Intrepid 4×5 – One Year of Traveling – a Review, Thoughts, and Photos

By Sam Forrest

If you like to shoot film, then you understand that it isn’t every day that a camera maker comes to market with a line of new cameras, let alone large format view cameras. So I was surprised at how few results were returned when I did a quick search on this site for “Intrepid Camera,” considering they have been selling their kits for about 7 years now. I found lots of news posts about product announcements and trade shows over the years, but only one post that was written by an actual user and gave some objective sense of what these cameras are all about (link). I acquired mine, the Intrepid 4×5 model, in May of 2022. Intrepid camera also offers a 5×7 and 8×10 version. Up to the time of writing this, I have taken it to 6 states and two countries. I have carried it on my back on multi-day backcountry trips and countless shorter hikes. I have dropped it off my tripod into the sand, broken plastic components, lost two of the little spirit levels that come glued onto the camera, and made repairs to the front tilt knobs (all unrelated incidents…). This post is meant to be an honest review, but more so my own thoughts on the possibilities that this camera opened up for me within the realm of large format photography.

If you’re a large format film shooter chances are you’ve heard of the UK-based Intrepid Camera and their collection of ultra-lightweight and ultra-affordable folding view cameras. If you haven’t, or if you are considering jumping into the format, I hope you learn something from this post. Intrepid began as a kickstarter project back in 2016 with a very basic 4×5 camera made entirely from CNC plywood. Their current offering is the camera’s fifth iteration and is a fully functional camera made of plywood, aluminum, and 3D-printed plastic. The camera I own is the MK4 version which was superseded in late 2022 by the current model. The newer version made some slight improvements, including adding zeroing guides for some of the movements and a removeable bellows, but it is by and large the same camera.

The Intrepid 4×5 is a wonderful thing in principle. It is a fully functioning folding view camera that weighs 2.8 pounds, costs under $400 brand new (less than the cost of certain vintage Nikons), and has all the camera movements you would typically want in a field camera. Rear tilt is controlled with nice machined aluminum knobs. Front rise/fall and tilt are controlled with a nifty inner-outer knob design which makes adjusting these movements while groping for the knobs from under a dark cloth much easier compared to having separate knobs. These are made of 3-D printed plastic. It would have been nice to see the same machined aluminum here. Front shift and swing are adjusted by loosening a plastic wing nut that sits under the front lens standard, allowing the lens stage to slide and rotate. Having these movements share the same knob sometimes becomes tricky when trying to employ front shift and swing at the same time. There is no rear shift or swing. Focusing is done with a single knob at the rear which turns a worm gear which moves the platform forward and rearward.

front view of an Intrepid 4x5 camera
The Intrepid 4×5 MK4, replaced by the current version in 2022

The Intrepid 4×5 is compatible with standard Linhof/Techinca lens boards which are readily available on ebay and likely in a dusty bin at your local camera shop. Intrepid sells their own plastic lens boards on their website, but I do not own any of these. The rear standard rotates to change between portrait and landscape, and snaps nicely into place with magnets. A big gripe I have is that the focusing knob protrudes ever so slightly into this plane of rotation, meaning that you cannot rotate the back when it is in a 90 degree position (0 degrees of tilt). If you decide to switch the orientation of image after you have already focused and set any rear tilt, you have to tilt the rear standard out of the way of that focusing knob in order to rotate, throwing out your focus and tilt. This is a big oversight that could have been so easily solved by just making the focusing knob a hair thinner or recessing it a bit. I have actually taken the knob off of mine and sanded it down a little. It really is so close that I wonder if this is a tolerance/quality control issue from which only some cameras suffer.

photo of a sunrise with reflected light on a dead tree
Sunrise looking east out of Pine Creek Canyon, California. Portra 160, Intrepid 4×5 MK4. 90mm Nikkor-SW f/8 lens.

The back is the standard Graflok style which means you can swap it out for a myriad of roll film holders and instant film backs. The ground glass sits in a 3-D printed plastic frame, which is in turn held in place by two thin aluminum strips which provide spring tension against the rear standard. When the camera was new it had plastic thumb tabs to facilitate the removal of the back, mine snapped off ages ago. Not super critical, but another place where plastic might not have been the best material. It looks like the new version simply did away with these tabs. The ground glass is held into the frame by two very fragile-looking aluminum retainers, which are screwed right into the plastic frame. One of them stripped when I removed the retainers to install a fresnel. The camera base is made of nice, sturdy aluminum with one 1/4″ and one 3/8″ threaded hole in the center for mounting tripod plates. Because these holes go all the way through the base, you have to be careful that the mounting screw in your tripod plate is not too long. I learned the hard way that too long of a screw will protrude through the base too high and actually interfere with the focusing worm gear.

ground glass of an intrepid 4x5 camera
Self portrait in the reflection of the ground glass of the Intrepid 4×5. Intrepid sells a plastic fresnel to fit over the glass which I purchased and installed shortly after buying the camera.

