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Sean Galbraith
29-Dec-2008, 07:23
Hi all,

I'm going to try shooting a 4x5 camera for the first time this coming weekend, and it is a bit daunting to be honest. I enjoy a good challenge, which I suspect it will be since I've only actually touched 1 4x5 camera in the past - a crown graphics (and not done much more than that). I'll be renting a Sinar F1 system. Here is the list of goodies I can rent:
http://www.vistek.ca/rentals/rentalequipment.aspx?categoryId=21

Some questions:
- My eyesight is pretty good, and the places I'll be photographing (abandoned buildings in Detroit) are somewhat dark.. if I don't have a focusing hood, will that be a problem? I can rent a sinar binocular set and a fresnel screen if those would help.

- Tripod.. I have a Manfrotto 190 tripod with a 3 way head. Is using this a recipe for disaster? Will it even work with my setup?

- With the standard bellows, how wide a lens will typically work?

Thanks for your help and advice. If this weekend doesn't end up in a total disaster (a minor disaster I'm ok with), I'm likely going to be joining the large format ranks.

BennehBoy
29-Dec-2008, 08:23
1) take a blanket or dark t-shirt to use as a focusing cloth.
2) The 190 could be troublesome, which head is it? Chances are they will support the camera just fine but you'll get a fair bit of wobble when you adjust things - not ideal if there's any wind.
3) a 90 should work but you wont get any movements.

Sean Galbraith
29-Dec-2008, 08:25
1) good call. will do.
2) Could I just take the head off and mount the camera straight to the legs? Most of the shooting should be indoors, so wind isn't likely to be a big concern.
3) ANY movements? Is that because of the lens size, or because of the image circle?

Joanna Carter
29-Dec-2008, 09:08
1) good call. will do.
Don't forget to get a loupe of somewhere around 6x magnification; it really is worth it for the fine focusing, especially in dark corners.


2) Could I just take the head off and mount the camera straight to the legs? Most of the shooting should be indoors, so wind isn't likely to be a big concern.
The only problem with no head is how you are going to tilt/rotate the camera without having to do a lot of leg-adjusting. As a minimum, I would recommend a Manfrotto O55 tripod with a 329 head.


3) ANY movements? Is that because of the lens size, or because of the image circle?
Most 90mm lenses will give good coverage and allow for a fair amount of movements; just choose carefully

Finally, get yourself a couple of those small "Maglite" torches that you can place on the line of focus; they really help when things get a bit dingy :cool:

Sean Galbraith
29-Dec-2008, 09:28
Most 90mm lenses will give good coverage and allow for a fair amount of movements; just choose carefully

How do I choose carefully? Any tips? My options are:
Rodenstock 90/4.5 Grandagon N Lens
Rodenstock 90/6.8 Grandagon N Lens
Rodenstock Digital 90/5.6APO Sironar Lens

I was also thinking about getting a 55mm lens (and bag bellows)
My choices are:
Rodenstock Digital 55/4.5APO Sironar lens
Rodenstock 55/4.5 APO-Grandagon Lens



Finally, get yourself a couple of those small "Maglite" torches that you can place on the line of focus; they really help when things get a bit dingy :cool:

I'm definitely well stocked with flashlights, so no problem there. :-)

Jeff Bannow
29-Dec-2008, 09:33
Sean,

I am assuming you will be entering without permission. Make sure the kit you end up with is small and light enough that you can put it into a backpack or some such, so that you aren't an obvious target.

I've done some abandoned buildings in Detroit myself, and am glad that I use a small field 4x5 instead of a big monorail.

- Jeff

Sean Galbraith
29-Dec-2008, 09:51
Permission? What is that? :-)

It will all be in a backpack.

I might end up purchasing a field camera, but I don't have access to one to try out the format in general. Have you found the movements on it to be limiting for this type of work?


Sean,

I am assuming you will be entering without permission. Make sure the kit you end up with is small and light enough that you can put it into a backpack or some such, so that you aren't an obvious target.

I've done some abandoned buildings in Detroit myself, and am glad that I use a small field 4x5 instead of a big monorail.

