Which 4x5 is fastest, easiest to set up in field?

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What is the fastest/ easiest 4x5 to set up & use in the field? Are the rangefinders on Linhofs or Wista etc. helpful in accelerating the process? Thanks!

-- Matt Docis (tineli@swbell.net), December 05, 2001


I suggest you take a look at the Ebony non-folding series. The lens can be mount on the camera while it is in the bag, therefore setup in the field will in a minute time. Check it out on Ebony website, www.ebonycamera.co. Enjoy it. Kit

-- NG Sai Kit (etckit@ust.hk), December 05, 2001.


-- Bob Salomon (bob@hpmaretingcorp.com), December 05, 2001.

Ebony (try the SW45).

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), December 05, 2001.

Arca Swiss F Line C - can be packaged with lens mounted, setup work is reduced to decollapsing the rail (if very short lenses are used, even this could be omitted).
When it comes to using the camera, this is a full featured, very stable and versatile monorail with excellent ergonomics.

On the downside is only the (compared to Ebony cameras) higher weight... this is the price for the IMHO higher rigidity of the Arca.

-- Stefan Dalibor (dalibor@cs.fau.de), December 05, 2001.

Agree with the above Arca answer. Discovery set up in the field is simply taking out of bag, placing on tripod and focusing.

-- Michael Mahoney (mike.mahoney@nf.sympatico.ca), December 05, 2001.

Now you can see why you want to look at cameras at a well stoked dealer (there are many in the US) or at a show.

All the answers will direct the responders feelings without your knowing what the breadth of their experiences are with all of the possible answers or how the cameras would feel and work for you.

Just them.

-- Bob Salomon (bob@hpmaretingcorp.com), December 05, 2001.

How much speed do you need? Aren't you splitting hairs when you are talking about the difference between a 30-second and a 60-second setup time? And shouldn't the time required to compose a shot with a view camera be longer just by virtue of the process? Next to focusing and compostition and metering, I find setup time to be insignificant.

-- Chad Jarvis (cjarvis@nas.edu), December 05, 2001.

Pinholes are the real speed demons as far as setup is concerned. Exposure is another matter.

-- Struan Gray (struan.gray@sljus.lu.se), December 05, 2001.

Try a Speed Graphic.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), December 05, 2001.

Bob When people post questions asking for advice, they probably realise that the opinions given will be somewhat biased. But they get the experiences of the others and not just salesperson talk

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), December 05, 2001.

Crown Graphic.

-- Wilhelkm (bmitch@home.com), December 05, 2001.

"But they get the experiences of the others and not just salesperson talk "

And, unfortunately in many cases a bad decision for him if it is without hands-on knowledge.

You simply are not qualified to tell someone what feels best or works best for him.

You are probably larger or smaller, have different sized hands, different requirements, shoot possibly different things, are left or right handed.

To fill a specific requirement, weight, speed, handling, must be done hands on.


Sorry for the caps I hit the wrong key.

But the emphasis doesen't hurt.

-- Bob Salomon (bob@hpmaretingcorp.com), December 05, 2001.

Polaroid fixed lens with a handle grip to hand hold. You don't even have to stop the car, just point it out the window and take a picture!

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), December 05, 2001.

Bob, The point I'm trying to make, is this, if someone posts a request regarding peoples opinions on "which camera is best" then he/she must expect to receive biased advice. BUT I DON'T MAKE ANY MONEY FROM THIS ADVICE!! A dealer may well advise on stock simply because he sels it!! (True??) Most of us are not dealers so we simply give advice as is, and don't benefit from it financially. I would prefer advice from users of a certain camera rather than from someone who sels them!

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), December 05, 2001.

I've owned two view/field cameras: a Calumet 45N monorail, and a Toyo AII (which I currently use).

Since I got the Toyo, the Calumet has been collecting dust - check for it on eBay in the next few weeks :-)

The AII (and the 'A', for that matter) are a snap to setup. Unlock the case, lift up the back, slide the forward standard forward, adjust the rise, lock it down, and you're ready for lenses.

Simple, and fast. Bit heavy for a field camera, but lighter than my Calumet.


