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View Full Version : Which Camera for portraits?



Pete Bartlett
23-Jul-2008, 05:01
Hi there,

I've just started out on the large format path. I have a very specific portrait project in mind at the moment - it's a series of fairly uniform portraits - available light, inside/daylight from big bay, north-facing window, waist up, white background (think Avedon's In the American West), room dimensions 10sq m, so 3 metres from the subject.

I've been offered an MPP MK 7 with a Rodenstock Apo Ronar 150/f9. Apparently the lens is a good one but I'm concerned about the f9 for lack of depth of field options and indoor low-light situation.

Can anyone please advise. Would I be better going for an MPP with a Schneiger 150/f5.6? Any other sub 500 cameras and lenses to contemplate?

Many thanks,

Pete

Ash
23-Jul-2008, 05:09
Hi Pete,


UK I see!

You need to try different lenses, and different cameras!

I tried a monorail and hated it, field camera and liked it, Razzle and loved it. A Razzle is a 5x4 handheld camera, custom made. Mine has a Fuji 150/5,6

To be honest for portraits I'm shoots about f/8 anyway.

You'll find that large format lenses work differently to 35mm or medium format lenses. f/9 on 10x8 may look as shallow as f/2 on 35mm.

For this reason I recommend trying the camera before you buy it, set it up and look at the ground glass. If the depth of field is too deep, then get a faster lens. I'd recommend a faster lens either way, but for those types of portraits you'll be stopping down to f/8-ish anyway, so you get the whole person in focus.

Remember, if you need a faster shutter speed, increase the amount of light in the room (you can do this easily and it still look natural) or use a higher ISO film, say, 400 instead of 100. You can push 5x4 film just as easily as 35mm/120.

Also, if you're shooting Avedon-style, you need to get that background lighter than the subject by a couple stops anyway, or it won't look white.

Robert Budding
23-Jul-2008, 05:15
I, too, usually shoot portraits at f/8, or smaller, when using 4x5. The DOF table that's down the following link may be of help:

http://dofmaster.com/doftable.html

Walter Calahan
23-Jul-2008, 05:19
You can do this on a Crown Graphic with a f/4.7 135 mm lens.

Lens camera combo should cost less than 500 pounds sterling.

Remember, Avedon shot his stuff on an 8x10 camera, so had less DOF and a slow lens.

IanG
23-Jul-2008, 05:20
An MPP MkVII sounds fine,they a quite capable cameras, another option is a Speed or Crown Graphic but don't over pay they can be expensive in the UK and they have more limited movements.

Ash is right you need a better lens, 150mm Symmarsor Sironars are very easy to find second hand in the UK, and Nikons & Fuji's are excellent as well.

Ian

Frank Petronio
23-Jul-2008, 06:16
Get the fast lens and shoot wide open with natural or hot lights.

I shoot a lot of handheld shots but they usually come out better with a tripod mounted camera... monorails are great bargains and make it more conducive to use more movements for effect. Avedon certainly used a tripod under his 8x10 for the American West portraits.

IanG
23-Jul-2008, 06:57
Don't be afraid of buying from the US, there are some great bargains to be had on this forum or APUG, and the exchange rate is heavily in your favour. Shipping for a lens isn't very much, and even if you end up paying Duty &VAT (21%) you'll still make very significant savings.

Ian

eddie
23-Jul-2008, 07:15
hi pete,

my only suggestion would be a slightly longer lens. 150 on 4x5 is pretty normal. something in the 210-240 range may give you the results you are looking for. another advantage of a longer lens is you can shoot at f8-f11 pretty easily and still get some pleasing OOF areas. the closer you are to your model the more you can stop[ down and still have a bit of softness in your photos.

like the above posted suggested look here and at apug.org first. many great sellers and you do not have to worry as much as say ebay.

good luck.

eddie

Ash
23-Jul-2008, 07:16
Eddie remember the room size vs portrait length. I think any longer than 180 will be toooo long (I know this from experience!)

eddie
23-Jul-2008, 07:21
Eddie remember the room size vs portrait length. I think any longer than 180 will be toooo long (I know this from experience!)


oooppps! forgot that part. maybe 210 is too long......are you sure? i shot a head shot witha 12 inch lens and i was under two feet from my model. so figure i needed about 4-5 feet of working area.....i bet you could get it done with a 210. i am going to check tonight. :)

wfwhitaker
23-Jul-2008, 07:24
The Apo-Ronar is a critically sharp lens. It may not be the best choice for portraits unless you want that look.

Jan Nieuwenhuysen
23-Jul-2008, 13:21
All my portraits are made in available light with a 150 mm Scheider. Although it's largest aperture is 5.6 I seldom use it fully opened up. Normally in the 8-22 region . It is all highly subjective.
I would happily use the Rodenstock 150 mm I am sure. I just happen to have a Schneider. DoF is rather shallow at 9 and at short distances. F5.6 gives you faster speeds and even smaller DoF. It can work out very nice, but the slightest movement of your subject will shift critical focus noticebly.
My advice is to try with the setup as-is and change to a faster lens if you feel you need more speed and less DoF. Have fun!

BradS
23-Jul-2008, 14:05
Regarding room size and focal length....

If I stand with arms crossed in front of my chest, it is about 600 mm from the top of my head to the bottom of my elbow. So, on 4x5 we're looking at about 1/5 scale. If that be the case, and my calculations are correct...

a 150mm lens would have to be about 900mm from the subject,
a 210mm lens would need to be about 1260mm from the subject,
a 240mm lens would need to be about 1440mm from the subject and...
a 300mm lens would need to be about 1.8 meter from the subject.

I guess a 3m square room would suffice for any of these. Personally, I'd go with the 210mm - it just seems to be "about right" for portraits on 4x5.

cjbroadbent
24-Jul-2008, 04:01
Get to see a Cambo 4x5 twin lens reflex. I used one for about ten years and preferred it over anything else. Great outdoors. They usualy came with a 150 and a 180. The cams look after paralax. You also don't need to nail the sitter's feet to the floor. Here's what the 150 does with a stocking on:

eddie
24-Jul-2008, 04:07
Regarding room size and focal length....

If I stand with arms crossed in front of my chest, it is about 600 mm from the top of my head to the bottom of my elbow. So, on 4x5 we're looking at about 1/5 scale. If that be the case, and my calculations are correct...

a 150mm lens would have to be about 900mm from the subject,
a 210mm lens would need to be about 1260mm from the subject,
a 240mm lens would need to be about 1440mm from the subject and...
a 300mm lens would need to be about 1.8 meter from the subject.

I guess a 3m square room would suffice for any of these. Personally, I'd go with the 210mm - it just seems to be "about right" for portraits on 4x5.

thanks brad.

i was just going to set up my camera an do some measurements....you saved me.

eddie

Ash
24-Jul-2008, 12:10
Damn Chris, stop making me want a LF-TLR!