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I just had a fast question to throw out. Everyone talks about weight here and of course if your out packing you wanna try and keep things as light as you can as do I. BUT, the differece between an ultra light field camera of say 4lbs and a 'way too heavy' for backpacking monorail of say 7lbs is 3lbs. If you have say 20 lbs of gear besides your camera, that make for pack weights of 23lbs and 27lbs. Does everyone feel that with the 23 lb pack you'll be dancing from hill top to hill top like a sprite and that the 27 lb one will cause you to fall to your knees in agony? Ok I really didn't mean to sound THAT sarcastic. Anyway this is a great site. I have leaned much and everyone is helpful and freindly. The only problem is that I've missed sleep reading all the posts...thanks

-- Ed Candland (ecandland@earthlink.net), February 10, 2002



I assume this was in response to my posting in another thread earlier today.

Let me just say, it all adds up - and a LOT quicker than you think. Every ounce counts when you are venturing out into teh backcountry on a multi-day backpacking trip. If the difference was indeed only 23 lbs. vs. 27 lbs., yeah, I'd say it's no big deal, but when I'm talking about "backpacking" that means multi-day overnight trips into the backcountry. That means I need a lot of camping gear, food, clothing, etc. - in addition to the large format camera kit.

Let me give you some real world numbers. First, I don't consider a 4 lb. camera "ultralight" (especially since most cameras advertised as 4 lb. actually weigh closer to 5 lb. - or more - belive me, I've weighed several). The actual true weight of my Toho - complete with ground glass protector and tripod quick release plate is 2 lb. 12 1/2 oz. The actual weight of my Linhof TK45S is 7 lb 8 1/4 oz, - naked (advertised weight - 6 lb. 9.6 oz. - see what I mean). The QR plate for this camera weighs 9 oz. and the bag bellows 5 1/4 oz. So, as I carry it in the field, my TK45S total weight is 8 lb. 6 1/2 oz. - or 5 lb. 10 oz, more than my Toho (as I carry it).

And that's just the start. The heavier camera requires a heavier tripod and a sturdier head. For backpacking, the tripod and head I use weigh a total of 3 lb. 4 3/4 oz. Even though the heavier tripod I use with the TK45S is also a carbon fiber model without a center column (Gitzo 1325) and I use a reasonably lightweight head (Arca Swiss B1), the total weight of that combo is 6 lb. 2 1/2 oz. -0 and that's absolutely the lightest tripod/head combo I aconsider adaquate to support this camera. So, there's another savings of 2 lb. 13 3/4 oz.

Also, the bigger, heavier camera and bigger, heavier tripod require a bigger, heavier backpack with a better (heavier) support system - add in another 3+ lbs.

Lenses and other accessories add up too. I know most general purpose 4x5 lenses weigh a pound or two, but the ultralight lenses I carry when backpacking weigh between 4 and 9 oz. each - on average, they are 8 - 16 oz. lighter EACH than their heavier counterparts. Plus, when backpacking, I limit myself to 3 or 4 lenses rather than the 6 I carry when dayhiking or shooting closer to the car. So, knock off another 4 lbs. in lenses. For the really obsessive (like me), the smaller lighter lenses also take smaller, lighter filters and the Toho lensboards are also smaller and lighter (knock off another 1/2 - 3/4 lb.).

I know to many, this all seems WAY overly obsessive, but here's where I get to deliver the punch line... A few years back, my total pack weight for a 3 - 4 night backpacking trip was 65 - 70 lbs. The past couple of summers, I've gotten the total pack weight down in the mid- 40 lb. range (44 - 47 lbs.). So, we are not talking merely a difference BETWEEN 24 and 27 lbs. here, we are talking a weight SAVINGS in the 24 lb. range. And believe me, on steep mountainous trails, covering 10+ miles per day, you DO feel the difference at the end of the day. It's nice to have enough energy left to actually feel like taking some pictures.

This of course, applies to multiday backpack trips with a full complement of camping gear and food. If I'm only dayhiking, or shooting close to the car, weight is much less of an issue. In those instances, I take the bigger camera, bigger tripod, more (and heavier) lenses, in a big sturdy, well padded pack (that alone weighs 12 lb. empty). My total pack weight when dayhiking with this outfit (including water, a snack and a jacket) is usually in the 40 lb. range (compared to the 15 - 16 lb. total weight of the 4x5 outfit I use for backpacking - including enough film for 4 days on the trail). I generally don't mind this much weight on dayhikes of reasonable length, but if I'm planning on an exceptionally long day of hiking, I often will compromise and take the lighter Toho camera, and maybe five of my "heavier" lenses, but still keep the total pack weight (including water, food and jacket) in the 20 lb. range.

The examples I've given here may sound like taking things to the extremes, but in a way, that is exactly what I have done. For backpacking, I have tried to absolutely minimize the weight, but still have a reasonably complete, fully functional 4x5 system. For dayhiking and general purpose photography, I've tried to assemble the most flexible, easiest to use 4x5 system that I can still carry on my back all day (without the additional weight of camping gear and several days worth of food). This is exactly what I was referring to in my other post by a "two camera system". Again, this may sound obsessive to anyone who doesn't take their 4x5 outfit on multi-day backpacking trips, but as someone whose gone from carrying a 65 - 70 lb. pack to someone who now carries a 45 lb. backpack, belive me, it has been worth the effort to trim the weight wherever possible. Those ounces really do add up - and I'm getting older a LOT faster than the mountains are getting smaller (with the possible exception of St. Helens).