-- Ken Miller (andawyr@hotmail.com), December 05, 2001.

I forgot to answer the second part of your question. I find the use of a rangefinder speeds the setting-up process considerably for many subjects, such as portraits and landscapes. I can often use the built-in optical viewfinder, and not refer to the ground glass image at all. But the item which usually consumes the bigest chunk of setup time is the tripod. Once you get used to handling it, a Graphic can be hand held for an amazingly large percentage of shots. I gotta admit that it does take a lot of the fun out of it, though.

-- Wilhelm (bmitch@home.com), December 05, 2001.

My experience is with a Wisner 4x5 Trad. and a Crown Graphic. My normal setup to photo time for the Wisner is probably several minutes, but I'm not rushing it (includes contemplation of lens/filter, movements if necessary, pulling out the darkcloth and trying to focus my f8 lenses, etc.).

With the Crown, assuming its limitations work within your needs, simply open the front, pull out the lens, focus on the glass (or rangefinder) (faster than with my Wisner because of faster lens and built in focus hood), film in and shoot.

I've used the Crown as a point and shoot wandering around New York before, works great, not too slow to use, but does draw too much attention if there are people around.

Now, as for comparison of the images, I only use the Crown for handheld shots because its images are simply not as good (from a technical standpoint) as the images I get from the lenses I use on my Wisner. I am only using the 127mm lens that came with my Crown.

-- Andrew Cole (laserandy@aol.com), December 05, 2001.

Back when I was a kid, you used 4X5 to achieve resolutation. With some of today's modern films, you may never take a picture where you will be able to tell the difference in an enlargement between 4X5 and 645. My wife has a Contax 645 with Zeiss lenses that is esentially point and shoot if you want it to be. If you are going to use movements to tilt the focal plane, and take enough meter readings to use principals of zoneing, you are a better man then I, if initial set up time is more than 10% of total set up time.

-- Neal Shields (shields@ftw.com), December 05, 2001.

The one you get used to! I have a Cambo SCX in the studio and a Linhof Tech III for location and pleasure shooting. Both can be set up in about 15-20 seconds from the cases. I have a rangefinder on my Linhof but I rarely use it... just for quick composition... just my way of shooting. Cheers

-- Scott Walton (scotlynn@shore.net), December 05, 2001.

Paul, I agree with Bob, the Technikardan is one of the fastest if not THE, and I don't see any harm in Bob recommending it, specially with his wealth of knowledge and experience. Don't come down on him just because he works for HP Marketing, he has been a good contribuitor of this forum and has demonstrated he has the experience necessary to recommend this choice.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (jorgegm58@prodigy.net.mx), December 05, 2001.

There is a 4x5 wide angle camera out of britain that looks dead easy to shoot with. There are also the Sinar Handy, Cambo Cambowide, and Horseman wideangle cameras.

Outside of that I think a great deal of set up speed wil have to do with how you trnsport the camera. A Sinar P2 or Arca-Swiss Monolith or any other of the big monorail cameras will be extremely fast to set up and shoot with if you carry it in a big enough case.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), December 05, 2001.

Everyting in life is a compromise. This question may have been triggered by Wisner's full featured camera. I do not own one but have read critizisms about how hard it is to fold. However, that is probably because he goes to a lot of trouble to be sure that the image doesn't shift when using tilt and swing to focus. This is a compromise I will gladly make if I ever have the price of a small car to blow.

If we are considering used cameras, how about the Super Speed Graphic, it has greater front movements than a speed or crown, is thinner (will accept wider lenses) and has a revolving back and is all aluminum. Compaired to used Linhofs, it also has the advantage of having light tight bellows.

If in terms of convenience we group 4X5 cameras in order from: Press, Technical, View, Field, I would place it somewhere between a Press and a Technical.

Aside: With a Speed Graphic and standard plate holders, the UP photographer was able to take three stills of the Hendenburg between the time it exploded and when it hit the ground.

-- Neal Shields (Shields@ftw.com), December 05, 2001.

"A dealer may well advise on stock simply because he sels it!! (True??)"


You are totally missing the point. I did NOT say to ask a dealer.

