This is an older version of the Descriptions page. I've left it active because there might be some information here not included in the new version, though this version is not as current.  



Graphic View

Used: $150-200

The Graphic View cameras here are those of aluminum alloy construction in a monorail design. Graflex offered an earlier Crown View in a wooden flatbed design. The Graphic View was made from 1941-49 and the Graphic View II, from 1949-67. An unusual design feature is the inverted V monorail design that houses a rack; the standards are moved with a pinion on the bottom of the standard that engages this rack. Also fitted is a pan head that mounts anywhere on the monorail.

The original Graphic View had base tilts; these were changed to center tilts on the Graphic II. Front rise/fall is controlled by a rack; there is no direct rear rise/fall. Rise is generous to deal with most architectural work, but shift and swing movements are modest when compared to newer monorails. Bellows extension is 12" on the Graphic View and 15" on the View II. Backs are reversible and can be any of three styles--Graflex, Graphic ('spring'), or Graflok-- . If you are unfamiliar with the different capabilities of each, you may want to study my page describing the details of Graflex/Graphic backs, since these dictate the kinds of film holders you can use. Lens boards are standard 4" square x 1.5mm aluminum plates with a cast light trap. A special adapter is available that accepts Graphic lens boards, which is very handy if you have a 4 x 5 Crown, Speed or Super Graphic.

The Graphic View II with pan head without lens weighs in at just under 8 pounds; the Graphic View with shorter bellows and rail is a few ounces less. Outfits may come with a Vulcanoid case that holds the camera inverted. I've created my own lightweight shoulder bag from a midsized insulated food bag that came with a plastic liner and handy shoulder strap.

These are frequently offered with a 127mm f /4.5 Ektar, a sharp lens, but on the wide side for 4 x5--about like a 35mm lens on a 35mm format. This lens has limited coverage for this format and allows for no movements. The 203mm f /7.7 Ektar is also a frequent companion of Graphic Views and will be a better choice if you want to explore movements. The 203mm can be paired with a 100mm or 135mm Wide Field Ektar or 90mm or 120mm Angulon.

Summary: A good choice as a basic monorail, particularly attractive when teamed with a Super Graphic, with which it can share lenses.

Gowland 4x5
Pocket View Monorail

New: From $725-$1025 w/o lens

Peter Gowland's Pocket View competes with the Toho as the lightest of monorails, and more generally large format designs, with full movements. He currently offers several versions that vary primarily in the movements they support and in back design. He has also licensed his design to other manufacturers.

Most Pocket Views have full movements on the front; back movements vary by model. Backs are generally reversible and vary in the kinds of film holders they support. There are several options for the frame that carries the lensboard on the front standard.

This is not a precision monorail, but when set up it is solid and it has an outstanding combination of movements for a camera so small and light. When paired with lightweight lenses, you can have a LF outfit that weighs no more than a 35mm SLR outfit.

My only reservation is that the light weight tapered bellows does not easily support movements in lenses shorter than 100mm, but there is a bag bellows option that solves this problem, albiet at some additional weight and bulk.

Some versions of the Pocket View are made for the 6x9 format. Weight is 3-4 pounds, priced between $950 and $1225 depending on features. See my full review in addition to the external view linked on the right.



Bender 4x5 Monorail Kit

New: About $300 w/o lens

Bender Photographic makes a cherry wood 4x5 monorail kit for about $300. You get precut cherry parts, brass screws, Delrin knobs for movement adjustments, a 22-inch bellows and an 11-inch monorail. It uses a 4x4 lens board and has a reversible, but not a G-back, limiting it to a subset of rollback adapters. An optional bag bellows is available for about $35 and a 22-inch rail and a 2x5 panoramic adapter are each about $20. The Bender monorail has full movements on both standards and the range of movement is likely to surpass most wood field models.

The Bender Web site describes needing minimal woodworking tools and simple techniques as being required to build the camera. The site also has several pages to help you understand what you are getting into and answer presales questions. I haven't seen the printed instructions, but judging from their well-designed Web site and the long life of this product, I expect that they are good. They also provide phone support to builders with questions and problems.

This appears to be a solid alternative to the wood field cameras from SE Asia. See the Bender site FAQ for a comparison of their design to flatbed field cameras. The camera weighs about 3 pounds and appears to have a collapsed size which is about the same as a 4x5 flatbed.


