Well I finally took the plunge and purchased a new camera for my toolbox. It was a long time coming, but I mustered up the courage to buy my first large format monorail camera. At a local camera shop I found a very good Cambo Cadet 4x5 Monorail with two lenses, a hard case, ten film holders, several boxes of 4x5 film, and more for a fraction of the price one buys a fancy new digital camera. After talking to the salesperson behind the counter for about five minutes I realized I couldn't pass up such a good deal.
Now, I'm not a total newbie when it comes to large format film. I've been using a Crown Graphic for many years and I regularly use sheet film in sizes up to 8x10 for pinhole work. However, a monorail camera with its infinite movements, incredibly sharp lenses (mine came with two Schneider models), and wealth of creative options is a whole new animal. I've put off buying a monorail camera because well, it sort of intimidates me.
But now it is time to just suck it up and give this new beauty a go.
As soon as I got the Cadet 4x5 home and gave it a quick once over to test out all the controls and movements and then dragged my girlfriend out onto the front porch to do a couple of test shots. I will most likely do a more in depth review of the camera in the coming months but my first impressions are very good. I've read about a lot large format purists criticizing the Cadet for the many plastic gears and knobs on the camera, but as far as I'm concerned that isn't a bad thing. Considering I plan on taking this thing out into the woods I'm not going to complain about the savings in bulk and weight. Plus, I don't get the sense that the Cadet is going to fall apart on me.
After only two shots with the Cadet 4x5 I can also tell that one of my biggest learning curves is going to be dealing with, and in many cases embracing, the extreme sharpness of working with 4x5 and quality glass. I realize it sounds odd to describe this as a challenge, but I've never been a photographer who strives for extreme detail in my work. In fact, a lot of times I strive for a bit of softness and "haze" in my images.
Even though both of the portraits in this post were done wide open at f/5.6 the level of sharpness and detail is incredible. Getting these negatives into the darkroom to do some printing is going to be a real treat to say the least.