Student 4x5 camera : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

My son will attend New England School of Photography in Boston in the fall and was told he needed a 4x5 format camera. Any suggestions on what is appropriate as a student camera? Thanks.

-- Stephen M Pitman (, July 25, 2001


Something cheap. Best way to learn how to use the 4x5 camera. He will also get to sample a lot of cameras while at school and will find one he likes to use. The place to spend any money would be on the lens this can be remounted on an type of lens board. If you want to help your son education buy a camera with bad bellows and let him figure out what is wrong and how to perform the cheap fix to keep the camera working.

-- RTRitter (, July 25, 2001.

The Linhof Karda M on the school program is $895.00. This is a full featured all metal monorail camera.

Dealers like EP Levine, WB Hunt in the Boston area can help you with student programs.

there are similar savings on Rodenstock lenses, Heliopan filters, etc.

-- Bob Salomon (, July 25, 2001.

Graflex Super Graphic with a 120mm Osaka lens- about $250-300 for the camera (used), $350-400 the lens (new).

-- David Rose (, July 25, 2001.

I don't think its a good idea to get your son a camera with a bad bellows. He will have enough to learn without starting with a problem camera. There are dozens of old 4x5 press cameras that come up for sale on E-bay. You can get one such as a Speed Graphic or Crown Graphic in good shape for around $300 with a lens. This is where I would start unless the school specifically requires a monorail type 4x5 or something with larger amounts of movements.

-- Paul MOngillo (, July 25, 2001.

I would think that the school would specify what type of camera they wanted...i.e. field or monorail. It's going to make a huge difference in what type of photography he can study. Personally, I'd say to go with a monorail, and would steer clear of the bargain cameras like speed graphics etc. The Linhof is a good deal, but even something like a Calumet/Cambo 45N, Cadet, or the entry level Toyo would work as well.When I was in college we had to use basic Calumet CC cameras, and later on got into Sinar Alpinas. But it depends on what the courses are like. If it has any studio shooting, or architectural work, he's going to need a monorail with full movements.

-- DK Thompson (, July 25, 2001.

If they are recommending a monorail camera: the Arca-Swiss Discovery (base tilts) or the beginner level Toyo make good starting cameras. There is also the Calumet Cadet, another fine starter camera.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, July 25, 2001.

i dont think you can beat a good used cambo/calumet 45NX. my apprentice just picked one up for $500. she got a schneider 135/5.6 for $250, and a bogen 3021 w/3047 head for $150. the older crown and speed graphics are great cameras, but for learning, i would recommend something that has good, full movements and more flexibility.

-- jnorman (, July 25, 2001.

If money is a problem, get a used Graphic View 2 with the Graflock back. For a lens get a clean, used Kodak 203mm f7.7 Ektar in supermatic shutter. Suggest that you buy it from a photo dealer who will provide a warrenty, rather than over eBay. He will also need a tripod and half a dozen cut film holders. And good luck to the young man.

-- Wilhelm Mitchell (, July 25, 2001.

Consider EBay as a place to purchase your camera. They always have loads of cameras in their large format section. When bidding, I always like to make sure that the seller has at least 50 or more, upwards to a couple of hundred feedbacks, and no negatives. (Or, check any negatives carefully to make sure that you're not taking a chance.)

-- neil poulsen (, July 25, 2001.

I would definitely get a monorail like a Cambo SC or the new version the 45N. Something light, durable and full functioned. These cameras are workhorses and there will be no limits to what he will be able to do with them. You can find the N at under large format studio cameras. The SC you can find on Both cameras are one of the less expensive industry standard of todays shooters. I caution you away from a flatbed field camera like the Crown or Speed Graphic because he will not be able to use back movements because they don't have them. In school, like I know the profs at NESOP, he will need the back movements as well as full front movements and should stick to a studio camera like the ones mentioned above. He will need film holders, a meter (with strobe metering) and a few other things to start. If they provide a list most of us can give good suggestions also... Cheers, Scott

-- Scott Walton (, July 26, 2001.


If your son is like the rest of the NESOP students, he'll dump the 4x5 after first semester, when it's no longer required. I've taken evening workshops at NESOP, and it seems like the entire student body puts their cameras on sale immediately afterwards.

