4x5 field. which is the best?

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Can anyone give me feedback? I want to purchase a 4x5 field camera. I will be using 6x7 format. Shooting landscape to closeup.

Metal vs wood, on axis tilts vs base, stability, and so on. Thank You, Raven

-- Raven Moss (mtand13@netreach.net), April 15, 1998


I think if you ask that question of 10 different photographers, you'll get 11 different answers. Because so much depends on personal preferences, I won't try to answer it. Instead, I'll point out some of the things to consider in order to make an informed choice.

First, the wood vs. metal issue: This is one which is almost entirely a matter of personal taste. Metal camera can have a higher degree of precision, and also may be more rugged. The primary appeal of wooden camera is aesthetic--the things just look beautiful, and, to woody-philes like myself, there is something appealing about using a low-tech tool which is little different than that used by the early masters.

An important factor to consider is the available movements. Just about all current field models have rise/fall, tilt and swing on the front and tilt and swing in the rear. Higher prices generally buy you additional movements, such as front shift and rear rise/fall. For landscape, you probably don't really need the extra movements; depending on the nature of your close-up work you may or may not have a use for them.

Another important factor is bellows extension, which could be a significant factor for close-up work. In order to achieve 1:1 on-film magnification, you need a bellows draw of twice the focal length of your lens. You also probably want a little extra leeway to allow for movements. If you're only going to shoot 6x7 on a 4x5 camera, this is less of an issue, since you'll be using proportionally shorter lenses. However, if you'll be doing 4x5 close-up work, you should carefully consider this issue and be sure to get a camera that will meet your needs.

Check out Stoebel--he has a list of all ofthe specifications for almost every view camera currently being manufactured. That should help you narrow your choice down to a few. Then, I would recommend seeing those few in person and handling them, to see which feels the most comfortable.

Good Luck.

-- Rob Rothman (rrothman@riag.com), April 15, 1998.

Are you going to be using a 6X7 roll film back on the 4X5? If so one thing you need to consider is the fact that you will be limiting your ability to do wide angle work.

To create a 6X7 image with a roll film back on a 4X5 you are basically taking a 6X7 image out of the center of the scene you are viewing on the ground glass. In other words, a 90mm lens on your view camera with a 6X7 back converts that 90 into a 165, a 65 into a 120, etc. A roll film back is a great accessory (I use a 6X9 back frequently) but don't limit yourself. Take full advantage of the benefits of LF photography and make full use of the field camera you choose.

I agree with Rob, it is purely a personal choice which field camera to buy. I personally prefer metal to wood which is probably as far as I should go in giving personal preferences.

Do your research and look at Stroebel's book. If there is a LF dealer in your area take a look at the different ones they carry and ask for demonstrations of the different features each has to offer.

-- Mark Windom (mwphoto@nwlink.com), April 16, 1998.

If you are only going to shoot 6x7 film, why not just get a medium format view camera? There are a few out there and it would lighten the weight a touch and give you a better chance to fully use the wide angle lenses.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), April 19, 1998.

6x7 on 4x5 ? if you want that format, buy that format. otherwise, use the whole neg and crop what you want. why limit yourself. yeah yeah. all you purists out there disagree. but i've shot many different ways and now i stay with the entire negative and crop. compositions that look ok on the glass often look different on paper. and you end up saying to yourself, "what a blockhead i was for not getting all of that ripple or rock or whatever." don't encourage him. use it all and then reduce. bye.

-- james mickelson (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), May 02, 1998.

The advice given by James Michelson apparently works so well for him that he thinks no one should consider any other option. He opines that 6x7 should not be shot from the 4x5 format, and cites his own compositional problems as the reason.

Fortunately, his limitations need not be yours. It took me perhaps 30 minutes to construct a mask of the same dimensions as the image size produced by my 6x7 rollfilm holder. When shooting 6x7, I simply slip that mask up against the groundglass, and the view I then have is precisely framed for the 6x7 format. One need not guess at composition, nor blame the format when one's results prove unsatisfactory.

There is also the matter of cost. When shooting Quickload, my per shot costs are four times what they are with 6x7 rollfilm. Costs run about three times more using standard holders. Mr. Michelson's advice about always using sheet film and cropping to size is very expensive advice indeed.

There are so many other situations in which rollfilm holds an advantage over sheet film, especially in outdoor shooting, that it is a poor use of bandwidth to list them: indeed, most people are already aware of them. Stick with your interest in using rollfilm on your 4x5, you won't regret it.

-- Gordon Vickrey (krmhlz@earthlink.net), May 02, 1998.

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