Sinar or not Sinar... : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I've received different opinions about the Sinar F, and since I'm going to have only one large format camera (for studio and for field use). I need some feedback on this camera. I've been investigating about other models, but the Sinar seems to be a very rugged and versatile camera. Of course I'll need a good stock of lenses and accesories. Although there are many other choices, I find it quite good for my needs. I'll be doing architectural photography, lots of perspective correction, extensive work with depth of field. Now I'm shooting 35mm and medium format(6x6, 6x4.5 and 6x7), and for architectural, I use computer software (prior image scanning)for perspective correction. I also will be doing portrait, still photo and maybe product shooting. I need the good opinions and the bad opinions, so feel free to take time and write as long as you wish. Thanks

-- Paulo Ogino (, September 03, 2001


I have had my Sinar F2 for a little over four years, it supliments an Anniversary Speed Graphic which I have for over 25 years. I find myself going between the two, the Sinar is nice in that I have a full range of movement, the binocular focusing hood is fantastic, I have film plane metering thru the ProfiSelect wand and a Gossen UltraPro, and I have enough extension to go greater the 1:1 when doing macro, in my little home studio the camera cannot be beat. However when it comes to hiking or bicycling I find myself remounting the lenses on Speed Graphic boards and throwing my old faithfull in my backpack. If I am planning to go downtown to do some serious architectural work then the Sinar is a must, if on the other hand I am just out and about the Speed Graphic is much quicker to set up and shoot.

Another plus to the Sinar is if you buy a good used unit you will be able to resell it for what you paid, if not more. The downside is that the accessories for this camera are expensive! As I do less and less studio work I have been really tempted to sell off all the Sinar gear and pick up a nice light wood camera, but I know as I did I would miss the flexability of the Sinar.

JMHO, -harry

-- Harry Pluta (, September 03, 2001.

Have you considered Arca Swiss? I've had the opportunity to use Sinar and Arca, and for the studio both are excellent. However, in the field the Arca had the edge. It can be broken down rather easily to fit in a backpack and is as rugged, if not more than the Sinar. Price is about the same for both (accessories as well). Sinar may have a few more accessories (such as the metering mentioned above), but Arca's line is extensive. I shoot Architecture and Landscape and have found the Arca not lacking in any way. As you can probably guess, I opted for the Arca Swiss.

Good luck on your choice, Gary

-- Gary Jones (, September 03, 2001.

How about a TK45s? I have a TK45, the previous model and I love it, I have all the movements I want for both architectural and 1:1 and it has a good range of accessories. I have never used a Sinar, and no doubt it is a superb camera, but for field work it seems to me it is too heavy and cumbersome. Wait until you are under a focusing cloth in 95 degree heat, you will want fast quick focusing none of that micro focusing and film plane metering, etc. Don't take me wrong I am sure for the studio a Sinar would be an excellent desicion, but for a compromise between studio and field work, the TK I think is better. Good luck and let us know what you got!

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, September 03, 2001.


Get an Arca-Swiss Discovery.

Well Sinar doesn't actually suck I suppose. But the difference for me between the two is enough to make it seem that way.

-- Josh Root (, September 03, 2001.

I shoot Sinar for a couple of years. I've also worked with the Arca Swiss Discovery and the F-metric. Arca Swiss is another excellent Swiss camera but Sinar is still superior. Especially when used in the Studio and for Architecture work. What counts most however, is the excellent Sinar Service that you get in Europe as well as in the US. Arca's Service has become a pain in the ass since its production has moved from Switzerland to France. You might grow old before important accessories of the camera are delivered.

-- Tom Castelberg (, September 04, 2001.

Hi Paulo

Both cameras are on the top, you should try it on your hands witch one is better for you. I work with the Arca F-Line she is a little lesser in weigth then the Sinar F and for me she is faster to set up then the Sinar. What ever you buy take a look at the prices of Robert White at UK: Good luck!

-- Armin Seeholzer (, September 04, 2001.

Sinar. It's like Nikon or Hassy. You can always find a lot of them used. I use F2 in studio and fild. Frankly, it's not perfect for both. In studio, when doing makro 2:1 it's not rigid and precise like P2, but... I got sharp chromes. In fild, carry you camera with 6" rail in backpack and rail clamp attached to tripod. Setup takes 30 sec. Anyway this camera is good compromise for studio&fild and get Horseman bag bellows.

