Please suggestions for a good 4x5 for architecture : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Another jump from 35mm. After having ruled out Canon TS lenses and adaptors and shift lenses for medium format, I looked at Horseman VH cameras, and from there I realised that it was less limiting a 4x5 view camera. That took me naturally to this forum, which seems calmer and nicer than others.

I'm still reading and learning, but I can't resist the inevitable shopping question. My personal requirements are:

1) I want to shoot mainly architecture. And perhaps some candid portraiture. No macro, no table work, not really long lenses (I don't use them in 35mm). The lenses I would use at the beginning would be 150mm and 90mm, and maybe something wider later on. 2) I would like to use 6x9, 6x12 and 4x5 formats. I guess most cameras allow for this, but some more easily than others. 3) Light and easy to carry. Unlike Edward Weston, I don't have a car. I would like to carry my camera everywhere if it is possible. The Horseman FA seems good in this respect, and is also easy to handhold for informal shots, but I don't know if it allows enough movements for architecture. The Ebony SW45, especially desiged for architecture, looks very nice but it can't be bought second hand. I don't mind paying for it if I am sure it is the best option.

Could you give me some indications of where to look at. What are the minimum movement requirements for architecture? I would like to make the right choice from the beginning, or something closer. Thank you!

-- Miguel Jimenez (, June 14, 2000


Miguel: I have interests similar to yours. I find that the 90mm is a good lens, but that a wider lens for architecture, a 75mm or the Schneider 72mmXL, is often necessary. For portraiture I use a 135mm, a 210 ( my standard, if there is one) and a 300mm. I prefer the 135mm to the often used 120mm becuase of cost and the lack of the need for a center filter. Thus far I have never regretted that decision, that is I haven't been in a situation where I couldn't make the image successfully with the 135mm. The 135mm will cover a 5x7 negative with ample movements, so it easily handles my 4x5 format. I am not familiar enough with the Horseman to comment. I use a Wisner Technical Field and now a pocket Wisner, both 4x5. I have more than enough movement with either, but I need th WA bellows. Friends and teachers I know and respect use the Linhof Tecnikardan 45s. It is a very good metal camera and can be used quite successfully for the types of subjects and the mobility that you want and need. Any modern lens system of your choice-Schneider, Rodenstock, Nikkor, Fuji, would yield excellent results. I own the Schneider 72mm-- I owned a 75mm and found the movements inadequate for the locations where I worked--and the rest are Nikkors, a135mm, 210 and 300mm M. Hope this helps. Bob M

-- Bob Moulton (, June 14, 2000.

Miguel: I have used a Horseman VH, which is very much like the FA (same front and bed). These are wonderful cameras, but I would not recommend them for architecture for two reasons.

First, the bed interferes with wide angle lenses and many filter systems such as Lee. With the FA, a 120 is the widest lens that can be shot with a vertical composition without either rotating the camera body (putting the bed on the side) or using drop bed, which is a real pain.

Second, the 4-way back adjustment, while flexible, is harder to control than standard tilts and swings.

If you want a flatbed style camera, a Toyo 45A will give you more bellows, more bed clearance, and standard swing/tilt back for much less money than the FA. The front shift and swings on the Toyo 45A are not really suitable for architecture.

I would recommend a lightweight rail camera, with Arca-Swiss and Linhof Technikardan as the first choices, Toyo VX125 if you have money to burn, and Toyo 45CX if you want a cheap simple camera to get your feet wet. You can pick up used 45CXs for under $300.

I think that the best combination of weight, portability, flexibility and quality is the Arca-Swiss F line. I use and F-Line Field (6x9 front standard) that I backpack with. It folds up well, is relatively light (under 6 lbs) and has a wonderful wide angle bellows that will work from 55m to 210mm lenses. Craftsmanship is superb. I prefer it to the Linhof for rigidity, lensboard attachment, ease of folding and wide angle bellows range.

For a lens, 90mm is a good start.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, June 14, 2000.

The 6x9 and 6x12 roll film backs should fit any standard 4x5 back. Some are thin and fit in like a film holder. Some use the gralock fittings to hold them on, so are a little more cumbersome because you focus, remove the glass, and install the holder. Keep in mind that to get the equivalent field of view on 6x9, for example, as the 90mm and 150mm do on 4x5, you will need another pair of lenses. You'd need something like a 59mm and a 100mm. Then you begin to have difficulty finding lenses, and your bellows may not have much movement with such short extension. Some cameras may not even let you rack in the bellows that close. Candid portraiture with a 4x5. Wow! I guess if press photographers used speed graphics for so long, it can be done. But I've been actually looking at smaller - new Bessa-R or Leica - for candid photography. It's a little less obstrusive than the 4x5.

-- John H. Henderson (, June 14, 2000.

I agree with Mr. Kroeger. I use Arca-Swiss for both 2.25" and 4x5, and it works splendidly. Based on a ViewCamera article some months ago, Norman McGrath (well known architecture photographer) has also settled on the Arca-Swiss Metric, instead of the Sinar F. (Look for Mar/Apr 1999 issue.)

