From my photo classes in college in 1976 & 1977, I realized that 35mm was not going to give me the quality and versatility I demanded. Upon reading and romanticizing the travels and images of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, I decided a view camera was the way to go. I had been researching what to buy; flat beds, mono rails, Arca Swiss, Toyo, Sinar, Deardorff, Calumet and decided the new cherry wood Wista Field 45 was a good choice, along with two lenses, a 120 Super Angulon, and a 210 Symmar, both made by Schneider. The place to buy? Where else but New York City, a logical choice living in New Jersey.
So I withdrew some of my savings, and drove my red Chevy Nova to the mecca Photo District of NYC. I ended up on 20th Street, one block from 5th Ave, looked for, and found a parking lot, pulled in, got my time ticket, opened my wallet, and what did I flash, but a lot of cash and a cashiers check for $1200.00 to the parking attendant. Hey, what did I know, being as green as a new tomato on the vine? But I ripened pretty quick.
I hurried up the street towards beckoning 5th Avenue. As I quickly moved along, I thought, "Why should 5th be shoulder to shoulder, but 20th Street, one block in, have me as the only one on it, except for a lone individual, dressed in an army jacket and a ski cap pulled to eye level, leaning against the wall?" As I got closer, from behind me, I heard a distinct, sharp, single whistle. He then came off the wall, and very slowly, started strolling up the street. Then it hit me, (thankfully not a black jack from behind) THIS GUY IS GOING TO MUG ME! That whistle was a signal from the parking attendant who saw what I had in my wallet! WHAT TO DO!? Still far enough behind him so he couldn't see me, I crossed to the opposite side of the street and ran up to 5th Ave and into the crowd! I bought what I came to buy and had the store ship the equipment, so I would not have to carry it and make myself a target. When I got back to the parking lot, I leered at the attendant, and he looked at me as if...."What did I do?" There was little I could do but get in my car and leave! That is about as exciting as tech talk can get. My best advice? Mail order!
The Wista Field 45 I bought served me for many years and I produced some of my finest works with that little camera. It was compact and easy to use. The camera I use the most right now is my Sinar F and I love it. Why? Because I am used to it, I know how it works and how to get the most out of it so I can concentrate on whatís important, taking pictures! In addition to my Sinar, I own some Hasselblad. My 35 mmís are fossilized Nikon Fís, with non-working meters. But the shutters are accurate and the lenses sharp and I use a spotmeter, or none at all.
The point is, buy what works for you and your style of work. Try not to get caught up in gadgetry and what's new. Do research and buy the best you can afford. You should really not compromise on the lenses, get the best, Schneiders, Rodenstock, Nikkorís are excellent for large format view cameras. I started with a 210mm Symmar and a 121 Super Angulon. Both still used today. Second hand is fine if you know what to look for. Then go out and get so used to what you have, you can juggle your equipment with your eyes closed (figuratively of course) and never drop a lens cap. Handling your equipment should be automatic. Then slowly add on, but only what you really need.
ALL cameras, from wooden view cameras, to pinhole cameras to digital-auto focus-motor driven-automatic exposure, have essentially three things in common, they are all light tight boxes with a lens (or a pinhole) on the front that projects the image to a light sensitive medium. The rest of the bells and whistles sometimes come in handy. But when you boil it all right down, the mechanics of taking a picture, focus and exposure, are not rocket science. However, expressive images that hit home just very well might be.
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