-- Àndres (, September 04, 2001.

when i'm using a technika V, i'm very happy with it ! (unless i want to use rollfilm, it's better to have a new tech 2000 or master) when i'm using a sinar F2, i'm very happy with it ! unless i have to walk or travel with it !

in my opinion, if money is not a concern, i would suggest to buy an arca swiss 6x9 metric and an extra 4x5 back and a selection of top class light weight lens that can be use in both format (schneider 80XL / schneider 110XL / rodenstock apo sironar S 150 / FUJI A 9/240 or rodenstock apo ronar MC 9/300 or nikon M300. Then you will be able to have a light weight 6x9 camera with a lot of movements for field work and travel, and a good 4x5 camera for studio that can use polaroid standard back 545i, quickload...

the f2 is a good value for money, but not easy to travel and walk with it, i'm using a technika it's a perfect tool for 4x5 field work, but limited for the studio, i'm dreaming about this arca combo, but it's quite expensive, at the end i prefer spending my money by shooting in 4x5, than buying an another camera...

-- dg (, September 04, 2001.


If you are not committed to the Sinar yet, then avoid it.

I have spent a fortune over the years switching from F2 to P2 and back — the moment you want to travel out door without an army of assistants the Sinar becomes a bulky and awkward burden.

Sure, the two-point focussing kinda works, as does the DOF scale ... but the chore of getting those features to where your shot is.

Someone mentioned the Bino-Reflex — great ... high and low level shooting convenience just as long as you don't want to work at eye-level.

The rigidity of the F2 leaves a lot to be desired unless you get the beefed-up 5x7 standardsand use a reduction back. Added to the camera's rigidity problems is the fact that the centre-of-gravity is so high over the tripod mount that you have to use a bigger tripod and/or head to secure it. Plus the difficulty of GG viewing if you're shooting down over a precipice or up into a ceiling.

The Arca is good, and like the Sinar, allows unlimited expansion of the rail/bellows with accessories ... IF you need it. But my choice is the Linhof TK45s. Portable, precise and a total joy to use either indoors or out. A lot of my interiors work is done on a Gitzo Mountaineer with Foba Super Mini-Ball head.

Yaw-free?? Not in all situations ... but that doesn't adversely affect my commercial architecture, auto-motive or personal landscape work. The fixed extension rail allows me to shoot with Nikkor-T 600mm and Nikkor-M 450mm so how much more expandability does one need?

Parts are readily available, service is good in UK & USA (Bob??) and many other countires.

Am I bisaed? Probably! But that bias is based on 6 or 7 years of Sinar slavery.

Good luck and please let us know your final choice.


-- Walter Glover (, September 04, 2001.

I had a Sinar F and hated it. The most egregious fault is that you can't cross your eyes w/o running into very major expense -- extension rails, bag bellows, multipurpose stands, etc. etc., and it never ends. Also, it's real heavy. I don't think the Sinar is well-suited to field work at all. The good points are the movements, the solidity, the built-in depth scales, etc.... I've been using a wooden field since getting rid of the Sinar, to wit a Korona 5x7 -- a good example of "wooden field camera" but nothing outrageous (e.g., a brand new Canham or whatever). I love it. I find the typical limitations of this type of camera very easy to live with (more wiggly, for example). -jeff buckels (albuquerque)

-- Jeff Buckels (, September 04, 2001.

About seven years ago I migrated from a Sinar C to an Arca-Swiss F-line. The Sinar C has the rear standard of the top ofthe line P camera (now the P2 and the front standard ofthe F cameras. I do the same kind of work you describe that you'll be doing and i needed a camera that was more portable.

To start off with: the Sinar F cameras are nowhere near the camera the Sinar P, X and C cameras are, not even in the same league IMHO, but many architectural photographers I know use them with varying degrees of happiness. I don't know of any studio based photographer who is happy with the Sinar f cameras for studio shooting, especially for product work: the camera really isn't designed for the long haul of product photography.

The weakest aspects of the F cameras are (in my experience) the rise mechanism, the combination of shift, swing and tilt mechanisms, the unnecessarily tall tripod block, and the need the need to refocus after using rise or fall on the front or rear standards, and it is bulky to take out into the field without completely disassembling it Also at some point in the next few years you'll be considering getting a digital back and it really will not physically support support one of those.

