View camera movements : monorail vs folding cameras for architecture purposes : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

View camera movements : monorail vs folding cameras for architecture photography (or : who has been using a Master Technika for architecture)?

Hi everybody (from France)

For architectural photography, the placement of the camera is often limited by surroundings (narrow streets ...) and may often need important adjustments for perspective controlling.

On the other hand, I consider that a folding camera is very convenient for its relatively light weight and way of setting up, and IMHO, very beautiful. I also consider the rangefinder device as an advantage for + quick shots ; when the setting up of the camera on a tripod is impossible or too long.

Among all folding cameras, the Linhof Master Technika has the most important movements (300 front tilt, 150 front swing, 3 inches front shift, 2.2 inches front rise & fall, 200 back tilt and swing). Mechanically speaking, it's a piece of jewelry.

Who could tell me if these movements are sufficient for architecture, considering the characteristics of modern lenses in terms of circle of coverage and angle of view (principally wide angle lenses) ?

Im also looking at the Linhof Technikardan, who has additional back rise & fall, back shift. But the fact that the Master Technika has geared front rise & fall seems to be an advantage. IMHO, rise and fall movements seems easier and more precise with geared controls than with free ones (like the TK) for fine adjustements, considering the weight of the lenses (3350 to 700 g).

Im right or not ?

-- jean.louis.llech (, September 14, 1999


Not, but it is your money. A monorail, whether a TK45s, an Arca Swiss FC (which is my choice for complex architecture), A canham DLC or a Sinar P2 will give you more control and versatility than a technical (aka "box") design. Geared rise is more important in the studio than in the field. I personally prefer a yaw free design (Arca and Sinar) in my exerience this makes a more significant difference than a gear rise movement. Once again: I am not knocking Linhof. They make a fine, "jewel" like camera.

-- Ellis Vener (, September 14, 1999.


Hedrich-Blessing, THE Architechtural photography firm used to use Deardorffs when they shot 8 X 10. Now they use a variety of cameras.

Ezra Stoller also used a 'Dorff, but he did switch to a SINAR. He also said he hardly ever Shceimpflugged (sp?) as a tree or something would be in the frame, so he'd stop down to get the D.O.F. he needed.

Peter Aaron and others have used the Panfield from South Africa

Timothy Hursley used to use two SINAR Normas until he got his P2 two or so years ago. He uses a 90mm outside primarily and "I use rises and shifts, never swings and tilts".

Norman McGrath used to prefer the SINAR F-2

Cervin Robinson used to favor the SINAR C-2

Julius Schulman used to use a Kodak Master View - the 4 x 5 monorail which was duplicated by Calumet, Orbit, Saturn, et. al. but he switched to a SINAR P and F but he favored the F for weight reasons.

-- Sean yates (, September 14, 1999.

The main problem I encountered when buying a view camera is that you know the instruments only from paper, and do not normally have an opportunity of trying it out. If you get such an opportunity, jump at it! There is often a big difference between catalog features and the real handling. That said, I must admit that I do not have much experience with monorail cameras. I never owned one, but was only able to look at them and play a bit around with them in shops. I own, however, two wooden field cameras, and I like to photograph architecture as well (among other topics. I have never encountered yet that the movements on my cameras were not sufficient - though there are differences in convenience. I can set up my 8x10 camera as easy or easier than my 4x5, because the former is so well designed - and this design does not show up in a catalog! If anything, I had to watch not to move outside the image circle of the lens. Yaw-freeness is not something you have to pay attention to as long as you level your camera - it is a feature important mostly for studio photography. In the end, I think what is important is you personal style of photography: do you intend to go to the sides with a car, take out your suitcase and set up the camera - a monorail is probably the best. Do you want to be more flexible, have a more protable equipment - a well designed field camera will give you all the movements necessary for outside photography, and can be set up much faster. Lukas Werth

-- Lukas Werth (, September 15, 1999.

Technically a monorail is better of course. But, it depends on what you want. I did architecture with all the possible adjustments on a Sinar, but I found out that mostly I do not want to correct perspective, because you can take out the drama in architectural photography with that.