What I consider a big selling point of the Intrepid 4×5 is their service and availability of parts and accessories. They offer every add-on and upgrade you could ever want in your large format kit including a fresnel screen, recessed lens boards, a ground glass hood, and replacement ground glass. My camera developed an issue where one of the front tilt knobs would just spin on its threads and would not lock down. A big problem for employing scheimpflug. I emailed Intrepid through their website contact form, got a response the next day and had a whole new knob and thumb nut assembly in the mail. Replacing that part myself was trivial. Try getting that kind of service on your 80-year-old Speed Graphic!

black and white photo of a mountain fjord in alaska
Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet at low tide, Alaska. Delta 100, Intrepid 4×5 MK4. 150mm Caltar-SII f/5.6 lens.
black and white photo of corn lilies and tree branches
Corn lilies growing under a sprawled and stunted alder tree near Girdwood, Alaska. Delta 100, Intrepid 4×5 MK4. 90mm Nikkor-SW f/8 lens.

Despite some of these complaints I really love the Intrepid 4×5 for its ruggedness. Even though there are a lot of plastic components, the simplicity of design, serviceability, availability of parts (and let’s face it, the low price point) make this a true workhorse of a camera. I don’t think twice about wrapping it in a soft towel and packing it into a backpack next to my tent, stove, and sleeping bag for multi-day trekking. I couldn’t say the same for my antique, all brass and cherry Wista Field 45DX. And while the plywood and plastic construction may not be the most durable, it makes for a featherweight camera. Without a lens, it comes in at 1,252 grams (2 lbs 12 oz) according to my kitchen scale. That’s lighter than the Chamonix 45N-1 by 218 grams (7.7 ounces), and at less than 1/2 the cost!

picture of a 4x5 field camera folded up
My Intrepid 4×5 MK4 folded up and ready to go
view up a rocky slot canyon with a mountain beyond
Looking north up Cottonwood Creek within the Grand Canyon. Ektar 100, Intrepid 4×5 MK4. 90mm Nikkor SW f/8 lens. It was a two-day trek to get to this spot. (I did a “five frames with” post about this trip here).
dawn over a desert scene with a rocky peak in the distance
Dawn in Ironwood National Monument, Arizona. Ektar 100, Intrepid 4×5 MK4. 90mm Nikkor SW f/8 lens.

Intrepid Camera is really changing the game with their lineup of view cameras. Large format photography has traditionally been the domain of career professionals or serious enthusiasts with deep pockets. Today you can buy a brand new 4×5 field camera for less than an entry level mirrorless digital camera. Once you get your first lens and a few film holders it’s reasonable to say you could be totally set up for $600-$800, assuming you already own a tripod. It’s hard to overstate how important this is. Large format film photography is more accessible than ever in history and it’s really exciting to me. When I talk to the techs at my local Tempe, Arizona photo lab they corroborate that more and more people are bringing in sheet film to be developed. And I see it too on social media and Youtube. I won’t pretend there aren’t others doing similar things with new affordable view cameras (Ondu, Gibellini, Standard Camera to name a few). Personally I’d love to get my hands on the Ondu Eikan but I can’t justify another yet camera purchase to my partner. I digress…

At the end of the day I think this camera’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses. Make no mistake, the Intrepid 4×5 is not a professional grade technical camera. It is a rather spartan plastic and plywood box which is designed and marketed for the photographer looking to make their first leap into the format, or to any photographer who wants a super-lightweight large format setup without sacrificing too many camera movements. And that’s precisely what I love about it. It’s a plenty-capable camera to take with you anywhere without worrying too much about heft or about damaging your priceless vintage Linhoff. In the roughly 18 months I’ve owned mine I’ve managed to beat it to hell and it still works great. And I could afford to replace it 3 times before I’ve paid for a new Chamonix 45F-2. That’s definitely a selling point in my book.

black and white photo of a rocky crag and tree reflected in water
My home stomping grounds, the Superstition Wilderness in Arizona. Tri-X 320, Intrepid 4×5 MK4. 150mm Caltar-SII f/5.6 lens.

