I often get asked “what do you shoot on?” I never know how to answer because I own and actively shoot on over 14 different cameras. My camera collection includes small, medium, and large format film cameras, with manufacture dates ranging from the 1940’s-1980’s. So I decided to catalog my current collection, with a few examples of the types of images each camera can produce.
This is that catalog.
BENDER 4X5 VIEW CAMERA (MFD 2014)
This isn’t a camera that you can buy. I built this camera from a kit. I bought it from a guy off Craigslist who really had no idea what it was. HERE’S the blog post about the actual assembly process.
This is a view camera, which means it’s extremely versatile in terms of adjusting the tilt and shift. It’s pretty big, but actually very light because of the cherry wood frame. I only have limited experience with it so far in regards to portrait photography, but I’m not totally satisfied. It can be challenging to nail the focus, and the few images I’ve taken haven’t been as sharp as I would have liked.
Images captured on my Bender 4X5 View Camera (click to enlarge):
CANON 5D MARK II
This is actually the only digital camera that I own. I loved it when I first bought it, but I only use it on a limited basis now. Primarily, I use it for fitness and product photography. But when I do use it, I love the images it produces. It has a full frame sensor, and does well in most light scenarios. After shooting almost entirely on film, it takes a little adjusting mentally to come back to this camera, and realize that I can adjust things like ISO and White Balance.
Images captured on my Canon 5d Mark II (click to enlarge):
CANON FT 35mm
I’ll admit that 35mm is my least favorite format to shoot on. But I really like the perspective of this camera when shooting with the 20mm prime. The mount makes it particularly hard to focus, and the images overall aren’t as sharp as other cameras. But that gives it a somewhat unique look. The built in light meter is very accurate, which makes it good for fast shooting. Also, (as with most of my film cameras) it doesn’t require any batteries to operate.
Images captured on my Canon FT 35mm (click to enlarge):
KODAK DUAFLEX II TLR
This is a very basic, cheap camera, that you will often find in thrift shops and antique stores for $15.00 or less. It requires the less common 620 size of film. Which makes it relatively expensive to shoot on. I have only used it once. It’s a TLR but the viewing lens doesn’t adjust, when you focus the taking lens, so you don’t actually know if your images are in focus. You just have to estimate, or measure your distance for accuracy. Also the iris has only three options, f/8 f/11 f/16. The lens is a 72mm and has a fixed shutter speed, which I think trips at 1/60. Really this is just an old point and shoot camera that I’ll probably never shoot on again. But the images have an interesting look.
Images captured on my Kodak Duaflex II TLR (click to enlarge):
GRAFLEX ANNIVERSARY SPEED GRAPHIC
This is the first 4X5 camera that I ever purchased. It’s a field camera that was primarily used by newspaper photographers in the 1940’s. Some of the most iconic images in history were taken on cameras very similar to this. It has all the features you need to hand hold, and shoot on the fly. But for my style of portrait photography, I prefer to take my time with a tripod, eye loupe, light meter, shutter release, etc. One of the big “advantages” that this camera has over my other 4X5’s is that it’s equipped with a focal plane shutter. Which is basically a tension/spring loaded fabric sheet, directly in front of the film plane that you set and release, with an open lens. Some photographers argue that this produces a sharper image. But I haven’t seen enough evidence to warrant the extra work. Overall the image quality is incredible.
Images captured on my Graflex Anniversary Speed Graphic (click to enlarge):
GRAFLEX PACEMAKER CROWN GRAPHIC
This Graflex is very similar to my Anniversary Speed Graphic, except for a few significant differences.
1. This Graflex does not have a focal plane shutter 2. It has more versatile tilt/shift options
Just like with most other 4X5’s, you can’t view the image on the ground glass after you load the film. It has a spring loaded film holder. If you want to take a portrait layout photo, you have to turn the entire camera on it’s side, which isn’t always convenient. But it produces amazing results.
Images captured on my Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic (click to enlarge):
GRAFLEX RB SUPER D
This is the most recent addition to my camera collection. This Graflex is a 4X5, and has a few features that make it WAY more convenient to shoot on.
1. It’s an SLR (single lens reflex), which means that even after the film is loaded, you can view your image through the ground glass to focus and compose your shot.
2. It has rotating film back. Which means you don’t have to turn the camera on it’s side to take a portrait layout photo.
But there are a few down sides. You have to view it as a waist level camera. Which means if you want to take a higher angle shot, you have to be standing on something to raise the level of the lens. Also, the lens on the camera does not have a shutter. So you HAVE to use the built in focal plane shutter. But that’s only a minor inconvenience.
I’ve only taken a few shots in this camera, but I really love the end results. It produces images with a really classic look.