Strong points of the Sinar F cameras: it gets you into the Sinar system; it is a yaw free design; the depth of field calculator; lots of used accessories in the USA market.

If you really want a Sinar F series camera get an F2, the F1 or the older models of the F won't be worth your aggravation. I say this because I tried. even better would be a Sinar C or C2 if you can find one or the Sinar X.

Several people here have already mentioned the Arca Swiss F cameras. before I start, I need to mention that i did some paid consultancy work for Arca Swiss earlier this year, during which I rewrote the manual for the Arca-Swiss Monoball tripod heads.

I choose the Arca-Swiss F for several reasons: I like yaw free base tilt cameras, especially for architectural and studio work; the Arca Swiss F cameras are designed so that when you usethe rise/fall movements you do not need to refocus the camera-- the lens board and the film plane remain in the same plane they already were in, the ergonomics of the camera: the location of the controls and the overall feel of the camera; a very fine quality fresnel screen is built into the groundglass assembly (with all Sinars the fresnel is a detachable accessory); the proximity of the mass of the camera body to the tripod head; that the camera is much less bulky than a Sinar F, while having the stability and strength of the heavier 9and even bulkier) Sinar C cameras; it is easier to use with ultra wide angle lenses (lenses65mm and shorter) and that like the Sinar family of cameras it is a modular design that is basically infinitely expandable or contractable -- in several ways it is even more exandable: you can convert a 4x5 Arca-Swiss F-line into an 8x10 camera in about a minute and a half, or you can convert it to a 6x9cm camera in about a minute (of course you can always use a roll film back in the 4x5 configuration as well. Andthe Arca_Swiss binocular reflex viewer is the best I 've ever used, including Sinar's.

Weaknesses of the Arca-Swiss F-line cameras: Arca-Swiss is a much smaller company, what this means to you is that the distribution channels are not as robust. I have never had a problem with Arca-Swiss service, but I may be more patient than other people-- sometimes; and the lack of a bail on the groundglass mechanism.

The Linhof Technikardan TK45s is also a fine camera and bears consideration too.

Good luck!

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, September 04, 2001.

Paulo - add my name to the list of happy Arca Swiss owners, in my case the Discovery, which I use as an all around camera. You have lots of movements, and when in the field you'll appreciate the provided case, which is quite adequate for shorter hikes of less than 10kms. For longer hikes, you can fold the standards sideways with a bag bellows and lens on and fit the camera and usual accessories in a Lowepro PhotoTrekker sized backpack. All movements and controls are solid, nicely damped, and have that feeling you get that only comes from quality design and manufacture. I looked long and hard at both new and used Sinar F's, and decided on the Discovery - Robert White is the man to talk to when you make up your mind. Happy deciding!

-- Michael Mahoney (, September 04, 2001.

A used Sinar F + lens and a few accessories costs $600-800.

An arca swiss discovery still costs $1200+ without anything but the standards, rail and bellows.

If anyone finds me an arca swiss discovery for $600.00, I'll be happy to buy it off of them.

-- edward kang (, September 04, 2001.

Edward Kang have you looked at the base price for a new Sinar F1 or F2 lately? if you are going to price compare, be fair.

-- Ellis Vener (, September 04, 2001.

Hi Ellis,

I have looked at the prices for new F1's and F2's. They are expensive also. However, not everyone who has a fledgling interest in large format is naive (or rich :) enough to invest in brand new $2000.00+ equipment at the start.

In turn, most new large format enthusiasts (such as I!) have looked into the used market. This is where the comparisons between used Arca Swiss and used Sinar equipment come into play. Used Sinar F's (and the F's are still very competent large format cameras) are readily available and extremely cheap. Unfortunately, looking around, used Arca Swiss Discovery cameras are non-existent (or if they are used, they still go for new price+more for the lenses and extras).

Therefore, it is fair to compare used Sinar F's (which are mostly 15-20 years old) to new Arca Swiss Discoveries, because they both have fairly similar stability and functionality - except the used Sinar F's go for about half the price and that usually includes the cost of lenses and other accessories.

If one were to make the argument that Paulo had enough money to spend on brand new, high-dollar large format equipment, then I wonder why he didn't say how much he had to spend. $2000+? Why not skip the discovery and get a new F-line? $3000+? You could stretch a little and go for the Sinar X. $4000+? Now you're in P2 or Monolith territory.

