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Getting started in 4x5
Old 08-03-2015   #1
clcolucci58
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Getting started in 4x5

Thinking of going down the large format road. What would be a good 4x5 starter camera. Processing the film is that a easy task? As for printing I know I would have to get another enlarger but thinking of going the scanner route for that as well with my medium format film I shoot now. As always thanks for all the advice and feedback

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Old 08-03-2015   #2
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4x5 gear is getting so cheap now that you might as well start out with the thing you want to end up with. Figure out what kind of use you are going to put it to, and choose accordingly.
Choose a monorail if perspectival movements are important, but weight and bulk are not a problem. Choose a wood field if weight is an issue. Choose a press camera if you want rangefinder focusing. Get a Linhof Technika if you want it all.
I started out doing open tray developing. Then I modified a Jobo print drum to hold 4x5 sheets. Now I have a Jobo designed for the purpose. I roll the drums in my bath tub to agitate.
4x5 is easy, and fun, requires a little patience, but can be rewarding.
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Old 08-03-2015   #3
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What will you be shooting with it? Want to shoot on a tripod or hand held? Want full movements with interchangable wide angle bellows or limited movements and limited capability of lenses? What kind of money do you want to spend?

For backpacking and high portability with wide angle bellows available you might consider something like a Shen Hao. There are several models depending on your preference. It's a good solid wooden flatbed with interchangable bellows. The good thing about them is they're still made and parts and accessories are readily available. They also use the standard Technika style lens board. This type of camera has to be used on a tripod.

You might find a used Wista or Wisner which are nice. Also the Nagioka was a nice field camera.

Used monorails are generally less expensive but heavier, larger and less portable. Calumet made many very good no frills cameras that can be bought for cheap. They don't have any frills but are solid and work. I used then in several places I worked in the 70's. They were originally made by Kodak.

For a really nice monorail around $400 Id suggest something like a Linhof Cardan Color 45. For the top in classic monorail cameras the Sinar Norma is tops. I use the one I bought new in 1969 to this day a have shot tens of thousands of sheets through it. Now you can find one for $500 - $800. It's a modular camera and you can add regular and wide bellows plus additional lengths of rail.

Horseman, Linhof and Sinar are first rate.

In hand held cameras a Speed or Crown Graphic are good choices. Also the Busch Pressman is good. All of these are reasonable in price. For the very best buy a Linhof Master Technika, 2000 or 3000. These are very expensive but superb. I used both a 4x5 Master Technika I bought new in 1975 for 28 years and have used my Sinar Norma since 1969.

The very best in wooden field type cameras are the Ebony and Deardorff. I purchased a beater 1930's 8x10 Deardorff in 1975. It had been used by two other pros since new and I replaced the bellows when I bought it and used it for thousands of catalog shots till I sold it about eight years ago. I made one update on it but it performed like new for nearly 80 years. I now own an Ebony SV45TE and like new v8 Deardorff 8x10. You can't go wrong with these but they'll set you back several thousand.

Lenses are important. You want a lens(es) with a big image circle if you want to use movements. I'd suggest a Schneider Symmar S, Fujinon W series, Nikkor W or Rodenstock Sironar N. Some of the Caltar lenses were made by Schneider and Rodenstock and re badged. In turn Sinar Sinaron were Rodenstock Lenses. A 150mm is normal, 180 and 210 slightly Tele. The older Ilex lenses are very good and cheap.

For wides a 90 f8 is pretty much the 1st you should consider. A SchneiderSuper Angulon (not the Angulon) can be bought very cheap. Rodenstock Grandagon f6.8, Nikkor SW f8 or Fujinon SW f8 are all superb. The Nikkor can get expensive because it has a bigger coverage.

There were a lot of different models made by most makers that although they have the same focal length are dramatically different. You really need to know what you're buying. Fuji for example made 3 different versions of the W series. The first was distinguished by smaller front element and overall size and the writing (Fujinon W and focal length) on the retaining ring that holds the front element in. These were mostly single coated but some were multi coated. These are very sharp and have very large image circles. They're very desirable and quite good. I've owned several. The second version had a large front mount and writing around the outside of the mount. These were multi coated and had less coverage. Good but less desirable. The third version was smaller and had improved coverage but not as large image circle as the V1. Very good lenses.

