Choices, choices!!!. : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

MPP MKV11, MPP MKV111, Calumet Cadet, Arca Swiss. These are my choices with my budget, I am really stuck as to which would be best. I do landscape(up to 5 miles from car) and architecture internal & external, and the occasional studio type photo.I am not too bothered by weight or how quickly they are to set-up, however I am concerned with the packing/damage of monorails. Also, silly question but, when using a monorail with wide lens does'nt the rail get in the way?. Any answers would be appreciated, Lee.

-- Lee Pengelly (, March 15, 2002


Have you read "Using a monorail in the field" on the LF page ? Given your preferences, I see no reason not to get a monorail. If you pack it well, this will add to weight and set-up time, but your gear will be well protected. The only fragile part of a LF are the bellows. If the camera let you move both standards forward on the rail, the rail doesn't get on the way for wide angle shots.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, March 15, 2002.

Forgot to add that if you can afford an Arca, there is no reason to look at a lesser monorail like a Calumet.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, March 15, 2002.

Linhof Kardan M 45 is $1170.00 M.A.P. for a full featured, all metal camera. What is your budget?

It seems to encompass a very wide range.

-- Bob Salomon (, March 15, 2002.

All I can tell you is what I have done - and what works for me:

Started with a Linhoff monorail in the early '70s. Traded it in on a Sinar P. At the same time I purchased an 8X10 deardorff... The Sinar was great - made tons of money with the camera, hauled it everywhere, and did a lot of personal photography with it as well... The Deardorff was nice too but not really much faster for me to work with than the Sinar.

Sold both cameras in the eighties due to illness.

Got back into photogreaphy in the '90s using a 35mm Leica system. Great lenses - but what was interesting was that my Leica outfit (with a bunch of lenses - extra bodies etc...) weighed as much as my basic Sinar outfit.

Could never get used to the small 35 format - even though the lenses were incredible - my particular work called for better tonality = larger film.

Bought a Wisner 5X7 (leighweight). Beautiful camera, but did not have the stability and ease and precision of my old Sinar.

Sold that camera. Got on Ebay, bought a Sinar F2 4X5...I was now on the right track I felt. Sold the rear 4X5 part of the camera and found an old Sinar Norma rear 5X7 standerd. This bastardized camera is what I use today, complete with off the wall - but incredible Apo Nikkor lenses in barrel mounts. (These lenses were made for color separation work - cost a fortune in their heyday - upwards of $2500 each - now you can get them for a song on ebay...)

Enough rambling...

My best choice has been to buy the Sinar f2 - solid, precise and fast. Built like a tank. No vibrations!!! With the old 5X7 back and weird lenses it may look like an oddball...but it works like a champ...All in all my 5X7 Sinar body cost me less than $1500.00 to date...

-- Per Volquartz (, March 15, 2002.

I don't know what your situation is with lenses, but I would suggest that you don't spend so much on a camera that you have to sacrifice some lens-quality. I'm looking for gear right now, and I will probably spend 2-3x as much for a single lens as I will for a camera.

That said, I would probably pick the Arca-Swiss, although I don't know anything about the MPP MKs. I've read plenty of raves about Arca-Swiss cameras.

-- Matthew Runde (, March 15, 2002.

I would add to Bob's recommendation with the Linhof Bi Kardan. Even though it has been discontinued, in my opinion it is one of the finest "technical" monorail cameras ever produced. They can be secured in the used market for very reasonable prices and are interchangable between 4x5 and 5x7. Was told that they could also go up to 8x10, but my literature does not confirm that fact. With the bail back on the 5x7, it is a pleasure to set up and use and has more micrometer scales than one could ever utilize.

-- Michael Kadillak (, March 15, 2002.

I would echo Per's comment that the Sinar F2 is a very good, versatile camera. Traded up from an old Omega. I'm not familiar with e the MPP cameras but the Calumet Cadet and the Arca Swiss(and Sinar) are not really in the same league. Top answer your question about the rail getting in the way with wide angle lenses the answer is that it can. With very wide angle lenses you would want to be sure to push the front standard to the front of the rail to avoid this. Then of course the back end of the rail jabs you in the larynx when you go to focus. That is why I would recommend a versatile system camera such as the Arca Swiss or Sinar. When using a wide angle lens in the field you can use a short rail and avoid the problem.

