View Full Version : Deardorff 8x10 or 5x7 Special?

4-Oct-2005, 12:13

Just a curiosity here... I've been in the market for an 8x10 Dorff for a little while now. At present, I shoot with a Sinar X indoors and a Tachihara 4x5 outdoors. However, I've always wanted a piece of photographic tradition and, therefore, my desire for the Dorff.

I now have an opportunity to pick up a beautifully, restored 5x7 Deardorff Special (with 4x5 Graflex back) at a reasonable (??) price of US$1,600.

My question is, "Should I go for the 5x7 or just stay on track for an 8x10 V8?"

I'm looking to use this camera both indoors and outdoors... landscapes outdoors and still lifes indoor. I would be dispensing with the Tachihara when I move to either the 5x7 or 8x10.

5x7 film isn't all that readily available... I know you can cut 8x10 to 5x7 although this could be a bit of a hassle to do.
8x10 film comes in a few more varieties.
I have a couple of 8x10 holders but no 5x7s at the moment.
I know that an 8x10 also has, as an option, a 5x7 and/or a 4x5 reducing back enabling the use of 3 different formats.
Films will always be processed by a pro lab... no space to do my own thing here.

Although I know the ultimate decision has to be made by the photographer, I'm just curious as to what choice would "YOU" good folks go with if you were in the same boat as I am (and given the above variables?)

TIA for any sage advice. :)


Terence McDonagh
4-Oct-2005, 12:33
What kind of field shooting do you do? If you're going far from a car you'll be a lot more likely to be willing to carry the 5x7 and go farther. A 4x5 reducing back increases your film options and allows a lot more movements than your Tachihara for not much more bulk (but a lot more weight) The 8x10 is a heavy beast by comparison. If you're likely to shoot near your vehicle wait for the 8x10. For about the same money you can get a decent "user" 8x10, and wait for a 5x7 reducing back if you want the option. I have an 8x10 Korona and a 5x7 Korona. The 5x7 gets a workout, but I'm rarely up for hauling the 8x10 around on mass transit, etc. Admittedly, Dearoffs are a lot less bulky and a little lighter (and nicer, more stable, more rigid, more everything). The one time I got to use an 8x10 Deardorff my friend almost had to pry my fingers off it when I went to return it. It feels like a Stradivarius compared to my fiddle. Weight aside (compared to some modern options), they're just soooooooooo beautifully engineered and crafted. You sort of expect to hear angels singing as you open it up. I can only imagine what the 11x14 is like.

As an aside, I live in a small NYC apartment and still do my own B&W developing in the bathroom. It's really not that bad unless you're shooting dozens of negs at a time (unlikely in 8x10). A Jobo (or similar) tank would make it a lot easier, but trays work fine for a few negs at a time.

Mark Sawyer
4-Oct-2005, 13:14
Like Terence said, 5x7 is lighter to hike with. A 5x7 enlarger isn't much bigger than a 4x5 enlarger, but 8x10 enlargers are huge and harder to find; that may be a consideration too. Film shouldn't be too hard to find; everywhere I see 8x10, there seems to be 4x5 and 5x7 too, but that's all mail-order. And it'll be about half the price. And about half the sixe...

There is a definite difference to the feel of the different proportions; the longer rectangle of 5x7 hints at panorama, or sometimes Japanism when shot vertical.

I've never seen a 5x7 Deardorff, but I bet they're really cute. That might be a consideration, too.

In the end, if you want a 5x7, you should get the 5x7. But if you want an 8x10, get an 8x10.

Joe Smigiel
4-Oct-2005, 13:19
I've never liked the 4x5 aspect ratio and so I have no interest in 8x10. As a result, I purchased a Deardorff Special with the 5x7 back. It is a NFS model from pre-WWII , was in nice shape, and I picked it up for $900.

Of course you could get an 8x10 with a reducing back for 5x7, but I would only do so if you really liked the 4x5/8x10 aspect ratio and only wanted to do 5x7 once in awhile. If your interest is in 5x7, then get a 5x7 and leave the extra weight and bulk of an 8x10 behind & spend the money saved on an extra lens, which BTW will be lighter and less expensive than the bigger siblings meant for 8x10.

