At the request of one of our distinguished members I am starting a new thread on the subject of handheld 4x5.
After many years of shooting 35mm and medium format as a journalist, I became enamored with the idea of shooting on even larger film. One of the MAJOR REASONS I decided (and continue) to shoot film (any film) is that I am convinced that digital capture (even though I shoot a lot of it) is still dubious as far as archiving is concerned-- I contend that in the near future many of us will experience a "Digital Disaster" ( I have already lost 2 hard drives filled with files!). I have redundant drives and countless files which can all be wiped out by the passage of time--
1. Studies have shown that CD's, DVD's, and hard drives are reliable for no more than 10 years, so we must continue to migrate our files to new media every 7 years or so :-0 and...
2. If the computer world continues as it has in it's short history, then we can look forward to a new algorithm I like to call Xpeg. At this point we will all be forced to translate years of jpegs, tiffs, nefs etc into the newer format or risk having them left behind in software progress ( how many of you still have floppy disks with info that can only be obtained through multi-generations of hardware/software combinations dating back to when they were created). and
3. The physical properties that film (and large format) deliver are still way tastier to look at than digital.
Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest--now I'll tell you what I really think;-)
In the past 4 years I have used a Crown Graphic, Speed Graphic and Razzles in an attempt to shoot handheld 4x5 with comfort and success.
Right up front I will say that the Razzles are the clear winner, but the Speed Graphic has it's merits!
At first I outfitted the lighter Crown Graphic with a handle and cable release. The handle added yet more weight to an already cumbersome box, but the deal-breaker was using the rangefinder with the tiny field of view, then quickly composing in the viewfinder hoping that things (including me) haven't moved out of focus. The Speed Graphic is the same thing except the focal plane shutter adds even more weight. Also, I needed a camera that I could carry at my side off my shoulders and the Graphics were just too unwieldy.
Before I talk about the Razzles, let me say here that my Speed Graphic is still a major part of my arsenal! The Speed Graphic is invaluable for use with barrel lenses and you can put much longer focal lengths on it. Although the movements are limited, they are usually all you really need to get the job accomplished.
After seeing a friend's modified polaroid (made by another maker) I started looking into how to get or make one when I came across Dean Jone's site. I now own five Razzles.
The link to his site is <http://homepages.ihug.com.au/~razzle/index.html> Note: pay no attention to the poster-child on the homepage!
Through lots of field testing and communication Dean has done a great job of making improvements since I got my first one-- he has lightened the body by cutting the unused portion off, added a cable release holder, a modern size flash shoe (not hot tho) and recently added movements by using the 900 chassis (this also allows more space for some faster modern lenses which can now fold up into the camera).
Aside from the slimmer profile and much lighter weight, the biggest advantage to these cameras is the integral rangefinder/viewfinder. I also lovingly call these my "Texas Leicas" since they work the same way.
There are limits to the chassis which only allow for focal lengths from 90mm to 150mm although I understand that Dean is currently working on a back extension which will allow up to a 210mm! Also, because of the tracking space in the bed, the 150mm has a limit of about 4ft (if you want infinity too). This is one of the reasons I have so many! I have one with a 150mm that focuses only between 2ft-4ft for closer portraits; the 90mm will focus down to just over 2ft, but the end of the door has to be cut off to make room for unblocked infinity. The 127mm Rodenstock that comes standard on the 110B's is a fabulous piece of glass that ends up being kinda "just right" since it focuses down to about 3ft and has a little extra speed at f4.7.
The brightline in the viewfinder exactly represents the framing at all distances and parallax for the 150mm, for the 127mm it's everything you can see in the viewfinder, for the 90mm it's more than you see (for those Leica user's, it's just like shooting a 21mm without the viewfinder) and parallax has to be figured for in your head and by experience for images made under 4ft--( I focus and move a little to the left kinda like shooting a leica through a fence).
One more thing I find invaluable in using these cameras is the Grafmatic Back--Six sheets ready at your disposal without switching holders all the time and better yet, is being able to have a sheet ready to expose without a pesky darkslide hanging off the side or sticking out of your pocket.
I think I've got enough down here for now and I am really interested to know of any other great handheld options any of you have found!
