Plaubel - opininon, please

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by miha, Feb 13, 2014.

  1. Hi, friends,
    After many years of photography I am searching for new challenges, e.g. portraits. Some of my dilemmas I described here:
    I have been attending some alternative printing technique workshops lately and they have impressed me so much that I changed my way of thinking. Instead of buying an expensive portrait lens (85mm f/1.4) and using it on my digital camera I decided to step into large format photography. The search on the net and in many books showed me I could easier achieve the desired results in portrait and landscape photography with a LF camera (on film or even on paper) than a digital one.
    Searching different sites I found this camera set:
    Lacking experience (and only scarce information found on the mentioned camera) I'd like to hear your opinion about the offered set. What I like is the completeness of the set. Since I already have the 6x9 cm enlarger and developing equipment this is a large bonus for me. Also I decided to learn my view camera skills using photo paper since it is a lot cheaper than film, easily available and I can develop it in the chemicals I already have in the darkroom. The 5x7 format should be large enough even to make contact copies or to scan the (paper) negatives on the same scanner I use for scanning my 6x7 cm up to 6x18cm slides and negatives.
    I think I will have to add a wide angle lens later, probably a 210mm one.
    So again – your opinions, please.
    Regards, Miha.
  2. I'm presuming you'll be doing portraits in the studio. Most monorail cameras are pretty heavy and when you start adding other gadgets,'ll also need a stout tripod. But, let me start with the's an older Xenar and so is the shutter.....I mean more recent optics are better and paired with newer (& better) Copal'd have better combo. However, you can always sell the lens. You can check KEH for prices and you'll realize that you are paying $1000 for the camera with other pieces. If you think that you need 5x7...then indeed this would be a complete set. I'd caution you about the film holders, since they can be somewhat off (being from Europe), but if the person used conventional 5x7 or 4x5 film, then there is nothing to worry about.
    If I compare to the 5x7 that I have, this package is IMO overpriced by several hundreds. True, my is more portable and less sturdy than Plaubel.
    If I were you, I'd start with a 4x5. Overall, LF cameras are relatively inexpensive, with exception of 8x10 or more esoteric models. You can pick up 4x5 (Cambo or Calumet) for as low as $100, tho some of the better models like Sinar F or F2 would go for little more and Toyo will be in $230-550 range. Some might even come with a lens. All you'd need is a 6x7 back. Also, there are more lenses for 4x5 on the market and often they are more reasonably priced.
    If you want to use cheap film stock, you could get outdated type or you can use fresh xray film - 100 sheets for $28....I'd imagine better than using photo paper, since you can reprint/enlarge as may times as you wish.
    Anyway, some things to consider.
  3. Leszek, thank you for the quick answer.
    I am considering alternative processes in due time (using glass plates or metal plates), so I don't intend to use film in the camera at all. I even consider using non-photographic lenses for some projects. I plan to use 120 film in the additional back though.
    A 4x5 seems to small for me (a 5x7 is almost twice the size) - I was even looking for a 8x10.
    As for the price - I hope it is negotiable. On the other side - I'm living in the EU, so buying in the USA might add a considerable amout of money in postage & handling , tax and duty charges. Therefore I prefere buying these items in EU.
    Regards, Miha.
  4. Hmm. The lens included in the package is a 360/5.6 Tele-Xenar, not a Xenar. Old-style telephoto lens, might still be useful for portraiture. Not so good for landscape because so long, 1.7x 5x7's normal focal length.
    Normal for 5x7 is 210 mm, 8.25 inches. Wide angle lenses for the format are shorter.
    Plaubel cameras take Plaubel's own film holders, not standard ones, but the kit offered has plenty.
  5. I have actually had 4 Plaubel Peco 5x7 & 4x5 cameras. They are first rate view cameras, very accurate with focusing that is smoother than silk. I didn't see the listing you are looking at, it wouldn't come up on my computer, but I highly recommend Plaubels. They are in the Linhof/Sinar category as far as quality goes, but in the lower end as far as price for a used camera. New, they run over $5000. There is a site, in German. The only two drawbacks are the size & weight and the lack of base tilts. In case you are wondering why I had so many, it was because I sold the first to a friend as a favor, sold the second and third to get Ebonys. Then I sold the fourth, a 5x7, when I gave up that format.
