View Full Version : 8x10 newcomer

Roger Richards
4-Sep-2004, 16:57
Hello, I recently decided to return to LF after experimenting with it (4x5) a few years ago. I would like to ask the members of this forum for some advice regarding 8x10 cameras. I know a little about 4x5 and realize that 8x10 is a totally different thing. What I would mainly wish to know is which camera would you all recommend in the up to $2500 price range, and what would be a good lens or two to start with (brand and focal length). I have been looking at Wisner, Canham, Tachihara and Shen Hao and would really appreciate any comments that might help me to make the right choices. Thanks very much.

Mike Troxell
4-Sep-2004, 19:01

I just moved up from 4x5 to 8x10 this past December. I love 8x10 but I would never suggest spending up to $2500 for a camera to anyone who had never used 8x10 before. As you said "8x10 is a totally differnt thing" from 4x5. I'd get a good $400 - $600 8x10 like an Agfa and make sure 8x10 was right for me before investing that kind of money. I've heard lots of stories of people who moved from smaller formats, including 4x5, who found that 8x10 was not for them and wound up selling off the camera a few months later.


Gem Singer
4-Sep-2004, 19:39
Hi Roger,

A few weeks ago, I added an 8X10 to my camera collection, and I have been going through the learning curve. Composing on that nice big focusing screen, returning to tray development of sheet film again, and contact printing 8X10 negatives, is a different experience from the 4X5 photography I was used to doing. So far, I'm really enjoying it. However, if I didn't have my wife to help lug that heavy 8X10 equipment around, I probably would not be enjoying the experience as much.

I purchased a brand new 8X10 Tachihara (the double extension model), along with a previously owned Fujinon 300CM-W lens (the lens is like new, and it is mounted in the latest Copal 3 shutter) from Jim, at Midwest Photo Exchange. Half a dozen new 8X10 holders, two boxes of Ilford HP-5+ film, and a brand new Harrison Silver Classic dark cloth. The entire outfit was well under your $2500 price range.

Brian Ellis
4-Sep-2004, 20:33
I've had two Deardorffs and like them both. You can get one in excellent condition for about $1,500. The only downside is the weight (12 lbs). If you plan to hike you might look for one that's ligher. The Canham lightweight (about 9 lbs) and the Wehman (about 8 lbs) come to mind. Both are well within your budget. For lens suggestions you'll have to say what it is you plan to photograph.

Roger Richards
4-Sep-2004, 20:45
Mike, Eugene and Brian, thanks so much for your responses.

Mike, you make a good point.

Eugene, what do you think of the Tachihara's build quality?

Brian, I have been looking at the Deardorff's on e-Bay and wondering about them. Also, I will primarily be photographing landscapes and portraits. I am figuring on using medium-wide to short tele lenses (in 4x5, 90 to 270mm lenses.

Neal Shields
4-Sep-2004, 20:59
I love my Deardorff V8 which I brought on Ebay. I now realize how lucky I was and got a great camera with a new bellows.

Deardorff's can have problems such as a split bottom which cause other problems. By all means if you want a wood camera, get a "Dorf" but buy from someone who knows how to describe it and will take it back or make it good if there is a problem. In other words buy from one of the big advertisers in View Camera Magazine.

I have transitioned to all B&W with the 8x10 from which I make contact prints. Getting color prints from 8x10 is more and more meaning scanning and digital prints at 300 dpi. I just don't see the point of capturing that much information and the going to a 300 dpi print.

I shoot both color and B&W with my 4x5 for which I have a full set of lenses. With my 8x10 I am currently limited on lens selection to a wide normal and a F18 180.

Ralph Barker
4-Sep-2004, 21:10
I scratched the same itch about a year ago, Roger. I think you'll find the comparison of the available 8x10s to be a balance between features (movements, bellows extension, etc.), weight, price, and availability.

After considering the options, I, like Eugene, went with the Tachihara double-extension. Aside from rear swing, which is limited and a bit clunky, the Tachi double seems a good compromise between features, weight, and price. The build quality is quite good for an "economy" camera. In this case, "double extension" really means about 500-550mm of extension.

Personally, I've found that I prefer lenses a bit wider or longer than my druthers on 4x5 (where my most used lenses are 110mm and 210mm). On 8x10, I seem to prefer either a Schneider 150mm SS XL (big and heavy, but a beauty), or a 450mm Nikkor M. A Schneider 240mm G-Claron seems to be my "normal" focal length of choice on 8x10. The 240mm G-Claron is tiny in comparison to the other two, and economical on the used market. Plus, the 240mm is short enough to do close-ups with the 500mm+ of bellows extension on the Tachi double.

