View Full Version : New to Large Format Landscape Photography

Ryan S.
29-Nov-2017, 22:56
Hi everyone,

I'm a 35mm photographer looking to move into a larger format. I do almost purely landscapes and nature and am very interested in getting a camera with movements to try to achieve the effects which I can't with an SLR. I know nobody with any experience with large format and am kind of on my own, so I have been researching and learning as much as possible about the format and the available makes and models. At first, I was set on a 4x5, but have since been checking out the 2x3 technical cameras as well. I am having a hard time making a decision with no prior experience. I like the idea of a larger negative with 4x5, but I often hike deep into wilderness areas and camp and never get hotels or anything like that. So I'm a little concerned about loading sheet film with regard to finding a dark space to load them and keeping everything clean and dust/dirt free. I like that the 2x3's use roll film. I often travel on a budget but for very extended periods (months at a time). I also like the idea that 120/220 film is cheaper and the 2x3 cameras tend to be lighter in weight. However, I'm learning that they sometimes have restricted movements and problems with wide angle lenses? I have been considering the Horseman VH and VH-R and some of the Linhof 2x3's. Do these cameras have ample movements for landscape photography? Which movements will I not want to be without in the field? Are there any other 2x3 cameras I should consider for this type of work? Or any budget 4x5's for that matter (I guess the graflok system would allow me to shoot roll film on a 4x5)? Also, are the lenses for 4x5 and 2x3 interchangeable? Anything else I should be aware of? Any suggestions welcome and very much appreciated.

Doremus Scudder
30-Nov-2017, 03:29
Hi Ryan and welcome to the forum.

This reply might get a bit long, but stick with it. I believe my experience will be valuable for you since my style of shooting and preferences seem very similar to yours.

I am completely self-taught as a photographer and, at the risk of being less-than-humble, have achieved a rather high level of technical and artistic achievement on my own. Reading and practice and gleaning this forum and the other LF fora available (Phototrio.org leaps to mind) are a good way to start. Sure, having a class or a mentor would be great, but often difficult to find these days.

Movements: Learning to use movements is not as difficult as many make it to be. I think it is better to start by understanding the basic underlying principles and then move to specifics. There are lots of good books available and you'll be able to get a lot of help here for your specific questions. However, to start, I'll recommend Ansel Adams' "The Camera." It is available digitally for not much and used in hardcover as well. I cut my teeth on the Ansel Adams Photography Series and it is still the best starting point I know.

For landscape photography you likely won't need a lot of extreme movements. Still, learning how the tilts and swings work and what happens with the plane of sharp focus and perspective rendering when using them is important. These two things should be your major focus at first. Rise/fall and shift are simple to understand; you're just selecting a different portion of the image circle than the center. The Adams book above will address all of this.

If you end up shooting architectural images or images in close spaces, you may find yourself needing more extreme movements. However, the principles are the same; you just find yourself more often at the mechanical limits of the system (lens coverage, bellows compression, etc.).

I wrote an article for the now-defunct View Camera magazine some years ago on basic movements for field cameras. If you're interested, I can send you a pdf copy of it (complete with typos...).

4x5 vs 2x3: This is my personal opinion, but valid here I think. A lightweight 4x5 field camera (think wooden folding camera) is not much bigger or heavier than a 2x3 camera and allows you to use both sheet and roll film (with a roll-film back). I carry my kit on extended day hikes that can be rather strenuous (hiking/climbing in rugged terrain) and on multi-day backpack trips. I have concentrated on putting together a lightweight kit. My wooden folder and five lenses weighs a whole lot less than a medium-format or even 35mm (or digicam) kit. The point here is that you can have the larger film size and still stay lightweight enough for the type of hiking you seem to want to do. For me, the 4x5 size is the perfect compromise between film size, camera movements and weight.

