Picking a monorail camera.

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First I would like to thank Ellis Veneer and others who have commented on my past questions here and elsewhere concerning architectural/interior photography. From reading the responses, and doing a little research, I have determined to take the plunge and buy what I believe to be the right tools for the job. As such I will be looking to exchange my current equipment to buy a monorail camera that can be used for architectural as well as product photography.

Ellis suggested buying an Arca Swiss Discovery as an inexpensive way (needed) to get started. I had thought that maybe I could pickup a used one, and put more money into getting better lenses. After looking at various ads, and comparing other new prices as well, I am seeing units such as the new Toyo models 45C and CX as well as used Sinar F1's and Cambo's, at prices better than the Discovery new; Used Discovery's are hard to find. So my question is: What used or new camera and system would allow me to accomplish my goals at a reasonable price and have enough movements for what I need to do, and options for expansion, maybe including a binocular viewer. I would also like to use the camera for occasional landscape work as well.

-- Wayne Crider (waynec@apt.net), August 03, 2001


I have Linhof TK45 and I think is great for architecture, folds small enough to travel with it, you have all the movements you will need and is well made and sturdy enough. I think you can find some used ones in the range of 1500 to 2000. If you can check it out before you buy it, since some people hate the way it folds, personally I find it very simple and quick, I have timed myself and been able to set the camera with full locks in 2 minutes. Anyhow good luck!

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (jorgegm@worldnet.att.net), August 03, 2001.

i have been using a cambo/calumet 45NX with a reflex viewer for almost 20 years for HABS/HAER architectural work. the cambo system has a wide range of affordable accessories that are easy to find even used. it is a rugged workhorse of a camera that has never let me down even though it has gone in the river and down the cliff. as hard as i try, i cant seem to wear it out. for several years, i have been able to afford any camera i want, and i just cant find any good reason to buy a different camera. it is everything i need, and at this point, it is an old and trusted friend. i am afraid i will breakdown before it does...

-- jnorman (jnorman@teleport.com), August 03, 2001.

I second what has been said above about the Cambo system. I've had one for about 7 years now. Interestingly when I took on my current employment, I inherited an expensive Sinar P to use for things at work. I like the Cambo better and find it far more flexible and straight forward. FWIW

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@sierra.net), August 03, 2001.

The Linhof Kardan M is an all metal monorail with center movements.

It has an 18" fully geared rail (longer rails available), A 20" BELLOWS, 5.5" OF FRONT AND REAR SHIFT, 3.3" (EXPANDIBLE TO 6.6") OF FRONT AND REAR RISE, 360 of front and rear swing and 75 of front and rear tilt.

It has a selling price of $1170.00 in the US and comes with a 5 year warranty.

There is nothing that this camera can not do.

Shortest lens on a flat board is 65mm and shortest lens on a recessed board is 35mm.

It can use all graflock or Graphic style roll backs as well (with adapters) all roll and digital backs for Hasselblad, Mamiya RZ. Mamiya RB and 6x9 Graflock.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), August 03, 2001.

Wayne - Have you checked with Robert White? He has excellent prices on the Arca Swiss Discovery, and the camera is a pure joy to use, that's probably the reason you see so few used ones available.

-- Michael Mahoney (mmahoney@nfld.com), August 03, 2001.

Hi Wayne

If you find a Sinar, or a Linhof, Arca, Horseman a used one take it in your hands test it buy it if you feel happy with it. But for architectural/interior I prever a monorail! Good luck!

-- Armin Seeholzer (armin.seeholzer@smile.ch), August 03, 2001.

I got my Sinar F-1 used for about $900. It's a great camera and has the advantage that accessories are commonly available used. I think there must be more Sinars out there than any other monorail camera, and parts are interchangable between the various models. Sinar is also good about support. For what it's worth, the majority of professional architectural photographers I know use a Sinar.

-- David Rose (DERose1@msn.com), August 03, 2001.

Lots of choices, which makes it all that much harder. The usual unavailibility of cameras close enough to check out, especially here in S. Florida makes it a game of chance, which is why I ask for rec's.

Bob, I didn't think the Linhof M model had front tilts? I read this Shutterbugs buying guide. Guess I'll have to visit the web site. But knowing Linhof, the accessories must be expensive.

Since i'll be using short lenses, a bag bellows is a must. The Cambo/Calumets look real interesting and I see plenty of used parts for them as well as for the Sinars. Leafing thru Shutterbug gives a variety of prices, and models, so I'm wondering if anyone has anything to say about the Sinar A1's. I did check Robert White's prices on the Arca Discovery and they were about $100 cheaper without shipping.

-- Wayne Crider (waynec@pat.net), August 03, 2001.

To see the Kardan M go to our web site and look under "Latest News"


All Linhof 45 cameras made since 1956 have front tilts.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), August 04, 2001.

I've always wondered about the older base tilt or double axis tilt Arca-Swiss cameras. Lens boards on this camera can be used on the new models. I'm not sure about bellows. But, these cameras are reseasonable in price; they sometimes go in the $500 to $600 range. Although I don't think they're "quite" as well built as recent models, I've examined them, and they look good to me.