I said go in a handle them yourself. Take your advice by looking. Not asking blind questions.

And remember. The question was the quickest and all I said was TK.

I could also make a point for Kardan M (very fast), Master Technika, Technika 2000, Wista Cherry, Rosewood or Ebony or RF, VX or SP.

But then that would be biased as, except for the Kardan M, the TK is the fastest. Once you are familiar with its' operation.

-- Bob Salomon (bob@hpmaretingcorp.com), December 05, 2001.

My Wista SP metal field camera is incredibly fast to set up. Pop it open and go. A big plus is that itís more stable than ANY wood field camera I've ever seen, and costs less than a Linhof. The Wista metal fields are much under appreciated.

-- Linas Kudzma (lkudzma@compuserve.com), December 05, 2001.

I still say an old Speed Graphic. Second choice would be a HOBO.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), December 05, 2001.

This is one of those threads where everybody is right and nobody is wrong. Scott Walton hit the nail on the head when he said it's the one you're most familiar with.

This is especially true WRT to the Linhof Technikardan TK45S. It is a unique design that befuddles many a first time user (and even a few camera store employees - based on my personal experience). I think Keith Canham could probably completely assemble a DLC from loose parts in the time it took me to set-up my first shot with my TK45S. However, once you do it a few times, it become intuitive and indeed very fast (IMHO).

I'm not sure if it's THE fastest. In a race, I think the winner will be determined more by the user than the particular camera. I've seen David Muench set-up his Technika, get the shot he was after, and move on with incredible efficiency. Same for Jack Dykinga and his Arca Swiss. Both of these guys obviously shoot so much that they know their equipment, what they want to accomplish and how to go about accomplishing it. For them, setting up and using their cameras has become second nature. Knowing your equipment that well allows you to concentrate your efforts on the creative aspects of making an image rather than fumbling about with your equipment.

Yeah, I've gotten pretty fast with my TK45S, but I can be even faster with my Toho. How? It's so light that I can leave it mounted on the tripod, set-up and ready to shoot, and still carry it around for hours. I don't do this if I'm hiking miles of rugged trail, but I've done it in places like the Paradise flower fields at Mt. Rainier. Just set it up once at the beginning of the day and carry it around the trails shooting flowers all day. Never walking more than a few hundred yards at a time, but covering several miles over the course of a day.

WRT opinions, they are all biased (mine included - make that: especially mine). That's why they are called opinions and not facts. It all depends on the user, his personal preferences, experience level, intended application, etc. Some people in this forum have a vested financial interest in promoting certain products, most others don't. Still, we all speak based on our own experiences and preferences. None of us knows exactly what will work best for the original poster - just what works best for us. In fact, we know very little about him, his experience and his intended application for this very fast to set-up camera he inquires about. Still, the opinions (all of them) are valuable. It gives the original poster some options to consider. It is up to him to filter the response based on his own needs and go out and find the camera that works best for him. Part of that learning process is to find out what works best for others. That's the whole point of this thread, and I think we've given Matt some good options to consider when narrowing down his options.


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), December 05, 2001.

I regularly ask for advice here and elsewhere, and really appreciate the responses. But I think this is one of those things that's really hard to do online. The best advice was to go handle lots of cameras. Some are slower to set up than others, but those that are a little slower might feel much better to you in other ways. If you aren't located near stores and/or shows, you might point out your location and ask here for volunteers to let you handle their cameras. I think the main things to consider other than how the camera feels to you is how compact it needs to get when put away, and whether you're assuming you're going to use a tripod. You can get pretty fast with an old graflex...speed/crown graphic...handheld, focusing with a rangefinder. But that setup might not meet other needs...like using movements. I think if you handle enough of them, making sure they'll do what you need, you'll fall in love with one of them. If you think LF is expensive, go check out medium format!

-- John Sarsgard (sarsgard@yahoo.com), December 05, 2001.

I vote for the Horseman FA because she is smaller and much lesser in wight then the TK. But thats just my opinion! So best is go to a large store or better to a photoshow, where you can do some testings for yourself. Then your mind and also or fingers will be not the same like mine! Good luck!

