Hao shows no (functional) signs of wear so far. It may last much longer.
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Glad you like your Linhof; I used a Tech IV for years. I also had a multi-focus viewfinder and hand grip used it quite a bit handheld. Later replaced it with a fuji rangefinder 6x9, easier to use handheld and with fill flash.
Set up and takedown times are a major factor in getting the shot, and now, getting the shot before the police arrive and start harrassing you.
people laugh that I use a heavy Sinar P2 monorail as a field camera, but I can set up and get the shot while anyone with a wooden camera is still setting up.
It's great that you've found your camera; it often takes a long time.
ya.. lihof people should make photos..lol
another graet linhof is the technikardan. great great great. very fast in loading the camera, very intuitive in use. the 69 is really small, but i belive that the 45 is not big too.
the plus point of technikardan is that it has more rewarding opiration (im not saying that technika is not good in it), more creative possiblities, and more intuition in use. but then, as tom says, u can use the technika almost like leica with it rf. but i think taht for handheld, a real wide angle camera has more power, if the fact that u are limited to wide lenses and scale focusing is not an issue.
the technica is great in having a little bit (but usually enough) from everything (view camera, and wide angle camera and rf camera).
good luck with your technika, and have a joyfull creativity.
I'm expecting this camera to be the last 4x5 camera I'll ever buy, barring any accidents; one of my reasons for buying this particular camera was how well made it is, and the fact that these things last forever without really degrading in quality, ie wear and tear. My friend who's speed in the field caused me to buy a Technika uses a Tech V that's easily 30 years old....
Originally Posted by BobF
Funny how that works out, isn't it? I really liked the Toyo, but man, that front standard drove me nuts....
Originally Posted by BobF
Wouldn't that be a Tech IV? After all, my III is only about 40 years old - I have it on good authority that it's younger than I am
Originally Posted by KenM
I have to confess that I someimes think of buying a lighter camera. A Shen-Hao 8x10", or something like that. A 5x7" Technika is heavy, especially with my favorite 300mm/f:4.5 Xenar on...
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
For a nice heavyweight 8x10 try an old Burke & James. Mine weighs 17 pounds (7.7 kg) with the lens. I keep thinking of building a light weight 8x10, but for now I'm using the beast.