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Author Topic: LF how to get into it?  (Read 8480 times)
fredjeang
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« on: November 17, 2010, 02:23:43 PM »
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Hi,

As some of you know, I currently assist in commercial (mostly fashion) productions. I'm very happy and thankfull to have such an oportunity. But in the back of my head, I also feel that something is not exactly right. More I'm involved into it, more it appears clearly that this is not the path I'd like to keep going for myself. In fact, I really enjoy shooting with models but doing commercial does not fullfill me.
I'm taking this moment as a tremendous luck to be able to learn a lot, but when I start to think seriously about my own path, something very different emerge naturaly.

I'm attracted to LF, but never end to make the step. Maybe for intimidated. Indeed, when I hear you guys talking about the Rodenstock, all those strange LF devices etc... I feel totally stranger to that and lost, but immensly attracted. It's like another photographic world that I don't know, I'd like to know, but I always end avoiding it because it seems too abstract.
Here, I do not know anybody who is working with 8x10. Madrid in that sense is a village, a desert land so in terms of direct communication with an experienced LF photographer, I can't really have this oportunity for the moment.

When I joined Lu-La, I asked some LF advices here, I was motivated but finally the events and this assistant job kept me really busy and all that falled into an uncertain "tomorrow".  

As I prefer todays than tomorrows, I decided to start anyway on my own.

The think is that I don't really know from where to start with. I have absolutly no idea what should I e-bay, (talking strictly for cameras and lenses). Is there equipment that you could recommend for starting, and very important, that is compatible with digital backs. I will start with film but want to have the possibility to use digi in the future.
Basically I'm looking for good quality/price cameras because my budget is limited.

Any advice very welcome.

Fred.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2011, 08:53:06 AM by fredjeang » Logged
Dennis Carbo
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2010, 02:33:59 PM »
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Hi Fred,

I got an absolutely mint Graflex Grafix View II 4 x 5 camera with Nikon 135mm lens in the case with graflok back and 2 holders for $150.00  From the 40's up to late 60's it was a very popular Pro Level View camera.  Its no P2 but dude....its $150.00 and takes great picts !  Has both front and rear shift , swings and tilts

Regards,

Dennis

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Josiah Davidson
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2010, 03:13:57 PM »
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Hi Fred,

I shot 8x10 landscape for 20 years. I used a Sinar P modular monorai view camera and then a Deardorff flatbed folding field camera. The Sinar P was good for studio work, but the Deardorff was far better outside -- sharper and faster.
Superb lenses are crucial. My favorites were the top-of-the line Rodenstocks (the "Caltar" vesions tested better than the brand-name versions, best color and contrast). Sinar and Nikkor were also good. And I had an exqusite 240mm Computar (whatever that was). Every Fuji I ever tested was junk. Un-tilted they were pretty good, but when tilted they fell apart.
8x10 is great because you can see what you're doing on the groundglass, but a camera, lenses, tripod, and 20 film holders weighs a good 60-100lbs!
4x5 is nice and compact--really about as good as a 35mm kit. And you can use lightweight compact ready load film packets instead of bulky heavy film holders. You can get a nice, small lightweight field camera like a Wista, but it does not have enough bellows for longer lenses, and is not as fast to operate as a Deardorff (if you can find one). I have used MANY LF field cameras, but none are as good and quick as the Deardorff (which is a rickety contraption that just plain WORKS!)
For depth of field, don't bother with trying to inspect the ground glass while stopped down, use a focusing calculation system like what Sinar uses. Faster and much more accurate. Set your tilts and swings. Focus on first item that come into focus. Mark your focus spot on the dial. Focus on last item that comes into focus. Mark your focus spot on the dial. Now set your focus dial physically 1/2 way between the two. Set your aperature according to the scale on your dial. You can make your own scale according to what is an acceptable circle of confusion for your purposes.

