Your ideal 4x5 backpacking kit? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello All,

I'm interested in knowing what your favorite 4x5 field kit (real or imagined) would consist of for overnight backpacking and day hiking. Cost not a concern, but having enough focal lengths to cover a variety of compositions of nature in all her wilderness glory would be a paramount. Extensive camera movements not needed, but sturdy/small/light might be the priority. What lenses would you pack? Which 4x5 camera and lightweight tripod? Which packs or combination of packs to get your photo and camping gear into the wilds? Thanks in advance for your willingness to share your ideas!

-- Ross Martin (, August 31, 1999


Lenses ; 90mm f/8 & 300mm f/9 Camera ; Toyo Field, w/darkcloth and bellows hood, spirit level and Meter ; Pentax digital spotmeter Film ; Velvia/Astia Quickload, plus about 5 filmholders with Tri-X. Filters ; Yellow/Orange/Green/Polarizer Tripod ; Manfrotto Lightweight tape measure (for close-up work)

I'd like to know what cases people use for backpacking with 4x5, and whether people find a focussing loupe helpful in the field.

-- fw (, August 31, 1999.

I don't camp over night so I don't need to pair my kit down. I usually just take a hike into the woods, planning on coming back after a few hours. "Say this Blair Woods is really nice."

Anyway this is what I haul around: LowePro Photo Trekker AW; Toyo Field Camera (the old 5X7 one but configured for 4X5); 65mm f8 SA, 90mm f8 SA, 150 f5.6 Xenar, 210 f5.6 Symmar convertable, 300 f9 M Nikkor; Cabin loupe; 10 film holders, Polaroid 405 back, 20ish assorted gel filters; FlareBuster; Minolta Autometer IVf; various shutterspeed and reciprocity failure charts; dark cloth; a few glass filters, a small tripod chair; and a Beurleback tripod with a Gitzo head.

In the car I leave extra film, a changebag and a roll film back.

My lenses are mostly small. I wish that I could say that I planned it this way but I bought the best I could afford and they all turned out small. The only lens that I would pay the weight premium for more coverage would be the 65 and I'm still drooling over the 72mm SA. The 300M is my new toy, sharp, small and surprisingly bright for f9.

My "most valuable player" peice of equipment is the little tripod chair. It weighs about half a pound and lets me sit in front of the groundglass and take my time, rather than kneeling on a pebble. Around here the chair totally underwhelms my friends but I like it a lot.

I can't imagine using a field camera without a loupe of some kind and the Cabin is great. The FlareBuster is what you think it is. I'd have a dedicated lenshood if one existed for my camera, but this is OK.

I had all my lense's shutterspeeds checked and made up a cheatsheet for indicated/actual performance. It's much cheaper than getting them fixed, and fixing won't last long anyway. I don't care if they're off, as long as they're CONSISTANTLY off! One sheet of laminated paper keeps them on hand and dry and I just did the same thing for film reciprocity failure info.

-- David Grandy (, August 31, 1999.

Current: Super graphic 203 Ektar 127 Ektar Incident Light Meter 7 Film holders T-shirt dark cloth Bogen 3020

Dream: Linhof Super Tech V Nikon 75 Rodenstock 115, 150, 210, 300 mm Bogen 3020 Pentax spot meter Graduated ND - 1 + 2 filters. Polarizer filter. 20 film holders Real dark cloth Llama

-- Roger Rouch (, August 31, 1999.

I recently did an overnight backpacking trip in Sequoia NP, hiking up from 7200 ft to 9300 ft (one-way distance was about 7 miles). This is what I brought..phototrekker AW pack w/ Toyo VX125 monorail, 90/5.6 super angulon XL, 210/5.6 apo-symmar, 300/9 nikkor M (all in Linhof boards), Toyo 4x loupe, compendium hood, 95-110mm center filter for the 90 XL, 95mm B+W kaseman circ. PL, 95mm B+W UV, 0.6 Lee grad ND, 4 Toyo holders, quickload holder, half box of quickloads, sekonic L408 meter. Darkcloth was my Pearlizumi cycling windbreaker.

That was part of my equipment. Then there was Rollei 6008i 6x6 slr with spare film insert, 90/4 apo-symmar and 40/3.5 super angulon lenses plus maybe 15 boxes of 120 film along with a Gitzo 340 tripod and Linhof profil 3 head and RRS quick release attachment. All this stuff weighed about 40 lbs, plus another 5 lbs for 1 qt of water,water filtration system, food, and a minimal amount of clothes (was cold at night...35F). I talked my friend into carrying my sleeping bag in his pack, as he only carries a 35mm slr.:-) I brought the same equipment along in Thailand PLUS the 180 and 300mm lens and a 1.4x teleconverter for my 6x6, but I didn't have to bring the food/clothes.

