I disagree with Ralph, and believe the qualitative difference from 6x6 to 4x5 is even greater than from 35mm to MF; but it really all depends on what you're trying to accomplish, your skill level, and
how big you need to enlarge things. Working with a view camera is very different discipline than with
regular cameras. There will be a distinct learning curve. Even modest movements can dramatically increase versatility - so once you have them and know how to use them, there will be a whole new
range of opportunities (speed won't be one of them). Most of the old hand-holdable "technical" 4x5's
have some movements built-in. But working without a tripod ain't particularly easy.
Good Speeders and Crowns aren't going for cheap these days, at least the one's I've seen aren't. Calumet 401s and Graphic Views generally go for a pittance and mores the pity---these are great cameras to learn on---metal monorails so more awkward to carry but way more movements.
Keh has 215mm lenses quite cheaply and a Nikon, Schneider, Rodenstock or Fuji should serve you well for your initial foray. You may even find a Kodak or Wollensak 203, or Ilex 215 for less money. Any of these are capable of giving you superb negatives if you do your part. For 4x5 holders used plastic ones in good condition should work fine---IMHO stay away from the Tlitalls(no locking ridge to hold the holder in the camera) or newer Riteways with those wierd darkslide handles(the old Riteways are excellent, btw)
Thanks for all the advice. I'm researching this some more and it's quite exciting but I have lots to look into. Jumping into 4x5 seems a bit more complicated in comparison to jumping into 120. I'm not sure exactly what I need as of now but my main concern is in the camera body/style and after that I'll worry about compatibility of parts and such. I guess the difference in print quality is quite subjective and depends more on technique. I'll let my eyes decide.
The non APO Schneider and Rodenstock lenses seem pretty cheap (in comparison to German 35mm and MF lenses, atleast), so I can probably get a 150mm and 210mm for not-too-much; maybe even a bit longer. <$200 seems pretty common. I don't plan on shooting color so the value of an APO lens isn't much to me.
Initially I wanted a folder but now I'm thinking of maybe even a monorail. It seems a bit of a pity to go into 4x5 and not play with the movements. Originally when I jumped into 120 I wanted a larger negative but I learned that shooting from the waist was a completely different way of shooting.
If I get a folder I'd probably get a Super Graphic because they have rotating backs. I thought maybe a Linhof III, because they are cheaper than the IV's, but it seems that they are pretty much a dead system so more difficult to deal with in the long run, but same can be said with Graphics.
1) Can you cam a 150mm lens on a Super Graphic? I read that someone does it, is it costly? How does it work with a Linhof III?
2) Can you easily change a lenses? Maybe not as quick as on smaller formats, but do I need special tools to mount a 210mm or do I need to calibrate the rangefinder every time I go from a cammed lens to a non-cammed one? Not sure how it works?
3) If I do go with a Linhof then only they can cam the lenses, right? I'm not sure how camming works either.
I might just go monorail because they seem cheaper and more useful with movements. I figured that if camming lenses isn't practical then I might as well go Monorail.
My main intention is to use one of these on a tripod but I do value portability. I don't have much interest in using one by hand but if I can, then I'd give that a try although I'm not sure how comfortable that would be. I might have to go through a folder and monorail, eventually, and see which suits me best. The difference between the two seems similar to the difference between a Rollei vs Blad. They both are great but one is more suitable for handheld use while the other is arguably more suitable to tripod use.
Most wooden folding cameras have adjustable backs - you un-clip them and put them back in the new orientation. I like technical cameras such as the Linhofs and the MPP, but they have their trade-offs. Using wide lenses is more difficult, there is a limit on the size of the rear lens element that will fit into the front standard, and rangefinder cams are best customized to the individual lens.
The movements one actually uses depends more on the sort of photography one does. My MPP does not have convenient front forward tilt. It can be done, but not simply. Using rear tilt affects image proportions. So I tend to use the Wista for landscapes where a little forward tilt can be useful. The MPP gets used when I need front shift and rise, something to focus a 400mm lens, or something a little more robust for travel.
