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Josh
12-Jan-2015, 06:56
Hi I'm really interested in getting into LF, partly for the quality, and partly for the control. It seems that most people advise that 4x5 is the most obvious choice for people who're moving from smaller formats. However I'm currently using medium format, 6x6 to be specific, and (taking the dimensions of square medium format in inches to be 2 1/4", by 2 1/4") that makes 4x5 only 78% taller, and 122% wider. It doesn't really seem like a significantly big increase in resolution between the two formats. In area the difference is roughly a factor of four, but this comes at a significant weight and size disadvantage.

Is it better to move straight to 8x10? I've heard that the quality of 8x10 contact prints is second to none, and this is the sort of size I was thinking of typically printing to, and 8x10 cameras aren't that much larger than 4x5 camera. I know even 110 could be blown up to that sort of size without much issue, but obviously this is that cost of quality, control (and depth of field).

So far I have short list of pros and cons (well, really just pros) for the two formats. I'd greatly appreciate the input, or opinion of anyone who has made similar decisions, or is experienced with LF, thank you all greatly.

8x10
+quality
+depth of field (in my case, whilst a high degree of control is useful, a shallower dof is preferable to deeper one.)
+size of contact print
+ability to scan with cheaper scanner
+maximum printing size

4x5
+price of camera
+price of film
+price of lenses
+variety of lenses
+portability

N.B. This is my first post on here, I hope I have followed the correct format, and guidelines. If not I'd greatly appreciate your constructive criticisms.
P.S The sort of photography I'd be using it for is mostly landscapes, and outdoor still life. Although I was thinking of getting into a little portraiture too.

John Kasaian
12-Jan-2015, 07:21
What do you want to do? How much are you willing to invest?
Do you want to shoot color? Then I suggest you shoot 4x5 as 8x10 color is horrifically expensive.
If you want to make B&W contact prints or play with different photographic processes, then 8x10 (or 5x7) will probably give you more pleasing results.
Another difference, besides the cost, is bulk---everything 8x10 is bulkier & heavier---film holders, tripod, lenses, etc....
Not to discourage you from 8x10---it is my preferred format---but you can learn all you really need to learn about LF with a 4x5 and then, if necessary, grow from there.

Larry Kellogg
12-Jan-2015, 07:23
You missed 5x7, the sweet spot in terms of size, resolution, weight, aspect ratio, and cost.

djdister
12-Jan-2015, 07:34
It would be helpful to know more about your expected output - small prints vs (really) large prints, B&W vs color? Usually cost is a very real limiting factor, but you haven't mentioned a budget. After that, there is the "degree of difficulty" factor, which goes up correspondingly with camera and negative size. Do you find your best shots from long hikes? You should also search this forum for the many other threads which debate choosing one size format over another. And then of course the ULF guys will make fun of you choosing the "puny formats"...

miesnert
12-Jan-2015, 07:39
The difference, and increase in quality from 6x6 to 4x5 is significant.

mdarnton
12-Jan-2015, 07:43
You missed 5x7, the sweet spot in terms of size, resolution, weight, aspect ratio, and cost.

I second that.

Liquid Artist
12-Jan-2015, 07:44
I voted other size, as in 5x7.

It isn't all that much bigger or heavier than 4x5, and yet the ground glass, negatives and contact prints are just a nicer size to deal with.
However the downfall is film availability.
Although there are several B&W films available, there is no currently produced color film unless you special order it or cut down 8x10 sheets.

I have not tried 8x10 yet so I'm not qualified on that.

Rayt
12-Jan-2015, 07:46
I have 20 years of experience as a hobbyist shooting 135 and 6x6. I shoot b/w and in the past when I had access to a dark room made wet prints. I am a beginner with large format and have so far shot 500 sheets of 4x5 or thereabouts. I didn't go for LF for the size but rather for the movements since I decided I want to shoot old buildings. I had a 6x9 "large format" camera for a while but then slapped myself in the forehead and said I could have bought a 4x5! I thought I should start with roll film. It was the sheet film and the processing that scared me not the actual picture taking. Handling sheet film in general with the holders, and then the processing and all that requires practice and even if you eventually shoot 8x10.

When I got in to 4x5 photography a wise man told me: "you will never keep your first camera and your first set of lenses". I asked why? He said: "that is because you would never know what you need in a camera nor the right lenses until you start shooting and shooting and then you will know what you need."

Another thing is the size. A few months ago I was in Venice Italy shooting with my Ebony SW45. I shot twice a day, sunrise and sunset. I walked roughly 4 hours a day carrying the camera, tripod, lenses, 6 holders, and the rest of the tools. I did that for 3 days. I can't imagine doing that with 8x10. This is the type of shooting I like to do, getting up at 5am and walk for hours and hours.

My suggestion is to start with a low priced used 4x5 with a 90mm and 150mm and shoot that for a few years. It will come to you naturally after a while what you want to shoot.

Jim Jones
12-Jan-2015, 07:49
I used 5x7 for years, until losing the 5x7 enlarger in a darkroom fire. The Elwood enlarger was so tall and the ceiling so low that it sat on the floor. Inconvenient! Back then (1970s and 1980s) 5x7 was more practical, partly due to the availability of film and film holders. Downsizing to 4x5 was a pleasure. I almost never wrestle with the 8x10 camera.

Starting with 4x5 seems logical. One can make a wiser final decision after experience with the small format. 4x5 negatives printed at 8x10 or larger retain enough image quality to satisfy many of us. They can be printed in different sizes and formats. 4x5 cameras come in a greater variety of styles, sizes, and weights than larger formats, from 2.5 pound field cameras to monorails that accept really long lenses. If shallow DOF is a priority, fast lenses in 4x5 compete with slower 8x10 lenses. A photographer that prefers the exquisite quality of 8x10 contact prints may yet use a 4x5 on many occasions.

jp
12-Jan-2015, 07:49
I have not decided and have used both for a few years.

I can make nice scans out of 4x5 or 8x10.
8x10 makes REALLY nice contact prints. A 4x5 could be blown up and printed on pictorico and have a bigger digital negative if needed, but it's nice to make contact prints with the actual negative that was in the camera.
4x5 has more developing options in terms of tanks/systems, etc.. 8x10 is basically tray or jobo or sewer pipe.
4x5 is easier to optically enlarge; you don't need a monster enlarger.
I like old lenses; many are built or seem to work nicest for 8x10, others are smaller and meant for 4x5.
If it's studio work, the size/weight difference doesn't matter. If it's lugging gear in nature for miles, 4x5 is substantially smaller and lighter. e.g. multiple 4x5 film holders fit in my jacket pocket, 8x10 film holders are the size of a contemporary laptop.

jnantz
12-Jan-2015, 07:50
You missed 5x7, the sweet spot in terms of size, resolution, weight, aspect ratio, and cost.

+3

Tim Meisburger
12-Jan-2015, 08:14
+4 5x7

djdister
12-Jan-2015, 08:25
I agree that 5x7 is a great format (I've got two 5x7 cameras), but this guy is starting out, and I second the advice from Rayt and Jim Jones - start out with a easy to find 4x5 and figure out where to go from there, whether to 5x7, 8x10 or to a different 4x5. Chances are you're going to change some of your equipment after you start doing some real shooting.

Josh
12-Jan-2015, 08:26
I was thinking more on the order of hundreds of pounds, as apposed to thousands of pounds for the camera, and slowly investing in lenses when I can. I didn't think too much about the price of film, as I don't think I'd really use it that much. I'd imagine I'd use fewer than a dozen sheets a month, maybe quite a lot less as I'm rather busy at the moment. I would use both colour and black and white. Black and white does have a beautiful look, but I feel that sometimes it's an abstractions from reality. I did think of 5x7, although I've heard that it's harder to find equipment and film for it, is this not the case?

