Large format camera and lens selection

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After studying most of the large format cameras and lenses currently on the market, I have come to the conclusion that the format and camera that best suits my needs as a landscape photograher is the Canham MQC 5x7 all metal field camera (which I plan to buy within the year). One of the reasons the 5x7 appeals to me is that this format comes very close to the same rectangular ratio as 35mm, which is how I am used to "seeing", and I prefer this ratio over a more squarish format such as 4x5. I compose photographs to match the lens I am using, and my prints are usually printed full-frame (no cropping). With 35mm photography, 95% of my landscapes end up being shot with either a 24mm or 50mm lens. When I get set up with large format, I want to continue with lenses equivalent to the 24mm and 50mm. With 5x7, this would correlate to lenses of about 110mm (or 120mm) and 240mm. From what I can tell, the two lenses in this size that appear to offer the most versatility (coverage, speed) and quality are the Schneider 110mm f5.6 Super-Symmar XL and the Schneider 240mm f5.6 Apo-Symmar. I am interested to hear from anyone who shoots 5x7 and has experience with these two lenses, and I would like to know if there are any other lenses in this size range that should be considered instead. Also, would a center filter be necessary, especially with the 110mm?

-- Mike Malone (mike@cascadia.net), May 19, 2001

Answers

Mike: You may find that you see differently with a view camera, and the lenses you think you need from 35 mm don't necessarily work out. At least that was my experience. I am using the Schneider 110 and it has plenty of coverage for 5X7. When I bought it (Badger graphics) and asked that question they told me it would cover 8X10, which I haven't personally confirmed. No need for a center filter with this lens in my experience. My 240 mm lens is a 1967 version of the Schneider G-Claron and its performance has been excellent. I'm sure the Schneider 240 you mention is just fine. Though I have a good selection of lenses for the 5X7 outfit, I seem to end up using my 180 more than half the time, which I wasn't anticipating. Have fun with it. The Canham sounds like a terrific camera from everything I've heard.

-- Kevin Crisp (KRCrisp@aol.com), May 19, 2001.

Hi Mike

I would prefer the APO Rodenstock N 240 mm has only 2mm smaller diameter 350mm at f 22, Schneider 352mm at f 22, but it is a tic sharper then the Schneider! Good luck!

-- Armin Seeholzer (armin.seeholzer@smile.ch), May 19, 2001.


Mike if your making the transition from 35mm to a view camera, have you considered an Arca 6x9 F-line camera. With it's compact size and ability to use various format roll film backs you can choose a 6x9 format (basically a 1:1.5 aspect ration i.e. same as 35mm) or a 6x7 back with an aspect ratio similar to 4x5, or even a 6x6 back for a 1:1 aspect ratio. I currently use an Arca 6x9 F-Metric with 6x7 backs, this route into view cameras made the most sense "for me" as I was transitioning from traditional medium format cameras. A 6x9 camera is also the perfect candidate for transitioning into digital view camera photography in the future. If you havenít explored the world of medium format view cameras already, I would seriously recommend that you look into their many benefits before you make your final purchase.

-- Robert Pellegrino (bob.pellegrino@juno.com), May 19, 2001.

Good point about the 6x9 aspect.

Another thing to consider: If you are going to work with the zone system, you need the ability to develop each negative separately. Only the 'large formats' can do this without significant ease.

$.02

-- Andy Biggs (abiggs@tvmcapital.com), May 19, 2001.


I concur with your comment about single sheet development for the zone system Andy, but if you choose to bracket your exposures, roll film makes life much easier. Thatís my .01-cent comment, because you know roll film is cheaper ha ha.

-- Robert Pellegrino (bob.pellegrino@juno.com), May 19, 2001.


No kidding about the cost difference. I found this out it a big way. Especially when I switch over to Velvia or Provia with the QuickLoad system.

Not to dwell on the zone system topic, but bracketing won't achieve the same results as a N-1 or N-2 development would. Of course, if you intend on printing digitally, it really closes that gap. I would love to get a 6x9 Horseman back for my Canham DLC 4x5, because the processing is easier and cheaper, and film loading is not a problem. Great learning tool, as well, for those new to large format. Don't discount Polaroids for teaching, as well.

-- Andy Biggs (abiggs@tvmcapital.com), May 19, 2001.


I completely agree with Kevin's previous posting. While I respect your research and desire to translate the same ratios as you shoot with 35mm, my experience turned out to be the exact opposite when I turned to large format. I found that the way I shot 35mm was not even close to how I have learned to visualize 5x7. They are two distinctly different animals. With 35mm, you are nimble and quick with the shot. With large format you find yourself being extremely patient and pre- visualizing the optimal perspective. It is much more methodical and time consuming with tremendous results. I would make the following suggestion. Do yourself a favor. Don't get hung up on a specific manufacturer or a specific focal length. All of the big four (Schneider, Rodenstock, Nikon and Fuji) make great plasmats. Purchase the best combination of cost/coverage and size standard focal length 210mm lens and start shooting it to get a feel for the way to set up, frame, focus, insert a film holder etc. That was the advice I got from this forum starting out several years ago and it was very sound. You can always get another lens and screw it on a board. Remember, the focal length only increases or decreases the amount of the coverage from the point where you drop your tripod. Working with a single lens to start out forces you to get out your perspective card or other framing device to learn where to drop the legs. I have seen many a photographer carrying their complete camera on tripod with lens still attached when they decided to move to a better shooting point. Myself, my objective is to get it right the first time.

As for your decision to get the 5x7 metal Canham, you cannot go wrong. The Canham takes a bit to get used to, but no camera is perfect. I feel that it is one of the best combinations of light weight and functionality. Good Luck

-- Michael Kadillak (m.kadillak@home.com), May 19, 2001.