Fuji also made a series which was a Tessar type and very desirable in the 450 and 600 mm.

Nikon and Schneider made similar series and changes.

Feel free to pm if you have questions. I have a great deal of experience with view cameras and lenses.
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Old 08-03-2015   #4
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The head bartender has some great articles on 4x5's:'
https://cameraquest.com/classics.htm - this is the main camera area - scroll down for large format. Here's 2 to star off
https://cameraquest.com/techs.htm
https://cameraquest.com/supergrp.htm

I have the Super Speed Graphic and it's a sturdy (metal body) and relatively light field camera, with a revolving back.
APUG site is a good place to look for used 4x5's as well as Large Format Photography
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Old 08-03-2015   #5
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Look on the large format forum.

The Super Speed had no internal shutter where as all other Speeds had one. The Anniversary and earlier were wood bodies and the Pacdmaker was metal. The Crown Graphics had no shutter and the Pacemaker had a metal body. I still have a pacemaker my dad bought new in 1964. They're great but basic cameras.
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Old 08-04-2015   #6
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Pacemaker speeds/crowns still have a wooden body (Mahogany). The Super Speed / Super graphic had a metal body. I like the pacemakers best of all the Graflex rangefinder 4x5s.
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Old 08-04-2015   #7
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Crown Graphic for me. There's nothing like hand holding a large format camera ... suddenly your Weegee! LOL
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Old 08-04-2015   #8
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I started with a Pacemaker Speed Graphic, which I still use. I developed my film using a Beseler print drum by rolling it back and forth on a 2x4 as I didn't have a motor base. I also didn't have an enlarger so I contact printed my negatives using two pieces of glass and a 4-watt nightlight bulb. It was an inexpensive way to get into 4x5. Once I decided that I liked it I bought the other things to make it easer.
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Old 08-04-2015   #9
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There's been a lot said here. I'll just say some quick things:

I started in February with a Chamonix 45F1. I would take a serious look at them, a lot of people are using and loving them (I love mine).

I like using the grafmatic 4x5 backs. They hold 6 sheets of 4x5 and make it really convenient (also easy to load).

I bought an Oben carbon fiber legs and a RRS ball head. Like them both. No complaints about the RRS head but the Oben could have been designed a bit better. I bought it used for $250 though which was a good deal.

I like having lenses that can cover 8x10 image circles because, as a LF newbie, I love playing with movements I never had access to. That may change once I form stronger opinions.

I use Craigslist a lot. I like Arista Black and White from Freestyle to make it really cheap. In the beginning you make lots of mistakes (very easy to) so be sure your mistakes are cheap.

I develop using the Mod54 and a tank. I scan using an Epson Perfection 4990 that I purchased from the Bay.

In regards to the scanner - the 4990, V500 and V700 etc have much larger scanning real estate for film than other flatbeds. This is helpful for 35mm, 120 and 4x5. In one scan, I can scan 2 sheets of 4x5, one 8x10, 6 shots of 6x6 or 24 shots of 35mm. This is much more than my Canon 9000F can do and reduces my workflow.

Let us know what you do!
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Old 08-04-2015   #10
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All great advice. I started with a top rangefinder Pacemaker Crown Graphic, and it is still my favorite camera. They are not too expensive, though purchasing lenses can cause you to develop GAS pretty fast. The good news is that low and medium priced lens/shutter combinations provide great images -- you don't need the newest Sironar for that. If you get a Speed (with working curtain shutter) rather than a Crown, you can use shutterless process lenses. Nothing is sharper than those. On a view or field camera, fit them with ancient (or new!) Packard shutters -- amaze your friends! Some of these lens/shutters will migrate to other large format cameras if they have sufficient coverage. So many combinations, and most for way less than a new Leica. (Of course, most things are.) One more plug -- Arista EDU sheet film is dirt cheap and pretty decent to start with -- less than a buck a sheet currently. I develop my sheets four at a time in Unicolor drums -- cheap, dependable, clean, and easy. Try it out -- those big negatives will hook you right away.
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Old 08-04-2015   #11
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i'd also consider 8x10. you'll need a bigger tripod and a backpack, but it's not necessarily more expensive. you'll have a lot more fun with alternative processes, too.
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Old 08-04-2015   #12
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Start simple and inexpensive. There's no guarantee you'll like large format. it changes your style completely. You have to slow down and think out each shot. It's larger, heavier, more time consuming and expensive per shot. It's a totally different game so proceed with caution. buy something cheap and give it a try.

