Do any of you non-pros shoot Large Format in addition to Leica?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by vic_., Oct 2, 2006.

  1. Do any of you non-pros do Large Format (specifically 4x5) photography? What would you recommend as a starter kit (used camera plus lens[es]), for field work? Weight is not an issue. I've read a lot, but have no clue on what's a good deal these days. Thanks. PS. I am not asking this on the LF forum as I would like to get opinions of those who use 35mm RF gear as well, and are not constrained to only LF.
  2. I shoot 4x5 in addition to medium format and 35mm. I've used three different 4x5 cameras, two field cameras and one monorail.

    Not sure what advice you're looking for that would come only from someone who also uses 35mm RF gear. As for a beginning kit, I would recommend a cheap used monorail (e.g., Cambo), with a 150mm lens. (This would correspond to a 50mm lens in the 35mm world - make sure the monorail is long enough for the lens.) With this you would be able to start learning LF technique.

    You might want to get a "roll-film adaptor", which would allow you to shoot 120 MF film at a 6x9cm format. You lose the advantages of the big negative, but while learning your mistakes are less expensive.
    I shot a lot of polaroid and roll film before moving on to real sheet film. If you're going to be shooting E6 transparencies, where getting the right exposure is crucial, then practising with rollfilm may save you money in the long run.

    After you learn LF technique, you may decide that your monorail is too heavy, you want a longer lens, etc., etc., etc. But at that point your decision would be based on experience, and not on a lot of input from strangers (like me) on the internet.

    Hope this helps...others will no doubt have other opinions....
  3. If you want lanscape and don't need big movements go for a cheap used Graphic (~$300
    with lens). The 135mm lens that can come with it usually isn't too bad and is a good place
    to start. Graphics are fiddly little beasts and if you want tactile Leica quality you will want
    to look for something better.

    A Toyo 45A is a good metal, mechanical 4x5 (~$800 used). It snaps with good precision
    and has a very solid Leica-like feel to it. It is heavy, about 7lbs with board)

    If you want beautiful. Ebony is the way to go. Wood and titanium and realtively solid. The
    SW45 is their cheapest camera ($1500 mew) but works very well with short lenses. Good

    For the most part, the commonly available Rodenstock, Nikon, Fuji, Schneider lenses are
    all pretty good. I recommend either 135 or 150mm to start as a general lens. Caltar
    lenses (rebadged Rodenstock) are usually cheaper. If you want State of the Art, the
    Schneider XL lenses are it but are rare on the used market and have a Leica-like price tag.

    I have owned all cameras in addition to my M6, M7 , R9/DMR. I did sell my 45A for the
    Ebony becasue of the weight issue, but if I wsere to do it over, I would have kept my 45A.
  4. I have an old Linhof III that I use occasionally, for the lens I would start with a 150 plasmat from Schneider/Rodenstock/Nikon, the older versions, single coated are dirt cheap these days and for B&W contrast is controlled in the darkroom.
    Recently I got me a Penatx 67 to do what 4x5 is too slow such as portrait work.

  5. Kodak used to make some pretty good large format lenses. For years I had a 100mm Wide Field Ektar and a 203mm f/7.7 Ektar. The Flash Supermatic shutters they were mounted in were accurate, but like a lot of shutters of that vintage had some odd-ball synch contacts and you might have trouble locating synch cords or a PC adapter. You might find a Graphic View II camera at a reasonable price. This has center tilt. The earlier Graphic View had base tilts.
  6. I answered this as a "non-pro" because for me large format was my hobby camera. Leicas and Haselblads put the bread on the table.
  7. I used to love my Cambo Legend 4x5. Start with the standard 135/150mm and build up from there. Next buy a WA, say 90mm, then a "portrait" lens (250/300mm). Try to get the bigger apertures for easier focusing.

    If I found a cheaply priced Linhof Technikarden 45SF I'd probably buy it.
  8. I use a Shen-Hao 4x5 wooden field camera. They sell new for $595. The movements on the Shen-Hao far exceed any of the lower end press cameras (although they are not hand holdable) Very well built and suprisingly well finished. Shen Hao is to Ebony as Cosina is to Leica.
  9. Zone IV 4x5. Mostly monochrome, but some color

    I find the best pictures are pretty close to my car with this 50 # rig. They are outstanding though.