It would be wiser to purchase a decent multi-purpose lens (like a 135mm, or 210mm), and a used monorail. I would heartily recommend a Calumet CC400 series. They're built like tanks, and will last a lifetime. It's all metal, and can weigh a lot, but if memory serves, the student's don't go hiking for landscapes - they'll do mostly urban stuff, as well as architecture and a few still lifes. The calumet's go for about $250-$300 on e-bay, or you can check out the local "Want-Advertiser" classifieds if you're from Massachusetts/New England.

Again, invest in a better lens and a used body. If your son decides to continue on with Large Format, the lens can always be remounted into another system's lens board.

-- Tony Pulsone (, July 26, 2001.


Having taught intro college classes, I would definitely recommend a monorail. The movements are much more intuitive, allowing the student to focus on the concepts rather than the mechanical details of the camera. The Calumets mentioned above are fine... another low cost but rugged model is the Toyo 45CX, which I have seen on Ebay for <$300.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, July 26, 2001.

Well here's another thought, I don't know how practical it will be, but the school I attended provided the view cameras (although they were not fancy...just old Calumet CCs and a few Alpinas). We students would occasionaly go in together and buy equipment and supplies and a case of film or whatever. If for some reason, a view camera is not required for more than one course, he may be able to share a camera with someone else. I don't know how practical this would be, but it would sure cut the cost especially if he's not going to use it later on. We had about 125 people in my class and only about 25 cameras....we signed up for them in 3 hr. blocks for the studio, or maybe (if lucky) could get one for a other thing would be to try to ask around the campus to see if there's any used cameras up for sale. Our school had a bulletin board for used equipment and stduents were always selling off gear at the end of the year. Medium format was required for us, lights & camera & lab gear was provided.

-- DK Thompson (, July 26, 2001.

Toyoview 45CX, brand new + gobs of stuff, $450ish with proof of student status at a university. Geared fine focus, full movements, rotating back. Only hard part is finding a lens (or lenses) that won't break your budget.

As for the Arca Swiss Discovery:

I found it amusing when I asked Arca Swiss if their student discount placed the Discovery at below $1000.00 and/or near the price point of the 45GX. They kindly replied that there was no way that they would ever sell a discovery at below $1000.00, and that a 45CX was no-where near the same camera as the Discovery. Probably true. Just keep in mind you're still going to be shelling out mad cash for a good lens and film holders.

It really depends on your wealth factor.

Don't buy your son anything used unless you really know your stuff about old cameras. 50 year old graphics and whatnot are usually an extremely bad gamble compared to cheap new monorails - sorry to step your toes, guys, but you gotta admit it :)

-- edward kang (, July 26, 2001.

If it was me I'd search Ebay for a Cambo monorail sold as an "outfit" with a decent lens in a modern Copal shutter. Make the seller give you a reasonable guarantee that the thing is going to be serviceable, then take it to someone who will know and have them check it out for you. I sold a Cambo 5X7 with a modern f6.1 210 Xenar on Ebay with film holders and everything someone would need and only got $650 bucks for it. Absolutely no reason that buyer couldn't have made great photo's with it.

-- Jim Galli (, July 26, 2001.

Before making a firm decision I would contact the school to see if they have a pool of lenses and acessories that students can use. If so, getting something compatible with that would make sense. Similarly, most rental houses will have standardised on one brand (usually Sinar).

I use a Sinar Norma, which is often sold cheap because it's an older model. It is beautifully-made and very rigid with precise movements. Best of all, it's fully compatible with modern Sinar lensboards and accessories. For my purposes, it beats the cheaper modern 'starter' cameras hollow.

-- Struan Gray (, July 27, 2001.

FWIW, I've gotten the chance to use a Toyo 45CX and was more than a little disappointed with it. Granted, for the price, it's not a terrible deal, but I think you could do better finding something used in a similar price range. The standards on the camera are anything but rigid, the controls are all a bit finnicky, and the large scale use of plastic throughout the camera make it rather flexible in places where I would prefer it to not be. I also get the feeling that under certain circumstances, certain plastic parts would be prone to cracking. At OU, we have a few of these for general studio work, and after using one once, I nearly pulled my hair out then drove the 6 hours home and back to get my Linhof. I know Toyo is marketing the 45CX as a beginner's/entry level 4x5, but after using it, I don't think I would recommend it, especially to a new LF shooter. When you're new to 4x5, there are a million different things to get used to, and having your camera do things you don't want it to would add unneeded frustration.

-- David Munson (, July 28, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