Camera and lens to begin? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

As not quite revealed in my previous question about the Toyo-view 45CX, I am getting myself ready (read collect enough cash) to dive in to LF. I will do landscape and field macro work primarily and want a set up that is backpackable, hence body < 5 lbs say.

I planned to start with a 150/5.6 and add a 90/8 and something like a 240/9 later. I also thought the Tachihara would be the perfect camera to begin with. They can be had for ~$500 new from Badger Graphics, at least as of last month.

My question is : given the already significant outlay of cash for the above starter setup, would it not be wiser, given the cash, to spring for a better camera that I would not grow out of? I will be learning LF technique from scratch here, and while I expect to enjoy it fully, one never knows. Is the Tachihara a better camera to learn on than say a Canham DLC or Wisner Expedition, both of which satisfy a backpacking weight requirement. What else is worth considering?

Thanks for any input,


-- Richard Ross (, September 16, 1998


Although I've never used a Tachihara, I've heard good things about it, and a number of landscape photographers find it's all they ever need. My sense is that the mian thing you might get from some other choices which you wouldn't get with the Tachihara is a longer bellows. Whether or not this is likely to be important to you depends on your style of working. If you use a 150mm as your "normal" lens, I believe that you can get down to 1:1 with the Tachihara's bellows, so you may not need anything longer.

Just as an aside, when I first started in LF I knew that my style of working was more suited to slightly longer "normal" lens, so I settled on a 210mm. Because I like to do moderate (and sometimes more than moderate) closeups, a long bellows was my priority. Not wanting to spring for an expensive model before testing the waters, I bought an Iston. I soon outgrew it (due to very limited movements) and bought a Zone VI. While, with hindsight, it might have been a better choice to go for a better camera right off the bat, I don't regret my decision.

In any event, I don't think you'll outgrow the Tachihara's movements for the type of work you're talking about, so if the bellows meets your needs, you might well go for it and not find a need to upgrade.

Good luck and welcome to the large format world.


-- Rob Rothman (, September 16, 1998.

I have owned a Tachihara and I agree with your decision on buying one and the previous post. It works very nicely with the lenses you're planning on. As an aside, I use a 90/150/250 combination with my AX and it covers most of my needs. There is occasionally the need for something longer in the areas I visit.

I do recommend buying new unless you really know what to look for. You want a sturdy camera and a well used Tachihara might begin to get a bit sloppy. There are ways to fix most of that but I doubt you want to get into those modifications when you're just starting out.

It also has a very good resale value in comparison to the initial price but, OTOH, most LF cameras seem to hold their own.


-- Mike Long (, September 17, 1998.

The big differnece between a Tachihara and a Wisner (besides the price) are the functions of the camera. The Wisner will offer you more movements and longer bellows draw, interchangeable bellows, and arguabley better quality. Wether these functions are important to you is a question you have to decide. For me, they were important and thats one reason why I got a Wisner. If money is a issue then you ought to get the Tachihara and start taking pictures. Lets not loose sight of what the real goal is--taking pictures. It's kind of frustrating not to be able to shoot because you don't have the money yet. After you start shooting LF and get a feel for it and what you like to do you might decide that you need something else. At least you will have some experience to make a decision.

As for your choice of lenses, I have never cared for the "normal lens". For me a 210 (or 240) and a 90 are the perfect set. But, you have to decide whats right for you. So, if your shooting a lot of 35mm with a normal lens then a 150 will be good. Also, you might want to check the minium focus on the Tachihara to make sure the 90mm will work. Welcome to the wonderful world of LF. You will enjoy it. Good luck.

-- Michael Wellman (, September 17, 1998.

Hi Richard,

This one of those questions to which their is no absolute answer. You should try playing with the cameras you are considering and seeing what feels best in your hands. All these cameras have distinct personalities and it is my experience that the one that feels and works best in your hands may differ from what feels/works best in mine. Having said that my choice given your parameters would be the Canham DLC, but generally it is a better priority to put your money into your glass first.

-- Ellis (, September 17, 1998.

Just to put another spin on the question, in slight opposition to a previous answer, I *would* consider buying second-hand. You won't know what you really want until you start doing it, so your first camera won't give you exactly what you want, whether it is new or second-hand. A used camera doesn't need as much cash, and you won't lose so much if/when you sell it. You can use any lenses on your second camera, of course.

-- Alan Gibson (, September 17, 1998.

I recommend used, also. Most LF cameras are really quite simple, and any problems can usually be solved very easily, if you have even basic handyman skills. Used lenses save a lot also.

-- Ron Shaw (, September 17, 1998.

In case I wasn't clear, the recommendation to buy new was for the Tachihara. Most of my stuff is used as well but it is equipment reputed to hold up well over time. You might even find a good used Tachihara but I had to perform some modifications to get mine to my liking (it was used when I bought it). Not everyone would wish to do so or be capable of doing so. I should add that when I finished, it was fine.

With a new one at +/-$500 at Badger and used ones selling at about $450, I'd go with new.


-- Mike Long (, September 17, 1998.

I started with the Canham DLC, as did three other people in the Santa Fe workshop I took. It's a marvelous camera, light weight, controls very intuitively laid out, and no need for a bag bellows. It has all the movements you'd ever need, and Keith Canham answers his own phone and will stand behind his product. I know Wisner also makes a fine camera, but the DLC was certainly a good choice for me. Good luck.

-- John Costo (, September 19, 1998.

I had the chance to handle a new Tachihara today. Someone posted that the new ones had the nylon washers installed at the factory and that is correct (not that I doubted it).

There were other improvements over my older one as well. The front standard has a little tab now on the metal rise/fall railings. It added to the sturdiness. Also, IMHO, the railing holding the front standard (the one that is attached to the bed) is more solid and secured better.

There were so other improvements in hardware as well. Most were minor but this was a much better camera than my first one. I still recommend a new one or a real late model at least. I think you'd be happiest that way.


-- Mike Long (, September 20, 1998.

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