From my searches so far, I've found that the 8x10 bodies don't seem to be that much more expensive than the 4x5 (I've been looking at pretty old, low end equipment), but there's a lot more 4x5 stuff out there. The lenses, seem to be where most of the price difference is, but I was probably just going to get one, fairly wide, lens and experiment for a while. Thanks very much for your comment, you've given me lots more to think about.

Josh
12-Jan-2015, 08:31
Thanks, that sounds like a really good idea. I had this plan of getting a camera that I'd keep for decades, but I see that that's not really possible. Your Italy trip sound fantastic.

mdarnton
12-Jan-2015, 08:44
While it's true that 5x7 stuff is scarcer, do you need more than one of everything? I didn't have any trouble getting what I wanted--I just didn't have hundreds of examples to select from, as with 4x5. I have been using 8x10 also, and I find it much more difficult because I can't really get far enough away to get a feeling for the composition on the ground glass, and the stuff is really heavy too. 5x7 is perfect for composition, and the equipment isn't that heavy. I like 4x5, also, but only with a magnifying/reflex type hood. Otherwise, it seems tiny to me now.

Joe Smigiel
12-Jan-2015, 08:49
I think the key consideration for me was the fact that I grew to love contact printing and alternative processes. 4x5 has always seemed too small to me for contact printing while 5x7 makes a nice print. The choice came down to "do I want to enlarge or contact print?"

I might recommend a 5x7 field camera as they are not much larger than 4x5s to lug around. 8x10s are bulky by comparison. Personally, I own a 4x5 Deardorff Special which is essentially a 5x7 model that can take a reducing back for 4x5. Folded, its not much bulkier than many 4x5s and is probably a smaller package than some. And, 5x7 enlargers can be found if enlargements would be desired.

In terms of format preferences I'd have to go whole-plate (6.5x8.5), then 11x14, 5x7, 8x10 and 4x5. If I went with anything else, it would probably be 14x17. Each has its own virtues and limitations. 4x5 is going to be the most portable with lenses and accessories that are much easier to find and also of relative less expense. For some reason I've never liked the 16x20/8x10/4x5 formats.

Luis-F-S
12-Jan-2015, 08:50
[QUOTE=Is it better to move straight to 8x10? [/QUOTE]
No, in my opinion that's just dumb. If I want to learn to fly, should I learn on a Cesna or should I go straight to a 737 because it's larger? Same analogy. Stick to 4x5 until you find out what the heck you're doing and if you'll like it.

L

Richard Wasserman
12-Jan-2015, 08:51
I don't wish to put a damper on your interest, but if you are only going to use 12 or fewer sheets a month I'm afraid it might take you about 7 years to become proficient with the camera and the entire process of large format—I think you need to shoot about 1000 sheets to really know what you're doing. Large Format photography generally takes a bit of work to learn—it's not hard. but is more complex than using roll film. I would urge you to buy an inexpensive 4x5 with one lens, between 150-210mm, and see how you get on with it before investing heavily in larger or more complex equipment. I recommend a monorail camera, something like a Sinar F where it is fairly simple to control the movements and see directly what they are doing.

Oren Grad
12-Jan-2015, 08:59
6 1/2 x 8 1/2 is my favorite, but given your budget, that's not the way to go if you want to be able to buy everything quickly and conveniently.

8x10 cameras are generally a lot larger and heavier than 4x5 cameras with similar design and features. 8x10 film holders are a lot larger and heavier than 4x5 holders. Depending on the cameras, a tripod adequate for 8x10 may be heavier than a tripod adequate for 4x5. If you're willing to stick with lenses in the normal to moderately wide range, though, the lenses don't have to be a lot larger, as there are quite a few in #1 shutter that will serve for 8x10.

As you'd expect, the size/weight tradeoffs are intermediate for 5x7 and 6 1/2 x 8 1/2.

I use large format cameras to make negatives for contact prints. Where the subjective boundary is between a contact print that feels small and a contact print that feels large is up to you. For me the boundary is between 5x7 and 6 1/2 x 8 1/2. But I use all of these formats, happily. It's not necessary for every picture to feel large, or to feel small.

8x10 color is frightfully expensive - in the United States, figure $20 to $25 per sheet for film and commercial processing. I suspect it will be substantially more expensive than that in the UK.

Pick something within your reach without worrying too much about it, and start exploring.

Don't worry about learning all the complexities at once - your merit in the game of life is not proportional to the number of camera movements you use. Just start making pictures the same way you've always done, and learn the extra features if and as you need them to solve technical problems that you encounter.

Good luck, and enjoy! :)

John Kasaian
12-Jan-2015, 09:02
I don't wish to put a damper on your interest, but if you are only going to use 12 or fewer sheets a month I'm afraid it might take you about 7 years to become proficient with the camera and the entire process of large format—I think you need to shoot about 1000 sheets to really know what you're doing. Large Format photography generally takes a bit of work to learn—it's not hard. but is more complex than using roll film. I would urge you to buy an inexpensive 4x5 with one lens, between 150-210mm, and see how you get on with it before investing heavily in larger or more complex equipment. I recommend a monorail camera, something like a Sinar F where it is fairly simple to control the movements and see directly what they are doing.
Wise words.
Shooting an LF camera is very different than a roll film camera---there is a learning curve for getting acceptable results and it would be difficult to appreciate either your camera, or your own abilities with it, until some sort of mastery (or sympatico?) Is attained. That will take time---and sheet film.

Regular Rod
12-Jan-2015, 09:23
Whole Plate (6" x 8") is the perfect format. Big enough for decent contact prints, small enough for enlarging and the proportions are just right. Ansel Adams once wrote that it was his favourite format. It is certainly mine...

Ilford offer it in FP4 Plus, HP5 Plus and Delta 100.

RR

Old-N-Feeble
12-Jan-2015, 10:08
I didn't vote because I've yet to decide for myself. If I still had the funds and my health I'd shoot 8x10 and probably larger... maybe 12x20. I can still afford and handle a lightweight 4x5 field camera and "probably" a lightweight 8x10 field camera. However, I'm very tempted to try 5x8 because that's a half-sheet of 8x10 so film is still readily available and it requires only one cut vs. 5x7 which requires two cuts. Of course, there's the enlarger issue with 5x8... I'd still need an 8x10 enlarger. Also, the film holders are very pricey but I'd need no more than 4 of them. Another thing is most any lenses that cover 5x7 will also cover 5x8. The same isn't always true when moving up to 8x10 so lens cost, weight and availability are bigger concerns with 8x10. Lastly, I tend to crop narrower than 4:5 ratios... I like 2:3 and 1:2 better so 5x8 (cropped to 5x7.5 or 4x8) isn't much smaller than 8x10 (cropped to 6.7x10 or 5x10)... but it's significantly larger than 4x5 (cropped to 3.3x5 or 2.5x5).

To recap: If I had my health and plenty of funds then I'd shoot 8x10 and larger. If I had the funds but my current health then I'd shoot 5x8. In my current financial and medical state I should stick to 4x5.

RE the above recap: I suppose I've just talked myself into sticking with 4x5 unless/until my financial situation improves and if my health doesn't decline significantly.

Josh
12-Jan-2015, 10:42
Thanks so much, all of you. Before I was really edging towards 8x10, but now I think I'll go for 4x5. I like the flexibility of being able to use colour film if I want. And due to the learning curve that you've all suggested it would probably be sensible to go with something a little more budget orientated to start with. I think 5x7 offers a really nice middle ground as some of you have said, but I think it might be hard to get film/choice.

It's really nice to know that there are active communities of photographers who are using these formats, and who all seem to be helpful and enthusiastic.

Drew Wiley
12-Jan-2015, 11:10
Pick one or the other and stick with it until you find some compelling reason not to. Becoming proficient and spontaneous with specific equipment is a lot more important than nitpicking the details. ... unless you're a format schizophrenic like me, who loves both 4x5 and 8x10, and wished I had 5x7 too, but can't afford yet
one more pile of filmholders.

alavergh
12-Jan-2015, 11:37
From somebody who got started last year more full time in large format...

