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Thread: Advice needed. 4x5 vs 8x10. Should I upgrade

  1. #1

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    Advice needed. 4x5 vs 8x10. Should I upgrade

    Your advice is needed. I am currently using an Ebony 4x5 camera predominantly for landscapes and am enjoying it immensely. I currently have a 90, 180, 240, and 300mm lens. However, I am curious about 8x10 and thinking of adding an 8x10 camera to my current gear with a 400-500mm lens (my 300mm covers 8 x10). I am shooting both black and white and colour transparencies at the moment but would only use black and white for tht 8x10 (maybe the occasional transparency). The majority of my prints are done from 11x14 to 16x20, and I am happy with the quality I am getting, although I would like to get some prints made larger.

    I guess the question is whether or not there is any real benefit in moving to a larger format given my normal print size and usage. I understand the issues of greater weight, less depth of field etc, and the initial cost of new gear. However I wonder whether it is worth trying the larger format, or should I stick with the 4x5 and be happy.

    Or perhaps I should stop trying to be rational and give in and try it. Or should I spend the money on other lenses or travel costs? What do you think?

  2. #2
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: Advice needed. 4x5 vs 8x10. Should I upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Griffiths View Post
    I guess the question is whether or not there is any real benefit in moving to a larger format given my normal print size and usage. I understand the issues of greater weight, less depth of field etc, and the initial cost of new gear. However I wonder whether it is worth trying the larger format, or should I stick with the 4x5 and be happy.
    In the end you should do what you want. And no one can tell you want that is but you.

    OTOH, I've been down this road myself. My decision was to stick with 5x4. The reasons are many and varied, but the bottom line is that I can make prints as large as 125 x 100 cm (around 50 x 40 inches) from 5x4 with amazing detail and sharpness. Prints in your normal sizes can be exceedingly sharp as you well know. IMHO, 10x8 film will give you precious little gain for a whole lot of extra effort.

    One of the biggest reasons for this is the decrease in DOF causing a correspondingly smaller aperture. IOW, 10x8 is almost always limited by diffraction and is therefore often not appreciably sharper than 5x4 even with the 4x increase in film area.

    And yet, logic is often not a good reason to pick a format. Many 10x8 shooters just love the bigger ground glass. It can be a tool that is more comfortable for them to work with. And the more comfortable you are with your tools, the easier it is for you to make good art.

    Bruce Watson

  3. #3

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    Re: Advice needed. 4x5 vs 8x10. Should I upgrade

    Upgrade... I'm afraid I don't know what you are implying.

    I agree with Bruce -- go with what your heart says!

  4. #4

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    Re: Advice needed. 4x5 vs 8x10. Should I upgrade

    How are you making your prints? Unless you are having a lab print them, then you might find that the dark room changes that go with 8x10 are an even bigger issue than the larger and more expensive camera/lenses/film/holders.

  5. #5

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    Re: Advice needed. 4x5 vs 8x10. Should I upgrade

    thank you gentlemen for your responses.

    Hadnt factored in the printing costs as I was thinking of scanning and digital output. That was the reason for limiting to 8x10 and not larger.

    The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of a little more travel and a lot more film. After all as Bruce said, the print quality is not bad at all. Thanks for the responses.

  6. #6
    Ted Harris's Avatar
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    Re: Advice needed. 4x5 vs 8x10. Should I upgrade

    If you have no problems with the size and weight (and the cost) then give it a try and see if it suits you but carefuly evaluat these changes first. Your new 8x10 will be much larger, will weigh 3 to 4 times as much (maybe a hair less if you get a real lightweight), will cost at least 1500 (that is about the least expensive entry level) and much more if you are going to get another Ebony. Film holders are much heavier, film is more expensive, you may need a heavier tripod, etc. Then there is the enlarger issue mentioned above. If you have only got an 8 foot normal ceiling you likely won't have room for an 8x10 enlarger (assuming you can find one).

    As long as none of the above deter you try it .... there are lots of folks here who shoot 8x10. I shoot 8x10, but not much. Just make sure you consider all the aspects of the format before making a big investment. You should also see if you can rent some gear for a week.

  7. #7
    Thalmees's Avatar
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    Re: Advice needed. 4x5 vs 8x10. Should I upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Griffiths View Post
    Your advice is needed. I am currently using an Ebony 4x5 camera predominantly for landscapes and am enjoying it immensely. I am shooting both black and white and colour transparencies at the moment but would only use black and white for tht 8x10 (maybe the occasional transparency). The majority of my prints are done from 11x14 to 16x20, and I am happy with the quality I am getting, although I would like to get some prints made larger.
    I guess the question is whether or not there is any real benefit in moving to a larger format given my normal print size and usage. I understand the issues of greater weight, less depth of field etc, and the initial cost of new gear. However I wonder whether it is worth trying the larger format, or should I stick with the 4x5 and be happy.
    What do you think?
    I was under the influence of the same thinking, for some time. I've only one year experience in LF gear(Sinar F2 Monorail + lenses) & no meaningful contact print could be made from 4X5 film.
    Of course, bigger film, for better quality. But, that should be on some thing to be paid.
    I'm also shooting landscapes predominantly. You can not compare portability of Monorails with the folding field Ebonys. Even, I think an 8X10 Ebony(or field) camera, is similar to 4X5 Monorail, in terms of portability, if not better.
    As for the quality, contact prints from 8X10 film, is the only advantage you may get over your Ebony 4x5(as far as I think). And this advantage is considerable in my opinion.
    If I ever made the move toward 8X10 film, it should be with a folding field camera, and for the contact B&W prints.
    Good luck.

