recommended copy camera/lense in 4 X 5 format : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I am an archivist looking to purchase a new or preferrably used 4 X 5 camera for copy/archival preservation work with our photo collection. I have a Besseler CS-21 copystand.

I would appreciate recomendations on a camera and lense(s). The camera may be used occasionally for studio portraits or landscape work, but these are very secondary uses.

Thank you

James D. Craig

-- James D. Craig (, July 18, 2001


James, I'm a staff photographer in a history museum...and do alot of copywork...I've used both the Polaroid MP3+4s, as well as our current set up which is a Bencher Producer copystand (a big one) and an old Omega 45D view camera...we mostly use a 150mm G-Claron lens, but will use a newer Toyo camera on here as well, with other lenses too. I'm not familiar with the copystand you mention other than seeing it in a catalog, but it looks pretty beefy as well. There was a time when all we had was the one view camera, and used it for everything from location work to that's why we never settled on an MP4, which is a great system camera for copywork, especially in volume.

As an archivist, I'm sure you can understand the fact that quartz lights can be pretty damaging to certain materials & artifacts, so sometimes we use strobes to do the copywork as well... it's not an easy question to answer because it will depend upon what you're shooting as well...cased images (daugeuerrotypes, ambrotypes etc.), bound volumes, all that stuff requires different techniques.

So, uhm, what kind of budget do you all have, and what sort of facility do you have?? There are some other museum related websites that I could point you in as well if you're interested...

-- DK Thompson (, July 18, 2001.

I too am a staffer and use the MP4's alot. If you don't copy really large stuff (don't need to go to high on the copy stand) a 150mm works great. You could use a field camera like a crown because you don't need to use any back movements... For portraits (normal stuff) you still don't need back movements but you might be limited with the short bellows of the crown.

-- Scott Walton (, July 18, 2001.

The Crown or Speed(better) graphic should cover your needs quite well and they are relativly cheap compared to other 45's used or new. The thing I like about the Speed Graphic is having the shutter curtain built into the camera, just be sure it works at the indicated speeds, and you can use barrell lenses, also cheaper than lens in shutter. Pat

-- pat krentz (, July 19, 2001.

I'd still say to stick with a can get by with a Crown Graphic...I use a Pacemaker and a Linhof copystand (great copystand...built like a tank) in my home darkroom, but you'll get alot more out of a monorail, even compared to an MP4. For one thing, you say you might wind up using it in the studio or in the field. We do quite a bit of this, shooting architecture & doing artifact documentation. When all we had was one camera, it did it Omega or a Toyo, is not fancy...but they are rugged and afforadable on a budget....this Omega is almost 20 yrs. old and it's still going strong (although on a second bellows).

Here's an example of why movements are nice. Shooting cased images & can't shoot them's like shooting into a mirror, and daugerrotypes will only look like a positive from a specific angle (with black "reflected"--I know it's technically the wrong word--back into it) you use movements to do this (and lighting & a black card).

There are other ones too, and not all the stuff you shoot on a copystand is flat, so being able to use some perspective correction is handy, such as squaring up pages in a huge bound volume of newspapers or an old album...or shooting down on small irregular objects. And of course the times when the stuff is too big for the baseboard, and you need to shoot it on the floor or on an easel in the studio.

It might be nice to have a camera that you can get a viewing hood for as well, if you'll be doing this your back.... low power strobes are handy if you shoot sensitive paper items. You won't burn them up under hotlights, or at least you can appease your conservators. They're good for doing cross-polarization too, which always eats up alot of light...

The MP3+4's are quite a system and have alot of different lenses, such as 75mm, and 127s for shooting larger objects. They have 35mm macro lenses (for 4x5) and extension stages & tubes, and even prontor shutters with tubes for microscopes....The thing I've never liked about them was the uneveness of their lights...and the lack of movements. But there are at least 2 institutions within a stone's throw of us that use these things....

I guess it comes down to what sort of an institution you work for and whether or not you have a staffer on hand who knows how to use a view camera, or do studio MP4 is nice in a way for this kind of thing, because it might be easier to train a non-photographer to use one. Although, the actual copy techniques might be harder for them to understand...filtration & lighting...

If you don't already have them, I recommend Kodak's "Copying & Duplicating in Black & White and Color", "Conservation of Photography", Weinstein & Booth's "Collection, Use and Care of Historical Photographs" and some of the AASLH photo publications...unfortunately this is kind of a troubled time for copywork now with Kodak's Pro Copy being discontinued, and Polaroid's troubles....

-- DK Thompson (, July 19, 2001.

Sorry, I didn't realize you were up in Canada...I wouldn't have mentioned the AASLH books if I had known that...I imagine the CCI might have some similar publications or could offer assistance as well.

-- DK Thompson (, July 19, 2001.

I shoot a lot of fine art (up to 6 feet in length) and use the Nikkor-M 300/9 as my main lens with 4x5 film. I shoot the art on a wall. For a vertical set up this len may be too long, however the extra length minimizes distoration and fall off.

-- Richard Stum (, July 22, 2001.

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