5x4 field camera wanted

Discussion in 'Wanted' started by Tony lee, Sep 17, 2018.

  1. Tony lee

    Tony lee New Member Registered User

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    Ive a project coming up an I’m wanting to buy a field camera, anyone? I’ve owned a few 5x4s over the years so not a complete beginner
     
  2. mpirie

    mpirie Member Registered User

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    Hi Tony,

    You may be more successful if you are more specific....ie. wooden field or metal field?

    A budget might help too.

    Mike
     
  3. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    I've never seen a metal field camera, there are metal press and technical cameras. Press cameras like the Graflex/Toyo Super Graphics have less movements than modern wooden field cameras. Technical cameras such as the Linhof Technika, MPP Micro technical and Japanese equivalents are usually a bit heavier than wooden field camera and have triple rather than double extension, they are also much more rigid.

    Ian
     
  4. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    If you could describe the project a little more, perhaps...
     
  5. Tony lee

    Tony lee New Member Registered User

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    Hi David I’ve no hang ups between wood or metal as long as the camera accepts my 65mm,90mm, and 150mm lenses on wista type lens boards.
    The project is to document at risk monuments, landscape and buildings for Historic England.
    Tony
     
  6. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    So something like the Walker Titan XL might be ideal?
    However, if you are travelling to known locations, rather than yomping o'er vale and hill, there seems to be no reason why you shouldn't consider using a more versatile monorail. There are adaptors for Linhof-to-Sinar lens boards and other combinations if you need them. Bag bellows might be needed for the 65mm lens and would be useful for the 90mm.
    You may also be considering longer-term use after the project is finished. That is, if the endangering of our heritage is ever finished.​
     
  7. Robin Brigham

    Robin Brigham New Member Registered User

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    hi Ian

    what is the definition of a field camera ?
    I used to borrow a toyoview which seemed the same

    best

    robin
     
  8. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    I suspect that Ian has been a tiny bit pedantic here. Perhaps the original request was simply for a convenient and portable camera that will take lenses from 65mm to 150mm. It would be prudent to have a bit more extension in case any close-ups are contemplated. Imagine being in Durham and unable to shoot the Cathedral knocker for want of bellows.
     
  9. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    I've always used the definitions given by people like Michael Langford and used in various Focal Press books over the years. But he classified some cameras incorrectly as well.

    He starts by defining a Technical camera, which we would typically think of as a Linhof Technika III, IV, and later models, or MPP MicroTechnical. and then the Japanese copies from Wista, Horseman, Toyo etc. These are the most flexible of all the baseboard cameras and typically have triple extension bellows (around 18"/45cm on a 5x4 model), plenty of movements etc.

    Langford mentions the Press style Technical cameras and this encompasses the Speed and Crown Graphics, Super Graphic, MicroPress etc which are lighter weight with fewer features, shorter bellows etc.

    He then defines the monorail cameras, before going on to the Field camera which he states as obsolete.

    Now Langford was writing in the mid 1960's early 70's while Head of Birmingham School of Photography. He describes the Field camera as being used as a more limited term for the typical Mahogany and Brass folding cameras after the introduction of the metal bodied Technical cameras. His examples are Gandolfi, Watson, Thornton Pickard, etc, and usually these cameras have less precision and movements than the newer meta bodied cameras, are only double extension bellows.

    Some British style Field cameras were made early on in the US, model names like Albion come to mind, but only Deardorff continued making them after WWI only stopping recently. Langford incorrectly lists the Deardorff as a Technical camera.

    However British style cameras were still being made in India and Japan after WWII and there was a revival in Field cameras in the 1970's which really hit the British market in the mid to late 1980's first with the Wista 45DX, Nagoka, etc. There were also the Wisners etc in the US. These cameras refined the Field camera style using more metal parts to achieve a greater range of movements,

    Dick Phillips and others came up with "new" styles in the US and these were copied by Ebony and then Chines manufacturers.

    Another older term used was "Hand camera" and these are really early forerunners of the Technical cameras and Press style technical cameras most were wooden bodied others metal, these were made by Sanderson (Houghtons), Sinclair, Lizars (most manufacturers). These camera all slide the front standard back into a box then fold up, they are heavier than a field camera, sturdier and more importantly designed for hand held as well as tripod use. Field cameras must be used on a tripod.

    The term "Field camera" though has been used in the same way for well over a century to describe the typical light weight British style wood and brass folding cameras. It's come to be synonymous with the quite typical British style wood/brass camera where the Front standard is tilted into the focus bed before the camera is folded up. In some cases the front standard is removed from the focus track. Generally they are a lot lighter and smaller (thickness when folded) than a similar format Hand camera.

    Ian
     
  10. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    That's a very good mini-article on the subject, Ian. Thank you.
    I've seen the term "English cameras" used on US sites, to describe folding wooden cameras, rather than specifically English-made ones.
    Once you start looking, there's a gigantic reservoir of ingenuity and inventiveness in these things.
     
