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Thread: 4x5 versus 8x10 portriats

  1. #1

    4x5 versus 8x10 portriats

    Yeah, i know the 4x5 versus 8x10 question has been raised many times. Figured it wouldn't hurt just to ask again but in regards to portraiture. I'm interested in getting into large format for portraiture. I've managed to borrow an 8x10 camera, and shot my first 2 sheets of film ever (as in i've never shot 4x5). In the excitement of snapping my first shot, I didn't attend to as many details as I would have preferred to have done, but I LOVE the feel of the shot and the way focus falls of into super cream.

    The problem is that after shooting these first 2 sheets, it has truly hit home just how expensive it is to shoot 8x10 and i'm starting to look at 4x5 as an alternative.

    I'm wondering from those people who have shot 8x10 and 4x5, what are your thoughts are on the "feel" (I know, super subjective) of 4x5 compares to 8x10. Deep down I think i know what the answer is, but I'm trying to convince myself that maybe 5x4 is a viable alternative. I'm not bothered by resolution. For me it's all about that oh-so-subjective feel of a format (which to me comes mostly from the way that the focus falls away, but also the tonality of the image).

    Like i said, deep down, i think i know my answer. But I'm having a hard time accepting the fact that I might have to "invest" in a camera, which then I can only afford to shoot about 1/4 of what I could afford to shoot if I had a 5x4 camera.

    thanks for the discussion below is my first snap of a large format shutter! Can't wait to shoot more.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Los Angeles, CA

    Re: 4x5 versus 8x10 portriats

    I've only shot LF portraits in 4x5 and can't imagine any significant benefit to 8x10 unless contact printing.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Re: 4x5 versus 8x10 portriats

    Yes, 8x10 is expensive. I don 't make money with my photography, it's only a hobby. For most of my adult life I did 4x5 because of the cost. Now I can afford 8x10 and so I do it. For me the main advantage is that I can make truly large prints from 8x10 negatives using my 8x10 Elwood enlarger. I can't make as large prints from my 4x5 negatives and my Beseler 45M, mainly because of how my darkroom is set up.

  4. #4
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
    Everett, WA

    Re: 4x5 versus 8x10 portriats

    Excellent start!

    Some of the guys here use 8x10 x-ray film because, well, it's dirt cheap! There's a number of threads about it. The emulsion is fragile compared to normal film, but there's some really good information on how to get great results from it.

    The main difference would of course be the focal length of the lenses. 8x10 uses about double the 4x5 focal length. If you enjoy how the image looks, then that's the reason to use it!
    "It's the way to educate your eyes. Stare. Pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long." - Walker Evans

  5. #5
    jp's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Re: 4x5 versus 8x10 portriats

    It's both good (4x5 and 8x10). There are old lenses for 8x10 that are nice for portraits that aren't available for 4x5. One nice 8x10 beat 1 nice 4x5 + 3 not so nice 4x5s. Results aren't produced simply by more sheets of film. (except when learning a new lens)

    I like 4x5 because I can enlarge it with my 4x5 enlarger. 8x10 makes really really nice silver contact prints (and alt process contact prints) and I can still scan it on the epson like 4x5.

    If you develop it yourself, 8x10 and 4x5 are inexpensive to process, but if I had to send film away to develop, I'd probably be more deterred even from 4x5.

    You might also try printing with different papers for even more exceptional results and choices. The ilford art300 is pretty nice stuff for portraits.

  6. #6
    Hack Pawlowski6132's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Detroit - Come Visit

    Re: 4x5 versus 8x10 portriats

    C'mon. 8x10 is not that much more expensive. I just looked at B&H and picked Ilfford
    HP5 as an example. 4x5 = $1.14/sheet. 8x10 = $3.48/sheet. That's $2.34 more per sheet. If your typical session uses, say 6 sheets, that's only $14 more per session. If your margins are that thin to start, LF is prolly not the right direction.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    Re: 4x5 versus 8x10 portriats

    I shoot 4x5, 5x7, and 8x10. Still trying to get the hang of portraits; I mainly shoot landscapes and flowers. In shooting landscapes I noticed a difference between 4x5 and 5x7, not so much difference between 5x7 and 8x10. I would say decide between economics and love: is cost the deciding factor in your choice or is "the look"?

