Advice on LF cameras

Discussion in 'Talk About Large Format Gear' started by Dom Palubiski, Jul 6, 2018.

  1. Dom Palubiski

    Dom Palubiski New Member Registered User

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    Hello,

    I realize this has probably already been asked somewhere here but anyhow...

    I currently have an Intrepid 4x5 and I love the thing. It's so lightweight and great to carry around, BUT I'm starting to want to use a wider range of lenses (its limited to ~90-300, a fair range but limited movements on both ends) and definitely wanting to start using some rear movements (of which the Intrepid has none). I've looked online but with so many different cameras and variations, and no easy "best 35 mm cameras to get" equivalent really, I am just drowning in information between cameras.

    Any recommendations from cameras used by all of you out here? I'd like something relatively lightweight but my aim is to have the intrepid on my back and this camera for journeys with a car so not essential. More important for me is the flexibility of movements both front and back.

    I've looked at the Horseman 4x5 and the Acra swiss monorail cameras but again, not sure of real-world reviews of them at all.

    Thank you in advance,
    Dom
     
  2. Ian-Barber

    Ian-Barber Admin Staff Member Registered User

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    I use the Chamonix 045N and although it has some back movements, I have never really used them. What kind of subjects are you making photographs of which you are finding back movements would be a bonus.
     
  3. Dom Palubiski

    Dom Palubiski New Member Registered User

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    While I have yet to use them yet (so not entirely sure), I quite like the idea of being able to point the camera down and keeping the back perpendicular to the ground, as well as having swing and tilt in the rear to make it easier to keep the film within the image circle of the lens. Think that is a valid reason? I'm not sure if these things don't matter too much in the real world as I only really have read about them.
     
  4. Ian-Barber

    Ian-Barber Admin Staff Member Registered User

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    From my experience, it depends of the kind os subjects you like to make photographs of. Close up to the wall of a building for example could benefit from rear swing if if want to extend the focus from near to far. If pointing the camera down, then keeping the rear vertical will keep verticals as they should be in the image.
     
  5. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    If you are happy to carry a monorail around, almost any model will more than satisfy your need for movements, but there are disadvantages of weight and bulk, as you note. .
    There used to be disadvantages of cost too, but monorails seem to be depreciating on the second-hand market. You will almost certainly need a more robust tripod. I haven't read any adverse reviews of either Horseman or Arca-Swiss, but you may have researched more deeply.
    Meanwhile, there are recessed and top-hat lensboards, which might extend your range a little.
    The 10x8 Intrepid with the reducing back would give you 600mm of extension and somerear tilt, but not swing. Not an ideal solution, unless you were thinking of expanding into 10x8 in the long run.
    The Walker SF is extremely robust and built like a lathe. It has all movements except rear rise. (I've never used or needed rear rise.) You will have to search the second-hand market since production has ended. 430mm max extension and shortest 65 mm, both with flat lensboards. There's a bag bellows. You can get a bit more length by tilting the front standard. It isn't super-light but it isn't onerously heavy. Some people are prejudiced against what they call "plastic". Presumably they coat their emulsion onto satinwood veneer and develop in golden trays.
    Ebony are out of production too, but they have a very high reputation for finish and quality, Some Ebony models have fixed backs like the Intrepid, so you'd need to read the specifications. We have at least one member who uses Ebony.
    Ian looked at a Zone VI camera recently and they are decently-made and robust with plenty of extension and a wide-angle bellows available if you can find it, but have only swing and tilt at the rear, not cross and rise.
    Nagaoka and the Horseman Woodman are lightweight models with some rear swing and tilt. Some people consider them to be fragile. It depends on how tough you want to be with precision equipment. Both out of production.
    I've never handled a Chamonix but they are well-reviewed and Ian would be able to tell you more.
    The MPP has some rear movement, swing and tilt, operated by sliding rods. Best to see this before you buy. John Blakemore uses an MPP so very fine work is possible. Oodles of extension on the one I had, but there are different models.
    Sinar once made a lightweight monorail, using the standards from the F, with a much simpler rail. It was called the Wolf in this country but given other names (Alpina?) elsewhere. It came in its own case and accepted Sinar bag bellows and most other accessories. Full movements front and rear.
    I like having rear swing available too, but it can be fudged by rotating the whole camera off-target, then restoring the framing with cross front and finally applying some front swing. Similarly for rear tilt. Clumsy I know, but the photons are moving too fast to notice which standard is which. I don't think they're bothered anyway.
     