Calumet View/
Kodak Master View

Used: $150-250 with Kodak Ektar or Wollensak lens

Kodak made wooden view cameras of different sizes for decades; post WWII, they made a metal 4x5 view camera that they later sold the manufacturing rights for to Calumet, so you may find essentially the same camera with either trademark. These are about the same vintage as Graphic Views, slightly heavier and bulkier than the Graphics, at about 10 pounds. There were several models, but most seem to have minor differences, except the Wide model that has a shorter bellows and a recessed front standard. Standards are mounted in a U structure with center tilts. Focusing is done on a round chrome rail with friction knobs and a tripod block can be moved on the rail with a knob. Front rise/fall is with a geared mechanism of similar design to the Graphic View; there is no direct rear rise/fall. The Kodak/Calumet has a true revolving back with a bale that allows film holder insertion that is a little less intrusive than the Graphic View, but this isn't a Graflok back and therefore can accommodate a more limited variety of 120 rollholders.  

Calumet/Cambo 4x5 Models

Used: $350-500 with Kodak Ektar or Commercial Ektar

Calumet and Cambo, a Dutch manufacturer, have marketed a model that has had several designations--N, MX, SC--but share a basic design. One of these models is shown above. Standards are mounted on a U-design with generous rise/fall on four tubes that extend up from the rail mount, which uses a 1-inch square aluminum tube of about 18-inches, where the tripod mount also resides. Rotating international backs are common on these models, though some models have reversible backs. Non-tapered bellows design contributes to generous range of movements which are well calibrated. Most have removable bellows, allowing for the use of a bag bellows. While there is intelligent use of aluminum and composites, because they are solidly built they weigh about 10 pounds. This may cause you to feel that they are more at home in the studio than the field, but they are also very welcome when doing architectural work because of their range of movements.

These are well designed, well manufactured cameras and many are available. Because of the availability of accessories, they are a good step up from basic monorails.


Calumet Cadet/
Cambo Explorer

New: $550 w/o lens

The Cadet/Explorer is an entry level offering with full movements. Built on L-brackets that support center pivots, adjustment is not sophisticated but reportedly reliable. The Cadet has a G-back for flexible film choice. Bellows extension on the standard model will accommodate 75-305mm lenses; a cheaper bag bellows version allows lenses from 47-150mm. Many accessories for more expensive Calumet and Cambo cameras can be used with the Cadet. Calumet

Toho FC-45X

New: $1400 w/o lens

The Toho FC-45X may be the world's lightest monorail, with full movements, at just over 3 pounds. It has full movement of both standards, with base, rather than axial tilts; 360mm bellows extension; and what is effectively a reversible back, though in this case the entire camera is shifted 90° on the rail clamps. The back has a bale to minimize camera movement during film holder insertion, but this is not a Graflok back, and it won't accept 'fat' rollholders. It uses its own proprietary design round lens board, but will accept standard Linhof/Wista lensboards. Kerry Thalmann has used the FC-45X extensively and has a very complete use test, with copious illustrations that you can read at the first Review link at the right. Kerry's reservations, though for him not serious ones, were in the design of the lensboard and the need to completely reorient the camera on the rail clamps to change image orientation. A dedicated large format photographer, the limitation in using only "thin" rollholders was not significant to him, but it is to me and may be to others. Toho also makes an FC-45 Mini model with stationary back standard and a simpler monorail for about $1100.


Toyo 45CX

New: Less than $700 w/o lens

The Toyo 45CX is its entry level monorail. Its general topology is that of the other Toyo monorails, but the 45CX uses polycarbonate and lightweight alloys to reduce weight, and presumably cost. The standards are of a U-shaped design that allow center pivots. It has interchangeable bellows, a reversible G-back and can use other Toyo accessories. About 8 pounds and under $700, without lens. Toyo
Badger (importer)
Sinar A1

This is described on the Large Format Photography site as a now discontinued $850 monorail. The LFP site editor notes that the F1 is similar, but as of 05/05, the American distributor does not list the F1 as a current model. The F2 is available from B&H at about $2450. Those contemplating a Sinar should read Hamish Reid's review, linked at the right.


02/25/2009 3:55