View Full Version : moving to large format

3-Oct-2004, 21:36
Hi. I have decided that it is inevitable: I will soon acquire a large format outfit. The problem is, deciding on the details. I am leaning toward 8x10. It seems that it is far easier to handle and get materials (e.g. film) for the 4x5 format. I don't have room for an 8x10 enlarger (probably cannot afford one, either). I might be able to fit a 4x5 enlarger in the bathroom (where I currently develop film).

I scan MF film now, using a Nikon scanner. This works fine for me. I know I will not be able to scan 4x5 or 8x10 film at home and retain the quality I am looking for, as my scanner will not accomodate the film size. I have given thought to contact printing in the 8x10 format.

Now then...to the question: What is the best way to contact print for consistent, exhibition quality results? What materials are needed to do this? I realize it is likely labour intensive. This is not an issue with me.

Thanks for reading.


Mike Troxell
3-Oct-2004, 22:04
"What materials are needed to do this? I realize it is likely labour intensive. "

You would probably be surprised at how much easier 8x10 contact printing is than enlarging. Aside from the normal darkroom print and developing trays, safelight, mixing/measuring beakers and a way to wash your film and prints, my 8x10 contact print setup consist of a $20 light bulb and holder/reflector from Home Depot and a 8x10 wooden contact printer.

Subtract the space needed for an enlarger. Add in the fact that you don't have to worry about focusing the negative and the fact that you can look at a 8x10 negative and actually see what is there instaed of sqinting at a tiny negative and you soon realize that the workflow goes much faster with 8x10 negatives than with a smaller format.

3-Oct-2004, 22:08
Get the 8x10 and a 4x5 reducing back.. only reason i use the 4x5 is the polaroid T55s and E6 film. For BW negatives, 8x10 is a nice size.. i realized during my enlarging days that i usually enlarge to 8x10 anyways.. so it made sense to move upto 8x10 contact printing.. if time and money allows 7x17 or 8x20 is in my future

3-Oct-2004, 22:11
What is a "wooden contact printer"? You will forgive my ignorance...


David R Munson
4-Oct-2004, 00:56
This (http://lotusviewcamera.at/accessories/contactprintingframes_e.html) is a contact printing frame. The hinged back is useful for printing processes like platinum printing, but not really necessary for making silver-process contact prints. When I built my contact printing frame, I made one similar in design to these, but I eventually found it much easier to use a simpler setup. I got a piece of half-inch plywood, about 10x12 inches in size, covered one side with black felt, and a piece of glass of the same size. I taped the edges of the glass to make it easier to handle, and just used that setup instead of the printing frame. Much less fiddly.

Lukas Werth
4-Oct-2004, 06:36
I own both an 8x10 and a 4x5 equipment. Currently I mostly use the 8x10, though I use 4x5 film for pinholes. To compose a picture on an 8x10 screen, even in dim light, and to receive a negative which is large enough to contact print, but may also be enlarged is an experience I do not cease to enjoy. I may be of interest to you that I also do not have a darkroom, and, funny enough, I don't really miss it for my current work. I used to develop in the bath room, and since some time I have shoe-horned an 8x10 enlarger which I picked up at Ebay into my working room between the books. I got myself portable tables, the better variety meant for papering walls, on which I develop enlarged negatives - for my sole interest is in alternative processes. Water supply is from 5 liter plastic cans, and a bucket for the used solutions.

Contact prints necessary for alternative processes was my reason to get an 8x10 outfit. As beautiful as it is to take pictures with it, it is very considerably larger and heavier than 4x5. I mostly use a caddy to transport it, a rucksack only on rugged terrain. I have carried my 8x10 camera overseas with me, but had to pay for additional luggage. Also note that you need smaller f-stops with 8x10, and, I think, learning large format on 4x5 is easier. Also, if you are mainly looking for increased sharpness (besides the movements), 4x5 is as good as 8x10 99% of the time - the only real exception being the contact prints (the special quality of a contact print is not really sharpness, but tonal depth). You can make enlarged negatives from 4x5 negatives which, imho, are not in any way inferior to contact prints, but that is labour-intensive and takes quite some experience.

John Kasaian
4-Oct-2004, 13:19

I've got a 12x20, 8x10, 5x7, and 4x5 in the stable, but the 8x10 gets used the most. If you have the inclination to shoot 8x10, follow it!

Contact printing can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. I use a light bulb and a heavy piece of glass sold for an end-table top with the glass and paper sandwiched between that and a piece of flat rubber matting---works great!

Good luck!

james mickelson
4-Oct-2004, 15:05
The 8x10 is a wonderful format. So is the 5x7. Both normally require contact printing due to the cost and size of an enlarger. The 4x5 is a wonderful format also. And you can buy enlargers for the format very cheaply now. All the rest like handling, chems and the like are the same. The nice thing I like about the 4x5 format is that when contact printing 8x10 and 5x7, it is not as easy to dodge/burn and such as with the 4x5 format and enlarging. All of my still life and portraiture, work well with contact printing. For anything using available light like landscapes, I like the enlargability of the 4x5 and it's ease of manipulation of the print. I guess it depends on what you shoot. I shoot everything up to 8x10 (damn I'd like an 11x14, sigh) and each has it's strengths and weaknesses. For the best bang for the buck, look at an 8x10 with 5x7 and 4x5 backs. Nice combo.