Yet another help me choose my first 4x5 :)

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by s_udom, Nov 17, 2011.

  1. Hello all! Just joined the forums, and I'm off to ask probably the most asked question around.
    I'm looking for suggestions for my first LF camera. I'm after a 4x5 field camera for portraiture. Not at all bothered about movements. Mainly concerned about it's weight and size. From what I've read a Crown Graphic with all the extraneous accessories would do the trick, but i'm wondering if there's anything else out there I should consider? I'd like to keep the camera budget down to save money for lenses, unless there's a good reason to plunk down for a more expensive camera (remember not really interested in movements).
    Also on the lookout for 2 lenses. First something in the 85-135mm 35mm equivalent focal length range, then eventually also I'd like to get something in the 35-50mm 35mm equivalent focal length range. I'm thinking something modern, but I'm completely lost on the options. Budget on these is a bit unknown, but it would be nice to keep it under $1500/lens, but if that's unreasonable or there's an amazing lens that's worth saving up for, then so be it.
    I've never shot film or portraiture on a 4x5 camera, although I have done product photography with a Sinar rail camera a phaseone back (I work as an assistant). I'm very interested in getting into 4x5 portraiture for my own personal work, but unfortunately I don't know anyone who still shoots 4x5 and so I'm here for guidance! Not looking to buy anything in the immediate future, more here for guidance on things to look for so I can figure out a budget that I should start saving towards :)
  2. "all the extraneous accessories" should read "all the extraneous accessories removed" (but my editing time expired!)
  3. Want to be able to control the shape of the subject? Then you will need a camera with back tilts and swings.
  4. $1500 per lens?

    That sounds like you're buying new.

    Why would you buy new for your first camera? With $1500 you can buy a good condition used Toyo with 3 or 4 used

    Use that for 6 months, then sell it when you know what you really want. You'll get most of your $1500 back.

    Do you have a way to print your 4x5 negatives already? If not, you need to factor that in too.

    Here are example prices:

    Toyo or Omega view camera $300 with one lens(150 or 210) in good condition.
    Toyo field camera, theres the all metal and mostly plastic, the plastic one is lighter and cheaper

    90mm lens $300-500

    300mm lens $500ish

    Holders are about $10 a piece. 2 for 100 new.

    Case to carry(look for camera with one included) 50 used, 200 new

    Tripod $150-200 used.

    4x5 enlarger, anywhere from free to a few hundred.

    Look for "darkroom", sometimes a set of stuff includes stuff you don't need that you can sell to cover your total purchase.

    Carriers are about 20.

    All your other darkroom stuff you need like timers and trays, $100.

    You can get a complete setup for less than a new lens. You said budget, but didn't say what the budget was. These would fit a frugal budget for a nice starter setup.
  5. AJG


