TO BEGIN (Part II): the 4×5 View Camera

Surveying the three basic types of 4×5 cameras available for large format photography —

  1. the Press Camera;
  2. the View Camera; and
  3. the Technical Camera

— let’s continue the “TO BEGIN” series with a look at the View Camera, also known as the “Field Camera.”

View Cameras are the lightest and most versatile of all 4×5 cameras.  The wooden varieties are common and affordable, and they make a logical choice for getting into large format photography. There are metal and plastic ones too, adding to the variety of extreme weather conditions possible.

The bellows maxes out at less than 300mm, so serious macro enlargements or microphotography is out with the View Camera.  But it has a nice wide range of movements for all kinds of focus Fu; and it has front-rise for straightening out perspective, particularly the converging lines of buildings.  

See Polly Chandler’s work (at right).  Her extraordinary practice in environmental portraiture incorporates lots of camera movement and the gorgeous long tonality and acutance of old Polaroid Type 55.

The View Camera comfortably accommodates lenses from 72mm (wide architecture) to 210mm (head-and-shoulders portraiture).  And the light weight and compact size makes for an easy carry.  (The Ebony RSW45, pictured above, is a bit of a specialty item: with a rigid back and very short extension range, it’s a high-quality first tool for architecture and wide landscape, weighing in at 3.5 lbs or 1.6 kg. The photograph is from Ilya Azhdarov’s Behance page; I don’t know the creator.)

There are heavier and more precise cameras for indoor studio work, but the View Camera is a solid all-rounder and a superb camera for clocking your first ten thousand hours.


K.B. Canham (Ft. McDowell, ARIZONA)

Mike Walker (Flintshire, NORTH WALES)

Gibellini (Sassuolo, ITALY)

Chamonix (Haining City, CHINA)

Shen Hao (Shanghai, CHINA)

Intrepid (Hove, ENGLAND)

Nagaoka (Japan)

Ebony (Japan) [no longer made]


Video: Jordan Bickett with his Ebony RW45




Burke & James










R.H. Phillips

Gowland (especially the Pocket View)

We can help you pick your first large format camera.   Please do not hesitate to contact us at

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