View Full Version : Would it be foolish to learn to use a view camera with 6x9 format?

Hugh Sakols
13-Jul-2004, 09:54
I have read that movements must be more precise when using a 6x9 format. Would that make it foolish to start with a 6x9 rollback? Of course I want to use my multiformat scanner. Also where can I find a good used 6x9 view camera such as a Horseman VH? I've looked at E- Bay and Midwest Photo Exchange?

Ken Lee
13-Jul-2004, 10:06
You can also get a 4x5 camera and a roll-film back. That way you can shoot both sheet film and roll film. With a a 4x5, you can shoot 6x12, 6x9, 6x7, 6x6, 645, etc. depending on the back you use.

You will probably find a lot more equipment for 4x5 than for dedicated 6x9 view cameras. I wonder if a 6x9 camera will be dramatically smaller and lighter than an "equivalent" 4x5, all things being equal, as they never are.

A wider lens for 4x5 becomes a longer lens for 6x7, or 6x9, or 6x12, and vice versa.

13-Jul-2004, 10:13
The biggest problem with 6x9 is the dinky ground glass. Benefits are slim to none in using a 6x9 camera over a 4x5 camera, which gives you a reasonable sized piece of glass and the option of shooting larger if/when you wish to.

13-Jul-2004, 10:14
Foolish - no, but I think you will get more for your dollar (in terms of versatility) if you buy a 4x5 camera and suitable rollfilm back. Being much more common, a 4x5 setup would likely be less expensive anyway. Regards,

David A. Goldfarb
13-Jul-2004, 10:22
I agree. You have many more options if you add a 6x9 back to a 4x5" camera than if you are looking for a dedicated 6x9 camera.

Darin Cozine
13-Jul-2004, 10:42
Also consider that 4x5 view cameras are only slightly larger than 6x9, yet you get a much larger ground glass to work from.

Ralph Barker
13-Jul-2004, 11:00
Linhof makes a lovely medium-format view camera that provides great precision, the M679cc. It's available from B&H on special order for about $5,400 or so. For shallower pockets, however, a 4x5 and a good rollfilm back might be less painful. ;-)

For learning purposes, a 4x5 with reasonable movements is the better approach, I think. Depending on the nature of the work you plan to do (e.g. studio vs. landscapes), you could choose either a monorail for maximum flexibility, or a field camera with less in terms of movements, but far greater convenience.

My suggestion would be to consider using a 4x5 straight (no ice ;-) ), with 4x5 Polaroid film. Although the 4x5 polaroid film is fairly expensive, it provides (almost) instant feedback, so you'll learn much more quickly. Trying to figure out what you did right, and wrong, on each image of a roll of film developed later can be a real challenge. To do so requires making copious notes on each exposure (movements used, exposure data, etc.), so the film/prints can be compared back to the notes.

Danny Burk
13-Jul-2004, 13:21
I'm also in agreement that your best choice, if you want to shoot 6x9, is a rollfilm back on a 4x5 body. As everyone has said, there's really no practical benefit to a dedicated 6x9 body, and it's a major disadvantage if/when you do want to shoot 4x5. Shoot with the RF back by all means if you want to use your present scanner, but carry a few sheets of 4x5 and take a second exposure for those most promising shots. Even if you just scan the 6x9 now, you'll have a 4x5 that can be drum scanned later. You'll be glad you have it; to date I've never wished that I shot anything on a *smaller* format :)

You'll also typically get more bellows on a 4x5 than a 6x9, allowing you to use longer lenses (or get more extension for close range) in either format.

Regards, Danny www.dannyburk.com

Leonard Evens
13-Jul-2004, 13:33
Again, let me say that if scanning is the issue, you should consider getting an Epson 4870 (or even a reconditioned or such like Epson 3200, if you can find one). Then you can scan 4 x 5 film. Figure that possibility into the total cost along with possible 4 x 5 cameras.

The main drawback to using a 4 x 5 camera with medium format rollfilm holder is the limited possibilities at the wide angle end of the lens spectrum. Moderate priced 4 x 5 cameras often can't be used easily with lenses too much below 80 mm, and 90 mm is considered a normal lens for 6 x 7. On the other hand, if you pick the right 4 x 5, you should be able to find a 65 mm lens which will cover 6 x 9 and even allow some movement. The last time I checked there are no lenses with focal length shorter than 65 mm which will work with the Horseman 6 x 9 cameras.

Bruce Watson
13-Jul-2004, 14:56
Foolish? No. But is a view camera required for 6x9? No.