-- Lot (, September 15, 1999.

jean - the linhof technika will do almost any job you can throw at it, and as you say, it is a wonderfully crafted machine. however, i do architectural and engineering recordation for a living, and have tried many camera systems over the years, and i decided long ago that the fastest, most efficient, and (most importantly) most durable system for my regularly rough field location work is a cambo monorail camera due to its industrial-quality construction, ease-of-use and complete flexibility. to further enhance usability, i have a reflex finder rather than a cloth, i use readyloads so i can carry 120 negs at a time, and i carefully selected my tripod for an appropriate weight-to-strength ratio (i often must carry my equipment long distances, up cliffs, and in a variety of difficult terrain). bottom line - let your work requirements dictate the basic equipment type, and let your personal aesthetic make the final selection.

-- jnorman (, September 15, 1999.

I made my decision after trying out all the models of interest at a the Tokyo photo show (tried Linhof, Arca, Toyo, Wisner, Ebony, Horseman, etc.). IMHO, a monorail is faster to use, which is one reason why I selected a monorail despite shooting some landscape (and architecture). I can dial the movements in faster, especially when back movements are necessary. Wide angle lenses are easier to use, too. There are compact monorails that weigh about the same or less than the mastertechnika and unpack/pack up just as quickly (Arca F-line, Toyo VX125, Linhof Technikardan). Phil Greenspun has an article on the mastertechnika on and comparisons with a monorail.

-- James Chow (, September 15, 1999.

All of the equipment being mentioned is first rate gear. Your choice will be guided by your working style and where your going to specialize.

One other point to consider is the system concept differences between the Arca & Sinar vs. the Linhof Technikarden and Canham (and the Toyo VX to some extent). The Arca (and Sinar I assume) can easily (but not inexpensively) be reconfigured to do a number of different tasks well through their modular designs. The Linhof and Canham are very good within the bounds of their designs, but they weren't intended to be adapted to other formats, or have extreme bellows draw, etc.

From my use of an Arca and Canham DLC for architectural work, I can say I much prefer the Arca. The DLC is a wonderful camera which is very capable, but when your mashed up against a wall trying to get an interior shot, it's nice having the smoothness of operation (i.e. one knob control of movements, ease of precise leveling and smoothness of focus) which the Arca provides. Another big advantage is that you don't need recessed lens boards with the Arca for anything longer than 47mm. The Arca bag bellows (synthetic) has become my standard bellows. Assuming your not doing close-up work, this bellows handles everything up to 210mm. From my bag, I can probably set-up the Arca slightly faster than the DLC. For interior architectural work I've felt the Arca is working for me and making me more productive while I always felt like I was fighting with the DLC. Landscape and exterior architectural with the DLC have been fine.

A previous post stated that, "Norman McGrath used to prefer the SINAR F-2". I believe this is correct in the past tense. Having attended a course which Norman taught earlier this year, he uses many different cameras in his work. He has some wonderful work he has done with a Linhof 6 x 17, and uses a Canon 35mm with a shift lens as well. From a view camera standpoint, he is currently a big fan of the Arca 6 x 9 and Arca 4 x 5 metric.

-- Larry Huppert (, September 16, 1999.

I don't know if the geared rise and shift on a front standard is as useful as those on the rear standard especially if swing and/or tilt pivots are below rise and/or shift mechanisms. An exception is Arca metric with geared rise and fall. I found that geared rise and fall are much more worth for the extra money on the rear because a composition and framing is done on the rear mostly. In that sense, this is why Sinar c2 exists. Here is my specs I would like to have on a camera for architecture purposes (after I decide which lens(es) I want initially).... [BTW I now switched to Arca Swiss F-line classic 4x5 from Sinar p2] Of course your and other people's priority might be different. Architectural photography experts would correct me if I'm saying something wrong.

-- Masayoshi Hayashi (, September 17, 1999.

I switched from a 4x5 Sinar to an Arca Swiss 6x9 in 1985 -- and have never looked back. For combined portability, ergonomics, precision, and flexibility I don't know of anything better. Steven Brooke

-- Steven Brooke (, September 23, 1999.

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