-- Armin Seeholzer (armin.seeholzer@smile.ch), December 05, 2001.

On one of their Guggenheim trips Charis timed Edward Weston. From the moment she stopped the car he set up the tripod, fixed his 8x10 view camera on it, focused the lens, composed the picture, set the aperture, inserted the film holder, and pulled the dark slide in TWO and a half minutes! Is that quick enough?

-- Wilhelmm (bmitch@home.com), December 05, 2001.

To elaborate on Armins point, I also like the Horseman FA as, I can set it up in a matter of seconds. With a lens folded in the body and the finder in place, I can use LF in extremely poor weather that one would not ordinarily want to expose thier equipment to any longer then necessary...Steve

-- Steve Clark (agno3@eesc.com), December 05, 2001.

Bob says the Technikardan. He did not give the nod to the more expensive Master Technika or its predecessors. This serves no stinking self-interest. So how is it that Bob genuinely sees the Technikardan faster or easier than the MT? Let me speculate. The MT weighs slightly less, is more compact, is more readily folded and unfolded, has a clamshell built in protector for the bellows, can be folded with a 135 mm lens in place that lies protected within the folded shell,travels better in a backpack, and is favored by many landscape photographers. Bob must have seen something in the Technikardan that outweighs these advantages. With the Technikardan, but not the MT, you have to change to a bellows bag to use wide angle lens, but you are not bothered by the flat bed that has to be dropped to ensure an unimpeded angle of view. With the Technikardan, you have independent controls for lens tilt and shift; very few flatbed cameras offer the same ease of use. I do not know whether the MT has this feature. With the Technikardan, you have a much longer bellows than the MT, easing infinity and closeup focusing with double agent 210 and 300 process lenses. The Technikardan provides center axis focusing, without the base tilt available with the MT. A lot of photographers find center axis focusing easier than base tilt; others prefer base tilt. Sure there are much lighter wooden cameras--some less than 4 lbs, but how many are as stable, have an extension of about 19.5 inches for long lenses, and provide as much ease of use with wide angle lenses, as does the Technikardan. Both TK and MT cameras can be easily equipped with lens compendiums (shades) supported by the camera body. The small size Technika/Wista lens boards are great for backpacking. Bob's preference is not isolated. Take a look at prior reviews of the Technikardan at this website, The majority of contributors (especially those with architectural interests) have given the nod to the Technikardan over the MT. I understand that former Ansel Adams assistant John Sexton owns and uses both and has written a published review highly praisng the Technikardan. A recent article in View camera magazine a few years ago -- I forget the author -- highly praised the MT. Several photography books by famed photographers David Muench and John Fielder mention their preference for the Linhof flat bed cameras for field photography. When ease of use encompasses scaling up to 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 through use of adapters, then Canham, Sinar and Arca Swiss, and several other full system camera manufacturers, have an advantage, by selling larger format adapters. The adapters are quite expensive; the chief advantage is economizing space, especially when traveling. Bwfore committing to Linhof, I recommend that you look at Sinar, Canh

-- David (caldw@aol.com), December 05, 2001.

I have recently aquired a wista DX, previously I used an MPP, this was very fast to set up. I used a 120 angulon and a 180 boyer, both take the same size filters, the camera closes with either lens on it, a bit of experience soon shows you where to pull the front standard out to. The built in hood allows you to work without a darkcloth to some extent. Leaving the camera on the tripod in the car expedites matters even more. A loupe tied to the tripod head gives you one thing less to look for in your camera bag. I reckon that I could get the thing set up, movements moved, focussed and ready to go in less than a minute. LF photography is a slow contemplative thing so why the hurry? Scottish Midges!!


-- Charlie Skelton (charlieskelton@southend.gov.uk), December 06, 2001.

Technikarden is the quickest and Kardan GT is, though bigger, very qick too. If You work with really long lenses (up to 1200 mm) Kardan GTI (which might not available anymore) is not really quick but probably quicker than any other.

Best regards

PS: Yes, I am biased because I own Linhof

-- J. Hildebrand (j.hildebrand@hildebrand.de), December 06, 2001.