There's a little carryover from LF film to digital, but not much. Really only with a scanning back. LF film images are enlarged very little. Sensors (even MF) are MUCH smaller and therefore enlarged much more. So everything needs to be far more precise. For fun, low production work, there is no better bang for the buck than a 4x5 kit with a good film scanner. All used.

Have fun!

-jd
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Rob C
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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2010, 03:38:47 PM »
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Fred, in this case, art photography, I think you are looking at the wrong measuring sticks.

I believe that the secret of success is exactly the same as with fashion, commercial or anything else: networking.

If you can contrive to meet the right people, get invited to the right houses and parties, your Contax will do very nicely, thank you! As, indeed, would 35mm film or digital. Look at so many of the stars of photo art - Leicas, Nikons and Zeiss too, sometimes. You can have the biggest, sharpest prints in the world, but unless you are considered hot, it doesn't mean a thing. It's all a game, and you have to be asked to play.

Rob C
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JoeKitchen
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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2010, 03:39:40 PM »
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Hi Fred,

I got an absolutely mint Graflex Grafix View II 4 x 5 camera with Nikon 135mm lens in the case with graflok back and 2 holders for $150.00  From the 40's up to late 60's it was a very popular Pro Level View camera.  Its no P2 but dude....its $150.00 and takes great picts !  Has both front and rear shift , swings and tilts

Regards,

Dennis


Grafaxes are nice cameras for the price, no big investment.  I would recommend buying one of these to start if you are not that sure of what you want to do.  And a 135mm is a good focal length, should get some decent movement since it is not that wide, but wider than normal.  You can also shoot hand held with them.  If you are handy, you can get a special film holder that can hold 5 sheets of film, but you need to buy three and fool around with them to get one working model.  (Grafax does not make these any more)

When you get a cheap camera like this one, the important thing to make sure the bellows are light tight.  You can do this by inserting a lit light bulb into the camera in a dark room.  If you see spots of light on the bellows then you need to do some repair.  The cheapest way to repair small holes is to paint the inside and outside area with think black acrylic paint (matte finish inside).  

Also, older lenses tend to get less accurate with the longer shutter speeds; something to watch out for.  Hint: always adjust the shutter speed before cocking the lens.  

Something that I would not recommend buying too used are film holders; they can get leaks and are harder to repair.  

Make your own light shade/blanket.  Use two sheets of cloth, inside black, and outside white (it can get hot under there during the summer).  

And you will need to loupe to focus; dont get anything expensive since you are only using it for ground glass.  
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Joe Kitchen
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"Photography is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent moving furniture."  Arnold Newman
"Try not to be just better than your rivals and contemporaries, try to be better than yourself."  William Faulkner
JoeKitchen
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« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2010, 03:43:12 PM »
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Fred, in this case, art photography, I think you are looking at the wrong measuring sticks.

I believe that the secret of success is exactly the same as with fashion, commercial or anything else: networking.

If you can contrive to meet the right people, get invited to the right houses and parties, your Contax will do very nicely, thank you! As, indeed, would 35mm film or digital. Look at so many of the stars of photo art - Leicas, Nikons and Zeiss too, sometimes. You can have the biggest, sharpest prints in the world, but unless you are considered hot, it doesn't mean a thing. It's all a game, and you have to be asked to play.

Rob C
I totally agree with you on the business end, but sometimes you learn different things about doing photography by using different types of cameras.  Shooting with large format really trains you to move slow and pay attention to everything; 35 mm not so much. 
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Joe Kitchen
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"Photography is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent moving furniture."  Arnold Newman
"Try not to be just better than your rivals and contemporaries, try to be better than yourself."  William Faulkner
Sheldon N
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« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2010, 03:50:20 PM »
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http://www.largeformatphotography.info/

and

http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/

All the info you could ever want, and more...
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Dennis Carbo
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« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2010, 05:17:50 PM »
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@Joe

I think you are thinking of the Speedgraphics also made by Graflex, I also have one of these..popular newspaper camera, Flag Raise on Iwo Jima, and Hindenberg disaster were both shot with these and you can hand hold them . I was referring To the Graflex Graphic View II which is an actual View Camera with its own Tripod base made from 1948 to 1967 . Earlier Graphic View 1 ones had less desirable movements. They are well built and fully functional View cameras that give the full range of movements unlike the Speed Graphics which is more of a field camera with some front tilt and rise only.

