Using Horseman 980/985/VH-R to shoot 4x5: experiences and advice please.
Hi, been struggling a little working with a Crown Graphic over the last year. I like the extra quality 4x5 gives me over 120 film, and wish to continue with LF, however the fact that lenses cannot be easily and quickly changed on location, and the almost total lack of available rangefinder cams on the market, means I've come to the point where I need to trade the Graflex in for something more appropriate to my needs. Although I can't currently afford it, a Linhof super tech V is top of my list. However I recently discovered the Horseman rangefinders and have seen mentioned a couple of times that, with the addition of an adapter, they can be used to shoot 4x5. However I can find very little info about this on the net, so basically I'm wondering if anyone on APUG has experiences of using a Horseman rangefinder to shoot 4x5 that they could share with me? I also have a few specific questions (see below).
Everyone wants different things from a camera, so first off I guess it makes sense to list my needs:
To work exclusively handheld, focusing only with rangefinder, never groundglass. I'm also unlikely to ever make much use of movements.
As I'm working hand-held, obviously weight is an issue up to a point, but at the same time I mostly use the camera for environmental portraits (i.e. I'm not a street photographer who spends days on end hauling the heavy camera around the city) and so I can put the thing down when I want to take a break without risk of missing a shot (though I'm not exactly physically well-built, and anyway I travel overseas a lot so it makes sense to keep weight down just to avoid baggage problems).
My priorities when working are speed in composing, focusing and shooting, and ease of movement within the environment (so I can follow 'action' and drastically change POV and composition accordingly).
So my reasons for considering a Horseman are: lightweight, small, ease of changing lens in the field, availability of rangefinder cams, large built-in viewfinder, cheap, well-made.
Not sure that it makes much difference to the discussion, but 80% of the time I work with studio flash (on location).
I have almost 20 years experience of working in this way and know exactly what I do and do not want from a camera, so while I can appreciate that suggestions such as 'you'd be better off just using roll film" or "LF was designed to be used on a tripod, with time and deliberation" may be totally well intentioned, they'd fall on deaf ears as I have absolutely no desire to change my working methods at this point in time.
As a side note, I've also considered the possibility of a Wista RF, with the addition of a Linhof grip. But I'm primarily concerned with info regarding the Horseman cameras here.
First off, what are the limitations of using a 4x5 adapter? For example, does the adapter compensate for any change to film-plane to lens distance, allowing normal use of the rangefinder? Or does the rangefinder become unusable when shooting 4x5?
From what I've read online, I'm assuming that rangefinder cams are not linked to a specific individual lens (such as is the case with older Linhofs), but rather just to that particular focal length (i.e. a 150mm cam will work with any Horseman 150mm)? If that is the case, will the cam also work for the same focal length lens produced by another manufacturer?
I also read (on here?) that only 2 different focal lengths of lens can be used with the 4x5 adapter. Is this true? Which focal lengths? What happens if an inappropriate lens is used? Vignetting? I hardly ever use wide angle lenses, so it doesnt worry me if they are ruled out, however I'm increasingly enamored of longer focal lengths, so it would be disappointing if no lens over, say, 180mm can be used (this is one reason why Ive been put off going for a Wista RF, as they are only cammed for 3 specific lenses, none of which are long).
Am I right in saying that the 980/985/VHR use an international graflock back, and therefore (with the addition of the 4x5 adapter) will accept 4x5 Grafmatic film holders?
And what fujiroid holder can I use (presumably any holder that is compatible with an international back?)
How is clarity/ease-of-use of rangefinder (compared with Speed/Crown Graphics, for example)?
Sorry for incredibly long post. My thinking was that by providing maximum detail about my needs no one would waste their time replying with irrelevant info, but instead I've probably wasted more of all your time in asking you to read this epic…sorry
I would wish I had the answers to your questions, even though I just distanced myself from my 980 several months ago. Here's a link to a catalog for some Horseman gear, which you may already have seen this. I think that catalog addresses the more modern cameras, minus the 980. http://www.cameraeccentric.com/html/...orseman_2.html
I found the 980 to be of top quality. The rangefinder was adequate, and accurate (105mm). Ultimately I wasn't going to put out a boat load of money to convert the 980 to 4x5 and then find out it was severely limited (that I expected, my luck usually). I really wanted a portable, handholdable 4x5 similar to the Pressman Model D, but better quality and better parts availability. I ended up with the 45HF, which is in the catalog mentioned above. If I had the money I would have gone with a Wista someting-or-other. All I can say bad about the 980 is that I found that finding parts was very difficult. You may find your experience differs from mine.
Last edited by DannL; 06-07-2013 at 10:18 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Hi, thanks for the reply. I hadn't seen that catalog before actually. Looking through it now.
Yeah, thats also my concern. I certain amount of limitation is fine - as, with my methods of working, I really won't ever make the most of any press/view/field camera - however I do have certain minimum requirements and don't want to go to the trouble of switching over to a new system only to discover that it doesnt do what i need it to do anymore than the Graflex does.
