I'm an old-camera-and-lens user.
Also, I like bright lenses, which may be even more important for studio work...
A 150mm f:4.5 or so is basic - and ubiquitous. Lots to choose form, and (dirt) cheap. At present, I have two Voigtländers: An APO-Lanthar and a Heliar. I once had a Schneider Xenar, but traded it (and a camera) for another camera. Schneider Symmar 150mm f:5.6 are also good (I've got one of those, too...), and they are convertible into a (softish) 265mm f:12.
You'll find that 150mm seems a bit wider than a 50mm lens on small format, so my suggested next lens will be 210mm. Again, I like vright glass - but those lenses come in #3 shutters which (depending on your system) may be too big for the lensboard. Old Compound #3 shutters will fit a technika lensboard (the closest there is to a standard); I don't know about newer shutters. Xenar is great, so is APO-Lanthar. The Lanthars are so good I sold mine, and spent the money on the 150mm same type, a 90mm Angulon, a Pentax Spotmeter, and still had a little left. Translation: They're EXPENSIVE.
How wide do you need - what are you used to using? Most of the time I find I need nothing wider than 135mm or 120mm. Old Schneider 120mm f:6.8 Angulon is a great wide-ish for 4x5", providing plenty of coverage for movements. An 80mm Symmar XL would be nice, but with the 2-3 times per year I feel one would have been useful, it's not going to happen.
Tripods are important. Maybe not as important as with 35mm (which need a lot more enlargement to make a decent-size picture), but very, very important.
Mine's a wooden one from Stabil (http://www.stabil.nu), a Swedish one-man company. Highly recommended!
Well you have received a lot of great advise. I will wade in with my 2cents worth. I started off with a Cambo studio type 4x5 and love it. Still use it a lot and take it into the field when I'm not backpacking. You can get them for a reasonable price on eBay. The lenses I recommend are 90mm, 150mm and 210mm to start. Once you have mastered them you could look at a 75mm and something over 300mm. Get a Grafmatic back or two or three as it will make your life much simpler. I just got some and wonder how I managed without them.
Get some books, ask lots of questions and more importantly shoot lots of film. I find you can not think in the same terms as 35mm. Just becuase a 90mm lens in 4x5 is roughly equivalent to a 28mm in 35mm, it doesn't mean it "looks" the same in 4x5. Especially when you start to get good at using all the movements at your disposal in 4x5.
There seems to be a major resurgence of interest in LF. Welcome to the wave of the future!
I'd suggest a cheap setup like the CC400 or 401. This way you could see if LF is for you or not (unless you already have in which case ignore me. Most people do anyway....).
If you want a truly cheap, but good setup to try and work with, get something like the CC400/401 and a Graphic board adapter. This will let you buy cheap Graphic lenses that are already mounted which you can just pop on and off. Not exactly the latest and greatest lenses, but they are very servicable and great way to start.
And you can always sell them later....
I started with a Calumet C400 and a Graphic type Raptar 135mm lens. From there, I added more lenses as I could get them, and mounted them on spare Calumet boards. If you get one of these cameras, you will need a strong tripod with a good head... they are heavy for a 4x5.
Thanks for all the info! It seems I'm going to add something to my question now. I was wondering if it would be a good idea to just go right up to an 8x10 view camera. This way I could make 8x10 contact prints. Is it possible to still shoot 4x5 on an 8x10 camera using a mask? The enlarger I have handles up to 4x5, and so I'd like to still have the option of shooting that format for enlargements (seeing how I know i'll never get a 8x10 enlarger). Are there particular brands of 8x10 cameras that I should consider? Are there limitations on the choice of lenes (as far as focal length goes)? Thanks again for any help you all can offer!
After trying 4x5" and 8x10", I felt that 8x10" was more intuitive to me, and I love the contact prints, but I've also come around and found a place for 4x5". A great thing about large format is that lenses can often be used on different formats, so it's not too hard to expand.
You can get a 4x5" reducing back on many cameras, and Toho Shimo even makes a reducing filmholder that will hold a 4x5" filmholder inside the reducing holder, for cameras that do not have reducing backs.
What camera--depends on your priorities (cost, weight, precision movements, portability, system accessories, expandability, rental options, etc.). Again, check out the reviews at largeformatphotography.info.
</span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Silverpixels5 @ Apr 17 2003, 06:23 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> Are there particular brands of 8x10 cameras that I should consider? Are there limitations on the choice of lenes (as far as focal length goes)? Thanks again for any help you all can offer! </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
Again, there are a lot of choices in 8x10 cameras as well, you can even buy them new from several manufacturers, or just look on eBay. If you're looking for monorails, there always seems to be a lot of used wooden field cameras, but if you're doing studio shooting, you may want to look for a used Calumet, Sinar or Arca Swiss.
As for lens choice, the focal lengths you can use are generally limited by focal length. If the camera has (for example) 35 inches of bellows draw, you could use a 35 inch lens focused at infinity (but not closer) or you could get 1:1 with a 17.5 inch lens by stretching the bellows out all the way.
Cameras come and go but if you love photography, you will not settle for poor lenses. I sold a C400 monorail for $125. It worked VERY good. But don't try to save too much on the lens. It would be hard to find a good 210mm lens for less than $450 that was any good. A good 75mm lens under $600 would also hard to find. The lenses I got cheap (they are out there) were lenses I had to replace with crappy shutters and poor coatings. It is hard to go wrong with Nikon, Schneider, Rodenstock(Caltar) - be careful about Wollensack some Fuji and old press lenses. If you are looking for crisp sharp images - newer (in last 20 years) is a good thing - There are those that do soft portraits and still life that like certain special lenses but I think you really need to know what you want. Old Cooks and Goertz and Zeiss lenses will cost you full inheritance and will give certain photos a very unique look - but they are not general purpose - all things to all people type lenses. - I hope this is helpful - frank