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Thread: First 4x5 for portraits and contact printing?

  1. #1

    First 4x5 for portraits and contact printing?

    Hi, I am considering selling my enlarger, medium format and 35mm gear, and going with large format contact printing and digital 35mm only.

    I don't really have room or time for an enlarger and lots of negatives. I have now got to the stage where I need a permanent darkroom to keep up with my shooting, but no realistic chance of achieving that.

    Currently I use my bathroom for a darkroom, but setting up takes an age, and I am running out of space for equipment. I am considered getting a battery powered safelight and light for contact printing, that way I won't have to run extension leads into the bathroom either. (I know!)
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  2. #2

    Join Date
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    Re: First 4x5 for portraits and contact printing?

    If you only contact print from large negatives, you will save a lot of darkroom space. However, I don't think that 4x5 is large enough for that. I would shoot 8x10 and 5x7. Keep in mind that you still have to develop negatives (unless you are getting them developed at a lab).

  3. #3

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    Re: First 4x5 for portraits and contact printing?

    You can also check out my thread about possibilities for when you start to feel that 4x5 contacts are not large enough but have no dedicated darkroom.

    But for portraits in 4x5...

    If you work with available light on location and need to carry all your stuff on your back from time to time – Graflex Speed Graphic with a working focal plane shutter.
    If you mostly work in a studio or haul a bunch of lighting equipment and so on to build sets on location – a Sinar monorail with the Sinar behind-the-lens shutter.

    Either would allow you to use barrel lenses – often cheaper and/or faster than lenses mounted to their own shutter. The Sinar system is modular so you can convert a 4x5 camera to a 5x7 or 8x10 later. Other monorail systems are comparable but do not have an equivalent to the Sinar shutter (or have, but it would be very difficult to find one).

  4. #4
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: First 4x5 for portraits and contact printing?

    I am without an ordinary darkroom for the first time in 40 years, and rarely miss it. Scanning 4x5 and 5x7 negatives with an appropriate flatbed scanner permits digital printing. This suits me even better than the traditional darkroom.

  5. #5

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    Re: First 4x5 for portraits and contact printing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Jones View Post
    I am without an ordinary darkroom for the first time in 40 years, and rarely miss it. Scanning 4x5 and 5x7 negatives with an appropriate flatbed scanner permits digital printing. This suits me even better than the traditional darkroom.
    Jim, do you still develop film? If so, are you planning to move from that too?

  6. #6

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    Re: First 4x5 for portraits and contact printing?

    I use a 4x10" camera, tray developing and contact printing in a small bathroom (the only one in the house). I use an extension cord to power an ikea desk lamp.
    It takes me 20-30 minutes to set-up, and as much to break down post-session.
    I think it's worth it.

  7. #7

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    Re: First 4x5 for portraits and contact printing?

    You haven't asked, but I think 4x5 is too small. You might really like 5x7 for contacts. Unlike 8x10 the equipment isn't huge, nor expensive. I have each size, but 5x7 gets the most use. For trips, my ancient wood camera, a couple of lenses and some holders fit in a large messenger bag. For years previous to moving to large format I had mostly printed 35mm in 5x7 anyway--that's a perfect size for in-hand viewing.

    And if you are into experimenting, may I recommend xray film. I started with it because it was cheap, and never found a reason to move on to "real" film. I admit it does have disadvantages, but price isn't one of them! Check out my portrait work in the LF flickr link below.

    Where do you live, exactly? I think we're generally a friendly group, and someone might live near you and want to know.
    Thanks, but I'd rather just watch:
    Large format: http://flickr.com/michaeldarnton
    Mostly 35mm: http://flickr.com/mdarnton
    You want digital, color, etc?: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stradofear

  8. #8
    Large Format Curious
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    Re: First 4x5 for portraits and contact printing?

    Beautiful tones, very well done!

    Quote Originally Posted by mdarnton View Post
    And if you are into experimenting, may I recommend xray film. I started with it because it was cheap, and never found a reason to move on to "real" film. I admit it does have disadvantages, but price isn't one of them! Check out my portrait work in the LF flickr link below.

  9. #9

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    Re: First 4x5 for portraits and contact printing?

    Another thought if one shows up in a flea market or similar are unusual sizes of cameras if you can cut film or find film or make it things like Whole Plate, 1/2 plate (between 4x5 and 5x7). some of the old lenses and cameras are marvelous. Many don't use standard film holders so it's helpful to buy the camera and holders as a package. I've done this twice and built a third around non-standard holders. Check the bellows with a flashlight or be prepared for liberal application of black gaffer's tape or even replacement. I find 5x7 more rectangular than I want a lot of the time, but they do make nice prints as contact prints. Another way to cut down on darkroom time is to print with a chemistry that doesn't need a darkroom i.e. Mike Ware's New Cyanotype. Heretical thought? Use the 35mm or MF equipment to make contact prints, view with stereo microscope or other optical aid? I mention this because even in the painting world there's a whole subworld of miniatures some of which really need a 5x or better loupe to appreciate well. 5x on my TLR's gets them to 10x10ish. I've used an old press camera, a sinar P, and one of the antique cameras for portraits on 4x5. I really love the Sinar once I get it where I want it. Getting it there, not so much, but man what a great system! 4x5 is bigger than a lot of the 35mm prints we got back from photo finishers back in the day.

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