I bought a wisner 4x5 which has a ton of movement and control and while the camera isn't all that geared (except focus) it's still a lot better than other cameras I've used in that format. I see that now. It was about $700, or I think that's between 400 and 500 pounds, as it sounds your somewhere around the UK based on the price you were hoping for. I'm replying after reading through the second page so I hope I don't miss anything.

I initially chose 4x5 because of price and because I had used it before. I wasn't ready to even think about 8x10. I found a decent collection of lenses for some decent prices and there's such a large collection of them. Film, you can get some 4x5 black and white film, 100 ISO, 50 sheets, for about $32 from Freestylephoto.biz...though I don't know how it is shipping it. Ilford is great, anyways, and a little more...well, maybe twice as much, I don't know. Either way, that same film at freestyle, same quantity, is $131 at freestyle, so of course, around 4 times as much because it's 4 times the film. I know you said you wouldn't use much, but you'd be surprised how much you can go through. I haven't done color because I've always wanted to do it all myself in the darkroom, and that seems like it'd be hassle beyond measure.

Then you've got processing costs if you're going to do color, or have anybody else do your processing.

As I've looked at 8x10 cameras and all that recently, I am presented with much fewer options and higher costs when I do find some of the options I like.

I'd just go 4x5, and if you can process your own stuff, black and white, to start.

dsphotog
12-Jan-2015, 12:06
You should start with 4x5....
I like to refer to it as a gateway format...
I'm an all of the above guy, dslr, 35mm 120, 4x5, 5x7, and 8x10, depending on subject, conditions and intended use.
If you use xray film 8x10 is actually cheaper per shot than 120 or 4x5.

Bill_1856
12-Jan-2015, 13:45
Go for 4x5. 8x10 will wear you out, both physically and financially.
(Or better yet -- rent a LF outfit for a couple of weeks, and use it seriously. You'll probably go back to 6x6 with a sigh of great relief!)

jnantz
12-Jan-2015, 13:48
hi josh

if you have the $$ and patience maybe you should start at 8x10. why not ... you can always shoot paper negatives ( or X-ray film )
to start to make sure you get the load/set up/focus/expose/process routine right so you don't dump a lot of $$ on film to start.
and then when you get used to the whole large format dance start using film.
there are a lot of folks who start with 4x5 and work their way up the food chain to much larger sizes, if you want to start at the top
why not, it will save you the $$ you might have used to buy smaller formats + the film to feed them. and then, if you decide after
a little while that 8x10 is not for you ( too cumbersome, hard to deal with &c ) you will most likely be able to sell the camera for what you
got it for, and move down to a smaller format. just get one lens to start with so it won't be a huge start up cost.
others might be able to do the math to figure out what the translation between your "normal" lens on your current format
and what it will be for 8x10 ..

good luck !
john

David A. Goldfarb
12-Jan-2015, 13:54
I'm glad my first LF camera was an 8x10". Being able to see what I was doing on the large groundglass helped a lot in learning how to use smaller formats, where the movements need to be smaller to create the same effect, and the effect often has to be seen through a loupe or even figured out more on the basis of intuition than on visual inspection of the groundglass.

John Kasaian
12-Jan-2015, 14:12
hi josh

if you have the $$ and patience maybe you should start at 8x10. why not ... you can always shoot paper negatives ( or X-ray film )
to start to make sure you get the load/set up/focus/expose/process routine right so you don't dump a lot of $$ on film to start.
and then when you get used to the whole large format dance start using film.
there are a lot of folks who start with 4x5 and work their way up the food chain to much larger sizes, if you want to start at the top
why not, it will save you the $$ you might have used to buy smaller formats + the film to feed them. and then, if you decide after
a little while that 8x10 is not for you ( too cumbersome, hard to deal with &c ) you will most likely be able to sell the camera for what you
got it for, and move down to a smaller format. just get one lens to start with so it won't be a huge start up cost.
others might be able to do the math to figure out what the translation between your "normal" lens on your current format
and what it will be for 8x10 ..

good luck !
john
I agree. You can start out with an 8x10 without breaking the bank. You can hunt around for deals--they are out there--and alternatives like x-ray film and enlarging paper will save you money, just as will adapting a surveyor's tripod to 1/4-20 for the big camera. Decent lenses that cover the format can still be found for under $400---and barrel lenses for much less!
Two thing$ to con$ider:
1) Bellows----these are very costly to replace but if they aren't too-too bad you can patch pinholes.
2)Film Holders---I haven't seen any deals on these in quite awhile. Used $50 a piece is about as low as you'll find, but you can get by quite nicely with just three for starters.

A simple piece of glass will print your contacts, so no need for and enlarger or even a scanner.

dsphotog
12-Jan-2015, 14:32
I like the proportion of 5x7 for landscapes, and full length portraits.
Plus, a lot of my 4x5 lenses cover 5x7.

Alan Gales
12-Jan-2015, 15:23
I prefer 8x10. Working with that large ground glass is pure joy. Don't kid yourself though, 8x10 cameras are quite a bit larger and heavier than 4x5's. Their lenses and film holders are larger and heavier too. If you like to hike places with a back pack you might prefer 4x5.

I own a 4x5 back for my Wehman 8x10 so I can shoot 8x10 b&w and 4x5 color. That could be a solution for you but it won't work if you like wide lenses for 4x5.

If you want to contact print then buy the 8x10. If you have a burning desire to shoot 8x10 film then do so. You will never know what it's like until you do so. If you don't really know what you want to do then you might want to start out with 4x5.

Luis-F-S
12-Jan-2015, 16:31
I agree. You can start out with an 8x10 without breaking the bank.

Why make it difficult for this poor guy? He's never shot LF and you're all encouraging to start with 8x10. It's not about the money, it's about the order of magnitude of difficulty with going to larger and larger formats. I have all three formats and the majority of the time I shoot 4x5 due to cost, portability and the ability to enlarge. If I want to go bigger, then I shoot 5x7 which I can also enlarge, but I've also been doing this for well over 30 years and taught photography for over a decade. I also own more equipment than anyone has a right to. I started with a 4x5 Wista, then a Zone VI, then Deardorffs and Sinar THEN 8x10. I've probably shot one 8x10 sheet for every 30 5x7, and 200 4x5 sheets. If he's wise, he'll select some of the lenses that can also be used for 8x10. In vintage lenses, almost every Dagor over 81/4 can be used for 8x10. Same with modern lenses 9 1/2" & longer. He can also get a 4x5 enlarger reasonably priced and make prints as large as he'd like to. Let him start sensibly, so he won't get discouraged. At least there are a few folks on this forum who've had the sense to recommend a start with 4x5. L

John Kasaian
12-Jan-2015, 16:54
Why make it difficult for this poor guy? He's never shot LF and you're all encouraging to start with 8x10. It's not about the money, it's about the order of magnitude of difficulty with going to larger and larger formats. I have all three formats and the majority of the time I shoot 4x5 due to cost, portability and the ability to enlarge. If I want to go bigger, then I shoot 5x7 which I can also enlarge, but I've also been doing this for well over 30 years and taught photography for over a decade. I also own more equipment than anyone has a right to. I started with a 4x5 Wista, then a Zone VI, then Deardorffs and Sinar THEN 8x10. I've probably shot one 8x10 sheet for every 30 5x7 and 200 4x5 sheets. He can also get a 4x5 enlarger reasonably priced and make prints as large as he'd like to. Let him start sensibly, so he won't get discouraged. At least there are a few folks on this forum who've had the sense to recommend a start with 4x5. L
I agree with you Luis that 4x5 is certainly sensible, but it isn't his only option. What matters is that whichever format he selects, he takes it out and uses it. If 8x10 is what floats his boat, there are ways of shooting 8x10 on a tight budget (I do this regularly) The thing is, if 8x10 is what he really wants to shoot, then not shooting a 4x5 is an automatic alibi just because it's not 8x10, or for whatever else the OP's reasons are.
I wouldn't know for certain, but I suspect that too many 4x5 cameras sold are collecting dust in a closet of end up on eBay because, for some reason, the buyer decided not to take it out and shoot it. I'd rather the OP not have the size of the negative be his excuse is all.
FWIW, I don't see 8x10 as being any more difficult than 5x7 and probably simpler than 4x5 (easier to focus, anyway) although I agree that managing the bulk and weight, and shopping around for good equipment in his price range will make that part of the equation quite a bit more difficult.
The larger negatives sure make even minute mistakes harder to overlook though!