2x3 view cameras generally have fewer movements and, these days, you are limited to roll film. I used roll-film backs a lot early on, and have a lot of 6x9cm negs that I still print from, but having the extra area and flexibility of a piece of 4x5 sheet film is a luxury I'm more than willing to carry a few extra ounces for (and I really mean ounces here, say 5-8oz more for a 4x5 kit). As for lens availability for 2x3: the real problem is at the very wide end of the spectrum where you'd need to find lenses in the 35-55mm range to have the same effect as lenses from 65-90mm on 4x5. So if like shooting wide, a 4x5 will have a lot more lens selection for that. Otherwise, any lens that will cover 4x5 can be used on a 2x3 camera, but some lenses designed for 2x3 cameras, especially in the 100mm and shorter range, do not have the coverage for 4x5. Learn to read lens specs and look for the circle of coverage size.

Keeping things clean and dirt-free with sheet film: First, I find that I shoot a lot less film when using a view camera than I used to with a hand-held roll-film camera. My filmholders get loaded at home and go with me in ZipLoc-style bags. They stay dust-free at least till I shoot; after that, it's not really an issue. I try to anticipate what I need for a given trip and carry that many holders with me. However, I have reloaded film holders in a tent at night. The trick here is to bring along a clean surface to change film on. I use a large garbage bag that I've simply stored in a ZipLoc to keep it clean. I spread it out, get everything ready, blow out the candle and load. Keep in mind that for long trips you can always use a roll-film back and roll film, or use a combination of sheet and roll film. For my long photo-road trips I carry 50+ holders in a cooler in my car and change them out as needed. Sometimes I have to reload during a trip and then I'll find a cheap hotel room (I usually need a shower by then anyway :) ). At any rate, having a 4x5 camera doesn't exclude the possibility of using roll-film for everything, but a 2x3 camera will effectively keep you from using sheet film.

As for a camera to fit your needs: The lightest-weight 4x5 cameras are wooden folding field cameras. I shoot Wista DX cameras and a Horseman Woodman. There are others, like the lightest Shen Hao, the Tachihara and the Chamonix cameras that are also very lightweight. The Chamonix and a couple others with a similar design offer very generous bellows extension coupled with lots of movements.

My personal preferences for a camera: 4x5. Lightweight (3-4 lbs for the body). At least 300mm of bellows extension so I can use a 300mm lens on an extended lensboard. For movements, I need front swing, tilt and rise/fall, back swing and tilt and at least one standard with shift. There are cameras without the shift feature,j but they really don't even save a bit of weight. Personally, I can't live without shift, especially since I often use my lightweight cameras for architectural work as well as landscape. My favorite city camera is a Wista SW, which is basically a Wista DX with interchangeable bellows and allows me a lot of movements with wide-angle lenses. For packing, I carry a Wista DX with one lens folded up inside the camera. If I were buying new, I'd take a serious look at the Chamonix cameras.

Be aware that there are a lot of heavier 4x5 cameras out there too that maybe you don't want. I had a really heavy Shen Hao and currently own a late-model Zone VI camera that are/were just too bulky and heavy for me to practically carry on hikes (my Zone VI lives in the car and gets used close to it). 2x3 metal cameras are often heavier than lightweight wood 4x5s. You just need to compare specs.

Metal cameras are rugged but heavier. There are people who swear by metal cameras like Technikas, Toyo 45s etc., but for me, they are simply out-of-the-question due to their weight.

4x5 lenses need not be heavy. There are a lot of really lightweight alternatives. Check out Kerry Thalmann's site on lightweight lenses: http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/lightwei.htm The whole site is worth perusing.

What you need to do at this point is research the options and decide what's best for you. You've got my two-cents worth.

Hope this helps a bit,


Pere Casals
30-Nov-2017, 04:10
I think I can add little to what Doremus said with a lot of wisdom.

Just let me add some points a learner like me found interesting to start.

1) BW in Large format is very related to film development, you have the chance to make an special development for each particular sheet depending on scene, this is an important part of the creative process, so I'd suggest some books: "The Darkroom Cookbook" and "Beyond the Zone System" to start. Color development is usually very standard, like with SLRs. Problem with color is that sheets are very expensive compared to MF, so a good choice for color is a 4x5 camera with 120 adapter back. Note you also can reverse 4x5 BW film to obtain amazing BW slides to be enjoyed on a light table.

2) Camera. Adding to Doremus suggestions, another possibility is to use a cheap&good metal monorail like Sinar Norma to start, it weights little more than a field camera, very compact, and it would allow to learn very well about movements, and it will provide you valuable information about the limitations you may want to allow in a field camera, like bellows extension and movement limits vs weight. With it you also will have the chance to play with extreme movements for arquitechture or even portraits.