Ted Harris
4-Oct-2005, 13:36
In descending order of preference I shoot 5x7, 4x5 and 8x10. Terrance and mark hit the nail on the head in that 5x7, while giving you a negative that is nearly twice as large as a 4x5 negative does so with little extra size and weight to the camera. In fact, there are a number of 5x7 field cameras that weigh no more than some 4x5's and, yes, I like the aspect ration much better than that of 4x5 or 8x10 and I prefer to 'crop in the camera' when I can.

Film is not nearly the problem that some make it out to be. You have to work harder to get it and sometimes you need to get it in 13x18 instead of 5x7 but there is a wide variety of both color and black and white film available. I currently have RSX II, Provia, TXP, Bergger 200 and EKP on hand.

Processing may be your problem. You said, "Films will always be processed by a pro lab ... " and you should check the ability of labs in your area to handle 5x7 and 13x18 film. Very few labs are equipped to handle 5x7 film; they just no longer have the hangers for their dip and dunk line or the tubes for their tube processors. I have two decent labs within 30 miles, both handle 4x5 and 8x10 but neither handle 5x7. On those rare occasions when I am not processing my own I have to send it to a lab in Rochester, several hundred miles away. Thus, unless you are lucky enough to live near one of the few labs that can process 5x7 or don't mind sending it by mail, you may not want to go this route unless you can change your limitations on processing. BTW if you use one of the smaller Jobo units, the CPP or CPA they takeup little space and do not require a darkroom. Great format, hope you can work it out.

Gregory Gomez
4-Oct-2005, 14:16

If you want to make reasonably good-sized contract prints or you desire to make enlargements bigger than 16x20 inches, then the 8x10 camera would be the right choice. On the other hand, if you don't plan to make enlargements bigger than 16x20 inches and if you are not interested in making large contact prints, the 5x7 camera might be the better choice. The 5x7 camera still gives you a large negative, film is cheaper than what you would have to pay for an 8x10, and 16x20-inch enlargements are excellent from this format. As for weight, the 5x7 is lighter to be sure, but if you are strong and fit, then the 8x10 will not be a big deterrent as far as size, weight, and bulk are concerned. However, if you prefer to travel as light as you can, the 8x10 will seem like a burden, especially on long day hikes in the mountains, should you ever find yourself in such a location. Finally, if you purchase your 5x7 black and white film through mail order sources, there is still a good range of film available from Kodak, Ilford, Bergger, and Efke.

I hope this helps.

John Kasaian
4-Oct-2005, 14:31

IMHO, 8x10! As you said, you can always get a reducing back and besides, you've already got the holders. I like 5x7, but theres nothing like looking at an 8x10 gg (except maybe a 12x20 gg!) BTW, you'll find the clamshell design of the 8x10 'dorff a lot easier to transport than your Korona. FWIW, I find that most of the wieght/bulk when moving up in size comes from the film holders and tripod.


Mark Sawyer
4-Oct-2005, 15:33
As an 8x10 user, I often crop a little off one side to get a slightly elongated image; recently I made an 8x10 negative with every intention of printing it 4x10, which looks just right for that image. I sometimes back off a bit and crop out just the center when I want a print slightly smaller than the others, to give it a more intimate feel. I also occassionally take some down to 6.5x8.5 (the old whole-plate size) because I'm fond of that size.

Some have principled objections to such cropping as indicating "failure to properly compose on the ground glass"; not me. But I usually know I'll crop while I'm photographing...

Robert Skeoch
4-Oct-2005, 17:06
I think it depends if you want to enlarge or make contacts. The 5x7 contacts seem small after awhile.... although the 8x10 contacts start looking small after a while also. But if you plan to make contacts I would go with an 8x10. If you plan to buy an enlarger I would go with the 5x7..... the neg is still very large, the camera is lighter, the equipment is less expensive. The film is easier to handle, the enlargers are cheaper, it's a great shape, the deardorff special is a nice camea, and you could buy the one you mentioned and be shooting by the weekend.
I have a 8x10 and was happy making contacts until I sent out and had a couple enlargements made.... now I'm thinking of getting an enlarger myself. Although I'm very happy with my camera I am thinking of dropping back down to 5x7 and getting a enlarger to print with.
As far as reducing backs go... yes you can get them... I have one, but few people use them..... I wouldn't think of carrying an 8x10 camera in the field and shooting a 4x5 sheet with it. It's just too much work.