  6. Plaubel made fine view cameras that were highly rated back in the day. I had a friend who had a Peco Jr 6x9 in the 70's that I wanted but never could find at a decent price. The 6x9 film holders are for 2.5" x 3.5" film not 2.25" x 3.25" so getting film might be a bit of an issue.
    The price does seem a bit high but putting a kit together piece by piece might exceed what they are asking.
    As Dan & others said consider getting better lenses for it. Really, it's all about the lens when you get down to it.
    Any 5x7 view is a bit of a rare item as 4x5 & 8x10s were more popular. I like the 5x7 format as I have a Beseler 5x7 enlarger but a few years back I gave all my 5x7 stuff to my brother and now limit myself to a 6x9 Cambo & smaller formats.
    Good luck!
  7. That certainly is an attractive Plaubel outfit. Although I'm a Sinar Norma owner, I love any of the classic view cameras.
    To me the price seems rather high, although I'm only familiar with European prices in terms of Sinar equipment. It seems to me European prices tend to be higher than here in the US, but I haven't really researched if there is really much price difference.
    I have concerns about the shutter with the Plaubel outfit. Many years ago when Compur introduced their Electronic shutter there was a version with a separate control box and power supply, and a version with a battery compartment on the side of the shutter. I don't know if the shutter with the Tele-Xenar is either of these types, but you should definitely find out how this shutter works, if it takes a battery that is still available, and are all the shutter speeds accurate, especially the slower ones. If this shutter needs to be serviced, it may be more expensive than a normal Compur mechanical shutter. Maybe Dan or someone knows about these electronic shutters and can comment.
    I had a 240mm Tele-Xenar once and replaced it with a 240mm Tele-Arton which I felt was a much sharper lens. Possibly the particular Tele-Xenar I had wasn't a good one.
    If I were making the decision on this Plaubel outfit, I would look for a Sinar Norma instead (as I said, I'm prejudiced toward Sinar since I own one). There are so many more accessories and pieces available on the used market for Sinar. Some parts such as lens boards, bellows, and extension rails interchange between Normas and much newer Sinar models, so are easy to find. Sinars take modern standard film holders. The Norma may be lighter in weight than the Plaubel, although I'm not at all certain on that.
    There is a 13X18 Norma on eBay France right now (eBay 161220988591) although it appears the seller may be in Berlin, for 888,000 EUR (that price seems high to me, but I'm quite cheap myself). It doesn't have any format reducing backs, but has a much more modern lens and shutter than the Plaubel. There are several 4X5 Normas on eBay Europe now, some of which are probably much cheaper than the 13X18. You could start with a 4X5 camera and watch for a 5X7 adapter kit which do occasionally show up on eBay (if you feel the need for larger than 4X5). I'm a lover of the 5X7 format, so I'm not trying to talk you out of 5X7.
  8. 1. The Plaubel is up there with best German and Swiss engineering, and I have used a few different models.
    2. 5x7 is a beautiful format. I am using 4x5 and 5x7 with Linhof cameras. 5x7 contact prints are a real joy, and can be mounted, framed and exhibited with a real presence.
    3. Go for it ;-)
  9. I hope I didn't give the impression I think Sinar is "better" than Plaubel or Linhof or Arca. I just consider it preferable from the standpoint of availability of extra pieces and possibly lighter weight. To some people these may not be especially important. One of my dream cameras is still the original Linhof Kardan Color, but finding a 5X7 format kit for my Norma makes more sense.
    To satisfy my curiosity I searched for information on Compur electronic shutters. There may be many of these out there in world working just fine, but there are people having problems too. An example: It does seem from reading other posts that there are substitute batteries available which is good news. I don't think I personally would buy a lens with one of these shutters unless it was a really desirable lens (which I don't think the Tele-Xenar is) or really inexpensive (and in this case the seller seems to be asking top price). If the seller would sell this Plaubel without the lens at a reduced price or substitute a better lens with a mechanical shutter, I would consider this a more desirable outfit. But it is entirely possible this particular Compur electronic is working fine and the lens is satisfactory for portraits. Be sure to have the seller demonstrate the shutter is working well.