  11. Robin Brigham

    Robin Brigham New Member Registered User

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    good answer Ian
    very interesting

    best

    robin
     
  12. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    Thanks David, actually I thinks it's a subject worth expanding on with illustrations, examples, and more specifics on pros and cons, and the differences.I've a good selection of cameras to choose from : D

    Ian
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2018
  13. Alan Clark

    Alan Clark Member Registered User

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    The folding brass and wood field camera from the Victorian era is an extremely impressive piece of design work. I take my hat off to the ingenuity involved in getting it to fold down into the smallest possible package. But it was designed for its time, when most photographers travelled to their photographic location by public transport, and no doubt welcomed a camera package that was relatively small, and compact.
    But portability comes with a price. All those moving parts which are there to allow the camera to fold down in result in reduced rigidity. And the hardware used to make folding down possible, adds a fair bit of weight.
    In an era when most of us have our own cars the smallest possible camera package isn't much of a priority. If a camera doesn't fold up, it can be made much lighter, and far more rigid. I have followed this principle with cameras I have designed and made for myself. I actually own a 4x5x4 Shen Hao field camera, but my current home made camera is far more rigid than the Shen Hao, and less than half the weight. Admittedly it doesn't have all the movements that the Shen Hao does. It is a non-folder, fairly bulky, yet still fits easily in the same rucksack that I use for the Shen Hao, and takes up very little room in the car boot.
    All this is fine if you make your own cameras. but I'm not sure if there are many commercial non-folders about. Manufacturers take note! I think Ebony made them, but they wouldn't be lightweight as Ebony chose one of the heaviest and most inappropriate woods to make a camera out of, for some reason.

    Alan
     
  14. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    Following on from what you're saying Alan, I'd just comment thatt the major issue with virtually all pre WWII British field cameras is that they took "Book Form" plate/film holders.

    Some models were made for over a hundred years with only slight differences, the Watson Acme is an example - later a re branded Gandolfi (it may always have been), and sttill made and sold into this Century as a Gandolfi Traditional. GAndofi and Watson still sold Book Form backs into the 1960's with a International back option where as every other company had switched to the International backs after WWII.

    An International back means it takes similar outside dimensioned UK, US or European DDS (film holders), so 5x4 or 9x12cm, or Half Plate, 7x5 and 13x18cm, then 10x8 or 18x24cm. An International back differs from a Graflok back as they don't all accept Graflok fit RF backs, pack film and Polaroid holders. But all Graflok backs are International backs - if that makes sense :D

    There were so many pre WWII British manufacturers and differing models and the reality is that some were very much better than others but hard to use these days unless you make an adaptor or add an International back. Ive done both.

    Ian
     
  15. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    The RPS used to display their very fine collection in Bath. No idea where it's displayed now.
     
  16. Alan Clark

    Alan Clark Member Registered User

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    Ian, I understand what you are saying but what I was getting at was that it seems odd that modern manufacturers, like Wista and Shen Hao seem content to stick largely with a 100 year old design with all its drawbacks, instead of coming up with something lighter, and more rigid, at the expense of less compactness.

    Alan
     
  17. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    I remember that display it had quite a large Leica based component, The Octagon Gallery was one of the best in the country and I saw many exhibitions there ranging from Bob Carlos Clarke's Dark Summer to a large retrospective iof Don McCullin's work.

    I don't really remember the wood and brass section except early wet palte cameras..

    Ian
     
  18. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    Well having used a Wista 45DX for over 30 years as well as much older British field cameras I've always thought that the Wista took the best from early British field cameras and added modern design to give additional movements. I've never had a problem with the Wista's rigidity even in quite windy conditions, but I was shown a very simple technique to improve stability of any wooden or metal view camera :D

    My Wista 45DX has had very heavy use and needs putting out to pasture and less frequent use. I looked a friend in Canada's wife's Shen Hao and was very impressed but would need to check which model.

    I've been out shooting with quite a number of LF photographers over the years and one thing has always struck me is how slow many of their cameras are to set up. To me that's quite important and is so dependant on the design.

    In recent years I've also been shooting a lot with a Press/Technical camera - a Super Graphic, predominately because I have to often shoot LF hand held (tripods are banned, permissions take too long and incur fees, and a lot of time and travel). Now when Graflex folded they (or more likely their owners) sold the tooling to Toyo in Japan who initially continued with the Super Graphic. Later they introduced the 45A.

    We have to decide which way to go, I love using my Wista 45DX it's very versatile, my Super Graphic is better in some as the Wista can't be used hand held but hasn't the same range of movements, not as good with a 65mm lens but it's still far better than a Crown or Speed Graphic. So this is where practical experience is more important than cursory reviews.

    Ian
     
  19. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    Ian,
    Perhaps the Leica-heaviness reflects the primary interest of many RPS members.
    Do you suppose that many LF photographers simply enjoy taking their time? Words like "reflective" and "contemplative" are often used to describe why people have chosen LF.
    The late Fred Picker was very proud of being able to set up his camera at warp speed, and no doubt it was impressive for bystanders, but how does it get onto the negative?
    I understand that there will always be special cases and rare opportunities.

    Did the stabilisation method involve string?
     
  20. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    David, I'm fairly sure the Leica section was a collection in it's own right, it had the collectors name and it was either donated to the RPS or on loan.

    We'd all (mostly) agree about the contemplative & reflective nature of hooting Large Format, that seems to come between shots for me. Once I see the image I want to make it's a quick process, sometimes that's because of the nature of the image or location. In my case that's often avoiding tourists but then I'm usually also working hand held.

    When I reach a location the camera is set up and ready either on its tripod or in my hand, others fold up their camera after almost every shot, that has an impact on how fast you can work. Of course there's always exceptions where you wait for the light to change, the wind to drop (or increase).

    The contemplation and reflective approach (I switched the terms around because you contemplate before you make the image and reflect on what you've just shot) will with most people have knock on effect on the way they work with smaller formats, it did in my case.

    The stabilisation trick is simple, place a DDS film holder. across the top of the camera so it it rests lightly where the bellows attach to the front standard, doesn't work with a lot of bellows extension but usually te front standard is the weakest link in terms of stability.

    Ian
     

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