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  1. #1
    rince's Avatar
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    Looking for a 4x5 recommendation

    Hi,

    I was developing some film the other day in a community darkroom and at the light table I saw a guy working on his 4x5 negs. We talked a bit and he showed me some prints and they blew me away. I usually shoot a Mamiya 7ii and thought I was spoiled when it came to neg quality, but little did I know ...
    I guess I really would like to give 4x5 a try. Do you have any recommendations for a versatile 4x5 beginner set? I looked at 4x5s but got lost in all the different models and manufacturer. Sure, every camera has strength and weaknesses, I am looking for a camera to mainly shoot landscapes, some city scopes and maybe an occasional portrait thrown in. The priorities for me are in the order listed.

    Thanks for your thoughts
    Dennis
    ---
    There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.
    ~ Ansel Adams

  2. #2
    jp498's Avatar
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    For versatile, a monorail system is a reliable choice. If you start talking light weight, compact, ruggedized, choices will differ.

    You can usually get a monorail system on c-list or the forums here from a retiring pro or a student who no longer needs it for $100-200 plus lens. Calumet and graflex made decent inexpensive monorails. Sinar is the name for higher end ones which blow that budget but are still a good value. You'll be able to sell it for what you paid for it, as long as you didn't overpay. Buy as nice a quality as you can afford in terms of how beat up or missing parts it is. defective bellows or missing parts can add up.

    If you want to pay more, you can get a field camera, which are more portable and have different amounts of versatility.

    A wider lens choice will be for city/landscape options (75-90mm), and a slightly longer than normal lens for portraits (200-240mm). Lens brand isn't critical; shutter operating condition is more important; if the shutter is gummed up, it'll be $50-150 to get that right again.

    My needs are different from yours. I like lots of subjects and use a speed graphic for it's portability and to use non-shuttered lenses.

    You will want a solid tripod for 4x5 as well. I use a tiltall, which is about as small a tripod as you want to go.

  3. #3

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    There are both field cameras and those on rails. Each have their virtues. For portability a field camera is easier. I've been using a Toyo (metal body field) for many years. It's not high tech or fancy but has worked flawlessly and is compact and not too heavy. A sturdy tripod and good lenses should give you good results with any body you select.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/

  4. #4

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    Go Cheap

    I have a Toyo/Omega 45D that I bought several years ago that goes a lot of places with me. I think I paid about $150 for it. It's dirty, it's got a big scratch in the ground glass, and if I destroyed it I would walk away knowing it served me well. I have several lenses for it, none cost over $100 but all have a place. from a wide angle 90mm to a 300mm zeiss for portraits.

    My advice is to find a cheap camera that works, but several film holders and a couple lenses and just shoot. I am partial to rail cameras in 4x5 and field cameras for larger formats. --- buy one GOOD lens, it will last--- buy a 4x5 enlarger---
    * Just because your eyes are closed, doesn't mean the lights in the darkroom are off. *
    * When the film you put in the camera is worth more than the camera you put the film in... *
    * When I started using 8x10, it amazed me how many shots were close to the car. *

  5. #5

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    Welcome to the Dark Slide. Mr Searust makes some good suggestions above, but whatever you do, don't cheap out on the tripod and head. Cheap tripods suck and will make your life miserable. Do yourself a favor and buy a good one. You'll be glad you did. Cheers!

  6. #6
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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    I'd stay away from a monorail because they aren't as portable and practical moutside a studio. Get a reasonably priced field camera, wooden or metal, anything from a Super Graphic/Toyo 45A to a Wista 45DX, Shen Hoa etc.

    Steer clear of Press camears with their limited movements, and all my comments are based on experience of using Monorails, Press cameras, and metal & wooden field cameras extensively.

    Ian
    Last edited by Ian Grant; 10-04-2011 at 05:38 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  7. #7
    rince's Avatar
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    Thank you all so very much. You all gave me some great things to think about and I have a better idea of what to look for. Are there any brands to stay away from?
    ---
    There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.
    ~ Ansel Adams

  8. #8
    eddie's Avatar
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    If the landscapes you want to do include long hikes, a field camera. If they're short walk from the car types, a monorail will work. One advantage to a monorail is it has more movements than field cameras. If you'd like to fully explore what movements can do, it's a great way to begin. That being said, I started with a metal Kodak Master-View monorail (about 30 years ago), but sold it about 10 years later to get a wood field.
    The advice you've been given about a sturdy tripod is spot on.

  9. #9

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    I carry a Sinar F in the same bag I use for a Zone VI 4X5. The F's fold up pretty flat.

    Mike

  10. #10
    Roger Cole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eddie View Post
    If the landscapes you want to do include long hikes, a field camera. If they're short walk from the car types, a monorail will work. One advantage to a monorail is it has more movements than field cameras. If you'd like to fully explore what movements can do, it's a great way to begin. That being said, I started with a metal Kodak Master-View monorail (about 30 years ago), but sold it about 10 years later to get a wood field.
    The advice you've been given about a sturdy tripod is spot on.
    Agree with all this.

    A monorail isn't necessarily impractical, and is likely to be less expensive for a given quality level as well as have more versatile movements, but it depends on how far you are going and the monorail.

    I'd disagree slightly with the advice about avoiding press cameras. It depends on how much you want to spend and how much you already think you'll like it. If you mainly want the quality of the large negative, a press camera will give you negatives every bit as good (leaving aside focus plane manipulation) for little money and let you get started with 4x5. You can use the same lenses and move them to other cameras later. OTOH it's true that the movements are quite limited and you won't be able to do the things you can do with other cameras.

    An available budget figure would help us to give advice.

    Also bear in mind of course that you will need a lens or lenses, some film holders, probably a dark cloth (though a black tee shirt will do so that need not be expensive) and of course film, which isn't that cheap for 4x5, a fact that is somewhat offset by being slower to shoot.

    Expect a learning curve and to make mistakes. LF does exactly what you tell it and absolutely nothing for you and there are almost a comically large number of ways to mess up a sheet of film. Even after stumbling on most of those and getting over the initial learning curve so that I rarely made those silly mistakes, when I took it up again over 10 years after quitting I found I made a lot of them all over again!

    Also if you shoot anywhere there are other people get used to fielding questions and getting odd looks ranging from fascination to a sort of "look at the Luddite" kind of thing. Even if you are used to that from shooting with a medium format rangefinder a 4x5 camera will take it to another level.

    It's fascinating, frustrating, a lot of fun, and can produce incredibly good images.

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