View Full Version : A journey from 4x5 to 5x7 to 8x10

Robin Campbell
19-Feb-2008, 04:40

With a lot of help and advice from people on this site, i have been on a journey recently in deciding which was the best platform for my movement into LF from MF. I want to shoot landscape and buildings etc with full movements with foreground and background all in focus. I am interested in textures of rock, wood, etc. I had decided on the 5x7 format - i like the look of it through ground glass - even given all of the difficulties with available colour film and film holders and developing.

However, it has been suggested to me in one of the threads that for versatility i should consider an 8 x 10 and can use a 5 x 7 back or 4 x10 etc or whatever. No problems with film, holders and processing. Additionally I think that i would like to try contact printing 8x10 in B and W. I had not really considered that before. I was going to scan my 5 x 7 using a Epson Prov750 and print it out on a Epson 4880.n Another benefit cited was to invest in a modular system which will adapt to your needs over the years.

I have looked at the Ebony 45sue, 57sue and the Arca swiss 5x7 and 8x10 compact metrics with orbits etc. What is important of course is the weight but the Swiss does not seem much heavier than the 5 x 7. and Ebony does 8 x 10 cameras of course. Well that is were i am, is 8 x 10 overkill for waht i want, is it too heavy to carry 'up hill and down dale' is the weight worth the additional functionality over a 5 x 7 camera? I realise that camera equipment is all about compromise and no one system will do all and that all with have strengths and weaknesses. But for what i want to do, is this suggestion 'a line of best fit'?

From the responses to this thread i will rent out if possible the formats for use. I have hand held them and i like them all.
Thank You.

John Bowen
19-Feb-2008, 04:51
I would suggest you check out Richard Ritter's Carbon Fiber 8x10 field camera. See this thread http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?t=32607 and this thread http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?t=29532

Richard is currently making me an 8x10 that I intend to use 5x7 and 4x5 backs with. I know others are having cameras made along with 7x11, 5x8 and 4x10 backs. I have used an 8x10 for the last 3-4 years and really enjoy the large ground glass and contact prints. Richard's 8x10 weighs about 7 lbs!!! I have one of Richard's 7x17 cameras so you could call me a happy customer.

Best of luck with your decision and welcome to Large Format.

Eric James
19-Feb-2008, 05:05
Will you shoot your landscapes from the car or the trail?

I shoot 4x5 in large part because of Quick Loads. I much prefer the 5x7 aspect ratio - whole plate's even better - and I would like to have larger transparencies, but weight is a huge factor for me.

Not to complicate matters but Chamonix and Ebony are making whole plate cameras. It sure would be nice if someone would develop a whole plate quick-load device designed to employ 8X10 sheets.

Ole Tjugen
19-Feb-2008, 05:17
I happen to have 5x7" and 8x10" cameras of the exact same make and type - both Gandolfi Traditional - and I really think 5x7" is far more portable.

In addition I feel the 5x7" is "just right" - the ground glass is large enough to look at with both eyes at the same time, yet not so large that I have to move my head to see the whole image. Many common lenses cover 5x7", even if they are mostly intended for 4x5". 8x10" is more in the "special lens range".

I use 4x5" when I know I'll need lots and lots of movements, and 8x10" when I know I'm going to contact print. The rest of the time I prefer 5x7".

And yes - I have 4x5", 5x7" and whole plate backs for the 8x10" camera, too. I don't use them.

Chuck Pere
19-Feb-2008, 05:43
I would go for the biggest system you can carry. A lot depends on your physical condition. Big strong in shape people can carry 8x10's with no problems. For the rest of us carts are available and can be used sometimes. And some depends on how you plan to photograph. Do you plan ahead the location and time of day so that you just need to bring your equipment to that spot. Or are you planning to just wander around looking for something to catch your eye. The wandering gets hard carrying heavy equipment.

Robin Campbell
19-Feb-2008, 06:20
Thank you for your comments already. I am going to use this on planned hikes.

Walter Calahan
19-Feb-2008, 06:54

Don't forget you don't have to carry any of this stuff on your hikes.

Get a 3-wheeled baby jogging stroller (the type with the bicycle spoked wheels and suspension), and you can push the camera gear anywhere you want. I use one for my 8x10 Canham, lenses and film holders. Haven't met a hill it doesn't like.

Far better then carrying a system on your back.

Ron Bose
19-Feb-2008, 07:35

IMHO An Ebony above 4x5 is way too expensive. I would seriously consider a Canham.

