Anyone who’s dabbled in large format photography knows the name “Linhof”. It’s one of those companies with a long history and a reputation for building some of the best 4×5 field cameras available. I’ve always been curious about them. Are they really “the Leica of large format”?
My first 4×5 camera was a beat up Burke & James press camera. Then a beat up Crown Graphic. Then a Speed Graphic, and finally a Wista Field Camera. The first three were super cheap. The Wista was bit more serious, but it was such a beautiful wooden camera.
The problem I have with large format is that I hate tripods. I had the most fun shooting the Speed Graphic hand-held. This is not how large format is done today, though. Maybe back when Weegee was doing his thing, but now it’s for sharp and super-detailed landscape and architectural work, mostly. Maybe studio portraits. Nonsense, I want to do hand-held, informal, environmental portraits. My Speed Graphic has a light leak, though, so I haven’t been shooting much 4×5.
Then one afternoon I spotted a Linhof Master Technika kit in one of the forum classified sections. It was the camera, lenses, grip, viewfinder, cams, and film holders. The camera was recently CLA’d and had the bellows replaced with genuine Linhof replacement bellows. Basically, it was everything I’d need for handheld 4×5 work. Plus, it was the mythical Linhof.
I bought it. The gentleman who sold it to me included a stack of large format photograph books, negative sleeves, a cool Grafmatic film holder and a bunch of hand-written notes with details about many of the items. I couldn’t be happier with the purchase.
And the camera? It was made in 1972 but looks and feels almost new. The short version is that it’s as well-built and smooth as I’ve been told. Everything is solid and tight and moves like butter. Its build quality feels so far beyond that of my old Graphics that it’s hardly fair to compare them.
It came with three lenses: A 90mm Schneider-Kreuznach Super-Angulon f/8, A 135mm Rodenstock APO-Sironar-S f/5.6, and a 240mm Fujinon A f/9. All three lenses have lens-specific custom cams that allow for accurate focusing using the rangefinder. This means I can focus and shoot hand-held with any of them. And just look at that giant grip!