Agonizing over which 4x5 field camera to purchase : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hi all,

I have been looking at the availiable 4x5 field cameras and I am having trouble deciding which one is for me. I would like a solid camera, with somewhat low weight. I currently own a Tachahara and early on I noticed that there was several millimeters of play in the front standard when everthing is locked. I just don't see the point of carrying a heavy tripod, ball head etc. and a camera which is not rigid. I don't need a camera that is built like a tank but I won't put up with any looseness in the critical parts of the camera. I shoot landscapes, usually I dayhike to my location but I may try some overnight backpacks. Here is my current analysis:

Horseman VH: Seems to be a great camera but I noticed that the tilt spec is 10 degrees forward and 15 degrees backward. Is this sufficient? Say I want to photograph a flower that is 5 feet in front of me while still having the background in focus. As a comparison, the Toyo 45AX has tilt of over 90 degrees. I don't want more movements than I will need but I also want a camera which will not restrict my landscape photography.

Toyo 45AX: Specs seem good, but fairly heavy. I would like to draw the line at about 4 lbs but I could live with 6 if the Horseman movements are not sufficient.

Gowland Pocket view (or other Gowlands): Excellent weight, but will it have play in the standards like my Tach? Maybe I could buy this for backpacking and use the Toyo for dayhikes.


I appreciate all comments. Anyone out there have a Horseman VH or HD?


Alex Horvath

-- Alex Horvath (, September 08, 1998



I recently went through a similar "agony". Have you looked at the Canham DLC? This was the camera I settled on. Solidly built and light enough to pack with (around 4~5 lbs -- the actual specs escape me). To me, this seemed like a better camera than the Toyo (with a capability of really wide angle to telephoto without changing bellows).


-- Robert Ruderman (, September 08, 1998.

B&H says that a Horseman VH (a 6x9cm camera) is priced at US$2069; a Horseman HD is priced at US$1980.00. I second Robert R. recommendation of the Canham DLC ($2150); a fresnel might (depends on dealer) cost you an additional $150. I have the Technika to DLC lens board adapter, that cost another $150.00 but isn't necessary. My total outlay was $2300. I have a very solid and versatile, yet light, field camera with a very simple mechanism that is easy to clean in the field.

-- Ellis (, September 08, 1998.

I vote for the DLC also. With this camera it is not necessary to carry a heavy tripod and ball head. It locks as you wished for and is pretty no nonsense. I am currently hiking a lot with it and am using it on the small Gitzo Carbon, as long as I hang my camera bag to it it is a very steady and locked down platform. It is also a very cool looking insturment.

-- Roy Feldman (, September 08, 1998.

I have a Linhof Technikardan 4x5, which I like very much. However, I purchased it as a used camera for about what you would pay for a new Canham 4x5! One other advantage of the Canham is that you supposedly don't need to purchase bag bellows ($$$!) for wide angle lenses. You can read a review of the Canham at the View Camera web site (

All of that aside, I think that you should ask yourself what kind of landscape photography you tend to do. Do you concentrate on wide angle images, or are you more into long focal length images? Or do you do a bit of everything? If you prefer long focal lengths, you may not find the Canham adequate. Alternatively, if you work mostly with wide angle lenses, another less expensive camera may be what available. I don't have suggestions for these end members. But I do think that purchasing a one-does-it-all camera, like the TK45 or the Canham, isn't necessarily the best choice for everyone.

Finally, I would try to borrow or rent one of whatever you consider purchasing. I've never had a problem operating my TK45, but as you can see by one of the articles on this site's main page, not everyone would agree. I suspect that the similar issues apply to the Canham or any other camera.

Best wishes, Bruce

-- Bruce M. Herman (, September 09, 1998.

Just to add to your agony, if you buy a toyo ax or aii (YES EITHER of them) you will get a new l 778 spot meter for 100 bux. If you dont already have a nice spot meter this is the deal to grab (700US for the meter alone). There is a special on toyos too, so you can get it for 1500 and 19xx repectively.

