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Author Topic: Buying my 1st LF camera. Some thoughts. Comments welcome.  (Read 1099 times)


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Buying my 1st LF camera. Some thoughts. Comments welcome.
« on: April 17, 2013, 03:32:32 PM »

Here's the dilemma:
I know a little about LF and a little more about MF.
All film.

I am going travelling, slowly, so kit is not too much of an issue.

I was toying with shooting portraits and some landscapes plus some general documentary images on the Mamiya 7.

However, I do see the benefits of shooting portraits and some landscapes on the LF 5x4.
I won't take both.

That being the case, I know there are some good buys on eBay, and now wanting to work out what will work best.

I was therefore looking at a 240mm, a 150mm, and a 90mm lens. I think this should cover these bases.

The little I know: Rodenstock lenses for portraits as sharp in the middle and drifting a little outwards.. Fujinon if I can pick one up.

Beware Toyo and Cambo unless top o' the pile.

MPP old but good.
Most others good.

Any thoughts?



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Re: Buying my 1st LF camera. Some thoughts. Comments welcome.
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2013, 03:55:07 PM »

I'd be careful with shutters if I were you. At this point, there are an awful lot of LF rigs sitting around unused, which is not particularly good for them. Over the years, I bought a number of old used LF lenses, and the ones that had not seen much recent use were often the ones with the least accurate shutters. As far as lenses go, I really like Fuji (I have an especially wonderful Fuji 180), but my Schneiders are my favorites, particularly in the 65-90mm range.

I take it you're also looking for a camera. When you're starting out, it's easy to think you'll need all sorts of movements available. But in practice, there's so much to learn at first that you're probably better off with something simple. I started with a Busch Pressman, and that worked out very well for me. Still have it. Even now, if I use LF again, I'm probably going to pull out my cheap Japanese-made wooden field camera, rather than something more mechanically sophisticated.

You need to be especially careful with film holders. Old used ones can range from excellent to useless, due to light leaks. Do not scrimp there.



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Re: Buying my 1st LF camera. Some thoughts. Comments welcome.
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2013, 10:10:16 PM »

For a travelling 4x5 a Linhoff Master Technica is a gem.

Also if you are looking for the tilt shift benefits of a 4x5, but in a reflex camera you might want ti consider a Fuji gx680.
Tilt shift and shoots 6x8 120 film.


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Re: Buying my 1st LF camera. Some thoughts. Comments welcome.
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2013, 10:45:59 PM »

Second the old lenses and film holder warning.  However, an used film holder with leaks can be fixed with gaffers tape and black acrylic paint most of the time.  The only time a film holder is completely shot is when the top leaks.  Same thing for the bellows on the camera, gaffers tape and black paint can be a great fix.  Also, easiest way to check the bellows is at night in complete darkness with a flash light in side of the camera.  Great way to spot leaks.  Film holders can be checked a similar way, just not as effective. 

The shutters on the lenses are what I would be most concerned with.  Older lenses that have not been fired in a while and left in the same position tend to have the lubricant in the shutters gum up in a certain position (just like how a refrigerator that is left on its side for a while needs to stand upright for a day before plugging it in).  This will then lead the lube to spray when fired for the first time again; this can lead to serious problems.

Also, many people do not know how to use a Copal shutter (or similar manual leaf shutter) and therefore do not know how to properly rank the shutter when selling.  I ran into this recently and bought a used lens with a bad shutter that was labeled as working perfectly fine.  Fortunately I am familiar with Copal shutters and realized it was not working properly when I received it; I sent it back.  If you buy off of ebay, I recommend that you find someone who is familiar with Copal shutters to test the lens and make sure it is working.  Also, when you receive the lens, make sure to unscrew it so you can make sure there are no marks any were on the glass. 

On testing the lens, I was once told by a older and much more seasoned photographer, "do you have a girlfriend?  Good, have her lay down on your bed in a pair of panty hose.  If you can focus on her legs with a loop and see the stitching on the ground glass, then you know you have a sharp lens."   :D

Joe Kitchen

"Photography is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent moving furniture."  Arnold Newman
“Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”  William Faulkner


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Re: Buying my 1st LF camera. Some thoughts. Comments welcome.
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2013, 11:04:43 PM »


Back in the days when I shot 4x5 I used a Sinar P2 in my studio.

I used to also use a Linhof  4x5 flat bed for my personally landscape work but I found it to heavy so I sold it a bought a wooden 4x5 flat bed camera called a Woodman from Horseman which was a great camera and also very light.


Simon Harper
Harper Photographics Ltd

Auckland, New Zealand
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