    A field camera (Crown Graphic or equivalent ) will be difficult if you want the 35 mm equivalent focal length of 85 - 135 lenses. If you go with telephoto designs they will be heavy, and difficult for the camera to support . If you go with standard designs they will require more bellows extension than the camera has, especially if you want to do head shots. A monorail will be a much better choice, and have the advantage of being an inexpensive purchase on the used market. Focal lengths will be roughly 3.6 times as long as the 35 mm equivalent, in case you haven't figured this out already.
  6. "remember not really interested in movements"​
    Then why bother with an LF camera? The difference in image quality between medium format and 5"x4" really isn't that enormous, especially using modern films. With Tri-X or some other ancient golf-ball grained formula you will see a difference, but with T-max 100 or any decent colour reversal film - not so much.
  7. I like portraiture with 4x5 but find it best done wih a monorail and 210 - 300 mm lens. That results in a heavy load. Graphics might be OK for environmental portraiture with normal-ish lens but not good with long lens as other mentioned.
    I LOVE portraiture with MF, specifically Hasselblad and 150 or longer. Have you considered a MF option instead?
  8. Thanks so much for the responses guys! Super helpful!
    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying i need to spend that much. I was just basing the number on how much I'm used to having to pay for used 35mm lenses that have the quality I'm happy with :p (both my 35mm lenses were just under that price used) And definitely used is the way I'd like to go. I'm more than happy to spend less money!! But I'm not really interested in much of an upgrade path on the lens front. Like you said, if I go used, I hopefully I can get most of my money back if I decide 4x5 isn't for me (or if I go for an 8x10 camera!)
    Want to be able to control the shape of the subject? Then you will need a camera with back tilts and swings.​
    Not sure I follow. Again, never done any portraiture on a view camera, but why would I be using back movements on a person? I'm not against it, just curious as the vast majority of my experience is with 35mm and medium format SLR so I've never really had this option. But I think you guys are right... I should just get a field camera with all the movements.
    As for why bother with an LF camera. It's the look I'm after, not resolution (or movements, but as you guys have pointed out, I might as well experiment with them). As far as I can tell it's the look of a lens shot at f8 and still having a really shallow DOF. I'm not sure I know how to quantify it, but from what I've seen, I love that creaminess of the background falling away while having the in focus bits being tack sharp in a way that's unlike what I've seen coming out of 35mm or medium format shots. People I look to for inspiration on the LF front are people like Greg Miller and Alec Soth (and now that I'm looking again through some of my favorites, you can see the focal plane not being parallel to the camera, so guess I'm after movements afterall).
    thanks again!
  9. I LOVE portraiture with MF, specifically Hasselblad and 150 or longer. Have you considered a MF option instead?​
    Huge fan of the Hasselblad 120 macro on 645 (unfortunately have only worked with digital and not film) for portraits. But what can I say, just itching to dive into LF work! But maybe I'll have to stick with a bit of a shorter lens than is my preference for headshots if i want to keep things portable.
    The Crown Graphic in 4x5 format has a 12 1/2 inch bellows draw. 1 inch = 25.4mm so 12 1/2 inches = 317.5mm . From experience, my Super Speed Graphic which also has 12 1/2 inches of bellows draw will only focus a 12 inch/305mm lens from infinity to about 25 feet when mounted on a standard flat lens board. Most lens of this focal length are heavy and the slightest movement shooting hand held shows up in the image.
    I suggest a 150mm to 165mm for head and shoulders to head shots from 6 to 8 feet or a 210mm to 250mm for tighter face shots from the same distance.
    About the only accessory that is on most Crowns is the Kalart side rangefinder or the Graphic Top Rangefinder which only add a few ounces to the weight of the camera.
  11. Back movements let you control shape, make a face longer or shorter, for instance.
    ...and the forums there. Much more complete answers, and a lot more resources available. You have an endless supply of options within your budget, and your specific needs/preferences are going to be the determining factor.
  13. Generally the big plus point of a Crown Graphic is its portability in the field due to its low weight - it's really not going to be cheaper than a monorail like a Graphic View of even a Sinar Norma,
    Correction regarding telephoto lenses - I use a 360mm f5.5 Tele-Xenar on my Crown Graphic a lot. It's a really great lens, has only 4 elements so is not very heavy, and was designed for use on press cameras so is a "two-power telephoto" design. This means that its flange-to-film distance (in other words the amount of bellows extension you need) is little more than half its optical focal length, so it will focus quite close with a Crown Graphic.,5-360mm.htm
  14. Here is a picture taken with the 360mm Tele-Xenar:
  15. One final thought - the OP says he's not interested in movements, but traditionally LF portraiture used tilt front with seated portraits to get the sitter's face and hands sharp at the same time without stopping down too much. As he says he is interested in out-of-focus effects, it's also worth having swing front - with this, you can swing the lens one way to get both a sitter's eyes in focus with a 3/4 view or swing it the other to get one eye sharp and the rest of the face heavily out of focus. You CAN do this with a Crown Graphic, since when you turn this on its side for an upright format, the tilt movement becomes a swing, but it is easier to do on a monorail!
  16. "but it is easier to do on a monorail!"
    Not really, professional portrait photographers for decades used flat beds like a Deardorff or a Century or an Ansco to do studio portraiture. Frequently with ancient brass, shutterless lenses and had the camera equipped with a Packard shutter. Many of these studios were shooting on split 57 film.
    Modern monorails will be easier to transport and friendlier to handle then those old beasts.
  17. Santi, check out this thread:
    ?where I use a Speed Graphic and "modern" Fuji 210mm lens for portraiture. Super portable, stone easy to use and the whole rig can be had for a few hundred dollars.
  18. "but it is easier to do on a monorail!"
    Not really, ...
    Yes, really! Of course people used wooden cameras when they had nothing better, but you'll look a long time to find a wooden camera with front swing - most portrait cameras had rigid fronts, with rising front and shift if you were lucky, to make them strong enough to support the enormous weight of Petzval-type portrait lenses. You could buy an extra tilt-front attachment. I had one on an 8x10" Gandolfi I used at the Victoria and Albert Museum, but to get the swing effects I was talking about with a wooden camera you'd have to use swing back, which was usually limited to a few degrees and in any case introduced geometrical distortion to the subject's face, which was undesirable.
  19. We sell several Wista cameras made of cherry, rosewood, quince wood or ebony wood all with front swing and tilt. I just have to walk a few feet to our warehouse to find them. Wist also has two metal folding cameras with the same movement and, of course, all of the Linhof Technikas have it also as does the Linhof folding monorail camera, the TK system.
    Front swings and tilts are commono on all folding current folding cameras. But you are talking about ancient stand mounted studio cameras. In the late 50s and early 60s the use of swings in a portrait studio became common to do. I added a 45 to my studio in 1965 to do them.
  20. My first and current 4x5 setup is a Toyo 45AII with a Nikkor 150mm lens. Great setup for portraits IMHO. Allows movements as you like, and is packable. Easy to use, good quality camera and lens.
  21. I would suggest a used Linhof Technika. 1. built like a tank. 2. closes up with the lens attached. 3. shifts within reasonable need. 4. used lens-boards available everywhere. Second choice, an Ebony SW45 for the same reasons - except side shift.
  22. A rotating or reversing back is important in portrait photography. Most Speed Graphic cameras lack this and really versatile front movements. A few press cameras, like the later Burke & James, did have rotating backs. The traditional flatbed LF portrait camera lacked front movements, but many flatbed field cameras had very good front and back movements. My favorite LF camera for decades was a Burke & James flatbed. It wasn't the best available camera, but it was good enough.
  23. Just to repeat what everyone else is saying, a Graphic will probably not have sufficient bellows for something you want to do some day. That's not to say it's a bad choice for a starter. Personally I'm rather fond of my Speed Graphic because it's focal-plane shutter allows me to use a lot of cool lenses that come to me without shutters (and in some cases, without barrels either!). I've had amazingly good results from commercial print camera lenses like the Eskophot Staeble-Ultragon 213mm f9, I believe the same lens can be had with several different brand name variations. I got this lens with a batch of 4 for the ridiculous price of $25+shipping if memory serves. Here's a photo I took with it at night, before I got the Speed Graphic and could only use a lens cap as a shutter:
    I've also had a lot of fun in portrait-y situations with projection lenses I've pirated off of pretty much anything from 'magic lanterns' to defunct electron microscopes and projection TVs. Mostly because I can't afford to shell out $3500 for the lens I want. The other limiting factor of the Graphics is the size of the lens board, a lot of the larger lenses have flanges or barrel diameters that will make conventional lens boards difficult or impossible to mount.

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