Looking for a 4x5 field

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I'm thinking to sell all my low cost medium & LF equipment and get a good 4x5 field. By good, I mean a camera that has at least :
Rotating back
Geared focusing
Significant geared front rise
geared front or rear tilt
front or rear shift
front or rear swing
Rigid construction
Ability to handle very wide lenses with some movements

Any ideas?

-- Sorin Varzaru (svarzaru@bigfoot.com), April 09, 2001


Arca- Swiss 4x5 FC metric. Well okay it doesn't have the revolving back.

-- Ellis Vener (evphoto@insync.net), April 09, 2001.

And most importantly is not a field camera. No matter how light, IMO a monorail is not something you casually take with you on the road. Thank you for the suggestion though.

-- Sorin Varzaru (svarzaru@bigfoot.com), April 09, 2001.

The Toyo VX125 has all features mentioned except it has geared shift instead of geared tilt. Technically, it is a monorail, but it has the compactness and light weight of a field camera when folded. Especially good with wide lenses. The US price is artificially inflated, try England or Japan.

-- Stewart Ethier (s_ethier@parkcity.net), April 09, 2001.

After some more research Wisner Pocket Expedition came as an option. I already read the threads about it, anybody wants to add something new? Maybe somebody who has used it for a while?

I'm not sure about anybody else but I want geared stuff, especially tilt and shift. I really don't care if it's front or rear.

Anybody knows if you can mount the back in "portrait" format?

-- Sorin Varzaru (svarzaru@bigfoot.com), April 10, 2001.

I used a Wisner Technical field for years and your requirement of 'rigid construction' does not come to mind as a good description. It's as floppy as a boneless turkey farm during the mating season.

Have you considered the Linhof Technikardan? Only thing geared in the rear focus; but it is quite rigid and so smooth that you can manually tilt, rise, etc without any loss of precision. With a bag bellows it handles very very short lenses (can't remember but I think <50mm) as well as long (to 450mm). From Robt White it is reasonbly priced too.

The literature on it understates its weight and its maximum extension a bit though. Cannot remember exact weight but its about seven lbs. Add about 7 ounces to the brochure's reported weight.

-- John Hennessy (northbay@directcon.net), April 10, 2001.


I had a 4x5 Pocket Expedition which I bought new in December 1999. Absolutely hated it, and sold it six months later. It is *very* user unfriendly...fussy to fold/unfold; tiny knobs that are hard to turn; the back popped off every time I took out the film holder; it felt anything *but* rigid when locked down...I could go on. It's not a camera that I would recommend. Overpriced and underbuilt.

I wanted to move up to something top-notch, and seriously considered a Linhof Technika, but its movements and long-lens capability were not as flexible as I wanted. Then I discovered Ebony. After a lot of detailed questions to Jeff at Badger Graphic, I decided that the Ebony SV45U2 was what I was looking for, and I absolutely love it. Like you, I was originally looking for something with geared movements - the Ebony lacks geared movements (it does have geared focus) and there is no rotating back, but it is wonderful in so many ways that I honestly don't miss having these other features.

It will take lenses from 35mm (!) up to 800mm (tele), all with the same bellows. It has movements to rival a monorail. It is *very* rigid and stays in place without a hint of movement or looseness. It's beautifully made, with attention to every detail. And...it has those wonderful assymetric tilts!

Don't overlook the Ebony just because it lacks geared movements and rotating back. Give Jeff a call and he will explain the camera in detail to you. It's expensive, but well worth the price. I'm totally spoiled by mine, to the point that I can't imagine using a lesser view camera anymore.

-- Danny Burk (foto28@aol.com), April 10, 2001.

You didn't say what you were going to use it for. You gonna be schlepping over mountains? Are you simply going to shoot from the road side? With the requirements you listed, you sound like you could use a lightweight monorail, like the Arca-Discovery or the Toyo VX...

-- Alan Cecil (puck_ac@yahoo.com), April 10, 2001.


I don't know why you won't consider a monorail for field use. Just because a camera rides on a rail does not automatically mean it is meant to be used indoors. Afterall, the lighest 4x5 "field" camera ever (the Gowland Pocket View - less than 2 lbs.) and the lightest currently avilable (Toho - 3 lbs.) are both monorail designs. Of course, these two models lack almost all the features you have on your list above (such niceties add a lot of weight to any camera - monorail or other), but I just wanted to illustrate that there are monorail designs specifically made for use in the field. In fact, given all the other niceties you prefer, I think a monorail may be your only choice. I know of no "field" (flat bed) camera with that particular combination of features. In fact, you aren't even likely to get all of those features in a monorail that's small enough and light enough to be used in the field - but you'll come closer than with any flat bed design.

As others have mentioned, the Arca Swiss F Line Metric (no rotating back, no geared tilts, but everything else on your list, and it folds up compactly and deploys quickly for use in the field) and the Toyo VX125 (no geared tilts) probably come closest to meeting the requirements you listed.

When it comes to wide angle use, other than the Canham DLC, any of the monorails are going to be better suited to the task than most field cameras. Many flat bed type field cameras CAN be used with ultrawide lenses, but it if often quite tedious. The Toyo VX125 is supposed to be good for wide angles, but you are limited on the long end, unless you buy a longer, non-collapseable rail and longer bellows. In terms of expandability, the Arca Swiss F Line wins hands down. However, the Arca accessories are EXPENSIVE (the cameras themselves are competitively priced).