Peter Galea
4-Oct-2005, 17:50
The V8 will give you a longer bellows extension. That may be a consideration for you. I shoot differently than Rob because I "would" carry a reducing back into the field to really tighten up the angle of view with a long lens.

4-Oct-2005, 18:23
5x7 is essentially just 4x5 with a bigger negative and more weight to carry. 8x10 is another universe. If you have been wanting to go 8x10, then going 5x7 will do nothing for you.

Bob Chambers
4-Oct-2005, 18:33
I have both cameras and I love both and use both. Because my photography is often done on a whim or sudden inspiration I shoot 10 sheets of 4x5 or 5x7 for every sheet of 8x10. I love the large negative but, everything about the smaller camera is easier and faster.

Herb Cunningham
4-Oct-2005, 19:08
Interesting dilemma: I have a 5x7 with 4x5 back and a later model dorf with a 5x7 back. Can't make up my mind which to keep.

The format size I choose almost by default is 8x10, with it's much better "seeing", but if i am toting it, lenses, lots of film holders and the rest, 5x7 with a 4x5 back is champ.

FYI, Michael and Paula don't do a ton of hiking, and the smallest size they regularly use is 8x10.

Get your hands on one and try it out.


Happy hunting

Mark Sawyer
4-Oct-2005, 20:52
You know, Henry, a "real" photographer would buy both, and then start thinking about ULF...

4-Oct-2005, 22:43
Hello All,

Firstly, thanks kindly for ALL of your comments and recommendations. It's a matter of "decisions, decisions, decisions" at the moment for me. This posting has arisen because of the availability of this beautiful 5x7 Special with the reducing back. I've looked and looked for an equivalent condition 8x10 for the past several months and haven't come across one.. yet!. And, of course, this 5x7 is in the price range I can live with (translation: my wife will allow me to spend. :))


I don't generally walk any great distance away from the car when I shoot. Therefore, this reinforces the idea that an 8x10 would be the way to go.

I wished I had friends who shot with a Dorff. Unfortunately, I don't... :(

I use to do a lot of darkroom work at a newspaper for years and years... hence my reticence to do any more processing and printing. I do realize that printing for myself (for fun) is different than doing it for work. So, my attitude could change in the future.

Mark, Joe, Bill

It's good to know there's plenty of 5x7 film readily available... even though it may be via a mail-order house.

And, I've heard there's a different "feel" between the various formats. I wished I could shoot with the various formats just to experiment but, sad to say, there's not a lot of stores here who have much in the way of large format gear.


You've made a point I hadn't even considered and I guess I'd better see if any of the pro-labs here process 5x7 before I jump into it. There's a couple of labs that do process 8x10 though.

I suppose I'd also better find out if any of these labs enlarge 5x7... :)

Greg, Rob

Traditionally, I've not enlarged my images much beyond 11x14. However, now that I'm entering that stage of life called "retirement," I've been toying around with the idea of trying to exhibit some of my images. Therefore, larger prints for display might be a consideration going forward.

For the immediate time being, I'd most likely just do contact prints of whatever format I decide to go with. If I find a lab who could do the enlargements for me... so much the better. :)


Greetings! :) I know you've been a champion of the 8x10 format for a very long time. As you can see, I'm still on the hunt for the all elusive Dorff. :) But, I'm getting there... maybe, by the end of the weekend! :)


Good point about the bellows extension... for my 4x5 shooting, I often use longer bellows extensions to do 1:1 work. Does anyone here know of the maximum bellows extension on a 5x7 versus 8x10?


Yes, I've heard that people tend to "slow" down much more (in terms of shooting film) with larger formats. :) I presently have 0-sheets 8x10 or 5x7 film and 5500 sheets of 4x5 in my freezer. So, I'd have to buy film regardless of whether I buy 5x7 or 8x10. And, of course, "I'm" looking to slow down too. :)

And, I still have my Sinar X and Tachihara for shooting 4x5...


Good advice as always... Unfortunately, I don't know of anyone here in Vancouver that shoots with a 5x7 or 8x10 Dorff. Or, for that matter, any other large format of an equivalent size.

So, begging, borrowing, or stealing the use of one of these cameras isn't an option. :(

"You know, Henry, a "real" photographer would buy both, and then start thinking about ULF..."

Mark... thanks! :)

One more question here... "Is focusing an 8x10 that much easier than focusing either a 5x7 or 4x5?" My eyes aren't what they use to be. :)

I'll most likely make up my mind by Friday at the outside. The sellers of the 5x7 are willing to hold the camera only until Saturday. I'll post my decision over the weekend!