Thank you for reading! I hope this was informative especially to those considering Intrepid as a starting point getting into the format. The value and simplicity make it a wonderful choice.

You can browse my work on my website.

I am also on instagram.

-Sam

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About The Author

By Sam Forrest
My first ever camera was my dad's Pentax ME Super. Today I am an architectural photographer in Phoenix, Arizona. When I'm not shooting for a client, I love to shoot with my Wista Field 45DX and a slew of different 35mm cameras I've acquired over the years.
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Comments

Robert Gulley on Intrepid 4×5 – One Year of Traveling – a Review, Thoughts, and Photos

Comment posted: 11/02/2024

Thank you for sharing this - beautiful images, by the way, and a very fair and realistic assessment of the camera. They are indeed a good company and they have found a very needed niche in the camera world. Cheers!
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Roger on Intrepid 4×5 – One Year of Traveling – a Review, Thoughts, and Photos

Comment posted: 06/02/2024

Thanks for the introduction to what looks an affordable way into this format (I say "looks like" because I haven't yet worked out what extras are needed along with the camera, what I could get a lens for or what it would cost for each exposure (home developing presumably requires a new tank). One concern with plywood construction is how it responds to damp. Obviously, it won't be weatherproof, but would you take it out even in fog, or does it need completely dry conditions?
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Sam Forrest replied:

Comment posted: 06/02/2024

My first lens was a 90mm Nikkor-SW f/8 that I got for $300 in excellent condition from my local camera shop. 135mm to 150mm is considered a standard focal length on this format and will be more versatile. You'll need a lens board, sometimes the lenses are sold with them but if not they are pretty inexpensive on ebay. You'll need a $15 threaded release cable. You'll need at least a few film holders, my local place sells these out of a cardboard box in varying degrees of condition for $20 a pop, you can buy brand new Toyo ones from major online retailers for $75 ea. Catlabs sells "refurbished" ones for a bit less but I have had mixed experiences with them. A dark colored jacket or even a towel can get you by in bright conditions in lieu of a proper dark cloth, but it is definitely worth the money if you are shooting a lot. Finally, you just need a place to load and unload the holders, some people have access to a dark room or a closet, some like those changing bags. I have a small harrison changing tent but that was a splurge. If you already own some sort of tripod, that's really all you need besides film. And any camera that has a functional light meter can get you by in 95% of situations instead of buying a dedicated meter. As for the wood, most field cameras that I see use hardwood in at least some part of their construction. While I certainly wouldn't take my intrepid out in a deluge, a foggy day or a light mist isn't going to hurt it. The film holders are what I'd be more concerned about keeping dry. Edit: oh, yes. you would need a 4x5 developing tank. I have seen quite a few options from Patterson, Stearman (which i think are most popular) and there are even these nifty daylight developing trays you can buy but they are quite spendy and I have never used one.

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Ibraar Hussain on Intrepid 4×5 – One Year of Traveling – a Review, Thoughts, and Photos

Comment posted: 06/02/2024

Thanks for the review I’ve been on the brink of trying out 4x5 for years and haven’t taken the plunge I did peruse their website a while back as well Fair okay to them for releasing affordable new View cameras with warranty How’s the build quality ?
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Harry Weide on Intrepid 4×5 – One Year of Traveling – a Review, Thoughts, and Photos

Comment posted: 05/02/2024

Here's another vote in favour of the Intrepid 4x5. I've got a Mark 2 that I've put about 75 sheets of film through. (Life has managed to get in the way.) I also had a problem with the front rise/fall and tilt nifty inner-outer knob and I can only say positive things about Intrepid's customer support. It took a few days to resolve the situation, but that was mostly because I'm in Canada and the emails between me and Intrepid were sometimes over-nighters due to the time zone difference. As for the Intrepid being less sturdy, less accurate, etc. than something like a Chamonix, my rationale was to first buy something that could get me up and running quickly for not a lot of money. Who knows? I might have decided that large format wasn't for me. FWIW, I've been using Fomapan, because it's less costly than other films, and I wanted to make my newbie mistakes with cheap film. As things stand, I don't think I've learned everything I can from the Intrepid, so it will be a while before I consider dropping a bundle of money on something "better". If ever.
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Sam Forrest replied:

Comment posted: 05/02/2024

Seems like the front rise/tilt knobs are a common issue on these cameras! At least they are quick to respond, I can only hope they have addressed that problem in the newest version. I think you hit the nail on the head - getting into a new format can be direly expensive and sometimes you can't afford to go all in, or you just want something simple. Case in point, look at the popularity of the Lomo LC-A 120 cameras. Is it the best, most solid MF camera you can buy? Sometimes that's not the point.

