Accessories are the key to success in using a professional studio camera. This is why Sinar Bron is the top choice among professionals.


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Cambo Ultima, Sinar X , Sinar P, certain Toyo models, and the Arca-Swiss are the best available.

Cambo large format camera accessories
Cambo large format camera accessories

Some other large format cameras (such as Linhof) have an L-shaped system which sags when you insert the heavy scan back into it. Most other 4x5 cameras are also inappropriate because they lack geared movements.

Sliding movements, movements in a groove especially, are the worst kind. Movements which are "locked" with a loose knob are also poor. Another problem are the many cameras where the lock on one side of the camera is completely independent of the lock on the other side (such as most field cameras based on the old-fashioned 4x5 brass construction). Trust us, we have used these cameras and they were absolutely not what you want for any studio work.

Digital scan backs require precise focusing, really precise. You have little depth of field to fall back on with digital cameras (unless you are in full sun outside or have a zillion watts of lighting inside). If your camera sags your focus will be off.

I am a snob when it comes to photography equipment. Thus the Sinar naturally appealed to me (especially since I lived in Switzerland for several years). When Calumet offered a Cambo for evaluation, immediately after I had been using a Sinar Bron for several months, I felt they must really trust their camera. How can anyone possibly find another camera acceptable after being spoiled by a Sinar?

Cambo 4x5 scan back (jpeg)
Cambo 4x5 camera scan back

Calumet handled the evaluation quite intelligently. Instead of sending a used demo model that had been dented and worn out from previous trade shows Calumet sent a brand new unit. This camera had never been removed from its original manufacturer's box.

Furthermore, Calumet sent all the extras and accessories that a studio photographer would possibly need.... an entire box full. After all, even reviewers are only human, and there is nothing worse than receiving an evaluation unit that is missing a key item such as for attaching a lens which has a Linhof board.

Filters, Lee filter holder, Boss screen, an extra-long rail, everything your heart could desire was included by Calumet for this evaluation.

Betterlight digital solutions camera (jpeg)
The fully-outfitted camera shown here is not my evaluation unit, but a demo unit in the BetterLight section of the Calumet Digital Solutions booth at PMA trade show in Las Vegas

Since this was a fresh new camera it came with each component carefully wrapped in protective packaging. I was en route to Germany to attend CeBIT trade show and then DRUPA trade show so it was not feasible to put all the parts together, so I show the main portion here. Now I can see why Calumet had no hesitation sending me the Cambo Ultima even though I was obviously spoiled with the Sinar X. The Ultima is built with solid metal, as though made in a steel foundry by Krupp (in Germany I live in Essen, Ruhr Valley, former home of Krupp steel factories, fortunately all gone with all their smog gone too).

The design of this Cambo Ultima reminds me of all the better 6x6, 6x8 cameras from Linhof and Rollei, the new generation of cameras whose main job is to hold a digital back (the Linhof and Rollei to hold a middle format back with their tiny 35mm-sized chips). The advantage of the BetterLight, PhaseOne, Dicomed and upcoming Jobo digital backs is that they scan 72x90 mm. If you need to enlarge your image to fill a wide format print, rather hard to do that from a minuscule original. Although the BetterLight can be adapted on some smaller models, you lose a bit of the 72x90 image area so I prefer a full-size (and full-featured) 4x5.

BetterLight is available from Calumet Digital Solutions. Cambo is the 4x5 camera featured by Calumet Photographic and Calumet Digital Solutions.

 

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Large Format Cameras
Arca Swiss
Betterlight
Calumet

Cambo Ultima
Color crisp
Dicomed field pro
Sinar-Bron
Wisner
Recommended cameras
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Gateway to information about different options in photo studio lighting

Updated April 30, 1998, edited June 21, 1999; links added July 4, 1999 and April 19, 2000; last updated July 20, 2001; links added Mar. 2002 Redesigned January 2004
 
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