- Jeff

Joanna Carter
29-Dec-2008, 09:53
How do I choose carefully? Any tips? My options are:
Rodenstock 90/4.5 Grandagon N Lens

Image circle @ f/22 - 236mm


Rodenstock 90/6.8 Grandagon N Lens

Image circle @ f/22 - 221mm


Rodenstock Digital 90/5.6APO Sironar Lens

Optimised for digital, image circle - 125mm


I was also thinking about getting a 55mm lens (and bag bellows)
My choices are:
Rodenstock Digital 55/4.5APO Sironar lens

Forget it, digital only - 125mm !!!


Rodenstock 55/4.5 APO-Grandagon Lens
Movements??? image circle - 163mm, or around 6mm in either direction.

Sean Galbraith
29-Dec-2008, 09:54
wow! thanks!

Joanna Carter
29-Dec-2008, 09:55
It will all be in a backpack.
Wow, that should be some backpack :eek:


I might end up purchasing a field camera, but I don't have access to one to try out the format in general. Have you found the movements on it to be limiting for this type of work?
It's not the movements that would be a problem - the Sinar is a very flexible beast, it's the size/weight that is the main limiting factor.

Joanna Carter
29-Dec-2008, 09:57
wow! thanks!
No problem. BTW, both Rodenstock and Schneider have sites that hold all the tech data for any of their lenses.

The Rodenstock one is at http://www.linos.com/pages/home/shop-optik/rodenstock-foto-objektive/analoge-fachfotografie/

Jeff Bannow
29-Dec-2008, 10:10
Permission? What is that? :-)

It will all be in a backpack.

I might end up purchasing a field camera, but I don't have access to one to try out the format in general. Have you found the movements on it to be limiting for this type of work?

I use a Chamonix 4x5 and haven't had any issues so far. The widest lens I use is a Nikon 65mm f4 - it works great, although this lens doesn't offer any movements. There is a 47mm available that covers 4x5, but it is pretty rare.

The nice thing is that the camera folds down to the size of a textbook, and weighs almost nothing. It has pretty decent movements as well when needed. We can put the camera, lenses and assorted gear into any backpack without drawing attention as well.

I haven't used the F1 before, but the Sinar I did use was a beautiful beast of a camera - very big, with big lens boards taking up even more space. It came in a case that was at least 2 feet by 2 feet.

You're welcome to come down and take a look some time. We're going adventuring again on the 11th and will be taking the Chamonix along if you want to join us.

David Karp
29-Dec-2008, 10:22
For interiors, that 90mm f/4.5 Grandagon-N is a great lens (I have one). It has the largest max aperture of any of the big 90mm lenses. You will appreciate the extra light in a dim interior. The f/4.5 version also has a larger image circle than the 90mm f/6.8 Grandagon-N. The only drawbacks are that it uses 82mm filters (if you plan to use any) and it is bigger and heavier than the f/6.8 version.

I never used an F1, but you should probably consider the bag bellows for the 90 too.

shmoo
29-Dec-2008, 13:13
I'm not sure about the Rodenstock lens, but the Schneider 90mm f5.6 SA XL has a large enough rear element that I use a bag bellows on my F2. You may want to check to see if you'll need the bag bellows. Also, check to see what size filters you'll need.

Bjorn Nilsson
29-Dec-2008, 13:27
If you havn't used a view camera before the Sinar is a very good choice. There is nothing complicated about them and they are very sturdy. But do see to that you don't rent too many things, gadgets and lenses. The more stuff, which you are not yet used to using anyhow, the more you will concentrate on the stuff itself and less on what's in front of the camera. So, the camera with a fresnel and the binocular mirror hood (as a unit). Nothing much more than two lenses (a 90mm and a 150mm). Have the camera firmly mounted to the tripod and balance it over your shoulder. You havn't mentioned what kind of film you are thinking of, nor now many film holders etc. (With filmholders, many are good. You don't want to stop and reload every half hour in the field.) Bring some friends to protect you from innocent and not so innocent intruders.