  8. #8
    Jack Flesher's Avatar
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    Re: Advice needed. 4x5 vs 8x10. Should I upgrade

    Well, I will offer a slightly different point of view... Surprise, I know

    Using the 8x10 is a different experience than using a 4x5. Sure, the mechanics of capturing the image are the same, but the philosophy becomes a little different, at least it does for me. I find I am a bit more deliberate when using the 8x10, I take more time to set up the composition and certainly pay more attention to the details of the image -- of course they're easier to see on the 8x10 GG, so that part came kind of naturally for me. I also find it easier to focus the 8x10 critically -- again, easier to see what is going on on that big GG.

    As for detail, you are not going to gain much at 16x20 print sizes, but I'll disagree with the poster above in that I can see a significant difference in a 40x50 print from an 8x10 neg compared to one made with a 4x5 neg. But YMMV...

    As for weight, it's more, but not three times in my case. My pack full of 4x5, 5 lenses and a box of Quickloads (20 sheets) weighs about 22 pounds. By contrast, my 8x10 pack with three lenses and three holders (6 sheets) weighs about 28 pounds.

    As for cost, you already mentioned your 300 covers -- and I am willing to bet your 240 will too. Also, I find I use more normal focal lengths when shooting 8x10 so you may not need to acquire a 500/600 until after you decide if it will stick. Thus you really can get into it with a decent used $1000 camera (I use an older style Arca monorail, FWIW) and around $400 worth of film holders and changing tent -- all of which will be pretty easy to sell on this forum for about what you paid for them if it doesn't suit...

    So my .03 is to give it a whirl -- what do you have to lose?

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Jack Flesher; 16-Nov-2006 at 17:51.
    Jack Flesher

    www.getdpi.com

  9. #9

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    Re: Advice needed. 4x5 vs 8x10. Should I upgrade

    I've been shooting LF for about six years now. My first three years were spent shooting exclusively 4x5, the last three years mostly 8x10. I shoot both color (drum scan and digital prints) and B&W (mostly traditional analog prints). I shoot mostly landscape and architecture, with an occasional portrait thrown in.

    For color work, to my eye 8x10 potentially starts producing noticeably superior prints at print sizes of 20x24" and larger. I have a 20x24" Chromira print of Bryce Canyon on my living wall that blows away anything I've seen produced with 4x5 (more fine detail on the distant pine trees, more subtle tonal transitions between the rocks, etc.). I have it mounted alongside several 16x20" 4x5-based prints, and onlookers always gravitate immediately to the 8x10-based 20x24" print. It is a real visual tour-de-force, if I may say so myself.

    However, the Bryce Canyon print was scanned from a transparency shot at f/22, which is unusual in the 8x10 world. Usually it is necessary to stop down to f/32 or smaller to get everything in focus with 8x10. By the time you stop down to f/64, lens diffraction is so severe that 8x10 produces little benefit versus 4x5 (and can even be worse due to camera shake caused by slow shutter speeds).

    As a result of all this, I shoot both 4x5 and 8x10 systems. I use 8x10 when I can keep lens diffraction and shutter speeds reasonable (i.e. f/stop no smaller than f/45, preferably f/32). In practice, I find myself shooting 8x10 maybe 70% of the time.

    For B&W, I think B&W film drum scans a bit more effectively than color film (fewer emulsion layers, clearer highlights, etc.), so the difference between 4x5 and 8x10 formats is a bit closer. I recently did a test comparing 16x20" B&W prints (analog and digital) of the same subject shot with both 4x5 and 8x10. All the prints were superb, but the 8x10-based prints were a bit "superber" (more visible detail, better tonality). However, the differences were subtle and most onlookers didn't notice the difference until the 4x5 and 8x10 prints were placed side-by-side. So I am inclined to more frequently use 4x5 for B&W unless I really want to print big (or want contact prints).

    As far as convenience and ease-of-use is concerned, it's no contest: 4x5 with Quickloads/Readyloads is far, far lighter, more compact, and easier to use than 8x10. No changing tent or dust worries is worth the price of admission by itself.

    So if you plan to print no larger than 16x20", I'd suggest staying with 4x5 and enjoy the ride. If you are really yearning to make the occasional extra large print to put over the sofa or fireplace, than I'd suggest buying an inexpensive 8x10 camera, a couple lenses, and a few film holders as a second camera system, and keep it in reserve for those cases where it is best suited.

  10. #10

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    Re: Advice needed. 4x5 vs 8x10. Should I upgrade

    I began shooting 4X5 about twenty something years ago. I began shooting 8X10 followed soon thereafter with 12X20 about six years ago. Because of my age etc, I moved out of 12X20 after about a year. I still have 8X10 and 4X5 today and shoot 4X5 far more than I do 8X10. I personally do not like 4X5 enlarged any larger than 11X14 because the quality is not to my standards beyond that size.

    I recently bought 5X7 since I have equipment to enlarge that format. I think that it may be an ideal compromise for me. All formats have their strengths and weaknesses. It all depends on what a person wants to do.

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