Is Calumet Cadet best option on a budget? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I am starting back into large format photography after being aways from it for several years. At the moment, I don't have a lot of money to invest and what I do have I want to put into a good lens. I have been looking at the Calumet Cadet because of its price and the trade-in option later down the road and was wondering if this is a good option? Understanding that it is not a Canham or Linhof, is it sturdy and rigid and does anyone have any experience with it for landscape photography? I am considering the Wide version. Would a Tachihara or Toyo 45CX be a better choice or is there something that I'm not considering? At the moment $650.00 is about all I can give for any camera. Thanks for your help.

-- Russell Johnston (, March 22, 2001


Russell, think "used."

-- Bill (, March 22, 2001.

I would go with a 45NX. It's a lot more camera than the cadet. Through 3/31/01, the NX is on sale for about $650.00 I think. You can also get a 210mm Caltar II-E f6.3 for about $320.00. Check their website.

I use a 45NX. It's fine for the work I do. (landscape, using my car to store gear). It's not backpackable. It's a good simple view camera with plenty of movement, and there are many system parts available new and used. Good Luck with your decision.

-- Joseph Wasko (, March 22, 2001.

whatever you get, try to get something with a graflok back, rather than a "springback" which is the older standard and looks like a mousetrap. (You'll know it when you see it) Graflocks offer more options in the Polaroid and Rollfilm back worlds. "Backology" seems to be one of the frist beginner studies. See my question in rhe "beginners Questions" subcategory (Is this a Graflock?) the answers have some excellent links.....

-- Chris Yeager (, March 22, 2001.

I have a Toyo 45AR, I like a lot. But the new version is too expensive. If you can find a used one in good shape it would probably serve you well.

I bought a Toyo 45CX, too, and it's decent for the money. Not quite as rigid as the AR. Both have graflok backs, and they are interchangeable.

Check out the Calumet on sale, though. It seems to be a decent value.

If, however, you're doing much landscape work away from the car, you'll want a field camera, not a monorail. Close to the car, though, a mono-rail can work.

-- Charlie Strack (, March 22, 2001.

i can offer a very strong recommendation for the cambo/calumet 45NX. i have used one professionally for over 18 years now (i shoot HABS/HAER work for a living). i bought mine to do architectural work about 15 years ago, and i now run several thousand negatives a year through that same camera - i just cant find a single good reason to buy another camera to replace it. that machine has fallen down cliff faces and into rivers, and i swear to god i think it is going to last longer than i do. it is my best friend.

-- jnorman (, March 22, 2001.

I'd look up some of the magazine reviews of the Cadet. (I think View Camera had one a year or so back, and there are others.) What I'm hearing is that it's a very good value, and likely the best buy available today for the beginner. Don't get me wrong. I love vintage cameras (my fave is almost 80 years old) but they usually require some TLC prior to use, and with the Cadet you know what you're getting - a camera that will work out of the box (no light leaks or shaky struts, etc.) and if there ARE any problems, you know where to call and you can get it fixed on their dime. (Calumet has decent customer service.) For a hassle-free intro to LF, I'd look real hard at it.


-- Mark Parsons (, March 22, 2001.

Here's another vote for the Calumet NX. I got mine used for $500. I too was looking at the Cadet and the Toyo CX, but I like the NX because it has all the basic movements, and most importantly for me the extension. You don't really need all that geared focusing.


-- floren (, March 22, 2001.

My recollection of the reviews and comments over the internet about the Cadet is that it wasn't a particularly impressive camera although unfortunately I don't remember the specifics, nor do I remember where I read the reviews. Personally I'd hate the idea of having to choose between a wide angle and a normal version of a camera. While most of my work is with slightly longer than usual lenses (210mm and 300 mm in 4x5) I wouldn't want to beprohibited from using my 90mm or a 75 mm on occasion. For $650 you could get a new Tachihara, which to me would be a much better choice for landscape photography - light (4 lbs.), compact, sturdy, plenty of movements, has the capability of using anything from a 65mm lens to a 300 mm normal or 400 mm telephoto, etc. Many fine photographers (e.g. Ray McSavaney) have used the Tachihara for their entire careers. It's a camera you could very well end up keeping for the rest of your large format life, which I suspect the wide angle Cadet wouldn't be. Just my opinion of course.

-- Brian Ellis (, March 22, 2001.

I love my Toyo45C Monorail: ~8lbs, high quality rotating back/groundglass, geared front and rear rise/fall, system camera, and appx. $800US at Robert White. Good luck in your search.

-- Andre Noble (, March 23, 2001.

I think that the older Arca-Swiss cameras represent a good value. They have interchangable bellows, recessed lensboards, they weigh a reasonable amount, in the 5-7lbs range, etc. Some of their parts are usable on current models, like the lensboards, and the rails.

One drawback is that some models don't have the Graphloc back, so they can't take 6x7 backs except for the kind made by Calumet.

I've seen these cameras sell for the mid-$400's on EBAy, which is pretty good, given what you get.

