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Thread: Getting started in 11x14"

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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Oct 2017
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    22

    Getting started in 11x14"

    Hi all,

    It's Friday evening, I'm drinking a good beer at the end of a hard week, and I'm trawling the internet trying to figure out where to start looking for an affordable 11x14" camera. I've tried to digest the big 11x14" thread here – with people giving their inroads into the format etc. – and it seems there are a few options for someone like me who wants to wet their toes, so to speak.

    To give some background, I am a fine art and documentary photograher specialising in long term projects, mainly urban landscape and portraiture. I shoot mostly with a Linhof Techno and Mamiya Leaf Credo 60 digital back; or with the same camera with 6x7cm roll film back, or Linhof Technika V and 4x5" film. I'm a two lens kind of person, with 90mm and 150mm lens equivalent in 4x5" format. I also shoot a lot of film with a Hasselblad 500cm. For all film work, I scan using an Imacon 949 or Hasselbald X1.

    I'm wanting to get into 11x14" film to try recapture some of the magic that digital, despite it's amazing ease of use and results, fails to capture. ULF might be considered something of a folly for me, but I'm really keen to make real objects in the darkroom again and simply contact print everything; to really concentrate on making one shot in the field and being more decisive with my exposures. So it's not really about the detail for me, but the process, the big GG and the fact that every print is a unique object, made by hand and not computer – I'm not interested in scanning 11x14" film, only working in the darkroom where my career started. The format has the extra presence over 8x10" in print, so there in lies the rationale for that...

    Anyway, I've got a few questions regarding the camera options and where people might suggest I start looking. I'm not looking to buy straight away, but I need to know what I'm aiming for and follow how the market is looking.

    1: Camera options: It seems many people recommend the Chamonix ULF cameras. Is their 11x14" essentially a scaled up version of their 8x10"? Compared to the Shen-Hao, which seems to be a similar price–unless someone can correct me on that–and without wanting to start some kind of brand war, what are the plusses and minuses for each camera?

    2: Second hand / used cameras: Where is a good place to start looking? I'm not yet able to see the classified section here (my 30 days aren't up yet,) but are there any other places to keep an eye on or get in contact with? Are there any alternative, maybe vintage brand cameras that are comparible to the Chamonix that I'd do well to keep an eye out for?

    3: Things to watch out for: Aside from condition of bellows and general sloppyness of the parts / rigidity of the camera, what do I need to pay attention to when buying? E.g. with older cameras, are they optimised for focus using thick glass or tin plates? Are there standard film holders for this format, e.g. like the international graflock system for 4x5" that is reliable and relatively precise across the board?

    4: Any other fine print?

    Thanks for your help and time, it's a learning curve and I hope to one day join the club...

    Tim

  2. #2

    Re: 11x14"

    Most of the questions you are asking Tim will be self evident as your search evolves. The process begins by having a clear delineation as to what budget you are working with? 11x14 holders are $200 - $400 each and having a common lot aligned with the camera as to the film plane registration is advised. You will need a beefier tripod. $400 +/- will get you a used Majestic. Figure $10-$12/sheet for B&W film. I am a big fan of finding a used camera that requires being patient and not wobbling when you find the right deal. Ensuring the camera is capable of being locked down properly, has light tight bellows and has extension capability to at least 30" is desirable. A tilting front lens panel is nice to have but it can be worked around with taking the back standard back as necessary. Swing on at least the back standard is also nice to have. I looked for several years before I found my Deardorff V11 at the right price and it gives me enormous joy when I get it in the field.

    Is it possible for you to hook up with an 11x14 photographer in your area and get a feel for the process in the interim?

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Oct 2015
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    378

    Re: 11x14"

    Hi Tim,

    I would suggest doing a Google search for "Tim Layton 11x14" and you'll get several hits referencing articles on his website; he uses a Chamonix 11x14. As I'm sure you've already discovered, buying new can get rather costly. But, used cameras this size don't seem to come up all that often. How do I know that? I've been on the lookout myself for about a year. Occasionally, one will pop up on these boards (usually a Deardorff...think $$$) and I've seen a couple of "beaters" on eBay.

    Good luck in your search for this elusive creature.

  4. #4

    Re: 11x14"

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan9940 View Post
    Hi Tim,

    I would suggest doing a Google search for "Tim Layton 11x14" and you'll get several hits referencing articles on his website; he uses a Chamonix 11x14. As I'm sure you've already discovered, buying new can get rather costly. But, used cameras this size don't seem to come up all that often. How do I know that? I've been on the lookout myself for about a year. Occasionally, one will pop up on these boards (usually a Deardorff...think $$$) and I've seen a couple of "beaters" on eBay.

