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Thread: Suggestion for affordable 4x5 camera and film for hand-held aerial photography

  1. #1

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    Suggestion for affordable 4x5 camera and film for hand-held aerial photography

    I would like to do some 4x5 photography from the air. What 4x5 camera and film would work hand-held?

    Givens: my working shutter speed is typically 1/400-1/500 when I shoot digital, with aperture around f/8. All i need is infinity focus and a way to aim Subject matter will be cityscapes and details such as buildings. In my closet I have my Schneider 150mm (Super Symmar XL, I think). That would be my lens of choice. (I also have a Schneider 90mm SA XL, but I think it would be too wide for what I envision).

    CAMERA: I would like to get an affordable 4x5 for snapping a few LF shots while I am doing digital work. Please recommend a camera. I see the Linhof Teknika with grip--too expensive but that arrangement with grip looks useful. Perhaps some form of old press camera--I am scouring the internet to learn the various models. Perhaps a Graflex; gosh so many models. I see that the Crown Graphic does not have the focal plane shutter so I could just use the Copal shutter that I have in-lense, correct? I would like to do this on a shoestring budget. I need something that can hold my Schneider SS XL 150mm, which is quite heavy.

    FILM: Near Dallas, I can find Ilford HP5+ and although I was raised on Kodak Tri-X, I can't find it stocked locally, so I was thinking of switching to HP5+. Also, I hope to find a Jobo or Unicolor roller that I can use to process. What developer would you recommend? I think I could shoot it at film speed of ~250 (depending on developer and testing). Let me know if I need to move this part of the post to the film board and I will.

    Paul

  2. #2

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    Re: Suggestion for affordable 4x5 camera and film for hand-held aerial photography

    A Speed or Crown Graphic, Linhof Techika or MPP would work if you protected the bellows from the air stream.
    Peter Gowland made an excellent 4x5 aerial camera (I have the 8x10 version) These were built around the lens so if you found one used it should have the correct lens in situ.
    Some were infinity focus, others had a helical focus. They are rather simple box cameras so if you really wanted you could probably build one yourself for very little $$ around an old 4x5 back and some Baltic birch ply or aluminum for the box. Add handles & your lens. I believe Peter's website is still up try www.petergowland.com
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Use plastic film holders with textured faces as the smooth wooden holders will act like a one way demand valve when you change elevations with a film holder in place.
    That's not fun. No, it's not.

    Have fun!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  3. #3
    Randy Moe's Avatar
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    Re: Suggestion for affordable 4x5 camera and film for hand-held aerial photography

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kasaian View Post
    A Speed or Crown Graphic, Linhof Techika or MPP would work if you protected the bellows from the air stream.
    Peter Gowland made an excellent 4x5 aerial camera (I have the 8x10 version) These were built around the lens so if you found one used it should have the correct lens in situ.
    Some were infinity focus, others had a helical focus. They are rather simple box cameras so if you really wanted you could probably build one yourself for very little $$ around an old 4x5 back and some Baltic birch ply or aluminum for the box. Add handles & your lens. I believe Peter's website is still up try www.petergowland.com
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	4x5AerialStandard.jpg 
Views:	36 
Size:	78.1 KB 
ID:	129275

    Use plastic film holders with textured faces as the smooth wooden holders will act like a one way demand valve when you change elevations with a film holder in place.
    That's not fun. No, it's not.

    Have fun!
    Heck there's one for sale right now. I am not connected with the seller, but I do watch Gowland sales.

    281596213201

  4. #4
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Suggestion for affordable 4x5 camera and film for hand-held aerial photography

    The Crown Graphic is a good versatile camera, more than needed for Paul's purpose. Any of the other common press cameras will do: Busch, Burke & James, or Graphic Anniversary. Only the last has a focal plane shutter. A 1/400 or 1/500 second between-the-lens shutter should be fine. It permits shooting at f/11 or f/16 with ISO 400 film on a sunny day, so any of the 127, 135, or 162mm lenses that come on press cameras should perform well enough. The sports finder on many press cameras works well enough for quick framing in aerial photography. I suggest taping the focus, aperture, and shutter adjustments so they can't accidently be changed. A cardboard shield can be improvised to protect the bellows.

  5. #5

    Re: Suggestion for affordable 4x5 camera and film for hand-held aerial photography

    I assume you are using a Kenyon Gyro then? Because unless shooting from a hot air balloon, 1/500th is pretty slow without one and often results in unusable images. I shoot aerials professionally and like to really produce when I am paying $500+ an hour for air time. So my tool of choice at least for aerial shots that are offered as fine art is a Hasselblad 500ELX with the 9 volt conversion mounted to a Kenyon KS-6 gyro, up to 6 backs loaded and usually 60mm & 100mm CF lenses.

    I see the appeal for a larger neg but as always at the end of the day, a banger shot on MF can make shelving the idea of 4x5 an easy one.

  6. #6
    multi format
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    Re: Suggestion for affordable 4x5 camera and film for hand-held aerial photography

    if you use your speed graphic,
    contact sk grimes and speak with them
    about making a sheath for you bellows
    so it doesn't compress from down-draft.
    it might end up being cheaper to use a gowland, since
    it is made for aerial work ...

    good luck !

  7. #7

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    Re: Suggestion for affordable 4x5 camera and film for hand-held aerial photography

    My preferred B&W film for aerials was TMY, which fortunately is still available in 4x5. HP-5+ is always good so that is what I'd use today.
    Two more thoughts (I'm certainly not a "pro" so take this with a grain of salt)
    Speed is your friend----fast film with a true ISO of 400 & lenses that perform well shot wide open (I'll shoot the Nikon M on the Gowland at f/9)
    Vibration isn't----don't let your camera touch the fuselage while shooting

    By all means do a search for Bradford Washburn and look at the results from his technique with LF aerial cameras.

    Have fun!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  8. #8

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    Re: Suggestion for affordable 4x5 camera and film for hand-held aerial photography

    Any sort of filter suggested for the lens?

  9. #9
    adelorenzo's Avatar
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    Re: Suggestion for affordable 4x5 camera and film for hand-held aerial photography

    Bradford Washburn was the first name that jumped into my mind as well. He shot his aerial photographs with formats up to 8x10, always handheld. I believe he used miltary aerial cameras, I see them on eBay from time to time but they seem to fetch a pretty decent price.

  10. #10

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    Re: Suggestion for affordable 4x5 camera and film for hand-held aerial photography

    I hadn't thought of the pressure changes in the bellows with altitude changes. Also, the tip about textured plastic film holders. I was thinking that when I fly, to minimize pressure effects, I could also wait until I get to working altitude to insert a film holder and let the camera "breath." Great point! I love the work of Bradford Washburn and he is one of my inspirations in my fine art work. The Gowland camera looks awesome--but I may opt for a press camera. In terms of Graphlex, if prefer no focal plane shutter and a Graphlok back, what are my best choices of model? My Schneider SS XL 150mm has a Copal 1 shutter. For Graphlex I see that there are wooden and metal lense boards--can I find stock metal board for Copal 1 size hole?

    I know MF is a great option and shot Pentax 6x7 for years -- this is a labor of love for 4x5 and a heartfelt craftsman-type obsession

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