I'd love a field camera but don't have tons of money, would this be a good choice?
If it stays under $450 or so, what do you think of this?
Probably fine. It looks like yet another variant on the Wista/Tachihara/Nagaoka theme. Appears to use Linhof/Wista lensboards. Probably has 12" of bellows, which is fine for a first 4x5 field camera. It will have limited movements, but that's fine for a first camera to learn on. People seem to feel the need to be able to twist their bellows in knots when in fact 90%+ of the time you'll never use more than a few degrees of tilt/swing/shift unless you're doing critical architecture work with it.
Do you think it is of good quality?
Have to agree it looks OK, very similar features to a Wista, in 24 years I've never run out of movements with my Wista and I have monorails with far more if needed. (Sold one & will sell the other)
It's got front & rear swing, rear shift and plenty of front and rear tilts and front rise/fall - all the same adjustments as my Wista 45DX.
If it stays in your budget should be a great camera. It looks more like the camera's Wista made specially for a US company.
Hard to say from photos but it does appear to be.
Originally Posted by jonahr
Hey that is my very camera. They are quite rare. Hand made in Japan back in the 1980s. It is a great camera and quite durable. I have owned mine since about 1983 and used it for many years as a work horse in a commercial studio. It has a couple inches extra bellows which is why I sold my Wista and got my Toko. It has rear shift and rear focus as well. The only problem I see with the one in your ad is that it has a crunched bellows... probably doesn't hurt anything but I hate crunched bellows. I will never sell my Toko and it is very battle scarred but it is still very tight.
Wait a minute I just looked at that ad again and it is a Toko like mine but it is a Nikki 11 which I have never heard of and the seller says it has 11 inches of bellows. That would be a very short bellows.. Mine has a 14 inch bellows
Last edited by dpurdy; 12-30-2010 at 03:10 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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I'll be the contrarian here. I don't even pretend to be a LF expert, but I would be cautious about an "oddball" make where you can't see/touch/feel the camera - and even that assumes you can make a good physical evaluation. Of course, what may seem an "oddball" make to me may not be that at all. But a Jung Woo or a Toko are certainly not common (but I'll defer to dpurdy's assessment of Toko).
As a point of comparison, I recently saw a Toyo 45A Technical camera at a camera shop here that stands by their equipment. Price was $800. A 4x5 Zone VI was $600. And that's retail pricing (used equipment).
I look at it this way. If you keep the equipment for a long time, the difference in price is amortized over a long period. And if you decide to sell, you'll likely recoup the difference in price you paid. Not to mention it will be a lot easier to sell a Wista or Toyo than a Jung Woo or perhaps even a Toko.
And I'll continue in the "grinch who stole Christmas" theme by expressing a concern about these places that sell goods on eBay for others (as the Toko was). The owner gets to hide behind the seller who knows little or nothing about the item and sells it as-is.
Sorry to rain on your parade, but that my 2 cents.
I should add that, if you have a total $ limit, you might want to consider a crown/speed/super graphic as a start.
Last edited by mgb74; 12-30-2010 at 06:26 PM. Click to view previous post history.
"Far more critical than what we know or do not know is what we do not want to know." - Eric Hoffer
When working out your budget, did you include film holders or a (compatible*) roll-film back, and a lens? My Wista came off Craigslist and included a half-dozen film holders and a 135mm Symmar-S. That was ~$650 7-8 years ago. It may have been a touch high at the time, but it was a face to face sale. Used cameras may have gone down a little (by inflation if nothing else), but new or near new holders have gone up!
The San Francisco Craigslist had a spate of LF stuff this month. From high end Sinar down to Calumet monorails. Must be the time of year.
* By compatible I mean either a Calumet style flat holder to go under the ground glass unless the camera can accept a deep profile holder.
I feel, therefore I photograph.
Where are you located? Personally, I would stay with a more common brand name. At least if this is your first LF camera. Should you need parts it is easier to find replacement items. Try to find a manufacture that is still in business or a manufactured brand that has a strong following. It will make it easier to find extra items such as, lens boards, bellows, knobs, or one of many small parts that could need fixing in the future.
The last camera is totally a different thing. Much more solid, and probably with more bellows extension.
It would be a lot heavier to carry around, and it's somewhat more expensive.
I am definitely not an expert about 4x5 metal fondings made in the East. It looks like some kind of Horseman or Wista copy; if realized with strict tolerances it should be a very usable camera.
