View Full Version : An 8x10 Headache.

Tim Stahl
24-Feb-2005, 22:45
Here is the situation. I have been shooting 4x5 for say a decade now. Last summer I wanted to try out an 8x10. I got an 18lb Calumet C1. I shot 30 images with it. I was unimpressed with the quality over 4x5 vs. the extra effort required with this pain in the back camera (& associated heavy tripod, lens, film holders). I had all but given up on the format; the Calumet is in a closet, as is that huge tripod... just waiting for me to get a chance to list them on Ebay. Today, I was cleaning out the Jeep, and found one negative, and contact print I had picked up from the local lab a while back. I had been having problems with the lab getting the print correct & had been in there a number of times, and was frustrated to the point that when I did pick it up, I did not look at it because I just did not care if they got it right anymore (like I said, I was done with the format at that point). So I look at it on the way into the house, and WOW! It blew me away. I sat at the kitchen table for twenty minutes just looking at it in amazement. I was stunned. So... here is where the problem comes into play. Do I pretend that I never saw that image, sell the 8x10 and associated equipment? -OR- Do I start getting more serious about the 8x10, find a lighter camera, and tripod, and start thinking about ULF for contact printing in the future?

Thanks in advance for all comments.

24-Feb-2005, 23:06
I don't understand what the problem was in the first place which left you less than impressed. But whatever the case, if you think you're ready to dive in again, spend your money on film and paper. Don't go chasing after ghosts and buy another camera until you're sure the format is for you. There's no cheaper camera than the one you already own.

Jim Galli
24-Feb-2005, 23:19
Don't do anything until you've built a darkroom and can do your own contact prints and film development.

Pete Watkins
25-Feb-2005, 00:28
If you have produced one stunning picture the fault must have been yours. Perhaps the lens is not that good or not the type of lens that suits your style of photography. Is it a process lens, if so did you stop down enough? I can't see how you can blame the camera it's only a light tight (hopefully) box. Do what Jim said, build a darkroom of your own.

Michael S. Briggs
25-Feb-2005, 00:56
You need very little to do 8x10 contact prints: a contact print frame, a lightbulb, a few trays, one safelight. You could put aluminum foil over a bathroom window, perhaps work at night, and put the trays on the counter, or in the bathtub (hard on your knees). A print washer is convenient, but the prints can be washed in a tray by "leafing" through the prints and periodically changing the water.

tor kviljo
25-Feb-2005, 01:37
Hmmmm - do you really have an option? - You have seen that contact-print, and you will probably think of it every time you use your 4"x5", but not managing to come all the way to finish & tones of that contact print... By the way, is there any reason to throw out the 4"x5"?/making a fuss because you want to try the 8"x10" or ULF once more? I find the terrific large GG image - possibilities to frame, adjust perspective & lay out sharpness very precise - to be one of the main "wow's!" using the 8"x10" over the smaller format, being reason good enough to sometimes use this camera, but I use the 4"x5"/5"x7" Sinar much more often - the 8"x10" being put into service when I know I have ample time & good means to bring all the gear. Heavy camera gear is a pest - espesially if You have to let the thermos behind you to carry that hideously heavy Apo-Ronar that you just had to buy on e.... Being able to carry the gear in a good backpack without being reminded of the weight all the time is a must for me, so until now, I have not been keen to go very far with my 8"x10", but I have made some steps to make it less of an exercise to bring the 8x10 out. I had formely the super-stable but quite heavy Norma 8"x10", but this is now sold & being (nearly finished...) replaced by a home made & very much lighter combo consisting of a wooden back (teak w/steel fittings) to be fitted as new rear standard on a Plaubel Profia Z monorail picked up cheap). This set-up will weight slightly less than the 5x7 Norma, about 5 .5 kilos. Back is mounted (on swing-point) to rail with extra tripod rail-clamp upside-down, have only sving & base tilt (as in the Norma 8"x10"). To save veight, I use a modern, very lighweight (3 kilos when home shortened...)) & inexpensive ($$ 120 in Norway) surveyors tripod of alu tubing, alu-alloys & plastic handles/cushions + a LUMPP 3-way low profile head. Tripod tested with my 200 pounds, more stable than a 6 kilo Tele-Studex I have had, making 8"x10" less a burden. Probably work for ULF also, but I have never seen any of those beasts...By the way: I have used (very thin base) 9 1/2" aerial roll-film cut to 8x9 1/2" for use in 8"x10" camera. Since this film is very flimsy, I used strips of "post-it" glue-paper fastened with glue-side out (fastened with strips of tape) inside film holder to keep sheets in place & in contact with base-plate of film holder. This worked nice, need a little practise when fitting film into & out of holders (curving the film - entering it through aperture instead of sliding it in), but you get better film-flatness this way. May help you get the most out of ordinary 8"x10" sheet film as well, I know You contact-print-people is very picky....

