beginning in large format, help needed

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by andrew_felger, May 15, 2003.

  1. hello, i just joined this forum and am a young and new large format
    photographer. i am attracted to the idea of walking, finding a
    scene, taking a long time to set it up and taking a quality foto.
    for a long time i was a 35mm photographer, and in the search for a
    new 35mm AF techycamera i realized all that stuff isnt for me.

    I do not yet have a camera and have been searching for a good used
    field camera, but dont really know where to start. my interests are
    mainly landscape, nature, and macro photography. i want a
    portable "backpacking" style camera to take into the field on
    extended trips with me. cost is an issue and a maximum of $2000
    dollars is a limit for camera, backs, lenses, the whole deal.

    if anyone has any tips or suggestions on cameras and lenses
    (especially in the macro area [is macro possible in large format??]),
    i would be exceptionally grateful. i am open to 4x5 to 8x10 size,
    depending on suggestions of more experienced users. i would like to
    blow up all my photos, but cost, weight, size, portability, etc. are
    all issues in addition to quality of prints.

    if anyone has any suggestions of meters, i have never used one.

    if anyone knows any good books or websites other than this one,
    please let me know.

    mainly i am looking to acquire a camera and acecssories before
    returning to asia in two months for a job, so that is my priority. i
    have checked ebay and numerous other sites on the web, but have no
    way of telling if the cameras i see are what i want.

    thanks for you help.

    andrew felger
  2. Try this resource:
  3. I've recently made the move to a 4x5 field camera. I was able to find most of the
    information I needed in a couple of places. This is one of them.

    At the bottom of the current posts you will see older posts sorted by topic. This is a
    great source of information. The other great place is http:// There is a great 'round-up' of used cameras that
    should get you started or at least narrow your options. There was also a good article
    a few months ago in the magazine 'view camera' that did mini-reviews of a number of
    cameras under $1000. If you are near a library that carries that magazine I would
    recommend looking at it.

    Yes you can do macro with a large format camera. If you want to have a 1:1
    reproduction ratio ( 2 inch tall flower is 2 inches on the film then the bellows
    extension will have to be 2 times the focal lenfth of the lens so think about getting a
    shorter focal lenght like 135.

    If you want to walk around with the camera you probably want to stay with 4x5. Any
    bigger and the load starts to get punishing.

    A good introductory book is "using the view camera" by Steve Simmons. It covers the
    main topics without making your head explode trying to figure out how to focus the

    This is where I ended up after some research:

    1. Shen Hoa (the one with the back movements)
    2. Polaroid 545 film holder
    3. rodenstock sironar s 135mm
    4 Caltar II-N 210mm
    5 6 film holders
    6 dark cloth
    7 focusing loupe
    8 big heavy tripod
    9 sekonic 508 light meter (you may be able to use your 35mm as a meter to start)
    10 domke f804 super satchel as a camer bag

    I bought the camera and first lens new from badger graphics because I wanted to talk
    to a real person to whom I could retrun the stuff if it was not as advertised. With you
    tight time line and limited experience you may want to consider this as well.

    Take a look at the Shen Hoa, the tachihara and the toyo 45cf.

    You may also want to try and rent a camera for a couple of days and make sure this is
    what you want to do.

    good luck

    Andrew, the above site is a good starting point to search for answers to beginners questions. Also look through the archives here on the large format forum.

    One good book on large format photography is: "Using the View Camera" by Steve Simmons.

    You should be able to outfit yourself with a good 4X5 camera, lens or two and necessary gear within your budget, but take the time to do some reading about large format photography to get an idea of what will best suit your needs before spending your money.

    To answer your question about macro with large format, Yes accomplished through bellows extension.

    There are many good meters to pick from. Mine is a Pentax 1 degree digital spotmeter.

    Good luck,

  5. Hi Andrew, <p>
    In my experience LF (and cameras in general) either take time or money. Buying my gear didn't take much money but it took a lot of time. In the end I got a Burke and James Press Cam.. probably from the 50's or 60's for $135. Later on I got some cheap film holders, later on still I got a good deal on another lens and later on when I had less time and more money I bought a brand new light meter which was more than the rest of my gear combined.. Go figure.. <p>
    Moral of the story buying things online is slow but it is possible to get a good deal. <p> Buying from the right store will save you lots of time, get you some advice and out using the equipment instead of endlessly surfing the 'net. <p>
    The time and money is yours. It's up to you how you spend either :)<p>
    Best of luck!
  6. Another vote for knowledge first. You might consider attending a large format workshop. Either rent a view camera and one lens or--probably better--just go and learn. Everyone at workshops is eager to talk about equipment and techniques. Watch different paople at work. The money you spend for a good workshop will be repaid many times when you buy and use your own equipment.
  7. Howdy Andrew,

    I also bought a Shen Hao from Badger ($625). I would buy a good lens (new Fujinon 125mm is a great value and all around useful length @ $600) from Midwest Photo Exchange. Both excellent deals and good quality, but....