    7 lenses from 90-300mm. Favorites are 110 XL and 180 MC Rodenstock of some kind.
  10. Yes, 4x5 and 8x10. Good advice above. Depending how you see, a 135mm, 150mm or 210mm is a good lens to start with 4x5. A 240mm, 300mm or 360mm for 8x10. If you want the classic German over-built engineering, find a nice used Linhof. There are plenty of good wooden field cameras on the market, both new and used. Ebony is the top of the line. Speed Graphics about as simple and inexpensive a place to start, but these have little to no movements if you need them since they were primarily press cameras. Cheaper alternatives such as Shen-Hao and Tachihara, and medium price such as Zone VI, Canham, Wisner, Deardorff will all do the trick. Toyo, Wista, Toho are also good names. Do take a look at Tuan's LF website:

    Call Midwest Photo ( in Columbus and ask for Jim who will steer you in the right direction. Check out Kerry Thalmann's large format website:
  11. Yep,

    I shoot with a Linhof Technikardan 45s and an Agfa Ansco 8x10, but next week my Phillips Compact II 8x10 will be delivered after a three-year wait !!!

    Obviously, shooting with the Leica takes virtually zero fore-thought or planning.

    The Large Format, takes a little more thought into what you want to point the camera at :)

  12. My lens collection include the same 110 Super Symmar XL that Ronald has (nearest to a 35mm in 135 format).

    My other favorites include a 305mm G-Claron (single coated), a 210mm Sironar-S (I love this lens). I usually take these three with me when the 'big' rig comes out.

    Other lenses are: 75mm Sinar-SW, 90mm Grandagon-N (the f4.5), 150mm Sironar-N and a 450mm Fujinon.

    If I wanted just a single lens I'd get a 135mm Rodenstock Sironar-S a very sweet lens ....
  13. I use a Shen-Hao with Rodenstock APO 210/5.6 and Rodenstock 135/5.6 MC.

    Happy with all of it.
  14. Nope, but I know one guy who has an M6 and Noctilux. His main camera is an 8X10 view camera he lugs around in the back of his Volvo A6 Wagon a la Ansel Adams. But he's a wild one!
  15. My LF use is mostly hobby related too. So I've always insisted on owning "entry" level LF gear only. My kit: a black Calumet 400, a 210 Caltar, and a 135 Rodenstock Sironar. Total cost around $1000.

    Far from being a field kit. But I've used it for exactly this purpose. I have a good soft back-pack that holds the camera,lenses,holders etc.

    My lenses aren't the highest MTF's etc. But when I do everything correctly, this set-up is extremely capable.
  16. I'm no pro and wanted to do LF, after reading Ansel Adams. I really burned one sheet but didn't get further. (the grease of my Rangemeter became sticky

    My 4x5" is a used Technika kit, 3 camed lenses 90mm Super Angulon, 150mm Symmar and 270mm Telearton (Focal length factor to 35mm is x3). 10 4x5" and 6 or more 9x12 holders, Super Rollex and Cambo slide in Roll holder. The Technika is among the greatest "I don't know what I want"-cameras. If you work out it's as handholdable as a Crown Graphic (read: heavier). It offers more movements but is kind of PITA if you want to go wide. Shifting the 90mm isn't rela fun and wider there is enough trouble to justify purchasing a monorail. OTOH the coupled Rangemeter and finders offer advantages. As a beginner I doubt being able to focus groups on the groundglass, before contemporary folks start running away or fall asleep but they should look better on a bigger neg. The rollholders make it a nice price MF portrait kit. - I know when or wherer I hate my T/SLRs...

    A monorail with bagbellows is nice for convenient WA work useing the groundglass. I have a Kardan Bi with only the 5x7" back, which holds the 90mm without any movements, a 120mm Super Angulon 240mm Symar and 355mm R Claron.

    Here in Germany used 5x7" gear is dirtcheap 'cause poor pros can't afford film anymore.

    If you want to focus on groundglass prepare for the very worst. My home lighting wasn't planned by a romantic female environmentalist, but at least I have trouble to see the corners of the GG behind Super Angulon without riging up a few extra 500W lights. For interiors they seem a must have. Carry a bag with old Super 8 movie lights, cable drum and common spare fuses, if you are visiting others. Longer glass is a bit brighter. Get some +3 reading glasses at the Supermarket if you 're 30+ although you re able to read a book corrected to infinity. I have some viewing /metering bellows for the 4x5" which has a fresnell screen. This thing seems worth fixing because 4x5" GG doesn't offer too much binocular viewing pleasure under a dark cloth. loupes for precission focusing seem a must have. Cheap linnentesters should get you started.

    Talking contemporary cameras the Arca Swiss Discovery kit is worth looking at. I'm also somehow impressed by cameras with geared operation of the Movements, like the Monolith M series, top model Cambos and so on, but convenience weighs and costs.