3) Lenses. Do not make the mistake to buy too expensive glass before knowing what you really want, I'd suggest one or 2 lenses, play with it and then decide. Lenses c 1980 are perfect to start with, multicoated Symmar-S, Rocenstock-N, Nikon W or Fujinon are more than perfect, even single coated lenses of the 1960s are very good.

Here you have a list of lenses: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/lenses/LF4x5in.html

Here you have tests, this is not a lab test but a practical one with some limitations, but still it shows that lp/mm ultimate performance (that is not the most important, most of the times) varies more from one sample to another than from one model to another, or between brands:

4) Review a lot of LF photographs in this forum, in flickr, and in books. A lot photographs can be made with MF or even with an smartphone and having same practical result. Large Format adds a series of aesthetical resources of immense value, those resources need to be exploited to justify the great effort LF requires(IMHO). I'd suggest (this is not landscape...) to review Sally Mann photographs to see that LF culture is also beyond technical specifications.

30-Nov-2017, 04:28
4x5 will make everything easier in terms of using movements. Too many movements are just as restrictive as too few. As Doremus says, you don't need a huge, heavy camera - even a non folding Chamonix or Shen Hao is likely to be more camera than most people need unless you absolutely have to shoot with longer lenses.

Regarding lenses, best to start with a focal length roughly equal to the long dimension of the film - ie 5". Translated, that means anything in the 120-135mm range with generous coverage for 4x5. If you want to add a second lens, I'd suggest a 90mm (approximately equal to the short dimension of the film). Alternatively, you might prefer to go longer - the 180-210mm range, though it really depends on what you want to shoot. Key point is that you need an image circle of 154mm to cover 4x5 with no movements & potentially quite a lot more if you want to turn the camera into a pretzel.

30-Nov-2017, 04:38
I’ll only add that 2x3 sheet film is still available from Ilford. That said, I’d still recommend 4x5 if for no other reason than you can see the image on the ground glass so much better.

Peter Lewin
30-Nov-2017, 06:06
Excellent advice so far. On the LargeFormatPhotography home page, take a look at this article and links: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/lenses4x5.html. It concerns large format lenses specifically for field work, and recommends lenses in various focal lengths with an emphasis on weight and portability.

The only preceding comment that I personally would differ with is the recommendation of the Sinar Norma. It is a wonderful camera, and I have owned similar Sinar models (the original "F" Field). In terms of packability, no monorail will be as compact as a wooden folder, and while you can get close in weight, except for a couple of really obscure brands/models (the Gowland Pocket View, and I believe one other), they are still heavier. My own vote would be for one of the wooden folders in Doremus's excellent summary.

Alan Gales
30-Nov-2017, 07:42
Ryan, you are definitely not on your own! :)

I came from a 35mm and medium format background. While researching which first digital camera to buy, I ran across Ken Rockwell's site. He had articles on his site about 4x5 that I found interesting. In addition to my D200 purchase, I picked up an old 4x5 Cambo SC monorail. I then bought the Steve Simmon's book "Using the View Camera". https://www.amazon.com/Using-View-Camera-Creative-Photography/dp/1626540772 There are other more comprehensive books out there but I found Mr. Simmon's book very easy to understand for the beginner. It also includes excellent pictures explaining camera movements.

The best thing I found though was this website. You just found a great group of knowledgeable people who want to help you. You have also found some new friends! Welcome to the forum!


P.S. Beware, you may find large format addicting. That cheap monorail I first bought has since morphed into an 8x10 field camera! :rolleyes:

30-Nov-2017, 08:12
Hello Ryan and welcome.
You will get lots of support and opinions here !

A 4x5 camera is more practical in the long run for many of the reasons given earlier. You can always use a roll film back with a 4x5 and have the great advantage of the 4x5 sheet film size.

While roll film backs may be convenient and economical for color, the 4x5 BW negative quality is far better than 2x3, especially for landscape work. The larger ground glass of 4x5 is also far more desirable for ease of use and clarity of Vision.