Great place to get your feet wet with LF there are a million of them out there cheap and they are still very useful

Regards,

Dennis
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Policar
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« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2010, 02:43:48 AM »
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I found the site mentioned above and this book helpful: http://www.amazon.com/Using-View-Camera-Steve-Simmons/dp/0817463534/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1290066612&sr=8-1

From what I understand, the caltar ii-n lenses are the best for the money if you're looking for modern lenses and sharp, well-corrected images.  These sell for very little on ebay and are apparently rebranded rodenstock lenses.  Just don't bid on a 240mm or 300mm one.  I want it!  There are better, more advanced lenses (schneider super symmar xl, etc.) but they cost a lot and mostly only provide more coverage for lens movements.

LF is the simplest format in terms of how the camera works.  The front standard holds the lens, the rear standard holds the ground glass.  A light-proof bellows stretches between them.  You can move both the lens and ground glass with quite a bit of freedom, and so focus (the focal length of a given lens is the approximate distance needed between the front and rear standard to focus), rotate the plane of focus (by angling the lens slightly), and frame the shot while maintaining perspective (rise/fall/shift).  This is a big advantage for shooting architecture; you can  aim at the horizon and then frame up or down as need be so you won't have trapezoid buildings, which you get from physically tilting the camera.  One problem is that large format lenses are SLOW (usually f4.5 to f11 wide open) so you need to view the ground glass under a dark cloth and use a loupe (magnifying glass) to focus.  It's a pain.

When you're ready to shoot, you close the shutter (built into the lens), set the f-stop to what you want, take a light meter reading, calculate for bellows compensation (if the bellows is extended further than infinity focus you need to let in more light to compensate), set the shutter speed, and then slide a film holder in under the ground glass.  The ground glass slides back and the film rests where the ground glass was when you were focusing.  Remove the dark slide, trip the shutter, reinsert the dark slide, and then your film is exposed and ready to process.

The extra quality you get with LF, which isn't even that much better than a good dSLR, doesn't really justify all the work it takes unless you enjoy all the work it takes.  The lens movements are nice, though.

Focus on first item that come into focus. Mark your focus spot on the dial. Focus on last item that comes into focus. Mark your focus spot on the dial. Now set your focus dial physically 1/2 way between the two. Set your aperature according to the scale on your dial. You can make your own scale according to what is an acceptable circle of confusion for your purposes.-jd

How can I get such a device for my camera (toyo 45aii)?  This would be so welcome.  Reading the focusing scale on the bed is quite a pain and I don't know how many millimeters correlate with what f-stop; I'd much rather have a knob I could refer to.
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2010, 04:03:02 AM »
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Do yourself a favor and get a monorail, preferably a reasonably light one ...
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ondebanks
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« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2010, 04:41:41 AM »
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Do yourself a favor and get a monorail, preferably a reasonably light one ...

Yes, that is the biggest initial decision you must make - what shape of LF camera?

There are 3 basic shapes. In order of both decreasing portability but also decreasing flexibility, they are: monorail, folding flatbed (field), and pancake (lens cone).

The pancake types usually only give no other movements than lens shift, but they are light, rigid, and even good for shooting handheld.
Folding field cameras are good all-rounders with decent movements but limited bellows extension. Typical landscape shooter's camera.
Monorails have complete movements, and due to their unwieldy shape are best used indoors but can certainly be taken out into the field too.

I picked up a Toyo 45G monorail for about $150, and it's been fun to play with, to satisfy my LF curiosity, but I haven't seriously shot with it.