Drew Wiley
12-Jan-2015, 17:01
Here's my take on the $$$ issue. The learning curve is always a bit more expensive until you figure out what you're doing. But the bigger the format, the more
carefully and methodically you tend to shoot it. In other words, the slightly greater setup effort with 8x10 inherently means you'll conserve film a bit more, and it might not come out any more expensive to shoot in the long haul than 4x5. You can only carry around so many of those big film holders at a time anyway. But in the short run it can cost you more, simply because 8x10 film is a bit harder to find, and you might choose to stockpile more of it in the freezer. Shooting color film in 8x10 is distinctly pricey at this time. Where 8x10 will SAVE you a lot of money is that you'll never need a gym membership. Just carrying the stuff is a good workout! (and that's one reason I carry an 8x10 in my pack even on days I don't need a neg that big!)

jnantz
12-Jan-2015, 17:30
Why make it difficult for this poor guy? He's never shot LF and you're all encouraging to start with 8x10. It's not about the money, it's about the order of magnitude of difficulty with going to larger and larger formats. I have all three formats and the majority of the time I shoot 4x5 due to cost, portability and the ability to enlarge. If I want to go bigger, then I shoot 5x7 which I can also enlarge, but I've also been doing this for well over 30 years and taught photography for over a decade. I also own more equipment than anyone has a right to. I started with a 4x5 Wista, then a Zone VI, then Deardorffs and Sinar THEN 8x10. I've probably shot one 8x10 sheet for every 30 5x7, and 200 4x5 sheets. If he's wise, he'll select some of the lenses that can also be used for 8x10. In vintage lenses, almost every Dagor over 81/4 can be used for 8x10. Same with modern lenses 9 1/2" & longer. He can also get a 4x5 enlarger reasonably priced and make prints as large as he'd like to. Let him start sensibly, so he won't get discouraged. At least there are a few folks on this forum who've had the sense to recommend a start with 4x5. L


if the OP wants to shoot 8x10 why discourage him --- because it is bigger harder to lug around, and film's expensive ?
if he has the time money and patience to start with 8x10, why not ? i am sure he has read up on what using a LF format camera entails.

i wish i started out with an 11x14 and a glass ceiling, but i didn't and am currently looking for a glass ceiling.

angusparker
12-Jan-2015, 17:42
Thanks so much, all of you. Before I was really edging towards 8x10, but now I think I'll go for 4x5. I like the flexibility of being able to use colour film if I want. And due to the learning curve that you've all suggested it would probably be sensible to go with something a little more budget orientated to start with. I think 5x7 offers a really nice middle ground as some of you have said, but I think it might be hard to get film/choice.

It's really nice to know that there are active communities of photographers who are using these formats, and who all seem to be helpful and enthusiastic.

4x5 is the wise choice. 5x7/8x10 are nice for contact printing but more expensive to buy/operate. Learn the ropes on 4x5 and upgrade later if you feel the need.

Luis-F-S
12-Jan-2015, 18:13
if the OP wants to shoot 8x10 why discourage him --- because it is bigger harder to lug around, and film's expensive ?
if he has the time money and patience to start with 8x10, why not ? i am sure he has read up on what using a LF format camera entails.

6x6 to 8x10? Sure, no big deal; you have to pull out the dark slide in both so it can't be that much more difficult. At least I hope Josh buys something I'd like to own, so when he sells it because he's not using it, I can buy it cheap. I've got 9 Hasselblads in the safe that I haven't used since 2004 if anyone's interested. Now where did I put that V8? Thank goodness Richard, John, Angus and a few others agree! L

Randy Moe
12-Jan-2015, 18:46
I vote 5x7. The cameras and lenses are not much bigger than 4x5, but way smaller than any 8x10. All 3 formats can cost the same for equipment. Depending.

Film costs about the same per square inch.

If you choose 4x5 you will want an enlarger,

5X7 can be nicely contacted printed anywhere. No enlarger.

Use X-Ray film to start and cut it under red LED. Load holders under red LED. Develop X-Ray under red LED. Contact print with a white lamp.

5X7 has nicer proportions than 4x5 which is the same as 8x10.

You will shoot a lot of failed negatives, unless you are really good with film already. X-Ray makes this learning curve affordable.

Buy a good shutter.

Rayt
12-Jan-2015, 19:02
I still make stupid mistakes with 4x5 such as forgetting to close the lens before pulling out the dark slide! I still lose 2 out of 50 sheets this way. Also I am not 100% confident about metering so always bracket by shooting the same scene using both sheets in the holder. I already bought the 8x10 but still not confident enough to take it for a long shoot out of town. Getting the processing down is another challenge. I told myself the 4x5 is just training for larger formats but after a while given the weight, cost, film and lens selection, greater movements possible via choices of cameras available , relative ease of processing I might just stay with it. I am now thinking about a Technikardan for the movements.

John Kasaian
12-Jan-2015, 19:08
I pretty much started my LF adventure with an 8x10 because I wanted to shoot an 8x10 and I wanted to make contact prints. It has worked out very well for me and I wouldn't want to dissuade the OP from starting with 8x10 if that is where he really wants to be.
If that's not what he wants, or if he has no idea what he wants, a 4x5 has several advantages he may sincerely appreciate.

A while back I was putting a LF photography class syllabus together for a senior home, it revolved around 5x7s because it was easier for the seniors to compose on the larger ground glass and was a better size for contract printing (we had no 4x5 enlargers available and besides enlarging would have added a whole other dimension to what was supposed to be a simple activity class.) Film was cheap Ortho with diluted Dektol and developed in trays under a safe light.
Subject matter was to included a portrait of a family member (or volunteer) architectural and garden elements surrounding the facility, and a still life culminating with an end of class "exhibition" in the dining hall for the other residents to enjoy.
The wooden 5x7 cameras I'd collected for the class were no heavier or complicated than metal 4x5 monorails and the film holders only slightly more bulky. Since the residents were going to be "teamed up" to share a camera, one could assist the other (with a small cart for moving the stuff around the place.) Three cameras, six students.
The idea got sandbagged for a number a reasons but the staff still wants to do it if we can overcome the obstacles.

Jim Jones
12-Jan-2015, 19:14
I used a 5x7 B&J flatbed for years, and then with a 4x5 back. Some of the B&J monorails would handle both sizes, too. The flatbed was bulkier than a Speed Graphic or MPP, but little heavier.

Kodachrome25
12-Jan-2015, 19:33
Now that you have experienced the large format lovefest, go and ask this same question on a site like APUG where other formats are readily discussed.

I think 4x5 is great, love the movements and the larger film size and I have even been thinking lately about getting a 16x20 camera for contact prints. But the reason I am still thinking instead of acting on it is that the results I get from 6x6 negs let alone 4x5 really leave me and the people who buy my prints wanting for nothing. I can only print up to 20x24 now anyway so for the time being there is really not any need to go larger than 4x5.

But my best photographs in terms of overall impact still come from medium format, it's by far the best combo of great neg quality to reaction time ratio in my world and is my number one image producing system.

Get a 4x5 kit and give it a shot, explore the workflow and the tragedies and triumphs that go along with it. Then later if you feel you are justified in getting into 8x10, go for it, unlike ULF it is still a reasonable format in terms of tools and materials to be had.

Bernice Loui
13-Jan-2015, 00:05
Bigger is not always better, much depends on the goals of your finished print, post processing methods, visualized image and a LOT more.

