Old wood field cameras for beginner?

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Would one of the older wood field cameras like Korona, Kodak, or Burke & James be well suited for a beginner? They seem to be fairley inexpensive and I feel comfortable doing a little wood work if needed. I am primarily intrested in landscapes and will probably hike with it. Do they accept the modern polaroid backs? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

-- (DANB@MBIARCH.COM), May 15, 2000


They should be fine, if in decent condition. Most LF cameras are fairly simple devices. If the camera takes standard film holders, it should take a polaroid back.

-- Ron Shaw (shaw9@llnl.gov), May 15, 2000.

You could even get a little simpler, and probably cheaper, with a decent Graflex speed graphic. It's not a true view camera in terms of all the moves but...

You get those great 4x5 negatives...it folds up and is very portable ... it can be used without a tripod ...and the absence of a lot of movements simplifies the learning process.

Its not the ultimate camera, but its a great place to start. I bought one 30 years ago, and I still love to use it.

For more information go to www.graflex.org

-- Dave Richhart (pritprat@erinet.com), May 15, 2000.

In that vein, a Busch Pressman can be even more versatile: no focal plane shutter but generous rise, good tilt and some side shift; plus excellent ground glass/hood combination: even though the back rotates, there are tripods mount bottom and side: Somewhere between a Pacemaker Crown Graphic and a Super Grap

-- David Stein (DFStein@aol.com), May 15, 2000.

Hi, it's often harder to find an older camera in useable condition than you would first think would be the case, and wood work is the least of your problems. On the other hand, you will be hiking who knows where, and if an emergency arises, as long as you have matches, you can burn the camera to cook a rabit or signal for help. A Graflex might be an better way to ease into large format, a sound one from a reliable dealer. Best regards, David

-- david clark (doc@ellensburg.com), May 16, 2000.

It really depends how old you are talking about. If it's so old that it uses "bookform" plateholders, forget it, it's a collectors piece. There are a lot of obsolete format cameras about as well, don't get a Whole-plate, half, or quarter-plate, you simply can't get those film sizes anymore, and conversion could cost more than the camera's worth.

Most more recent wooden cameras have a simple spring back that limits their use to Double Dark slides, or a modern polaroid adapter. (The older Polaroid backs require an "international" fitting, where the GG holder removes completely, leaving two sliding clips at the side). Remember too that the cameras you've mentioned are probably going to be 50 to 60 years old minimum. It's unlikely that the original bellows will still be in good condition; at the very least they'll need a bit of TLC. Replacement bellows can be expensive. Many of these older cameras had fixed lenses, or the lens board was part of the cross front, making it difficult to fit a modern lens to them. In that case you should make sure that it comes with a lens, and that the lens and shutter are in good condition. Having said all that, if you can find an old wooden camera with a useable format, with bellows and lens in good condition, go for it.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), May 16, 2000.

I don't want to put you off buying an older wooden camera, but unless you trust the dealer DO NOT buy unless they allow you to try it out first and are comfortable with it.(Usually this means set it up in the shop and, given that they have one, try a polariod back in it. So, if they do let you do this, and you are satisfied then buy it - see if they can throw in a couple of used fidelity's in preference over wooden filmholders, and some film. But above all whatever you finally buy, be it a 'cheap old' Burke & James to a top of the line Linhof with all the bells and whistles (which out of preference I would not touch, I'd rather spend the money on lenses or film), remember to keep takng practicing with it without film loaded so that you are comfortable with it this stops you missing the first exposure when you first use it - Im my experience it then means you bugger up exposure number 16:)

-- David Kirk (David_J_Kirk@hotmail.com), May 16, 2000.

hee, ok I've never understood cannibalism. The kinds that make you burn your camera and eat your wife/pa that is. I've always found it easier to rotate down the mountain to the leeward side and find kindling and food(country boy can survive). A Ries leg works great as a spear for fishing. A dismounted protar and the rays of the sun will start a wonderful forrest fire too. So do look around for kindling and get down off that hill at best possible speed.

Dan, I'd bite the bullet and save for a while and do some real hard research on landscapers and their cams and weights and how serious a hiker you really are and just how remote those locations might be ... then buy.

-- Trib (linhof6@hotmail.com), May 16, 2000.

Dan, I personally think you are on the right track. If you have no view camera experience I'd stick to 4x5 to start, plus smaller equals lighter for hiking. A simpler camera with fewer movements may be the way to go if you are using just for landscapes. I myself purchased and 8x10 B&J about 2 years ago and am quite satisfied. It has a descent amount of movements and I like the larger negatives for contact printing. At this point in my life am still willing and able to lug more equipment into the field. Be sure to do a little research, check out ebay as well as reputable dealers and when purchasing make sure you have time to try out the camera with the option of returning it. Best of luck and enjoy!

-- S. Eidukas (sveiks2u@earthlink.net), May 21, 2000.

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