Further 4x5 sheet film Is far more convenient for zone system B&W photography (processing/development wise). Better than having to carry several 2x3 roll film backs relating to different development standards. I.e. N+1, N-1, etc.

Those are just a few additional thoughts. Good wishes to you.

30-Nov-2017, 09:59
Hi Ryan,
Regarding view camera movements: Fred Newman covers basics in an 8 minute video, which I recommend as a starting point. See: https://youtu.be/0JU-eHpk97Y

As for cameras, you don’t mention a budget limit, but I’m guessing you probably do have a limit. So, I will recommend an Intrepid View Camera (https://intrepidcamera.co.uk/products/intrepid-camera), which is both inexpensive ($298 USD) and lightweight (just under 2 pounds, which does not include a film holder or lens, of course).

But the big question is: what are your needs, really, and which format will best match your needs?
A few points to frame this question:

Will you find that loading and unloading 4x5 sheet film holders “in the wild” becomes too cumbersome and tedious for you? Compared to loading 120 roll film, I’d say that’s a possibility. I often shoot with an 8x10 Deardorff when I’m out traveling, and I always load film holders before the trip, and plan to have enough holders to cover my needs without unloading and reloading while out. Personally, I would not want to have to load film holders out in the field, if at all avoidable. Admittedly, 4x5 is far less cumbersome, so maybe you’re up for that. This might be something you will only be able to decide once you’ve actually done it yourself.

Do you really need camera movements that a large format camera offers? I wonder. When working with a medium format camera, especially doing landscape work, it’s rare to actually need camera movements. When you work in larger formats like 4x5 and up, certain camera movements can become necessary to compensate for the decreased depth of field implicit in view camera work. Unless you feel it is imperative to correct perspective when doing your work, medium format roll film cameras might easily do what you need without doing more than simply closing down the aperture. I suggest you study Fred Newman’s video I linked to and decide if camera movements are truly requisite for your work style.

How to compare image quality between 4x5 and 120 roll film formats? If you are shooting with a slower, fine grain film like Delta 100 in roll format, a 6x9 cm. negative will yield exceptionally detailed, nearly grainless images up to 16x20 inches. So you need to decide how large your final prints will be and factor that into the equation.

How are your darkroom skills? Do you have a strategy for processing your film, be it 4x5 or 120 roll film? Sheet film requires special equipment for processing, or learning to process sheets in trays, in complete darkness (I choose the latter, myself. Many years of working in darkness feels comfortable to me, so I prefer to process in trays rather than acquire specific equipment for daylight processing) YMMV, of course.

Finally, I get the distinct impression from your opening post that you are trying hard to lean towards a medium format solution for your needs, but your main hesitation is in regard to camera movements. The convenience factor of working with 120 roll film is clear, especially for someone who sometimes travels for months at a time between stops. If I had to make your choices, even though I much prefer doing landscapes with my 8x10 Deardorff, I would lean heavily towards a medium format camera for ease of use, convenience and flexibility. If you’re out in the wild for weeks at a time, you can do a lot more work if 120 roll film is your medium. If 4x5 is your choice, having a good dark bag for changing film/film holders is mandatory, and those things are a b*tch to work with at the best of times (IMO). I would avoid a scenario that made a changing bag necessary if at all possible. Dust will be an enemy you may find hard to defeat.

So, you’ve had some excellent advise already, and perhaps I’ve added some useful points to your list of “should I?” questions.

Finally, I would encourage you to find someone who does work in 4x5 who would be willing to go out on a day trip with you to show you what large format work is really like in practice. You don’t mention where you’re located - you might find there’s someone within miles of you whose willing to meet with you and share what they know, in person. I’m in Oregon, not far from where hwy 34 meets I-5, and I’d be happy to spend a day sharing what I know with someone interested in learning large format cameras. I expect there are others on this forum who’d be willing as well. Maybe you’d be interested? Let us know!