Here's a scan of an 8x10 Polaroid done with the 240mm G-Claron on my Tachi double:


John Kasaian
4-Sep-2004, 21:24

IMHO, look into a 240mm G Claron or second hand Nikkor 450 M for the most "bang for your buck" in modern glass. If you pefer classic optics and can tolerate older shutters, you can't go wrong with a 12" Dagor, 10" WF Ektar, 14" Commercial Ektar (BTW I think these last two lenses are incredible for both landscape and portraiture) or the longer RD Artars. If a convertible is what you want see if you can find a Wollensak triple convertible My 2-cents, YMMV!

Roger Richards
4-Sep-2004, 21:35
Neal, Ralph and John, thanks so much for your help.

Brian Ellis
5-Sep-2004, 05:51
There's a lot of lenses out there in the focal lengths you're interested in. I haven't tried many of them so I can't compare. The lenses I've used for 8x10 and have been pleased with for contact printing black and white are the 159mm F9.5 Wollensak (a very nice small, light wide angle that is seen pretty frequently on e bay and that sells for around $250, maybe the single biggest large format lens bargain there is considering the usual size, weight,and price of wide angles for 8x10), the 210mm F9 G Claron (another small, light inexpensive moderate wide angle that from the specs looks like it wouldn't cover 8x10 but does with room for movements when stopped down to F22 or smaller), 240mm F9 G Claron (same comments as the 210 but it has even more room for movements), Wollensak triple convertible 330mm, 520mm, 620mm (focal lengths are from memory and are approximate, I made the mistake of selling this lens - a big, heavy lens that sells for about $350, excellent at the shortest focal length, not so great but better than missing the shot entirely at the other two), and 420mm (the lens itself is small but it comes in an Ilex #4 shutter so it's a little on the large size but not bad and it's a great lens).

I doubt that any of these lenses would be ideal for portraits. I don't do portraits but for head and shoulders I assume you'd want something in the 500mm and up range and the triple convertible Wollensak at its two longer focal lengths isn't all that good. However they're fine for general purpose photography, including the landscape work in which you're interested. One of the nice things about contact printing 8x10, at least in black and white, is that you don't need the latest, greatest Super Apo XL HM ED L lenses to get incredibly sharp, detailed, contrasty photographs, almost any lens that will cover the format and in good condition will do fine. So while the cameras are on the expensive side you can save a lot on lenses compared to smaller formats if all you plan to do is contact print.

Brian Ellis
5-Sep-2004, 05:58
Sorry, I forgot to say that my 420mm lens is an Apo Artar.

Gem Singer
5-Sep-2004, 07:49
Hello again Roger,

The build quality of the Tachihara is excellent. It's certainly not in the same class with the Ebony, but dollar-for-dollar, ounce-for-ounce it's a darn good value. I had the opportunity to compare the 8X10 Tachi with the 8X10 Shen Hao, which is the camera I had first considered. I liked the fit and finish of the Tachi better. It doesn't have as many features as the Shen Hao, but it does have all of the movement capability I need for outdoor landscape and portrait work. It is simple to operate and it is $500 less expensive than the Shen Hao. The only addition I had to make to the Tachi was a two-way spirit level on the rear standard. I also purchased an adapter lensboard so that I can use my lenses that are mounted on Linhof Tech boards on the Tachi, if I want too.

The lenses I am using for the 8x10 format are all Fujinons: a 250 CM-W, a 300CM-W. and a 450C. So far, so good.

5-Sep-2004, 08:36
I shoot 8x10, but have only used monorail-type cameras, despite their unweildy weight and size when working in the field.

I have, however, looked at a number of modern field cameras in stores and at expos. The Tachihara seems to have a following, and the Ebony is known as a top-notch camera, at least by many.

However, I think that the benifits of buying from a manufacturer in the USA, especially one who is available for a chat, are not to be discarded to save a few dollars. Ron Wisner is a very good photographer and makes a great camera. They are a thing of beauty, and highly functional. Owners have many great things to say.

On the other hand, If you're an avid hiker or woodsman like me, you will fall in love with the ultralight 8x10 that Canham makes. (I tried to look up the model on his web site, but it was down.) Keith gave me a full demonstration at the last PhotoPlus Expo, and after having done a day-long hike the previous day with a 20+ pound monorail, I was truly amazed. The camera folds down to a tiny size, and is extremely lightweight. It may not be as sturdy as some others, but I have not shot with it yet, so I don't really know.

The Deardorff is a beautiful and reliable camera, and many of the greatest LF photographers have used them - and found them to be good to work with. However, as I have more problems with my used gear, I usually steer people towards new (or newer) equipment if they can afford it.

And make sure not to skimp on the lenses. If you buy a $2500 camera, you should be able to get all big-4 lenses. Or maybe a triple convertible, too.