Speed??? Speed with large format is like asking which turtle is fastest? Faster is a relative need biased by preparation. The "fastest" camera will always be the one you work with and know the most. Large format photography is not fast. It is beautiful, it is magnificent and it is worth it - but it is not fast.

-- Gary Whalen (whalen1@mindspring.com), December 06, 2001.

Toyo VX-125. The fastest settin' up 4x5 I've ever used. Of course, I've only used about 3 or 4. Bonus: it's pretty compact too. Kinda pricey.

-- Don Wong (info@donwongphoto.com), December 07, 2001.

I was shooting some slow sailing boats the other day. Ideally I should have done it with MF, but I wanted the 6x12 format. The Toyo VX 125 proved very efficient. I use it with a Horseman bino viewer and Sinar back. The whole process of framing, focussing with a loupe, inserting the back and shooting is achieved in the time required for slow motion subjects. I panned the camera as the boats moved, pointing the 450mm on extended bellows towards them. A rangefinder camera would have helped, but you need to take off the rollfilm back and viewer to be able to stick your eye on the rangefinder. The VX-125 was specially set up with long bellows and rail, but if you use lenses up to 300mm, the setup is very fast and use is pretty straightforward.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), December 07, 2001.

I've owned five field cameras, a Technikardan, a Technika, a Tachihara, a Deardorff, and an Agfa Ansco. The Technikardan was by far the slowest and most difficult to set up of all of them. When I attended a workshop with it, everyone else had problems with it too including the instructor. The Technika, Deardorff, and Tachihara all could be set up very quickly, the Agfa Ansco was somewhere in between the Technikardan and the other three.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis60@earthlink.net), December 07, 2001.

One of the best pieces of advise I have gotten on speeding up a view camera shot was from Ctein ( I think). Who ever it was, said go buy a pair of high magnification reading glasses instead of fumbling with a loop.

I am a camera collector and shot my first 4X5 over 30 years ago. However, I am just now learning what can be done with shifts and tilts in terms of tilting the focal plane to suit the subject. (I always thought that all that stuff was useless unless you were photographing tall buildings.)

It takes me a very long time to get a foreground image and the subject in sharp focus. While three points is technically possiable, I expect it will be a long time till I try that.

My point (question) is that: how many pictures taken outside a studio would not benifit from a tilted focal plane, and if the answer is "not many" as I suspect: then can anybody focus on multiple points quick enough to make the difference in camera set up time meaningful?

-- Neal Shields (shields@ftw.com), December 07, 2001.

Without a doubt.... A GranView!

This is its reason for being. It requires no setup at all. There are also dust free front and rear caps for it. At which point you can toss it down a hill (it is also super strong) and it will still work perfectly. Wipe it off with a damp cloth and it is returned to pristine. I believe you actually can get away with a careful washing (not recomended but possible with no major damage even if you goof). If you are not familiar with this rugged, lightweight camera take a look at http://www.granview.com

Fred De Van

-- Fred De Van (fdv@mindspring.com), December 11, 2001.

I once owned a Horseman 45FA and felt it was extremely easy to set up. I then acquired a Wisner Traditional and at first, it seemed less easy to set up. In time, I got as fast with the Wisner as I was with the Horseman and sold the latter because of insufficient bellows draw. I sell high technology for a living and have so often observed that what clients perceive as easy or hard to use is so dependent on what they are used to, that I've given up attempting to second guess what new stuff they will like. In the last analysis, people seem to gravitate toward what they know and feel comfortable with. I would suggest looking at as many types of cameras as is possible to examine and go with what "feels" right to you. You'll get used to any of a particular cameras idiosyncracies and pretty soon, it will feel normal and easy for you. Keep in mind that most of your time will be spent hiking, composing, focusing, metering, deciding how to expose and later process your negatives, etc. etc. (and possibly a little time to just revel in the scenic beauty of the surroundings). The time it takes to set up and fold/collapse a camera becomes relatively unimportant. If it makes that much difference, perhaps something other than a viewcamera is a better choice. Just another opinion!

-- Robert A. Zeichner (info@razeichner.com), December 11, 2001.

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