Another big consideration to research in advance is - how/where will you get the film developed? Will you be happy with the timescales and price?
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2010, 04:48:16 AM »
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When I recently started again developing (120, not sheet) film I bought a dark cloth changing bag and am very happy with it.
No need for a darkroom anymore - the rest, after film development is scanning and digital.
Color Film I give to a lab.
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ced
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« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2010, 05:28:56 AM »
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Fred I think 4x5 and larger are overkill today and will kill you carrying that equipment into the field too, (not to mention the pain in dealing with the film these days).
The 6x9 format has the same feel and slower pace as the big ones but lighter and more compact.
The 6x9 gives you the possibility to work with sheet or roll film and adapts perfectly to digital formats around right now.
I think it will be years before digital gets to the larger formats at the price one can afford.
The key is precision, stability and simplicity in the optics and the system. Price should not be the only factor in your decision process.
Here is an example, though there are other systems too:
http://tomwestbrook.com/Photography/arca_swiss.html
http://www.precisioncameraworks.com/Pages/arca_core.html
http://www.galerie-photo.com/misura_peronne_us.html

Good luck in your direction.
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2010, 05:36:18 AM »
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Fred I think 4x5 and larger are overkill today and will kill you carrying that equipment into the field too, (not to mention the pain in dealing with the film these days).
The 6x9 format has the same feel and slower pace as the big ones but lighter and more compact.
The 6x9 gives you the possibility to work with sheet or roll film and adapts perfectly to digital formats around right now.
I think it will be years before digital gets to the larger formats at the price one can afford.
The key is precision, stability and simplicity in the optics and the system. Price should not be the only factor in your decision process.
Here is an example, though there are other systems too:
http://tomwestbrook.com/Photography/arca_swiss.html
http://www.precisioncameraworks.com/Pages/arca_core.html
http://www.galerie-photo.com/misura_peronne_us.html

Good luck in your direction.

+1

Thats why I'm planning to get an Arca Swiss F-Line metric 4*5", but with a 6*9 and a 6*12 film back. I know theres a 6*9 version, but 6*12 is tempting and the 4*5" is not much more bulk. The days of my Mamiya Universal are counted....
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ondebanks
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« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2010, 05:50:14 AM »
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+1

Thats why I'm planning to get an Arca Swiss F-Line metric 4*5", but with a 6*9 and a 6*12 film back. I know theres a 6*9 version, but 6*12 is tempting and the 4*5" is not much more bulk. The days of my Mamiya Universal are counted....

Christoph, one of the reasons I chose the Toyo 45G was that I already had a large Mamiya Universal system, so I picked up a Toyo "quick roll slider" which uses the Mamiya Press 6x9 backs on the 4x5 camera. (Note that Type 3 Press backs won't work with the slider: their built-in shutter release sticks out too far).

Ray
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Gigi
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« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2010, 05:58:34 AM »
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There is something elemental and pure about shooting large format: the controls are just what you need, and the ability to shift and rise give a simple precision that is lacking (!) in smaller formats. I shoot with 4x5 collapsible  and have also used a 6x12 back on it for roll convenience when I want it.

That said, I haven't used it in a while, but would be hard pressed to give it up. Was thinking about it the other day tho. Go figure. Keep going.
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Geoff
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« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2010, 06:06:28 AM »
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Christoph, one of the reasons I chose the Toyo 45G was that I already had a large Mamiya Universal system, so I picked up a Toyo "quick roll slider" which uses the Mamiya Press 6x9 backs on the 4x5 camera. (Note that Type 3 Press backs won't work with the slider: their built-in shutter release sticks out too far).

Ray

And these old dinosauruses 6x9 backs are well-known for excellent film flatness ....
Still I'm going to switch. I think in January, after my Mallorca stay I'll start selling,
since I won't adapt my Universal lenses to the 4x5" camera - I want complete movements.

