View Full Version : New to LF Photography
I am new to LF photography, but want (and need!) to do it because I plan to get into alternative processes.
One question I have is, what is a good 4x5 camera to start with? (One that I won't outgrow too soon and one that's well-made, etc)
Can someone also explain some of the basics of LF photography to me, like what is monorail? what is geared "something" on the camera?
Call 1-800-CALUMET and order their new low cost 4x5 camera & the basic package t hat comes with it. It will work well and give you a basic body, lens & accessor ies to keep or trade later. Get Steve Simmons "Usingthe View Camera" book. Look at some issues of View Cam era(Steve Simmons Publisher). This will help a lot. What specific camera you use isn't that important for most uses. Just as long a s it is solid & will hold the adjustments when you apply them and is light tight . Try renting one for a week or weekend and see how it feels. This stuff is fun & the results, IF you can work with large format, are really worth it. I say IF, b ecause some people don't 'see' in large format & the action is much different th an a 35mm with a motor. But if you like it, the quality is a big, big plus & th e control factor is unbeatable.
Does CALUMET have an all number phone number, that can be called from outside th e US? I'm in the UK and only have an old steam powered phone with numbers on it ! Furthermore, in my experience free phone numbers are not accessible from outs ide the US.
Ron, Forgive me, I know you probably don't want to hear this, it will likely onl y complicate your decision further. But you did express a primary interest in " alternative processes" and concerns about "outgrowing" your potential LF camera choice. I'm only pointing this out because of my own experiences in "alternativ e processes", particularly platinum and palladium printing.
If you are primarily interested in "alternative processes", you might want to co nsider a format larger than 4x5, perhaps 8x10. Most, if not all, of the "altern ative processes" require contact printing of the actual negative. If you want p rints larger than 4x5, you cannot simply project a 4x5 negative in an enlarger t o create larger prints, as you would with regular B&W or color printing processe s.
While it is quite possible to enlarge 4x5 negatives to produce much larger negat ives for contact printing, it is often difficult, time-consuming, and tricky to achieve good results. (If you're interested, I know of one commercial source fo r such negative enlargements for contact printing.) It is much easier to produ ce the negative, in-camera, in the actual final dimensions for contact printing. Many will disagree, but IMHO 4x5 contact prints are not all that impressive, par ticularly in the "alternative process". I've often seen and heard that 5x7 is the minimum reasonable size for contact prints, 8x10 is even better. In the pas t I've seen little 6x6 (or in one case, 35mm!) contact printed and displayed in preposterously large mats/frames. To each his/her own!
"Alternative process" prints, particularly platinum or palladium prints, do not give the same impression of sharpness and contrast that normal prints do. These processes are much more visually subtle, relying upon more delicate and wider t onal ranges and textures. In my experience, 4x5 prints do not do these processe s justice, they are simply not large enough to convey these subtleties.
If you intend to do primarily B&W and color LF photography, and enlarging your negatives to final print dimensions in an enlarger, by all means start with 4x5. Enlarging equipment for 8x10 is prohibitively expensive compared to 4x5.
If, as you stated in your question, your primary goal will be getting into "alte rnative processes", I think you will soon outgrow 4x5 and will be looking for a way to create prints larger than 4x5. I speak from personal experience here, I am presently looking for a 12x20 camera/lens so I can create even larger platin um prints than 8x10. Call me crazy, but it's a disease.
There are several good, basic books to explain all aspects of LF. I recommend S teve Simmons' view camera book. It will answer all your questions. Good luck.
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