Pros and cons of field cameras.... : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have been shooting 35mm and 6x6 for many years, most of them professionally (weddings, portraits, etc.). I am now wanting to go to LF to do landscape and outdoor portrait photography. The questions I have are these: I know from the posts that I should go cheap camera, good glass. My budget is not great, and I understand the need for good lenses. Much of my 35mm work was done with cheap Yashica bodies and Zeiss lenses....However, I need at least a camera that will do what I want. The Calumet Cadet sounds like a good deal...lens and camera for under $800 new (even less used at KEH). But the bellows is permanently attached, which means another camera body for wide angle. Also, the Toyo AX field...from what I've read, I don't need to change the bellows to do say, a 90mm lens change...although I know the movements may be limited. My budget for a body is $1000, so I can't go Weisner tech. I have seen the AX for under $1000 in pretty decent shape. What I need to know are; are the controls easier to manipulate on the Toyo? I've heard some grumbling about problems with some cameras; having to lock the focus down, and it this a problem with the cheaper, friction-focus cameras? Anyway, if anyone can give me a bit of help...if you have worked with these cameras..... Also, (sorry!) has anyone ever done any soft-focus with LF? I know with small apertures it is a problem, but I have heard that with Softars this isn't as bad... Oh, and I know you have written newbies of the pratfalls of going into LF. This is not a concern with me. I want the perspective control. Also, I have been a landscape painter for over 20 years...oils and acrylics [ ]. I'm quite used to the pace of LF, and of having to lug lots of stuff to the perfect spot...I know LF can be a pain, but try lugging around a heavy paint box, jars of turpentine, a heavy wooden easel, and one or more large picnic, I assure you...anyway, I look at LF photography as painting with light, and may be one of the few who look at LF photography as a means to speed up the creative process...heh.

-- Alan Cecil (, January 06, 2000


You might try going to some camera swap meets, large or small. I've seen some really great deals. (e.g a recent Zone VI for $695) As one possibility, how about an older arca-swiss? Both KEH and Midwest have them under $1000 -- lots of movements, portability, etc. (See Index of Camera Reviews on this site.)

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@worldnet.att.ent), January 06, 2000.

The problem with old Arca's is that the current accessories are unlikely to fit. For soft focus, I think Rodenstock offers a special soft focus lens that allows one to adjust the amount of softness, something you can't do w/ a softar filter, as they only come as softar I or II. I can't think of anything like this in MF or 35mm.

-- James Chow (, January 06, 2000.

For softfocus you have new Rodagon Imagons and Fuji lenses that will sharpen up as you stop down (this occurs naturally since the preferred method to obtain soft images is undercorrected spherical aberration). This will be familiar to you if you've had contact with the Mamiya or Fuji softfocus lenses in MF. The Imagon also has the insertable discs like the Mamiya (don't know if the Fuji's use them - I suspect they do). As far as used goes the Imagons have been produced for at least 40 years, and there are MANY other older lenses from the 40's and 50's available. You could buy an old soft focus lens for the price of a new Softar filter.

-- Wayne DeWitt (, January 07, 2000.

Given your budget and photographic intentions, I think you should be looking at a secondhand field camera, something like the Toyo that you mention. I use one of the original Toyo metal fields, which was not expensive, is easy to carry around in a backpack, and has much (if not more in some respects) of the functionality of modern field cameras. All field cameras are idiosyncratic in some way, and the key is to get the right balance between ease of use, versatility, complexity, strength, weight, durability and cost. A secondhand camera would free up more money for lenses and other essential items. I have managed to aquire several lenses since starting LF, but the fact is I use two 90% of the time - a 90mm, and a 300mm. I may well sell my other lenses as I am finding that having less equipment significantly improves the visualisation process. (anyone interested in a Fuji 65mm, Nikkor 150mm, Schneider 180mm or a Fuji 400T)? I would also recommend a spot meter. Also, if you are going to be doing mainly colour (my assumption), look at the Quickload system for film. The only other major items I can think of now are tripod and filters, but I've probably missed something. One last thing - the movements on the camera do not control perspective, they enable you to control where a plane of sharpness will lie in the image. Only physically moving the camera to a different location will alter the perspective of the image.

-- fw (, January 07, 2000.

" As far as used goes the Imagons have been produced for at least 40 years,"

Actually since the 1890s. More than 100 years!