  6. Dom Palubiski

    Dom Palubiski New Member Registered User

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    Wow, thank you for all the information! Looks like there are lots to look through there. Ill see how much they all are and what I can find online. Ideally id like a monorail for the complete freedom but as you said, how heavy will it be... Id wants to try and combine it either with my carry on or a single piece of check-in luggage if I ever fly but then again no one gets into large format to save space and weight.
     
  7. alexmuir

    alexmuir Member Registered User

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    I use a Horseman monorail. To gain a full range of movements, you really need to look at monorail cameras. The Horseman is well made and can use the lens panels and bellows from Sinar. Using it out and about, however, is not that easy. I tried travelling about with it in the car, which is pretty easy, but you have to assemble and disassemble regularly. I tried to find a way of carrying the assembled camera safely, but failed. It is quite vulnerable to damage when assembled, but not on a tripod. You could pick up a used monorail quite cheaply at present, perhaps to learn the movements, but the advice above to consider your subject matter and picture making situations first is sound. I am thinking that I would use 4x5 far more often if the camera was smaller, lighter and quick to set up.
    Alex


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
     
  8. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    The Linhof TechniKardan is a folding monorail camera. As it's Linhof it will be beautifully made, but. I've never used one so I can say no more.
    I forgot to mention that there are telephoto lenses, like the Fujinon T 400, that can be used with less than 300mm of draw. You may be looking for greater length. There are some disadvantages to LF telephoto lenses that you might like to explore. Other members will be able to explain in greater detail.
     
  9. Dom Palubiski

    Dom Palubiski New Member Registered User

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    That's good to hear about the Horseman, I really liked the look of it but not so sure anymore.

    I have seen the tele lenses before and while some can be used I am a bit wary of using tilt and shift and such on off-axis lenses such as them (and recess/extension boards) on the Intrepid with its very simple movement system.
     
  10. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    In practice, it's not that much trouble. You make the tilts as usual, but because the tilt is not on the optimum axis, the image moves. Then you adjust the rise/fall to put things back where they belong. It's really no harder than using base tilt. I assume that the effect on swing is much the same, but I've never done it. All this is easier if you have separate locks for rise and tilt but it's not a killer problem. After any kind of fiddling, it's sensible to check focus.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
  11. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    It's rare you'd want rto use movements with a Telephoto and in practice they don't focus that close either. Most LF cameras are double extension that's typically 300mm/12" of bellows extension, a few Technical cameras are Triple extension 450mm/18" extesnion, MPP MicroTechnical and Linhof Technika cameras are two examples, they have sufficient bellows extension to use a normal 300mm at closer distance. Monorail cameras can have far greater bellows extension but at the price of being cumbersome and heavier, also less portable and quick to use.

    Ian
     
  12. Dom Palubiski

    Dom Palubiski New Member Registered User

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    For sure. I think I am just lazy and don't want to have to deal with that, much like how backswing can be corrected with front swing and shift.
     
  13. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    It's customary on forums to ask what sort of subjects you are contemplating, in order to refine the advice. I know that Ian B has mentioned this already.
    It's possible that you may share my own weaknesses and would like to have a full set of everything.
    Don't knock laziness. Laziness is a modest virtue. The wheel must have been invented by a man who couldn't be bothered to shove great lumpy henges uphill and over rough ground.* We might suggest the same about photography, except that WHFT was one of those prodigiously energetic polymath Victorians that we don't see any more.

    * Well, perhaps Stonehenge Man wasn't the one (and perhaps he used rollers), but the original First Wheelwright's name is lost in the mists of pre-history. Surely, someone on this forum is better informed.
     
  14. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member Registered User

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    I think David M has provided a LOT of sound advice. You don't mention what range of lenses you'd like to accommodate or perspective subject matter (as others have pointed out), but IMO for anything 75mm and shorter or longer than about 360mm (unless telephoto design lens) you'll need a monorail. There are folding wood cameras that can handle fairly long lenses and offer bellows interchangeability for handling short lenses, but, in my experience, these cameras are not so solid at their longer extensions. There are many monorails to choose from, but much of the decision will come down to what you're willing to pay. And, some monorails, like the old Calumet's with the curtain rod rail are not particularly stable IMO, and are heavy.