Cheers to All, Chris
I am currently working on a Polaroid 900 conversion. While I do like Dean's version, there were several aspects that I felt could be done differently. The end result being slimmer and more left eye shooter friendly. What I am finding is that it is a ton of work, so obviously this will be slow. One advantage is that I have unlimited usage of an 8 way milling machine for the next few months, and I think that alone opens up a few other options. The lens I am fitting to mine is a 135mm Schneider Xenar f4.7.
I don't know yet how much handheld 4x5 I want to do. What led me to this is more a solution to the problem of setting up a tripod for my normal 4x5. Quite likely I will use it with a Linhof Super Rollex 56x72 back, making it an unusual medium format rangefinder . . . sort of an overgrown Mamiya 7 alternative for substantially less cost.
I know the Linhof Super/Master Technika is a lot more expensive, but after using two Razzles (which are great) and a few Graphics, I think the Linhof is the way to go for me, followed by a customized Crown Graphic with a Linhof Grip.
Albeit, the Linhof is much heavier and more complex, it's not for casual shooting -- but when you do shoot, it's mass helps steady everthing. And it is probably the most varsatile option.
I guess the ideal 4x5 has yet to be invented.....I have owned and used a Master Tech, Speed Graphic, Bush Pressman, many monorails, and a couple of wooden field cameras. Having the best that all have to offer is difficult to roll into one camera. One of the main problems to overcome is the weight factor, as we all know a few pounds can soon start to feel like twenty if you are going walkabout....this obviously rules out a monorail, despite its excellent ability for movements.
Next there's the interchangeable lens issue. Having one camera body that accepts a range of lenses is great, however one then has to decide on which lens would best suit the subject and remember to bring the right one along. If the camera is rangefinder equipped, will it remain accurate across the board?
Another thing to consider is speed.....I found the 'Speed' Graphic nowhere near as fast as I'd like, plus I felt the dim view offered by the Kalart finder left much to be desired.
The field cameras win by a mile in the weight stakes, and even though the Chamonix is a camera to die for, it's certainly not really a point and shoot.
The final and most important factor of all is the ability to provide accurate FOCUS....not such a problem with a wide angle, but more critical with a longer focus lens. That's where the Polaroid rangefinder wins hands down. If you don't want to fiddle around with a ground glass image viewed through a lupe, whilst the opportunity slips by, you either have to judge the distance by guesstimate, which I can sometimes do with a converted Polaroid model 95, or have a camera equipped with a decent rangefinder.
It boils down to what it is you like to shoot most....scenery, portraiture, reportage, or street photography. An ideal camera that can handle all these scenarios doesn't yet exist, although I lay awake nights thinking about how I could build it
My ideal camera would be one with a 90-210mm internal zoom that covers 4x5, allows a little room for movements fitted to a lightweight body with a coupled rangefinder that zooms with the optic, weighs in a three pounds and folds up like a Polaroid
The reason I stick with the Polaroid body as a base chassis, is that it's very compact, quite sturdy, of good build quality and it folds up. It's easily carried around and can open up and be ready to shoot in around two seconds. You can cover it in whatever fabric and colour you like, use all types of 4x5 and roll film holders, buy a few different ones 'cause they're still relatively cheap and it's dead easy to adjust/repair them in the field with a small screwdriver. I can also leave the tripod at home!
I always hated taking my Master Tech out in case it got wet, damaged or stolen....plus it was too damn heavy and had too many bits.
I too am wondering about the possibilities of using a 4x5 handheld. What intrigues me is the combination of the look and feel of larger format with the subtle ways that a type of camera alters how a photographer relates to people they photograph, as well as how subjects respond.
Hand-held with a stock 4x5 1943 Anniversary Speed Graphic with 127mm Kodak Ektar f4.7 on a Graphic Supermatic (X) shutter. Focusing was done with the coupled Kalart. Composing was done with the wire finder. Film was Arista ISO 100, tray-processed normally and contact-printed on Arista paper. Print was scanned with an HP psc 1350 all-in-one desktop printer/scanner. Perspective correction and toning done digitally with Paint Shop Pro 7.
Handheld with Tech V 4x5", 6x17cm DaYi back and 150/4.5 Xenar, and Gaoersi adjustible 6x17 viewfinder (yes, the rangefinder works with the expansion back and lenses in the range of about 120-150mm. Longer than 150mm will work, but will vignette. Shorter than about 120mm won't sit on the focusing rail of a Technika.)--