You can also shoot 6x9 with a folder rangefinder camera. Much more portable. Hand held shooting is possible, but tripods work too. Excellent optics. Not as flexible as a view camera or your 645 for that matter, but the optical quality can be excellent. Here's a source:


Just a thought...

Ken Lee
13-Jul-2004, 15:33
As Hogarth points out, folders can be great. I have several of them and use them when travelling.

The only problem is when you want them to behave like view cameras, with movements. In order to get good depth of field, you have to stop the lenses down past their best apertures, and you want a tripod. You want your view camera. You want your 4x5. No, your 5x7. No, your 8x10. No, you want your 11x14....

So you have to draw the line somewhere. That place is where cost, convenience, and image quality converge... for you. Cost, convenience, and quality.

ronald moravec
13-Jul-2004, 16:41
I attended a seminar in Chicago a few years ago and one of the teachers had a 4x5 and used it with a 6x9 back. Claimed NEVER to have used sheet film in the camera.

I have used a 6x7 roll back in 4x5. It was borrowd, so I did not get a lot of experience with it, the the pics I did get were super.

Roll backs work well for close up, normal and tele shots. You end up buying short focal lengths you may not use for full format. There is no decent way to get movement with a roll camera at a reasonable cost.

Emmanuel BIGLER
15-Jul-2004, 05:33
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Let me ad my 0,02 euro to the discussion.

I had exactly the same question as yours 4 years ago and coming from 6x6 I definitely did not want to start with 4"x5" in cut film. This premise in itself can be heavily criticized but let's continue.
The route I have chosen is to locate a used Arca Swiss 6x9 F-line monorail camera and eventually upgrade it later (this is an expandable system monorail camera) when I'm ready for 9x12 or 4"x5".

Pros : The camera does everything I would dream of as an amateur,

I can get 6x9 slides for cheap to learn and practice,
I am still using 6x9 only but will consider the 4"x5" upgrade some day, later, postponing the decision every year ;-);-)
The camera is a joy to use and so precise that 6x9 works fine for me

Cons : Locating a used 6x9 Arca Swiss F-line camera is a challenge

My home enlarger was 6x7 only so I had to buy a 4"x5" enlarger to do 6x9 : so why not upgrading directly to 4"x5" ? Some 6x9 enlargers do exist, like the Beseler 23, and the Kaiser 6x9, etc... but used 4"x5" enlargers are also very affordable now,

The 6x9-4"x5" Arca Swiss upgrade will cost you, as new, the price of one or two use 4"x5" cameras ;-)

When you've started to work with a 4"x5" ground glass, I know that there is no limit until 11"x14".. so be prepared to resist temptation and consider that a 6x9 GG is "too small";-);-)

With 4"x5", as mentioned, an affordable flatbed scanner will deliver professional results, to get the same from a 6x9 color slide you would need a professional film scanner. But you can rent one from time to time (this service is available in Paris and does make sense to parisian amateurs instead of buying even a good flatbed scanner, made obsolete two years from now)

My conclusion is that I'm so happy with 6x9 that I delay my upgrade to 4"x5", but I agree that the most sensible and recommendable route as mentioned by all in this discussion is probably to locate a used 4"x5" camera, any style, and start with a 6x9 rollfilm back.

But is Large Format for an amateur a sensible and recomendable photographic route at all ?? ;-);-)


Edward (Halifax,NS)
15-Jul-2004, 06:17
I disagree strongly with the argument about using a 6X9 folder. If I had a camera that I could use handheld it would never see a tripod. I require a camera that must be used on a tripod in order to take good pictures.

The Horseman VH seems like a very fine camera but it is probably more cost effective to get a Tachihara or Shen Hao with a rollfilm back.

15-Jul-2004, 20:36
Isn't it easiest just to shoot 4x5, and crop off what you don't want?

George Hart
19-Jul-2004, 08:01
I've been away so I missed the start of this thread, but I feel compelled to say that if the 6x9 format and a view camera's assets meet your needs, then go for it! I shoot mainly 6x9 on an Ebony 45S, and I find that it's the best of all worlds for most of what I do. You get the best (ie on-axis performance) out of the best lenses, and although you gain very little in weight and set-up time compared with 4x5, you have the advantages of roll-film, shorter lenses, faster shutter speeds, wider apertures, greater depth of field, better aspect ratio, and so on. Composing, making adjustments, etc. are not a problem on a 6x9 gg, and using 4x5 glass (as recommended above) is a great luxury, in being able to see outside the borders of the frame and to use 4x5 when you wish to. You will find a lot of support on this and similar web resources for using rollfilm on both 6x9 (eg Arca) and 4x5 cameras.