As a long time 8x10 and even 11x14 user, it's a romantic thought to shoot such a huge format but when practicality come into these cameras are beasts and awkward. For much of my career I shot catalogs on 8x10 and even 11x14 Ektachrome. Fun, use but the bigger you go the more difficult they are to use. After decades of shooting x810 and 11x14 4x5 seems like a toy now.
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Old 08-04-2015   #13
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Look for the best lenses possible...if you continue with 4x5 they can be used on any camera body...just change out the lens board...
Go with a major name brand and there should be plenty of parts out there when you need them...
You can also use a 120 film backs if you don't always want to use 4x5 film...
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Old 08-04-2015   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nikon_sam View Post
Look for the best lenses possible...if you continue with 4x5 they can be used on any camera body...just change out the lens board...
Go with a major name brand and there should be plenty of parts out there when you need them...
You can also use a 120 film backs if you don't always want to use 4x5 film...
There's no need to waste money on expensive lenses. The Rodenstock Sironar S is way over kill as are most lenses today. The Sironar S is highly regarded for resolution and coverage but out of sight in price. When it comes down to it even many turn of the century lenses are more than enough. For many years I used a very early Dagor Series III from the late 20's or early 30's for catalog work for Philips - Magnavox - Philco. It was so old that it wasn't factory coated and had it's own bloom (natural coating from oxidation). I shot the catalogs on 8x10 Ektachrome and it was just as good as my new Symmar. I liked the larger image circle of the Dagor vs the Symmar. One of my current lenses is a 60 year old 12" Commercial Ektar for my 8x10 and 4x5 with excellent results. I own quite a few modern lenses yet and have had the best of the best, the Apo lenses and there's no difference unless you're an exceptional photographer and making murals. If you need the additional image circle for product to architecture then that's one thing but just to buy the "Best" for bragging rights then that's silly. Anyway, what is the best? Most coverage, least flare, highest resolution, least distortion, what is the best? The best is what works for you for your application. I even used a turn of the century triple convertible B&H Zeiss protar on my 8x10 for some major commercial jobs. I was ancient and had a gouge in the front element and was made 50 years before coatings were invented. It was a stellar performer.

Product work in studio, the Goerz Red Dot Artar and Rodenstock Apo Ronar are tops and I've owned several and used them for decades. They're shy on coverage but super flat field and apo process lenses for close studio work under 10 times the FL of the lens. Oh yes, they're slow, f9.5, f11, f16 wide open. For general work the Schneider Symmar S, Nikkor W, Fujinon W and Rodenstock Sirronar N are the tops and reasonably priced used. Great coverage, f5.6 on most and sharp as a razor. For larger image circles the vintage Goerz Dagor, Rodenstock Sironar W, Schneider Symmar HM and Fuji 1st version W Fujinon are great. Dagor's, Sironar W and Symmar HM will set you back some major change. For the really big image circle the Schneider Super Symmar XL will blow a hole in your wallet but they cover unlike anything else.

Great reasonably priced vintage lenses with adequate coverage and classic rendering are the Kodak commercial Ektatr's in Ilex shutters. Also the classic Kodak Ektar 203mm f7.7 Ektar is superb. It's tiny and ultra sharp even wide open at close distances. I have one and have used it for years.

