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Thread: Why 7x17?

  1. #1
    Marco Annaratone's Avatar
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    Why 7x17?

    The recent post by Kerry Thalmann prompted me to a question I have been wanting to ask for a while: why 7x17? What's so different compared to 8x20? Give or take, the aspect ratio is very similar. I can imagine less weight, easier lens coverage, maybe less cumbersome film development, but could some knowledgeable soul out there (Kerry?...) articulate for me the benefits of this format? From my ignorant point of view that 17in looks like a really bizarre size, and the film can't be cut without waste...not?

    (And of all the ULF formats one can choose from, Shen-Hao comes out first with a 7x17: I'm missing something, clearly...)

    Thanks!

  2. #2

    Why 7x17?

    Marco,

    Here's a link to a discussion on this topic in this forum from a couple years ago. There was also a similar discussion just two months ago on APUG just two months ago. Those threads will provide a lot more expert opinions than I can provide on the subject of 7x17 vs. 8x20.

    For me personally, it came down to the fact that everything about 7x17 is just a bit more manageable. The camera and holders are a tad smaller and lighter. I do plan to hike with my completed 7x17 camera. So, size and weight do matter to me. There are more lenses to choose from (and they tend to be smaller, lighter, less expensive and easier to find) for 7x17 than 8x20. 7x17 film is cheaper. Less space is needed for processing film and printing.

    I've often dreamed of shooting 12x20, but it's just not practical for the type of photography I want to do - and no, a pack animal is not an option as many places I hike don't permit stock on the trail. Considering the weight and bulk of the camera, holders and tripod, 7x17 seems like about the biggest size I can reasonably carry long distances on my back.

    Kerry

  3. #3

    Join Date
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    Why 7x17?

    Just to add my grain of salt...

    For "squarer" shooters like me who shoots 11x14, 7x17 is an interesting format because :

    a- the camera is smaller...
    b-the image circle needed to cover is the same as 11x14, so one set of lenses for both cameras...
    c-it is sufficiently different to be justifiable as a tool...

    Just my two ULF cents...

    PJ
    "The heart and the mind are the true lens of the camera..." - Yousouf Karsch
    Mamut Photo, The Ultra-Large-Format photography homepage

  4. #4

    Join Date
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    Why 7x17?

    While using my 8x10 I frequently found myself cropping to 4x10. When I made contact prints of the 4x10 they just seemd too small, most of the time. I wanted to make some larger contact prints and since I am somewhat slight of build I thought that starting off with 7x17 would be more manageable for me. I have a Korona and it is quite light and easy to handle. I think that I might prefer the slightly larger size of 8x20, but 7x17 is what I have. The 7x17 format was originally a "Banquet" camera format and it was used for exactly what its' name implies, that is the rational for the long format: long banquet tables. The fact that there are still a lot of them kicking around accounts for the fact that the format persists. It is a nice format and helps me to eliminate excess sky areas in landscapes. That being said, I actually like about a 2:1 ratio while the 7x17 is a 2.5:1 ratio. But the cameras, film holders and film are available in that size so I use it.

  5. #5

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    Why 7x17?

    Just like Arthur, I too was cropping 8x10 to 4x10 and found them too small. When I looked for a dedicated panoramic camera, the 7x17 was a natural with advantages outweighing disadavantages over the "other" panoramic (8x20).

    My 7x17 Wisner, being based on the 5x7, is much easier to handle than the 8x20. It also allows for more camera movements than would be possible with 8x20 (with the lenses I had). I also prefer the relationship between 8x10 and 7x17 wheras I found 8x20 to be perhaps a bit too much like two 8x10s side by side. I find little difference between handling my 8x10 and my 7x17 and in terms of exhibiting, 7x17 is not that much smaller than 8x20 so all in all, I am very pleased with the format.

  6. #6
    Clay
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    Why 7x17?

    I think one of the main benefits is that you can develop 7x17 in 16x20 trays. You can also do alt-process prints in 16x20 trays and still have a decent margin around your prints. 8x20, on the other hand, requires you to step up in tray size to 18x22 at the minimum, and probably 20x24. A lot of darkrooms are just not set up to handle trays that large. I think it boils down to ease of use. I find 7x17 very easy to develop and print, while 12x20(and 8x20) is a whole step up in terms of juggling trays and darkroom gymnastics. Interestingly enough, I like 14x17 for the same reason - everything stays in the 16x20 tray size.