    I definitely prefer 8x10 to 4x5, but it is more expensive. And color film for 8x10 is getting harder to find relative to 4x5 :-(

    Hope this helps.


  8. #8

    Re: 4x5 versus 8x10 portriats

    Appreciate the discussion guys. Thanks a bunch. I think I'm going to see if i can borrow a 5x4 camera and see for myself, but you all know how it is. Nice to talk it out a bit

    Quote Originally Posted by Pawlowski6132 View Post
    C'mon. 8x10 is not that much more expensive. I just looked at B&H and picked Ilfford
    HP5 as an example. 4x5 = $1.14/sheet. 8x10 = $3.48/sheet. That's $2.34 more per sheet. If your typical session uses, say 6 sheets, that's only $14 more per session. If your margins are that thin to start, LF is prolly not the right direction.
    Should say that I'm living in the UK at the moment. HP5 25 pack of 5x4 ~ 33.60, 10x8 = 112.74. 3.17 price difference per sheet, so 6 sheets = 19.02 difference ($29.95). What's more painful is shooting in color: ~11 difference per sheet, so 66 per 6 shoot session (a little over a hundred bucks).

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Tonopah, Nevada, USA

    Re: 4x5 versus 8x10 portriats

    Here's something for argument sake. If there was a golden age of portraiture you can argue it was the 1910's through the 1940's when big studios that were getting plenty of work and cash were using 8X10. Thus all of the glorious portrait lenses of that era were made for that market.

    Consider depth of field and fall-off, something you mention. 300mm f4.5 lenses litter ebay for very little money. The equivalent in look in 4X5 is a 150mm f2.4 or so. Easy math. There aren't any. You can perhaps buy a 150mm f2.8 Xenotar, but there went your savings.

    Then I would argue the Golden Era lenses, all made for 8X10, while some are very pricey now for just all of the reasons you've already argued for, have nearly limitless possibilities of nuance and personality. Lost to the 4X5 world. Mostly.

    So now we've gotten ourselves into the world of what some would argue parallels the stereophile types who pay large amounts for certain tube type amplifiers to play their vinyl on. Most of us un-washed can't 'hear' the differences, or if we can perhaps, we say, it aint' worth the extra trouble and money. I just want some tunes.

    For me, I can "see" the tonality, the brute force smoothness, the personality profile etc. that the 8X10 and even 11X14 brass cannon's can produce. Like having 585 horsepower under the hood of the grocery getter. Kind of silly, most of the time, but if you pull up next to me and rev your motor, you may be in trouble.

    Wade through some of the pages on my little web site. I think what I'm arguing speaks for itself in some of the images, even at 86 kilobytes.

    Now as to $$. Xray film is one way to go. $ for $ I think the end results are more bang for my buck on 8X10 than on 4X5. That's subjective. It isn't a half cost ratio in any case. More like $40 for 4X5 shots to $55 for 8X10 (if you're careful at all). But that extra expense bought me 80 sq. in. of brute force compared to 20. Sorry Mrs. Scathontiphat. Not helpful, I know.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Oct 2010

    Re: 4x5 versus 8x10 portriats

    I think it is really a personal choice. It is really up to you. You can get a thousand responses to your question but in the end it ultimately is what you get out of the format that you choose. Both 8X10 and 4X5 have their own unique qualities. I am not a pro, photography is a hobby for me. So my opinion is based on how I "see" the final print. I like like both 4x5 and 8X10, use both, but have a special fascination with 8X10 because to me it has a unique "look". Mr Galli explained it much better than I can. I would not want to limit myself to just one format. And as far as cost, I feel the difference is not enough to pick one over the other. Prices have never been better on large format cameras and lenses. It's a great time to get into large format. By the way, your first portrait is great, I like it.

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