Jerry Bodine
30-Nov-2017, 12:45
After a quick read of this thread I’ve not noticed some points that should be considered. Regardless whether you decide on roll film or sheet film formats, you’ll need an enlarger and an adequate tripod for the larger camera. You could start by contact printing the negatives, but many here feel that contact prints should be at least 5x7 inches. So you’ll likely be doing enlargements, in which case you’d need a 4x5 enlarger to print either 120 or 4x5 negatives. Enlargers can be found nowadays for not much cost; however, good quality inexpensive enlarging lenses for 4x5 (think 150mm) may be more difficult to find. There are a number of factors to consider in selecting an enlarger, but with your attitude you can handle it.

Ryan S.
30-Nov-2017, 18:03

Thank you for the warm welcome. I really appreciate you taking the time to provide such an in-depth response. In light of what you've helped me to understand, it seems a 4x5 kit is much more versatile. And since it also doesn't have to be much heavier than a 6x9 kit, in addition to the fact that I would like to shoot 4x5 film as much as I can, it definitely makes it the more appealing option. When I look at photographs made with large format cameras, the detail retention and the depth of focus are the most readily evident and desirable qualities. It seems to me that the ability to adjust the plane of focus for sweeping vistas and produce detailed studies of intimate natural scenes are made eminently possible with field cameras. I'm really excited to learn.

One other question if it's not too much trouble: How much of a quality difference do you notice between 6x9 and 4x5? I am almost sure I am going to choose a 4x5 camera and also purchase a roll film back for it so I can shoot both 4x5 sheet and/or 120/220 film depending upon the situation, but I am just curious as to how much of a quality gap there is. Regardless, I'm sure they are both a large improvement over what I am used to.

I am finding the link to lightweight lenses to be very useful as well as the ideas for lighter wooden 4x5 cameras so thank you. I also intend to get Ansel's books. By the way, I visited your website via the link at the bottom of your post and was deeply inspired. Your work is stunningly beautiful and I admire it greatly. I hope to be at this level someday. Both your photos and your "hotel and shower" comment communicated a similarity of style and approach to my own, haha. It seems you read right into how I go about all of this. Anyway, you've provided extremely direct responses to my questions and elucidated many of the issues to which I have been attempting to understand for quite some time and, for this, I am very grateful. Oh, and yes I would definitely like to read a copy of that article you mentioned that you wrote for View Camera magazine if possible. Thank you so much for all the guidance Doremus, I really appreciate it.


Ryan S.
30-Nov-2017, 18:04
Thank you everyone for all the helpful information. I appreciate all the support and the willingness to help someone new to the forum and the format. I am taking a lot of this new information into consideration and doing more research. Each of you have brought some new things to my attention for me to explore. Anybody have ideas they'd like to share on the aesthetic photo quality difference between 6x9 and 4x5? I think I'll be going with a 4x5 camera but also shoot roll film with it in addition to 4x5 sheets.

Thanks again all!

Peter Lewin
30-Nov-2017, 20:33
Ryan, I suspect you will receive a number of opinions on the comparison of 6x9 vs 4x5. In my experience the difference depends almost exclusively on your final print size. I make all my "good" prints on 11x14 paper, because that is the largest my darkroom allows comfortably. The overall space requirements for 16x20 trays is a significant jump. That said, I see very little, if any, difference between the two negative sizes when printed to that size. However I much prefer working with 4x5 both because of the "tactile" feel of the big negatives (I simply find them more fun to develop and print) plus the ability to shoot the same scene on two negatives (i.e. the two sheets in a typical two-sided film holder) and then have the ability to develop the 2nd negative differently based on my results with the first negative (i.e. use a different developer or a different development time, or simply a second copy if I scratch the first or mess up in some other way).

Doremus Scudder
1-Dec-2017, 01:42

Thanks for the kind words about my website and work! Please use the personal message function on this site (PM) to send me a message with your e-mail address and I'll send you my article on movements.

As for 6x9 vs. 4x5. The extra film area, of course, will get you a bit more quality all other things being equal. The main advantage of sheet film for me is that I can develop each sheet individually. This may or may not be a help for you depending on your film-developing/darkroom facilities. I develop sheet film by hand in trays and find it easy, low-tech and flexible (and I don't mind spending time in the dark). Others have problems developing by hand and use Jobo processors or some kind of daylight tank or even dip-and-dunk processing lines with hangers. If you decide for sheet film, you'll have to find a method that suits you.