I still wonder what I will get as a street camera then - maybe just use this old Minolta 35 mm film camera I inherited a while ago ... oops - I'm digressing ....
« Last Edit: November 18, 2010, 06:11:28 AM by Christoph C. Feldhaim » Logged

jsch
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« Reply #17 on: November 18, 2010, 06:10:56 AM »
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Hi,

What I use (mostly for portraiture):
Camera
  • Sinar p2 spezial (heavy, but the best for 8x10, if you work alone in the field it's OK if the trunk of your car is your camera case)
  • Sinar Norma 8x10 (much lighter, Avedon used it a lot)
  • I use both cameras and never used folding typs. If you check eBay, you will find that you find Sinar stuff very cheap and that there are millions of items out. Other equipment is much rarer and more expensive.
Lenses
  • 240/300/360 mm Schneider Symmar S or Rodenstock Sironar or Nikon (start with the 300, wide angle, shorter than 210 on 8x10 is not much fun, longer than 420 is also very unergonomic)
  • Copal behind the lens shutter? Helps if you do portraiture.
  • Lens shade !!! Lens shade !!! Lens shade !!! Did I mention a good lens shade?
Film development
  • Jobo 3005 Tank and Jobo CPA or CPP processor for developement
  • BW works without processor on a roller base, Color with processor
Scanner
  • Epson V750 with Silverfast

You definitely want to check the website of Earl Steinbicker, a former assistant of Richard Avedon: http://assistingavedon.typepad.com/, see "Why 8x10" http://lifeslittleadventures.typepad.com/lifes_little_adventures/2009/01/the-avedon-years-part-xxxvi.html

and the website of Douglas Kirkland: http://www.douglaskirkland.com/, look for 8x10.

If you like to mimik the 8x10 inch shallow depth of field look. You can use the Leica lenses (50/1.4 or 50/0.95, the older non aspherical versions have the better effect) or the Canon (50/1.2L) wide open.

Hope that helps.
Best,
Johannes
P.S.: My other camera is a Canon EOS 5D Mark II.
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UlfKrentz
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« Reply #18 on: November 18, 2010, 06:22:13 AM »
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Fred,

Being in Europe, you might find a cheap sinar these days, too. Their system is modular, you can always use parts of a simple camera like the f if you decide to "dive in" the system later. If not, you´ll probably be able to sell it for about what you have to pay now. Most 4x5 cameras (all?) will accept a digital back because they use an international adaptor. You could also use roll film holders for 6x7 or 6x9. I like the sinar lenses (AFAIK Sironar=Rodenstock), Nikon LF lenses are very good, too. Both provide a high contrast. You will have to decide, which shutter to use. If you work in the field or for short lenses I would recommend a lens with build in shutter, although the sinar mechanical copal shutter does work very well, once you are used to it it is very comfortable. LF is nice to work with, nearly all of our still work is done with it, although we don´t use film anymore...

Cheers, Ulf
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Dick Roadnight
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« Reply #19 on: November 18, 2010, 08:34:34 AM »
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Do yourself a favor and get a monorail, preferably a reasonably light one ...

Well, Fred... I know you like the climate in Spain, and you have a job there, but you could team-up with me, and assist me with/use P3/86H/Apo-Digitars & H4D-60, and have use of my comprehensive P2 system with lenses 47-900mm.

Quote
Being in Europe, you might find a cheap sinar these days, too. Their system is modular, you can always use parts of a simple camera like the f if you decide to "dive in" the system later.

Might seem a good idea, but £1,000 for a P2 is the tip of the iceberg, and by the time you have the LC shutter, sliding back, P3 converter etc. it is £10,000, then it is another £20,000 for a top digiback, and £20,000 for a set of Apo-Digitars with eShutters.

... or you can accumulate (most of) this kit over several years from eBay, as I have done.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2010, 08:43:22 AM by Dick Roadnight » Logged

Hasselblad H4, Sinar P3 monorail view camera, Schneider Apo-digitar lenses
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