Having recently picked up a 5x7 Canham wood camera, I can attest to it's great design and build quality. This particular model is designed as a 5x7 that can be used as a 4x5 with a different back.

I like to look at prints in my hands rather than hanging on the wall and that's why I like 5x7. My girlfriend likes 4x5 because she can enlarge with it (we have a Durst L1200 enlarger).

I also have an 8x10 Phillips along with a custom 5x7 reducing back.

For the stuff I like to photograph (in B&W), people, things and old buildings, 5x7 is what I like.

Ed Richards
19-Feb-2008, 08:16
> I want to shoot landscape and buildings etc with full movements with foreground and background all in focus.

Let's look at this a little harder. Backgrounds all in focus - with DOF issues, you will be getting into diminishing returns as you move up from 4x5. For buildings, at least, the value of larger formats is in seeing on the GG, but not really in the negative size. Movements are harder with bigger formats, lenses that can handle the movements for normal and wide angle views become monsters, all in all it is a very different game from shooting landscapes at infinity.

Walter - the baby jogger depends on the terrain. I get a lot of high grass and serious mud.

19-Feb-2008, 09:13
I've got 5x7 and 4x10 backs for my Shen FCL-810. The Shen is fairly light and I think most heavy 5x7s will be heavier then the Shen. It's clearly heavier then a light weight 5x7 [for example the Shen FCL-57] but it's weight isn't something that would bother most people. IIRC it's about 4kg. Some 4x5 cameras are heavier then that.

Don't assume bigger cameras are heavier. They are bigger but a light weight 8x10 can be lighter then a heavy smaller format.

Ralph Barker
19-Feb-2008, 09:17
The issues of format are quite subjective, and, as such, are personal decisions, I think. But, it never hurts to listen to the experience and opinions of others prior to making the jump.

Although the aspect ratio of 5x7 is very pleasing for either enlarging or scanning, there's no rule against cropping 4x5 or even 8x10 to that aspect ratio within either work flow. Plus, film choice is a little more limited with 5x7, but that may, or may not be an issue, depending on individual film preference.

I shoot both 4x5 (for darkroom enlargements) and 8x10 (mostly contact prints),and frequently use a 4x5 reducing back on the 8x10 field camera to enable the use of longer lenses on 4x5. For overall convenience, however, 4x5 wins in my opinion, even though I love the "big screen" aspect of the 8x10.

When I'm not in tall grass or mud, I use a folding golf cart to carry the bags.

Clyde Rogers
19-Feb-2008, 09:47
I often end up in rocks when hiking, so wheels are a non-starter for me. I also hike because it makes me happy to be out. A big, heavy pack ruins the hike for me. I'd consider a Phillips 8x10, but man, those 8x10 film holders aren't small or light...

So far, 5x7 is the max I'd hike with, but in fact, my setup isn't light enough. My 4x5 pack is no problem. I'm convinced that with proper packing, I can come up with a 5x7 setup that will be comfortable for my hikes. I'm nearly certain that I can't come up with an 8x10 solution (I just can't get the numbers to work out when film holders and tripod are considered).

Anyhow, I'd say that a leap into 8x10 for hiking, especially with a high-buck camera setup, may be an expensive mistake. A 4x5 may not seem like enough to you after using it a bit, but the initial cost will be lower, and it'll be easier to sell if you decide to move up a format size or two.

My recommendation for hiking is a 4x5 (readyloads, readyloads, readyloads!) or perhaps 5x7. You may be, however, one of the lucky few who happily leap straight to 8x10.


Pete Watkins
19-Feb-2008, 10:53
I bought a B&J 4x5/5x7 last year. 5x7 holders are not easy to find at a reasonable price in The U.K. BUT half plate holders (4 3/4 x 6 1/2) are dirt cheap on E-bay U.K. I only used half plate on a trip to Wales last year and despite having a good choice of lenses with me I only used my 150 G-Claron and the wonderful 203 Ektar. I bought a large tool bag from a national D.I.Y. store and I can hang it on my shoulder and carry all I need to produce 5x7 / half plate images.
Hope this helps.

19-Feb-2008, 11:03
Why not go with the Arca? That way you can evolve the camera from 4x5 to 8x10 (and beyond if you want - with Kerry Thalmann's help!) without having to change cameras.

David Whistance

Robin Campbell
19-Feb-2008, 12:23
Thank you to everybody.


