View Full Version : Making a switch to LF

30-Mar-2013, 12:10
Hello Folks
I am sure you have answered the question many times before. I want to experience the relaxing work of large format photography. The camera i will learn to use I have no idea what model or make to buy. I do not do cheap and I don't go all out and get the best. I know the person behind the camera is the factor in a great image. But cheap gear is cheap gear. I want to give myself the best chance to learn this medium. So does anyone have a reasonable approach to a newbee. I think I would spend around 1200 for a camera. I will 95% of the time be doing Cityscapes and landscape. I would love to do Long exposure work as well. Does LF cameras have bulb Mode?

Camera ?
Scanner in to Photoshop?
Film sent to lab for processing ?

This is a start I do hope to hear from you thanks.


Brian C. Miller
30-Mar-2013, 12:36
Welcome to the forum, Jody! Please peruse the site's home page (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/), where there are many articles that will answer your questions.

Light Guru
30-Mar-2013, 13:30
I want to experience the relaxing work of large format photography.

Where did you get the idea that shooting large format film was relaxing. It's 100 times more work. But it's also 100 times more rewarding

Does LF cameras have bulb Mode?

That is controlled by the shutter of your lens. The camera itself is not much more then bellows and a frame. But yes the shutters do have a bulb option.


Shen Hao and Chamonix are a good place to start looking.

Scanner in to Photoshop?

For a flatbed most use a Epson v700 or v750. However when you get a really good image you may want to drop the $$ for a good drum scan.

Film sent to lab for processing?

Process it yourself.

30-Mar-2013, 13:38
Good to read this post. I'm sick of people alwasy asking for the cheapest this and that.

billie williams
30-Mar-2013, 13:53
hi jody, welcome!

i think a nice 4x5 would be the way to go. i agree with what lightguru typed, but would like to add that the most important part is getting a camera body that has good bellows, smooth movements, and then a nice lens that has a good working shutter. do you want a metal body or wood? is aesthetics important to you? (i am **sigh** in love with my old korona wood cameras because they are so beautiful.)

shooting LF is more zen than shooting smaller formats, but not more relaxing. perhaps that's what you meant anyway. i always need a beer when i am done shooting.

don't forget a tripod.

here in los angeles, we have the 'bargain camera' show once a month - maybe where you live there is such a place to go as well. we also have some adult ed classes that can give you a real head start on this process. but if you are the autodidactic sort, then start reading. i learned with 'medium and large format photography' by hicks and schultz and with 'using the view camera' by simmons. both easily available at amazon used book prices. and for sure, our forum home page is fraught with info.

let us know how you are doing, ok? if you see a camera but aren't certain, you can ask here. you'll get several opinions, of course. :) we are opinionated. but in a good way.

John Kasaian
30-Mar-2013, 17:07
Whats wrong with cheap gear?
Thats assuming an awful lot, like cheap gear cannot possibly be good working gear
And that expensive gear is neccesarily good gear.

What you should want is good gear. In this regard,condition is everything.
If what you want new gear, a lot of guys are going for the Shen camera.

The bulb mode is a function of your shutter, not the camera.
My sugestions---a older american monorail in good condition like the Calumet 400 or Graphic View 2 (about or less than $200)
A Schneider or Nikon 210mm to 150mm lens in a good working shutter (about $200---250)
A stack of film holders(around $50-60)
A Marchiochi or Lieca full size Tilt-all tripod(about $90)
A box of Ilford FP-4+ (whatever the current value is)
That ought to get you a good start for around $600.
If you prefer a wooden folder, it will cost a bit more.

30-Mar-2013, 18:28
The biggest question is whether you want a monorail or a field camera. In general a flatbed camera will be lighter and easier to setup in the field. A mono rail generally has more movements. My suggestion for a monorail would be a Horseman LE or the older Horseman 450. I am still learning how to utilize the movements on my Horseman, but I really like having the geared movements that lock down. You can usually find a Horseman for around $350. Here's the article that helped me decide on getting a Horseman. http://www.largeformatphotography.info/mono-field.html

As far as a lens, I suggest any modern lens from the big four(Nikon, Fuji, Rodenstock, or Schneider). I would suggest 150mm and/or 90mm to start with. If you only get one lens 90mm may be too wide.

Set aside some of your budget for the accessories. It is easy to nickel and dime yourself to death getting everything you need to shoot large format(darkcloth, loupe, film holders, backpack, etc).

I second the suggestion for the Epson V700 to scan with.

If you plan to shoot black and white, I would suggest developing it yourself. I use this method and get very consistent results without much effort. http://www.largeformatphotography.info/unicolor/

I hope this helps.

Jim Jones
30-Mar-2013, 19:28
Someone just starting out in LF photography might do well to use a $100 Burke & James or similar camera and an older lens for a year or two, and then use the rest of the budget for a lifetime investment in the ideal system.

30-Mar-2013, 23:24
Prepare to go through a few different cameras in your first year or so. I originally thought I wanted a monorail, which is what I started with - a Sinar F2. Wonderful camera, needs a car. Then I bought a wooden field camera. Beautiful camera, close to what I wanted but not quite. Got admiring glances from many a pretty girl with it though (I may have to buy another one just for that). Finally bought a Toyo metal field camera on a recommendation by a friend - perfect for me. I'm really happy with it but of course it might not suit you.

31-Mar-2013, 01:37
Cheap gear is fine. Cheap people are not. THAT was my point.

31-Mar-2013, 04:26
Jody - About 2.5 months ago I was in your shoes. There has been a lot of learning over these last few months and there will be a lot more over the months and years to come.

I have scoured the site, apug, and many others for all kinds of questions. Youtube videos are also a wonderful learning tool. Google with site:http://www.largeformatphotography.info on the line will be your friend.

