Which camera do I buy when jumping into 4x5

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My name is Jeff Rose, I live in Austin Texas. I have shot 35mm and 6x7 for about 20 years now. I am attracted to the 4x5 format and think a field camera attributes would meld with my persona. I have a few priority /dilemmas with my choice of a large format field.

1, I do not want to spend more then $3000 for the body.

2, I love macro photography

3, I love landscape photography

4, I love taking portraits. (disclaimer: I do have a solid 35mm system that take great portraits suitable to 11x14 images so portraiture is my third priority.

Priority 1 and 2 and 3 are all pretty close in weight and I really do not want to substitute one for the other.

What do you suggest, am I out of my mind thinking I can realize this camera?

Any and all information is greatly appreciated.


-- Jeff Rose (Backfill@swbell.net), January 27, 1999


I recommend the Canham 45 DLC.

But then, I recommend that to everybody!

-- Ellis (evphoto@insync.net), January 27, 1999.

two things: 1.) the above post is not from me.

2.) the person who did post it is about to be busted and outed publicly.

3.0 Jeff, go talk to Jerry Sullivan at Precision Camera about your needs

-- Ellis (evphoto@insync.net), January 27, 1999.

Obviously you want a field camera, and there are a number of them available under $3000, some considerably under $3000, that will suit your purpose. Just make sure that the bellows extension is sufficicent to get the reproduction ratio you are looking for in your macro work.

-- Richard Deimel (Bbadger@aol.com), January 28, 1999.

I would suggest that you buy an older Linhof Color rather than a modern field camera if you are not sure if 4x5 is going to work for you. Here are the advantages that I see over a DLC or a conventional field camera:

1) Cost. You can pick up a Color in great shape for $500. if you look around. In the future if you decide that large format is not your cup of tea, you can quickly resell it for what it cost you in the first place. If you decide that you like 4x5 and want a more advanced camera, you can either sell the Color or keep it for studio use.

2) Macro. A monorail is going to be easier to use with long extensions and large movements. The Color is also a more rigid and stable camera than the Canham.

The downside is that this is a bulky camera that is not that suited to backbacking. If you take most of your landscape shots within a mile or so of your car, this is not much of a problem.

Spend the rest of your money on glass, not a fancy camera body. Not only are modern lenses great opticaly, but they come with accurate shutters. A classic lens with an idiosyncratic shutter is not fun after you have lost a few great shot because the shutter ruined the exposure.

There are other older monorails like the Calumet and Omega that are also a good value as well. My own feeling is that the DLC is a bit overrated. It is a clever design, but the fit and finish leave a bit to be desired.

Perhaps the best advice is that you get an inexpensive body, a good modern lens, and spend the rest of the money you have saved on film and processing.

-- Gary Helfrich (helfrich@sonic.net), January 28, 1999.

I would recommend you try large format before plunking down 3k for a body and another 1+k for a lens(s). LF is much different than 35mm and MF, and having 4 or 5k sitting in a closet gathering dust doesnt make much sense. Im not saying you wont like it (I enjoy it very much), but I know at least 1 person who abandons it for every one that sticks with it. Maybe try renting equipment, or picking up something used for cheap (like an excellent Super Graphic) and try that for awhile. It will also give you time and experience to find out what you need before spending all that cash.

-- Ron Shaw (shaw9@llnl.gov), January 28, 1999.

I don't think that macro photography is one of the strengths of large format. There are several problems. First,in order to get even to a 1-1 magnification the lenses tend to be on the long side - 150 and up. Secondly, you generally have a very long bellows extension to get to 1-1, so it becomes difficult to see the subject with so little light getting to the ground glass. Third, large format in general can be cumbersome and somewhat unwieldy when trying to focus on a flower petal that is three inches from the lens. Fourth, because of the shallow depth of field you tend to use very small apertures and because of this as well as the long bellows extension, often end up with really long shutter speeds. If you're photographing something that moves, the slightest breeze can ruin your photograph and when you're using shutter speeds of 15, 20, 30, or more seconds, which is by no means unusual, the likelihood that a breeze will occur sometime during the exposure is pretty great. None of these problems is insurmountable and I'm sure some people do a lot of macro work with large format but personally I wouldn't get into large format with the idea of doing macro work with it. You might use large format for landscapes, and maybe portraits, but stick with your medium or 35 mm formats for the macro work. Just my opinion. Brian

-- Brian Ellis (beellis@gte.net), January 28, 1999.

Go for it!! Canham 4x5dlc, wisner tech field, and a good lens and your cooking. You have tried 35mm, and 6x7, and i assume your looking for what your missing, so to hell with rational thought, grab one and shoot.

Don't forget to post what you shot :)

best wishes

-- Altaf Shaikh (nissar@idt.net), January 28, 1999.

Well I found out who made the first post, it was a guy named Bill Daily , e-mail address is: wrdaily@aol.com.

Mr Daily has decided it is cute to start posting answers in my name, maybe yours too. I am of a mind to contact AOL about this guy, as I am of the opinion that what he is doing is at least unethical, if not illegal, and should get him kicked off his ISP(s) at the very least. what do you think.