Paulo made a mess of this thread to begin with, mostly because he didn't state how much money he was able to spend. He asks if Sinar F's are ok, but Sinar F's haven't been made since 1985 or so. He says that he's been doing perspective correction in computer software so that means that his architectural photography interests are amateur at best.

Therefore, it seems a little odd to me that no-one else seemed to recognize the alternative of cheaper, older, used equipment (especially when Paulo, in the beginning, was asking about the Sinar F, and not the F1, or even specifically F2, since there is a significant difference between those three cameras, in price and features).

At least nobody went out and recommended the crown graphic :)

The Arca Swiss Discovery is, in my opinion, a better camera than the Sinar F1, but it lacks the polish of the F-line which costs a couple of hundred more, and it still doesn't have the amount of US support that Sinar provides, which is a really big stickler.

And, ultimately, if Paulo is talking about whether a Sinar F is a good camera, then it's obvious that he may be in a situation where the Sinar F (a used camera) is the only thing he can afford, and that means the difference between buying a camera and not having a camera, and that's a big difference indeed.

The internet sucks in this respect.

-- edward kang (, September 04, 2001.

Yet another vote for the Arca-Swiss. I like as an excellent all-around camera. But, it's especially good for architecture. You can shoot either 4x5 or 6x9 with the appropriate back. If you order new, consider skipping the normal bellows and get the leather wide-angle and the long 700mm bellows. The wide-angle bellows works for lenses between 65mm (w/recessed board) up to 180mm or 210mm. The 700mm bellows easily accomodates lenses larger than 210mm.

Also consider getting the reducer lensboard from Arca-Swiss 4x5 front to Arca-Swicc 6x9 front. Hopefully, this will be recessed. Norman McGrath, the well know architectural photographer had a Sinar F for years. He switched to Arca-Swiss and loves it.

-- neil poulsen (, September 04, 2001.

Hey guys! There's no need to get in to fight!!! Yes, maybe I've made a controversial question, since I haven't mentioned the most near alternatives to a Sinar for comparison. I've checked the Arca Swiss, the Toyo View, and a lot more. I've checked many web sites and many forums, and my question is allways the same: Sinar or not Sinar?.

Here are the main issues that make my choices very difficult, and may help you to help me:

- I live in Chile, SouthAmerica. That means if I can find a good used 4x5 camera in Chile, I would have to "sell my body to the night" for a month (at least) to pay for it. - Since I don't live in the US, UK or AU (or anywherelse), I only can buy online. Not all the online camera stores accept my credit cards (sh**t, that's frustrating!!!) - The few sites where I can buy, they offer mostly field cameras, linhof kardan and its similars, sinars, old view cameras and the new models of the mostly common brands($$$). - I'm allways low in budget. That doesn't stop me on going again and again on photography. Like Jazz, Photo is a passion (and a lover) that allways asks for more. - If I had money, I would move digital. If I had MONEY, I would buy a digital back, guys, plug it to my Sun Ultra (or an SGI O2)and do magic! (if I had money I wouldn't go PC or MAC) - My choice would be almost definitive, I marry one system, and then we'll be together a long time (until we get divorced) - For architectural, I have to work at low resolutions (2000 dpi), but that's enough for small printing. - The Sinar has been the most available for my budget, but I need to be very sure before moving to 4x5. I still prefer film over digital, since for me to go digital is TO GO DIGITAL($$$). - As an architect, I allways have the need to capture spaces, form and light, and large format IS the medium.

Well, if anyone needs to know more, please let me know. And thank you very much guys, I've received a lot of feedback, and that makes me feel I'm not alone in this world!!!!

-- Paulo Ogino (, September 04, 2001.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'll just put in my usual plug for the Sinar Norma. These are relatively cheap on the used market, have excellent precise movements, and are compatible with current Sinar accessories. The only rental gear in my part of the world is Sinar, so that helps too.

The movements are not geared, and the design is not yaw free, but otherwise it's a lot a camera for the money.

-- Struan Gray (, September 05, 2001.

Paulo... It was my situation years ago.... I only had a Sinar A1... and want to buy a field... well...after lots of thinking.... I put my $$ into lenses and the Sinar do both and field... Sure.. it lacks something on both side... but it did the job with satisfaction...Of course if you afford both...then go for it... but then you must follow up both with all kind of accessories...good luck...

-- dan n. (, September 05, 2001.

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