-- neil poulsen (, March 23, 2001.

If you want cheap and only want wider/ shorter lenses, look at a Crown Graphic or similar. You can get one with a decent enough 135mm lens for as little as half your budget or even less, they can be resold on Ebay, and work fine. They are an excellent cheap intro back into LF. Then, you might look at a used Calumet rail C1 or C2 camera. You can get one for around $150 or less and spend the rest on a decent lens. I have also used an NX as mentioned above but if you just want to play for a while, why spend the extra money?

I also looked at the Cadet when I started in LF but got a Crown Graphic instead. It was good enough to use, and cheap enough to tinker with. Just what a beginner probably needs

The Cadet trade-in option, as I recall is only on an NX or SCX or whatever it is now. And it is doubtful that you would buy one of those new when you can get an older NX or SCX on Ebay or elsewhere for far less money. If you only 'buy new' then it might be worth looking at, but I doubt it.


-- Richard Rankin (, March 23, 2001.

I didn't see any votes for a Graphic View II, but you might add that to your list. They're not fancy, but they're built like a tank, they have all the movements you'll ever need, and they're relatively inexpensive. Drawbacks -- they're probably heavier than the other cameras being discussed and they probably don't have all of the bells and whistles of fancier cameras (but simplicity can be a virtue, too). Good luck with your search.

-- Don Cassling (, March 23, 2001.

If you go to you can find several Linhof's as well as others. The Cadet, from the things I've heard are really pretty good. You can also trade up to something else when buying the Cadet. Also, one other thought... if your handy with basic tools, you can go to and get a wooden kit for under $300. Just another thought. Cheers, Scott

-- Scott Walton (, March 23, 2001.

Another vote for the Crown Graphic, I have been using this beginners camera for 15 years. Pat

-- pat krentz (, March 23, 2001.

If low budget is your priority, then as has been said many times before, spend the extra cash on lenses that will stay with you for a long time. How many responses say I wish I had never sold that lens etc...The calumet cadet holds the lens at one end and the film at the other, in common with every other camera, no matter how expensive. You won't polish it and put it on show in the front room of your house, unlike many more expensive field cameras. It has sufficient movement for most applications and takes lenses from 75mm to 300mm. Don't get me wrong, I definitely intend to save up and spend my hard- earned cash on just such a wooden field camera when economics permit, they are beautiful, but for now, film, lenses and location and not dark boxes are what matters most. If you can only afford a new cadet then buy one and look at the results and not the method of taking. If you are really concerned, when someone asks you what camera you used, just name whatever brand you want, no-one is going to question your choice. Up the revolution...Dave.

-- dave bulmer (, March 23, 2001.

Disregard all of the previous posts (with all due respect).

You do not want a Calumet/Toyo or any other monorail - period.

If you want to shoot landscapes, get a field - ANY field, not a monorail!

-- Matt O. (, March 23, 2001.


I have a Toyo 45CX and an old Cambo SC. I like the Toyo more, mainly due to the geared fine focus on the rear standard (it's also on the front standard, but who uses this). It's not quite a stable as the Cambo. Both the front and rear standards tend to rock in their respective mounts. I've read this can be fixed by the user with a 2mm hex driver and a bit of torgueing. It's just a slight amount of movement, I haven't noticed any problem with focus, but then again this isn't a 2k+ studio camera. And like I said somewhere someone has mentioned a fix for this problem, just can't remember where.

Another good thing about the 45CX is the fact that it uses the same exact lenboards as Toyo's field cameras. Once you mount your favorite lenses, if you decide to purchase a Toyo field camera in the future, you don't have to remount your lenses. Then if you need the extra movements for a studio shoot, you can simpy use the 45CX, no fuss.

It's true, the 45CX is a bit on the heavy, bulky side for backpacking, but the lensboard interchangeability (is that a word???) I think makes up for that. Also, the 45CX is quite simple to take apart. The front and rear standards come off of the rail in about 30 seconds. If you purchase a Calumet ground glass protector (a simple piece of plastic kind of U-shaped which covers the ground glass from both sides) you can pack it into a larger Lowepro or Tenba backpack with room for a meter, a Fuji Quickload holder and other accessories.



-- juicespeare (, March 24, 2001.


Bill Mitchell said it best.."think used". I just checked the website for one of the used places I feel comfortable buying from and they had three or four options for under $500. You say that you have $650 to spend on a camera but you need to consider all the other stuff you will start buying such as film holders, ground glass loupe, cable release, light meter, tripod etc. You might still have some of this stuff around. Anyway do some online checking to see whats available.

Good luck, and welcome back.

-- Kevin Kemner (, March 24, 2001.

Yoohoo, Russell, still there? Roxy

-- Roxanne (, March 24, 2001.

Another option: a used Sinar Norma. They're common and cheap, but are beautifully made and fully modular. Because they are (mostly) compaitible with modern Sinar accessories they also allow you to use rental gear, so you don't have to buy everything at once.

-- Struan Gray (, March 26, 2001.

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