The transition from fixed roll film camera to sheet film is not direct or easy as there is a learning curve involved with this transition. Figure burring many sheets of film before the entire process of using a view camera along with all it's capabilities (movement and more) becomes comfortable and second nature. Beyond camera and lens, there is post process and print making and print finishing. Traditional wet dark room with enlarge, films to be scanned post development or ? These are just a few of the post process considerations.

For these reasons, starting out with 4x5 make good and rational sense. Film is easier to obtain, lenses and cameras choices are broad and the entire post process requirements are not too bad. Staring out a larger format will make the transition more difficult, camera and lens choices more limited (with increasing film format size, lens choices become more and more limited) , post process and ... all more difficult and challenging.

I'm not convinced larger film format results in greater "sharpness" as there are a host of factors involved that can significantly degrade "sharpness" with increasing film format size.

Generally, larger film format does offer improved image tonality over smaller formats, specially if black & white film is involved.

After the first 100+ sheets of film is done and using the view camera becomes second nature with lens choice, camera set-up and required movements, focusing on the ground glass, post processing and ... if discovering this sheet films stuff meets your image making needs, then consider moving to a larger film format.




Bernice




Hi I'm really interested in getting into LF, partly for the quality, and partly for the control. It seems that most people advise that 4x5 is the most obvious choice for people who're moving from smaller formats. However I'm currently using medium format, 6x6 to be specific, and (taking the dimensions of square medium format in inches to be 2 1/4", by 2 1/4") that makes 4x5 only 78% taller, and 122% wider. It doesn't really seem like a significantly big increase in resolution between the two formats. In area the difference is roughly a factor of four, but this comes at a significant weight and size disadvantage.

Is it better to move straight to 8x10? I've heard that the quality of 8x10 contact prints is second to none, and this is the sort of size I was thinking of typically printing to, and 8x10 cameras aren't that much larger than 4x5 camera. I know even 110 could be blown up to that sort of size without much issue, but obviously this is that cost of quality, control (and depth of field).

So far I have short list of pros and cons (well, really just pros) for the two formats. I'd greatly appreciate the input, or opinion of anyone who has made similar decisions, or is experienced with LF, thank you all greatly.

8x10
+quality
+depth of field (in my case, whilst a high degree of control is useful, a shallower dof is preferable to deeper one.)
+size of contact print
+ability to scan with cheaper scanner
+maximum printing size

4x5
+price of camera
+price of film
+price of lenses
+variety of lenses
+portability

N.B. This is my first post on here, I hope I have followed the correct format, and guidelines. If not I'd greatly appreciate your constructive criticisms.
P.S The sort of photography I'd be using it for is mostly landscapes, and outdoor still life. Although I was thinking of getting into a little portraiture too.

IanG
13-Jan-2015, 02:02
One big advantage of 5x4 not listed is daylight processing tanks are available, Jobo, HP, Combi etc. 7x5 and 10x8 film needs tray processing unless you have the room and the throughput to warrant using deep tanks.

I find processing a major disadvantage of larger film sizes, I like the convenience of my Jobo 2000 series tanks (pre Rotary) both of which enable me to process a dozen sheets at a time. I can process 5x4 sheet film anywhere and often take a tank and chemistry with me when traveling, it's not practical with larger sizes. I do shoot 10x8 and am starting to use 7x5.

Ian

Oren Grad
13-Jan-2015, 09:12
7x5 and 10x8 film needs tray processing unless you have the room and the throughput to warrant using deep tanks.

Jobo Expert drums if one has money to spend, print drums or home-brew BTZS tubes if not.

John Kasaian
13-Jan-2015, 09:30
It would be interesting to know to which format the OP is headed.

Randy Moe
13-Jan-2015, 09:38
I'll argue the other way.

Tray processing is the cheapest and possibly best way to process. The film is not rolled up in a tight tube and stays FLAT. The backside gets plenty of developer, stop and fix and the negatives come out fully processed with the back side anti-halation coating removed.

My fumble fingers have a hard time inserting and removing film with any tube. I can get film into a tray very easily.

A set of 5X7 trays takes up way less room than any roller system.

I enjoy long totally dark developing. I really calm down while doing it.

Luis-F-S
13-Jan-2015, 09:57
I'll argue the other way.

Tray processing is the cheapest and possibly best way to process.

A set of 5X7 trays takes up way less room than any roller system.

All I ever got with tray processing were scratched negatives which is why I develop in 1 gal tanks and hangers. L

Randy Moe
13-Jan-2015, 10:00
All I ever got with tray processing were scratched negatives which is why I develop in 1 gal tanks and hangers. L

Gently.

Andrew O'Neill
13-Jan-2015, 10:14
I'm an 8x10 shooter, but took a long while to get here. I've been doing it for 15 years. I gradually made my way up through the format ranks, starting like most on 35mm. Going directly to 8x10 without any foreplay...may not be a good idea... 4x5 is a good place to start. If you really, really want 8x10 then you could get one with a 4x5 reducing back and shoot both formats. That's what I do.

Kirk Gittings
13-Jan-2015, 10:23
All I ever got with tray processing were scratched negatives which is why I develop in 1 gal tanks and hangers. L

All In ever got with hangers surge marks along the edges.....just saying.

Kirk Gittings
13-Jan-2015, 10:32
Thanks so much, all of you. Before I was really edging towards 8x10, but now I think I'll go for 4x5. I like the flexibility of being able to use colour film if I want. And due to the learning curve that you've all suggested it would probably be sensible to go with something a little more budget orientated to start with. I think 5x7 offers a really nice middle ground as some of you have said, but I think it might be hard to get film/choice.

It's really nice to know that there are active communities of photographers who are using these formats, and who all seem to be helpful and enthusiastic.

4x5 is not a way point for learning on the way to something larger though it can be. I have gone up to 8x10 and down to 6x9 a few of times and always came right back to 4x5. For me it is the perfect balance between portability, affordability, film variety and availability, negative quality (grain and resolution), depth of field, enlargeability and ease of processing.

jnantz
13-Jan-2015, 10:42
i hate hangers

Old-N-Feeble
13-Jan-2015, 10:51
Strange, I never had any surge marks when I used hangers. I wonder if this is caused by more active developer combined with more or different agitation than I used. I also only shot 4x5.

Deval
13-Jan-2015, 10:58
I think he formed his answer 3 pages ago :) Good luck on your journey Josh, You will get a lot of great answers from this forum. I've found it very helpful.

Randy Moe
13-Jan-2015, 11:02
4x5 is not a way point for learning on the way to something larger though it can be. I have gone to 8x10 and 6x9 a few of times and always came right back to 4x5. For me it is the perfect balance between portability, affordability, film variety and availability, negative quality (grain and resolution), depth of field, enlargeability and ease of processing.

I hate to agree, but I think you are correct. I started shooting 4X5 TMAX 100 only recently and it enlarges and scans well. DOF especially.

But don't tell anybody that I'm not shooting my giant Deardorff...

Until I get my 11X14 TMAX 400 from Keith Canham. :)

Jody_S
13-Jan-2015, 12:27
If the purpose is to make great, sharp photographs, 4x5 seems to be the ideal format (unless you really do need to enlarge to mural-sized prints that people will view from 6" away).

If the performance art of the process itself is the end result, then 8x10 is a great all-around compromise, especially if you don't mind using X-ray film. Big enough to look really intimidating, not so heavy it can't be carried, not so expensive you need a trust fund to finance it. Really cool lenses can be had for less money than a new dSLR lens. Of course you can buy an entire 4x5 setup including film and a tripod for less than a single 'pro' dSLR lens.

Drew Wiley
13-Jan-2015, 12:32
I use trays, rarely with any problems unless I try to do too many sheets at once. It is relaxing.

Kodachrome25
13-Jan-2015, 12:55
3 x Jobo 3010 drums, love'n life in my lab....

IanG
13-Jan-2015, 12:57
4x5 is not a way point for learning on the way to something larger though it can be. I have gone up to 8x10 and down to 6x9 a few of times and always came right back to 4x5. For me it is the perfect balance between portability, affordability, film variety and availability, negative quality (grain and resolution), depth of field, enlargeability and ease of processing.