-- Bob Salomon (, January 07, 2000.

fw wrote thusly:

"One last thing - the movements on the camera do not control perspective, they enable you to control where a plane of sharpness will lie in the image. Only physically moving the camera to a different location will alter the perspective of the image"

Consider the simple manipulation of using front rise to prevent convergence. Convergence is a perspective effect, and front rise can be used to control convergence. This example therefore proves that camera movements CAN alter perspective.

Obviously, there are some limitations: In particular, camera movements cannot alter the near/far size relationships of objects which are overlapped in the image (though you CAN alter the aprrrent size relationships of objects whicht are separated in the image...)This is probably the specific case that fw was probably thinking of.

-- Patrick

-- Patrick Chase (, January 07, 2000.

Not that I am trying to cause more confusion for Alan then is already present,but Patrick how do you control convergence of a scene by raising the front standard? Alright I have to drop a name here,ummm Ansel Adams states on more than once in "The Camera" that "True perspective depends only upon the camera-to-subject distance." (page 106).

Alan read all the threads availible in this forum, it is full of great user feedback,also on you can track down some reviews. I've just gone through the same type of struggle myself, ended up with a toyo 45A, older model, tough decision though. Keep in mind a camera is only part of the picture(no pun intended), you are the bulk of what creates the final image. I'll bet that with the experiece you already have in the small format and painting, what ever you end up with will work just fine if you decide to put your heart and soul into it. Good luck! Larry

-- Larry Shearer (, January 07, 2000.

Thanks for the correction on the length of production of the Imagon lens Bob. I'm only 44, so I wasn't around when they started making them - glad you were.

-- Wayne (, January 07, 2000.

I control the perspective and spatial relationships of objects on many of the images I take. That is one of the big reasons I use a view camera. I want to change the way a fenceline diverges, or the way parallel lines converge or not, whether a post is in front of a door or to the side. Movements are for more than just changing the plane of focus. Want to change how close or far two objects are from one another in a scene? Change your lens. The longer the focal length the more compressed far objects are to near objects. The wider the farther away the same objects apppear. If you disagree, then you need to get your camera out and play with it. James

-- Mr.Lumberjack (, January 08, 2000.

You should be able to get a pretty decent selection of s'hand equipment at if you are looking for a field camera try one of the older makes, such as MPP but buy a Mk8 if you can get one (rarely over #500.00 including a Xenar or simmilar 150mm lens) so it should fit within your budget.

-- David Kirk (, January 08, 2000.

I'd consider the Toyo CX monorail instead of the Cadet. Only slightly more money, I think (it costs $600 new?), but more growth potential and less likely to make you want to trade up right away. I'm a confirmed monorail landscapist (not landscaper!), though, so my bias is that the extra flexibility of a monorail makes them worth the trouble. Those who haven't shlepped easels, canvases, and paint over hill and dale think some field cameras are too much. . . . fwiw.

-- Simon (, January 08, 2000.

Heh...thanks for all the responses! Yes, I was thinking of going second-hand (I've probably bought 70-80% of my stuff over the years second-hand from KEH and B&H). The only reason I was thinking about the cadet was that Calumet has a great buy-back policy for trading up for a Cambo ["Calumet will buy back your camera for the original purchase price of the Cadet camera body towards the purchase of a Cambo 45SF, Cambo 23SF or Zone VI 4x5 camera within 5 years of the day you buy your Cadet"]. Yes, I am aware of the Imagon lens. I have used a Sima Soft-focus lens that I bought back in '85 that is basically the same thing...I even made diaphrams like the ones used for Imagon lenses... But used Imagons are hard for me to find, and I've seen the prices of the new ones..ugh...I want the 300mm...I was just wondering if the softar filters would work (got one already!). I didn't know about the older soft focus lenses...what brands? Also, I guess the extra schlepping with a monorail would be compensated with the extra movements...

-- Alan Cecil (, January 08, 2000.


I've moved the (tangential) discussion of perspective manipulations into its own thread because it really doesn't belong here...



-- Patrick Chase (, January 08, 2000.

Back to the older arcas . . . I believe that, while bellows aren't interchangeable, newer flat lensboards work on the older version. Also, the older version offers an international graflock back which can accept recent accessories. Wide angle bellows can be found for wide lenses.

-- neil poulsen (, January 08, 2000.

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