View Full Version : Can you do macro work with a field folder?

29-Dec-2014, 11:06
I'm still keeping an eye on auction searches for a metal field folder (haven't yet decided which) but I'm hesitant because one of the things I like to do out on location is macro work. I like to get down with the bugs and rocks and tree bark some times and I'm concerned that while a field folder is useful for landscapes and infinity focus situations, I wonder about doing large DOF work like vertical 6x12 panoramas and close macro work.

I'm thinking a Super Graphic or a Wista 45{D|N} for a folder or a Sinar F{1|2}. Lenses would likely be a 105mm and a 210mm. If I could use a 360mm I might but I doubt I could do that with a folder. Subjects would be Fine Art (so basically anything with interesting shapes...I do B&W) and Environmental Portraiture. I don't have a studio so I will have to take this with me wherever I go, whether I set up in a building or out in a State Park. I'm hoping to start getting into vertical panorama series meant to be hung next to each other so I guess I need plenty of movement for handling near to far DOF. I use digital as well as film (only 6x7 Mamiya so far) so this LF would be in addition to my current work.

After I get a good scanner and get some practice wet scanning my negatives, I'll be able to confidently march into LF.

Andrew Plume
29-Dec-2014, 11:14

for my 'macro/still life work' on a 4 x 5, I've used both 105 and 135mm lenses (a 180mm for 5 x 7 and a 210mm for 10 x 8). It took me some playing around to settle on these and for each of the formats, I'm able to set up pretty close to the subject and work from there. I tend to shoot wide open as this is my preferred style - there's then plenty of out of focus and bokeh potential

good luck and regards


29-Dec-2014, 11:19
I've done a fair amount of close work with a 210mm on my Chamonix. This journal is a small one, slightly bigger than my hand when open.


29-Dec-2014, 11:40
I've done a fair amount of close work with a 210mm on my Chamonix. This journal is a small one, slightly bigger than my hand when open.


Very nice. About how far away from the journal was the lens when you captured this? Did you have to expand the bellows considerably? I'm just curious how much extension was needed to see if my potential choices in field folder could accommodate that distance.

Drew Wiley
29-Dec-2014, 11:50
The advantage of a component monorail system like the Sinar is that you very easily shorten or lengthen the rail or switch bellows. I find this a distinct advantage in closeup work, as well as for long lens use. Otherwise, with a folding flatbed camera, it just depends how much bellows length you have in relation to your chosen lens, and exactly what you mean by macro. A triple extension bellows folder probably won't weigh much less than a Sinar 4x5 F, and the Sinar is definitely
faster to use. But I certainly know how to make a folder work if that's what I happen to be packing. I'm skeptical how versatile a Graphic would be in such
instances. And that little Wista would hardly be my first choice in folders for that kind of application either. I'd want something more solid with more bellows extension. But whatever. You gotta start somewhere.

Dan Fromm
29-Dec-2014, 12:16
I do it with 2x3 Graphics. In closeup/macro work field cameras have one large disadvantage relative to monorails. Fixed rear standard. With the wrong focal length/desired magnification combination the front of the bed can hit or, worse, have to pass through the subject. This hasn't been a problem for me because the macro lens I use on my Graphics is a 100 mm and I don't shoot much above 1:1 with them; the cameras have more-or-less double extension, so 1:1 puts the standard at or near the front of the rail and the subject 200 mm in front of that. But if I wanted ridiculous magnification I'd have to use a shorter lens and then I'd be in trouble.

Andrew Plume
29-Dec-2014, 13:29
and I should have added.............

that all of my 4 x 5 work was with either a Sinar or a Wisner Traditional, both benefitting from not having 'a fixed rear standard' - imo you need a camera that has totally fluid movements, in that way you can see it all happening (or not) right there in front of you

.....and also, you will not get a better view/opinion on here for '2 x 3 work' than from Dan


29-Dec-2014, 15:59
IIRC, the bellows could have stretched out more and the lens was probably a few feet from the book. If I have a chance to get things out later, I'll check.
During this past year, I've been doing an instant shot each week. Many of them ended up as indoor shots because of time available (usually none) and/or weather. When I bought the Chamonix, I was figuring that I'd keep my Cambo monorail for the close-ups, but I really never needed to take it out.

Drew Wiley
29-Dec-2014, 16:39
Put it this way, the classic monorail design, of which Sinar is the chief representative, is deliberately based on the optical bench premise. In other words, you can turn it into just about anything you want to. I've even seen a picture of one attached to about a ten-foot long steel structural beam with multiple rail clamps and bellows sections, comprising a large format microscope! Of course, 4x5 sheet film holders for actual microscopes are fairly common; but in this case, somebody wanted a completely different level of performance. ... Not bug photography, but maybe looking inside one of a house fly's ten own lenses, or something like that. Who knows. But it could be done with nothing really esoteric at all, just like assembling a bunch of standardized Lego blocks, or,er, rather expensive Lego blocks. In more ordinary macro circumstances, you can not only position the standards anywhere you wish, but balance the main rail anywhere you wish, making it easy to support on the tripod and work from whatever distance you choose. Plus most Sinar gear is a bargain at the moment.

30-Dec-2014, 02:28
The Wista 45's standard bellows has an extension of ~250mm. Used extension beds and longer bellows are available occasionally. I think there was a set listed on the forum a couple of months ago. Macro work is possible, but a bit more difficult than using a monorail like the Sinar, due to the fixed rear back. The camera would require frequent repositioning with the Wista.


30-Dec-2014, 06:49
from personal experience,you can do macro work with any camera, folder or rail, even a graflex slr, as long as you have enough bellows
for the lens you are using. 2x the focal length at least ... you can use regular lenses or enlarger lenses, ( or those polaroid lenses for mp cameras
that come in a press shutter ) or if you don't have enough bellows you can use diopters / lenses that magnify like you would on a small camera.

i have a graflex slr and have been doing macro type work with it for maybe 10 years its a piece of cake
... i use both a 21cm tessar and a brass lens named laverne ( and a few other things ).

good luck !

Drew Bedo
30-Dec-2014, 08:51
Years ago, I had a Burk and James 5x7 with a 4x5 reducing back. I did some macro with this camera and a lens from a Textron oscilloscope camera: 75mm/f1.9 "Oscillo-Paragon" in an Alphax shutter. Wouldn't cover 4x5 at infinity (maybe 6x6 cm), but did pretty well at +16' extension.

The Burk was a little clunky; read, "stoutly built" or "big boned", but did fold up with a 210mm f/5.6 symmer mounted.