Though I would share this with y'all, since I have learned so much here. Hopefully you will find it interesting, amusing or at least better then TV.
Ok, first a little background: I am a LF newbie. Were not talking "not experienced", were talking never handled a LF camera ever before, never even touched one. I am a "technically" compentent outdoor photography, although the best I could say about a studio is that I know what one looks like. My aeshetics need a lot of work.
I have been shooting 35mm, digital and some medium format (Mamiya 7II). I liked th e MF but have had several incidents where it just didn't offer enough control. I have also found myself slowing down, taking my time and trying to be more careful about my image. I was a LF accident waiting to happen. So I traded the MF gear in and bought a Wisner 4x5 Flight and a couple of lenses (210 Rodenstock and 80 Super Symmar, gap to be filled sometime later..). It arrived today. In preparation, I read "View Camera Technique" and pretty much everything on this site.
Ah, so I unpack the camera and open the instructions. Yeah, right, instructions, you must be kidding. Now if you have never seen a field camera before, let alone operated one, opening one is not terrible obvious. I start by disconnecting the back from the bellows. Oops. No biggie, just reconnect. First quibble: Bellows tends to catch while attaching the back, making it harder then it should be. OK, fast forward 10 minutes: I figure out how to unfold it completely. Lots of nice intents (indents?) to zero the controls, that is nice. Play with the movements a little. Lotta focus knobs on this thing; I wonder how that patented "top-focus" thing works? No idea. Anyway, seems to be going well. Attach lens.
First big shock: I am in the house and the GG is *DARK*. Wow. Ok, that whole darkcloth thing is no joke. Even with a "fast" lens of 5.6 I can't see a **** thing. Go fetch black sheet.
Now I have a sheet over my head and the g/f thinks this is pretty funny. It is her birthday BTW, so my play time is limited; I better make some progress quick. Anyway, now to focus accross the room. Now I really have no feel for how much to extend the bellows at all, but eventually sort it out. Neat! I am impressed. Oddy enough, the whole upside down thing doesn't bother me nearly as much as I thought it might; maybe landscape will be different. Anyway, good fun. I don't have enough time to work out how to load film other then to note that getting a holder out was not at all obvious: You would never guess there is a little catch there and it has to be pulled slightly back to be withdrawn. I don't think anyone ever mentions that.
Now an interlude for some general impressions. This camera is LIGHT. Wow. After all I have read about LF weight, I expected much worse. Mind you it is a light LF and I am used to lugging a 10D+betterygrip+20 lbs of lenses, but still, very pleasant surprise. The film holders are a very unpleasant surprise; I only bought 5 used Fidelity ones, but man are they heavy. There has to be a good market for magnesium holders or something; it would be brutal to carry many of them. Workmanship: OK. I am impressed with the larger panels of the camera being correctly constructed to prevent warp (panel design in woodworking is tricky), but fit and finish are nothing special; there is evidence of tearout here and there and the odd wayward saw mark on a join. It is not top-quality wood-working, but not bad by todays standards. It seems well designed, but then again I know nothing about LF cameras. Everything seems tight and smooth, although there are a few quirks. For example, the rear focus knob: You loosen the left know, move the back standard forward some but then it binds a little and you have to loosen again. Repeat. Of course I could just loosen more to start with. My one *BIG* beef? The "yaw" level build in is really, really "slow" believe it or not. It seems to take forever to register a change, by which time you probably have over compensated. Not a deal killer, but irritating.
Move forward: I look around the house for someting to shoot after I have taken the g/f home. Ah, a rose I gave her but she has forgotten (we are both somewhat absent minded). OK, that will work. I have no flash PC cord, plus my wimpy flashes would put out the kind of power required, plus my house lights are decent enough to allow me to focus sensibly, so I wander to Hope Depot and buy a 1000W work light. Ahh...now that works better. I am shocked at how far from the GG you need to be; 35mm has given me all the wrong impression. Anyway, read the polaroid site to discover how to load type 55 and how to process it. Aww, I have no chemicals so will have to live dumping the negs in water for now. For that matter, I have no 4x5 neg scanner (looking at an epson 3200...), so it wouldn't help anyway. Read the instructions about 10 times to figure it out. Aha!
I set it all up with a black sheet for a backdrop, lighting courtesy of Home Depot, time to focus. Play with the knobs a little, toy with front tilt (I am shooting down on the rose). This is real sweet, I love it. This is control of the process. Finally get everything (apparently) in focus, do a dry run or two of the seqence and expose my very first LF picture, done on Polaroid type 55. Eventually it dries (that print coating stuff is evil for drying time, smell and ability to grab every bit of dust in a 10 km radius).
Scan of the print done on a very, very crappy HP flatbed:
PS Work: Spotting (A lot!), sharpening 'cause the scanner is very soft, levels to match the print and real tiny bit cropped off the right. Well, it is cliche, a little blown in the highlights and no great art, but for my very first LF exposure done I am on cloud nine. I look forward to learning lots more and having a blast.