Camera wise, I was sitting in two camps. Getting a classic view camera or a press camera. I wanted the view for the movements. But.. I shoot a lot of action so I also wanted something that had a faster focal plane shutter - something like a speed graphic. In the end, I found a Toyo 45D with two lenses, 10 film holders, a case and some other odds and ends. I know I will end up picking up a Speed Graphic down the road to scratch my 1/1000 shutter itch.

Film and developing decisions are important. I've read and my experience is proving out...pick one film and developer combo and use that in the beginning. For me, I went towards the cheaper end. I'm shooting 4x5 Arista and using Diafine to develop. I actually like the Diafine look - it's a lower contrast developer. Like all developers there are a few way to skin the cat in use...and I'm experimenting 4 sheets of film at a time. Diafine is reusable, which lowers the cost.

My advice is to sacrifice a sheet or two of film and practice the loading / unloading film workflow. Make your initial mistakes on something that doesn't have an exposure.

I bought a Paterson tank and a cheap changing bag to load and unload the film holders. I'm using the "taco" method for developing in the Paterson tank. I added a small homebuilt PVC frame inside the changing bag - it makes life a lot easier to move around in there. Buying a more expensive changing tent would have also solved that problem.

As with anything - practice makes perfect and you'll learn from your mistakes. I typically shoot film in increments of 4 - that's how many negatives I can fit in my developing tank. The first time I loaded film, shot, put it in developing tank...it's was pretty much a comedy of errors. It's a lot smoother now.

Shooting wise. I'll use a either a light meter, my DSLR in spot meter mode, or good old Sunny 16 when outdoors to figure the exposure. Right now I'm using my DSLR as the polaroid shot of the scene. For me it is a good learning tool - and record - once the negative is scanned. It's not perfect, but it is helpful to me.

Scanner....I'm still working on this. I have a V700. My scans are not as sharp as I would like and I'm working through adjusting the height of the negative holder to get optimum height. Buying something from betterscanning is probably in my future. Before that I'd like to get my workflow down using the stock film holders. Once scanned, I'll work on the file in Lightroom or Photoshop.

All of this rambling is my current workflow. It took me a month, after the camera arrived, to assemble the rest of the pieces required.

I'm having a blast.

I'm also seeing that 4x5 is a gateway drug to 8x10. At some point in my life, I will go there.

Hope this helps.

John Kasaian
31-Mar-2013, 17:15
What subjects interest you? How critical is wieght and size? A camera that will be fun to use on in a studio may not be a fun camera to taeon a long hike. Will your camera bellows support the focal length lens you plan on using?
These are difficult questions to answer, no?
The best first camera, IMHO, first of all needs to be in good condition. It should also support most common focal length lens (say 120mm-210mm,) and thats good enough to start, IMHO. If it's is portable enough so you're not tied to a studio but not neccessarily the latest back packable micro-wieght, thats good too. The important thing is to shoot it and you'll soon get the idea of what features and assets at important to you---then maybe you'll want a different model camera, maybe not.
Have fun!

31-Mar-2013, 23:02
I will 95% of the time be doing Cityscapes and landscape. I would love to do Long exposure work as well.

With $1200 you have budget for one new (light) camera ($900) + a good 150 to 210mm lens (200) + 5 double cut filmholders ($100)

or a second hand (not too heavy) field camera ($600) + one very good (90mm to 300mm) or two good lenses (between 125mm and 300mm) + some accesories (film holders, loupe, changing bag, etc...)

or a second hand (heavy) monorail camera ($300) + one or two very good lenses (any focal lenght you want 47mm to 450mm) + all kind of accesories

This is a start I do hope to hear from you thanks.

After you know what kind of focal lenght you will 95% use. (if you can live with only 1 lens or 2 at least), and whether you have any preference for lightweight or heavy, a lot of people here can give you more guidance.

Alan Gales
31-Mar-2013, 23:11
Cheap gear is fine. Cheap people are not. THAT was my point.

Hey, I'm cheap people and I represent your remark! :)

Alan Gales
31-Mar-2013, 23:51
The Pros went digital so there is a lot of previously very expensive gear on the market for cheap. Just because it is cheap doesn't mean it's crap. For example, I bought a professional Sinar P studio monorail camera with Schneider Symmar 210 lens for $600.00. I don't know how much they were new but together they probably cost thousands back in the 70's.

Most of us recommend buying used for your first camera and with good reason. There are those who try out large format and find out that sheet film isn't their thing and then there are also those who (like most of us) find out that their first camera is just not the right fit for them.

Larry Kellogg
1-Apr-2013, 12:08
Welcome! I am also just getting started with Large Format. You can read about my experiences here: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?100858-New-to-4x5-photography-just-bought-Wisner-camera-advice-appreciated I don't think you have to spend $1200 for a camera, I think you can get a 4x5 field camera for less than $1000.Of course, all of the other gear costs money, the tripod, head, film holders, changing tent, lenses, so it is quite an investment.

I like the whole process of loading/unloading sheet film and of taking a shot. There is nothing like seeing the detail you can capture on a sheet of 4x5 film. It's amazing what you can find if you go looking around a negative.


1-Apr-2013, 12:18
Cheap gear is fine. Cheap people are not. THAT was my point.

Just how much does a cheap person go for today?

1-Apr-2013, 12:43
Just how much does a cheap person go for today?

Ha! Now thats funny.


1-Apr-2013, 14:23
Ha! Now thats funny.


I was pretty happy with packing mules, but when I am in the middle of nowhere they start talking, giving me grief about composition, the light. It seems mules have received the St. Adams meme, thus my reversion to genetic resistant humans.