I recently bought the Nikon D800 and would like to find a way to attach it to my Sinar F1 field camera, so I can get the 4x5 movements and stitch massive files. I'm wondering if anyone out there has direct experience with trying to do this? If so what types of adapters are the best and what are some of the pitfalls to avoid when setting up such a system?
I see that there are a few companies who design adapters. I know Fotodiox http://fotodioxpro.com/ sells an adapter for grafloc backs for $300. Are there better set ups or is this as good as it gets?
I assume that I'll have to get recessed lens boards and pick up used digital lenses for this rig.....the Rodenstock Apo Sironar Digital lenses come to mind. ?
That is a nice dream isn't it? Unfortunately reality mitigates in many ways. I know because I tried different hardware systems to do just that
Here are the problems:
1) physical limitations:
-a) the distance the sensor is located from the front of the camera body's lens mount - the depth of the mirror box plus the lens mount + the the depth of the adapter plate that fits the 4x5 plus the depth of the 4x5 frames and bellows places limits on the range of focal lengths you can use. This is true even if you mount your lenses in a recessed board you can only get the rear element of the lens so close to the sensor.
-b) the closer you have the front and rear standards to each other the less movements you have becasue the bellows (and I recommned wide angle "bag" bellows) will bind.
-c) the throat - the mirror box + lens mount of the DSLR restricts how much you can shift either the lens or the camera before vignetting happens. This is less of an issue with shorter lens (75 to 120mm) than it is with longer focal length lenses because the shorter the focal length the smaller the movement needed to capture ares of the lenses image circle that are off axis. With the longer lenses it becomes a real issue quite quickly. My experience was that this kind of hybrid works best with lenses in the 90-180mm range.
This may sound weird at first because we think of 4x5 asa high resolution format but as general rule lenses designed fora 4x5 camera do not have the resolution of lenses designed for medium and small capture formats. There are other optical issues as well but this is the big one. However there are some extraordinary 4x5 lenses. out there. The Schneider 110mm f/5.6 Super Symmar XL comes to mind.
So of the systems that I tried what worked best?
First of all rulle out any system where you mount your DSLR to a plate that fits where your groundglass frame usually goes. Of course if all you are shooting is small life where you have to deal with bellows extension in the first place by all means try it out.
The next best is a system which uses a custom made bellows that attaches directly to the lens mount of the DSLR and the DSLR mounts to the rear function carrier (Think Sinar P, P2 or p3 but not any of the Sinar F models ) in place of the rear frame.
The best system I tried was the old Cambo Ultima35. It was designed from the monorail up to incorporate a DSLR into a view camera chassis : http://www.cambo.com/Html/downloads/Linkedfiles/english/download/Item9/Ultima35-system.pdf
and the lenses that worked best for me were the Schneider Digitars.
In all cases however as soon as you start using shifts, tilts or swings your viewfinder becomes totally unusable - the optical path just isn't designed for the axis of the optical path to be at severe angles to the sensor -- and you have to rely on live view or shooting tethered to see what you are doing.
Sorry to rain on your parade, but I experimented with multiple variations on the idea of fitting a DSLR to a 4x5 chassis over about a three to four year period before giving up on the idea as being practical.
However don't just take my word for it. If it doesn't cost you a lot of money for a simple adapter it is worth trying as your needs are likely different from mine.