Yikes!!! Decisions, decisions, decisions! :)

Again, thank you all for your advice.


evan clarke
5-Oct-2005, 06:55
I am an old guy. When I focus my 4x5, it looks good to me and sometimes I miss. When I focus my 8x10, it looks iffy and is always dead on especially with tilts..EC

Peter Galea
5-Oct-2005, 07:12
Bellows on Special (4x5/5x7) is 22 inches.
On the V8 it's 31 inches.

Mark Sawyer
5-Oct-2005, 10:31
"Is focusing an 8x10 that much easier than focusing either a 5x7 or 4x5?" My eyes aren't what they use to be. "

I'd have to say the 8x10 is slightly more difficult, but only in having to move your head around a little bit to see different parts of the ground glass well-illuminated. Some of that might be my eyes, though; I need to keep my head at "just the right distance" from the gg to focus, and there's a "hot spot" of best illumination that moves around as I move my head

With 5x7 and 4x5, it seems easier to see the whole ground glass, all well illuminated, at once. (But I still prefer 8x10.)

5-Oct-2005, 12:11

Thanks. That makes things a bit easier since I do do still-lifes that requires longer bellows. In all likelihood, I won't be using the Dorff for this purpose all that often... just on those special occassions when I want to "play" with the bigger neg (over 4x5.) I suppose the other way to handle the shorter bellows limitation is to construct a lens extension unit that mounts on the front standard.

Evan, Mark

The old eyes aren't what they use to be so... anything that gives me an advantage will always be a good thing. It's not going to be all that often that I use the 5x7 or 8x10 indoors under flash conditions but, on occassion, I may be tempted. The majority of my shooting with the Dorff will most likely be outdoors. I'd probably keep my Sinar X for the indoor stuff "the majority of the time."

Count-down to my decision... 2 days! :)

Thanks for ALL the great advice! I want you all to know that it's very, very much appreciated and if you ever get into my neck of the woods (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), contact me and the first glass of red is on me! :)


Robert Skeoch
5-Oct-2005, 13:23
I didn't realize you were a fellow Canadian.... if you take the exchage into account you'll find the Canadian 5x7 is more like a 4x5 American.
The 8x10 Canadian is really only a 5x7 American....

In conclusion you might have to go with either a 7x17 Canadian or maybe a 8x20. Or maybe one of each.

-Rob Skeoch

QT Luong
5-Oct-2005, 14:07
In fact, there are a number of 5x7 field cameras that weigh no more than some 4x5's

True, but the fact that, for example a Canham metal field 5x7 weights less than a Sinar P2 4x5 is hardly remarkable.

What should be compared is the weight of a Canham metal field 5x7 v. a Canham metal field 4x5.

Otherwise, you could also find a 8x10 that weight less than some 5x7 (or even 4x5s).

6-Oct-2005, 00:45

LOL... you ARE talking about our Canuck buck in comparison with the American buck, aren't you? :)

But, yes, I am a fellow Canuck! :)

"In conclusion you might have to go with either a 7x17 Canadian or maybe a 8x20. Or maybe one of each."

Yikes! Try getting 7x17 or 8x20 film at the local store! :( I'm discovering 5x7 is going to be a challenge unless it's imported from the US. The only film available is either FP4 or HP5. Color? What color? :) So, it looks like I'll be buying film from either Calumet, B&H, or J&C... more dealings with customs duties & taxes. :( Not my favorite activity!


I've discovered there's only one, count em... one, lab that processes 5x7 in town. The other labs don't have the proper 5x7 hangers. As for enlargements... one lab requires that the film be digitized and one lab can/will print either neg or pos. Contact printing is easy for most labs.

As for film... looks like importing from the US is the only real alternative. One of the bigger supply firms here (Treck) doesn't even show a listing of color film from either Kodak or Fuji. :(

So, thank you very, very much for bringing this issue up in the first place.


Don't forget the Sinar X... it, too, weighs a ton and isn't a camera one would wish to lug around out in the field (unless their looking for a hernia just to get out of work!) It's much, much heavier than an 5x7 or 8x10 Dorff. So, your point about Canham metal field 5x7 versus Canham metal field 4x5 is a point well-taken and makes sense.

Cheers all. :)