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MIke Sherck
22-Feb-2010, 17:56
If you wanted something hand held for portraits, what would you chose and why? I'd like something a little more spontaneous than the usual tripod mounted camera. A Graphlex with the rangefinder? One of the even older Graphlex SLR's? One of the newer Polaroid conversions? Maybe a technical camera? Something I haven't thought of yet?

I'm trying to make up my mind by the end of next week, when I should actually have some money. Thanks for your help!

Mike

Frank Petronio
22-Feb-2010, 18:01
A late model Graflex Crown Graphic with a top-mounted rangefinder and a standard 135/4.7 Xenar lens with the proper focusing cam.

If you want a nicer camera you could get a Linhof Technika, which is more robust and versatile. But it won't make a better photo.

The Polaroid 110 conversions are nice too but for the money, a Crown Graphic is a better value and more robust.

The Graflex SLRs are great but I would wait until a CLA'd one with a Graflock back comes along and that might be awhile.

If you don't need rangefinder or SLR focusing, anything you can rig up with grip means you can just scale focus. Just mark a guide with measurements. Try holding a monorail sideways - it will work!

Jim Noel
22-Feb-2010, 18:25
The Graflex reflex cameras are outstanding portrait cameras. Look at Edward Weston's work for proof. They are heavy enough to be stable and the method of holding them with two hands works far better than a Graphic style camera. While in pharmacy school I must have made over 500 portraits of individuals and couples with one of these wonderful cameras. AS a bonus they came originally with longer focal length lenses which are generally considered better for portraits.The lower angle of view adds strength to the subject.

Oren Grad
22-Feb-2010, 18:58
Try holding a monorail sideways - it will work!

Do you have any self-portraits demonstrating the technique? :)

I still haven't quite gotten the hang of holding my 3x4 Graflexes steady. At least with a Graphic you can use a cable release to trigger the (very gentle) leaf shutter in the lens, which makes life much easier - no big mirror action, no curtain churning through the camera. I need to practice more with the Graflexes.

Technikas are great, if you don't mind holding 8 pounds or so up to your face. (Cue for Frank to jump in and say you don't have to use the hand grip or the multifocus finder. But even without those, it's still going to be more than 7 pounds with a lens and a holder on board.)

MIke Sherck
22-Feb-2010, 19:31
A late model Graflex Crown Graphic with a top-mounted rangefinder and a standard 135/4.7 Xenar lens with the proper focusing cam.

If you want a nicer camera you could get a Linhof Technika, which is more robust and versatile. But it won't make a better photo.

The Polaroid 110 conversions are nice too but for the money, a Crown Graphic is a better value and more robust.

The Graflex SLRs are great but I would wait until a CLA'd one with a Graflock back comes along and that might be awhile.

If you don't need rangefinder or SLR focusing, anything you can rig up with grip means you can just scale focus. Just mark a guide with measurements. Try holding a monorail sideways - it will work!

I'm thinking that a 135mm is a little short for the types of portraits I'm thinking of; more head and shoulders than full body. Would the rangefinder on a Graphic allow you to, for example, focus on the eyes as opposed to, say the end of the nose, or is that sort of thing something you'd want an SLR for? Or should I be thinking of taking the full body with a shorter lens (and commensurately greater depth of field) and enlarging and cropping? And, speaking of Graphics and Graphlexes, should I get out of thinking about 4x5 and think more along the lines of 3x4 or so? Maybe 4x5 is too large and heavy for hand holding and a smaller chunk of film would be better? But then, when we get to those sizes, maybe I'm really into medium format territory?

I think I'd like to have something to focus with. My experiences with my Agfa scale focusing 6x6 camera have not been entirely fabulous, although more practice would improve things, I'm sure.

Sorry -- never done much portraiture before. Never really thought much about it. I'm in for a real learning experience, I can tell. :o

Mike

jnanian
22-Feb-2010, 19:48
the graflex slr is great for portraits
but stand on something, or they will always be pointed "up"
nevermind, you're probably over 5'5" ...