Some have mentioned just going medium format and using roll film. This is a fine solution for many. However, with me it lasted about a month... I found myself cursing at my 6x6 camera on a tripod because it didn't have movements. I quickly moved up to 4x5 and never looked back. My first camera was a Graphic View II monorail which I actually carried on hikes for a short time. It quickly became apparent that a field camera would be much, much more convenient.

Camera movements, for me, form a basic and important part of my approach to photography. I use them to subtly control the perspective rendering and the optical center of my images; a camera without movements just won't work for me. I seem to end up with my camera twisted up like a pretzel much more often than I would suspect, even with "straightforward" landscape shots, and especially with the cityscape work I do. Again, it's a personal choice and approach and you'll have to find what works best for you.

A comment about depth-of-field vs. format size. The laws of physics don't really change for format :) However, in practice, a smaller format with a shorter-focal-length "normal" lens will render more depth of field for the same angle of view than a larger one at the same aperture. The challenge with larger film is to maximize DoF by stopping down more and using movements to optimally position the plane of sharp focus in the scene in order to minimize the effective focus spread. Hence tripod, small apertures and movements.

An indispensable resource that I didn't mention in my first post is the LF home page: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/ There are a lot of articles there that I found particularly helpful, especially the ones on focusing the view camera and choosing the optimum f-stop.

Have fun!


Pere Casals
1-Dec-2017, 03:54
Thank you everyone for all the helpful information. I appreciate all the support and the willingness to help someone new to the forum and the format. I am taking a lot of this new information into consideration and doing more research. Each of you have brought some new things to my attention for me to explore. Anybody have ideas they'd like to share on the aesthetic photo quality difference between 6x9 and 4x5? I think I'll be going with a 4x5 camera but also shoot roll film with it in addition to 4x5 sheets.

Thanks again all!

This depends on a number of factors... one is aspect ratio.

6x9 is 2:3 and 4x5 is 4:5 aspect ratio. So... are you thinking in a final print aspect ratio ? A lot of people prefer 6x7 becasue they hate 3:2 ratio, but 3:2 may be way better for panoramas, of course you always can crop...

IMHO with 6x9 you get a lot of Image Quality allowing big prints, here you have a test (I think very fair) about image quality: https://www.onlandscape.co.uk/2011/12/big-camera-comparison/

The aesthetical difference comes when using defocus as an aesthetical resource, the longuer focal length delivers a bit different defocus look in the same way that DX DSLR looks different than FX when defocus is used, as you frame the same scene with a different focal length.

If in your scene all is in focus you won't notice much aesthetical difference.

Also it depends on how you shot. With 120 you may do a shot that's not much worth, or shot something with not much care, but a sheet is a sheet, one tends to think very carefully before spending a sheet, not only because sheet price, also because you have hauled all that gear, made very accurate metering, framing and focusing until perfection, stayed sitting on the snow since 6:00AM, then (if BW) you calculated a developent and dedicated time to cook that sheet alone with the suitable process/agitation and then you also are to obtain a very big file after a long scan or you have to design a custom drakroom procedure (that can be extraordinarily complex) to obtain a sound print.

It is a personal choice how easy you press the shutter release and what amount of devoted dedication you throw in a particular shot.

IMHO when you want to invest a lot of effort for a great image then 4x5 (or 8x10, when you can...) is the great thing. When you want to take a lot of shots with lower commitment then 120 (or 35mm) has an advantage.

My personal view is that today there are tons of easy made photographs everywhere, some really, really good (art does not depend on format), but a choice is to invest an effort to get best image you can by traditional methods. I can bring home 1000 photos in an SD card that I will not remember its existence... see here how Ansel was remembering the "EXIF" of a shot long decades after (min 0:30): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Pe9gsbSqLI