james mickelson
25-Feb-2005, 01:37
Remember........it's never the equipment. It's us. It seldom will be right if you rely on someone else to do the work. If you want the results you expect, then you've got to do it yourself. Even Brenda Corbin can't satisfy all of her customers the first time. It takes lots of teamwork to produce what the customer wants. Learn to do it yourself, and the satisfaction quotient will increse imeasurably. Of course I think 4x5 to 8x10 isn't much of a leap and I think you can get just as good or even better results by staying at 4x5 unless you are doing alt processes. But that's just me. I use my 8x10 but find most images I do are better from 4x5 enlarged. Yes I use azo and amidol so don't throw that this way.

25-Feb-2005, 06:10
If 8x10 is so much a pain why even mention ULF. As the old saying goes " if you can't run with the big dogs then stay on the porch" Conners carried a 7x17 all over China. My 110lb girlfriend carries a full 30lb pack with my 8x10 gear at elevations of over 8000 ft without so much as a wimper. There is a simple cure. By a point and shoot camera and quit crying because it don't get any lighter in the ULF world

Ben Calwell
25-Feb-2005, 06:14

I used to have a Calumet C-1 and its weight, to me, was a real desire killer. Plus, I had a junker lens on it, which gave lousy results (I like to blame the lens). I was never blown away by my contact prints, but if I had a lighter 8x10 and a decent lens to go with it, I would love to try that format again. I switched to 5x7, which I like for contact prints, and although my Linhof 5x7 isn't exactly a light weight, it's not nearly as heavy as that old Calumet.

Jorge Gasteazoro
25-Feb-2005, 06:19
There is a simple cure. By a point and shoot camera and quit crying because it don't get any lighter in the ULF world

Yeah, or try to find out if Robert's girlfriend has a sister.. :)

Calamity Jane
25-Feb-2005, 06:46
You've seen the one GOOD image. If you can walk away now, you are not likely to find what you are looking for anywhere else, no matter what hardware you buy. You know what your equipment is capeable of so you know it's not the equipment but the process that needs to change ;-)

I ventured into LF with a homemade 4x5 and a third-rate e-bay convertable lens. Being an old hand at MF, I bought some E100G tranny film as well as some B&W. I wasn't thrilled with the B&W - didn't get enough tonal range, focus could have been better, overall exposure was a bit short - but then I home-processed some 4x5 transparency films and it knocked my socks off! Even a macro of a dandilion (never had a macro lense for my other cameras) at 4x5 was astounding. Then I knew what the equipment could do and that has left me the challenge of becoming a better photographer and a better "lab tech"!

25-Feb-2005, 06:47
Since it doesn't appear that you're in any hurry to convert the 8x10 equipment into cash, I'd ease back into 8x10 to see if it was worth it. Good luck.

Herb Cunningham
25-Feb-2005, 06:47
somebody wrote on a thread here that they had some kind of wheeled device that they used to haul the camera and stuff to trails, it may have been a trailer for baby hauling behind a bicycle or something, but i would stay with it. I have a Toyo G, which is a touch lighter than the Calumet, but it has to be to most precise camera I have ever used and whatever you want to do in the way of adjustments, it has em.

A lot of really beautiful b/w work has been done by 8x10's in the studio also

25-Feb-2005, 07:15
Where do I find a girlfriend who'll strap my 8x10 to her back, I can't even get mine to carry my tripod.

That said, I agree with the earlier posters.. You need to move into making your own contact prints. I've been using a bathroom that I've laid out a board on to increase my table top space, with a couple of trays in a row. I use a clamp-on shoplight fixture with, I think, a 7.5 watt bulb and bounce it off the ceiling so I can lay VC filters over top of it. A piece of felt and a piece of glass sandwitch the neg and paper. Another clamp-on fixture holds a safelight.

That's all you need. When I complete a few prints, I take them downstairs, in a tray of water, and put it under the tap in the sink at an angle. I let the water run, and there's my print washer.