Diane Maher
5-Sep-2004, 11:05
I've been shooting 8x10 for about a year with an Ansco camera. It weighs in at 12 lbs. The tripod I use is a Manfrotto 475, with a Manfrotto 3047 head and a 4 inch square quick release plate for the head. The tripod alone weighs 9 lbs. Make sure your tripod can handle the 8x10 weight. The tripod I use for my 4x5 couldn't, so I needed one that could.

The Ansco camera can be gotten from Jim at Midwest Photo for $495 (their ad reads Agfa/Ansco, btw) and mine came with a new bellows. It is a rear focusing camera, i.e. the rear standard moves back on the bed. I have found that attaching a long lens support to the tripod leg and then to the camera bed improve the stability of this camera greatly.

I have the following lenses: a 159 mm Wollensak, a 240 mm G-Claron and a 300 mm Fujinon-C. Actually, I started out with the 300 mm as a standard length lens. I would like to get a bigger lens (was looking at the Cooke Triple convertible), but that will have to wait for a while.


Roger Richards
5-Sep-2004, 14:13
Jason and Diane, thanks for your help and I really am overwhelmed at how many thoughtful ideas that you have all contributed. This forum is really top notch.

BTW Ralph, that Polaroid of the flower is really beautiful.

5-Sep-2004, 17:28
Roger, I've been doing 8x10 for about five months now, making the jump straight from smaller formats and digital, and having been accustomed heavily to cameras that were auto-everything. I ended up with a slightly beat-up thousand-dollar Deardorff, thanks to the advice of the fine folks on this forum, who advised me not to break the bank, and to be cognizant of the fact that it's the tripod and all the film holders and lenses that really make 8x10 so back-breaking.

I'm finally starting to "enjoy" 8x10 after at least three to four months of natural frustration in adjusting to large format and all its quirks. One thing I can say definitively is that the Deardorff is a real pleasure to use...I'd love to have a lighter Canham or Phillips, but in terms of usability and the overall experience, the Dorff is one of my absolute favorite cameras and has made the 8x10 transition much easier than I had any reason to believe it could be.

My issues have actually been more with the occasional junky film-holder and the easy to flare lenses -- some of my best friends in the move to 8x10 have been rubber bands and lens shades. Rubber bands to keep those dark slides in place and to keep film boxes shut, lens shades to make sure those wonderful old lenses actually capture an image and not a bunch of stray light.

I will honestly say that I use the camera as a "close to the car" shooter (hiking with the camera, tripod, and six to eight film holders just isn't practical for me), and to date, I haven't made real heavy use of movements apart from the most obvious and simple ones...in a weird way, I've been using it as a very conspicuous (and large!) point and shoot. But as you've had experience with large format, you know that the whole process imposes a sort of calm on the process of picture taking, and handling an 8x10 negative is really like nothing else.

I use a Fuji 250mm 6.7 as my main lens (great for just about everything), and picked up a (very) cheap 300mm Caltar 5.6 (good at short to medium distances, OK for more distant shots). Enjoy your move, and don't get too caught up with the latest and greatest to start...as others have indicated, start with reliable and affordable, and then move up. Film and material costs (especially if you shoot color and Polaroids like I do) will quickly make you realize that the equipment is only a small part of the equation.

Diane Maher
5-Sep-2004, 19:30
Great shot, Ralph! I just took my 240 G-Claron out today for the first time. I had no problems with it and will be developing the negs tomorrow.

Alex Hawley
5-Sep-2004, 20:18
Roger, I made the 8x10 leap from 4x5 last winter and haven't looked back. For about $1200 on the auctio site, I got a decent Deardorff with front swing, a 12 inch Commercial Ektar, a 9.5 inch Goerz Dagor, a 4x5 reducing back, and eight film holders. The Dagor has seen the most use for landscape work. Nothing, everything is probably at least 50 years old, but it works for me. My suggestion is with many others-get something used, spend the remainder of your camera budget on film and paper, and get going. You can always sell a 'Dorf or Agfa for what you have in it, and probably a lot faster than one of the new cameras.

Don't be surprised if you never look back either.

Roger Richards
5-Sep-2004, 21:19
Robert, Dan and Alex, thanks very much for your help. It sounds like a used Deardorff might be a good way to start. There are a few on e-Bay, I am keeping an eye out for one in decent condition, or any other decent 8x10.

One thing that I am curious about and am researching is using 8x10 Polaroids. I know that the 545 back and Type 55 P/N film is a 4x5 stalwart, but I know nothing about how this is done with 8x10.

