After several years I have finally managed to put together a Sinar 5x4 system through buying various second hand gear in bits and pieces as they became available at Photon Photography's eBay store and when I had some spare cash. It is possible to do this because Sinar's standardized components were carefully designed to form a highly versatile, modular camera system.
I had started off acquiring a 5x4 Sinar f1 several years ago from Alex Garde in Tasmania, who was moving up to 11x14 for his wet plate photography, as I wanted do some black and white photography. The f1 came with a standard bellows, two lenses (150mm normal and 75mm wide-angle), a rail clamp, a standard rail, and a Sinar tripod head. In order to use the Schneider-Kreuznach Super-Angulon 75mm f5.6 I had to acquire a wide angle bellows, a lens hood and a yellow filter. I then bought a Sirui R 4123X carbon fibre tripod. All I need now is a case to transport it to a location in the field. One is on hold for me at a Hindmarsh disposal store in Adelaide.
The f1 is a monorail that is designed to be used for film photography outside the studio. The f stands for field. It is a basic, lo fi, light weight 5x4 system--its really a light-tight box--- that can be easily carried in the field. My f1 is without either a light-metering back or the digital lenses. I have no need as I do the metering with a hand held meter, and I manually adjust the aperture and the length of exposure. It is the latter f3 Sinar that is a digital/analog model, which supports a variety of Sinar digital lenses and digital backs.
I have no interest in using a digital back
on a view camera in the field. Mine is a hybrid workflow,
meaning that everything from the camera to the developing of negatives is analog, whilst the final processing, including the print is within the digital workflow.
A standard 5x4 bellows and the Rodenstock Sironar 150mm f5.6 lens was left over after the f1 was operational. I decided to acquire the modular parts to build a Sinar p2 Acquiring the modular parts (rear and front bearers, rear and front standards, focusing screen, rail clamp, standard rail, bellows lens hood, yellow filter) bit by bit from the UK was done over several years.
The p2 is a precision instrument, the gearing is easily damaged with rough handling, and it is heavy, since it is really a studio camera
. In the field, when used with the sturdy Gitzo aluminium tripod, it is pretty much limited to being used a few metres from a car to do architectural photography or urban studies. A padded wooden carrying case is currently being built for it by Lars Heldmann.
All the above parts were bought second hand, as the Sinar p2 is no longer manufactured--this appears to have stopped around 2010. The Sinar p emerged in 1984 and it was then seen as the Rolls Royce among large format cameras. It was high tech for a monorail and hellishly expensive. The contemporary Sinar is the Sinar p3-df
, which allows you to use digital backs or a digital DSLR camera attached to the back. Though the p2 can be converted into the p3-df I have no interest in upgrading. There is no need to upgrade as there is virtually no modern technology in a monorail.
Sinar has been owned by Leica
since 2006, when Leica acquired a 51% stake in Sinar from Jenoptik.
Leica then took Sinar over in 2013, before integrating Sinar into the Leitz group
in 2018. Though I have no real idea where they are going with this integration, my guess is that it allows Leica to use its Leica S3
camera and lenses with a modular Sinar p3-df view camera. To buy into this kind of high end photographic gear requires a major investment that is equivalent to buying a new car.
I often wonder how many large format camera manufacturers are still in business now that digital has become the norm. Gandolfi
has gone as has Ebony
. It appears that Cambo, Alpha
, Arca Swiss
, and Toyo
still in business making cameras --though they must be finding it tough going with the emergence of increasingly affordable medium format digital cameras
? How long can they hang on? In the large format world Gibellini
are new, are purely analogue, and they are surprisingly successful. It also seems that 4x5 field cameras continue to be popular --eg., Wista
amongst others-- as you can back pack them whilst on a bushwalk. It seems that Walker Cameras