best 4x5 monorail? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

mostly for field use for architecture. i have been using a cambo (calumet) 45NX for over 15 years with nary a glitch, and am not unsatisfied, but i am at a place where i can afford whatever camera i might want. i have browsed around some at the sinars, but they generally look a bit overblown and "fancy" for my fairly rigorous field needs. what would you say are the best monorail 4x5s these days for field architectural use in sometimes rugged conditions? thanks.

-- jnorman (, February 19, 2001


Cambo 45NX.

-- Bill Mitchell (, February 19, 2001.

i'm going to try my fortune telling abilities and say the consensus will be ... arca swiss f line. the consensus is probably right. if i'm right do i win anything?

i use a technikardan and will recommend it.

-- adam friedberg (, February 19, 2001.

Dear jnorman: As a person with alot less 4x5 shooting years than you, I am going to throw out the Japanese name "TOYO" because otherwise from experience, I know no one else in this thread will. The top of the line 45GX and 45GII are rugged, yet precisely machined, and from what I can see, not surpassed for your needs (rugged architectural use) by any other "more exotic" camera. (That's my observation as a relative newcomer who's also handled Sinars and Cambos.) Andre

-- Andre Noble (, February 20, 2001.

While I own and enjoy using a Toyo 23G -- the smaller 2x3/6x9 version of the 45G -- I doubt that anyone who can afford any camera they want will be happying carrying around one weighing 12.1 lbs (45GX) or 14.1 lbs (45GII) when there are other, equally nice and much, much lighter monorail designs available.

Personally, my vote would be for an Arca-Swiss F-line. They offer as much flexibility (in every sense of the word) as you will likely need while folding up fairly compactly and not weighing very much compared to similar designs. IMO, they look neat, too. :^)

-- Jeffrey Goggin (, February 20, 2001.

I saw that someone mentioned Toyo earlier, but if you're looking to spend some bucks take a look at the Toyo VX line. Its a monorail system designed for field use. Actually, since you're "in a place where I can afford whatever camera I might want" why don't you go to someplace like B&H in New York and physically handle the cameras. That way you can figure out what you like rather than what we like. I'm sure there are other stores that people might recommend to shop.

-- Kevin Kemner (, February 20, 2001.

Linhof Master is a nice field camera as are the the Tech V's. These aren't monos but have a good deal of movements and capabilities for a flatbed.

-- Scott Walton (, February 20, 2001.

Which is the best wine? The Best car? The nicest woman or man? The Best Monorail? Good grief! I guess I have to second the Arca F line, it is a beautiful camera both light and precise and these two things go very seldom together. Rent one if you can and play with it, very nice indeed!

-- Andrea Milano (, February 20, 2001.

Arca-Swiss FC , ArcaSwiss FC Metric or Linhof TK45s.

. The Toyo is an overpriced clone of the Arca-Swiss F Metric that isn't as fully featured. The Sinar F2 is okay and I recently considered switching to that camera so I borrowedand worked with it for two weeks side by side with the Arca. I decided to keep the Arca F-line.

-- Ellis Vener (, February 20, 2001.

A year ago, I switched from a long used Technika to a VX 125. Although the VX was a significant improvement for the use of movements required for interiors and architecture, I lost the very stable construction of the Tech for outdoor use or the use of longer lenses. So I now carry the two cameras with me. If I had the means, I would seriously consider the Ebony SV 45 U2. This camera seems to have married the best of both worlds: very good movements of the monorails and stability of the flatbeds, along with the capability of using a broad range of lenses. However, I have not been in measure to see one other than in pictures so far.

-- Paul Schilliger (, February 21, 2001.

IMHO you'd be hard pushed to better the ebony SV45U2, it is a real "all round " camera. It is expensive but I think well worth the investment. If funds allowed I'd get one without a second thought. Regards Paul

-- paul owen (, February 21, 2001.

Man, I wish I was in your shoes...the only reason I'm responding is that I read your answer last month about the Cambo you're using now. It was so loyal, it reminded how I feel about some of our beat up/low tech cameras we have where I work. We have a Toyo, and an Omega. That said, after some hard working use (we take care of our cameras, but we use them too, and if they wear out, we KEEP using them), I might try to sway you away from the Toyos...I love 'em, it's what we got and I don't see us in your situation anytime soon, BUT, we have had some problems with the rack & pinion fine focusing on the stds. We have not stripped this out, but it hasn't held up either. It feels really good when you first use it, but it really isn't built to last. I don't know what the answer to your question is, I think only you can figure that out, but I think you might want to consider the "abuse" factor into whatever your decision might be. Our Omega, besides having a bellows replacement, has survived unbelievable mishaps. It's not fancy, but it keeps on going.....

-- DK Thompson (, February 22, 2001.

When I decided that working in 4x5 was the direction I wanted to continue in, I upgraded my old Speed Graphic for a Sinar F2. It is slightly lighter then the Speed Graphic was, has great movements, breaks down small enough to fit in my backpack, sets up in less then 5 minutes, and is very expandable. It also works as well in the studio as it does in the field which is my primary focus. I have been able to locate most of the acccessories I've wanted on the used market, usually for a 1/4 of new price, and the f-stop / DOF calculator has been a hugh benifit to me. On the downside, even at 1/4 the list price, the accessories are not cheap for this camera!

Hope this helps, -harry

-- Harry (, February 26, 2001.

Mr. DK Thompson: I think your post is confusing from the standpoint that we've already established on this forum that the TOYO's and Omega's are in fact from the same Japanese manufacturer.???? Andre

-- Andre Noble (, March 01, 2001.

Well, sorry for the confusion. Yes, they are the same manufacturer (i guess) just from different time frames. Our Omega is a 45D. Our Toyo is a 45GII. Two pretty different cameras. I don't know if Omega ever had a model with rack & pinion fine focus. Maybe the last generation models had this, I don't know. I wasn't meaning to be overly critical of either model, I use them both almost daily. The Omega is a good camera, it's pretty simple. Not a whole lot to go wrong. It's nice in a way, because you can just use a few allen wrenches to tune it up when it gets loose. The Toyo is a bit more complicated. What I was referring to is the actual track part of the focus. You can't really see this unless it's disassembled. It's kind of a bad design, that has a certain amount of "slop" to it, that leads me to believe that if it were (I hate to say this) a more expensive camera like a Sinar, I imagine the design/materials would be better. I use this Toyo daily in a working studio. As does another (and at times as many as 2 other) photographers. So, if you were to use say just half that time, you might never have a problem. That's what I meant with my comments about a "working" camera. The Omega just lives on our copy stand now. That's it's life, and it does it well. If I were starting out, I wouldn't hesitate to suggest getting one of these, it's a reliable camera. (even though we had to go to another source to get a new bellows). So, that's my clarification. I wasn't suggesting that Mr. Norman buy an Omega. I was trying to draw a corollary between simpler cameras, and rugged field use. I Hope this clears things up.

-- DK Thompson (, March 01, 2001.

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