Upgrade from Bender

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I am looking to take the next step from the Bender 4x5 that I assembled about a year ago. The Bender was fun to build, works fine within its limitations, and has taught me more about LF than I could have ever learned from a book. But it's rather clunky and crude, and now that I understand LF better, its limitations are quite obvious. So I'm looking to spend under $1000 on another monorail that is more sturdy and precise. I particularly want zero-position referencing and adjustment calibrations. I'm willing to buy new but am also interested in near-new (eBay or Keh). I'm thinking the Calumet 45NX would meet my needs. I mostly do landscapes and architectural details not far from the car. I'm strictly an advanced amateur with lots of experience in 35mm and MF. Any advice?

-- Tom Raymondson (rayson@sbcglobal.net), April 14, 2002


Used Sinar F2

-- Kevin Kolosky (kjkolosky@kjkolosky.com), April 14, 2002.

The Calumets are nice. The NX was their standard for many years. They also have the Cadet now. I am not sure if it has zero dents. The Toyo cameras are also very nice. They were also sold under the Omega name. Those cameras have very nice fine-geared focusing on both standards. Crude focus is still sliding, but precise focus is geared. I assume they have detents, but someone else would have to answer that for sure. Actually, there should be a large number of options for a monorail under $1000--I would say even under $500.

-- Chris (bwdesert@yahoo.com), April 14, 2002.

If you are thinking of a used camera try Midwest Photo Exchange in Columbus, Ohio. They usually have a good selection of cameras that will meet your needs and great service to boot. I have bought from them many times over the years; if you can pay them a visit the place is quite a candy store for photographers.

-- Jeffrey Scott (jscott@datavoice.net), April 14, 2002.

Sinar F2 or perhaps you can assemble a camera from Sinar F parts and Sinar Norma parts (find the stuff on Ebay). The Sinar Norma is an extremely well built camera. Both cameras can be upgraded to P series for studio use and can be used with practically every Sinar part ever made.

-- Per Volquartz (volquartz@volquartz.com), April 14, 2002.

i love my 45NX, and i dont think i will ever change cameras - after 20 years with this thing, it is like my left arm or something - it is my best friend, i know it intimately, it does everything i need to do as an architectural photographer. i agree, midwest camera is a great place to do business with - those guys are very friendly and knowledgeable. i also like jon at the F-stops here.

-- jnorman (jnorman34@attbi.com), April 14, 2002.

Like you I started with a Bender, and had the same feelings about it after a couple of years. I bought a Sinar F-1, and later a Wista SP. I recommend that you buy a monorail that has a depth of field calculator. The Wista is much easier to transport than the Sinar, but I sure miss the DOF calculator when not using the Sinar. You can try to check the groundglass with a loupe or use polaroids, but the Sinar calculator makes it quick and easy and I have never had any out of focus suprises when using it.

-- David Rose (DERose1@msn.com), April 15, 2002.

There are dozens of good used monorails out there at this time. For the dollar- for dollar, ounce-for-ounce value, look for a Toyo-Omega with rotating back and geared movements. The detents are there. Spend more, and get an Arca Swiss. I also reccomend Midwest for good used equipment at reasonable prices. Website is Mpex.com, or call 614-261- 1264 and ask for Jim. He is in Japan until 4/24, so talk to Tom, if you call before the 24th. I don't work there. I'm just a satisfied customer.

-- Eugene (TIAGEM@aol.com), April 15, 2002.

Tom, a P.S. to my post-- Stay away from E-bay. Prices at KEH are slightly above the market, on the average. Also, check with Quality Camera in Atlanta, GA. Check through the latest issue of View Camera magazine. All of the dealers that advertise there are reliable and knowlegable. Let us know how you made out.

-- Eugene (TIAGEM@aol.com), April 15, 2002.

I was recently in your situation, and the Calumet 45NX looked like it would fill the bill. However, I decided to raise my price range a little, ending up with a Linhof Kardan E (AKA M), currently underpriced at B&H for $1104. If I wanted new under $1K, I would go with either the 45N or the 45NX.

-- Christopher Condit (cxc@pacbell.net), April 15, 2002.


I have a 45NX and am very happy with it. Prices have come down on used cameras, and you can find a used 45NX in the $300-$400 range. It is perfectly suited for your needs, short hikes and architecture. Accessories, both new and used, are less expensive for the Cambo/Calumet cameras than for Arca Swiss or Sinar. If you want to spend more for a new camera, the Arca Swiss Discovery is very nice.

Originally, I intended to buy a Discovery, but found a nice deal on a used 45NX. I bought it and am happy with it. I wrote a detailed review of the 45NX for the Large Format Home Page. It might be worth checking out. My recommendation is to buy a 45NX instead of the 45N. You get some nice features with the more expensive camera, particularly the revolving back. If you buy a used 45NX, you can put more money into your lenses, which is really where it is at.

I have also bought from Midwest Photo Exchange, and they are very good. Ask for Jim. If you live near a Calumet store, check them out. Sometimes they have good deals on used 45NXs. I have not bought from Badger Graphics, but they have an excellent reputation, as does the F Stops Here.

Best of luck.

-- Dave Karp (davekarp@ix.netcom.com), April 15, 2002.

I also recommend the 45NX for its features. I got one after I built my Bender (which I still use), but it's a bit heavy and bulky for my liking for field work. That said, one of the other participants in this forum wrote an extensive thread on how he packs his 45NX in a self-padded backpack for field use.


-- Tony Karnezis (karnezis@aecom.yu.edu), April 18, 2002.

I appreciate all the good advice. I was pretty much set on the Calumet but then found what seems to be a good deal on a Sinar which I should have in a few days. Do I really have to display all of my LF photos upside-down? (just kidding).

-- Tom Raymondson (rayson@sbcglobal.net), April 21, 2002.

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