Images captured on my Graflex RB Super D (click to enlarge):
If you’re interested in the photography world at all, then you’ve probably heard the name ‘Hasselblad.’ Today, Hasselblad makes some of the most expensive and sought after cameras in the industry. And it wasn’t much different back when this camera was manufactured. I feel extremely fortunate to have scored this camera package off Craigslist. I bought it with the camera body, two backs (one broken, now fixed), an 80mm lens, a 50mm lens, and a 250mm lens. The guy who sold it to me, told me that it used to belong to his brother who used it to shoot wildlife in Africa.
I love using this camera because of it’s history, and because of the amazing image quality. It shoots in a classic 6X6 format and is very compact, even with the added handle and prism viewfinder.
Images captured on my Hasselblad 500C (click to enlarge):
HORIZON 202 PANORAMIC
This is a very specialized camera that I picked up as a “throw-in” when I bought my Crown Graflex, from a guy off Craigslist. It’s a 35mm, rangefinder, panoramic camera. It’s focus is fixed to infinity, which makes it pretty terrible for portrait photography. When you take a picture, the lens physically pans from right to left, at whatever speed you have your shutter set. As you’d probably imagine, this camera is really only good for landscape photography. The end result, are super wide images with a warped, fish-eye effect.
Images captured on my Horizon 202 Panoramic (click to enlarge):
From what I’ve researched about these cameras produced in the Ukraine, you either get a really good one that lasts forever, or you get a lemon that breaks immediately. Apparently I got one that will last forever. It’s not a very expensive camera, and it has a fairly cheap feel. It’s a medium format camera that shoots in a 6X6 format. The two lenses I have for it are housed in light plastic and the prism viewfinder doesn’t fit on very snugly. But, the images it produces are pretty good and the camera itself is nice to shoot on because it shoots like a basic 35mm and isn’t a whole lot bigger than one.
Images captured on my Kiev 60 (click to enlarge):
MAMIYA C330 TLR
I was immediately intrigued by this camera when I saw it at an estate sale. The main reason being because you can swap lenses. Most TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) cameras have fixed lenses. It’s a medium format camera that shoots in a 6X6 format. But when I actually did my first shoot, I was actually a little disappointed. Because of the lens aperture/shutter location and release, it actually shoots a lot like a 4X5 large format. You have to use multiple steps just to take one photo. Also, it’s a bit bulkier than most other TLR’s. I’ve only used this camera on one shoot, but I’m hoping to get a better feel for it over the next several months, because it takes great pictures.
Images captured on my Mamiya C330 TLR (click to enlarge):
MAMIYA RB67 PRO-SD
This is my workhorse camera package. It’s also the newest and most modern camera that I use on a regular basis. It’s a medium format camera and I use two 6X8 powered backs. It has a leaf shutter, which means I can sync it to my strobes up to 1/400 shutter. Because I use the auto-advance backs, I only have to cock the shutter between shots. The rotating back feature means that I don’t have to turn the camera on it’s side when I want to take a portrait layout photo. Which is good because the entire camera is extremely heavy. Weighing in around 15lbs with the prism viewfinder. I like RB version of these cameras because they’re 100% mechanical. You don’t need any batteries or power to shoot, if you also have the original mechanical back. Also if I ever decide to (but I don’t think I will) I can pick up a digital back for around $10,000.00 and shoot medium format digital.
Images captured on my Mamiya RB67 Pro-SD (click to enlarge):
ROLLEIFLEX 2.8F TLR
This is the first film camera I ever purchased with the intent of seriously shooting on. It’s also one of the most valuable cameras in my collection. It’s a medium format camera that shoots in a 6X6 format. It’s so easy to use and produces such incredible images, that it’s pretty much ruined any other tlr’s for me. The glass is crystal clear, and with the prism viewfinder, it’s very easy to lock in focus. It’s compact and is 100% mechanical, requiring no power to shoot. The shutter and iris can both be adjusted with your thumbs using the two silver wheels on the front. On the left is the focus wheel, and the incident light meter. On the right is the frame counter, film advance lever, and switch to change from 120 to 220 film. The trigger is on the front bottom right corner. This design makes it extremely easy and fast to shoot on because everything you need to adjust, is literally at your finger tips. It also comes with a formed leather case that has kept it safe in pristine condition since the 60’s.
This is by far my favorite camera in my collection to shoot on.
Images captured on my Rolleiflex 2.8f (click to enlarge):
I haven’t shot on this camera yet. I still need to build a lens/helical focus combination. But I picked this one up about 6 months ago from a local photographer who had two. This one, and another that he had rigged up with a digital back. From my research, they only ever made 100-150 of these cameras. Mine is #60.
This is as basic as you can get when it comes to a 4X5. It has a hold for a lens, the body itself, and the rear ground glass with a spring film magazine holder. It’s not much bigger than my canon 35mm and weighs next to nothing.
I’ll update this post when I get the package built out and do some test shots. But in the meantime, check out a forum feed about this camera HERE.