Needless to say, this was way too much equipment (had to leave the 180/2.8 and 300/4 tele-xenars for the 6x6 at home...4 kg for those two lenses). Next time, I'll rethink my strategy...probably medium format for multi-day trips if I don't know what to expect to see, or the LF if I know there are just a few shots I expect take, but not both.

-- James Chow (, August 31, 1999.

Sometimes my kit is quite the opposite to James Chow's: I take Snibgo1, which weighs 1.5kg including the 47mm lens and film holder. No tripod. Possibly some filters. Minolta Spotmeter F.

That doesn't fit Ross's requirements. For more flexibility, I take a Calumet Cadet wide-ange, not the world's most sturdy camera but quite light, with a loupe permanently tied on, usually with the 47mm and 72mm, and perhaps the 180mm. With dark cloth and a pile of film holders this fits easily into a cheap but tough rucksack. When I also need the bivouac, sleeping bag etc it all goes in a large Lowe Pro rucksack ("Specialist 80+20"). I'm not keen on the photo packs, preferring 'real' packs, with clothing for padding.

If I had tons of money, but still had to carry it on my back, I'm not sure I would change much. I would look for something sturdier than the Calumet, but it would have to be just as light and easy to use. Of couse, if I had a mule and assistant, it would be quite a different story...

-- Alan Gibson (, September 01, 1999.

Hi all! My present kit, which is more than light enough for backpacking includes a Wista 45D (a Wisner Pocket Expedition would be nice!), 90mm f8 Super Angulon in a recessed board, 135mm f5.6 Symmar, Ektar f7.7 203mm, and 300mm f9 Nikkor in an extended board (all the lenses except the 90mm have been adapted to accept 52mm filters). These and a few filters fit into a medium size fanny pack which can be attached to my backpack when on extended trips. The tripod of choice would be a Gitzo mountaineer, but I have been using a Bogen 3011 with the small Gitzo ball head successfully for years. My dark cloth consists of two pieces of tent nylon, one black and one white, sewn together with small pockets for rock wieghts in the corners, and plenty of velcro fastenings. I also carry a short fisherman's vest for accessories, holders etc. For really long trips where weight is a concern I shoot ready-load T-Max and leave one or two of the lenses at home, but most of the time I take them all and schlepp along 6-8 holders with Tri-X as well as a box of film for reloading (which is done at night in a well washed-down tent and inside a new black plastic garbage bag). This is versatile photographically, can be carried alone in really rough terrain leaving both hands free, and weighs less than many 35mm outfits. Regards, ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (, September 01, 1999.

I made my own camera backpack from a Jansport day pack. The following equipment resides in custom velvet lined splendor:980 Horseman, 65 5.6 Schneider,105 3.5 Topcon,180 5.6 Topcon 3 6X7 roll film backs pENTAX S-METER,5 filters, (tripod in a pouch), dark cloth, loupe. It tops out at 20 lbs W/O domke photogs vest which is great.

-- George Nedleman (, September 01, 1999.

In a Domke J1 bag: Canham DLC; Horseman 6x9cm roll film back; Polaroid 405 back; 65mm f/4.5 Grandagon, 90mm f/4.5 Grandagon, 150mm f/5.6 Fuji, 210mm f/5.6 Nikkor W, & 300mm f/9 M-Nikkor, (all lenses wear Heliopan KR1.5 filters and their own Linhof cable releases and are mounted in Linhof Technika lensboards); Minolta Spot F meter; Toyo 3.3x focusing magnifier and a Schneider 4x loupe; Darkroom Innovations darkcloth; film; 67mm & 77mm Heliopan circular polarizers and adapter rings for all lenses; a lens brush and blower; a stop watch; a couple of small bi-directional levels. All small & fragile items are in their own padded Zing neoprene bags. All this also easily fits into a medium size backpack with room left over for a Fuji Quickload holder and two-three boxes of Quickload film. Sometimes I also carry a Sinar 100mm filter holder and neutral density grads and a Heliopan 0.45 center weighted filter for the 90mm f/4.5 (usually this is not necessary.) I might wear a Domke photovest. Plus Powerbars and water!

-- Ellis Vener (, September 01, 1999.