    I heared frequent warnings to keep my hands off Toyos, and the cheap Sinar series. Both were called a bit shaky. A disadvantage of Linhofs is their bellows aren't made for eternity. I'll have to get replacement for my 5x7 and maybe the Technika too. At the moment I hope to have patched them successfully.

    Carrying equipment seems to be the greatest challenge in LF. Huw Finney posted pics of his homemmade fibre glass backpackcase somewhere here. I have a conversion of my mail delivery bicycle to monorailcarrier on my todo-list. With the original tripod and holders this bugger weighs "forget about spare undies" according to airtravel rules. Prepare to become a proud wheelbarrow owner sooner or later. But this should enable you to use the most comfortable studio cameras in the field.

    The used gear I mentioned is partly at least as awkward to use as lets say a Retina II. My 90 and 270mms have old fashioned shutters without segment openers, not exactly intended for fast use with GG. The 90mm even needs a lockable cable release due to offering no T setting. Used Linhof stuff often comes without their cable release quickchange option, so a lens change takes time, although lensboards are quite easy to handle. If you are infected by Leica's fondling pleasure you might like to look at more modern shutters with bigger glove operatable levers. For GG focused portraits later modells with levers allowing you operation from the back of the camera seem to have advantages but are harder to carry into the field. I haven't tested the electronic stuff offered by Sinar; it might be comfortable but I have neither $$ nor faith.

    Metering: I own some attachment and 4x5", 5x7" holders for TTL metering in front of the GG, but might prefer ordinary handheld metering most of the time.

    Personally I can live with a basic lens kit, but I wouldn't suggest starting a new format with only one lens. LF is similar capable of holding WAs as RFs, so why should one give this option away? Isn't this combined with movements where the fun is? Get at least your favourite focal lengths aequivalents. Image circles seem to never be big enough if you are interested in architecture. I can't say anything about lens quality. Schneider claim to have improved theirs during the last 3 or 4 decades and even suggested I should replace all I own. I can't agree without actually having used that stuff yet.

    Buying locally seems cheaper than ebay to me but doesn't offer many choices.
  17. You can somtimes find a used Arca-Swiss Discovery, and that is a high quality "starter" camera. Otherwise, the Linhof Kardans are the best cost-to-quality value in my opinion. Well-engineered and if lightly used, very precise. Not light, though. A 150mm lens creates a rectangle the height of a 40mm and width of a 45mm lens on a Leica. It is an excellent starter lens, and a Schneider 150mm Symmar S is an excellent choice. Multicoated, and very sharp. If you like the precision mechanisms of Leica, fiddling with wooden folders may not be your cup of tea.
  18. Vick:

    I have used a Linhof Bi-Kardan 4x5 studio monorail - two of them actually & have since sold them but they are great cameras if not the most portable but can be if you knock them down for transport.

    Also have a Wisner 4x5 Technical Field that's an earlier serial number & very well made

    I'm also in the middle of restoring two older cameras - one a Szabad 4x5 & the other a late 1800's wet plate studio camera.

    If cost is no object I suggest a Linhof Master Technika or an Ebony as they would be the closest in terms of Leica fit & finish.

    There's also the Gandolfi line to consider - old school - great reputation - one of the oldest makers.

    Next level I suggest either a Wisner or Zone VI (many were made by Wisner).

    There are also lightweight versions by K.B. Canham & others that are well worth considering.

    After all the rambling - you asked what would be best to use as a starter kit - my feeling is buy a good camera that can easily be resold if unhappy but to consider the higher ups to avoid a constant buy/sell cycle.
  19. I only shoot 35mm nowadays, but have shot MF and LF in the past. The main thing keeping me from shooting LF these days is that I don't have, or have access to, an enlarger to take 4x5. I have three enlargers which cover 35mm to 6x6 (or 6x7 in one case), but I'm not about to buy another one to get me up to 4x5. I used to have access to big huge Omega's, but no longer. :(
  20. Thank you all very much for this wealth of information! It is a lot to absorb; it's going to take a while.
    I've read Tuan's website; the LF pages; many others, and there's a lot of good advice out there. However, it's great to read your personal experiences in real time.
    What brought about my question is that a friend has offered me a LF kit with lenses (47mm and 90mm), as he wants to move to another brand with a lighter weight. Thanks again for all your advice and your stories. There's enough to live vicariously through them!
  21. Yes I shoot LF (and MF) in addition to Leica M. I took up LF 2 years ago and my starter kit was:

    Linhof Technika V which came with 4x5 holders, 6x12 and 6x9 backs plus Schneider 150 lens. Since then I've added 90mm and 210mm lenses - it gives me enormous pleasure.

