More Q. Best 4x5 camera? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Perhaps I should clarify my question even further.

Yes guys, I know there is no best 4x5 camera. When I say best, I mean best for me, given what I want to do. And even then of course I am asking opinions.

Perhaps it would be more helpful to tell me all the things I should be looking for. What feature should I look for that I'll be sorry later I didn't get, but for asking you experts who know?

Let me state my requirements again.

(1) Small/light/compact and quick to set up is a big priority. I want to cart this thing out and about. (2) Of course the extra movements of a monorail will be nice as long as it it fits in with point (1). (3) I like really wide angle lenses. The 47mm Schneider looks mighty interesting. How should this affect my decision? (4) I don't have money coming out of my ears but I am willing to pay for quality or better features if I can see the value. I don't think in terms of the total price, but rather what extra benefit to I get for additional cost. (5) I want something useful rather than beautifully crafted. I'd probably rather have a Bronica or Rollei than a Hasselblad. Obviously something strong and well made is a priority. Classical looks like the Linhof is irrelevant.

So feel free to advise on either a particular camera OR which features I should look for in a camera. I'll worry about the lenses later. For now I'm just researching. I won't buy for at least 3 months.

What is the fealing about taking monorails into the field? I have seen some comments that in some ways they are actually easier to use in the field. What are peoples thoughts on that?

Also what is the revolving back some cameras have? Is that to take portrait orientation? Which cameras have that?

I've taken note of the Toyo 45AII and the Arca-Swiss FC advice. The Toyo looks very compact and the Arca-Swiss looks very interesting and flexible too. I'm leaning towards something like the Arca if I can be convinced it is convenient enough in the field.

-- Chris Bitmead (, May 06, 1998


My requirements sound very similar to yours. I first chose the lenses (Schneider Super-Angulon XL 47, 58 and 72mm), and then the camera (Calumet Cadet Wide-Angle).

Why the Calumet? It's cheap (I got it for #300 in the UK), fairly light (about 2.2kg), and fits easily in a rucksack. Setting up is trivial: take it out of the rucksack, put it on a tripod, remove the lens cap, and there we are. It's got all the movements I need, and can be operated with gloves in filthy weather. Of course, it has disadvantages: tightening the clamps tends to move the standards, it doesn't have screw-thread movements (but I don't want them on top of a wet and windy mountain), the monorail is too short for a lens longer than 180mm (but this helps the portability), it doesn't have bubble-levels (which is a shame). But, for me, the main advantages are cheapness and lightness, so I can take it places where I would hesitate to take a beautiful but heavy mahogany and brass monster.

It has a "hidden" feature: it doesn't even look like a camera. Having a bag "bellows", to the uninitiated it looks more like, say, a handbag than a camera. This opens up interesting possibilities for pictures around town.

-- Alan Gibson (, May 06, 1998.

Have you considered one of the collapsible monorails such as the Technikardan? I've never used one (I'm a woody-phile myself), but they seem to be quite well made and well-designed and may well balance your need for lots of movements with that for portability.

-- Rob Rothman (, May 06, 1998.

Check with Calumet. In the US (and I would assume worldwide), they have a policy that if you buy a Cadet and within 5 years (?) decide that you want to purchase a more expensive view camera, Calumet will credit the cost of the Cadet (currently around $400US) toward the purchase of your new camera. Of course, you would have to buy the new camera from Calumet.

I have used the first version of the Cadet and found that the back standard DID shift if I locked it down. I have been told by Calumet that this problem has been resolved. (I ordered the "normal" unit, not the wide angle camera). I haven't reordered yet (but will if I can't find an affordable, relatively light, monorail camera).

I won't tell you to rent, but have you called photography departments at your local universities and vocational schools? I took an LF course at a community college. Included in the cost of the course was the use of an LF camera for 10 weeks. The course gave me a chance to decide if I liked LF or not and to figure out how to use the camera (with the assistance of the instructor).

-- Stuart Goldstein (, May 07, 1998.

Chris: I don't go in the field without my 4x5 WA Ebony. By far the best most compact wide-angle camera I've ever used. Folds up smaller than a Wista 4x5, has a wooden Grafloc back, very soft leather bellows, will focus and give max moves to the 47mm S-A lens, and will also focus a 135mm down to about 10 feet. I don't know who imports them currently, I think that Lens and Repo use to. Ebony also make an amazing "normal" 4x5 field camera, also. Both models are of ebony wood and titaninum through. Frank

-- Frank Armstrong (, May 10, 1998.

If cost isn't a problem and quality is paramount why not the newer Linhof Technica 2000? Then there is the Technikardan, extensive movements and top quality. Many of us use the older Technicas and we seem to find them very useful. They last & last and don't lose the precision we have paid for. Many of the "field" cameras are defined by a short bellows, too short for a lot of us. But if all you are looking for is the wide angle end it won't matter much.

-- Dan Smith (, May 17, 1998.

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