View Full Version : Feedback for Architecture with a 6x9 or 2x3 LF

Jan Normandale
29-Sep-2006, 11:30
I'm wanting to begin architectural photography. I've been using two MF cameras. The image quality is excellent however the distortion is bothering me. I shoot a lot of film so I don't want to go broke and scanning images is also expensive. Like most people I want to keep my costs in line.

This has led me to 6x9 or 2x3 format. I've read a bit but frankly most of the information has often been contradictory. I understand there are always trade offs however I'm already used to trade offs so that is not too large a concern. I'm used to making decisions based on conflicts in performance etc.

If I was to go 6x9 my initial outlay would probably be my last. Therefore I think I have to skip 'entry' level equipment and go straight to the higher quality equipment.

After reading the "2x3 Roundup" here at LFF, I'd like to ask some LF users who are shooting architecture with 6x9 LF for their current set ups. Could you also direct me to some images. Finally I'd like to hear as many points of view covering what is important in your opinion if you are all inclined .

Thanks, Jan

Leonard Evens
29-Sep-2006, 13:13
I did architectural photography (as an amateur) for many years using a Horseman Technical 6 x 9 camera. Linhof makes a similar camera. These cameras are basically field cameras with adequate front movements and very limited back movements. About 5 years ago, I switched to a 4 x 5 view camera, bascially of monorail design.

The feature of a view camera you use most often in architectural photography is rise. That allows you to avoid converging verticals and at the same time shift the frame so that you don't have an empty foreground and you can include the whole building in the frame. Occasionally you also use shifts to one side or the other. In architectural photography, tilts or swings are not used as often, but on occasion they can be crucial.

Since most of what I did with the Horseman was houses of two or three stories, its rise was adequate, except for my shortest focal length lens, which was 65 mm, where rise was limited because of the design of the camera. But it would have been difficult to use for larger buildings. Also, in effect, the shortest focal length available was that 65 mm.

Another possible way to go is using a roll film back with a 4 x 5 camera. The problem with that is that such cameras are not designed to be used with very short focal length lenses. Remember that 90 mm is a short focal length for 4 x 5, but the normal focal length for 6 x 7. Some of the more expensive 4 x 5 view cameras can be used with short focal length lenses and a bag bellows, but if you are insistent on going the medium format way, and you are willing to pay for it, you should look seriously at the Arca Swiss 6 x 9. This a true monorail view camera with movements galore. It is also supposed to be pretty light and folds up in a relatively small space. It can be used with a variety of backs, including digital backs.

Before you go that way, at least consider 4 x 5 instead. At the time, I was pretty strongly committed to medium format, but after learning more about the subject and comparing prices and features, I decided to switch to 4 x 5.

Since I do have some experience with view camera photography in both formats, I would be happy to offer further advice if you need it.

Leonard Evens
29-Sep-2006, 13:17
P.S. I don't have much to display, but as it turns out I can show you one picture I took with my Horseman. See


Jan Normandale
29-Sep-2006, 16:38
Hi Leonard, thanks for the thoughts. I'm looking at taking this camera into areas where I would like to be able to close the camera up in it's own case for protection. Sometimes these places are full of debris or dirt and dust. I was originally thinking of going the 4x5 route however I quickly realized there were other costs. I also thought of a 4x5 with a roll back and it may still be a solution. I'm pretty certain I'll want to shoot 120 film due to ease of use and cost. The 4x5 holders are bulky and add up in weight when I'm hauling stuff around onsite

I like the shot you linked have you cropped it? It doesn't seem to have the 2/3 ratio, it looks more like a 4/5 proportion. I'm going to read up on the suggested Arca Swiss to get another perspective. I'll also look into the Linhof 9x6

I appreciate your offer of help and I'll probably be taking you up on it.
Thanks, Jan

29-Sep-2006, 16:39
Was that picture Kodacolor or Kodachrome? I noticed you used an Epson 2450 scanner. Mine sometimes scans on the magenta side and creates a magenta cast in the shadows especially if the transparency is underexposed. Any problems like that?

29-Sep-2006, 21:25
Hi Jan,
I bought an Ebony SW23S for architectural photography last year and have enjoyed using it. I was in your position for a few months and spent some time going round in circles before deciding on the Ebony.

As I see it the other possible cameras not mentioned are the Horseman FA and Linhof Master Technika 23. I just suggest the FA because it's only marginally bigger than their 23 cameras and often the same price. The Ebony has a much greater range of movements than any of the others and is reasonably precise however it's not as precise as the Technika.

I'm not sure about your requirement for a folding camera, it's very hard to find one that will fold with a large-field short lens. I chose the Rodenstock Grandagon 65mm lens because of it's small size and massive (in 23 terms) image circle. I don't think any 23 camera will fold with this on. The Technika usually comes as a set with a Super Angulon 65mm which is small but won't allow huge movements, I'm not sure if it folds with the lens in place but I think it does.
I have to say that my experience is that a non-folding camera is a huge advantage becuase you can leave the lens on and it's basically as quick to set up as my Mamiya 6 for many shots.

I have regularly used 35mm or more of rise etc. in what I do. I don't think either the Technika or Horseman could do this.

What sort of dirty environments will you use this camera in?


Howard Slavitt
29-Sep-2006, 21:43
I used a Horseman 6cm x 9cm, the VH, for about 4-5 years, before I went completely digital. If I were to go back to the 6cm x 9cm format, I'd get an Ebony. They have much more flexibility in terms of movements. I used the 6cm x 9cm format for the same reason that you're suggesting, to save on film costs. I loved the format, and think it's a great choice. The other 6cm x 9cm that would interest me would be the Arca Swiss. But I think they're too heavy. The Horseman was great, but you can't go very wide with it.

Leonard Evens
30-Sep-2006, 09:19

I think any of the 6 x 9 monorails suggested are small enough to pack up readily. My 4 x 5 is a Toho FC-45X. It comes apart readily for transport and I carry it in a backpack. I try to avoid taking pictures in very dusty areas because of worries about the lenses and shutters. View cameras are not particularly delicate and usually can be cleaned easily when exposed to dust.. I have no problem transporting my equipment through dusty areas in a backpack or bag. If necessary, you can put camera and lenses in plastic bags, although you wouldn't want to store lenses that way. I use velco wraps. I think you shouldn't let that affect your choice of camera.

I had forgotten about the Ebony. It is even lighter than the Arca Swiss and about 2/3 the price, and looks a good choice.

With respect to the picture I posted, I used a 6 x 7 roll film holder. I would have to check, but I believe that what is there is very close to the full frame, possibly cropped slightly when scanning. Horseman makes both 6 x 9 and 6 x 7 roll film holders, but I chose 6 x 7 because the aspect ratio of the frame is very close to 4:5 = 8:10 = 16:20 ~ 11:14, which are the standard print sizes I used. I don't like the 2:3 = 6:9 aspect ratio. I also have some 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 sheet film holders for the Horseman, but I only used them with b/w sheet film. Were I to get one of the 6 x 9 view cameras under discussion, I would also use it with 6 x 7 roll film holders if they were available. Otherwise I would crop lengthwise.


The film was Kodacolor. I almost always use color negative film and have done so for quite a long time. At the time I also used Kodak professional color negative film, but on Martha's Vineyard, I had to make do with what was available in 120 size locally.

About scanning. I was dissatisfied with my particular 2450 for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it sometimes produced a faint banding visible in uniform areas such as the sky. I am much happier with my current Epson 3200. I scan with Vuescan, which allows setting a selected part of the scene to a neutral gray or white, and usually the other colors more or less fall in line. That helps significantly with a scene like that in the picture, with the white of the church and the gray roof. The other colors in the scene, e.g., sky, foliage, are not crucial since there is considerable possible variation without the colors ending up looking implausible. In general I find I get very close to my desired color balance with Vuescan, but I often make some additional minor adjustments in my photoeditor. The main reason for doing that is when adjustments to netural are different for shadows, midrange, and highlights, in which case a curves control is important. I find that I have more control of such things in my photoeditor. Beyond color balance, the picture of the church above required considerable massaging in the photoeditor. Certainly I applied some overall sharpening. In addition, I applied a blur to the sky and used the clone tool to clean up the boundaries between sky and church or trees. I also applied some additional local sharpening. I don't remember the details of other corrections I may have made.

Jan Normandale
3-Oct-2006, 15:23
Howard , thanks for your insights they do help.

Leonard as before, thanks for your dialogues they are valuable.

What sort of dirty environments will you use this camera in? - Matt

Matt I tend to shoot old industrial buildings from the interior. Here's a link to a couple

Kirk Gittings
3-Oct-2006, 17:43
After reading the "2x3 Roundup" here at LFF, I'd like to ask some LF users who are shooting architecture with 6x9 LF for their current set ups. Could you also direct me to some images.

See my site below. All the recent color work is 6x9 (for about 10 years now). All done with a 4x5 Calumet Widefield and Calumet C2N 6x9 roll film holders. Lenses are in order of most usuage 65, 47, 90. 150, 120, 210. 305.

Currently we primarily shoot Fuji Pro 160 color negative film and scan it for clients.

Gordon Moat
3-Oct-2006, 17:52
This has been a very interesting thread to read. So is the idea of using the roll film back on the larger 6x9 due to the greater range of movements? I have heard of advocating a roll film back to pre-crop images for some clients/ADs that don't think through cropping that well; that being the only other consideration I have given to roll film backs on 4x5 cameras.


Gordon Moat
A G Studio (http://www.allgstudio.com)

Kirk Gittings
3-Oct-2006, 18:03
Sorry Gordon, are you asking about using roll film on the larger 4x5?

I use 6x9 roll film to:

a)save on film and processing
b)not have to load film holders on long shooting trips
c)never run out of loaded holders during a shoot or not have to worry about having the "right" film loaded in you holders.
d)free me up to take more aesthetic risks

I use it in a 4x5 because the one I have is bullet proof, designed to shoot architecture, extremely easy and quick to set up and use and will take a 47mm lens on a flat lens board with full movements without changing to a bag bellows.

Jan Normandale
4-Oct-2006, 21:26
Kirk, thanks for the comments and links to your work. Both are a huge help. Understandably you have many years using the format so I think you make it look easier than it probably is using a 'small' LF camera. Less forgiving for errors.

I see you went to UofC, if you haven't been back, Calgary's changed. Big time.
thanks for the help.

Gordon Moat
4-Oct-2006, 23:02
Thanks Kirk. I was thinking that many 4x5 cameras would have a greater range of movement than dedicated 6x9 cameras; so that was what seemed to me to be the advantage. However, the points you have made make more sense than simply allowing a greater shift/tilt/swing/rise/fall movement.

I guess that points me at the point of adding roll films backs to my gear. I currently only shoot Readyloads and Quickloads. Definitely see now the advantage of smaller roll film. Thanks!


Gordon Moat
A G Studio (http://www.allgstudio.com)

5-Oct-2006, 00:20
Daer Jan
I am using an arca swiss 6x9 cm since I started with professional architectural photography in 2004. I worked with transparency (astia 100) and color negative film (portra 160) before switching to digital this year. The advantange of the arca is that it can be used with a digital back. And it works with lenses from 24 mm upwards.

Dominique Wehrli

5-Oct-2006, 11:04
Having briefly owned a Graphic 2x3, I must chime in with my opinion that futzing back and forth between the ground glass and the rollfilm holder is a total drag. My understanding is that Ebony has best addressed this issue, with a ground glass that remains fixed on the camera, but rotates out of the way so you can put on the holder.

Ebony users, do I have this right? And would you agree with me that this feature is highly valuable?

5-Oct-2006, 11:33
Having briefly owned a Graphic 2x3, I must chime in with my opinion that futzing back and forth between the ground glass and the rollfilm holder is a total drag. My understanding is that Ebony has best addressed this issue, with a ground glass that remains fixed on the camera, but rotates out of the way so you can put on the holder.

Ebony users, do I have this right? And would you agree with me that this feature is highly valuable?

Yes CXC, you are correct. I own an Ebony 4x5 and the Ebony 2x3 back shown below is a snap to use. Compose on the gg then open the door and slide your film magazine on and shoot. One reason I purchased the Ebony was for this feature.


5-Oct-2006, 15:01
I am both a photographer and architect, and I've been using a Linhof Technikardan S23 for about 12 years. I love this camera - TKs suit me perfectly - but have some observations:

When working with 6x7cm (as I do - Rapid Rollex holders are quick and convenient and fit behind the sprung ground glass) your technique has to be pretty good, as there is much less room for error than with larger sizes. Focusing and DoF are real issues, and you just can't be sloppy.

I use an Arca-Swiss binocular viewer with a home-made adaptor plate which clips on to the ground glass frame and enables good viewing and magnification for focusing. I tried all sorts of loupes etc before, but nothing was as good as I liked. The Linhof importers in the UK http://www.linhofstudio.com/ now make a version of this plate, but it wasn't available when I started. Recommended - but the Arca viewer is expensive, too.

I also made a depth-of-field calculator for the focusing knob, something like (but simpler than) http://www.largeformatphotography.info/dofknob/

I am delighted with my camera, and several "experts" have told me that I am working on 5x4" rather than 2x3" - even when I tell them I don't own a 5x4 camera. BUT I really don't think I would have had that success on ANY 2x3 camera without these two modifications. So do think things through carefully, and do assume you will need to take time to get to know your equipment well.

It's all worth it, though. I have no desire to do 5x4 at all, although sometimes 8x10 tempts...

Atul Mohidekar
6-Oct-2006, 10:37
Hi Jan,

I use 6x9 Arca Swiss mainly for landscapes and flowers. It is a great camera, very rigid, precise and with lots of movements. If you carry your camera in a backpack (as I do), there is not much difference between a monorail or a folding field camera as far as the protection of the camera from environmental hazards (e.g. dust, debris, dirt, etc.) is concerned. I take the camera out of the backpack and put it directly on to the tripod while the backpack stays on the ground. It is the backpack that takes the brunt of environmental hazards. If you don't want to use a backpack, you could try using a shoulder bag that can be swung in front to take out the camera without leaving it on the ground. The camera comes out whenever I find a good scene worth taking a picture. It is then you will have to worry about protection of the camera. In that respect, you will have the same issues with either a monorail or a field camera. In fact, it might be easier to clean a monorail than a field camera because everything is very accessible. Also, Arca Swiss is very modular camera allowing the user to take it apart, clean the parts and put them together very easily and quickly. Other advantages of 6x9 Arca Swiss are the convenience of using the binocular viewer, the bright ground glass and ability to move up to 4x5 (albeit at a considerable expense) should you change your mind about 6x9.


// Atul

Ben Calwell
6-Oct-2006, 11:02
You folks on this thread who say you've switched to digital -- are you using DSLRs or something like a Better Light?

7-Oct-2006, 03:32

I switched to a emotion digital back that can be used on the arca 6x9 after a short period of using a dslr. I prefer to see the fully corrected picture with the digiback on the monorail camera and the optics are much better, especially in difficult light.
The biggest drawback with the digital back ist the use of the ground glass - so the digital solution with a back can not be called large format any more. But when workind tethered it is like working with an 8x10 :-)


7-Oct-2006, 05:59
My combo is excellent for this type of shooting...
Arca F line 69 with bino + 4x5 kit and bino
58 XL ( i used to have the sharper 55, but the color rendition was too cold for my taste)
80 Xl
this 3 share the same center filter !
150 apo sironar S
240 S but overkill for 69

Sometimes i wish i had a 47 xl !