You can spend a boat load of money but you'll never see the difference.
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Old 08-04-2015   #15
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It's hard to tell much from gallery photos but here's one from 1975 with a 150mm Symmar S
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/rffg...?photoid=59031

Here's one with the B&L Zeiss Protar on 8x10
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/rffg...?photoid=59119

Here's one with a 19" Goerz Red Dot Artar on 8x10
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/rffg...?photoid=59118

Here's one on 2x3 with a 53mm f4 Super Angulon
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/rffg...?photoid=58532

ANOTHER ON 8X10 (10 minute exposure at f256) with the B&L Zeiss Protar
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/rffg...?photoid=58530

I'm guessing here but fairly certain this was either a 150 or 210mm Symmar S on 4x5
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/rffg...?photoid=58531

I think this was an 8-1/4" Red Dot Artar Goerz on a Baby Deardorff 4x5
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/rffg...?photoid=58093

Here's a 180 Symmar (pre S) on 5x7 Sinar Norma
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/rffg...?photoid=58002

This is a 121mm Super Angulon f8 on a 5x7 Sinar Norma
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/rffg...?photoid=57922

This was another 5x7 with my 1930's Deardorff and Super Angulon F8
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/rffg...?photoid=57921

This was shot with a 4x5 Pacemaker Crown Graphic with a 135mm f4.7 Xenar Schneider
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/rffg...?photoid=25880

Another with the Pacemaker 4x5 and 135 Xenar
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/rffg...?photoid=25879
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Old 08-04-2015   #16
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Great information in this thread, thanks. I hopefully will be dipping my foot in the 4x5 water soon with a Travelwide. After I see what the results look like, I may try a larger body with movements.
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Old 08-04-2015   #17
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I had exactly the same idea, about 4x5, two years ago. Since then I've worked through a lot of equipment, and settled on 8x10. What I would say is that there is really no way to go wrong: LF equipment is dirt cheap, lenses work on any camera and many cross formats. If you change your mind it's easy to slide over into something else.

Wanting to do studio portraits, I started with a 4x5 Cambo--they're cheap and it's an extensive system, and the parts are very easy to find--but any of the suggestions above are good ones. Probably the biggest decision to make in advance is whether you are looking for a studio, field, or hand camera.
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Old 08-04-2015   #18
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I'd like to second "x-rays" remarks. The lens gas is hard to resist, but really
don't fall for it until you've seen what some inexpensive lens can do. Peter
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Old 08-04-2015   #19
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Yeah. In fact after buying a couple of modern lenses I stumbled into a cheap archaic one and loved the effect so much I haven't bought a modern lens since. With large format, sharpness isn't really a big issue, and there are other things to consider.

And the word xray reminds me of something else. If you go over to the LF forum you can find threads on using xray film. If you look at my Flickr page you can find examples. The stuff costs 40 cents per 8x10 sheet--that's like buying at 1975 prices! And it has its own lovely look. That's what really swung me big into LF.
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Old 08-04-2015   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clcolucci58 View Post
Thinking of going down the large format road. What would be a good 4x5 starter camera. Processing the film is that a easy task? As for printing I know I would have to get another enlarger but thinking of going the scanner route for that as well with my medium format film I shoot now. As always thanks for all the advice and feedback

Regards
Chris
Working, fresh Graflex to keep it compact and as expensive lens as you could afford.

Developing is one 4x5 per regular tank. Scanning is 1/2 of 4x5 per scan and stitching. Contact prints are good enough as well.

It doesn't hurt to try it. I did. With cheap cameras and mediocre lenses... Not worth of it...
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Old 08-04-2015   #21
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I've got a speed graphic 4x5 with side rangefinder. I like the idea of having a body shutter as it will allow me to play with funky old lenses in barrel and process lenses with no shutter. I've got 2 4x5 enlargers: a Beseler and an omega D5XL. If anyone is getting into printing 4x5 in the Toronto/GTA area, send me a pm.
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Old 08-04-2015   #22
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Lots of great advices here. I bought a Linhof Technika IV 4x5 that I got for a bargain price. The bellows were light-tight, the gears etc not worn out and the RF works. (Generally, no adapted cams for my lenses as of yet). I bought a Fujinon W 180/5.6 and later a Grandagon N 90/6.8, have two Grafmatic holder, and a couple of two-sheet film holder. This set-up including focus loupe, dark cloth, light meter, and cable release all fits in an old camera bag so I could take public transportation to go taking photos but I hardly do. Initially I brought the Linhof with me to some photo trips but every time I set it up onto the tripod so many people came asking me about that camera (living in Japan as a foreigner doesn`t make things easier) that I spent more time answering questions than taking photos.