  7. #7
    Scotty333
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    Why 7x17?

    A couple of thoughts. In regards to 7 x 17 vs. 8 x 20, I was told by many that the 7 x 17 is just that much more 'manageable'. So, that is the route I went. Manageable in terms of size, weight, transporting it, film, film holder size, etc....

    In terms of the format, I think it is really unique in this respect. Your eye moves left to right and back again, and back again..it's difficult to 'glance' at a 7 x 17. And, the image while wide in scope, is, I am not sure how to explain it, but 'proportional? What I mean is a wide angle on a 35mm makes everything look 'smaller' somehow. While the 7 x 17 has a wide field of view with a more normal perspective. Someone looking at my work said it looks like you have patched 3 normal looking images together - like 4 4 x 5's shot with a 'normal' lens. Plus, I think you see that way, with your field of vision.

    It's a terffic format and would encourage anyone interested to try it. I don't think you will be dissapointed.

    If you do get into it. Get Seed Tray's for your darkroom. www.parkseed.com. Model 6116 perma nest plant trayt. 10 trays for $49.95 or 4 for $22.95. Heavy plastic, re-usable for sure, durable, and the PERFECT size.
    Scott Peters Photography

    www.scottpetersphotography.com

  8. #8

    Why 7x17?

    When I looked at the situation I concluded that 8x20 is more panoramic than 7x17, a 20x24 sheet of paper cuts perfect without waste, developing trays for each are not your standard fodder and either would fit in my sink and lens coverage presented no issues as everything I favor covers either format.

    Weight continues to be bantered around as a highly critical variable in the format decision equation but I feel it needs to be placed into the correct context. Yes, a 13# Linhof Tech V in 5x7 versus a 6# Canham MQC 5x7 is a real issue and one would clearly opt for the lighter version but IMHO ULF cameras are inherently a larger heavier footprint in any ULF format. But as far as I am concerned it is not the standard Korona or F&S wooden camera that is the critical component in this equation (what is +/- a pound among friends eh?) it is the holders and the logistics of needing them in the field that drives this issue as any weight camera uses the standard size film holder. The weight difference between a 7x17 holder and an 8x20 holder is rather inconsequential. S&S appear to be as light as any I have managed and AWB seem to be the heavier I have seen. The logistical issues of operating and carrying either camera are a challenge of significant proportions - make no mistake about that. They are both BIG cameras with BIG film holders.

    Reading the day books of WH Jackson schlepping a ULF camera, glass plates, chemicals and a portable darkroom to the tops of the tallest peaks throughout the unchartered West day after day makes you appreciate the tenacity of this pioneer photographer and the real loads he transported to get the job done. At times I think that we have become pretty soft with the conveniences of modern life as we know it.

    As my Grandfather appropriately commented many times "If you don't like heat, stay out of the kitchen."

    My $0.02 nothing more...

  9. #9

    Why 7x17?

    Michael - Weight continues to be bantered around as a highly critical variable in the format decision equation but I feel it needs to be placed into the correct context. Yes, a 13# Linhof Tech V in 5x7 versus a 6# Canham MQC 5x7 is a real issue and one would clearly opt for the lighter version but IMHO ULF cameras are inherently a larger heavier footprint in any ULF format.

    I agree the whole weight issue is relative when considering cameras this large. At some point, the bulk of the camera and film holders starts to become more of a limiting factor than the weight. Since I am assembling my own 7x17, I have a pretty good idea of the weight of each piece. According to the spreadsheet I'm using, if I keep everything else the same (bellows length, rail extension, etc.) and just increase the size of the camera back from 7x17 to 8x20 the total weight of the camera increases by a little over a pound (18.5 ounces). Not a huge difference in weight.

    Michael - But as far as I am concerned it is not the standard Korona or F&S wooden camera that is the critical component in this equation (what is +/- a pound among friends eh?) it is the holders and the logistics of needing them in the field that drives this issue as any weight camera uses the standard size film holder. The weight difference between a 7x17 holder and an 8x20 holder is rather inconsequential. S&S appear to be as light as any I have managed and AWB seem to be the heavier I have seen.