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Gary Smith on Intrepid 4×5 – One Year of Traveling – a Review, Thoughts, and Photos

Comment posted: 05/02/2024

Great article about a camera that I'd likely never hear about. The comments are also insightful. The images from the camera are pretty awesome. I'm assuming that you are getting your processing and prints done by someone (other than yourself)?
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Sam Forrest replied:

Comment posted: 05/02/2024

Thank you! I do process b&w at home, color film goes out to a lab. I do occasionally make darkroom b&w prints but all these images you see in the post are scans of the negatives with my Epson V700.

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Roy Shiro on Intrepid 4×5 – One Year of Traveling – a Review, Thoughts, and Photos

Comment posted: 05/02/2024

While I also took the path of purchasing an Intrepid for my first 4x5 camera, and I get your point about the Chamonix being much more expensive, I can say that once a person is sure they want to pursue view camera photography, the Chamonix is worth every penny. It's intuitive in a way that makes view camera use fun and productive. It is very durable as well, something my Intrepid was not, unfortunately. I'd rather pay a good deal more and get trouble-free use out of a camera for years ( probably until I'm unable to use it! ). The Intrepid people are doing awesome work with their view cameras, darkroom equipment, etc. don't get me wrong. I very much appreciate their efforts!
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Sam Forrest replied:

Comment posted: 05/02/2024

Absolutely, hopefully that point sort of came across in my review - its a great way to get into the format without breaking the bank. I think large format photography seems intimidating to people. This was my path too - I spent a year dreaming of learning how to do it and reading about these Intrepids online. Eventually I did pull the trigger and never looked back. But to your point, I did end up getting a cherry wood Wista Field 45 and it is like night and day.

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Roy Shiro replied:

Comment posted: 05/02/2024

I do believe the latest Intrepid revision is much improved, so they do seem to listen to customer input. If I was able to afford 8x10 film , I’d give their 8x10 a try!

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Sam Forrest replied:

Comment posted: 05/02/2024

It does look like they have added a few very useful features since the version I have. I will grasp onto the lie for as long as I can that I don't need 8x10!!

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Jalan on Intrepid 4×5 – One Year of Traveling – a Review, Thoughts, and Photos

Comment posted: 05/02/2024

Thanks for the review of your experiences Sam! I have an 8x10 Intrepid Mark II that I bought in 2021. I use it for wet plate collodion. Mine was made during the shutdowns. Intrepid was having trouble getting some parts and so my camera took a few months to be completed. The Intrepid folks were awesome with regular updates and followups. I too had a front knob issue and they promptly sent me parts for free. I lug the camera all over and it is great for field work. I like that someone is manufacturing a good, cost effective, camera and I bought mine to support them. Wet plate chemicals can be hard on a camera and I also didn't want to damage some historic antique camera.
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Sam Forrest replied:

Comment posted: 05/02/2024

That is funny that you also had an issue with one of the front knobs. I wonder if that is a common point of failure? And yes, the weight of the camera is great for me, as I mentioned I like to take my kit with me on multi-day treks in the wilderness. I think that is where these cameras really shine, even for the seasoned large format shooter who might otherwise have a much more capable camera anyway.

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Jalan replied:

Comment posted: 05/02/2024

I was thinking my issue was the huge lens I have on the camera - 365mm Tessar. Really heavy and probably too much for the system. I actually made up some wood blocks for extra support.

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Sam Forrest replied:

Comment posted: 05/02/2024

wow! i would love to see a picture of your modifications

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Lance Rowley on Intrepid 4×5 – One Year of Traveling – a Review, Thoughts, and Photos

Comment posted: 05/02/2024

Really enjoyed this article. I know someone with an Intrepid 4x5 and I’ve always been intrigued. Great photos you shared too!
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Sam Forrest replied:

Comment posted: 05/02/2024

Thank you for the kind compliment! If you're intrigued, you should pick one up of your own!

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