I had not considered the DOF problems of the larger format and the implications for larger lens and thus weight. The Arca Swiss F Metric Compact 8x10 costs $5965 and weights i think 9 lbs while the Ebony 57SUE costs $5795 and weighs 7.7 lbs. So i thought i would have extra functionality for the cost of a 5x7 back and $200 extra for the camera. But if the lens are larger on the 8x10 and harder for DOF, then that is something i had not considered.

Thank You

19-Feb-2008, 20:23
Why not go with the Arca? That way you can evolve the camera from 4x5 to 8x10 (and beyond if you want - with Kerry Thalmann's help!) without having to change cameras.

David Whistance


Have to agree with your comment about the Arca. However, finding a conversion kit to either go 5x7 or 8x10 is a huge challenge these days. :(

A retailer whom everybody knows here on the forum told me that they've had one on order for about a year. And, his comment was, "Don't hold your breath!"

No go with any of the other well-known Arca Swiss dealers either!

That said... the 5x7 doesn't weigh a LOT more than the 4x5... and is a great place to start off with! :)


Clyde Rogers
19-Feb-2008, 21:09
Hi again, Robin,

I was looking at the prices you're facing, and back at Ron's message.

IMHO An Ebony above 4x5 is way too expensive. I would seriously consider a Canham.

I have to agree about this. I've been evaluating an Ebony 4x5 for the past few months, and it is a beautiful camera. I also have had the wood Canham 5x7 for nearly ten years, and it is a beautiful camera. I can't imagine spending nearly 6K on a 5x7 when a camera as well-made, well-serviced, strong, light and versatile as the wood Canham can be purchased new for less than half that amount.

Until later,


19-Feb-2008, 21:47
Seriously 8x10 is the way to go!!!! especially if you're gonna want to make contact prints.......... an 8x10 contact print is really an amazing thing! There are some really good companies making lighter weight 8x10 cameras like "Chamonix", "Richard Ritter", etc. Plus you could always get a 4x5 later on.

19-Feb-2008, 22:25
8x10 film is so expensive! whereas 4x5 B&W film is only 25 cents a sheet

Ron Marshall
19-Feb-2008, 22:59
I recommend you begin with a cheap 4x5 and one lens; learn on that and get a feel for LF, depth of field, movements, weight, etc. Then if you want something larger you can easily sell what you began with.

20-Feb-2008, 03:20
I started with 35mm, went to 645, 6x7, 4x5, 5x7, 8x10, 5x7, 35mm digital, 6x17, 4x10/5x7

after making the rounds through nearly every format up to 8x10 and back I have found what I truly like and am grateful I do not have to make these choices again

choosing a format is simply a distraction from making images in my opinion, the mileage attainable with a 4x5 is extraordinary, the same can be said with MF and 35mm for that matter, 8x10 and up is a completely different world

20-Feb-2008, 03:26
8x10 film is so expensive! whereas 4x5 B&W film is only 25 cents a sheet

color is $16 a shot last time I used 8x10 and unless you have designs for detail the expense adds up fast, b/w $2 sheet last I looked

20-Feb-2008, 03:45
Really, your title says it all. Make it a journey as Ron suggests - 4x5 is a cheap, flexible way to start with lots of equipment, films and processing options (i.e. ways to get to a print) available for you to experiment with. It's valuable to find out the "scale" of what you're dealing with before spending too much money sight unseen. 8x10 cameras may not seem heavy (or all that large) on paper, but when you're loaded up with film holders, lenses, a rigid enough tripod with a heavy enough head, and so on and so on, you realize the reality of the bulk and weight factor. I have also experienced "equipment paralysis", caused by having such a dazzling array of options before me that I have trouble getting out the door, another case for limiting your options a bit at the start. Oh, and with 4x5, you can afford to make 4x as many mistakes as with 8x10 ;)

20-Feb-2008, 04:24
As previously mentioned, don't under-estimate the portability of the gear, and consider your level of fitness. I can't speak for anything bigger than 4x5, but I am generally fit and healthy, but I would not want to go on hikes with anything bigger and heavier. The cameras are not that heavy in themseves, but when you start adding lenses, holders, meters, lupe, darkcloth etc..I think many LF shooters get larger format and then realise the weight restricts them to short distances from the car, which is a shame. In short, go for the largest format you can comfortably carry.

Just my opinion.

20-Feb-2008, 05:39
I use 5x4 and can carry it but I don't go on hikes - as mentioned above the ancillaries can add up to a fair amount of weight and some rucksacks aren't the lightest of things - I was surprised how much my phototrekker weighed when empty.

I know of someone with 10x8 that had the camera and lenses in a backpack and the film holders, spare film and changing tent in another "backpack" on his front to be able to carry it all and balance out the camera weight. He looked like a sandwich board advertiser and he didn't walk too far with that lot on...

Someone else I know who I think is ex-forces (i.e. fit and healthy) got fed up of the weight and bulk of his 10x8 and went back to 5x4.

As to the other post, if only film was that cheap over here in the UK. Cut sheet B&W at approx $1.30/sheet 5x4 and Acros Quickload at over $6.50/sheet. You've got to factor in film costs depending upon where you live...

John O'Connell
20-Feb-2008, 08:28
I'd say that if you're looking at cameras costing $6k US, the cost of film—B&W or “colour”—is not an issue. Purchasing lenses will also not be a problem if you have that much money to throw at a camera—even a complete kit of newer 8x10 lenses (wide angle, 300mm normal, 600 Fujinon C) is unlikely to cost more than $6k.

One thing you should consider, however, when stepping beyond 4x5 is that professional architectural photographers used 4x5 for years as their mainstay format. Lenses, cameras, and accessories were all made for 4x5 to shoot the subjects you wish to shoot. Not so with 5x7, and even less so with 8x10. The happy accident of 5x7 is that many wide angles exist that cover the format, with many permitting extensive movements. In 8x10, that is not true—in fact, there is no adequate modern 180mm wide angle for 8x10, very few modern 210mm lenses that permit movement, and nothing wider than 150mm in a modern lens that permits movements.

The other problem with formats bigger than 4x5 is usefulness vs. weight. I think 5x7 contact prints are too small, and only a few subjects look right in such a tiny size. I think 8x10 contacts are only just big enough, and still call out for simple, direct compositions. To get that minimally adequate contact print size, however, you have to carry 8x10 filmholders, which are huge and heavy, even if you buy the plastic Fidelities. How do you feel about being limited to six filmholders for an entire excursion?

Robin Campbell
20-Feb-2008, 13:30
Thank you all.

I believe that an 8 x10 is not feasible for what i want to do. I believe that the 4 x 5 has a lot of advantages but for me i think 5 x 7 is the way i want to go. What lens would be best for the equalivant of 21 mm, 35mm, 85mm and 105mm in 35mm; and any suggestions ref film holders and b and w fillm would be appreciated. I believe that i will go for either the Arca Swiss 5 x 7 compact metric or Sinar F with 5 x 7 back or Ebony 55SUE.

Thank You


Eric Biggerstaff
20-Feb-2008, 13:49

If you go to the free articles section of View Camera magazine there is a lens comparison chart that would help you determine which lenses you would want.

I think 5X7 is a beautiful format and I use it a great deal, but for most of what I photograph 4X5 is still my favorite. You have been given a lot of great advise in this thread and I am sure you have considered it carefully.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.

20-Feb-2008, 13:49
Why the need for such expensive cameras? I've had more fun with an antique pin-hole 5x7 that was less then $150.

Scott Kathe
20-Feb-2008, 15:34
I think you made the correct decision, but what do I know I'm just a beginner with a 4x5 wondering about 5x7. I'm going to force myself to stick with 4x5 for another year and then think about 5x7 again. As I see it the main advantage to 5x7 are that the camera isn't that much bulkier or heavier than an equivalent 4x5 camera but the film area is nearly twice the size. And you can always shoot 4x5 on a 5x7 with a reducing back.

As far as lenses go start with a single normal or long lens and stick with it for quite a while, the darn wide angle lenses are dim.


Petzval Paul
22-Feb-2008, 06:37
Since the gear won't weigh much more and you can always use a reducing back, I'd go for the 5x7. Since you are already interested in larger formats, I think if you went with the 4x5 in a short time you'd be regretting it, or maybe "outgrowing it" is a better way to put it. INHO 5x7's can look fine as contact prints. It's the first format where it doesn't beg to be enlarged (with the right subject and framing, etc). I like whole plates the best, but not enough cameras and film around for that format.

- Paul

22-Feb-2008, 09:29
I think choosing a camera carefully, and not walking around with a ton of paraphernalia makes 8x10 quite okay. My 8x10 kit is lighter than my 4x5 kit, as I limit my holders and I use 1 lens only with the 8x10. I'm only 115lbs., and if I can hike with an 8x10, anybody can.