1-Dec-2017, 06:50
Ryan, as well as thinking about the weight of a 5x4 camera and lenses, you should also consider the weight of the film holders. This is easily overlooked. Six film holders weigh about 2.5 lb. My Shen Hao field camera and lens weigh about 5.5 lb. Plus six film holders that's 8 lb.
People always joke about the weight of a Mamiya RB67, but mine , together with 127mm lens, weighs 6 lb. That's 2lb less than the Shen Hao and 6 film holders. And I've found that 16 x 20 darkroom prints from RB67 negatives stand up really well in comparison to 16 x 20 prints from 5x4 negatives... But the RB doesn't have movements. But I can develop 2 rolls of 120 film at a time, compared to 4 sheets of 5x4 film at a time...And I can afford to use my favourite Ilford film in 120 format, but not in 5x4 where ilforf sheet film is prohibitably expensive..
And so the arguments go round.
In my case I have a home-built lightweight 5x4 camera that weighs only 2lb, and tips the argument in favour of 5x4, but there are other points in favour of medium format...
If you come up with a good solution to all this, be sure to let me know!

Good luck,

Jim Jones
1-Dec-2017, 08:53
Ryan, I used 35mm almost exclusively for many decades during a rather mobile life. Eventually a 4x5 became practical for some photography. Roll film is a good compromise for someone wanting better print quality without the hassle of large format.
A few medium format cameras have some of the versatility of LF, and are affordable. Burke & James, Busch, and Graflex made press cameras with some front movements. Older Roll film holders are occasionally available for all of these. The practical Graflok back works on most medium format Graflex cameras. I have an older Busch onto which a previous owner neatly grafted a Graflok holder. On most of these little press cameras there are inconvenient work-arounds that duplicate rear tilt. The later Burke & James have a revolving back and front swings, but aren't built as well as the Graphics. All of these cameras accept a wide variety of lenses. Despite the potential in such roll film cameras, I find that an appropriate 4x5 can be little bulkier and heavier. The 4x5 Ikeda camera, three lenses, and a few film holders weighs about 16 pounds. Some full SLR kits are heavier than that.
As for depth of field, it is equal regardless of film size when similar photographs of the same scene are shot from the same position and enlarged to the same size with the same linear diameter of aperture size. This means that a 4x5 camera has the same DOF when stopped down to f/32 as a 35mm camera at f/8.

Jim Andrada
4-Dec-2017, 00:04
I regularly shoot 6 x 12 or 6 x 9 with my 4 x 5 Technika and a Sinar Vario roll film holder. I rather like the (admittedly somewhat heavy) combination because I can use 4 X 5 when I want to and I have all the movements of the Technika, which are pretty extensive. Almost any 4 x 5 camera will accommodate a variety of roll film holders of course. Regardless of the film size, composing is a lot easier on the larger ground glass.

John Layton
4-Dec-2017, 08:33
As you’d mentioned photographing in wilderness areas, do keep in mind that hauling gear into the wilderness is one thing, but actually using this gear successfully (in your intended manner) can be something else entirely…depending upon a host of environmental conditions - the presence of excessive wind, rain, snow, blowing sand, etc. (not to mention the terrain itself, which can make establishing a desired LF/tripod vantage point impossible), plus the speed at which these conditions (including light) can change.

In my own case…to help ensure that I can come away from a trek into the wilds with some successful photographs, I’ll typically throw a Fuji/Voigtlander 667W (6x7/55mm lens rangefinder camera) into my mix of LF gear, and will press this MF camera into service when conditions indicate against or otherwise prevent LF use. As a 63 year old who truly appreciates that ounces matter…this “extra” camera is still worth its weight in gold!

Bernice Loui
4-Dec-2017, 10:07
5x4 has significant advantages over 2x3-6x9, camera size and weight is similar, what is most different is size of 5x4 film holders -vs- rolls of 120 film. The nice 6x9 cameras like Arca Swiss are pricy, really wide angle lenses for 6x9 like 38mm super angulon or 35mm grandagon are pricy. Once the focal length goes up to say 47mm they are significantly less pricy.

2x3-6x9 was an alternative press camera size used primarily by the new-media image making folks. Often used in much the same way as a 5x4 Speed Graphic press camera.

Difference in image quality is not as significant as learning the skill set required to create expressive images. 35mm or digital is often about decisive moment images, while sheet film images are often about observed-conceived and crafted images.

While there has been much discussion about camera size weight and such, packing significant amounts of 5x4 sheet film in holders can easily equal the size and bulk of the camera. One possible solution to this would be to use Graphmatic film holders. These hold six sheets per holders and about twice the thickness of standard two sheet 5x4 holder. They do weight more, but given what they offer in size savings they work well for portability.