Originally Posted by Old Fart
Presumably the 45HF is still in production, hence why getting parts is easier than for the 980? But as it has no rangefinder, how do you use the 45HF hand-held? Guestimating the distance at f16 and hoping for the best? Sadly this won't work for me, otherwise I'd have so many more cameras open to me as options...
Don't get me wrong, I am not about to sell you on a HF. My shooting style differs from yours. This camera, not having a built in rangefinder would most likely be inconvenient in your situation. My point was really to address concerns about converting a 980 to do the work of a 4x5. :-)
I use a handheld rangefinder or Hyper-Focal distance focusing using the distance scale on the camera bed. For handheld use, that suffices. Judging distance by eye, and adjusting to the scale is also a method I have used. In my case a handheld exposure tends to be a snapshot.
If I am correct, 4x5's with rangefinders built-in usually tend to be press cameras. But the Linhof in this case, sounds like the right direction to go. Have you considered a Wista 45RF? . . . of which I no nothing about BTW. ;-)
Last edited by DannL; 06-07-2013 at 10:32 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Have you thought about the travelwide 4x5? http://www.apug.org/forums/forum44/1...x5-camera.html
I shoot mostly LF, and can't conceive of not using the ground glass, but since that doesn't seem to be an issue for you, you might want to look at this camera. FWIW, I have the Schneider 90mm that this camera is built around in my kit, and it is a very good lens - with it's major limitation being a relatively small image circle that limits movements - not an issue for you!
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Similar to above, I use a Horseman VH-R for 6x9cm work and wound up getting the Horseman FA for 4x5, rather than the adapter back.
Old Fart: yeah, Linhof and Wista 45RF are the main contenders. And most likely Linhof will win out in the end (as it basically offers everything I need...yet at a price obviously).
Mark S: yeah, I backed the travelwide project on kickstarter so should eventually be getting one of those. I dont see using it for anything more than a kind of second back-up, or snapshot camera, though - for when carrying my main equipment is either impractical or undesirable. I require more precise focusing and a greater choice of lenses for my main working camera: speed and ease of movement are important, but so are accuracy and versatility. Thanks anyway.
The Graflex provides gives me with nearly everything I need, only it doesn't allow me to change lenses mid-shoot. For that reason alone it has to go...
I also looked into the 3 or 4 polaroid 110 conversions that are available (Alpehause, Byron, Razzle etc), and was very tempted for a while, but ultimately they suffer from the same problem with switching lenses as the Crown does. I think the Byron allows you to switch lenses easily enough, but cannot use any lens over a certain focal distance (150?), which is too limiting for me. Its also as expensive as a Linof.
I think Ive done my home work about most of the alternatives out there (though please do suggest alternatives if there's anything I havent listed above), and Linhof or Wista are almost certainly the best options. But if it turns out that for example the limitations of shooting 4x5 on a Horseman do not make much difference to my way of working, then a Horseman might be an equally good choice. And at a lower price.
Ok, good to know. Thanks. Why though? What are the disadvantages of 4x5 on a VH-R? If it's just due to restricted movements, then its not a problem for me personally. If, on the other hand, it was because you wouldnt be able to use anything other than a standard lens, or because the rangefinder would no longer be calibrated to the lens, then yes, that would be enough for me to remove a Horseman from the running list...
Originally Posted by ic-racer
My main 4x5 lens is a 90mm, so I needed the dedicated 4x5 camera. With the VH-R and 4x5 back, theoretically, if you set the infinity stop correctly with the 4x5 back in place you should be able to use the rangefinder, but I think the 4x5 back would stick out so much you would not be able to get your eye to the rangefinder eyepiece easily. You could use the 4x5 Horseman FA hand-held with wide angle lenses using the 'zone focus' scales that come with the camera and the optional zoom viewfinder. I have not done this because the zoom viewfinder cost as much as the camera
Originally Posted by MonkeyBrain
Hey, thanks. Yeah, I posted the same question on another forum and one respondent confirmed your suspicion that the bulky 4x5 back would render the rangefinder pretty much unusable. This alone is enough to warrant striking the VHR off my shortlist to be honest. So, unless someone comes along suggesting a way round this problem (who knows, perhaps there's some kind of extendable eye-piece for the rangefinder?), consider this thread closed.
Originally Posted by ic-racer
The FA looks really nice, wish I could think of a way to add a calibrated rangefinder to it as this would pretty much resolve all my problems. Neither guestimating nor actually measuring focus distance are an option for me though: the 1 or 2 second delay between rangefinder focusing and re-framing in the viewfinder is already at the limits of acceptability as far as I'm concerned, and with the the inherent narrow depth of field of LF its tricky enough to get a subject's eye sharp when handholding and using the rangefinder, never mind just guessing distance.
Anyway, thanks everyone for your input and suggestions. Linhof it will have to be I guess...