Frank Bagbey
25-Feb-2005, 07:42
The joy of your first great 8X10 contacts is worth continuing to put up with the pain involved. Even an 8X10 Deardorff, a heavy lens, an adequate tripod, and all the other stuff is sure worth hauling around considering the results one can obtain. Maybe a lighter but very rigid camera might be better. I think Clyde Butcher uses a Phillips. It does get to be a proposition of not operating too far away from the vehicle with the Deardorff and tripod.
Making your own 8X10 contacts may be one of the least expensive but most rewarding darkroom activities there is, and one you can completely control. Developing the film itself can be expensive and alot is involved. There are some great labs that can process the sheet film, then you can do your own darkroom work with the simplist materials and expenses.
If your negs are not measuring up, switch labs. Have someone who knows what they are doing examine your negatives for quality, it could be a lens problem. If it is a lens problem, save it for portraits. The worst lenses out there can make great portraits, you just have to figure out the way. Look at the portraits of our forefathers!

25-Feb-2005, 07:51
Get rid of that thing immediately! It is too much of a pain.

As a favor, I will purchase it from you, post haste!

E-mail me with a resonable price, and your problems will be over.

John Kasaian
25-Feb-2005, 08:25

My 2-cents= 1 Keep the 8x10.

2. Do your own lab work (you have to have a dark room to load your holders
anyway, right?)

3. Borrow robert' s 110# girlfriend ;-)

Jorge Gasteazoro
25-Feb-2005, 09:00
3. Borrow robert' s 110# girlfriend ;-)

LOL...I dont think Robert is gona go for this last suggestion... :-)

John D Gerndt
25-Feb-2005, 09:13
Processing at home is the key here. Once you get a grip on the tech*, you'll be hooked. Then you can rid yourslef of what is a studio camera you are hauling around and find something that fits into a pack. I find the heavy tripod issue a non issue. I use a medium weight Bogen with a monopod off the back or front as required. Wind is more of a factor and an umbrella is the cure for that. All this having been said, the 8x10 is for occasions and situations that a suitable to it. People don't shoot 8x10 so much because it IS harder. I think it is worth it, usually...


*I have never found a lab as interested in making my work come to fruition as much as I am.

Ken Lee
25-Feb-2005, 09:33
"A couple of years ago Photo Techniques contributor Oren Grad was engaged in a series of tests to see just how much technical quality he could wring out of modestly enlarged medium format and 4x5 inch negatives. One day a print arrived in the mail at my studio with an inscription on the back, 'Finally figured out how to make an 8x10 that looks like a contact print.' Of course, what he'd sent me was an 8x10 contact print."
- Carl Weese

"The materials and equipment we use are the same as those available fifty years ago. We don't use them for the sake of tradition; it is just that we have not found anything better in modern materials and equipment."
- Michael and Paula Chamlee

neil poulsen
25-Feb-2005, 10:13
Another option is to ease the pain.

I had one of those Calumets. They're well-built, but they're heavy. I have this heavy-duty Linhof tripod that I had to use with it, which also weighs 18 pounds. The Calumet was too unstable on my 3036 Bogen tripod, which is no slouch when it comes to handling larger cameras. Jeepers.

I was in our local Pro Photo Supply, and they had this "little" Kodak 2D 8x10 on the shelf. When I saw how light it was, I bought it for under $500. It weighs about 11 lbs. It has rear tilt and swing and rise on the front. (No shift, though.) Mine has the extra extension, which gives me up to about 23 - 24 inches. My longest lens is 14", so this works fine. It would be nice to have the shift, but I doubt I'll need it. If I need shift that bad, I can use the 4x5.

I sold the Calumet on EBay.

Tim Stahl
25-Feb-2005, 11:10
WOW! Thanks for all the helpful comments. I do make my own black and white contacts. This was color film, and I don't have the equipment here to do that myself. Yes, the camera equipment is heavy... 18lbs for the C1, 23lbs for the tripod, 4lbs for the lens, 1lb ea for the film holders, add a little for the extra crap I tend to carry (like a light meter) and you get a pack that even Roberts girlfriend (or her sister) would probably tell you where to go with all by your self.

Will, the problem that left me less than impressed was: First, the negative was contact printed backwards. Second time there was dust and a hair sandwiched between the glass and the negative or the negative and the paper. Third try was a double image (guess the printer bumped the image). There was a month in there where the machine they were using messed up, and it took that long for them to fix it. There is no alternative to this lab locally (or with in a thousand miles) that can still contact print an 8x10. The other quality lab in town has gone digital.

Percy, sorry I am not going to sell it that quick, but in the future if I do, I'll Email you.

Tor, I was working as an aerial photographer for a company here in Anchorage, which allowed me access to all the color 9.5" film I could handle. That was the film that I was using for the contact print.