Or you can buy an elph jr and enjoy life. (JK)


-- Altaf Shaikh (, September 09, 1998.

I LOVE my Toyo Field. It has the advantage of being rock solid and is made by a company that's been there and will likely be there for a while. The meter deal is also good if you are in the market for a meter. If I had it to do all over again, now (I've had my Toyo for over 10 years), I'd certainly strongly consider the Canham. It sounds terrific but I've been unable to actually touch one. Since a camera like this is a virtual lifetime purchase for most amaturs, be careful and deliberate. I've played with a used Technikardan and was not impressed. It did not seem intuitive to me. 4X5 work is slow work, by its very nature, take your time in this purchase.

-- Eric Brody (, September 09, 1998.

Used Linhof Technica cameras are available at good prices and it fits all the requirements you mentioned other than possibly a longer bellows length. But, one easy way around that is to mount your long lenses on an extension lensboard(or custom make one with a soup can). The cameras last forever, are rock solid and won't get sloppy with use.

-- Dan Smith (, September 09, 1998.

I just went through this same agony over my new field camera (I shoot landscape and marine senics and I travel a great deal with my camera). After trying both a Toyo and a Linhof for a few days (and considering the Horseman), I bought a Wista SP. Now, two months later, I am certain that I made the right choice. The Wista is as well built, if not better, than the Linhof. It's far superior to the Toyo in every way (more movements, geared movments, smoother, more rigid, easier to use, and it has a real precise feel that the Toyo lacks,) but it cost about the same as a Toyo. That is to say, it cost 1/2 as much as a Linhof. In addition it has changable bellows and focusing tracks which no other metal field camera has. I knew nothing about Wistas when I started looking for a new camera; they seem to be a rather small Japanese company that had almost no US distribution. But now that B&H carries them, I'll bet Toyo and Linhof will be selling a fewer cameras.


-- chris kulczycki (, September 10, 1998.

Chris , I am glad you are happy with your Wista, but your statement " has changable bellows and focusing tracks which no other metal field camera has." while it maybe technically correct, less appealing then the Canham DLC which doesn't need extra focusing tracks (unless you are using a lens longer than a 720mm telephoto) or interchangable bellows for full movements with lenses as short as 55mm (if the 55mm APO-Grandagon ismounted on a recessed board, no recessed board is needed if you are using the 58mm Schneider Super Angulon XL).

-- Ellis (, September 10, 1998.

I can understand your feelings that the Wista SP feels more "precise" than a Toyo. The geared movements should probably translate to that precise feeling. I haven't had my hands on a Wista but the brochure imparts the feeling you describe.

The Toyo AX, however, is priced quite a bit below the AII and the SP (assuming new, of course). As you might recall, the introduction of the AII was accompanied with a $700 price increase over its predecessor, the A. Improvements were pretty insignificant if you relate them to the $700 increase.

You may find this interesting. I sent an email to Mamiya about 2 years ago (before the AX) and asked if they made an AII without the revolving back. I figured it would be lighter and less expensive. There response was, "No", but the RB only weighted about 6/10 of a pound. So, the AX was of interest to me upon its introduction and I own one now.

But that's off the point. And the point is, I suspect the AX is doing nicely in sales because of quality/price. And, I don't think Linhof has to be concerned about the Wista as competition. That's not to say the Wista isn't a great camera but that Linhof appeals to a different buyer.

The other thing is, it would be really hard not to like ANY of the cameras you were considering. They are all fine instruments.

Also, congratulations!


-- Mike Long (, September 12, 1998.

Well, I'll be glad to offer my two cents on this topic and add Wisner to the list. I was in the same situation as you about two years ago. I had a similar problem with my old 4x5 and decided that I was going to get a good solid camera that had all the funcitons I wanted and that I could still take it out on the trail and it would work with out a problem. After a long search I decided on the Wisner Technical. A great camera that should serve your needs well. If you are really concerned about weight, you might think about their expedition model. And if you ever have a problem all you need to do is call Wisner and they will make it right.

-- Michael Wellman (, September 17, 1998.

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