I started shooting 4x5 as a newspaper photographer in 1960, using Speed Graphics. I had a 2x3 Century Graphic of my own for a while, and bought a Calumet wide-angle 4x5 when they first came out around 1970. But I didnít stay with LF. Drifted off into 35mm, sold the big gear.

Then, about three years ago, I started hankering after big negatives again, and I found myself in much the same position as you Ė wanting to get (back, in my case) into LF, but not sure the best way. I started with a Crown Graphic, but wanted to do more, so I started looking at the other options.

That was when I figured that dealing in LF equipment was a good way to try (and acquire) a wide range of gear. Iíve done over 400 transactions on Ebay, and a lot of cameras and related stuff have passed through my hands Ė and some of them stuck. I now have (in addition to the Crown) a Toyo G (4x5 and 8x10), a Toyo A (4x5 field camera), and a Toyo D45M (4x5 monorail), as well as a plethora of lenses (65mm to 240mm).

Hereís my opinion on your question, for what itís worth:

Remember that the Calumet was intended as a low-end LF camera, marketed to those who wanted to dabble in LF without the investment in very expensive equipment. The older Graphic view cameras were aimed at much the same market. Thereís nothing wrong with these cameras; if you put decent lenses on them, theyíll take as good of photos as you could want.

In this low-end market, I think the Graphic View II is the best choice. The Calumet is bulkier and heavier, and I think less well made.

Thereís also an esthetic issue. In my mind, the camera itself should be as much a pleasure to look at as the photos it produces. And I find the Calumet just butt-ugly, with that skinny little monorail (looks unstable, even if itís not) and hulking front standard. The Calumet comes out of the utilitarian Ď60s. The Graphic View still has traces of 1930s Art Deco grace and thoughtful design.

If I were you, though, Iíd shoot higher than either of those cameras. Assume that youíre going to love LF and want to grow and expand in it. Look for a camera that can grow with your skills and aspirations.

I acquired my Toyo D45M almost by accident. I was part of an outfit that included three very nice lenses I wanted. I fell in love with it instantly. Itís smaller and lighter and more attractive than the later model Toyos; itís similar in size and weight to a Calumet; and it has the full features of a professional camera.

Unlike the lower-end cameras, it has interchangeable backs and bellows and an extendable monorail. It disassembles easily for easier packing when travelling. And, maybe best of all, itís still part of a living photographic system. Pretty much everything Toyo makes for its current model cameras fits on the D45M as well. You have access to the full range of viewing backs, bellows, lens boards, shades, and other accessories.

Check out the camera online and keep an eye on Ebay. Theyíre not common, but they show up, and theyíre usually cheap.

As to lenses, that depends very much on what youíre shooting. Get a 210 for portraits and still lifes, wider lenses for landscape, architecture, etc.

Just another two cents worth: One of the lenses with the D45M was a 120mm Super Angulon, which I also will never let go of. Itís only a moderate wide-angle on a 4x5, but it was designed for 5x7 format and will cover 8x10. If youíre looking to explore the extremes of 4x5 camera movement, this is a lens to do it with. These show up pretty regularly on Ebay and typically are not very costly.