Older Press Cameras vs New Field Cameras

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A while back I was interested in trying LF and bought a Super Graphic. I has been great fun and with my main interests in landscapes, I think it has even allowed me to see things in a different way. I can almost loose myself in an afternoon of photography. I would like to pursue this more and have even entertained delusions of making money at it. Im now wondering what a nicer camera would offer (I have accumulated a decent but not great lens assortment). Yes, Ive read through the numerous reviews here and there several times, and even think a Toyo 45A might be fun to try. I suppose some would even think the advantages to be obvious from the reviews, but perhaps I'm slow. What advantage the investment will return. The Super has modest front tilts, rise, swings, fresnel screen, and rotating back. I would say that the tilts seem cumbersome and dropping the bed to get a little more tilt adds to this awkwardness. Pulling the ground glass shade off for focusing gets a little old. I understand that back movements are not great advantage for landscape work and at least at present the bellows on the graphic will handle all my lenses.

You seldom see the likes of John Fielder with a Super Graphic. So I would assume there are advantages in terms of ease of use or flexibility for unusual situations. Yet Im not certain what these are? If Im missing something significant, I think I can afford a newer (used) field camera. If the advantages are more cosmetic or only cover rare situations, Id probably plug along with the Graphic a while longer. Opinions appreciated.

-- Roger Rouch (rrouch@msn.com), December 20, 1999


Roger: I used a Super Graphic for a long time and was happy with it. It will do most of what you want to do, but a field camera has more flexibility. What it needs most is rear movements. I actually think an outdoor photographer needs both. I gave my Graphic to a friend who was getting into large format. Later, I bought a MPP which has back movements because I could not make a quick shot handheld with the field camera. I use the back tilt quite a bit outdoors, expecially when shooting down on stream beds, etc. It also can be used to focus when great depth of field is needed and gives the foreground a closeness which is good on many images. I would opt for the field camera. YOu can't go wrong if you like working with large format and will take the time to set up an image properly. I would suggest you hang onto the Graphic for ease of operation when you want to travel light or make a hurried shot. In my opinion, for what it's worth, you can use both camera types to advantage outdoors. I have some good images made with both types of cameras. As has been said many times, one camera type won't do it all. Good shooting, Doug

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alaweb.com), December 20, 1999.

The short bellows (relative to a Wisner or Canham for example) doesn't seem to bother you and it seems to be the additional movements that you're primarily interested in. I'd suggest that you buy one of the less expensive field cameras that have more movements than the Graphic. The Tachihara is, IMHO, one of the best buys going in large format though there has been a recent price increase to around $600 so it's not quite the bargain it used to be at $500. Still, you'll have a lot more nd greater movements than you're getting with the Graphic. If it turns out that you don't like or need it, you can always sell it at a loss of probably no more than $100 - $150 or so if you keep it in good shape. While renting is also an option, I think you really need to use a camera for longer than a weekend or so to really know it and decide how you like it. Many people also like the Wista (DX I think it is) though I've never known what it's advantages are supposed to be relative to the Tachihara and it does cost about $350 more new. Still, it would be another option at less than $1,000 and a resale value that should keep any loss to a minimum. I assume that with either camera you'd need new lensboards - Tahihara and Wista use the Linhof size boards and I don't think Graphics use those sizes though I'm not sure. One thing I've found is that you can read and read, and ask questions and ask questions, about view cameras but until you actually use one you can't really tell how you'll like it.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis@tampabay.rr.com), December 21, 1999.

Brian, Thanks for the thoughts. I hav actually considered the Tachihara not only because of the price, but because of the weight. A typical good weather day for me can include packing the camera and walking/hiking a number of miles. I would worry that a fall of the pack or from the tripod could result in $600 worth of kindling. But you hear of enough folks using them that maybe it just requires some extra care. Roger

-- Roger Rouch (rrouch@msn.com), December 21, 1999.

Greetings Roger,

I've never used a Graphic, so I wont comment on its suitability, but I have owned a Tachihara and now own a Canham. The answer to your question is really a matter of how you intend to use the camera. Used correctly, all will pretty much do the same thing until you hit the limits of movement - but how much movement do you need?

I've hauled both cameras many, many miles on my back so either is a good choice. The Tachihara is a bit lighter than the Canham, but it is also limited in movements. For general landscape work the Tachihara is more than adequate. It's lacking in that it only has about 12" of bellows draw. That means you're limited to about a 360 mm lens at infinity and forget about macro work. Also, if you plan on using extreme wide angle lens' the bellows will restrict the amount of movement you have. BTW, these were the reasons I switched to a Canham, otherwisw I would still have the Tachihara.

If you don't plan on doing macro, or extreme wide angle shots with movement, then you don't really need anything else. You'd be much better off spending money on glass rather than investing in a new camera. Consider your requirements carefully and good luck with your decision.


-- Pete Caluori (pcaluori@hotmail.com), December 21, 1999.

Stick with the Super Graphic. It's a really great camera for field/landscape use, probably the best all-round user you could find if you were starting from scratch. Any other camera you buy will only be trading one set of inconveniences for another. Pulling the ground glass shade off is a pain, but if you use it enough, it will fall off by itself sooner or later (like the poor guy in the urology joke).

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@home.com), December 21, 1999.

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