I'm contmplating a large format, it will almost certainly have to used and as I'd want to use it in as many places as possible I would think a field camera would be more suitable than a monorail. I have some "book" knowledge of movements and don't really need those explained.
Bearing that in mind, what I would like is advice on what to look for in a used LF camera. The kind of thing I'm after is generic, as in check for light tight bellows etc. Also, are there any to avoid, the most likely camera I'd go for would be an MPP or similer, that is if I ever do.
I guess I'm really just looking for general advice re LF cameras/lenses
If you can afford it, consider some of the monorails that collapse like Arca-Swiss & Sinar models because its nice to have all the movements available. If want an introductory field camera, consider the Graplex models - less movements but very rugged & economical - like Crown Graphic. But you need to consider some of the consequences of a jump to large format including enlarger if not contact printing. The Large Format Site has numerous articles that can help you decide.
van Huyck Photo
"Progress is only a direction, and it's often the wrong direction"
The things that I would check on a camera are:
1. bellows--pull the lens board, load a holder, go to a dark room and shine a flashlight around inside the camera. If you notice any light the camera will leak light. Are the bellows supple or are they cracked?
2. Gears, racks and tracks -- extend the camera to full extension, determine if there are any places in the movement that the camera fails to move smoothly...check for missing teeth on the gears and racks. While you're at it check the racks--are the relatively tight? Does the camera remain solid when extended?
3. Check front and rear movements? Are the sloppy or fairly solid? Do the knobs lock the camera down--this applies to tilt, swing, rise,and focus.
4. Cosmetic--Is the finish in keeping with the camera age and condition. This applies to wood and metal.
5. If this is a wood field camera that you are considering, check all wood joints for any signs of separation.
1. Check the bellows extension. Make sure you will have enough for what you shoot and might shoot
2. When looking at offbrand cameras, find out what type of lensboard it takes, some are easier than others to fabricate, some are strange sizes.
3. The build quality of the better brands is heads and tails above the low end knockoffs.
Looks like you've gotten the generic advice on what to check out on a camera so I'll talk a bit on format size.
If I were to start again, I would go straight to an 8x10 an contact printing. Three main reasons for this:
1-No enlarger needed unless you already have or want to have a LF enlarger. I had to scrounge one up and still can't get completely away from it.
2-The effects of the movements are much easier to see on 8x10; therefore, easier to learn and use.
3-With reducing backs, you can easily shoot 8x10, 5x7, 4x5, and even 120 roll film all from one camera body.
Best to stick with name brands. There's plenty of information on the LF forum about each different make/model.
Lenses - I'm not going there. Too deep a subject. Buuuuuut, there are heaps of excellent used lenses, both old an new, for decent prices.
Good luck in your search. Hope it works out.
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hi martin -
you might want to think about what subjects you might want to photograph - landscapes, portraits, architecture, none of the above, and keep that into consideration when you narrow down your search ... if you tend to use a wide angle lens often, the relative focal length between 35mm and 4x5 is about "3x" so if you use lenses in the 28mm range or wider, you **might** need to get a camera that can take a "bag bellows" --- the regular accordion bellows might be too scrunched up to allow for movements &C. there are "rail" cameras that have fixed bellows ( field cameras too ) --- i started with a speed graphic ( still use it ) and it can take a really wide lens without a problem, but i also used a graphic view 2, and a 90mm was as wide as it went
if you find an off-brand camera that seems interesting enough that you might want to buy it .. there's bound to be someone here or on one of the LF boards that has heard of it, and can advise you on whether it might be a worthwile buy. sometimes unknown cameras are great. i have a 5x7 and a 8x10 by this swedish maker that no one outside of sweden has ever heard of. barely any ( maybe 55-60 total ) "american formats" ( 4x5, 5x7 & 8x10) were made and exported to the states, so what i use are really unknown. i guess what i am saying is if a camera looks like you might want it, don't shy away from it because it is made by someone unknown ...
good luck & have fun with your search
Last edited by jnanian; 06-24-2004 at 12:20 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Thanks for all the advice, there's a few bits in there I hadn't thought of. I'm still somewhat undecided, and at his point I'd probably want to try it for all sorts of photography. For the experience and out of curiosity.
Take a look in the equipment for sale thread. Hitcher has a complete 4x5 Toyo monorail outfit on Ebay right now. It will give you an idea of what is available. Ebay always has a lot of stuff.