If i had to guess the origin, probably it's korean.
I personally own a look-alike of the first camera you mentioned, it's labeled as Nagaoka, but it's exaclty the same thing as a Tachihara.
It's a VERY light camera, a very good choice for backpacking, but i can't say that's as easy to setup, and as sturdy, as a monorail, or even a metal folding.
Light weight and compactness come at a price!
Nevertheless, it would be a nice introduction to large format.
The starting price is fair, but not a nice deal. With a little patience you could find something similar for a somewhat lower price. I bought mine, not very long ago, for about 50 USD less, and it came with a few lensboards, a dark cloth, a loupe, and a nice large LoewePro backpack bag.
When i got it, i was getting back to analog photography, and my mindset was that, if i had to shoot non-digital, doing large format was the most logical choice.
What's more, i had already many large format lenses and some long-expired boxes of film, together with a few cameras. Everything was left untouched for nearly fifteen years. None of the cameras (Linhof Technika III 4x5, Linhof Bi-System 4x5, and Fatif monorail 13x18cm) were lightweight and small enough to be carried on treck... or at least that's what i thought at the time.
I don't regret having purchased that camera, or maybe i do, in some way... it was the starting point of an ongoing fascination for wooden field cameras, that made me spend way too much money in vintage cameras and lenses! :-(
Back to your questions now.
Your second choice would be a very nice one, albeit not exactly cheap. Ask in advance about the lensboard, if a standard Linhof/Wista board is used, you could find very nice chinese made items, flat or recessed, with central or off-center holes pre-cut for all the sizes of modern shutters. They are cheap!
Lensboard of different size are available only as originals, and they don't come cheap, even you even if you exercise some restrain and wait for a nice second-hand deal on Ebay.
Don't forget vintage models though. For example Linhof Technika's. A Technika IV is quite expensive, and all later models, up to the Master Technika, are even more unaffordable.
But you can find a good "user" Linhof Technika III for a nice price. Most of them are Super Technika, i.e. with rangefinder and cams for the various lenses, allowing handheld use.
Pay attention if you want to buy one, look for the fifth (and last) version, with standard graflock back. Some of the previous models can be found with the adaptation to graflock, done after purchase.
That allows the use of standard cut film holders, and of film adapters, from 6x6 to 6x12. Be advised that most 4x5 wooden field cameras on sale now, like the Tachihara/Nagaoka, don't have a standard Graflock back. It means that only the slide-in 120 film magazines can be used, the flat model often found with Calumet or Cambo brand. AFAIK only 6x7 and 6x9 versions are available, and most of the times they are a little more expensive than standard graflock ones (that can be found at affordable prices, with Singer or Graflex brand).
Just to give a generic price reference, the Linhof Technika III (fifth version, which is halfway between the III and the IV) that i will be selling in a short time, will be somewhat cheaper than your second Ebay example, INCLUDING leather handle, original lensboard, original Linhof cable release attachment, and original Scheider/Linhof 90mm wide-angle, with original cam for rangefinder focusing (with matching serial). It's from the second half of the fifties, but IMHO it's still a top camera, beaten only by later models of the same brand.
Large format cameras are mechanical tools, there is no electronics, and when it comes to mechanical excellence, there is nothing that can beat the cameras built between '50 and early '70.
That's my personal opinion, of course, but if i have to name the best three LF cameras i own, my choices would be the Linhof Bi-System 4x5, a De Vere MultiPurpose 8x10 (hexagonal monorail, AFAIK built until 1963) and the Eastman Kodak 2D 8x10 (wooden field camera from about 1920).
One small advice, in the end, if you want to start with large format, go with 4x5", and avoid any other format. Old formats (quarter-plate, half-plate and full plate) are very impractical, metric sizes (9x12cm, 13x18cm and 18x24cm) were more diffused in Europe, but film are getting difficult to find, and will be almost impossible to find in the future. Even larger sizes in inches (5x7" and 8x10") would be a lot more expensive than 4x5": film are expensive, and film holder can be VERY expensive. A lab can charge $10 for ONE 8x10 transparency!
So if you find a cheap 5x7 or 8x10 camera, think twice, it could be very expensive if you want to actually shoot some pictures with it :-)
Getting back from digital to LF (mostly 5x7" and 8x10")
selling Linhof Technika III 4x5" (fifth version, graflock back), Mamiya Press outfit + lenses, plus many LF lenses
trading for soft focus lenses with 8x10" coverage - EU users preferred
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