I am an enthusiastic amateur landscape photographer from Minnesota who decided a year ago to move up from 35mm to a larger format. After considering the merits of medium vs. large format, I decided that I wanted the image quality of 4x5 and set about researching my next move. After poring through the excellent books by Steve Simmons and Jack Dykinga and reading just about every thread on this forum, I decided to take the plunge. With the luxury of a decent savings account courtesy of selling prints from my Epson Stylus 2200, I was able to buy equipment that I hope will never have to be upgraded.
With the help of Jim at Midwest Photo Exchange, I purchased an Ebony 45S in mahogany (for the weight savings), Schneider 110XL and Fujinon 240 A lenses, Gitzo 1327 tripod and Bogen 329RC4 head, Lowepro Pro Trekker backpack, Toyo focusing loupe, Blackjacket darkcloth, and Fuji Quickload holder. I spent last weekend hiking around Minnesota's North Shore and held my breath when I delivered 7 Velvia quickloads for processing. Well, I got them back yesterday and was delighted to find that each sheet was properly exposed and in sharp focus! I feel like I got away with something, almost as though it shouldn't have been this easy.
I was pleasantly surprised by several aspects of my experience. First, the camera was MUCH easier to operate than I expected. The movements were simple and intuitive, and the 45S and these lenses clearly have way more movement potential than I am likely to need in landscape photography. To illustrate, I was surprised at how little tilt was required to render sharp focus throughout most scenes. Second, my Minolta Maxxum 7 and cheap Tamron 28-200 lens turned out to be an excellent light meter and viewfinder. It's nice to have the option of matrix metering in appropriate situations, and the 200mm setting provides a nice, tight spot meter. Third, the more "boxy" aspect ratio of 4x5 made the 110XL seem much wider than I expected - more like what I expected to see from a 90mm lens. Fourth, there's something magical and addicting about viewing a scene on the groundglass under the darkcloth. I also learned not to do this for too long on a cold morning as a layer of frost gradually snuck up on the groundglass while I was composing.
I'd like to thank those of you who have contributed to this forum because your comments have allowed me to figure out how to use an entirely manual camera system that I had never even seen in person until it arrived in my living room. I'll post an image when I get one worth of being scanned by the Epson 4870 I hope to buy in a few weeks. I am moving to Laramie, Wyoming in August where I will have ample opportunities to photograph in my favorite part of the country. I look forward to being an active contributor to this forum in the future as I continue to gain experience and learn from your continued words of wisdom.