You can do practically anything with any 5x4 camera (except possible hand-hold a monorail as a general thing), but the designs are optimized for different things.
I go along with the recommendations for a Graphic of some version. These are good sturdy cameras, well-designed and plentiful.
BTW, I strongly prefer the original side-mounted Kalart rangefinder to the later top-mounted rangefinder. YMMV
The Kalart is adjustable for different lens focal lengths; the top-mounted rf requires cams, which are unobtanium.
The original "normal" lens for these cameras was in the 125mm to 150mm range (roughly 5" to 6"). Contemporary lenses included
Kodak and Wollensak, with Alphax, Betax, or Ilex shutters (probably other combinations also).
Get a lens with a shutter. Don't rely on the focal-plane Graphic shutter. It may not produce accurate repeatable speeds.
I prefer modern lenses from the "big four": Schneider, Rodenstock, Nikon (Nikkor) and Fujinon. They're all good, and basically
indistinguishable for image quality except under the most critical examination. Get one in a modern Copal shutter.
A couple of things to avoid...
Don't get a lens with a 'db' mount. Those are unique to Sinar view cameras, designed to work with the separate Sinar shutter.
They're often cheaper than the same lens in other mounts because they don't have an integral shutter.
The Sinaron lenses are actually Rodenstock Sironar lenses re-branded for Sinar. May be more $$ than the regular Rodenstocks,
but with no obvious advantages to justify the higher price.
To echo what Leigh said, the side range finder is a better choice. I was told by the retired Graphic and Graflex repairman from whom I bought both my cameras, that the top rangefinders has a nasty habit of "loosing their marbles". That is the ball bearing will drop out without a warning and that there are many postings on the internet asking how many ball bearing should there be in the top mount range finder. He gave me a choice of range finders, but he was quite adamant that I get the side mounted one, which I did.
By the way, the retired Graphic and Graflex repairman is on the board of graflex.org.
To clarify Steve's comment...
Originally Posted by Sirius Glass
On the top-mount Graphic rangefinder the flexible coupling between the front-to-back movement of the bed and the lateral movement
of the cam beneath the rangefinder consists of a group of ball bearings inside a bent metal tube.
One or more of these ball bearings can be lost when changing rangefinder cams, or as a result of damage to the mechanism.
A monorail is cheap and very straight forward. The easiest large format camera to learn on.
You can pick up a Cambo or Calumet Camera for $200.00 or less. Old models which will work fine often sell for below $100.00. I have seen them sell as low as $50.00. If you have a little more money to spend then step up to a Sinar F for $300.00.
You can pick up a great 210mm lens in a modern shutter for easily less than $200.00. Probably for $150.00 or less if you are patient.
A lot of people sell their monorails with a 210mm for an even better deal.
If you later decide to sell the monorail you will probably get what you paid for it or a little less. It can be a good idea to keep the monorail in addition to your new field camera for portraits and still life's if you do that sort of thing.
It's easy to change lenses. They are mounted on lens boards so you just swap them out. If you need to mount a lens to a board there is a very cheap tool you can buy to do this. It's just a flat piece of metal able to remove retaining rings or flanges.
I think everyone who shoots film should try large format but alas sheet film is not for everyone. That is why I suggest getting into it cheaply so If you decide it's not your bag you can get out without being hurt. :)
It sounds like maybe I do want to try a monorail, even if it's not as easy to travel with. I'm not planning to backpack with whatever LF camera I get anyway, and I want a camera with as many movements and range of movement as possible. I'll have to look up the Cambo or Calumet. Thanks
Look into the Toyo-View too, often go for cheap. Before you buy anything it is good if you can check it out. Stripped controls are a bummer, and a lot of older view cameras have bad bellows.
One interesting thing about view cameras is that most of the manufacturers who were around 40-50 years ago are still in business, unlike most of the makers of smaller cameras. But if you look at new cameras be prepared for sticker shock. For instance, the current version of the camera I've got $270 into, costs $4400.