Have you looked at the reviews on www.camerareview.com? It makes for interesting reading on the Canham 5x7.

As for 6x9 and the zone system, it's not that difficult to get multiple film holders for N, N+1, etc. Given the conditions at the time, I doubt that it would be necessary to carry all five. A couple could be left in the car. I enjoy shooting 6x9 on a 4x5 camera, so I get the appropriate holders and carry them in my backpack. Per shot, 6x9 holders take up less room.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), May 19, 2001.


I have a question for all of you who shoot 5x7. I bought a 5x7 as my first LF camera, but was unaware of the problems involved with obtaining film. Just where do you get 5x7 film? Kodak does not make it anymore, Fuji does not sell it in the US...... B&H ? - Zip Adorama? - Zip Badger? - Zip I have tried ordering it through several photo shops - Zip, can't get it. There is an online outfit that will custom-cut - for a price. But there delivery time is outragious. I got so disgusted, that I sold the camera and went 4x5. So where do you all get this film?

-- Matt O. (mojo@moscow.com), May 20, 2001.

To bad you sold the 5x7. It is a fantastic format and film is available. At B&H you can buy B&W 5x7 from Kodak (Plus x and Tri x) and Ilford (FP4 and HP5) as well as Bergger. I have a freezer of T Max 100 and 400, Ilford and Fuji Velvia. Badger usually has plenty of 5x7 in both B&W and color.

When it is gets newly stocked, you should buy it and stock pile a bit, but so what. I want a consistent emulsion supply anyway. Dan Smith, a great proponent of 5x7, was able to get Arista 5x7 to bring both their 100 ASA and 400 ASA offerings. On another positive note, Canham claims that they are selling as many 5x7 cameras as 4x5. This will translate to more film usage and better film supplies. And if you cannot tell, I am very much an optimist for the future of the proportions of 5x7.

-- Michael Kadillak (m.kadillak@home.com), May 20, 2001.



Thanks to everyone for your informative responses. Several of you mentioned other formats, such as 6x9, 4x5, etc. My reasoning is that since I am moving up from 35mm to a format that requires more set up time, I may as well go quite a bit bigger. 4x5 is 13 times bigger than 35mm, but if you crop a 4x5 to a rectangular ratio, you would maybe 8 times larger than 35mm. However, 5x7 is 25 times larger than 35mm, and because it is already the rectangular ratio I desire, I wouldn't be losing any of that size advantage. Also, Canham makes a 4x5 reducing back for the MQC 57, and from reading the threads in the 5x7 section, it looks like they will soon have a roll film back for the MQC 57 (is this for 6x17 that some other threads mention?). The MQC57 is only a little (one pound?) heaver, and just a little bulkier than the Canham 4x5 DLC, so it appears like the MQC 57 is a very versitile large format camera. That said, I checked out the reviews on www.camerareview.com that Neil Poulsen mentioned in his response. Talk about derailing my enthusiasm for the MQC57 (and Canham's DLC 4x5)! Almost all the reviews, written by disgruntled owners, were very bad. The common theme had to do with design flaws in the way the knobs won't keep the rear standards locked down. I know many people are very happy with their Canhams, however it appears that there are a fair number who have have bad luck with the camera. The reviews I read in the camera review web site have not made me give up on the Canhams, but I will definitely be studying this issue more before buying a camera. From what I have read about Ebony cameras, they sound like the ultimate, but they cost a fortune... Matt, I checked Badger Graphic's web site, and as Michael Kadilak said in his response, they do stock 5x7 film. They have both Velvia and Provia F. If those were the ONLY color films available for 5x7, I could live with that, because that is what I almost always use anyway. I couldn't tell from Badger's web site if their Provia F is 100 or 400; I sure hope both are available! Not too many people commented on the two lens choices I mentioned in my original question, so maybe I've got the lenses nailed down. Now I just have to decide on a Canham or???

-- Mike Malone (mike@cascadia.net), May 22, 2001.

i understand your issues. i went with the 4x5 based on film availability and selection, that was more important and the increased film size for me.

the camera i went with was the toyo vx125, it's a little on the expensive side but after using it i think its well worth the expense when you think about the quality of the controls, size and weight.

good luck with the selection.

tom

-- tom bowen (cptbowen@yahoo.com), May 23, 2001.


Hi Mike,

I stumbled across this forum website today and saw your notice a couple of weeks ago on 5 x 7 cameras and lenses. I too am a recent 5 x 7 convert having shot 4 x 5 for many years. I have two lenses for the 4 x 5 (Schneider super angulon 90 mm/F8 and Schneider Symmar S 210 mm/F5.6 that I purchased about 15 years ago. Both work very well on the old 5 x 7 Empire State camera that I have. The only problem is that the old camera (made around 1900) has pretty small lens boards and the there's no room to shift the 90mm. However, the 210mm has more than enough coverage for my camera and landscape stuff that i shoot. I'm interested in getting another lens or two for my camera but the one thing I'm most concerned about is with used lenses, how do you know if you will get the coverage you want.

Anyway, the good thing about these two lenses is that back in the 80's, they were two of the standards in the 4 x 5 market. Consequently, there are a lot of them for sale from the used dealers or even on Ebay and the prices are very reasonable.

Here's something that might help you if your'shopping for used lenses. I found a website at http://graflex.org/lenses/lens- spec.html that is an 18 page list of lens information of all the major manufacturers in the past from 47mm all the way up to 800 mm. It does list the image circle sizes of each - remember that the image circle for a 5 x 7 sheet of film is approximately 215 mm or 8.6 in.

Hope this helps.

Dan

-- Dan Dozer (ddoz2@earthlink.net), June 03, 2001.


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