I agree totally. I enjoy shooting larger formats but there are disadvantages all of which have been mentioned.

One advantage that's been missed so far in this thread is it's relatively easy to shoot 5x4 hand held. I shoot 5x4 hand held out of necessity (not choice) when tripods aren't permitted and by choice of film (HP5) and developer can usually shoot 1/100th (1/125th) f22, sometimes 1/200th(1/250th), depends which lens/shutter I'm using @).

Ian

John Kasaian
13-Jan-2015, 13:10
i hate hangers


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOILKHmZBwc

Richard Wasserman
13-Jan-2015, 13:47
Funny John!

You do know that wire hangers are the adult form of socks? As the socks mature they undergo a metamorphosis and become hangers—oddly no one has witnessed this event. It does explain why we are always missing socks, but have a plethora of hangers. I read this theory in Scientific American years ago so it must be true...

jnantz
13-Jan-2015, 14:03
ihad a feeling my dislike for hangers would be taken in such a harsh light ;)
my dislike isn't psychotic like that but a healthy distrust and dislike after being
quite close for a number of years. --- i used to like hangers, honest!
and i thought there was nothing like hangers n'film ;)
until ... i bought some bad ones and they screwup my film with
lines where the bail and edges are ... i'd still be using hangers if
it wasn't for those bad apples that spoiled the bunch ..
now i just use a tray ... no lines, no scratches no problem0

Alan Gales
13-Jan-2015, 14:04
Wire hangers used to be great for breaking into cars.

When I was in High School I was a cart attendant at Venture (similar to Target or Walmart). Every Saturday us cart attendents had to break into at least one car because a customer left their keys in the car. Sometimes we broke into as many as six or seven cars in a day. We had it down to a science and could break into most cars within 10 seconds.

Jiri Vasina
13-Jan-2015, 14:06
.... 7x5 and 10x8 film needs tray processing unless you have the room and the throughput to warrant using deep tanks.

Ian


Jobo Expert drums if one has money to spend, print drums or home-brew BTZS tubes if not.

I have to agree with Oren and disagree with Ian. I process all my sheet films in Jobo 2830 print drums - up to 4 5x7"/13x18cm/5x8"/Half-plate sheets at a time, or any combination thereof. I can also do 2 Whole Plate sheets and if I had them, I could do two 8x10" sheets also. On the contrary, loading 4x5" or 9x12cm to the development rolls is a bit of pain for me. In the end, it almost takes the same time for me to completely develop 2 sets of 4 5x7" sheets as loading 12 sheets of 4x5"/9x12cm on the development rolls and do one development run (Jobo 2830 can take up to two rolls).

So, in the end the answer to the 4x5/8x10 question for me is: neither, the 5x7 is the best compromise: big enough (for details, for possible contact printing), yet small enough (for handling, carrying, film price)...

Peter Gomena
13-Jan-2015, 14:15
A lot depends on what you perceive as a workable size for you. If you're 6'8" tall and built like a wide receiver, 8x10 would be a lot smaller to you than to an "average" person. 4x5 is my default large format size for many reasons, most of which have been stated here. It's versatile, available, plenty big for my needs, and I own it. I also confess to using a whole-plate film camera and own a bunch of 5x7 holders which, one day, I will use. I put film and paper of all sizes into various pinhole contraptions as well.

Kirk Gittings
13-Jan-2015, 14:20
I think my second choice would be 5x7-all my lenses would cover that. But I am getting what I want from 4x5. For those who shoot 5x7 does the dwindling film supply scare you at all? On B&H there are 23 listings for 4x5 and only 8 for 5x7. For as long as I can I want to be able to buy something off the shelf and run with it without special orders. That would make me think twice.

Drew Wiley
13-Jan-2015, 14:33
I love the proportion of 5x7, but figured if I went that way, I'd end up cutting my own sheets out of 8x10 most of the time. One more chore I didn't want.

John Kasaian
13-Jan-2015, 14:37
ihad a feeling my dislike for hangers would be taken in such a harsh light ;)
my dislike isn't psychotic like that but a healthy distrust and dislike after being
quite close for a number of years. --- i used to like hangers, honest!
and i thought there was nothing like hangers n'film ;)
until ... i bought some bad ones and they screwup my film with
lines where the bail and edges are ... i'd still be using hangers if
it wasn't for those bad apples that spoiled the bunch ..
now i just use a tray ... no lines, no scratches no problem0

Just kidding, john!

John Kasaian
13-Jan-2015, 14:39
Funny John!

You do know that wire hangers are the adult form of socks? As the socks mature they undergo a metamorphosis and become hangers—oddly no one has witnessed this event. It does explain why we are always missing socks, but have a plethora of hangers. I read this theory in Scientific American years ago so it must be true...
It sounds like a probably explanation to me :)

Larry Gebhardt
13-Jan-2015, 14:45
I think my second choice would be 5x7-all my lenses would cover that. But I am getting what I want from 4x5. For those who shoot 5x7 does the dwindling film supply scare you at all? On B&H there are 23 listings for 4x5 and only 8 for 5x7. For as long as I can I want to be able to buy something off the shelf and run with it without special orders. That would make me think twice.

I am frustrated that TMY2 does not come in 5x7 as a standard stocked size. I think I'd shoot the 5x7 more if it did (I have some from a special order, but I don't shoot it since I can't easily replace it - yes I know it isn't logical). Still FP4+ let's me burn film on the 5x7.

Jiri Vasina
13-Jan-2015, 14:46
I have the good fortune of living in the same country as is the Foma factory (Fomapan film producer), in the Czech Republic. Fomapan 100 is offered in 57", 1318cm and HalfPlate size among other even more odd sizes (1015cm). Fomapan 200 is available in 57" only, but that's enough. And last time I placed an order, it took only 3 days to have the film in hands. And I always order new batch of film (several boxes) when I move my last box from the freezer (long term storage) to the fridge (ready for loading).

(if only they also offered WholePlate sized Fomapan sheets...)

tgtaylor
13-Jan-2015, 14:51
Because of the uncertainly surrounding the continuing availability of 5x7 film, that format would not be a good choice IMO. Also, since I contact print all of my alternative process work a print with less than 1/2 of the Surface area of 8x10 would not be satisfactory for me: 8x10 is the smallest print size I want to go.

Thomas

Drew Wiley
13-Jan-2015, 15:06
There has never been a good selection of 5x7 color film. And for big optical enlargements, 8x10 film is really a luxury to work with (unless it's acetate based) -
much more accurate registration, plus the ability to make superb big prints. And it can always be cropped if needed to the more rectangular proportion. And then, at the other end, 4x5 is a lot more convenient for long-haul backpacking than 5x7. Quickloads and Readyloads made certain of that for awhile. Now I've got to strategize for potential old age issues, so have invested in roll film holders, and have done some test trips with them. In the meantime, I've still got some Readyloads still to use up, and a nice Harrison changing tent. And this summer I'll stick to just one-week trips, which will lighten the food weight quite a bit. For
dayhikes, I go with mood and subject, anything from 6x7 over the shoulder to more often, full 8x10 in a big pack. That doubles as workout preparatory to the
backpack trips. But when long perspectives are the priority, I carry the 4x5 Norma with a long bellows and rail. It's a dream machine in that respect.

jnantz
13-Jan-2015, 15:07
Just kidding, john!

:) ;)

tgtaylor
13-Jan-2015, 15:17
I can long-distance backpack with a Toyo 45cf w/tripod and keep the base weight under 30lbs (27).

Thomas

Kodachrome25
13-Jan-2015, 17:19
I can long-distance backpack with a Toyo 45cf w/tripod and keep the base weight under 30lbs (27).

+1

Kirk Gittings
13-Jan-2015, 19:40
Funny John!

You do know that wire hangers are the adult form of socks?

Wait a minute....I am still losing socks and can never find a hanger!