However, hardly anything beats a Velvia slide in 5x4.
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Old 08-04-2015   #23
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I just want to thank you all for the feedback. Most of my shooting will be outdoors landscape stuff mostly. Have a feeling I will enjoy LF very much. Going to research more and look foward to more feedback and advice. Will be processing my own film and most likely getting a scanner in the near future. Thanks again everyone.
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Old 08-04-2015   #24
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Also consider a 5x7 wooden camera like an Ansco, Burke and James or Agfa. The cameras aren't that much bigger and heavier and pretty much the same better quality lenses will work on it too. The beauty of 5x7 is you can make some beautiful contact prints big enough to mat and frame. Holders and film are readily available too.

Overall 5x7 is my favorite format. I like prints this size. I platinum print and think 5x7's are more intimate and like viewing them up close. 8x10 contacts are beautiful as well but I like the 5x7 aspect ratio better. The downside of 5x7 is availability of good enlargers if you want to enlarge wet print. I had a Durst Laborator 5x7 floor model for years and it's huge. It's about 8 feet tall. The 8x10 version that ivd used takes a 10 foot ceiling. I sold my Durst a couple years ago anticipating selling my house and moving across the country to retire. I've not gotten my house sold yet and regret selling it. They are the finest enlargers I've evervised. 4x5 for enlarging is the easiest.
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Old 08-07-2015   #25
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Here's a good way to process sheet film, I've usee it for years for 4x5 5x7 and 8x10 with different sized tubes.

http://www.davidkachel.com/assets/trayproc.htm

You don't need to make huge prints for large format to be very satisfying. Contacts from 5x7 and larger can be wonderful pieces. Even 4x5, but that's starting to be small.

have fun!
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Old 01-01-2016   #26
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I have to second CNNY. 4x5 is now so cheap it is a question of what you want to do with the camera that should drive your choice.

4x5 runs from snapshot cameras to full movement studio monorails. I have a 1953 Pacemaker Crown Graphic press camera and a Toyo 45G monorail camera. With those two cameras I can do about anything that can be done with a 4x5 camera. The Graphic is the most "FUN" camera I own.

Although you probably will have to do some sorting out on whatever you get. My Graphic had been taken apart and put back together by a chimpanzee. The Toyo needed a new bellows and a replacement back standard. Both were sold as being in excellent condition. Both wound up costing about $500 with lens by the time I got them sorted out.

BTW, that chimp claimed to be a professional camera repair person. He damaged the rangefinder which was what he was supposed to fix, and unfixed the rest of the camera. Luckily the dealer I bought the camera from was paying him, not me; and I found a NOS Kalart Rangefinder guts in military packaging for not much money.


Quote:
Originally Posted by CNNY View Post
4x5 gear is getting so cheap now that you might as well start out with the thing you want to end up with. Figure out what kind of use you are going to put it to, and choose accordingly.
Choose a monorail if perspectival movements are important, but weight and bulk are not a problem. Choose a wood field if weight is an issue. Choose a press camera if you want rangefinder focusing. Get a Linhof Technika if you want it all.
I started out doing open tray developing. Then I modified a Jobo print drum to hold 4x5 sheets. Now I have a Jobo designed for the purpose. I roll the drums in my bath tub to agitate.
4x5 is easy, and fun, requires a little patience, but can be rewarding.
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Old 01-01-2016   #27
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For work in the field you might want to try a ... field camera!

One of the most plentiful is the Toyo 45 series. I can't speak for the CF (carbon fibre) model but those are more expensive anyway. The 45A and 45A-II can be had for relatively little money, though more than a Graphic or Graflex type. But the cast aluminum construction is very good and rugged. I never had to make any adjustments or repairs, so over time the cost of ownership was insignificant.