Ralph Barker
5-Sep-2004, 21:56
8x10 Polaroid comes in two parts, Roger. The film is loaded into a special Polaroid holder, and then exposed in the normal manner. The holder, with film still inside, is then placed in the feeder tray of the Polaroid processor, after placing a sheet of the print paper in the tray. The processor (powered by 110v) grabs both parts, passing them through rollers that squoosh the contents of the chemical pod between the surfaces. After the time set on the processor elapses, the buzzer goes off and you pull the pieces apart.

The film is kinda pricey, and you can only make one exposure per film holder until it is processed. So, the mechanized processor is not handy to use in the field. Calumet makes a hand-cranked field unit that is smaller and lighter than the regular Polaroid machine, but it takes a knack to crank evenly and at the right speed. The Polaroid machines also have a hand crank, but have the same problem with consistency and speed of cranking. The rollers also need regular cleaning so as not to ruin a neg/print pair.

There are two types of 8x10 Polaroid film holders, the older 81-05 holder, some of which have problems, and the later 81-06 type that must be used with the feeder tray. The holders are expensive ($185 or so new, $125-$150 used), so one tends not to have a bunch of them preloaded.

Lovely stuff, if you don't mind the hassle and the expense. So far, I've used only type 804, but really like its characteristics. The scan above is of an 804 image.

tor kviljo
6-Sep-2004, 02:18
Hello Roger I have used 8x10 for a while, but I "left" the field type camera (old Linhof tech III & Horseman VHR in 4"x5"/6x9) respectively before I vent up to 8x10. Using tech III outdoor, Sinar indoor, I got spoiled with the ease of adjustment, expendability etc. of the Sinar, not to mention one of the most important items, the Sinar-Copal shutter. Finally, I started lugging the Sinar P/P2 4x5 out instead of the Linhof, and the field cameras soon had new owners. Later I added a 5x7 Sinar Norma from parts bought mostly from MXV of UK. I thus had a working Sinar Norma 5x7 when MXV of London sold a bargain-priced Norma 8x10 conversion back (about UK 120 or so: less than US $$ 200). Using a standard 4x5 front - the Norma 8x10 outfit nests nicely close to the rear of my backpack when the rail is removed. Using the conical bellows, the front standard is nesting partly inside the 8x10 (or correctly: 10x10) frame, the bellows protecting the GG. Putting together the camera is a matter of 30 sec. without hurry. Another 30 sec. and camera is on tripod & zeroed. Espesially valuable in 8x10 - the Sinar-copal shutter makes it possible to use the very inexpensive but extremely sharp process lenses (I have Apo Ronar 480, Konca Hexanon 300 and Apo Gerogon 240mm - all of them covering 8x10 - together costing less than $$ 200...). So, I carry a bigger weight than the 8x10 tachihara people, but i have a very stable & solid camera, nearly unlimited & very precise movement - packable to a compact & solid unit, all metal, and the Sinar gives me the ability to put together a complete lens set for probably less than 1/4 of that you have to pay buying used comparable lenses in shuttes. Sinar-copal shutters (you need the old green type (pre-DB) for the Norma) go as low as $$ 100). I see that You have lots of recommendations for field cameras, and thast is probably a tempting approach if You are carrying the camera on long trips, but I still would recommend You to try a 8x10 all-metal monorail of pro-stability (i.e.: a Sinar, Linhof or Pro-model Toyo in 8x10, not a flimsy Cambo SC) before buying a field camera. I am too spoiled by monorail ease of use to return to a less precise & not to solid woody. Look at Glennviews page for more info on Sinar and more http://www.glennview.com/sinar.htm (his pricing policy is very far away from what you would like to pay - hunt elsewhere)

Roger Richards
6-Sep-2004, 12:25
Ralph, thanks very much for the detailed explanation. From your elegant photograph of the flower it seems worth the trouble ;-)

Tor, thanks for the info on using a monorail camera instead of a field version. That too is under consideration. I currently have a Horseman VH-R with 6x9cm/4"x5" capability; I have the 6x9 roll back and the Horseman universal back for 4x5. The thing that I am not so happy about is the dimness of the Horseman 4x5 focusing screen, perhaps if there was a fresnel available it would be easier to focus. I am interested in 8x10 because it seems to offer the highest level of aesthetic quality and the working process forces one to slow down and think before shooting even more than any other format.

I come from a photojournalism background and am exploring a new way of working. I use Leica rangefinder cameras for my 35mm work, and also own a Canon 10D digital SLR. I prefer film for archiving purposes; I have no idea what the next digital format will be in a few years, and if the current formats will become obsolete, and so wish my most important images to be on film. Some of my work can be seen here at The Digital Journalist http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0302/rr_intro.html

I really appreciate the kindness of the members of this forum. The only people who come here are serious about their craft, and it shows in the thoughtfulness offered to others. Bravo!