8X10 - priority camera or lens

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I'm sure many of you have already been faced with this issue and can help me make the right decision. If I want to make 8X10 B&W contact prints and have a fixed dollar amount to spend on an 8X10 camera and one lens, where should the priority be placed, camera or lens. One choice I'm looking at is a B&J Grover 8X10 with a 14" Commercial Ektar. The second choice is a Toyo 8X10 and an inexpensive lens like a G. Leitmyer, B&L, Wollensak, etc. Many thanks!

-- Ron Lawrence (leica@interpath.com), January 23, 2000


I think either combination will do a wondeful job for you in terms of final result. Look at Edward Weston's work!The question then is which will feel best to your hands when you are using it or lugging it around?

-- Ellis Vener (evphoto@insync.net), January 23, 2000.

A camera is just a light-tight box that holds the film at one end and a lens at the other, the lens produces the image! I am using a monorail B&J Grover 8x10 with a 14" Commercial Ektar. The system works great. The camera is not too expensive and has a wide range of movement. The lens produces sharp images and has adequate coverage. The only problem I see now is that I want to buy additional lenses, and the bellows extention may be prove to be too short.

-- Dave Richhart (pritprat@erinet.com), January 23, 2000.

I don't use 8x10 but I think this issue is the same with 4x5. Within reason, I agree that the lens takes the photo and the rest is not as important in the final product.

HOWEVER, having used several 4x5 cameras, I now would concede a few more points to the 'camera' side of the equation. Before your lens can take those great photos, you need some performance from your camera body. It is not merely a light holder with a lens at one end and film on the other in practice. Especially with used cameras, you need to be able to obtain all the required movements, and lock them down tightly. You need a body that doesn't give too much in a light (or strong) breeze if you are taking landscapes. You need a body that doesn't shift or sway when you change film holders or switch from the Polaroid back to a film holder. You need a body that doesn't 'creep' from its settings when fully extended to the rail / bellows max length. You need lensboards of reasonable size and weight and with reasonable access costs. You need front standards that don't slip when you add a lens in a Copal 3 shutter. You need bellows that don't compress or move too much in the breezes.

All of these things (from experience) can affect the usefulness of used cameras and, I assume, new ones as well. Once you have satisfied the basic camera body requirements THEN all the rest can safely go on a top lens.

Cheers, Richard

-- Richard Rankin (rpr@coolabah.com), January 23, 2000.

I would lean towards the Ektar combination IF the camera passes mustard. Bellows, stability, lock down and general condition. However, I have seen a couple of fellow photographers that ended up spending more than they expected on an older wooden camera aligning the ground glass, fixing or replacing bellows or tightening up things up in the shop.

I understand your desire to secure a purchase, but there are always many deals out there for the 8 x 10 and patience will reward you if you are not absolutely certain. In my search for an 8 x 10, I found at three deals in sucession over a three month period and each one was better than the previous. I ended up with a metal field camera that is as solid as they get and was happy that I waited.

Good Luck

-- Michael Kadillak (m.kadillak@att.net), January 23, 2000.

How about this? Buy a 14" Commercial Ektar (good lens), then one of the common Calumet C-1 8x10 cameras. Then you'll have a good lens and a solid, rigid camera.

-- John Hicks (jbh@magicnet.net), January 23, 2000.


I will admit to being new to Large Format. however, saying a camera is just a box, just doesn't resonate with me on LF. too many times, I have had to get down on my knees and bless the Linhof designers of my Technikardan, after some serious movements, lens changes, film changes, to find what a pleasant experience it is, compared to fighting the camera for stability and predictability.

echoing Richard Rankin's eloquent observations.

-- Daniel Taylor (aviator@agalis.net), January 23, 2000.

Yes, the comments from Richard Rankin are extremely elegant and valid. Camera stability and ease of movement are very desirable. Many fine cameras are available. Unfortunately, the finer cameras can be expensive. They cost more because they are worth more. But some photographers are confined to a smaller budget, and must make choices, if only for monetary reasons. A camera can only be as good as the lens allows. In keeping with the idea of Ron Lawrence's origional question of whether priority should be placed on the camera or the lens? I will vote for the lens everytime!

-- Dave Richhart (pritprat@erinet.com), January 24, 2000.

A camera passing mustard? Eeeewwww! There's an image I didn't need in the a.m.! Now, passing muster, that's not so nasty.

I have to agree with both sides - the lens is the most important - BUT if the camera is awkward for YOU, then you'll wind up getting frustrated or trading it for another. I started with the Calumet C-1 and they are a very good deal -BUT I am very glad I switched to the Kodak Master as it's lighter, smaller, and very fast to focus and compose with. But that's in my hands. Maybe you'd feel differently?

I'd favor the B&J/Ektar combination - but that depends. Is this the monorail or the flatbed? Is the B&L coated? What's it's f.l.? Is the Toyo a folder or the monorail? Are you gonna be working in a "studio" situation, or lugging it every where....Etc. Etc. Etc.

-- Sean yates (yatescats@yahoo.com), January 24, 2000.

In defense if cheap lenses, for contact prints, almost any lens will be sharp enough. Not that cheap lenses are not sharp. If you are not already familiar with Christopher Perez site, its a great place to get good info on lenses of all types. Check out the tested resolutions for some of these cheap lenses compared to the high priced spread. They seem to hold thier own quite well.http://www.hevanet.com/cperez/testing.html

-- Ron Shaw (shaw9@llnl.gov), January 24, 2000.

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