The only reason I sold mine was the weight - at 2KG, plus the weight of a Zone VI wooden tripod and Gitzo head, it became too much for me when I got older. So I got a Chamonix 45-NII and carbon fibre tripod. I cut my weight by more than half. Truthfully in some ways I liked the Toyo 45 better, but don't regret the change at all. I use Fujinon lenses. I primarily use the 150/5.6; my 90/8 doesn't get much use, so I will be selling it.
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Old 02-11-2016   #28
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Just to update, bought a Toya 45D w/schnieder 210mm and Copal #1 shutter and I just got a Schnieder Angulon 90mm w/compur shutter. Shot around 30 sheets so far and got the tray processing down pretty good. Just need to get more better with the camera with all the adjustments, tilt, swing, lift etc....but enjoying LF very much and the image quality when printing, wow.

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Old 02-11-2016   #29
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Cool beans - show your shots!
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Fine grain is a bourgeois concept

Happiness is APX100 and Rodinal 1:100

A bunch o cameras. Does it really matter?
And NOW ... Fuji X-Pro1 w/ 18-55, 18/2 & adapted Zuikos and Hexanons
http://zuikoholic.tumblr.com
https://www.instagram.com/e.r.dunbar/
http://weedram.blogspot.com
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Old 02-11-2016   #30
x-ray
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Excellent!
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Old 02-11-2016   #31
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Cool beans - show your shots!
Have not bought a scanner yet so not able to post anything. Looking to start doing that down the road....way down the road
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Old 02-11-2016   #32
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Excellent!
Love your work x-Ray
Regards
Chris
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Old 02-11-2016   #33
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Old 02-11-2016   #34
ianstamatic
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I have a Toyo 45A which is upgraded to AII specs.
I sometimes use a Toyo sliding back with 6x9 MAmiya back.
I also use it with a reflex viewing hood for 4x5.

I also use a stripped down Crown Graphic, and a B+J Grover.
I like them all !
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Old 02-12-2016   #35
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The biggest restriction is bellows length. You can not fix it later. Normal lens is 150 mm or 6 inches. So you need 12" bellows to get to 1:1. 12" lens needs 24" bellows.

When bellows are compressed for wides, little movement is possible. Use a bag bellows.

I have a Calumet monorail 16" bellows. PM me if interested and you live in USA. It will be cheap.
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Old 02-17-2016   #36
Ron (Netherlands)
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Also consider a 5x7 wooden camera like an Ansco, Burke and James or Agfa. The cameras aren't that much bigger and heavier and pretty much the same better quality lenses will work on it too. The beauty of 5x7 is you can make some beautiful contact prints big enough to mat and frame. Holders and film are readily available too.

Overall 5x7 is my favorite format. I like prints this size. I platinum print and think 5x7's are more intimate and like viewing them up close. 8x10 contacts are beautiful as well but I like the 5x7 aspect ratio better. The downside of 5x7 is availability of good enlargers if you want to enlarge wet print. I had a Durst Laborator 5x7 floor model for years and it's huge. It's about 8 feet tall. The 8x10 version that ivd used takes a 10 foot ceiling. I sold my Durst a couple years ago anticipating selling my house and moving across the country to retire. I've not gotten my house sold yet and regret selling it. They are the finest enlargers I've evervised. 4x5 for enlarging is the easiest.
+ 1 Love 5x7 (for us Europeans 13x18) Lovely contacts!
With the V700 and now V800 and V850, you can perfectly scan these big negs and you don't need an enlarger.

If you come from 35mm the step to LF might be too big. Take a pause and first try MF - much cheaper and easier....
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Old 02-17-2016   #37
Trius
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Personal opinion only, but I would skip medium format and got straight to large format. With MF it's still roll film unless you're using sheet film smaller than 4x5 - then what's the point.

Aside from size the point of LF is, to great extent, the advantage of individual exposures and processing.

I agree that 5x7 is a sweet spot. But since I can't shoot it, I take it as a challenge to make 4x5 contact prints that work well as finished works.
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Fine grain is a bourgeois concept

Happiness is APX100 and Rodinal 1:100

A bunch o cameras. Does it really matter?
And NOW ... Fuji X-Pro1 w/ 18-55, 18/2 & adapted Zuikos and Hexanons
http://zuikoholic.tumblr.com
https://www.instagram.com/e.r.dunbar/
http://weedram.blogspot.com
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