Equipment Review: Sinar A1 4x5 View Camera

An informal review by Hamish Reid
Review Copyright © 1994, 1995 Hamish Reid. All Rights Reserved.


[Notes and additions added 3/99 in square brackets and italics -- HR, 3/99]


The Sinar A1 is Sinar's introductory or beginner's 4x5. The A1 is, in fact, the SInar F1 in all but name, rail, and rail attachments, as far as I can tell. Sinar sells it with a four year full price-back arrangement if you trade up to a more expensive Sinar model; you also get a reasonable case for the A1 included in the price (the case also fits lenses, spare bellows, and backs in with the body).

The A1 has friction movements and geared rear focusing; the movements are roughly 70mm rise/fall and shift, at least 35 degrees swing and (base) tilt (all figures for each standard). The A1 has an easy-to-use tilt, swing, and depth of field / f-stop calculator built in. Bellows are fully interchangeable (and come in three increasingly wide-angle versions). The film back is not rotatable in the Toyo sense, but is easily taken out and put back vertically or horizontally without much fuss. Maximum bellows extension with the standard rail is 19"; there is also a 6" rail extension available. Minimum extension is a function of lens rear element size when using the wide angle bellows. The rail attaches to both 1/4" and 3/8" screw mounts.

Sinar provide a few pricey accesories like binocular reflex viewing hoods, etc, but third party accesories like the Calumet roll film back, filter holders, lens shades, etc. work well with the Sinar (it's worth remembering that Horseman accesories and lensboards generally fit Sinar models).

The setup I used included:

The rented items were from Gasser's in San Francisco.

In summary, the A1 is a nice way to get into 4x5 if you don't mind either getting third party accessories or can put up with Sinar's prices ($2,200 for a roll film back?). The A1 is light, strong, has adequate movements, is easy to use, and produces good results. I have only minor criticisms, all of which are covered in a later paragraph.

Oh, and it also attracts curious crowds wherever you go....

Background Uses

I was relatively new to large format photography when I decided to buy the Sinar. At the time [1994?], I'd been using a Pentax 6x7 medium format camera for several years, and while I liked the 6x7's sharp and essentially grain-free results, I needed movements -- especially front standard rise and tilt -- for the various streetscapes and landscapes I do.

Most of my large-format photography is either landscapes (urban, desert, California's Central Valley, mountains, etc.), architecture, or high art (the usual nonsense). I did not want to use it much for portraits or commercial still-life / product stuff, but I didn't want to pre-empt this either.


So what did I like about the A1? In no particular order:

Other Points / Hints Etc.

Detailed Peeves

Again, in no particular order: