View Full Version : Death Valley trip with Toyo 4X5

Scott Squires
22-Mar-2006, 14:04
I just returned from 8 days in Death Valley. It was stormy all week and it paid off with beautiful storm clouds to work with. I took my Toyo 4X5 and a new Canon 5D digital camera. My plan was to compare the two. The Canon 5D is a full frame 35mm 12 MP digital camera. I setup the 5D next to my 4X5 on two seperate tripods and Photographed with both in the same time frame, same picture. I reviewed the 5D Images each night. I had some beautifull Images and the camera did great. Yesterday I picked up the 4X5 transparencies and as usual the effort to use the 4X5 paid off. Looking at those beautiful 4X5 transparencies on a light table could never be replaced by a digital camera.

One thing I did discover was how good the Canon 5D meter is. I shot the 4X5 using my 1 degree spot meter as usual and shot a couple days using the 5D meter for my 4X5 shots. I must admit the 5D was a little better than I am with the spot meter. I was surprised it was that good or I was not as good.

It was fun to shoot with both cameras. I was able to see what I was going to get from the 4X5 with the digital Images and it was really fun to see what the 4X5's were going to look like. I usually carrry 4 lenses with my 4X5 and will now carry three lenses and the 5D. The Gitzo 1228 for the 5D is light weight and I can carry it on my backpack and just throw my Ries tripod over my shoulder. The combo of the two cameras has actually given me a lift in using my 4X5 and that is a good thing.

Scott Squires

Eric Woodbury
22-Mar-2006, 14:40
How busy is it with spring breakers? Getting ready to go myself.

John Sanderson
22-Mar-2006, 15:42

Curious what type of backpack or other device do you use to carry both the DSLR and 4x5?


Harley Goldman
22-Mar-2006, 16:39

Sounds like a fun trip and a interesting camera setup.

What lens(es) do you have with your 5D and what do you think of them in terms of sharpness and distortion?

Scott Squires
22-Mar-2006, 20:54
Death Valley was busy on both weekends but much less crowded during the weekdays. The biggest problem was hiking in the sand dunes far enough to get out of the footprints. On the first Saturday night sunset and Sunday morning sunrise there were 75 photographers at Zabriskie point, amazing! The rest of the week there were 5 or 6.

I use a Lowepro Mini Trecker. It is small but will carry three lenses, the Toyo 4X5, accesories, 5D camera with lens (28-70) and I use Fuji Quick loads. The whole package weighs 20 pounds which is as light as I could get it. I still carry the Ries tripod over my shoulder. It works well and my old back can handle it fine.

I use a Canon 28-70 2.8L lens on the 5D. One thing with the new full 35mm digital cameras is you have to use an "L" lens. The sensor will show any flaw in the lens. The 28-70 "L" is full frame tack sharp with no distortion.

The 28-70 works well in framing for my three 4X5 lenses, 110 (35), 180 (60) 250 (70+ a little). I also find setting up the 4X5 shot using the 5D was really a time saver for me. One look through the 5D and I am setup with the right lens for the 4X5.


Doug Dolde
22-Mar-2006, 22:52
I tried for a while supplanting my 4x5 with a Contax 645 and Kodak DCS back (16 mp).

The Contax kit was much easier to shoot, cleaner files, perfect exposures, etc. But the files just don't match 4x5 transparencies in any way especially when they are drum scanned.

Now I just find it more rewarding to put all my effort into 4x5 rather than diluting it with two systems.

A P45 on a mini view camera it would surely be winner though. But I could buy a brand new fully loaded Ford F350 Powerstroke diesel for what that would cost.

Jack Flesher
22-Mar-2006, 23:08
A P45 on a mini view camera it would surely be winner though

Except for the fact that if you do any shift or rise, you get a color shift across the sensor. The fix is shoot a white frame with an expodisc and then have the software mask the correction into the image. Since the color shift is image, lens and shift-amount specific, you have to do this for EVERY image you shift! Sounds like a bit too much work for me ;)

Emre Yildirim
22-Mar-2006, 23:14
John -

I have a similar setup to Scott's. I use a Lowepro Photo Trekker AW II. I can fit one Canon 20D with two lenses (17-35 & 50mm), and a Toyo 45AII and three lenses (55, 110, 180) in there. I could probably fit an additional LF lens in the bag, but three is all I usually need. After those, I also have room for a lightmeter, 5 filters and 10 film holders. Lowpro makes some amazing photobags. I especially like the tripod mount.

23-Mar-2006, 02:45

When you use the 5D for metering, do you use an offset? afaik, the 5D does not have "correct" ISO settings, but a bit higher than normal, e.g. its 1600 ISO setting is actually 2000, etc. I have recently compared my ole Sixtino2 with a Contax SLR and the 5D, which supported this. The Sixtino and the Contax came out with about the same values, whereas the 5D showed shorter exposures.

Ron Stoecklein
23-Mar-2006, 08:06

Which Toyo 4x5 are you using if I might ask?

Also you mentioned that you need to use L glass with the 5d--I shoot with the 20d and use some old EF non-L lenses with it and have had no problems at all. I am just curious if it is the extra 4MP that make the difference?


Scott Squires
23-Mar-2006, 08:45
I started by comparing the 5D meter to my spot meter using the 5D set at ISO 100 along with Velvia 100 for the 4X5. I checked the spot meter on the 5D with my hand held spot meter. The values were very close to the same. I bracketed the 4x5 1/2 stop each direction on the good shots just to be safe. The 5D meter was right every time. The two bracketed shots were under and over as shot. Maybe I got lucky with this 5D, or shooting at ISO 100 with the 5D is more accurate than at a high ISO?

As far as using two systems, that is a personal decision of course. Before the 5D I carried a Mamiya 7 with an 80mm lens. If nothing else I have seen shots that had to be quick and the Mamiya 7 or 5D can get it and setting up the 4X5 would of missed it. The 5D and lens adds 4 lbs and I enjoyed seeing what my 4X5 shot will look like the same day.

I just printed some 16x24 Images from the 5D and they are as good as my Mamiya 7 can do. It looks like Digital has caught Medium Format.

The biggest problem with Digital is that it is like shooting a machine gun. Shoot enough and you will hit something. Large Format forces you to slow down and work for the Image. Just the time spent setting the camera up and really looking at the ground glass at an Image you only get one shot at is the most rewarding part of photography. The ability to use all the camera movements allows for the perfect Image to be captured. Of course Large Format Digital is here and will only get better and cheaper, but I will never give up the option of looking at a 4X5 transparecy sitting on a light table. Of all the quality Images I have taken, I am most proud of my Large Format Images because I really had to work to get them!


Scott Squires
23-Mar-2006, 09:01
The Mega Pixel size of the camera is not the factor. The 20D has a 22.5mm X 15 mm sensor, the 5D has a 36mm X 24mm sensor. Using the 20D with a smaller sensor only requires the use of the center of the lens optics which is the best part of the lens system. Once you get to a full 35mm frame sensor you are using the whole lens system. The CMOS sensor is capable of showing more lens problems than film can. I did not mean you can only use an "L" lens, just meant that you do need to use good quality glass.


Scott Squires
23-Mar-2006, 09:06
Sorry I forgot the first part of your question. I have the Toyo 45AII. I have used it for 8 years. It is a tank of a camera and has performed perfectly. My first 4X5 was a wood Zone VI. Good camera but it was so beautiful it always seemed to draw a crowd and was not near as sturdy as the Toyo is.


23-Mar-2006, 09:22

Thanks for elaborating your usage of the Digi. I conclude it's necessary to calibrate the whole system for the tools at hand (Digi, film, etc.). I don't think the ISO setting will change anything, as it is equivalent to applying a constant shift in exposure (be it time or aperture).

"The biggest problem with Digital is that it is like shooting a machine
gun. Shoot enough and you will hit something. Large Format forces you to
slow down and work for the Image."

- This is precisely why I started LF. Still carry a machine gun (say digi - for the anti terror guys) all the time - lots of bodies and dead trees follow my traces. Don't know when *fast* sensors the size of 4x5 sheets will be available and affordable (I'm not speaking about scanning backs), but when they come up, they will probably deliver an incredible image quality (and file size). But current 35mm sensors are already very good.


actually OT: The 5D has bigger pixels, but more of them. While the 20D is more sensitive to general lack of sharpness, the 5D shows more vignetting and softness in the edges. Also the 5D is imho better for low light (also due to the pixel size, which means each pixel captures more light). Besides some L glass occasionally, I carry a 50mm f1.4 around all the time, and my only complaint is its distortion.

Ralph Barker
23-Mar-2006, 10:24
Scott - am I correct in assuming that you had the 5D in multi-segment matrix metering mode? If so, your experience would support the idea that matrix metering does a pretty decent job of averaging values within most scenes. That is, essentially doing the same job that manual interpretation of multiple readings from a spot meter would accomplish, assuming that one is aiming for average exposures with no development adjustments.

Scott Squires
23-Mar-2006, 14:00

Yes, I was using multi-segment matrix metering mode. Most of the scenes were not very complicated for metering. Over the last few days I have tested the 5D meter in some tougher lighting situations and the matrix metering is suprisingly accurate.


james mickelson
25-Mar-2006, 09:56
I've seen hundreds of extremely interesting, and good prints made from 35mm digital cameras. So they can be "almost" the equal of LF given their limitations as to file size (print size ?). But there are two aspects of LF that escape digital at this time and one of the reasons I still shoot LF almost exclusively. Those two are movements and metering. Yes I'm a "zonie". Well, modified to some extent given certain situations. I use a lot of camera movements when shooting, even landscapes. And I use a spot meter to better ascertain the values I want in my print when I print. Just metering with an auotmatic metering mode doesn't give you much control over the finer values in the scene or more importantly tell you the illuminance range within the scene you are wanting to photograph. And that is an important piece of information. And I also feel that shooting with lots of "film" (digital) there is a propensity to shoot and ask questions later. LF, due to many reasons, is a much slower more contemplative exercize. I think the quickest I can get a shot off with my setup is a minute or so. Pack to shot. So sometimes I do miss an image. That's why I like my Canon 650 along for the ride.

QT Luong
25-Mar-2006, 12:32
I came to the conclusion more than 10 years ago than if you carry a modern 35mm camera with matrix metering ,
for shooting color transparencies, in most situations it is a more effective metering tool than a spot meter.

james mickelson
26-Mar-2006, 11:20
My preference for a spot meter over an averaging meter is that it gives me a better idea of what the luminance range is when I develope the film. Though I shoot B&W almost exclusively, I do on occasion shoot positive film and like to know how to develope it given it has such a short latitude. I want to know what will drop out in the print. The meters today do indeed give you a very good idea what the exposure should be for the scene but I like more control over those decisions.

Brian Ellis
27-Mar-2006, 00:16
"Maybe I got lucky with this 5D, or shooting at ISO 100 with the 5D is more accurate than at a high ISO? "

On one of the reviews of the 5D I saw a test that indicated the ISO on the 5D even at the lower speeds was consistently 50 below the "real" ISO (e.g. the indicated 50 was really 100, the 100 was 150, etc.). This was probably in either dPreview or Luminous Landscape.