Brian Stein
22-Feb-2010, 19:58
The rangefinder on the graphics is pretty accurate as the baseline is fairly long; with glasses and left eye dominance I find it a bit squinty but can often be as accurate as you suggest. This is one of the reasons Im episodically looking for one of the slrs. They weight in at about 4.5 lb so two hands are required for steadyness unless you bodybuild for a hobby.
If you want to use a longer lens you need to get an appropriate cam for it: goto graphlex.org for more info on this.

Frank Petronio
22-Feb-2010, 20:36
Having shot a lot of 4-6 foot distance portraits with Technikas and Crowns, no.... the rangefinder (and parallax) sucks at those distances and it's a crap shoot when you're shooting wide open and want "just the eyes". They really aren't designed to do that close that way anyway.

Most of the people I see who make successful portraits of that type are using Graflexes with slightly longer (190mm) fast lenses. But they have big bouncy mirrors and dim viewing (at least for my middle-aged eyes) so it is still difficult.

Personally speaking, if you want close, sharp, handheld in a larger format - pick two. Your best success rate will still come from a tripod mounted camera and careful gg focusing or fixing a pre-focused position (ie using a string).

I've shot a lot of handheld 4x5. In terms of success rate, a medium format SLR or TLR, or a good DSLR, will trump the large format by a huge rate. Not saying it isn't fun, just be prepared to waste some film.

And Oren, a Technika is great for handheld landscapes and one-offs. The weight gets bad when you try to shoot several sheets, as you might for a portrait, from the same position, height etc.

Oh and just to be complete, you might consider a Gowlandflex 4x5 TLR or a similar Keith or European camera. Not many were made so they are rare, but they would probably be a pretty good compromise for handheld 4x5. No mirror....

Oren Grad
22-Feb-2010, 22:05
The Gowlandflex is pretty unwieldy - that's a Pentax MX for scale...

David de Gruyl
23-Feb-2010, 04:44
Having shot a lot of 4-6 foot distance portraits with Technikas and Crowns, no.... the rangefinder (and parallax) sucks at those distances and it's a crap shoot when you're shooting wide open and want "just the eyes". They really aren't designed to do that close that way anyway.


On my Crown Graphic, the rangefinder is non-existent at those ranges. Waist to head is as close as you can get with RF on the crown. (something like 6 ft, 135mm lens). Knowing what is in the frame is based on experience. In other words: you kind of guess.

I was careful about calibration of the RF, but would never trust it for a wide open shot like that. Mostly, I use flash. It is sort of a performance art thing, more than portraiture.

The trouble is you can't do ground glass focusing and handheld. Not accurately, anyway.

Henry Carter
23-Feb-2010, 05:13
The secret to using a 4x5 Technika hand-held for any lenth of time is to take the weight off - use a monopod.

135 mm on a 4x5 is a wonderful focal length for hand-held use.

Sevo
23-Feb-2010, 06:18
Reflexes are the best option for handheld LF at closer distances, unless you are prepared to pay for a modern Technika in good shape with matching lens and cam. Press cameras restored from bits and pieces very often aren't precise enough at focusing for close-ups with wide open apertures.

Sevo

MIke Sherck
23-Feb-2010, 06:19
135 mm on a 4x5 is a wonderful focal length for hand-held use.

Why is that focal length, in particular? And just for portraiture, or more in general? I know that Graphics, etc. were often used for reportage and always assumed that they used a semi-wide angle so they could be sure (or more sure, anyway,) of getting the whole scene in. But that's just an assumption. Was there something else that made this focal length a sweet spot?

Mike

Frank Petronio
23-Feb-2010, 06:28
I like it, even close, because it isn't the typical long lens that most people use for classic portraiture. It introduces a roundness and I think a more 3-D look, albeit sometimes distorting features in a less flattering way (big noses and feet). And it is nice to include some more environment in the background, at least for my taste. I feel like it is too easy to use a long lens, like an 85/1.4 on 35mm just makes everything look beautiful but it gets monotonous too.... I like 35mm-40mm on 35mm - even the 50mm feels like a tele.