-- Dave Schneider (, March 15, 2002.

I also use a Linhof Bi Kardan and I agree with Michael Kadillak- a beautiful camera that I really don't see rivaled much by current monorails. The system is absolutely rock solid, I've used it for a lot of architecture and studio stuff, as well as a lot of landscape, and I really have only a few minor gripes about the system. Because it is discontinued and the rail is of a non-current design, rail accessories like auxilliary standards or rail extensions may be hard to find and/or expensive. Also, a Polaroid sheet film back cannot be used properly in the horizontal orientation without a back extender, but those are relatively easy to find. I've never had much of a problem carrying a monorail around. The Bi Kardan is actually very easy to pack. Flip two levers and the standards slide sideways off the riders on the rail. Broken down like this, the camera is actually pretty easy to pack. A monorail really isn't a bad choice for landscape. True, your average monorail will weigh more than your average field camera, but what you lose in weight I feel you gain back in flexibility and rigidity. All praise aside, though, I should point out that as much as I love this camera, I do plan on changing to Arca Swiss sometime soon (assuming my budget allows) if for no other reason than just having system accessories more readily available. Let us know what you decide.

-- David Munson (, March 15, 2002.


I was in a situation similar to yours. My research led me to the Arca Swiss Discovery, which I think is the best camera for your application. Plus, it is upgradable and can use accessories from the entire Arca-Swiss line.

That being said, I could not find a used Discovery, so I bought a used Calumet 45NX (same as Cambo SC2) at a very good price. Although not perfect, I think it would be a better bet than the Cadet, and available used for close to the same price as the Cadet. This would give you the opportunity, as Matthew pointed out, to put more money into lenses. If you are interested in the Calumet, check out my review on Tuan's home page.

I don't think you can go wrong with the Discovery.

-- Dave Karp (, March 15, 2002.


Last year I was in a similar situation. I wanted to buy a LF camera and use it in the field. As I was new to this game I did not want to put too much money into it at first hand.

All experienced LF users advised me to get a field camera and not a monorail as these are a dog in the field (weight and bulky). A new camera was out of the question anyway, too expensive and I just wanted to taste "the sweetness of LF". Here where I live, used field camera's are not offered at all and I had second thoughts about the 'limited' movements compared to a monorail. As used monorails are frequently offered I bought one. I bought a Cambo SC2 (aka Calumet NX) I had several reasons why I choosed a the SC2: it is a very common monorail, I can be easily sold off again, when bought used they keep good value, price of a used one is very affordable (new also!), it good value for money, lots of add on's like viewinghoods and compendium are available (new and used) as the camera still is beeing made by Cambo.

Recently I bought a new camera and sold the Cambo without loosing a penny on it.

For short hikes up to a 4 to 5 miles I carried the camera mounted to the tripod over my shoulder. But I stripped the camera down as much as possible: removed the bellows, groundglass/spring back, lensboard with lens and stored it in my backpack, in fact I just had nothing more then a rail and two standards that I had to carry over my shoulder.

About your rail and wide-angle question: the solution is simple: move both standard to the front, so the rail is no longer in the field of view of the lens. The problem you run against now is that, if you have a long rail, is that it's hard to reach the groundglass as the back of the rail pokes into your chest.


-- Huib Smeets (, March 15, 2002.

Is that the old style Arca Swiss, before the Class F was released? If doing 4x5, I would say the Arca's the best choice whether old style or new style. If old style, does it also have the old style bag bellows?

Some (all?) of the old style Arca's don't have the international graphloc back, so one wouldn't be able to shoot 6x9 without the Calumet insertable 6x9 back. Check the back threads. The old style Arca received lauds. I've seen them, and they look like fine cameras. I have an older Classic F Arca, and I like it a lot.

There've also been some good deals on EBay for the old style Arcas.

-- neil poulsen (, March 15, 2002.

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