View Full Version : Hello from Switzerland and some Questions

17-Jul-2016, 09:31
Hi everyone,

So I'm about to take my first plunge into large format photography this august. I will be renting an 8x10 Stenopeika 810 Se together with a Schneider Kreuznach Apo Symmar 240mm 5.6 lens. So far if only shot up to medium format but I've always wanted to try 8x10 before film gets even rarer and more expensive. Im in the midst of preparation and try to read up on as much as I can, nonetheless I'm very nervous about making some stupid mistakes and wasting my film, so I would really appreciate some pointers from the more experienced users here.

So here are the things Im struggling with still:

First of the lens. From what I gather my 240mm on 8x10 equates roughly to a 35mm on full frame. Is there any reason I shouldnt use this for portraits too? Im not worried about distortion, my main concern is focusing distance and depth of field. What would the bellows draw be to focus on a subject thats say 1m away with that lens and camera combo?

This leads me to my second and biggest concern which is depth of field. After making some calculations with a dof calculator I found that at a focus distance of 1m Im getting some pretty razor thin dof. I can of course stop down the lens but then I lose a lot of light and my flash may not have e nough power. My speedlite can go up to maybe f32 and i have acces to some more powerful studio lights. But my main question is what would you say is the smallest workable dof with a model in the studio in your experience. Since you focus before inserting the film Im worried that the model will move and all my shots will be out of focus.

Lastly what do people use to store exposes film and how quickly should I get it developed. Im renting the camera for a month but only get 2 cassettes with it so I'll have to change film a lot.

Those are my main questions, thanks for your answers and if you hbe any other pointers or things to look out for I'd appreciate your help. Despite my nervousness I really look forward to shooting large format :)

Greetings from Switzerland,

17-Jul-2016, 17:57
I'm in a fairly similar situation.... after decades of using 35mm and 6x6 I recently got me a 4x5 Sinar with loads of accessories. A few suggestions, based on my experience so far.....
240mm on 8x10 is indeed a slight wide-angle; of course one can use it to make make portraits but be aware that such a lens at 1m will give you a more or less full-body portait.
At 1m the bellows extension would be some 30cm, probably a bit less, depending on the lens and lens plate construction.
As for dof and aperture; I've shot portraits with 210mm and 250mm at F/8 or F/11.... it all depends on the model sitting still in a comfortable position. The beauty of large format is actually the very shallow dof!

Shooting portaits with 8x10 is setting yourself up for a big challenge. I'd recommend you go step-by-step:
First get to understand the camera and the entire process, from loading film in the cassette all the way to enlarging,
For a start, use the cheapest film you can find; you will need to burn a lot. I use Fomapan 200, purchased at macodirect.de.
Start by shooting simple, static subjects (in my case, the view from my house).
Start working with a model once you have mastered the basic process and are really familiar with the camera and how to use it.

Be prepared for failures, but when it works.... it's fantastic! Good luck, I'm looking forward to see your results here!

17-Jul-2016, 18:44
Welcome to the forum!

If I might ask, purely out of curiosity.

Why are you going straight to an 8x10, particularly when you have no experience with large format or sheet film? An 8x10 groundglass is certainly a joy to behold, and might evoke a different emotion in your sitters, but...

4x5 is easier to handle, film is cheaper, depth of field is a lesser concern, and needs a lesser amount of light. The learning process is the same. I don't know how much you're paying to rent the camera, but you could probably just buy a cheap 4x5 for that money.

Or maybe you eventually want to shoot with a 20x24 and 8x10 is good practice :)


17-Jul-2016, 23:27

While you can use any focal length lens on any imaging format for a portrait, the "rule of thumb" it to use a lens that is at least 50% longer than what is considered normal for the format.

Format .. Lens (focal length that is generally available)
35mm .... 85mm
6x6cm ... 105mm
6x7cm ... 125mm
4x5" .... 210mm

I don't know much about formats larger than 4x5" so others might want to add to the above chart.

So with all that said, would you normally create a portrait on a 35mm format camera with a lens anything close to 35mm? Not if you didn't want to run the risk of distorting parts of the body that are close to the lens. The same problem will apply with 8x10" film.