Richard Wasserman
13-Jan-2015, 19:46
Maybe a new life form to be discovered—check under you bed...


Wait a minute....I am still losing socks and can never find a hanger!

Alan Gales
13-Jan-2015, 20:49
Maybe a new life form to be discovered—check under you bed...

The new life forms are called wives.

They wear your socks and hoard the hangers.

Kirk Gittings
13-Jan-2015, 20:50
The new life forms are called wives.

:)

Ari
13-Jan-2015, 21:08
"Less is more."

-Robert Browning



"More is more."

-Dolly Parton

Alan Gales
13-Jan-2015, 21:31
"Less is more."

-Robert Browning



"More is more."

-Dolly Parton


I can't argue with Dolly!

Rayt
13-Jan-2015, 21:42
I can't argue with Dolly!

Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up, Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul;
Bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more--
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!

Josh
8-May-2017, 16:38
Thank you all. I read all your comments a long time ago and just came back to read through them all again. I've shot a lot more, both film and digital, and I've realised how much I value portability. The idea of a camera that can fit in a rucksack and could be taken around with me as much as possible is a huge plus. I'm not ruling out 8x10, but I think 5x4 is they way to go now - I still haven't bought an LF camera yet.

I'm currently looking for a good deal on a press camera. Maybe a speed graphic.

I doubt many of you will see this, but if you do, I want you to know I'm very greatful of your helpful hints, tips, and advice, and I'm extremly happy to be welcomed into such a positive community.

Leigh
8-May-2017, 18:01
Hi Josh,

I agree with others that 4x5 is the place to start.

There is so much to learn in the LF world that you're going to take lots of photos.
LF is nothing like any other format you've used, regardless of size.

The 4x5 option is much less expensive, and many more options exist (film, lenses, enlargers).
You can always use what you learn in larger formats (5x7, 8x10) if you decide that's what you want.

I shoot all three. They're different. Each has its own sweet spot.

- Leigh

Alan Gales
8-May-2017, 18:27
Hi Josh,

I agree with others that 4x5 is the place to start.

There is so much to learn in the LF world that you're going to take lots of photos.
LF is nothing like any other format you've used, regardless of size.

The 4x5 option is much less expensive, and many more options exist (film, lenses, enlargers).
You can always use what you learn in larger formats (5x7, 8x10) if you decide that's what you want.

I shoot all three. They're different. Each has its own sweet spot.

- Leigh

Hi Leigh!

It can be like buying a boat and getting twofootitus. You start with 4x5 and keep wanting bigger. :cool:

Leigh
8-May-2017, 19:24
It can be like buying a boat and getting twofootitus. You start with 4x5 and keep wanting bigger. :cool:
Absolutely true.

Fortunately, there are practical limits on cameras, unlike boats. :p

- Leigh

David Lobato
8-May-2017, 19:37
I have a derelict 12x20 wooden camera I'd like to restore. When that happens shall I christen her with a lady name and champaign?

Alan Gales
8-May-2017, 21:07
That's fine, David, however I wouldn't try to smash a bottle over her bow. ;)

neil poulsen
8-May-2017, 22:00
I'm on a fence, and I think what would tip me one way or another is the feasibility of building an equipped, versus a spartan darkroom. If you can install a good darkroom with a 4x5 enlarger, etc., etc., I would go 4x5. Otherwise, I would consider 8x10.

As many have observed, it's relatively easy to gather 4x5 equipment for a reasonable price. But as others have also noted, while a challenge, bringing together and 8x10 outfit isn't all that bad.

Later, you might decide to switch one way or another. But, either system can provide a good start into large format.

LabRat
9-May-2017, 05:28
Larger than the size that your enlarger can hold puts it in the contact print category... Then the neg has to be big enough to be able to contact print the size you like...

If you plan to enlarge most of your images, smaller formats are OK if you get all of the other "ducks in the row" in the total process...

For alt processes that need a big neg to contact print, that's it's "killer app"...

The headaches/needs/costs increase the bigger you get, so keep the format in the "shooting for joy" range... ;-)

Steve K

Alan Gales
9-May-2017, 05:57
I'm on a fence, and I think what would tip me one way or another is the feasibility of building an equipped, versus a spartan darkroom. If you can install a good darkroom with a 4x5 enlarger, etc., etc., I would go 4x5. Otherwise, I would consider 8x10.

As many have observed, it's relatively easy to gather 4x5 equipment for a reasonable price. But as others have also noted, while a challenge, bringing together and 8x10 outfit isn't all that bad.

Later, you might decide to switch one way or another. But, either system can provide a good start into large format.

Another thing about 8x10 is that it's the largest negative that you can fit onto an Epson flatbed scanner. Of course this doesn't matter to everyone.

Drew Bedo
9-May-2017, 08:16
Poor eyesight and age-related dwindling patience keeps me from residing most of this thread, but here are my thoughts:

Is 4x5 "big enough"? Well no it isn't , but it is as small as I am willing to go. I do prefer working in 8x10. However issues of bulk, weight and the growing cost of film and processing keep me working with my little Zolne VI (by Wista). The whole 4x5 kit fits into a shoulder bag that can go into the under-seat space in coach class.

I would tell the OP to get the "best" 4x5 kit he can get together and work in that sdmaller LF format, then slide into a larger camera if he finds that LF suits him.

In my case I got into LF first with a Speed Graphic, then got a 5x7 Burk and James with a reducing back. Eventually I picked up a Kodak 2D in 8x10, and traded/sold off gear to get the Zone VI. The 2D has an adapter lensboard that takes some of the lenses used on the 4x5 (210mm and 150mm without movement).

The important thing is to get into it and see what works for you. TYhis first camera will not be yolur last or only camera.

Steve Goldstein
9-May-2017, 08:42
While re-reading this entire thread I remembered a comment made by (I think) Kirk Gittings at the View Camera Magazine forum held some years ago in Springfield, MA. Someone asked him why he "only" used 4x5 and not some larger format. His reply was along the lines of "4x5 allows me to do everything I want to do, so I don't need anything larger". I still think that's a great response.

Laurent L
9-May-2017, 10:40
To me 4x5 is the best starting option to enter large format photography's world, afterwards it can still be the best solution to enjoy large format photography especially for the people who can't afford professional scanners like drumscanners or huge enlargers or if they do, can't afford housing them.
The bigger the sheet is the more difficult it becomes to take the best out of it.
8x10 for instance is much more complicated from loading the holders to take the photo and it costs so much more.
But on the other hand composing a photo on a 8x10 ground glass is such an great feeling...
This is why I decided to stop with 5x7 cause a friend of mine has a drumscanner and because the ground glass is big enough to help me compose better photos.

Alan Gales
9-May-2017, 13:13
While re-reading this entire thread I remembered a comment made by (I think) Kirk Gittings at the View Camera Magazine forum held some years ago in Springfield, MA. Someone asked him why he "only" used 4x5 and not some larger format. His reply was along the lines of "4x5 allows me to do everything I want to do, so I don't need anything larger". I still think that's a great response.

That would make perfect sense. Kirk is an architectural photographer by trade and 4x5 is more wide angle lens friendly. Of course he now shoots digital for work and 4x5 for his beautiful landscapes. A 4x5 is a lot more "packable" for hiking into the wilderness for landscape work.

I prefer my 8x10 but to each their own. It's all good. Even the tiny formats. :)

Bruce Watson
9-May-2017, 16:10
If I could make my ideal format, it would be 161.8 x 100 mm (hint, golden ratio). I can get that of course by cropping 7x5 down. But when you run the numbers, 5x4 looks a lot like the sweet spot. Lighter to carry, better DOF (or shorter shutter speeds, or bigger apertures, depending on how you want to interpret it). At this size you can make a 10x enlargement without even thinking about graininess, it's just not a factor. So you don't gain much (some, not much) going to 7x5. At 10x8 you are actually loosing a little (you have to go two stops more to maintain the same DOF that you'd get at 5x4, etc.).