-- Ellis (evphoto@insync.net), January 29, 1999.

I say go for it, Ellis!!!

My advice on the 4x5 for your applications would be an old Linhoff Tech III or IV. They have a good range of movements including a drop bed for front fall, front rise by rack and pinion, front swings and shifts, the back revolves and tilts and swings on four pins that terminate in ball and socket joints in the corners of the back.

The bellows on my old Tech III are about 16", the lensboards are flat (make 'em yourself) , they have a Graflock back for roll film and you can find the III's for under $500 in really good shape and the IV's for under $1000. Even if the bellows are bad, they can be replaced for under $150. .. And they fold up into a really good defensive weapon with a 135mm mounted inside...t

Check out the wb site the moderator of this forum has for incredible details about these good cameras... Oh yeah, I use a 90mm no mine, no problem...t

-- tom meyer (twm@meteor.com), January 29, 1999.

Ellis, I thought you were kidding when I read what I thought was your second post. You should nail him. AOL will not look kindly on that kind of behaviour. This was a fairly innocent instance but he could cause you or someone else serious reputation problems in the future.

On to the original question, I don't think you should spend that much on a camera just because you have it. Find something that is capable, has good resale value and costs much less. If you like 4x5, you can trade out of it and move up. The lenses will still fit with the proper boards. If you don't, you can sell and, at worse, just lose a little.

-- Mike Long (mlafly@aol.com), January 30, 1999.

Hi.. I strongly suggest you go for one of Mr Wisner 4x5 'Pocket Expeditions.' I recently bought the 8x10 version and I'm absolutly over the moon with it. Not only is it a beautiful specimen to look at.. it probably the most versatile large format field camera ever built. Lucky for you they make a 4x5 version, which weighs under 4lbs. Its will have more movements than you could ever reasonably need to use, and when locked up will be very rigid. Check out this site. www.wisner.com This is the way I see it.. you get what you pay for and although they cost in the region of $2,500 they will last you for the rest of your life.. and whoever gets it when you are gone ! As for macro and large format.. I agree with other comments about the unsuitability of this format for that subject.. particularly in their natural surroundings. Not only the lenght of exposure requiring you to take into account reciprocity failure, but unless you a mathamatician and can handle the inverse square law.. (unlike me I may add) stick with your other formats. As for lenses.. go for the best you can.. that usally means APO's. Good quality second hand ones abound.. you just need to look. And don't over look Goerz Red Dot APO's.. still some of the best lenses available. Hope this is of some use to you.. Good luck ! Sorry.. I'm not in favour of Canham or Zone VI.. each to their own.

-- Nigel Turner (npturner@earthlink.net), January 30, 1999.

My experience began(about 25 years ago)with the purchase of a metal "Nu-View" (sp?) at a garage sale for $15 (including a 203mm Kodak in a supermatic). Although not a lightweight, it served to introduce me to the 4 X 5 format and it's basics. I found, among other things, that I enjoyed the process (ponderous, intellectually challenging) as a departure from 35mm. I also discovered that I preferred field work (landscape and traditional urban scenes) which helped me to decide what equipment would be best for me in the future. I would imagine that an experienced photographer could discover this quite soon. I thought that it was one of the wisest purchases that I have made.

-- Rich Sweeney (sweeneyr@yosemite.cc.ca.us), February 01, 1999.

After having read through some of the other comments I find myself in sync with a number of points made by others. To do macro work, a monorail with generous bellows will be an asset. To do field work, a wooden or metal folder will be more transportable. A friend of mine just got a new Linhof Technikardan which seems capable of both but I think it may be a bit beyond your budget even before you buy lenses! What I would suggest is what another contributor recommended....get a used Color Kardan for around $500. Play with it indoors, learn all about using movements, bellows compensation, focusing techniques and so on. This will give you an opportunity to deal with loading film holders, processing sheet film (if you do your own) and a number of other handling issues one encounters in the world of large format. An alternative approach would be to start with a used Wisner Traditional. A new one is only $1500! I bought a mint used one for a third of that. This would make landscape work your "training ground" instead of tabletop work. You could do some close up photography with the field camera, but it would be little trickier since these cameras don't have the rigidity and precise machine-like adjustablity of a good monorail. Don't forget that a camera and glass are not your only costs! You'll need a spot meter, focusing loupe, dark cloth, film holders, case or backpack, lensboards, a good, rigid tripod, long cable release, etc., etc. You might already have some of these given your extensive experience with smaller formats, but chances are you'll need some of them. What I strongly recommend is that you consider participating in one of the many fine introductory workshops that are offered. I have high regard for Howard Bond's view camera workshop. Just seeing some of the different cameras people bring to these events and listening to the questions and experiences of participants can be an education, not to mention HB's 50+ years of experience and wonderful teaching style. Good luck with your quest and feel free to e-mail me with questions.

-- Robert A. Zeichner (razeichner@ameritech.net), February 03, 1999.

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