Currently packed and ready in a army surplus A.L.I.C.E. pack is my linhof super tech 111, 90 6.8 angulon, 120 6.8 angulon, and a 240 rodenstock (not packed but ready), a bogen junker(don't remember the # but it's a big heavy sucker) a junker horseman 7x lupe, a bruised and ancient pentax spot, a gossen scout, a dozen cfh's in a ammo can (px tx tp). I have a small nasty old orange "shock" bag with brushes, lens tissue, filters, extra cable release, gaffer's tape, levels, a penlight and various odds and ends and enough spare-room for the 240. My tech is wrapped in a black sweatshirt that protects it a little from bumps and doubles nicely as a darkcloth. It's ugly and cheap but it works.

My dream outfit would have to be a phillips 11x14 or a restored banquet camera and lenses to suit. I doubt I'll ever get another 4x5 for a coupla reasons; I don't think the linhof will ever be "used up" and if I start again I think I'll go with a medium format panoramic like a Horseman or a Alpa in 6x12 and that's a perfectly unrealistic dream but let me have it...ok?

-- Trib (, September 01, 1999.

As I suspect your ambitious may be more in photography and nature than in bodybuilding I dare to suggest you leave the whole camera store home. I would take a wooden field camera, wooden because it's light, versatil and stronger than a metal one. A 150/5,6 lens could be small enough to fit inside the camera when closed. A digital spotmeter and, say, five cassettes and a film box. If you have to load film, do it when its dark inside your sleeping bag. Use your jacket (if you wear one) as the dark cloth. I've done this all my life whith 4x5. Remember that the tripod has only one function, to hold a camera. The lightest of Gitzo Reporter series is good for a 4x5. And all this (not the tripod) will go inside the smallest Nikon bag. Have a nice trip! Jan

-- Jan Eerala (, September 01, 1999.

I do extensive 4x5 backpacking in Colarodo at 10,000 feet and up. For trips of 4 days or less I carry it on my back. For longer trips I use a llama. When I carry it on my back my pack weighs in at 72 pounds. This summer I spent 35 days in remote wilderness. A typical day for me starts at 3-4 AM and will end at 10-11 PM.

Here is the camera gear I carry on my back (God forbid):

1. 4x5 Wisner Expedition with ground glass cover and soft stuff sack. 2. Nikkor 75mm, 120mm, 210mm, 300mm, 500mm, and 720mm rear element. 3. 545i Polaroid film holder. 4. Modified Kodak Readyload film holder to insure proper alignment. 5. Zone VI Modified Pentax Digital spotmeter. 6. 2 boxes of Readyload film. 7. 3 boxes of Polaroid. 8. Assorted cleaning gear (no compressed air). 9. Bogen 3001 tripod with hook on center post to hang a rock bag. 10. Magic markers to add notes to all polaroid proofs. 11. Wash cloth to wipe down gear. 12. I use my Diana black pack cover for a focus cloth and rain cover. 13. Zone VI 4x5 color viewer with the color filter removed.

For camping gear, every ounce of weight is questioned. For example I use a 23 oz Gortex bivy bag in place of a tent. My entire cooking gear weighs only 11 ounces. I use a cheap poncho (5 oz) for rain gear because a Gortex suit can be as heavy as a tent. And the list goes on...

It is some ways it is a sufferage experience!

-- Stephen Willard (, September 01, 1999.