Since a 150mm focal length is about "normal" for 4x5" film, 210mm or longer is what would be used for the format to not run the risk of any distortion in the subject.
I generally use a 300mm f/5.6 Rodenstock lens but I also have Fujinon 210mm f/5.6 and Fujinon 250mm f/5.6 lenses available. (Yes, I have a bad case of GAS.)

Alan Gales
18-Jul-2016, 12:32
You will make stupid mistakes and ruin your film. That is guaranteed with large format. There are just more ways to make mistakes with it than roll film. Learn from your mistakes and as you get more practice in you will gradually make less mistakes. We all make the occasional oops.

A 240mm lens is great for environmental portraits where you show your subject with part of his/her environment around them. Jock Sturges http://onlinebrowsing.blogspot.com/2010/03/jock-sturges-danny-lyon-and-sturges-was.html (beware, contains nudity) was famous for using a 250mm lens for his work.

You can store your film in the box that it comes in until development. If you need an extra box, I'm sure there is someone in Switzerland that will mail you an empty box if you pay for shipping. We large format photographers are good about helping each other.

You need powerful studio strobes for portraiture with 8x10. Think 1,000 watts or better for your main light. Are you going to use barn doors or are you going to use umbrellas or soft boxes? The more diffusion, the stronger the strobe needs to be. I do my portraits outside with 8x10 because my old strobes are only good for medium format. I wish I could afford some more powerful ones.

Welcome to the forum!

Armin Seeholzer
18-Jul-2016, 14:19
Für Schulter und Kopf finde ich 300mm das absolute minimum besser wäre 360mm, weil du so sonst viel zu nahe auf ...
Sorry now in english for shoulder and head I find the shortest possible lens for me 300mm better would be 360mm, or you are much to close on the face of the person!
But you could do environmental portraits or at least half body portraits! But I also would start with 4x5 just to learn the basics, it will be cheaper!

Gruss Armin

18-Jul-2016, 23:47
Hi again,

Thank you so much for all your replies. After some consideration I have to agree that going straight to 8x10 is probably just setting myself up for disappointment. And since rental of the 8x10 and the film itslef is so expensive I wouldnt be able to afford the necessary trial and error phase. I have therefore decided to try and go with 4x5. Sadly I didnt find any place to rent a 4x5 camera in Switzerland, so if there are any swiss shooters here that would agree to a rental for a month I'd be thrilled. My main reason for wanting to do large format is the stunning quality on one hand but also that I just really like learning about this kind of stuff and the much slower pace of the process intrigues me. So I hope I will still get to take some nice pictures in August albeit no 8x10's.

Thanks for the help everyone.

19-Jul-2016, 01:54

The first step is developing procedures/steps/routines for shooting so, you know what to bring to shoot, logical ways to transport your chosen gear, develop your eye to know what to aim the camera at, know what will/won't work using LF, have everything checked/ready to start, have a checklist of the steps to prepare the camera for the time you push the shutter, bring it all home and start the next stages to make that film into something you can view, and eliminate anything that has gone wrong (so you don't do it again...)

The main thing to learn is how to take one sheet of film, and guide it through the process... (Everything is totally manual, and you have to think/work it through...) When you develop the routine, things usually go OK, but you learn to avoid problems/disasters...

Right now, any sheet film format will be OK to learn on, as the routine is about the same on other formats, but as mentioned, using a lower cost format/material is a good thing early on as mistakes can get very expensive the bigger the film... Even the smallest LF sizes can produce stunning results when used well...

As for which format to use, consider how you plan to make prints... Smaller negs might be scanned, or will need to be enlarged... Larger negs might fit in some scanners, but can be contact printed at their size, but enlargements will require a huge enlarger... Decisions, decisions...

Ultimately, what you feel comfortable with shooting is best, and the magic is in what you do in the process to bring out the best...

Good luck!!!

Steve K

19-Jul-2016, 02:41
Hi Michael,
Welcome. I am based in Zurich.
PM me if you want to meet-up or shoot together some time.