question from a beginner : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm going to start LF after just only 2 month experience in 35mm. I actually asked a question "LF camera for architechture/landscape" in Q&A. Sinar X and Technikardan seem to be the way to go. I am wondering if I should keep my kirk ball head BH-1 and Bogen 3021 for either of the camera. Sinar X is heavy so Bogen 3021 may be inadequet. Or I don't need a ball head?? If you have any suggestion about LF camera, tripod, and ball head, etc, please let me know because there are so many models. I do not care so much to pay for the quality as long as I'm happy with the equipment. I also want to be a pro. I don't want to consider upgrading. So please consider these to recommend equipment. Thanks in advance for your input. Masayoshi

-- Masayoshi Hayashi (, April 03, 1998


I dont like a ball head for LF. I prefer the ability to set and lock one axis as I adjust another. I usually use a bubble level to zero out my camera, and a ball head is too difficult for me to handle. I also use the 3021 for my Speed Graphic, and while Im sure it not the last word in tripods, I get sharp photos with it, and its the most I wish to carry.

-- Ron Shaw (, April 03, 1998.

A Bogen 3021 works well for a press or field type camera, but if you use a heavier (read Technikardan) or monorail camera, you'll want to spring for a bigger tripod. I save my 3021 for the medium format system & use a Zone VI tripod for the 4 x 5. I do get lazy on occasion though and have been known to carry the Bogen tripod when I hike with my 4x5. (I use an Arca Swiss monorail). The Zone VI is a tank, closer to a surveyor's tripod than a photographer's tripod. I also prefer individual axes on a tripod head with 4x5. My Bogen has a Kaiser ballhead though. If you're going to shoot with a heavy 4x5, you need a heavy ballhead. Go with an Arca Swiss B-1; it's pretty much a "standard". Good luck with your LF endeavor (I caught the LF bug early on too).

-- Ted Brownlee (, April 04, 1998.

Besides the Sinar and Technikarden that you mentioned, Arca Swiss and Toyo also make collapsible monorail cameras that you ought to consider, if architecture is one of your interests. The 3021 can, with care, be used with any of these cameras, and I agree with previous posts that a pan-tilt head such as the 3047 is the way to go for LF.

By the way, it appears from your name that you may have contacts in Japan. If so, you may be able to save a lot of money on Toyo and Horseman cameras, and Nikkor and Fuji lenses, which are much cheaper in Japan now due in part to the strong US dollar.

-- Stewart Ethier (, April 06, 1998.

I know Phil Greenspun recommended the Sinar X to you over on, but check out the Sinar f2; it weighs and costs much less (it's 7.9 lbs. and $2495) and yet is a full Sinar, with all the good stuff that means; Sinar's accessory line is hard to beat (e.g. the synthetic "wide-angle" bellows will focus a 300mm lens at infinity and a 180mm down to two feet, yet works well with the sub-75mm lenses as well). You can get the huge Sinar catalog by calling them at 908/754-5800. I wouldn't recommend the Calumet imitation of the f2 ("Cambo 45SF"); I rented both the Sinar and the Cambo for several weeks before I bought (I'd been interested in the Arca Swiss too but feared poor customer support), and there's no comparison, esp. since the Sinar is only a few hundred bucks more. The Sinar also has the angle calculator, which is extremely useful, and not just for novices (I make my living at this--yes, professionals use the f2, a lot--and I use the calculator constantly). You will never outgrow this camera, no matter how professional you become.

Tripod-wise, the 3021 can certainly handle a 9 lb. camera and head, but if money isn't a big problem for you, the Gitzo carbon-fiber tripods are pretty appealing. I know two guys who shoot 11x14 with the 15-series Gitzo carbon-fibers and love them; for 4x5 the 13-series is more than enough and far lighter.

Tripod-head-wise, I don't know of anyone who's ever shot architecture with a ballhead, which should tell you something (i.e., DON'T, because once you line up your verticals, loosening a ballhead to line up the horizontals will cause you to lose the verticals you just spent all that time lining up; extremely frustrating.). The good news is that good pan-tilt heads cost far less than good ball heads; the middle Gitzo low-profile pan-tilt (model 1370?) would have no problem with a 7-9 lb. monorail camera (if you buy the Sinar camera and can afford it, eventually you might spring for the Sinar head, though).

By the way, if money isn't a huge factor, consider Readyload and Quickload instead of film holders. These make shooting large-format almost as easy and tidy as roll-film; the only drawback is cost.

Of course, these are all just opinions (well, with a few specs and prices), but I think that's what you wanted. Feel free to e-mail me directly if you (or others) have questions about any items I've mentioned; I travel widely with the Sinar, beat the hell out of it daily, use it routinely with lenses from the 72mmXL to a 600mm, and am quite impressed with it. Good luck, whatever you end up with.

-- Bill Daily (, April 07, 1998.

I've put an 8x10 Deardorff on a Bogen 3021. I seriously doubt you'd really need anything much heavier for 4x5 field use.

-- Peter Hughes (, April 11, 1998.

Bogen's catalog lists the 3021 as accepting a load of up to 13.25 lbs (6 kg), and weighs 5.8 lbs. (2.6kg).

I love my Bogen 3046, which carries a load of twice that - 26.5 lbs, and "only" weighs 8.25 lbs. - it is as much as I'll ever need. I imagine that you can get lighter tripods, but at a cost (carbon fiber). On a budget, this is a great tripod, although I'd think the 3021 should be adequate for lighter 4x5 monorails.

In reading about large format, maybe on the large-format web site, I get the impression that ball heads are the only way to go. From my couple of months experience shooting 4x5, I don't know why. I'm using a Bogen 3047 3-way head, and find it very easy and quick to level. And it's $59. I really couldn't justify spending $300 for a head.

-- John H. Henderson (, September 23, 1999.

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