Unless.. Unless you like contact printing. Then, 5x4 is just too small. And 7x5 is just marginal. For contact printing, most people want 10x8 at least, or bigger.

So like most things, it depends on what you're trying to accomplish. But since this thread is more than two years old now, I'm sure the OP figured that out long ago.

Jim Galli
9-May-2017, 16:56
Wow! 100 responses. That's a bunch of good information. 4X5 for the enlarger, 8X10 for the contact prints. Plus if you should fall off the deep end into soft focus effects and lenses, the 8X10 has the brute force to pull it off.

Eric Woodbury
9-May-2017, 17:26
4x5 is like training wheels. It gets you started. Gives you a taste. Depending on what you want to accomplish, it may be enough. You could get in and try it fast and cheap. If you like, then continue. If not, get out at almost no cost. It's plentiful and respectable. Lots of pros are using it (as if that matters). You can enlarge or contact print.

I started 4x5 when someone loaned me a Speed Graphic and 6 holders. Pick a path and take pictures, then take more and more. Have fun. EW

Josh
10-May-2017, 11:43
Wow. Even more responses! Thanks. There seem to be two groups of camera suggested, inexpensive monorail cameras and slightly more expensive press cameras. My initial, ideal, thought was for something that I could carry around in a rucksack, in the hopes I would get a lot more use - I often carry around a medium format camera. But at a much higher cost per shot, and a lot more options for setting up I doubt that I'd use it much like that, especially if I didn't alway have a tripod too.

Perhaps I overvalued portability? My main use cases would be landscapes, outdoor still life and studio portraits. But I'm not really one for hiking so if I were to do any landscapes they would be in places I have previously planned out a shoot with my dslr, as opposed to carrying it around lots of the time. In the future, I also hope to try/get into some wet-plate work, and portability is almost a non-issue then, as the whole process would have to be transported.

If I could find an inexpensive press camera with a rotating back and enough bellows extension and movements for me to experiment with everything then that would be ideal. However, it might be more productive to jump in a buy something budget friendly so that I actually get started using one.

A 210mm lens should give a similar fov to a 65mm in 135, and I'm more than happy with shooting head and shoulders portraits at ~70mm on my slr so I should be able to get started with just the one lens.

Leigh
10-May-2017, 12:14
Consider that if you carry an LF camera, you must also carry film holders, an exposure meter, and a tripod.
It's not a minimal kit.

- Leigh

Steve Goldstein
10-May-2017, 12:31
A 210mm lens should give a similar fov to a 65mm in 135, and I'm more than happy with shooting head and shoulders portraits at ~70mm on my slr so I should be able to get started with just the one lens.

There are different ways of estimating similar field of view. Some use the format diagonal, some use the long dimension, and some use the shorter dimension. 35mm is more rectangular than 4x5, so you'll need to think about which orientation you tend to use most to make the most useful-for-you comparison. I use the short dimension, but that's a purely personal choice.

Using the short side, 287mm would be closest to the 70mm FOV since the short side of 4x5 film is just under 4" and the short side of 35mm is just under 1". So either a 270mm or a 300mm would be the ticket.

Using the long side, 240mm will be very close to your 70mm.

Using the diagonal, I get about 255mm, so again a 240mm (or a 250mm Fujinon) would be closest.

In all this I'm assuming full-frame 35mm.

In reality you can do excellent portrait work with a 210mm, and with the big negative the "cost" of slight cropping is small. 210mm is a sweet spot with lots of very fine lenses available in Copal 1 shutters at very reasonable cost. At 240mm you're generally (there are exceptions) looking at a much larger #3 shutter that will be heavier and more expensive.

Alan Gales
10-May-2017, 12:35
Monorails are great to learn on because they have all the movements front and back. They are also dirt cheap so a beginner is not out that much money to start. They are not the most portable things though. Truth be told, if you did spend more money on a more expensive used 4x5 (like a field camera) and bought right then if you sold you would still recover most of your money back.

Press cameras are popular for shooting hand held. To be honest, I can get better results shooting medium format hand held. I do admit that I have a bad back and hand holding a big 4x5 isn't great for me.

If you buy a press camera with revolving back like a Super Graphic then you will probably be out $500 for a nice one. For $700 you can pick up a used Shen Hao wooden folding field camera which is a lot more versatile as long as you don't want to shoot hand held.

A 210mm lens would be a great lens to start with and one that you will keep on using.

Josh
10-May-2017, 13:56
There are different ways of estimating similar field of view. Some use the format diagonal, some use the long dimension, and some use the shorter dimension. 35mm is more rectangular than 4x5, so you'll need to think about which orientation you tend to use most to make the most useful-for-you comparison. I use the short dimension, but that's a purely personal choice.

Using the short side, 287mm would be closest to the 70mm FOV since the short side of 4x5 film is just under 4" and the short side of 35mm is just under 1". So either a 270mm or a 300mm would be the ticket.

Using the long side, 240mm will be very close to your 70mm.

Using the diagonal, I get about 255mm, so again a 240mm (or a 250mm Fujinon) would be closest.

In all this I'm assuming full-frame 35mm.

In reality you can do excellent portrait work with a 210mm, and with the big negative the "cost" of slight cropping is small. 210mm is a sweet spot with lots of very fine lenses available in Copal 1 shutters at very reasonable cost. At 240mm you're generally (there are exceptions) looking at a much larger #3 shutter that will be heavier and more expensive.



Obviously cropping is more of an option too, so I could shoot a bit wide if I needed....hmm . Yes, I think the long size is probably the best size to work from as that's the determining length factor in the portrait. 210mm feels a bit short now, but I have seen a lot of choice in the market, that're within my budget. I hadn't much thought about the increased shutter size too. However, I think 210mm is probably a very good compromise for getting started with.

Plent of time to upgrade later.

Jac@stafford.net
10-May-2017, 14:18
If you are not presenting your 8x10" images in a very large print, and with the very best enlarger (likely a condenser design) with a lens of adequate contrast, then it is a complete waste of effort.

For the foreseeable future there is no digital means to show an 8x10 in all its qualities. So maybe some 8x10 photographers are making negatives for a future, however I doubt their technique will suffice.
.

Huub
11-May-2017, 03:37
I can second Alan's and Steve's advice. Get yourself a second hand field camera like a Shenhao, a Chamonix, a Toyo, a Wista or one of the others available. It will set you back between 500 USD and 800 USD depending on the condition. A 210mm is an excelent lens to start with. They are plentyful and cheap and most have plenty of movements on 4x5 and is very well suited for shooting portraits. Actually it was my first as well and i kept it just for exactly this purpose.

In my experience comparisons between 35mm, medium format and 4x5 when it comes to focal lenghts are less straight forward then it seems. You can devide by 3 (or by 2) of course, but one way or the other, 4x5 lenses seem to have a different feel to me. The wide angle lenses always feel shorter, where as the longer ones seems longer. In 35mm the 28mm is probably my most favourite lens, where in 4x5 i tend to use a 105mm as my standard wide lens: the 90mm often feeling much to wide for what i shoot. The same applies to the tele-side. A 135mm lens in 35mm is about standard long one for me, where as my 360mm tele-xenar seems much longer when used on my 4x5.

What you suits you best you can only find out by actually using it, kind of "the proof of the pudding..." And when you make a mistake: you can always sell the lens or camera for more or less the same price you bought it for. So pretty much a low risk game.

Michael Kadillak
11-May-2017, 19:35
Could not make this identical decision many years ago and decided to opt for simplicity in the printing process over simplicity in the camera. Went straight to 8x10 and never looked back. I actually feel it was easier to work with the larger GG in terms of focus and movements and of course the ultimate justification is the print quality. I print right to the edge of the negative in contact prints and tray develop my negatives. My first mistake after buying a Kodak Master 8x10 was thinking I needed a f5.6 lens to "learn" from. Got rid of that heavy Nikkor 300W as fast as I could. I now own four 8x10 cameras and it is unquestionably my intuitive visual extension.