Mike Castles
22-Feb-2008, 10:30
Lots of good advice, can only relate my own journey. Started with 4x5, then someone sent me a 5x7 plt/pld contact print and had to have a 5x7, then jumped to 8x10. These were all older cameras, and needed to be treated with care. found a good price on a B&J 5x7, that came with a 4x5 back and used this combo for quite some time. Now my primary format(s) are 7x11 (think of a bigger 5x7), 8x10 and 5x7.

Still think about 11x14 (of course 7x11 is just 11x14 cut in half) from time to time - one format to consider if you want to contact print and feel 5x7 to small would be whole plate (6.5x8.5) the cameras are not as large as 8x10 and if I recall, there are new holders coming from Fotoman later this year.

Look at one of the Ritter cameras, they have just about any movement you could need and the design is really great (did I mention they are really lightweight).

good luck..

23-Feb-2008, 22:44

With a lot of help and advice from people on this site, i have been on a journey recently in deciding which was the best platform for my movement into LF from MF. I want to shoot landscape and buildings etc with full movements with foreground and background all in focus. I am interested in textures of rock, wood, etc. I had decided on the 5x7 format ...

First off, "Gung Hay Fat Choi" or, as I learned this afternoon, "Shen Yen How" to all you fellow travelers out there in large format land. It's Chinese New Year here in the San Francisco Bay and because of the rainy and windy weather I have decided not to attend this years parade in the City and, instead, am enjoying reading and responding to this post.

Like all of you, I too have made that journey into large format which, in my case, was a steady progression from the K1000 to the P67II and finally to (4!) Toyo's (2 field and 2 views). Like most of you I also have seriously considered 8x10 but (so far) have successfully resisted that urge. The shear size and weight of the camera (15 lbs for the field and 20lbs for the view- I only considered the Toyo because all my other LF cameras are Toyo's which I clearly like) and film holders, the cost for film, the fact that I will probably never print beyond 20x24, have so far been the deciding factors for me. I say "so far" because deep down I know I'm waiting for the right excuse to present itself. Only briefly and never seriously have I considered the 5x7 format. True it's negative size is twice that of 4x5 but the limited availability of film in that format (e.g., I shoot Acros which means that I would need to cut-down 8x10 Acros to continue using it) and non-availability new cut film holders (I wouldn't want to buy the used 4x5 holders I see on camera show tables and I never see 5x7) have been the deciding factors for me on that format.

From Robin’s description of his needs: “I want to shoot landscape and buildings etc with full movements with foreground and background all in focus. I am interested in textures of rock, wood, etc…” it is clear that he needs at least a view camera for only a view camera has the full range of movements necessary for both architectural and landscape. However, it has been my experience that landscape photography seldom if ever requires all the movements available to the view camera. In fact a medium format camera is adequate for most landscape photography by using the hyper focal focusing point on the lens which is quite simple in practice.and 16x20 and 20x24 enlargements are a piece of cake for that format. Moreover, the bulk and weight of a view camera (my Robos for example weighs 12 lbs) would prove prohibited for extended trips.

For extended journeys across rough terrain I usually carry a Toyo 45CF field camera which weighs only 3.1 lbs and folds with the normal lens (~ 8ozs) attached. It has front tilt-which is, by far, the most used movement for bringing both foreground and background into focus, front swing, and, by dropping the bed, even back tilt. Instead of carrying a bulky (and heavy) focusing cloth, I use the Domke wrap for the camera (I hate scratches!) or my shirt. If I carry more than one lens, I’ll bring along a 75mm F4.5 Grandagon and/or a 300mm f9 Nikkor-M both of which are light weight and compact. Instead of ready loads, which I used to carry, I take 4 to 5 cut film holders in an f64 film holder case, a Harrison change tent, and 50 or 100 sheets of cut film which are far less bulkier and weigh far less than 3 to 5 boxes of ready loads. Add a spot meter, a couple of grads, polarizer, quick release and tripod and, believe me, you are maxed-out because tent, sleeping bag, food…all have to get in there.

So I am of the opinion that the best format is that which can both do the job you want it to do and that which you can realistically carry to the job. I wouldn’t want to do the John Muir Trail with an 8x10 on my back (a mule is a different story) and I wouldn’t want to shoot architecture with a 2-¼ camera

Renato Tonelli
24-Feb-2008, 16:03
I empathize with your decision process. I have been resisting the urge to get something larger than 4x5 for a couple of years; it is distracting. The only real reason I have not taken the plunge is that I like to enlarge and an I simply do not have the space (and money) for an 8x10 enlarger. Then again, I think to myself how nice it would be to make contacts from an 8x10. Then there's whole plate... which I am trying not to find out anything about (yeah, right!).