Chances are that you will find the 90mm plenty wide. (It calculates into about a 24mm for 35mm cameras, but these numbers doesn't really translate the way you think.) E.g. a 65mm is very difficult to get along with and takes a lot of getting used to. (Not to mention lenses like the 47mm...)

More about the camera: You should definitely get the fresnel and probably the binocular mirror viewer too. They help a lot and will speed things up conciderably. Also, see to that the rental service have attached a "safety hook" to the front (which prevents lenses from falling out from the front). These hooks should be mandatory on the Sinars and are a cheap insurance (they cost maximum $20 or so) compared to a smashed up lens at maybe $2000.
And yes, get the bag bellows for the 90mm. (You can leave it on if you are using a 150mm lens.)

Last, do yourself a favor and practice with the view camera as much as you possibly can before you come to Detroit to make the "sharp shooting". You seem to be investing a lot of time, effort and also money into this. A full day of extra practice will reward you greatly. (I checked the prices at Vistec and they seem OK. If you have the time, try to get a "package price" for the whole package and try to get to use it for the extra day of practice at a discounted price (i.e. have them charge half or so for the extra day). There's nothing wrong with asking this. They will still get their money and unless there is a heavy demand for that particular gear (it isn't), the alternative is that they don't earn any money at all. Just be nice and positive about it. Besides, if you succeed with your project you will tell everyone else how nice they treated you, won't you? :) )
(My usual path when shooting projects is to do some recognosence (sp?) with a Hasselblad or so and then come back some other day for the shots which I want to take further.)
For myself, I use a Sinar F2 when shooting outdoors and I want to move about a bit. Yes, the camera is heavier and bigger than most wood folders, but I normally have it set on the tripod anyhow and then it's much faster to work with than most other view cameras. This is especially true if I "have to" work with tilts and swings, where some built in scales (read: "gadgets") help a lot to take all the guess-work out of the equation.


//Björn

Sean Galbraith
29-Dec-2008, 17:19
My request:
F1
Rodenstock 90/4.5 Grandagon N
Manfrotto 055 + 229 head
10 film holders
Changing bag
Minolta IV meter

I also picked up 20 sheets of Kodak 160 VC (I love this film in my medium format gear).

I'll be picking up the gear on new years eve, to give me an extra couple days to get used to it before putting it to use. The 2 things that give me the most pause is the loading of the film into the holders and loading the holders into the camera. I'm sure I'll get the hang of it in short order, though.

Frank Petronio
29-Dec-2008, 17:59
See if they have a Harrison Changing Tent rather than just a plain old changing bag, or learn how to make a room in your home pitch black and load in comfort. Trying to do it the first time in a cramped changing bag will be tough. If possible, try to practice in daylight with some scrap film. It is very easy once you do it -- far easier than trying to spool 35mm onto reels for developing.

With the 90/4.5 you should get the bag bellows. That lens is really nice and it has a lot of room for movements, but without the bag bellows you won't really be able to take advantage of them fully.

I don't know Manfrotto but just get the biggest tripod, better to err on the heavy side.

Sean Galbraith
30-Dec-2008, 06:22
I could be climbing barbed wire fences, so weight reduction is a good thing. I'll have 2 tripods to choose from, and a couple days to see which one will work vs. weight.

They don't have a changing tent, but I don't expect to be using one anyway. I'll have exactly enough film/holders for the trip and will be loading them all before I go. I have a black outable room (well, at midnight it will be) and will load them all before I go.

I'll get the bag bellows for sure. Thanks for the tips!

Frank Petronio
30-Dec-2008, 06:27
Going to the Brickworks it sounds like.

Sean Galbraith
30-Dec-2008, 06:32
Yup with a bit more added risk. :-)
(love the brick works)

Sean Galbraith
4-Jan-2009, 22:13
Review of first time!

This past weekend I was trespassing my way through various detroit abandonments with the rented F1.

Before I left I loaded 20 sheets of Kodak VC 160 into holders, and found it surprisingly easy to do. I was definitely intimidated by this beforehand.