    Good luck in your search for this elusive creature.
    Agree with Alan. If your budget is in the $3-4,000 range for an 11x14 used system with two holders you at least are in the bid/ask realm of reasonableness to acquire a good camera that will still take some time and effort to fill the billing. The lower you set your budget the longer the time line and the less probability of accomplishing the objective. You have to work the system and it just is what it is.

  5. #5
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    Re: Getting started in 11x14"

    Another new camera in the same ballpark as the Chamonix is Richard Ritter's.

    But I agree with Michael and Alan about defining your budget. If you're willing to be patient and watch eBay and discussion boards like this one for a while, you could do it on a relative shoestring with an early-20th-century camera such as an Eastman or a Korona. My first 11x14 was a Korona that had been refinished and reinforced by Alan Brubaker.

    Also second Michael's suggestion of finding someone who works with big cameras so that you can see "in the flesh" what's involved. We all have our own thresholds for what we can reasonably manage in the field, but I would say that from my perspective the logistics get far more challenging as you move beyond 8x10. Think about what you want to photograph with the big camera, whether you will need to be able to backpack it away from the road or will be content to work out of a car or in a studio.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Jan 2013
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    Re: Getting started in 11x14"

    Not to discourage you, but it would make your life a whole lot simpler to use 8x10 and enlarge as needed. Film, holders, lenses and everything else is much cheaper and much easier to find, and unless you're determined to contact print, there's no real advantage that I can think of to the larger format.

  7. #7
    Zebra
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    Re: Getting started in 11x14"

    Great logical advice. I truly mean that. What's logical about ULF though!!! If you have the funds after deciding on your budget, buy the best of the listed above that you can justify and then spend some that you can't justify. Live large, shoot large, find out if its for you, enjoy the run along the way and sell it all for break even or even a loss and know that you laid it all on the line for something that was in you to do! Now this is all coming from a man that ignored the "start with a 4 x 5 its easier to learn on" mantra that is often heard here on the forum and jumped straight into 8 x 10 and soon sold that for 10 x 12, 7 x 17 and 20 x 24 formats, who has never printed a silver print in his life, choosing Pt/Pd and Wet Plate in those formats, and likes the number 13 so that might be considered on your end as your read this.

    I say go for it. Big. I did and its brought much life to my doorstep.

    best

    Monty

  8. #8
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    Re: Getting started in 11x14"

    Quote Originally Posted by Monty McCutchen View Post
    Now this is all coming from a man that ignored the "start with a 4 x 5 its easier to learn on" mantra that is often heard here on the forum and jumped straight into 8 x 10...
    Same here - started with 8x10 and added both smaller and larger formats as I went along. For me the point of bothering with LF was, and still is, to make contact prints. If that's the goal, ULF is a wonderful playground. OTOH, if one intends to enlarge, the cost/benefit tradeoff goes sour really fast after 8x10.

  9. #9
    Will Whitaker's Avatar
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    Re: Getting started in 11x14"

    ULF = "un-logical" foolishness.

    But could as easily be "un-logical" fun!

  10. #10

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    Oct 2017
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    Re: Getting started in 11x14"

    Thanks everyone for the advise, I've been in contact with Badger Graphic re the price of the Shen-Hao 11x14 and it seems it's much more costly than the Chamonix, so that puts that to rest...

    I live in New Zealand, and no one to my knowledge has this gear close to where I live. I've used an 8x10" Deardorff before and it was fine if pretty wobbly. It was heavy and think the 11x14" Chamonix is about the same weight, in fact... Anyway, I know what I'm getting in to and people here have confirmed that I really need to budget for up to $5k USD for a one lens system with a good, matched cut film holder. I've been looking for a while and not seen anything on the used market – at least on eBay, I have no idea where else to look from NZ – so if I wait, something might come along. Eventually...

    And yes, I've seen some of the Tim Layton videos on the Chamonix. He seems very impressed with it, and going by the videos I'm impressed at how rigid it seems. There are videos of other brands out there in 8x10" etc where the cameras seem really wobbly, but not the Chamonix.

    As for being 'un-logical and foolish', that description certainly matches me. Perfectly good, actually great gear already and I'm looking at big, old fashioned cameras...

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