    Interesting, when I weighed 4x10 holders from AWB, Lotus and S&S, it was actually the walnut AWB holder that was the lightest. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but the difference wasn't huge (~ 1 oz.). FWIW, the two walnut AWB 7x17 holders I have weigh 29 oz. each. Anybody care to post the weight of their 8x20 holders for comparison? Depending on brand, I would guess an 8x20 holder would weigh ~ 8 oz. more per holder than a comparable 7x17 holder. So, even if your carrying six holders, that's only three pounds (possibly less).

    So, 1 lb. more for the camera and maybe 3 lb. more for the holders. Perhaps the lenses for 8x20 are a bit heavier, perhaps not. Ditto for the tripod. All-in-all, we're looking at a total difference in weight in the 5 lb. range (say 3 - 7 lbs. depending on the number of holders, and relative weight of the lenses and tripod/head). While that may seem significant in a 4x5 system, it's not that huge a difference when we're talking ULF.

    As I stated above, bulk starts to play a factor at some point if you plan to haul your system about on your back. Finding a pack big enough to carry an 8x20 camera, holders, etc. that still has enough room for other essentials, starts to become a real challenge. 7x17 is just enough smaller that the number of usable packs increases significantly. If I was only shooting close to the vehicle, 8x20 (or even 12x20) would be more appealing. For hiking in the backcountry, 7x17 is just enough smaller and lighter to make a difference. Of course, once I start schlepping my 7x17 up and down mountainous trails, I may recomsider and go back to the 4x10 and digitally enlarged negatives as the most sane compromise. Time will tell.

    Michael - Reading the day books of WH Jackson schlepping a ULF camera, glass plates, chemicals and a portable darkroom to the tops of the tallest peaks throughout the unchartered West day after day makes you appreciate the tenacity of this pioneer photographer and the real loads he transported to get the job done. At times I think that we have become pretty soft with the conveniences of modern life as we know it.

    We are definitely soft by comparison. We have the advantage of modern lightweight gear and still look to shave every ounce. Still, in some ways, I am envious of men like Jackson. They got to be the first to see and photograph so many spectular sites. Of course, when I start to get too romantic, I try to envision what life in the backcountry would be like without my down sleeping bag, ultralight tent, thermarest, ultralight stove, gortex rain gear, etc. and start to realize we have it pretty good by comparison.

    Jackson did have one advantage that is not an option in many areas these days - he used pack stock to carry his heavy gear.



    "Hypo a fat little mule with cropped ears... as indispensable to me as his namesake, hyposulphite of soda." - William Henry Jackson

    Ironically, pack stock is prohibited on most trails in National Parks. It was Jackson's images (thanks to the help of his mules) that were used to convince congress to set aside Yellowstone as America's first National Park.

    Personally, I prefer llamas as they are easier on the trail and surrounding enviroment. Unfortunately, they are also considered "stock" and prohibited in many areas.

    Kerry

  10. #10

    Why 7x17?

    If you read closer you will find that when Hypo could go no further, it was WH that took over the responsibilities of the rest of the journey. Everything that you see on that mule went on his back to the top of the mountain to get the final images. I have been to where he made some of his famous images and I guarantee that no mule no matter how nimble or sure of foot would be at these locations. Until someone has direct experience packing with stock at elevations over 12,000 ft it is hard to put these concepts into a risk and reward scenario. I have seen the aftermath of mules tumbling down the side of a mountain when common sense was not adhered to and as a result, I always err on the side of caution.

    I do not know what National Parks you hike into but I have seen and utilized pack stock in Yellowstone, Glacier, Teton, Rocky Mountain National Park as well as every wilderness listed in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado that I have checked. Sometimes you need to file for a permit but most of the time you let the guide do that for you.

    My point is that you make the serious commitment to be in the kind of physical shape necessary to safely participate in this form of mobilized photography or you are not. There is little grey area here and I want to make that perfectly clear to the reader considering ULF as the desired venue. If you are with the program, when the hip strap on the pack is buckled and you are prudent in what you need to carry to be safe in the back country there is a price of admission that is what it is. Titanium, lightweight this and that and on and on can only do so much to overcome the laws of gravity. I have packed and hiked with folks that were absolutely anal retentive about spending a gob of money "lightening this up" and when we are standing at the truck ready to go I take out my packers scale and weight his pack and mine and 100% of the time so far their pack has weighted more than mine. Like I said, just a different perspective not right or wrong.

    Cheers!

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