Frequently I am asked what cameras/lenses I use in my studio. The short answer is: something with geared focus and flexible bellows. The long answer is: because I have gone from Horseman to Rollei to Novoflex to Fujifilm to Linhof, and seemingly back to Rollei, why not check with me next year?
That said, the above cameras (from left): 1. Linhof M679cs, 2. Rollei X-ACT 2, 3. Novoflex BALPRO T/S, have been responsible for most of the imagery I have taken since 2012 when I took up studio photography again.
The logic behind the above arrangement is extension: versatility to the left. The Linhof provides the stablest platform, the most macro extension, and the best movements. And while the Novoflex moves the least, its focus is the smoothest. The X-ACT 2 is sort of an odd duck. Without adjustment, its focus gears jump. Its frame amplifies studio and focus vibrations. Yaw plagues its movements. Sounds bad, right? Because both of its standards can simultaneously be lowered, raised, and shifted, it is the most useful for normal magnification macro tabletop photography.
It and the BALPRO T/S use the same lens and back adapters and both cameras can adapt almost any lens out there, whether SLR, M39, or large format. The BALPRO T/S is the only camera to which you can go from a 120mm macro lens to a 35mm wide angle without first changing bellows and/or the front standard. Of course, it won't get as close to a subject as the M679cs or X-ACT 2, but rarely do I need enlargements beyond what the BALPRO T/S is capable of with a 120mm lens.
Here are a few more images:
Before purchasing the Linhof M679cs, I briefly used the Fujifilm GX680 III. The Fuji is a fine camera with great lenses. But it isn't well-adapted for macro. Its lenses go soft at high magnifications. And even with its mirror locked up, it jumps between shots. Finally, its focus gears and plastic rail teeth return sometimes-jittery results.
I re-purchased the X-ACT 2 last week. I keep coming back to it because of its brilliant finder system. It is Rollei's technical 6000-system camera, meaning it can use most if not all 6000 finder accessories, the waste-level finder with 3x loupe and electronic shutters being my favourites.
The Linhof requires a dark cloth and hand-held loupe, and as a result, is far slower to operate. Using it with electronic shutters and wide-angle lenses is also more difficult. The BALPRO T/S is compact, light, and sturdy. It and the X-ACT 2 are compatible with most of the same accessories, which is great. What isn't is that you can't rise its front standard without tipping the camera on its side and mussing stability. And I use front rise in about 90% of my table-top work.
Below is a recent image I took with the BALPRO T/S:
And here is one taken with the X-ACT 2:
And here is a recent one taken with the M679cs: