|By Peter Bargh
Here's a round up of large format cameras that I wrote for The Photographer magazine a year or so ago. It's a little out of date as a few new models have arrived and some have gone since, but most of the info is still current.
|This is a monorail camera with a field camera price. The front and rear standard adjust on a tubular rail and offer all the basic movement that are necessary for good large format photography. Don't expect yaw free control or depth-of-field scales, but the price does include a 150mm Rodenstock lens, two dark slides, a focusing cloth, magnifying lupe and two boxes of Ilford film.
|Dutch manufacturer with over 50 years experience building solid large format workhorses. The Classic is the entry level model offering simple, but effective, controls to allow 120mm rise & fall and +/-30 degrees tilt on lens and film standards, plus 50 degrees lateral shift. The more active studio photographer will need the extra control offered by the Legend 2. With this heavyweight model you have a more robust frame work, a depth-of-field scale and fine focus controls. Move up to the Master-Plus 2 for yaw free base tilt, variable axis shift and 70mm lateral shift. You may find its 7kg weight to much for location work and here the 45SF, with all but variable axis shift, is a much more compact package weighing just 4.1kg.
A range of light-weight folding field cameras made from black walnut wood, with some unusual sizes on offer. As well as the conventional 5x4in, 5x7in and 10x8in, Canham also produce a panoramic camera with a 4x10 viewing screen. They also make 7x17in, 8x20in and 12x20in models to special order. A wide range of movements, including front rise, fall, swing and tilt along with rear shift, swing and tilt, are offered by all cameras.
The DLC45 is a newer model that veers away from the traditional wood build and is made from machined aluminium alloy which brings the weight down to just 2.1kg. It has a dual rail base to allow speedy bellows extension for lenses from 47mm up to 480mm.
Two 5x4inch cameras are recommended from this Japanese company. The SV45TE with its non warping ebony body is durable in varied outdoor use and accept standard roll-film holders from the likes of Mamiya and Horseman. It also allows wide-angles to be used without the need to drop the bed.
The SV45 has the same strong ebony body but includes additional movements on the film back.
One of the best known wooden camera manufacturers with history dating back to 1885.
You can still by the traditional Gandolfi in a variety of French polished hardwoods all with hand made brass fittings. There are 5x4in, 5x7in, 10x8in and 11x14in models available. They're all fitted with international spring backs and an optional reducing back is available to accept a roll-film holder.
In 1993 Gandolfi shocked the large-format fraternities by introducing a new model known as the Variant. Its design, aided by comments made by photographers, centred around a larger lens panel and extension bellows to allow greater lens choice.
The 5x4 version, called the GV45, is sold in three levels depending in your requirements. The GV45 I has 313mms of bellows extension to allow the use of lenses up to 210mm. The GV45 II and GV45 III have body focus and 485mm of extension for lenses up to 360mm. The GV45III has a revolving back and horizontal and vertical shift, making it the choice for pack shot and catalogue photography. The beauty of a Variant is that you can start off with a basic model and upgrade as and when you need to, and a panoramic conversion is also available.
Typically well finished Japanese product range that includes a couple of 5x4in precision field cameras, four 5x4in monorails and a 10x8in monorail. Being the lightest of the group, the 45HD will suit landscape photographers who intend carrying their camera in a backpack. With a weight of just 1.7kg, it's not much heavier than a pro spec 35mm SLR, but with its range of movements it opens up endless creative opportunities. You can add a variety of roll-film backs including a 6x12cm panoramic back. There's even a handgrip if you're feeling brave! For extra movements you may consider the 45FA which also has back adjustments.
Studio photographers should look at the L-series. These die-cast and machined aluminium alloy cameras are based on an L shaped bracket design and include the basic 45LE a sturdy model with 60mm of rise & fall and lateral shift mounted on a 400mm monorail.
The next up is the 45LS that offers 40 degrees of yaw free base tilt and has a 460mm monorail that can be extended to 700mm for extreme closes ups and telephoto work. Then you move into the 45LX and 45LX-C. Both offer the features of the 45LS, but allow easy recomposing once you've focused. A depth-of-field f/stop calculator is standard and on the 450LX-C, with its focus computer, it even suggests what aperture to select to get the necessary depth-of-field. The 10x8in LX has all the benefits of the 5x4in version with a larger film format for the demanding advertising photographer. Horseman also produce the ISS (intelligent shutter system) that's compatible with a wide range of large format camera lenses and gives you remote control operation of the shutter speed and aperture from behind the camera, making the process a lot easier and precise.
From compact dropbed 5x4in field cameras to heavy duty 10x8in studio models you can be sure German manufacturer Linhof has something to suit the professional. Travel and location photographers will either adopt the compact Technikardan S 45 or the Master Technika. The Technikardan has all the benefits of a view camera including interchangeable bellows, full yaw free movements and 485mm extension for telephoto use, but also has many of the compact advantages of a field camera. The Master Technika Classic 45 is a luxurious field camera with an optical rangefinder and optional handgrip to make hand held location work simplified. Despite its rangefinder design movements are wide ranging, making it usable in a studio as well as on location. For regular studio use nothing beats Linhof's Kardan monorail cameras, kicking off with the entry level Kardan LT to the 10x8in Kardan GTL with its 900mm extension. All offer a wide range of movements and are modular for total format flexibility.
Unusual looking Italian 5x4 that's a good choice for architecture with its 40mm of movement in all directions. It's designed to take full advantage of the image circle of the 47mm Super Angulon lens, but it can also be extended to use 90mm and 120mm lenses. The back accepts standard 5x4in sheet film holders and can be adapted to Sinar and Cambo.
Two hand made wooden field cameras built by UK photographer Rayment Kirby. The 5x4in field camera, made from mahogany and brass is one of the lowest priced large-format camera available. It weighs just 1.6kg and has a good range of movements including a lens standard with rising front, plus horizontal and vertical swing and a rear standard with vertical axis swing and tilt.
The latest AL breaks tradition and is designed specifically to give a full range of movements with wide-angle lenses such as the 47mm. The AL allows 47mm of rising front, even with the bellows full compacted, making it ideal for architectural photography. Its basic spec allows lenses up to 90mm to be used and an extension board can be added to accept a 135mm.
|Similar in function to the Lupa with a film holder attached to a rising lens mount to offer plenty of perspective correction, and surprisingly this comes from Italy too. The advantage with the S4 is that the 5x4in back can be replaced with a 6x9cm and 6x12cm roll-film holder and it accepts a wider range of lenses.
The most renowned name in large format circles covering everyone's needs from the entry level F2 at 1445 to the highly sophisticated E Pixel. The E Pixel is an amazing camera that uses computer technology to calculate the precise position of any movements selected to ensure the subject is at optimum sharpness.
The solidly constructed P2 has clear scales, positive zero settings and asymmetrical swings and tilts for making easier adjustments. The Sinar X is a trimmed down version of P2, but still offers a similar robustness, and the F2 is a lightweight model designed for outdoor users, which can be upgraded into a P2 at a later date.
Talking of upgrades, the whole Sinar system is modular and you only have to look at the vast accessory range, comprising of bellows, extension rails, viewing hoods, focusing aids, cases and film backs to realise that Sinar is the Nikon of the large format world.
The F2, P2 and E are also available in 5x7in and 10x8in versions.
With rise, fall, swing tilt and shift control on the front frame and swing and tilt on the rear frame, there's no denying that the Toyo-Field 45AII field camera will deliver all the movements required by the creative outdoor photographer. Its stunning looks, solid construction and fold flat design add to the package. Its big brother is the 810MII that weighs just 6.8kg and accept formats down to 6x7cm.
The budget studio photographer will find the Toyo-View 45C offers plenty of control for a wide number of applications and will soon have earned its way. Next in the series is the 45GII a fully modular camera offering an infinitely extendible monorail and helical rack system for fine control of focus, shift and rise. Yaw-free movement, base tilt and a depth-of-field indicator are added to the Toyo-View 45GX and bi-axial adjustments to the Robos. The top of the Toyo range is the lightweight VX125.
Mike Walker is a British camera maker who started producing wooden cameras based on Wistas, but has gradually developed an injection moulding process to produce the Titan SF a 5x4in field camera that uses plastic instead of wood. The Titan SF is made from high impact ABS plastic and is furnished with stainless steel and aluminium. It weighs 2.5kgs and the plastic material can stand temperatures between -10F and +120F, making it a reliable option for photographers who shoot in extreme conditions. Add the triple extension, interchangeable bellows, universal lens mount and an international back and you can see why the Titan has had a positive reaction from photographers and the photo press.
|Precision hand building is just the icing on the cake of the sturdy Wisner. Made in the USA from mahogany and hand lacquered brass, it's as versatile as you can get from a field camera. Features that are normally only available on a studio monorail, such as Yaw free movements and rising back are offered. The camera has a geared rear axis tilt that ensures you can tilt the camera and focus at the same time making fast and easy adjustment. You also get a 584mm extension on the 5x4in version and 1090mm on the 10x8in. And, with the special bellows, all movements are available when fully extended.
Compact field cameras with 5x4in and 10x8in options. Weighing just 1.8kg, the 45DX is available in Cherrywood and in Rosewood. The Japanese design allows a 100 degree unobstructed view, front and back tilts, swing control, rising front and shift, and the bright focusing screen makes it easy to focus. A truly versatile package in a lightweight body for the photographer on the move. A 10x8 version is available offering double extension or triple extension. Reducing backs down to 5x7in and 5x4in can be added to the 10x8in and the 45DX accepts a 6x7cm roll-film back.
|Weighing just 1.45kg, this Cherry Wood field camera is fine for the landscape and travel photographer. The lens panel has a range of basic movements, including 35mm rising front and 25mm fall, forward and back tilt and 10mm shift, while the international back swings and tilts. This camera accepts Linhof lens panels and has an international back that takes universal roll-film holders.
If you desire a hand crafted wooden field camera take a look at this 5x4in Mahogany model. Individually built and furnished in gold plated brass controls, the Zone VI is a camera built to stand rigorous professional use in the field.
As well as rising front you have front shift and axial tilts and, once set up, it's easy to slip a sheet film or roll-film back into place without disturbing the controls. Bag bellows can be fitted for use with wide-angle lenses and a larger 10x8in or Black Walnut and American Cherry versions can be ordered.
If you own a large format camera and would like to add a review, please get in touch. If you would like to write technique pieces on large format I would also like to here from you. In both instances e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org