I would advise getting the synthethic wide-angle bellows over the leather wide-angle bellows. It can handle lenses down to 47mm, which I don't think is possible for the leather version. I have and love the leather version, but even with a recessed lensboard, it's limit is about 65mm. Consider getting the reducing adaptor board so that you can use the smaller Arca-Swiss 110mm lens boards. The normal lens boards are huge.

As a thought, you might also consider the collapsible rail normally intended for the 6x9 camera. This wouldn't work for normal 4x5 photography, where the 300mm telescoping rail would be the best choice. But, it could be a weight advantage for architecture. (I don't believe one uses lenses much over 180mm for architecture.) Other thoughts on this?

-- neil poulsen (, June 14, 2000.

A longer lens is essential for architectural detail like roof beams, wood carving, gargoyles, etc, but 300mm's about the practical limit with a 5 X 4 view camera. If you're not interested in interiors, then 90mm and 150mm lenses should cover most eventualities, especially as you can effectively crop in camera with a rollfilm back. Interiors and tight city "canyons" demand a wider lens, 75mm or under.

-- Pete Andrews (, June 14, 2000.

1). One more vote for the ArcaSwiss F cameras! I switched to an Arca Swiss F after ten years of using the Sinar C., The 90mm is the lens I use most, followed by the 150mm, followed by the 65mm , followed by the 300mm, followed by the 210mm.

2.) You are right, you want to get a camera that has aGraflok mechanism. Virtually every camera I have used has this feature. And don't forget the Polaroid 545i back.

3.) Light is relative. 9 out 10 Field or Technical camera designs (cameras like the Horseman) do not have enough movements, especially on the back I use a cart rather than my back. By the way Edward Wesyon is reputed to have once said "If I can't see it from the highway, it isn't photogenic, though that may be a photographic "urban legend".4.) Norman Mcgrath's Photographing Buildings Inside and Out is pretty much the contemporary stardard book on photographic architecture commercially and is well worth the cost and the time to read it. Lots of escellent info about camera and lens choice, solving lighting problems, and learning to view buildings from both the photographers and the clients points of view and how to reconcile the two.

-- Ellis Vener (, June 14, 2000.

Miguel, there is a lot to be said for most of the LF cameras made at the present and also quite a few from the past. I use an Ebony SW with the SChneider 110xl and I am over the moon with it. It is a very lightweight camera and capable of taking lenses from 35mm to 180mm (and longer with the optional extension back). One advantage is the fact that it does not fold as a standard field camera, and is therefore much quicker to set up (less chance of missing the shot/light). Ebony cameras are beautifully made, the SW being made of ebony and titanium. This also makes them VERY stable and once locked the camera is solid. The SW has all the movements required for landscape/architecture: front axis tilt, swing, shift, rise and fall, together with rear rise and fall. This is my first LF camera and although initially intended going for something a lot cheaper, when I got my hands on the ebony I couldn't put it down. But I will not to buy another camera again!! (Although I also fancy a 4x10 !!!!). As far as lenses are concerned, get a 110xl !!!!!!! Regards Paul

-- paul owen (, June 14, 2000.

Miguel like Paul and for the same reasons I also use the Ebony SW45 it is so compact and light (1.5kg.) yet extremely rigid in use. It is capable of extreme movements with Rodenstock's 35mm Apo Grandagon and Schneider's 47XL Super Angulon using the cameras standard bellows which seem to made from a very soft flexible leather. Available as an accessory is a superb fresenel lens which is the best I've ever used with wide angle lenses. Yes the camera is rather expensive but given the quality of craftmenship and materials used it's worth the extra. Regards, Trevor.

-- Trevor Crone (, June 14, 2000.

Thankfs for the many replies so far. There seems to be a consensus here on two or three cameras. Do you know anywhere in London where I can actually see any of them. I live in Paris but I don't think there is a good shop here (the French adore Leicas but not so much view cameras I suspect). The Ebony looks so convenient that I would like to hear something bad about it to have a more balanced view. Or is it just that it is not well known in the US? Especially the 1.5 kg seem to beat the others. Does the fact that it is non-foldable mean that it may be more fragile?

-- miguel jimenez (, June 15, 2000.

Sorry! I can't stand these underscores anymore.

-- Pete Andrews (, June 15, 2000.


Can't help with where to see the Ebony, but Arca-Swiss now has a factory/showroom in Besancon, a quick TGV ride from Paris.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, June 15, 2000.

Miguel, Something bad to say about the Ebony, is on the expensive side!! But then you get what you pay for right?? I understand that the reason you may not have heard much about this make is that until now they have not been imported into the U.S.A. Ebony has a VERY strong following in Japan and is slowly spreading globally!! All the models in their range are lightweight, have a look at the site, As for being fragile, they are much stronger than regular folding field cameras as they have no hinged struts on the rear standard. The design is basically 2 standards and a neat sliding baseboard. I agree with Trevor, the bellows are made of EXTREMELY supple leather that negate the need for bag bellows for wide angles. Believe the hype!!! Regards (again) Paul

-- paul owen (, June 15, 2000.

Miguel you should be able to see some of the Ebony range of cameras at "Teamwork, 41/42 Foley Street, London, W1. Tel. 020 7323 6455". Regards, Trevor.

-- Trevor Crone (, June 15, 2000.


-- Ellis Vener (, June 15, 2000.

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