Sheet film availability for sheet films is best in 5x4 with modest cost. This matters due to the film cost of the learning process. Expect to burn and waste a LOT of film before getting up on the learning curve.

Be ready to process lots of film and dealing with the post processed film process of creating the image. This could be using the traditional dark room enlarger route or scan-digital.

Add a roll film back gives roll film ability to the 5x4 camera with not much more than adding the roll film back of your choice in 6x6, 6x7, 6x9, 6x12.

Tripods are another consideration, given this will be a low weight camera system a good 35mm or DSLR tripod should be good enough. This is a consideration as a tripod is mostly required for view camera work.

There are all the usual accessories that come with using a view camera, light meter, dark-cloth, focusing loupe, cable release for the shutter, small tape measure, filters as needed. These need to be figured into the overall system size, weight and bulk.

There are negatives to a light weight view camera system as they have lower inherent stability when windy and the camera itself can have lesser mechanical precision and accuracy, but these are more often than not a non-issue.

Suggestion would be to get a very modest cost camera as it is really a light tight box with adjustable ends and not much more. It just needs to be stable enough, precise enough, accurate enough and durable for reliable operation. IMO, brands and age matters little as long as the camera meets these requirements. If the camera looks a bit beat up, it could be better suited to being hauled around in a back pack to make images than a pretty camera sitting on a shelf being eye candy.

As for lenses, get a compact lens set with modern and reliable shutters. Whacky shutter performance will compound the difficulty of the view camera learning process. Do not get overly obsessed with which lens is better than that lens for now. There are definitely differences, but at this point learning the process and skills required to craft view camera images is FAR more important and significant.


Bernice Loui
4-Dec-2017, 10:33
There are visual quality difference between 6x9 -vs- 5x4 or other film format size. Finished print size is part of this different, some of these difference can be perceived as "sharpness" or tonality or contrast range or film grain size or a host of many, many other factors.

At this point, learning to use a view camera is more significant than image quality alone as the skill and craft is in many ways learning to see images made in a different way, not just the view camera image making process.


Thank you everyone for all the helpful information. I appreciate all the support and the willingness to help someone new to the forum and the format. I am taking a lot of this new information into consideration and doing more research. Each of you have brought some new things to my attention for me to explore. Anybody have ideas they'd like to share on the aesthetic photo quality difference between 6x9 and 4x5? I think I'll be going with a 4x5 camera but also shoot roll film with it in addition to 4x5 sheets.

Thanks again all!

5-Dec-2017, 06:53
There has been some wonderful information and advice given here, all of which seems spot on.

Another view from a less-patient person who deeply admires view camera work. When readiloads were around, it was all OK, but still a bit put off with sheet loading and processing. Have got a couple Grafmatics, but they are even more daunting, and aren't light. Its not just the traveling with 6-10 film backs, I'm scared of screwing it all up, dust, etc. Part of this comes from being half asleep sometimes when shooting, and not having a clear head in the wee hours!

Roll film is easy to deal with, and the backs easy to haul around. Lots of flexibility. And if the final print size is modest, say 16 x 20, prints from 6x6 negs, the images have quality not found in smaller negs. Of course, images from 4x5 are better yet, but with a commitment to the film backs and processing with some care. Yet composing on a 4x5 is a delight, movements so easy to work and fun too. Smaller versions, like 6x9 versions are less so. Roll film backs (6x9 and 6x12) on a 4x5 are easy, but its painful to see that big image on the ground glass and only get a part of it.

5-Dec-2017, 10:53
I'm not that far ahead of you on this and still learning but I'd like to add one more vote in favour of 4x5 and that's that the larger negative scans better.

In my case, good enlargers and darkroom gear were challenging to find and expensive to ship. It took a while but eventually I found one and got my darkroom set up but in the meantime, I was scanning the negatives then cleaning up the scan and printing to an Epson 3880 printer. The larger negative was definitely a plus for this. A second reason for scanning was that I wanted to get into Alternative Processes (Kallitype) and scanning let me print out an enlarged digital negative on transparencies for contact printing without buying a really large format camera.

Good luck