  10. Since everyone else is offering opinions, I'll do the same.
    When one starts playing with a LF camera, consider you have nothing more than an adjustable length shoebox with a bellows to keep light off the film and back element of the lens. Lenses are a given so I'll not address them.
    Some cameras have proprietary odds and ends built in to ensure further income for the maker down the road so it's best to stick with the standard stuff like a Graflock back to attach goodies directly to the rear standard after removing the focusing screen.
    Next, you'll have to decide what manner of movements you want. For precision, you just can't beat the Sinar "P" or "P2" if you've got the bucks to shell out. The downside of those is that precision is a bit slow to set up. The "F" models are faster to diddle, as are the older Sinar Norma models (I have all three) and it simply depends on the mood I'm in. With the Sinars, many parts can mix and match so whatever gearpile you accumulate is universal to the three models.
    I also have an 8x10 Kodak 2D. I believe if it were not for its speed of setup we wouldn't have "Moonrise" today, according to Mr. Adams' account of making the exposure.
    Basically, I'm saying anything that's oddball will eventually result in your throwing the darling picture box as hard and far as you can (and maybe wishing for copious quantities of high explosives, also).
    Adapters are made to use Sinar boards on 2Ds as well as the Sinar shutter, eliminating the need for numerous shutters and allowing the use of the relatively cheap barrel lenses. Packard shutters are still available and about two years ago I spoke with the fellow that bought the patent rights for them and will custom make anything you desire if he's still in business.
    To summarize - minimize oddball equipment requirements. You may get a good deal on a camera but that sometimes cost much more than the savings. Cambo, Calumet, Sinar, and especially the old Kodaks are good choices. Wista and some of the other wooden cams are both works of art (or furniture) and function fine.
    As far as movements are concerned, that's not really needed to shoot peoples and the Tele-Xenar you spoke of, while allowing the effect at a shorter bellows draw, are slow (f8 - f11 max aperture) and allow no (or damned little) movement if you want to correct any warts you can see or something else (even if you screw it down to f22) - stick to the standard lenses. They're cheaper anyway.
    After 2 or 3 years, you'll find out why the old timers had a wagon to carry their stuff around in. You'll not be able to keep track of it all and will have duplicate everything.
    Get a 4 - 8x magnifier to focus the camera with and above all - don't get in a rush for any reason. After a year or so, the process will become ingrained on you and it'll become automatic. Don't allow yourself to be rushed as 8x10 color negative film from sheet to contact print is nearly $20 per shot - good or bad.
    Learn the principles of the machine and learn them well. Grow a 'stash, get a top hat, and maybe some tattered tails - what the hell.
    Above all, enjoy. If you don't enjoy what you're doing, it will show with LF equipment.
  11. Thank you guys.
    In the mean time the item I had in mind was sold. I was also rethinking my ideas. As you suggested, one of the best choices would be a Sinar - I will be looking to find a good item with a good price. May be I'll start with a 4x5 and an extension back for 5x7 or even 8x10. Not for film, as I said but for making paper negatives with an option to step in the alternative photography some time later. (I have seen 4x5 plates are a tad small and have to be scanned, while 5x7 can be contact copied.) I think of using a roll film (may be 6x9cm) casette anyway.
    So thanks again for good and useful advices, I'll ask you again if there is something not clear to me.
    Regards, Miha.
  12. Miha:Whereas the Sinar P is a great camera, the F really isn't. It lacks the rigidity of a great monorail, and the compactness of a wooden field camera. Your best bet is to wait for a Plaubel on Ebay, or if you want a portable camera get a used Ebony.
  13. The Sinar F is not a Sinar P, but it's not bad either.<br>It isn't a folder, so takes a bit of space. But a lot more portable than the Ps.<br>They are not quite as easy to use as Ps, but as those have their movements at the base, which is a rather good thing.<br>The only not so good thing about them is the way the front standard clamps to the rails. It works great, that's not the problem. Until the plastic cracks (which it eventually will, if (!) you habitually tighten the thingy too much).<br>In short: a great monorail too, the Sinar F.

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