Forgotten in its old age

by Aditya

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As my primary photographic interests lie in landscape photography, I've been seriously looking into buying a large-format camera. In my research, I encountered the Tachihara 4x5", which is a beautifully crafted cherry-wood and brass frame camera. Sadly, as I've started looking at prices, it appears it was discontinued...this year! :( sob

I am curious about two things. First, is the Tachihara something worth buying used, and if so, outside of ebay, where might I find a used one? Second, are there any equivalent alternatives to the Tachihara that are still being manufactured? I really loved the cherry wood look of this particular camera, and all of the others I've looked at seemed to be black with simple chrome highlights. If there are comparable wood/brass alternatives to the Tachihara, I would be very interested.

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I have zero advice, but a Google search certainly indicated why you might find it interesting. Ken Rockwell seems to think that the Toyo 45CF may be a good option and you can actually get it at Adorama: adorama.com/… –  John Cavan Aug 22 '10 at 3:46
    
If you want something that takes pictures rather than something to take pictures of, a Toyo field camera (CF) is far more practical and doesn't carry the Linhof tax. –  user28116 Aug 24 at 10:22

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

If I had to pick, Linhof would be my choice. Not wood and brass, but they still have the reputation of being the Leicas of large format.

Used kits are good choice because they often already contain all the small things that are needed, but what you can't think of and will add to the cost if bought separately.

Random things that come to mind: lens mount and availability of lenses, tripod - you need a sturdy one. Viewfinder and lightmeter. Sheet film and E-6 processing availability. Good scanner or scanning service. Light table and loupe. The bad thing with 4x5 slides is that they cannot be projected (one of the aspects I really like about slides). Not to mention the huge bag :).

As I've commented elsewhere - I'm myself in a stage where I'm learning the emulsions and how they render the scene in different lightning (white balance, contrast, saturation), so I find it useful to shoot couple of hundred rolls of "cheap" 35mm reversal film before moving to anything bigger.

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Thanks for the tips. I've read about what it takes to actually shoot a 4x5, and the "huge bag" comment is so true! Its actually one of the things that has so far prevented me from just buying outright. Did not think about the light table, however I do have a great nearby photo shop with all the goods. Good point about learning how to develop slide film first. I plan to use Fuji Velvia 50 film, as it seems to be cream of the crop as far as landscape photography goes. It seems like I can get a 35mm camera quite cheap, so getting some practice with transparencies and E-6 should be easy enough. –  jrista Aug 22 '10 at 15:35
    
@jrista - not sure I understood you correctly, but you probably don't want to develop your Velvia yourself, do you? It's not like it was impossible, but setting up a darkroom and messing with chemistry is not what people usually want to do nowadays :) When talking about experience with emulsions I rather meant how they render the scene (contrast, saturation, white balance). –  Karel Aug 23 '10 at 13:14
    
@Karel: Well, I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so I probably would end up developing it all myself. At least, unless I could be sure that I could get very consistent results by sending them out to be developed somewhere else. That said, I may have to hold off on this for a while. The cost of these cameras is pretty high, but that's just the camera. The overall cost of everything needed, including lenses and film, as well as the ongoing film development and scanning costs etc. sounds like it will be far too expensive for me to dive into right now. I appreciate the links, however. :) –  jrista Aug 23 '10 at 16:44
    
@jrista - having shot around 1000 frames of Velvia and Provia during the last year, I still don't know if the place where I process my films is extremely consistent or I just don't notice. Anyway, this is the place to look at when you're into home processing: apug.org/forums/forum40. Getting off-topic, but I've been drooling over Kodachrome myself lately, although sending them to the only remaining place in the world where they're still developed - Dwayne's photo in Kansas - is a bit out of reach for me.. –  Karel Aug 23 '10 at 19:34
    
I've read some about Kodachrome, but the very reason you mentioned is one of the reasons I decided to avoid it. From everything I've read, and at this point that includes dozens of web sites and half a dozen books, Velvia 50 is THE film for 4x5 Landscape photography...it apparently just saturates nicely and really brings out the colors of the scene. I think I'm going to spend more time learning and researching before I dive in, though. We have only two shops around Denver that do decent film processing or drum scanning, and I need to experiment with 35mm I think before doing 4x5. –  jrista Aug 23 '10 at 19:45

Large-format cameras are very much worth buying used; they're often extremely well-cared-for, if not coddled.

Apart from eBay or KEH, local sources are often a good bet. People will often have these cameras for sale, even if they're not selling them, so checking out local clubs can mean you get lucky. Similarly, consignment sections of local camera stores; people may prefer this route to the relative risk/hassle of eBay.

As far as I know, the only other option for a new wood/brass camera is Wista.

If you can live without the brass, but must have some really nice wood:

  • Horseman
  • Ebony, with titanium fittings (this is the top of my personal list if I were ever going to get a high-end large format camera).
  • Shen Hao. That link says aluminum, but I've seen "copper" listed (which sounds frankly strange) and at least a couple of pictures that look like brass. Perhaps worth looking into further.
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The Ebony is pretty nice. Looks solidly built, which admittedly, the Tachihara's I've seen in person (there is one at a film development shop near here, but its not for sale) did not look quite so solid. The Wista's look pretty nice as well, and they have a pretty wide variety of woods. Thanks for the links! –  jrista Aug 22 '10 at 6:12

You can still get the tachihara from mpex.com

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Thanks for the link! It does look like they have it, and its a good price too! Much appreciated. :) –  jrista Oct 24 '10 at 17:55

I know its been a while and this question is already answered but consider a Canham camera, they're beautiful, quite light and have a massive extension:

http://www.canhamcameras.com/4x5and5x7.htm

I owned the 8x10 version and I almost wanted to keep it just to show it on a shelf. For my 4x5 I went with a Toyo 4x5 field-camera though as they're a little more tougher. Can't recommend Canham enough though.

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Argentum camera manufactura also uses cherry-wood. Cameras are available in the following formats: 4x5, 5x7, 6.5x8.5, 8x10.

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