I've used a 5x7 B&J flatbed (usually with a 4x5 back) for decades. It has full movements front and back, with center tilts and swings. Weight is less than 7 lbs without lens. Bellows extension is 15 inches, and the extender rails add 10 more inches. My B&J monorail is more rigid, but less convenient for much outdoors work. Lens boards for both cameras are easy to fabricate from plywood or hardboard. B&J cameras might not be elegant, but are plentiful and usually inexpensive.
OK so from the looks of it..
I think I will plan on an Agfa/Ansco or B&J to start. If I'm happy, I will stay with those but if not then it seem that the "better" camera is a Deardorff. I'm only interested in 5x7 at the moment.
What exactly does everyone mean by "rigid" as in X camera has many movements but is not that "rigid". If I get a camera that isn't so rigid, then does that mean that it is a bit wobbly and hence not that precise in terms of holding movements, focus, and etc.
"Rigid" means what you think it means. I have an Ansco 8x10 (post-WW2 model with front tilt) that's as rigid as you could want. A lot depends on the tripod. Deardorffs are lighter but more expensive. The weight and folded size of the Ansco -- a tailboard design vs. the Deardorff clamshell design -- are its main disadvantages. I don't know how heavy the Burke & James models are. Ansco cameras are not inferior to Deardorffs; Ansel Adams is known to have used them.
5x7 offers a smaller choice of film emulsions. Figure in the cost of a suitable tripod and of course a lens (or lenses) and possibly lens boards as well as film holders etc.
Also -- what kind of photography are you planning to do? If the camera doesn't have a long enough bellows draw, tailboard extensions (for close-ups and long, i.e. not telephoto, lenses) for a specific camera are not easy to track down. My Ansco came without the extension, which limits the bellows draw is to about 26 in., adequate for a 300mm lens (normal for 8x10) or a 250mm moderate wide-angle. The minimum focus distance is around 24 in. if I remember right. I do mostly landscape for which my outfit is just fine. There is an excellent large-format website with members who are happy to answer questions from beginners:
Agfa Ansco and Ansco are just different trade names for the same cameras. Ansco separated itself from the German Agfa company during WW2, so the Agfa Ansco models are older.
My application is portraits and I just want to use a normal lens. I like the look of shallow DOF (but not too shallow) combined with a slight tilt. It is hard for me to judge which format is best for my application.
4x5 would be the cheapest way to go but most normal lenses are f5.6 and I believe there are some f4.5's out there...the faster lenses are generally more rare with the exception of the Aero Ektar. This format might be suiteable but it is hard to judge because I base my decisions from flickr and most people, in my opinion, tilt too much if they were to use it.
8x10 would be the most expensive way to go and I know that it is capable in providing the "look" that I want but the cameras are larger and the running cost is great.
5x7 seems like a good compromise and as a bonus I can make contact prints (well I can with 8x10 but not with 4x5 for my liking). From flickr I see the look that I want more often with 5x7 than I do with 4x5.
I generally prefer wider and I was thinking of mostly Tessars and Plasmats. I'm not too interested in the Aero Ektar because it seems too soft and too low in contrast wide-open but that lens is a seperate discussion. I would also prefer 150mm over 180mm in this format.
There are still plenty of good emulsions available in 5x7. I wouldn't shy away from the format for that reason. Do bear in mind that an f5.6 lens for 5x7 will have very shallow DoF when focused at portrait range - you'll not be losing out on what you're used to with say an f1.4 or f2 lens on 35mm. Modern plasmats probably offer the best combination of price, availability and quality. There are other lenses out there that may be "better" in certain regards, but they're not going to hit that sweet spot of being affordable and highly functional (some may not be available in a shutter at all, or may have an ancient Betax or Compound shutter that will have very limited shutter speeds, most not fast enough to allow use of the wider apertures with today's films, and/or lack a PC connector for flash synchronization). I have a 240mm Heliar f4.5. Fantastic lens, beautiful portrait rendering, but it's in a Compound #5 shutter which has a top speed of 1/50th. Even if I down-rate FP4+ to EI 64, in daylight conditions I can't shoot it much more open than f11 (frankly there's nothing wrong with shooting at f11 for portraits - if anything, the f4.5 is almost too shallow). And while it has a PC connector, the flash sync is unreliable. It may not be able to be made reliable either - I had the shutter overhauled by SK Grimes, and the flash sync still works intermittently.
Here's something to think about. With an 8x10 camera, you can use: Wholeplate (6 1/2"x 8 1/2"), 5x7, and 4x5. On many cameras you can use divider boards, for instance to make 2x 4"x10" or 2x 5"x8" per sheet with an 8x10.
Originally Posted by puketronic
The 4x5 Deardorff Special is actually a 5x7 camera with a 4x5 back, and virtually any other 5x7 can be fitted with a 4x5 back.
Don't waste too much time and energy analysing which camera to buy as your first LF camera, there's a very high likelyhood that as you get off the toe of the learning curve, you'll want something different from your first choice.
This statement is so true.
Originally Posted by E. von Hoegh
I didn't keep my first 35mm camera.
I didn't keep my first medium format camera.
I didn't keep my first large format camera.
Edit: Answered my own question, didn't search hard enough.
But for those in my same boat, it seems just about any old field camera will do most work except architecture.
I guess I'll be looking for another D2 (or 2D... or whatever).