I own an Arca-Swiss F and like it a lot. But, as an alternative, I would check out these older models.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), August 04, 2001.

I am going to echo the suggestion that you get a widely available, well supported by manufacturer, camera -- like the Calumet/Cambo 45N or NX models. These are modular, basic, and well supported by the manufacturer. Accessories and additional equipment is readily available in the used market (see Ebay especially).

As you should know by now, a monorail camera is, elementally, a simple device. However, there is a terrible amount of product literature, and some postings, that give the impression that one should really have, and need, all sorts of bells, whistles, and high levels of exactitude and precision. Do not believe the hype! -- it is meant to sell.

You might even consider getting a Calumet CC-400 series Wide model. This was made specifically for architectural/interior work, has a short bellows and basic movements - except rear standard rise/fall. Glamorous, slick, light weight and smell new? No. Do they work? Yes.

A solid, functioning, dependable camera with the best lens, or lenes, that you can afford at the moment - patience and persistance - willingness to learn from mistakes = YOU will get good pictures; not the camera!

Just a thought.

-- Hailu Shack (howdy@global.california.com), August 05, 2001.

Sinar makes a great camera: the Sinar P2 (or the simplified (no interchangable formats) Sinar X. Spiffing great cameras, the sine qua non of modern large format view cameras.

Then they make a good camera: the Sinar F2.

Then they make an okay camera with some serious faults (the Sinar F1

...and then there is the Alpina or A1 cameras.

if you don't mind an older modularcamera that doesn't have all ofthe bells and whistles of a modern camera look for a Sinar Norma. About the only thing this camera lacks is yaw free tilts and swings and if you are not doing product or catalog studio photography where speed counts because time really ismoney, than you might not miss being yaw free.

-- Elllis Vener (evphoto@heartstone.com), August 05, 2001.

Wayne, we use an ancient Omega 45D and a newer Toyo 45GII at work, and do a little of everything. Alot of studio & tabletop work, and occasional architectural work. I've never found the lack of a yaw-free design to limiting, sometimes it gets to be a hassle, but there's always a way around it. After alot of consideration, I decided to get myself a new view camera, and opted for a Calumet 45NX. The price has dropped about $200 on these recently, you can get one new for $750. I was thinking of getting a Toyo, since I have alot of experience with them, but I also have had experience with backordered parts etc. for Toyos as well. When our Omega needed a new bellows, the factory replacement was b.o.'d for over 6 mos. We had to get one made from a vendor, but it was a good deal cheaper as well. Same goes for the price of extension rails and bellows for the GII. That's another thing that I liked about the Cambo/Calumet cameras, their accesories, like bag bellows, extension rails, fresnel lenses, hoods, boards etc. are all reasonably priced. I've only had mine for a week, and already love it...if you're going to be doing architectural stuff, make sure you get a camera with an interchangeable bellows, and a short rail.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), August 06, 2001.

Well untill I just read Ellis's comment I had basically whittled the choice down to the following. The Calumet NX, a used Sinar F1 , or an Arca Swiss Discovery. The problem with the Arca is the availability of used parts or a camera for that matter, so I'd have to buy a new one and all new parts; Ouch. The Sinar F1 seems to be loved or hated, but does have plenty of used parts available and has some neat trick stuff like the DOF gizmo. The NX seems to be the middle of the road with some parts available but at no real savings over any other camera. Basic Chevy type of camera. I'd be interested in the Kardan M, but for available used parts, which most seem are for their flatbeds which are more popular.

Now that being said, I read a recent thread on architectural photography and see statements like, not all movements are necessary and that it's mostly hype. ?? Of course I want to do primarily interior photography with some product thrown in the mix. I guess that's where the differences lies. Question is, what kind of movements are really necessary, and does getting a camera with every movement extreme really compromise integrity and stability?

-- Wayne Crider (waynec@apt.net), August 06, 2001.

From what you're describing, I'd say having all movemements--front & back would be important. If you want to do interiors, you need to think about getting some nice, modern lenses as well. When you get into the heavier monorails, and beefy tripods/heads, stability won't be an issue.

We've used our GII for the past 6+ yrs. or so both on location & in the studio, and it's been a good camera for this. It's solid, and has nice rack & pinion controls. We use everything from the bag bellows & short rail, to a 30" rail with it. The Toyos aren't quite as "exotic" as some of the other cameras, but they're a good deal .

For architectural work, interiors especially, the camera may be the least of your worries compared to the lenses, and lighting gear you may need...

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), August 06, 2001.

i think your best bet is to get a sinar f2 or norma. i say this only because the sinar system is the most extensive, most available (new, used and rental) and best supported in this country. the f2 isn't better than other cameras - the discovery is a better camera - but it's good for what you need. the norma is a beautiful,solid camera (more so than the f2) if you can find a good one. the a1, f or f1 aren't very good. for about the same price as a good used f2 you might find a p which would be much better in all respects except for its bulk. my second choice would be a toyo g.

-- adam friedberg (asfberg@hotmail.com), August 06, 2001.

I have a headache.

-- Wayne Crider (waynec@apt.net), August 08, 2001.

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