Pete, I'll go with the fault being my own. I understand that there is a learning curve, and 30 images is not that much. However, equally, a reason for not taking the 8x10 out so much was the weight (see above).

Calamity, your right, I have seen one great image from the 8x10, and I will probably think about it when I use the 4x5. That being said, I'm not going to let go of my 4x5 either... I like it too much.

Ben, you hit the nail on the head. The C1 and associated stuff is a desire killer.

Ok... so keep at the 8x10. Use the C1 for the next few months. If I don't get turned off by it in a big way, get some lighter equipment, and Email Percy so he can buy a heavy camera.

Thanks again for all of your input,


25-Feb-2005, 11:35
First, the negative was contact printed backwards. Second time there was dust and a hair sandwiched between the glass and the negative or the negative and the paper. Third try was a double image (guess the printer bumped the image). There was a month in there where the machine they were using messed up, and it took that long for them to fix it. There is no alternative to this lab locally (or with in a thousand miles) that can still contact print an 8x10.

And stay away from that "lab"!

25-Feb-2005, 13:51
Oh, you have the lightweight version of the C-1 - I have the heavyweight black version - 23#. Ha. And an even heavier Zone VI tripod. I use mine in the swamps of Florida - in the summer. How? I made carriers - first I used a golf cart with the tripod in the place the golf bag would go, and the camera and other equipment in a bag strapped on with bungee cords. It worked, but was hard to control

Then I got smart. I found a baby stroller used for jogging - the type with the big wheels. Mine was at a thrift store. I stripped off all the fabric stuff used to hang, uh, suspend the baby in the center, then made a floor to cover the open space - a piece of plywood or masonite would do, maybe even a bicycle basket. My stroller carries 60-pounds of gear effortlessly and the big wheels roll over relatively rough terrain, sticks, the smaller alligators, etc.

Dave Moeller
25-Feb-2005, 14:44

Only you can decide if the C1 is too heavy for you...I have a Green Monster and don't find it that bad. But I'm wondering about your tripod. 23 pounds?!? What kind of a monster is this?

Before you give up on the Calumet, you might look into a new tripod. I have a Berlebach 3032...it weighs about 7 pounds and supports the C1 with my heaviest lens (a 480mm Nikor process lens mounted in front of a Packard shutter) with no problem. B&H sells it for less than $200.

You can save 16 pounds on your load by switching to the Berlebach...you'd have to find a 7 pound 8x10 camera to save the same weight by switching cameras...and you're not going to find one that light that'll stand up to any breeze at all. My C1 on the Berlebach is rock-steady in a good wind. That's one of the reasons I put up with the additional weight of the C1 over a wooden camera. It's very hard to beat the absolute stability of the beast when it's properly locked down.

Good luck with your decision...I do hope you'll give the C1 another try.

25-Feb-2005, 19:31
Whoaaaaaa....Time out....My God man, who in their right mind would even consider carrying a 23lb. tripod in the field!. Deb I'm sure is no stronger than you although her thought process may be a little keener, she carries a gitzo 1227 rated at 18lb ( they always hold more than their rating). It weighs 3.4 lb. Now there I've cut 20.lb out of your pack already and I bet I can cut another 12 easily. For One.....One lens....that's all you need.....Now if you wanna argue that theory, all I can say is that is all that Lord Ansel carried . Plus it will do wonders for you composition skills. Ok now figure for every lens you don't carry you save what ? 3 lb? It can be done easily. Just a little planning and the right gear and it can actually be more than tolerable, even kind of fun. But 23lb tripod ...carbon composite has been around a while. 23lb should have been the first red flag that you saw. Trust me ...one trip with that pack of yours' and i would have put the 8x10 in the closet to.

25-Feb-2005, 19:47
Tim, You don't have the ideal camera for hiking there. You could always sell it and look for a lighter 8x10...we carry a 8x10 wisner pocket expedition and regardless what some may say about wisners this camera has been great .I wouldn't trade it for an ebony..(well maybe an ebony).but it weighs 9.5 lb. that is a lot of weight savings compared to that tank you got. But if you're just gonna be hiking a mile from the car you can pull it off with that. Three or four days in high country and you'll sell it as soon as you get home.

Stan. Laurenson-Batten
27-Feb-2005, 04:20
Reading the above posts I conclude that most feel that camera weight is always a problem whereas, usually, it is little more than a state of mind. Weight is good, it adds to stability and robustness in most situations, unless of course you are a bird!

I use my old Sinar P for travel work with a heavy Gitzo 1345 and 1570 head. If a scene is worth recording it is well worth the effort and the in house processing every time.

Stay with it!