Personally, I would not recommend the Wisner Pocket Expedition. I hate to say this, because I really appreciate the contributions Ron Wisner has made to the large format community. Plus, I have never actually used this camera in the field (so take this with a grain of salt). However, I have played with it on more than one occasion in camera stores and at swap meets. For me, this camera had way too many teeny, tiny knobs that are placed way too close together. Even in the warm comfort of the camera store, I could not get my fingers at all those little knobs. And, folding and unfolding the camera reminded me of a Chinese puzzle. I can't imagine trying to actually use this camera in the field where morning temps are often below freezing. I greatly prefer a camera like the Linhof Technikardan, Canham DLC or Arca Swiss F Line that can be operated easily while wearing gloves. The specs for the Pocket Expedition look good on paper, but unless you have much smaller fingers than I do (quite possible - I have X-large hands) and only shoot in a much warmer climate, I'd look elsewhere. Even though it's a little heavier, and lacks some of the geared movements, if you have your heart set on a Wisner, I'd recommend the Expedition of the non-"pocketable" variety.


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), April 10, 2001.

Hi Sorin

Have a look at Horseman FA or Linhof Technika, for the Horseman is the easely use and for the Linhof it is the Rolls Royce! I prever the easely use especially if it is cold!

-- Armin Seeholzer (armin.seeholzer@smile.ch), April 10, 2001.

I really like my Linhof and highly recommend them. If you are going with a 65mm or there abouts I do recommend the focusing lens board but the 90mm works fine when dropping the bed. Cheers

-- Scott Walton (f64sw@hotmail.com), April 10, 2001.

I'd say the camera you're looking for is a new Linhof Tech 2000. It'll have pretty much everything you are looking for.

But if you don't want to break the bank and can find one of these camera's I'd like suggest something else. It should be noted that this camera doesn't have a couple of the feature's you're looking for, having neither any front or rear shift or a "geared" front rise. But it has everything else you're looking for. The camera is the original Toyo Field Camera and if you can find one you will have a jewel.

Mine has a rotating back, geared focusing, significant non-geared front rise, and front swing. It's extremely rigid and I use a 90 SA with lots of bellows movement and a 65 with almost none. A 75 or 72 will give you additional bellows extension and would work fine and give you more than a bit of movements. This camera is actually a 5X7 (although factory configured to be a 4X5 in most cases) and has a 16 inch bellows.

-- David Grandy (dgrandy@accesscable.net), April 10, 2001.


Do you want a "rotating" back or simply one that can be removed and changed from/to landscape/portrait mode? Few cameras being discussed here have the former; most have the latter.

.,., .,

-- Simon (simonfairfax@aol.com), April 10, 2001.

Simon, I need just the latter.

-- Sorin Varzaru (svarzaru@bigfoot.com), April 10, 2001.

Isn't there anywhere that one can look to find a complete set of specifications for every LF camera -- not just a review here and a press release there? I never heard of a geared tilt but it sounds like a really good idea; except for that feature a Linhof Technika exactly fills the order.

-- B. (bmitch@home.com), April 10, 2001.

Have a look at either Wista VX or Wista SP. They have all of that, except that the front tilt is not geared but has a friction device, which is practically the same. Wista Technical have interchangeable bellows (bag and tele), which allows you to use lenses from 48 mm on a recessed lensboard to Nikkor T* 720 mm. I am not absolutely sure for the 48 mm, as my shortest lens is the 58 mm Schneider. But I can use the 720 Nikkor without problem. Wista's URL is http://www.wista.co.jp

-- Emil Salek (e.salek@net2000.ch), April 10, 2001.

Emil can you please elaborate on the friction based tilt. BTW, I don't require geared front tilt if there is geared rear tilt.

-- Sorin Varzaru (svarzaru@bigfoot.com), April 10, 2001.

Yes, check out Wista. I use a VX and am very satisfied with it.

Wista has a unique lens board for wide lenses that provides much better access to the shutter than standard "recessed" boards. They also make extension tube lens boards for long lenses and/or macro.

-- Chris Ellinger (chris@ellingerphoto.com), April 10, 2001.

Sorin, the rear tilt on Wista is not geared. The friction based tilt is for me difficult to describe in English. Let us say that instead of a rack and pinion you have a rotating friction knob that moves the top of the front standard forward and backward as you rotate it. It is very sensitive, precise and reliable even with heavy lenses like the Nikkor 360 T*. I have been using my Wista VX for outdoor shooting since about 15 years and never run into a situation that I could not handle.

-- Emil Salek (e.salek@net2000.ch), April 10, 2001.

Emil, that friction solution is just fine for me. I'll check it out. Thank you.

-- Sorin Varzaru (svarzaru@bigfoot.com), April 10, 2001.

Hi Sorin, I never thought I'd never be tempted to buy a modern camera until I saw a Wista at a swap meet. All the adjustments I fought will with old traditional gear, it seems you just dial in effortlessly with the Wista. This was not a wood camera I saw. And it seems friction maybe better that gears. The C1(8*10) I have seems to work just fine with friction wheels. I would suggest you look hard at one of these before you buy. The guy who had the one I saw had a table full of Linhoffs, and he told me in his opinion the Wista was a better camera for half the money. Now, is there someone who can tell us what the different Wista 4*5s avalible are? and if there is any one that is better than the others? What is it made of? Thanks, David

-- david clark (doclark@yorku.ca), April 10, 2001.

I'll second the Wista 45SP. I've had mine for 10 years and love it. It is quite rigid. Being metal, its a lot more durable than a wood camera too. It has all the movements you want.


-- Wayne (wsteffen@skypoint.com), April 11, 2001.

"Now, is there someone who can tell us what the different Wista 4*5s avalible are? " Metal Wistas: RF, SP, VX. RF has microswing and rangefinder, SP has microswing, VX does not have microswing.

Wood Wistas; Cherry, Rosewood, Ebony. Cherry with or without interchangeable bellows and rear shift, Rosewood the same, Ebony with rear shift.

Fresnel standard on most versions.

810 in Cherry.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), April 11, 2001.

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