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Thread: Getting into LF

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    North Carolina
    Multi Format

    Getting into LF

    Hello everyone,

    I will be graduating photo school in May and I'm looking to get into LF. We used Calumet monorail cameras in class, and I loved the negative produced. I'm open to suggestions as to whether a monorail or field camera would be my best bet. I'm leaning toward field since it's lighter and more compact, but monorails have more movement capability. I plan to shoot mostly landscapes, exterior architecture, and I may do some studio still life / product shots in the future.

    That said, how much should I expect to spend on a good LF camera? I'll need the camera, perhaps half a dozen film holders, a meter, a 150mm lens (at least to start), a dark cloth, and a loupe. I have a tripod that can easily handle a field camera (a Tiltall), and I also have the consumables.

    I just need to know roughly how much I should plan to spend before I start looking at equipment too much.


  2. #2
    M.A.Longmore's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    New York
    Multi Format
    If your budget is limited, consider an Omega { Monorail } View Camera.
    I have a 45D, and 45F and paid less than $175 for both bodies.
    Although the 45F is more versatile, with the bellows being interchangeable,
    and the groundglass back can be removed to use roll film adapters.
    If your budget isn't limited, still consider the 45F, you'll have more money to
    spend on lenses, accessories, and film, and chemicals, and a jogging stroller !
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Black Betty 0001A at B.S.P..jpg  
    Last edited by M.A.Longmore; 04-01-2011 at 10:57 PM. Click to view previous post history.

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  3. #3

    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Boston, MA
    Multi Format
    You may appreciate the flexibility of a monorail if you can deal with it being a little more annoying to lug around with you. My Sinar F1 (monorail) is pretty compact and fits nicely into a medium sized backpack. That said, if you'll be doing a lot of backpacking, I'd lean towards the field camera. Monorails are generally cheaper, as well. You could get a decent monorail and something like a Speed Graphic for the price of most moderate field cameras.

    I've seen quite decent monorail kits selling for $300-400. Look around for someone who is selling it as a kit so you can get the whole shebang and not need to spend money on the dark cloth, lupe, lens, etc separately. If you've used the Calumet Cadet like I did, just about any half-decent monorail you find will blow you away (If you hadn't noticed, I'm not particularly fond of the Cadet).

    In my experience, you'd be hard pressed to find a good, proper field camera for less than the $600-700 range.
    ~ Michelle

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    ULarge Format
    You might visit KEH.com and look at all the used large format equipment they have listed to get an idea on prices. Check the listing in the large format section for both "camera bodies" and "folding cameras", which roughly translate into monorail and field cameras.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    You ought to be able to get a Calmet 400 or Graphic View for $200 which will do anything you'll likely want a 4x5 monorail to do (and the Graphic View lools like it was made to sit upon a Tiltall!)
    Maybe another $200 for a lens.
    Most people like Toyo loupes, used they can be found for $30 or so.
    Ask someone in your family who sews to make you a dark cloth.
    Whatever light meter you're currently using would work just fine unless you're into the Zone System where spotmeters rule.I don't know what those are going for these days.
    $50 should get you a nice stack of film holders.
    Have fun!

  6. #6
    2F/2F's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    Multi Format

    It sounds like a monorail would be a good choice for you. It sounds like you want to use the camera for all sorts of shots, and the monorail would give you the most capability.

    I would expect to get into a kit for $200 to $600. The $200 side of things will likely be older metal low-to-mid-range monorails like Calumets, Orbits, B&Js, Graphic Views, etc. Of all of these, I like the Graphic View II version 2 the best. Make sure it has a Graflok back if you want to use roll film or Fujiroid 3x4 pack film in the camera. On the $600 side of 4x5 kits, you have SINAR Fs. Well worth the money IMHO; they are arguably the best all-around view camera ever made. They sell for such a small fraction of their original prices, and cost not all that much more than the other 4x5 options. But if you can't afford 5 or 6 hundred bucks, then you can't. Between the two, you might find newer Calumets, Toyos, and Omegas, which are all fine cameras.

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