Using the F1 was a joy. Very simple and well laid out controls I shoot architectural subjects, so didn't need a lot of movements anyway. My main problem was getting used to how dim the viewfinder was in these dark buildings (when I was inside). It was impossible to see much outside of the center of the glass, let alone see if the corners were in focus. Inside a beautiful abandoned church, one shot was 10 minutes long @ f22, to give you a sense of the light levels. Another building I just left the camera in the car because I knew it would be impossible for me to use it.

Problems: I ruined 3 frames before even taking photos. One: When I re-inserted the darkslide, it seemed to be getting stuck on something.. turns out the film had removed itself from the holder. Two other times, when removing a film holder, it caught the lip of a darkslide and lifted it up (the little locks had spun free). While taking photos, I ruined one by opening the shutter (whoops) and I think another might not have been in focus (it started to freezing rain and I rushed) - I hope it was close enough and the F22 caught it.

Overall I had a great time shooting with the camera. But I decided to not buy one just yet. I'm going to spend the next year shooting medium format and making sure I'm comfortable enough with being film only before I make the jump. Plus, I need to give a lot more thought before buying a camera system with a viewfinder so dim that I might leave it in the car.

Dropping off the shots for developing today and will post the results when I scan them!

Thanks to everyone here for your help. It was invaluable.

Bjorn Nilsson
5-Jan-2009, 07:14
It sounds like you had a lot of fun, apart from gaining a lot of experience. You are not alone in making those mistakes, we've all been there. Or, you only ruined 3 sheets out of 20, that's quite good for a first outing.
About the dark image, it sounds like you didn't use the fresnel lens after all, as it really helps a lot when using wide-angle lenses in particular.
A tip in that particular situation is to use a friend as an assistant to hold a flashlight on various spots where you want to focus. (For whenever you decide to shoot in low light again.)

Yes, medium format is much quicker to use. I shoot a lot more with my Hasselblad than my Sinar, due to portability etc., but I like the "experience as a whole" much better when I use the Sinar.
Even though a new or newish camera is nice, a well used Sinar will still serve you just as nice as the one you rented. A decent F1 can be found at maybe $500-600 or even less. About the same goes for lenses. With some patience you can find very nice lenses for say $200 a piece. (E.g. Caltar lenses usually sells for substancially less than Rodenstock lenses, dispite they actually are exactly the same lenses, made in the very same factory.) They are not new, but there's noone who can tell the difference in your pictures. I.e. for around $1K you should be able to find a nice outfit with a couple of lenses, some holders etc. The best deals is usually when someone wants to sell a complete outfit. ("Yes, it's cheap, but you MUST take away the whole box.")

For myself, my -blad outfit is mostly more than 20 years old. I havn't got any LF lens which is newer than about 10 years and some my most valued ones are +70 years old. (At f/22 noone can tell the difference anyhow.) Yes, I do have a couple of expensive Super Symmars which I like very much, but I recon I could get along without them (yes..., no..., yes..., no... :) ).

We're all looking forward to seeing your results.

//Björn

Sean Galbraith
6-Jan-2009, 05:32
Here are some of the shots.

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1121/3174000486_53c735ce3e_o.jpg

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3079/3173996114_17688a5ffe_o.jpg

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1159/3172255289_c36064942f_o.jpg

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1194/3173157445_630eaa49d7_o.jpg
(couldn't get the white balance right on this one, so I just left it as is)

More on my flickr stream http://www.flickr.com/photos/smlg/

Bjorn Nilsson
6-Jan-2009, 08:30
This is good work, regardless of whether it's your first time with a Large Format camera. Weather seems to have been boring with flat light, but I recon it actually helped you to get your exposures right, along with keeping track of everything else.
As you notice in some of your shots, some of the lines are a bit off and walls are leaning here and there. While the 90mm doesn't sound like very much wide-angle, it's enough to get anyone into trouble. (These perspective errors are quite easy to correct in Photoshop, but some other time you know what you need to practice.)
Anyhow, I hope that you are satisfied with the results of your efforts. You have some good material (here and on flickr), which I hope is useful to you. I got the impression that this is part of some project, of which we really like to learn some more. (Are you planning an exhibition? Is this part of some academical study? ...?)

//Björn