A lot of famous portrait photographs have been made with normal/slightly wide lenses... Arnold Newman's environmental portraits, Bruce Davidson's work... even Avendon and Penn used a Rollei with an 80mm normal for a lot of their work (I know they also used the tele-Rollei for more of their beauty images, but all those (mostly male) portraits are pretty bulbous.

To each his own. I get tempted to use a 270mm Tele lens on 4x5 for portraiture too.

IanG
23-Feb-2010, 06:34
The 135mm was used because reporters always try to jostle to the front. Older 135's (Tessar types) aren't that sharp at the edges and corners until stopped down to at least f16/f22 but then sharpness wasn't very critical for newspaper work.

A 135mm is nice for more environmental portraits, photographers work in different ways, some prefer longer as a previous poster said 180mm or even 210mm.

Ian

Ari
23-Feb-2010, 06:53
To answer the original question, I am selling my Linhof because it was a little too heavy for hand-held use. It worked very well, but there were four to six steps involved in taking each photo, so even when I got used to the motions, it was hardly a spontaneous photo.
As a result I've decided to give the Polaroid conversions a try, and mine should be arriving any day now. If I like it, I'll have another made with a 150mm lens.
True, they are expensive; but when you need one specific tool, money is unimportant, so long as the desired results are obtained.

W K Longcor
23-Feb-2010, 07:37
As is evident from reading all the answers here, there are as many possibilities as there are photographers. My thoughts are as follows--- I don't like Linhof because of weight. Graphics are light, but rf is not all that accurite close up and lenses are somewhat limited. Graflex slr are wonderful if you don't mind the top view and dim screen. Gowland tlr is very nice - it had a mirror device that you could put on top to get a view from the rear- but that only worked on the tripod, handheld , you are back to the low level view. Just cant see the Polaroid conversions - awful expensive and won't do anything a graphic will do -- really.
The only real answer for you is to get one ( or more) of each camera and give them a try. Of course this is part of the sickness that affects us all -- gotta have another camera! Shots are available to counteract this sickness - the shots are administered ( usually) by ones spouse!:D

Sevo
23-Feb-2010, 07:50
If you want a LF TLR, and a Gowland is beyond your budget, recently there has been a Cambo twin-lens camera floating around on ebay Germany, for 500€ BIN complete with a set of Xenar lenses. Not as cheap as a few years ago when the German police was selling them by the dozen, but still more affordable than a Gowland.

Michael Cienfuegos
23-Feb-2010, 08:00
I have been using my Graflex 3x4 and 4x5 hand held with no problems. As was mentioned earlier, you have to hold the camera close in to the body with both hands. This pretty much negates the mirror slap. No Graflok back on these cameras, but the bag mag is great, holding 12 sheets of film. I also have a 6x9 back for my 3x4.

domaz
23-Feb-2010, 08:16
I like Frank's idea of modifying a monorail to be handholdable by marking the focusing distance on the rail. Why not take it a step further and add a laser rangefinder, Lithium Battery (light), embedded microprocessor and a stepper motor. The laser rangefinder would tell the micro what the distance is to the subject then it tells the stepper motor to move the focusing standard backwards or forwards to actually focus. Large Format autofocus.. that would be a fun project.

jb7
23-Feb-2010, 08:22
As long as you don't try to focus on the eyes...

Robert Hughes
23-Feb-2010, 09:05
Why not take it a step further and add a laser rangefinder, Lithium Battery (light), embedded microprocessor and a stepper motor.
And if you use the right laser it will double as a Skilsaw! Might need bigger batteries, though...

jp498
23-Feb-2010, 14:28
Don't forget the kenyon gyro for image stabilization while you're at it keeping up with the DSLR Jones's.