I just bought my first ever large format camera, a 4x5" Sinar Norma. I'm very excited about it! Now, I got two lenses with it, one which seems to work fine (a Super-Angulon 1:8/90) and one where the shutter doesn't work and which has some fog (a Symmar 1:5,6/150). While I guess the Super-Angulon will be ok for landscapes, I think I will start looking for a 150 mm and/or a tele for portraits. I've been googling a bit and reading up on lenses and LF generally, but it's a bit of a new world for me and if someone here would be like to share their experiences with lenses (and other things that might be good to know for a newbie sinar owner) I'd be happy to hear. I don't have the budget for anything extremely pricey, so I'm more looking for good value for money right now.
Just some initial thoughts. Would you provide a little more info on which items you've acquired so far, since a number of them are necessary to even be able to use the Norma? For example: cable release, film holder(s), tripod, tripod head, film, darkcloth, light meter, bag bellows for wide angle lenses, rail extensions for longer lenses, film developing setup (unless you have access to a lab that will do it), darkroom setup for enlarging the negatives (unless you plan to scan the negatives and print them digitally). . . for starters. First, though, you should check the bellows for light leaks by taking the camera into a dark closet and shine a flashlight in the bellows interior to look for pinholes of light in the pleats and at the connections to front and rear frames (after your eyes adjust to the darkness). Any description of the condition of what you have would also be useful. I don't want to discourage you at the start, but these are basic considerations. More can be acquired as you learn.
There are lots of ways for a shutter not to work. Does it refuse to open? refuse to close? What type of shutter is it? Hang open at slow (> 1/15 sec) speeds? Medium (1/125--1/30) speeds? Are there any indications of water damage (corrosion, water spots on inner surfaces, etc?)
What exactly do you mean by fog? The elements can be unscrewed from the shutter and the inner surface of each can be cleaned. A little bit more technically the groups can be removed from each cell and front and rear surfaces cleaned. If the cement between elements of a group is separating that is a big jump in needed expertise. But don't give up on your 150 Symmar too quickly. Repair may be much less expensive than replacement.
And apologies for slow response, I thought I had APUG set up to notify me of responses, but cleary not.
I have the camera, a tripod (I'm looking for a new head for my better one though), 6 filmholders, cable releases, darkcloth (I'm looking for a bigger one though), Light meter (I use it for pinhole cameras and my medium format cameras too). I've bought a small loupe for better focusing (Tricky, I've noticed). The camera came with the rail extention and three different bellows, including the wide angle one. I do have a complete darkroom, including a Beseler for enlarging. I also plan to experiment with contact copying with Vandyke and Cyanotype (I've used these processes for a while), as well as scanning (I have an Epson V750). I have a box of Ilford HP5, a film which I have used as 35 mm and 120 format, and I can buy more of it at a decent price. Sticking to own film seems like a good idea at this point. I plan to develop BW myself and leave the colour processing to a lab, but mostly I plan to shoot BW. For developing I've been looking at some youtube videos on tray development, and read a little online too. I also have an HP CombiPlan daylight tank, but my friend whom I share the darkroom with says it takes too long to pour developer in and out of it for developing times to be accurate. Suggestions here are welcome too. I didn't notice any light leaks in the bellows when I examined them. The condition of the camera looks ok to me, with very little visible wear, but then again I'm a newbie when it comes to LF. The only issues I have is with the Symmar lens (more on that below). I generally find shutter speeds really hard to judge if they work correctly. Thanks for asking for a thorough description.
The shutter hangs open at slow speeds and sometimes at medium speeds. Fast speeds seems a little better. I have removed the element from the back of the plate and it has spots inside of it, as for as I can tell. I haven't been able to remove the front element from the shutter, or the shutter from the plate. It feels stuck, and I don't know exactly how much force I can use. But I know a good place for repair of older cameras here, so maybe it's worth to let them have a look and see what they say? If that lens could be made to work I would be ok for lenses at least for a while, I think.
Also, I have to correct myself. I have film holders for 9x12 cm, not 4"x5". Without thinking too much about it I assumed they were the the same, but now that I actally do think about it it's obvious that they are not. Would the holders fit the same back though? ie could I buy 4x5 holders? Because I assume the back itself is 4x5 as I can't see anything about the Norma being made for 9x12 cm.
I have a few recommendations for you:
First, re film holders, I checked my Sinar catalog for Normas from when I bought mine new in late '60s. It says the back accepts both 4x5" and 9x12cm film holders, although the 9x12 holders must obviously be different so as to accommodate the 9x12 film. You should use 4x5 film and get some used 4x5 holders, which sometimes appear in the APUG classified section, but very frequently in the Large Format Photography Forum (which you should register for - it's free here). There's a wealth of info there for both beginners and experienced, but you must be registered for one month before its classifieds can be used. At that time, I'd post a Want-to-buy (WTB) ad for holders; they can be had for +/- $5 each.
Next, re the Symmar: It sounds like your shutter could use a CLAC (clean/lube/adjust/check) by a reputable technician. Many from the LFPF forum use Carol at Flutot's (http://www.flutotscamerarepair.com/); she's very experienced with all shutter types and the website offers some useful information on shutters. I have a 360/5.6 Symmar in a Compound shutter that she's fixed up for modest cost. There have been times when her backlog gets sizable and you may have to wait a bit, but it's definitely worth the wait. My Symmar has also developed some "haze" in the rear cell, and after some research I concluded that it's due to the onset of separation of internal elements rather than a fungus - which has an appearance all its own. It's not too severe so I've decided to continue using it and avoid backlit subjects. Regarding the "spots" you see in your lens, it's very likely a condition known by many LF'ers as "Schneideritis." It appears as many little black or white flecks inside the lens cells - it doesn't seem to have any effect on image quality, but it does affect resale value. So I'd suggest you continue to use the lens after getting the shutter working ok.
Finally, I recommend you get a copy of "Way Beyond Monochrome, 2nd Edition", co-authored by Chris Woodhouse and Ralph Lambrecht (an APUG member). It's the best up-to-date photography publication I've seen. Look here for the hardbound copy. Worth every penny. It also contains instructions for building your own shutter speed tester, a pretty simple device that I built rather quickly and have checked all my shutters at all speeds, then put labels on my lensboards for any corrections needed.
I've ordered a few 4"x5" holder from Ebay, to get started, and signed up for the Large Format Photography Forum (I checked the site before, for good info). There is a good repair shop where I live, and I'll ask them to have a look at the lens. The shutter sounds like it could be fixed. The spots I'm not quite sure of yet. I googled "Schneideritis" and it might be that, but I'm not entirely sure. And finally, thanks for the book recommendation. Just being able to build something to test shutter speeds with would be worth it.
I should mention that I had some difficulty procuring some of the shutter speed checker components specified in WBM2. Did some research and found alternates that worked well. So if you run into the same dilemma, I can help. Just let me know.