    Knowing what I do now, to begin with, I would find a decent Crown Graphic with 135mm or 127mm lens (ebay for $200-300 for a very good one is the going rate). These are excellent cameras, are very portable, durable, efficient and worthy of your consideration. True, they don't have all the movements, but you will get picture quality far above any 35mm or medium format with the older lenses if you are careful. If you really find that you enjoy 4x5, sell it for no loss (or keep a true part of photographic history) and then buy what you can afford in a view camera and lenses.

    The 545 Polaroid back will work well with Quickloads, Readyloads and various Polaroid films. A simple hand held meter and a gray card will start you out (cheap).

    Film holders need to be looked at carefully, but the newer the better is my motto at this point.
    Start with simple black & white (less $, Tri-x, FP4) to get a feel for the basic controls, metering, focus, and setup. You will find it a bit more thoughtful than a 35mm automatic.

    Best of luck to you Andrew.

    P.S. Email me direct if you have specific questions and I will be glad to help if I can.
  8. I concur with getting a Crown Graphic. They're cheap, easy to set up and use, and portable enough to leave in the car. You can learn enough to find if you like large format and keep it or trade it in for something else. I think I've seen them on ebay recently for $200 to $400 price range depending on what comes with it - some packages include film holders. Good luck!
  9. Andrew, Kevin above more or less pegged my answer. You also might
    consider a used Wista, or a Toya AX which would be my pick for it's Graphic
    style and rear movements. The Crowns are nice but no rear movements and
    for what they go for at dealers you can get a new Shen Hao or Tachihara for
    not much more which have the back moves. If you bid online for a Crown
    expect to have to dog the computer although everyone has noted the price
    range which is reasonable. I'd pick the Fuji 125mm lens over the 135 but
    many have kits with the 135 and 210. Lens weight and filter size is a
    consideration for many hikers. The one thing that I appreciate is a light tripod,
    so if you can spend big there the carbon fibers make the drudgery of carrying
    a tripod all the better. And don't buy a darkcloth. A dark t-shirt is fine if you
    even need one.
  11. Andrew:
    I recently assembled my first LF outfit.

    After purchasing a Mamiya MF system in 2002, I found myself with $1250 in cash rebates from Mamiya America. When the Toyo 45CF became available in the 4th qtr, I ordered the following kit:

    Toyo 45CF field camera (new from Calumet $500).
    Caltar II-N 210 5.6 (used ex+ from KEH $450).
    Toyo focusing loupe (new from B&H $30).
    40x40 black rayon (new from local fabric store $10).
    40" cable release (new from Calumet $20).
    Pelican 1550 case (new from Calumet $100).

    I already had the following items:
    Minolta IVF meter (new approx $200).
    Robic stopwatch (new approx $$20).
    Bogen 3221W w/ballhead & QR (new approx $200)

    I am a LF novice. The 45CF is very easy to set up and operate. All movements (rise/fall/tilt/swing/shift) are on the front standard. It is very lightweight and compact, particularly when matched with the Rodenstock Geronar (or Caltar II-E) lenses.

    So far, I have shot mostly landscapes but have also used it indoors with studio strobes to shoot small products in simple tabletop sets.

    I plan to add 90mm lens and pan/tilt head when budget allows.

    Best regards.

    Mark LaCour
  12. Some things others have not mentioned: Macro work requires macro lenses, specifically formulated to work at close distances. Metering becomes problematic unless you learn to meter right off the ground glass. You’ll waste some film learning this technique and it is going to be specific to your ground glass but it saves mammoth headaches in calculation later. Macro work also requires a long bellows. Figure that into your purchase.

    That said, LF is pretty simple stuff. Give up convenience and prestige and you can get by with well under $2k, for EVERYTHING! Oh yes, don’t go cheap on the tripod. It will mean more to you than you can know at first.

    Read. Read volumes. 20 hours reading could save you $1k. That is a pretty good return. This forum is a darn good place to start. Best of luck.
  13. Definately rtead a LOT about LF. Find out all you can. I'm in high school, and just moved up to my first LF camera, an 8x10 monorail. First of all, if you want to do macro, I'd avise you to stay away from field cameras, you want something with a lot of bellows and probably interchangeable bellows, too. 4x5 sounds nice, it's nice and small, but you'd need an enlarger also. You could easily do this for $2000 but that's a lot more than I had to spend. I got the camera, case, backs, and two boxes of film for $600. It's a Calumet 810N, a great camera, and can be packed into a hiking pack. Another $150 got me an unshuttered Wollensak 21 1/4" Apochromatic Raptar, lensboard, and a Lisco film holder. I contact print everything. If I was planning on doing more hiking I might have gotten a 4x5 and enlarger has I the money, but I'm very happy with my purchase. If I need to shoot 4x5, I have a reducing board and film holders (donated to my school, they didn't need them) and all I need is a 4x5 back (and lens). Sometime I'll think about an 8x10 enlarger. Then, if I want to get a 4x5 camera in the future, I'm set.

    If sizer and weight are a big factor, I'd suggest to go with a small 4x5 field camera, do the best you can with macro, and get a really good lens. Get new film holders. Go with a Schneider, Rodenstock, or Nikkor. I use an older lens, but If you're planning to do large enlargements, I wouldn't recommend it.

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