Jan Normandale
12-Oct-2006, 23:32
thanks, Dominique, Ian, CXC, darr, archivue and Atul you have given me some excellent material and things to consider. The picture is becoming considerably clearer for me based on the responses I've received in this forum. It is all very much appreciated

Jan Normandale
20-Oct-2006, 23:01

See my site below. All the recent color work is 6x9 (for about 10 years now). All done with a 4x5 Calumet Widefield and Calumet C2N 6x9 roll film holders. Lenses are in order of most usuage 65, 47, 90. 150, 120, 210. 305.

Currently we primarily shoot Fuji Pro 160 color negative film and scan it for clients.

thanks for the help Kirk, I'm wondering if you or some of the others have any suggestions regarding lens manufacturer for the 65, 47, 90 lenses. Also any suggestions on shutters as well as lens boards

21-Oct-2006, 19:54
Hi Jan,
in my original post I mentioned that I chose the Grandagon N 65mm lens for use on my 6x9 Ebony. There is a discontinued Super Angulon 5.6 available that just covers 4x5 as well as the small one that is often matched with 23 technikas. I considered them all before going for the Rodenstock lens.

These are the reasons for that decision:

1. Size, it's smaller that the large SA 65mm lens, weighs less and takes 58mm filters.
2. Coverage is enormous for 6x9, just covers 4x5 (much bigger than the smaller SA lens).
3. Speed; F4.5 means it's a tad brighter than other available lenses.
4. Optical design that slightly reduces the extent light falloff off axis (you might need to check the SA to see if they also have this design).
5. Repution, resale value.

I've been very happy with this lens, especially with the smoothness of its out of focus areas. It seems very useable from F8 or F11 depending on your final print size although best image quality is down at F16. My one is extremely sharp.

Don't overlook the APO-Grandagons at 55mm and 45mm for 6x9 stuff.

Kirk Gittings
21-Oct-2006, 22:45
I use all Schneiders, 47 XL and 65 XL. They work well, beyond that I have no basis of comparison. All my lenses are mounted in press shutters preferably Prontors but some in Copals. The Prontors are far more durable and easier to see the settings on wide lenses like the 47mm, the prontors are no longer sold and harder to get worked on. Press shutters are important because of being able to do multiple pops with strobe to multiply flash power. We often use 4 or 5 2000 watt power packs with mutiple heads and up to 8 pops to get the light we need and enough depth of field.

adrian tyler
21-Oct-2006, 23:55
when i decided to move to lf from mf, my initial thought was 2x3, i thought it was a good idea, felt comfortable with rollfilm and wouldn't have to learn how to load filmholders etc...

however i took advice from this forum which suggested that the most flexible thing to do was use a 4x5 with a 2x3 rollfilm back, i'm glad i listened because as my work has "developed" i now use a lot of 4x5 along with the 2x3 and polaroid. for the same initial outlay you get a lot more future flexibility.

this is an architectural project that i used rollfim and sheetfilm on:



23-Oct-2006, 01:43
nothing will beat the arca swiss fline for that purpose !
i have two of them (69 and 45).
With the new arca fline 45 (141), and the fantastic bellow (from 47 to 240 with movements), you will be free to use 6x7+6x9+6x12+4x5.
But if you are shure that you will stay with roll film till 6x9, then the arca fLine 69 metric orbix compact with the bino is the best tool !
You can find a Fline 69 (not metric, orbix) in second hand...

But the other alternative is Canon 5D and TSE 24+45+90... not the same pics but no more film and process... it depends on the use...