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), February 11, 2002.

Not to worry Kerry... You're not the only one obsessive about pack weight. :-) The first time I backpacked with my (at the time new) 4x5 system was a 3 day trip with a 68 lb. pack. I was miserable most of the time and swore up and down that I would never take my 4x5 into the back-country again... Until I got my first chromes back from the lab. So I began obsessing about weight, got my 2-5 over-night pack down to 45-50 lbs., and look forward to several (if not more) trips a year. Shaving ounces off each piece of equipment adds up to a more enjoyable trip.

-- Scott Bacon (sbacon@naturalorderphoto.com), February 11, 2002.

Well I'm impressed!! 45 lbs is pretty good without camera and about as well as I usally did with a Nikon FM and a couple of lens. It's my fault, I really didn't state this question very well. What I was refering to was a general use field camera not a ultralight and more like day hikes than full blown multidays. Seems to me (Someone who's just starting out and knows nothing ;-))that the Field cameras today with all the bellows extention, bed to match, movements (attempt to give then all the features of a monorail)etc. are in the 5-6 lbs range light monorails are maybe in the 7-8lb range. people seem to buy field cameras for ease of use and weight. When it seems like all other things being equal there's not that much difference and the full featured field camerea are less stable and flexable in use. Maybe it's better to stick to simple field cameras (IE Wista. around 300mm of bellows not a ton of features etc) and stick to monorails for the big stuff. Almost everything I have read about long extentions (except for maybe Ebony) The photographer has complained the camera was not rigid at all... Anyway, Thanks for the long enjoyable replys=), been fun.

-- Ed Candland (ecandland@earthlink.net), February 11, 2002.

Although I do most of my field work with a light weight Gowland pocket view (3 lbs?) I occaisionally use full size monorails (up to 8 x 10) and old press cameras. For most day hikes weight is not an issue, but bulk is. This is where field cameras have an advantage. Most fold down to a convenient size and shape. Although the Gowland takes up little room in my pack, the monorail design requires careful packing on my part.

-- Dave Brown (wolfgang@peakpeak.com), February 11, 2002.

For a day hike, it's not so much the extra 3-5 pounds of the monorail, (though it still adds up and requires more tripod), It's the extra bulk and time to setup and pack down. The field camera folds quickly and compactly.

-- Gary Frost (gary.frost@onemain.com), February 11, 2002.


I know what you mean. I have taken a 4x5 camera with me on every backpacking trip I've ever been on, but the first one was nearly the last. It just so happens that I started LF photography at the very same time I started backpacking. My first ever backpacking trip involved a 10 mile hike with 5400 ft. of elevation gain. It was a very hot August day (90+ degrees), I was carrying over 65 lb. on my back (including a Speed Graphic and a 35mm Olympus system). I also had no water filter (I was planning on boiling my drinking water). At the time, and I was a LOT younger then, it was the hardest thing I had ever done, but...

After boiling some water and getting rehydrated, I spent the next couple of glorious days photographing in the most incredible place (it's still my favorite place on the planet and I've been back several more times - always with a 4x5 kit). I learned some valuable lessons (cut the weight and buy a water filter) and have been having a blast ever since. I don't get out nearly as often as I'd like, but it's due to other demands on my time, not because I dread carrying the weight. In fact, since my complete backpacking kit - including 4x5 outfit, only weighs 5 - 10 pounds more than the heavier camera kit I carry when dayhiking, I hardly notice the difference. AND, it allows me to be in some spectacular places for that glorious first and last light of the day.


Yep 45 lb. is doable. In addition to trimming the weight of the camera kit, I've also cut the weight of my camping gear as well. I'm sure I could go even further in that direction, but some of the REALLY light camping gear can be VERY expensive. Also, over the years, I've learned what items I require for safety and comfort in the backcountry, and what things I can leave home. To date, my lightest pack weight was 44 lb. and that included a hard cover book that weighed about 1 1/4 lb. (wasn't out in paperback yet).

WRT your question about a 5-6 lb. "field" camera vs. a 7 - 8 lb. monorail. Yeah, the difference in weight is only a couple pounds, but again, based on my personal experience, I can get by with a lighter tripod and head with a 5 - 6 lb. camera than one weighing just 2 - 3 lb. more. Plus, there is the bulk factor that Gary mentioned. Although my Technikardan TK45S is called a "field" camera by Linhof (and I agree with them), and is probably the most compact, full featured, long bellows monorail, it is still a lot bulkier than a Tachihara, Wista, Shen Hao, etc. My Toho is also a monorail design, but it definitely qualifies as a "field" camera (as does the Gowland). The Toho takes up a lot less room in the pack than the Linhof (which is why the Toho goes backpacking and the Linhof is used for dayhikes and "road kills"). As I mentioned in a previous post, ALL LF cameras are compromises. The manufacturers do a good job of filling pretty much every niche in terms of weight, features and price. It's then up to us to choose the right camera (or cameras) to meet our individual needs.


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), February 12, 2002.

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