Hello Ross and you all, This is an interesting and somewhat amusing discussion and I'd like to join in. As many, I also think there is not a universal kit. It depends on how long the trip, flat or uphill, subjects and expectancies. If I had both a winning lotery ticket and a plane ticket for the Rockies, but could not take more gear than I can carry on my back for several days, I suppose this would be in my backpack: A Linhof Technika 2000 (for it's aptitude to accomodate a broad range of lenses, especially wide angles) with Bosscreen, SuperAngulon XL 47 with centerfilter, XL 90, SuperSymmar 120, Xenar 210 (or Nikkor M 200) and Nikkor M 300. (I would have an agonizing time to decide not to take the Nikkor SW 65 and the ApoSymmar 150). A Horseman 6x lupe, Fuji QuickLoad with much Velvia and some Astia for the sunshine, a Sinar Zoom rollfilm back (remember, I'm dreaming) and 220 films (for better flatness when full width is used). Lenses with Cokin rings, caps, shades, polarizer and grey G1( both to be used wisely). I would choose a Gitzo mountaineer with a Manfrotto 168 quick release ball head. A friend of mine uses a Wista metal folding camera and is very pleased with it. In the real, I have an outfit that I have aquired over years from used and new gear. A 25 years old Technika V 4x5, very smooth yet sturdy camera, the more I use, the more I love it, but Master or 2000 are better with wide angles (and are outpriced new). I have lenses from SA 47 XL, NiSW4/65 (both very useful for 6x9 and 6x12), SA5,6/90 and 8/121, ApoSymmar 5,6/150, 2X converter for 150 from Horseman, Xenar 6,8/210 and up to an Apo-Ronar 9/360. I use Fuji QuickLoads and a Cambo 6x12 with 220 films (120 are not flat). The Cambo is fragile and needs to be greased regularly. The 6x9 back from Wista is a wonder. But since I am used to the"slide in" Cambo, I'm getting lazy with other backs that demands the spring back to be dismantled. This is why I might get an other Cambo 6x9, despite of it's fragility. (If I where rich I might turn to a Sinar Zoom). I recently adapted a folding binocular reflex viewer from Horseman on my Tech. This required some mechanical work. I appreciate the new comfort this viewer offers. It can be used for both vertical and horizontal takings (although the rotating fixation device has to be modified to be safe) and can be placed above head, looking upward also. I pack my gear in a Tenba PBA. In the upper part of the bag, I can place the Tech open with lens, and the binocular folded stays on the camera (I definitly tend to get lazy, getting older). If I have to carry a tent and sleeping bag, I use the Tenba PBH non Kelti. (Having it on my back reminds me of my military time for both comfort and weariness!) If I was part of a group whose interest was not in large format photography (family, tour), I would rather take my Pentax 67 with 45, 90, 135, 200 and X1,4 (again, it would be hard to decide not to take the 55 and 75, both heavy, or again if money was not a problem, I would get the zoom 55-100). I might consider an Outpack from Domke. The production, especially when travelling fast is far more effective and less frustrating with medium format. Also when I travel with a van, I always have both. Every time I can, I use the Linhof, making small adjustments and correcting perspectives. But how many pictures I missed over the years because when I was ready the light had turned dull! With the Pentax, such special lights are much easier to catch. Composition is also easier to achieve. And when enlarged, even to 40x50cm, there is plenty of sharpness. But sorry, this is a LF forum! The tripods I use are a Gitzo 3,2/150cm and Manfrotto 168 quick release ball head for hiking (Montaineers where not available when I bought it) and a Gitzo G 411 4,1/201cm with center column, equipped with a Linhof Pro 2 ball head and Manfrotto quick release, for (working) near the car. That's my experience. Happy to read about yours! b

-- Paul Schilliger (, September 01, 1999.

Lowe Pro Trekker AW. Gandolfi 4x5 w/90f8/150f5.6/240f5.6. 12 holders. Kodak RDLD w/10 tmx and 545 w/10 Velvia. Assorted filters and other accesories. Spot mtr and a Bogen 3021 w/ball head. Water and jerky, gorp, power bars. H2O filter if longer than 1 day. Jaket and space blanket. No slpg bag. 50#s. @ days plus- old Speed/ 90f6.8/ 152f4.5/ 210f5.6, filters and accesories. Kodak RDLD w/20 TMax and 545/10 Velvia. 5 Holders. Same tripod and head. Space blkt and good jacket w/hood. Food and water filter. Small aluminum pot w/matches. If I hit the jackpot- two nice young girls ( photography students of course). A Wisner 45 expedition w/47, 90, 150, 240, 480 modern lenses. Filters and grads. All TMax and Velvia. Nice down bag able to mate with another of same. And lots of time left. Oh yeah. No wife! James

-- james (, September 02, 1999.

I have been on several backpack trips this summer with my 4X5, many involving off trail travel and boulder hopping. I routinely take the 4X5 on long day hikes and peak climbs. The system I use is a Toyo AX with 90mm f/8, 150mm f/5.6, and 300mm f/9 lenses. If I had the money, I might have a 75mm f/4.5 and 110mm f/5.6 combo instead of the 90mm. The Toyo AX is a heavy field camera, but it is bombproof and relatively inexpensive. I use Fuji Quickloads (~10 exposures/day), a Bogen 3221 tripod with Bogen mini geared head, a spot meter, 8X loupe, filters (81A, polarizer, graduated split ND), and also carry a 35mm with 28-70 and 70-210 zooms. All this gear goes into a LowePro Nature Trekker AW photo pack. The full photo pack fits nicely into my Gregory Denali backpack. By its self, the photo pack with a few accessory pouches for water and clothing makes an excellent day pack and has a great tripod holding set up. The entire system weighs around 30 lbs and has worked great for me.

-- Les Moore (, September 03, 1999.

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