    I use an Arca-Swiss F-Line camera that is lightweight (at least, for a camera offering its capabilities) that offers an ingenious 30cm telescoping rail which allows you to roll back both standards onto one 15cm rail, and then remove that from the 30cm piece. It's all very quick to setup and/or take down and it allows for very compact storage; say, in a backpack. I have both the the Universal bellows and a long (50cm, I think) bellows that enables me to easily shoot with all my lenses from 75mm to 480mm.

    One thing that you may wish to think about is that on the long side (with 5x4) I find that I don't find much subject matter requiring anything beyond about 300mm. I've used my 480mm on occasion, but that's rare. Therefore, if 300mm is your upper end you could use many available cameras. For example, the Chamonix 45N-2 offers 395mm of bellows extension making a 300mm (even a 360mm) quite usable. I'm speaking non-telephoto here.

    Good luck with your search.
     
  15. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    Apart from a reference by Ian G, we haven't thought about close focus. That needs longer bellows, too.
     
  16. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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  17. Dom Palubiski

    Dom Palubiski New Member Registered User

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    Wow! When did that get announced. I only got mine a short while ago, I should have waited.

    So the reason I've skirted subject matter and bit is because I'm not entirely sure yet what I like to shoot. I am leaning towards landscapes but also like a bit of architectural photography as well. Portraits on smaller formats are not really my thing by the added movements of large format is making me rethink that a bit (but doubt I'll be doing much of that).

    For lens lengths I currently have a 90 mm, 150 mm, and 300 mm lenses (but the first and last I literally just bought and have yet to use them). While I'd like to try with something wider they are expensive and I am quite wanting to explore a bit of compression instead (hence the 300 mm). After Alan's comment about rarley using over 300 maybe I will see how that goes before being determined with longer lenses.

    I mist admit after the Chamonix mentioned above I took a look and was very impressed in it. And the arca Swiss looked good from the start, glad to hear someone likes using it alot.

    Thank you everyone for all this information.

    P.S. macro work really doesn't Interest me very much.
     
  18. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    If I may pass on some conventional advice, it seems sensible to gain a little experience with what looks like an excellent kit already.
    Many people extrapolate from their use of previous formats (50mm = 150mm, and so on) but find that LF changes their preferences. This may be because of the different proportion of the frame, which make direct comparison unreliable; it may be that the camera somehow frees up some part of the mind and allows it to contemplate different subjects and different ways of treating them. The slowing down makes a difference to most people and the constant companionship of a three-legged friend* is a huge change for everyone.
    One thing I have found it that with a smaller, more agile camera, I feel compelled to take a shot, just in case, but I can walk away from a large format shot with a clear conscience. This isn't simply due to the limited number of dark slides, I think it's change in attitude.
    As my own shelves attest, buying another lens because you quite fancy it, without having some idea of its future use, will force you into IKEA's rotating maw in pursuit of Billy.

    In principle, I heartily endorse Intrepid's policy of continuous improvement, but Grrrr! I've just bought the 10x8.

    If you like the Chamonix, and have the funds, why not? A brief review here, perhaps. I'm tempted too. But not yet.

    *Friend? Yes indeed. I once used a heavier tripod and before I discovered pipe insulation, it gave me unmistakeable hints in the shoulder, telling me that it was time to stop, put it down and look around. Like Charis Weston,** it was right surprisingly often.

    **I'm afraid you must search the Daybooks for this reference. Charis drove while Edward dozed.
     
  19. Ian-Barber

    Ian-Barber Admin Staff Member Registered User

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    The only 4x5 camera I have owned is the Chamonix 045N-2. Its a really nice camera but I sometimes wonder having the focus knob in the centre just underneath the rear standard is a good idea. The more I look at the traditional rack an pinion design where your arms are out side the dark cloth to focus just seems a little more natural but I may be wrong.
     
  20. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member Registered User

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    I'm sure that one day Intrepid will announce a 10x8 MkII that will be "better" than what you have now. But, the way I view these things is that my current Intrepid 10x8 is already better than what Morley Baer used in his later years; heavy camera, taped bellows for light leaks, rubber bands warped around the body to hold it closed, etc. Not that there's anything wrong with that! ;) He made BEAUTIFUL images!! I guess what I'm saying is that we all should suppress GAS and get on with making images. If you've used up a camera, then you're heading in the right direction... ;)
     

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