    I was keen on a Linhof because of the great German engineering and build quality (an LF Leica!) and after much research I decided upon a field camera with a good range of lens standard and film back movements. The kit I bought was being sacrificed by a pro looking to fund a silly digi darkroom only to ultimately realise that all the software and digi stuff could not replicate a great 4x5 trannie.

    So, there is no best option - start by reading material on LF photography to get a good understanding 0f features and benefits. Then select a field or studio camera / wood or metal; narrow down the offerings by features you "must" have and eventually you'll end up with a make and model that will make you happy. The "open" lens market will give you much joy for surprisingly little money.

    Above all, before you buy, arrange to borrow or rent something similar to what you are looking for and be sure you enjoy the experience of contemplative photography. I did and it was an enormously compelling experience.
  22. 47mm sounds extremely wide to me. If it covers 4x5" it might be pricy and still not handholdable because this coverage is only delivered at f22. If you never liked 15 to 28mm lenses on RFs, you might be happier with another kit than that.

    Find out if you can add other lenses to that camera. Or just get a Technika too.
  23. I think a 4x5 Super Graphic has basically replaced my Leica.
    I still carry the Leica everywhere, however.

    I have a 135 Planar mounted on my Super (Thanks LF guys!)

    It works just like a big honking Leica, I'm think of getting
    a CV hotshoe meter for it.

    I'm finding I can get closer with it, probably because discretion
    isn't really an option, so I just relax and that helps comfort the folks I snap.

  24. I've also lost 7pounds lugging this and film holders around LOL
  25. Yes; an Ebony RW45 -- worth every penny (about the same price as a used M6); if you shoot with Leicas, you will understand -- and two lenses, 135 and 180. I also use a light weight carbon fiber tripod and ball head that I originaly bought for use with the Leicas, but this combination is more than strong enough for the lightweight Ebony (about 1.9kg). This model Ebony has relatviely limited movements and a relatively limited range of lenses it can use, say 65mm - 300mm.

    This set up suits my needs, but this is also not the first 4x5 set-up I have used. The first one was a monorail, with 90 (too wide for a main lens) and a 210 (too long for a main lens), a monster wooden tripod and heavy tripod head. Monorail cameras have more movements but I learned I do not need most movements other than tilt and rise, and occasionally some swing. It depends on what you shoot, of course, but unless you are going to do table top stuff most likely you will not need the extensive movements that a monorail can provide. One of the most important lessons I learned from my first 4x5 set up was that heavy bulky cameras stay in the closet where they do not take pictures. Think about the Leica: it is not a do everything camera, like a modern SLR. But it is superb at what it does. Approach your large format camera the same way: what will you do with it?
  26. 47mm sounds extremely wide to me.
    The gear that my friend is offering is a Linhof Technikardan (I think it is a 45s), a 47mm XL Schneider, and a 90mm Rodenstock Grandagon-N. It sounds like top end gear. Right now it's still Greek to me, but I'm getting the hang of it.
    A monorail doesn't sound like a fun camera in the field. Most of the above writers use a wooden field camera. Oh well, back to the research.
  27. Vic:

    Sounds like it's not 4x5 (inch) but rather 6x9 (cm) - most of the Linhofs are referred to as 6x7, 6x9, 9x12 (4"x5"), 13x18 & so on.

    For it to use a 47mm lens I believe it to be similar to this Linhof:
  28. Vic, Lee,

    The Linhof Technikardan comes in two verions, one is 6x9, but the 45s is definitely a 4x5 (I have one).

    The 90mm lens is huge, but it's a fast 90mm and an excellent lens. The 47 will be wide and if its an XL also very good.

    The 45s is a 'field' monorail. You have to un-ravel it and then it acts like a monorail. I love this camera and think you should seriously consider it.

    I started with a Sinar F2, then went to a 4x5 Wisner and traded the Wisner for the 45s.
  30. Ron:

    Thanks for the info - I should have been clued in with the 'Kardan suffix.


    Not the place to be doing it but I do have some Linhof boards - one new & undrilled & also a mint 6x7 Super Rollex that was serviced by Marflex & has not been used since.


    I have the 90 f/5.6 Linhof Schneider & yes it's a big lens ...
  31. I guess what I'm trying to say is:

    If you like using a Leica, you'll probably find a Press Camera like a Graphic (whatever flavor) or Technika eerily familiar and comforting.

    Some, like the Super and Technika, have adequate movements for most needs.
  32. Bart, that's a really nice picture.
  33. Jim, Thank you!
  34. don't instant color films fade in about a year?
  35. Give me a day or two to dig out that old Fujiroid and I'll check for fading.
  36. Hmm, The Fujiroid still looks ok.
    It was stored in the dark at room temp, btw.

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