View Full Version : Technika as portrait camera

Ed Richards
22-Mar-2009, 08:50
I am thinking about doing some 4x5 portraits, using my Technika and rangefinder for focusing, probably with a 240mm. How does this work out? I do not want to to be chasing subjects around with a ground gless.

Gene McCluney
22-Mar-2009, 09:55
I guess you want to use your camera for "candids"? Traditional LF portraiture is where you sit your subject down, and give them something to lean their hands on so they are stationary, then ground-glass focusing is easy. A 240 is gonna rack your bellows way out, unless you get a "telephoto" lens. I would be very sceptical of "candid" type of work with the camera sticking out all that far. The act of changing holders it would seem to me would keep you from getting "peak" moments of expression.

Peter K
22-Mar-2009, 10:09
If the camera is equipped with a cam matched with the lens, you can focus with the range-finder and the composition will be controlled with the optical viewfinder. This works with sheet-film and also with RF, if the viewfinder is equipped with a mask. Working with upright format IMO it's easier to load the filmholder from the bottom, so the gg-holder will be turned 180 compared the Technika will be used with a tripod.

It works with the leather-strip the camera is normaly equipped with but with the anatomic grip mounted to the camera it's easier.

I've also made pictures from my dogs in this way, so "peak moments of expression" are possible with a Technika 4x5" and sheet film.

Ed Richards
22-Mar-2009, 11:04
I will probably use a tripod, but as Peter says, I am looking for some flexiblity for expression. I have the Linhof finder and a cammed 150, which I have used handheld quite a bit. The focus is very acccurate.

Thomas Greutmann
22-Mar-2009, 11:09
I have used a Linhof Technika with an Apo Ronar 240mm, cam, rangefinder, viewfinder and anatomical grip for handheld portraits.

It works if the subjects will be relatively still during the portrait session and if the lighting is stable.

If the subjects move a lot and exposure values change quickly (say: children's birthday) the setup is not practical.

Two variations you might want to consider:

If you do portrait sessions where people will sit still and you can mount the camera on a tripod you might want to use the reflex viewfinder which can be attached, instead of the rangefinder / viewfinder combination. You will still focus and compose through the groundglass, but the reflex viewfinder makes this a lot easier and faster. I find the reflex viewfinder one of the most practical accessories. A real helper, not a gadget, and not just for portraits.

If you want to do handhelds with moving subjects I would suggest a shorter lens (150 or maybe 180, I am using a 150 Apo Ronar). The issue is not weight or bellows extension, but a shorter lens has more focusing tolerance than a 240 lens.

And for handhelds: nothing beats the Grafmatic holders.

Greetings, Thomas

Frank Petronio
22-Mar-2009, 14:14
Your rangefinder technique needs to be perfect, as there is little room for error. It really depends what you focus on and where it is in the frame -- you have to be careful not to introduce an error by tipping the camera up or down to focus on a contrasty spot and recomposing, it is easy to introduce a centimeter or two of focusing error.

Think of focusing the eyes, using the rangefinder patch and centering on the eyes. That distance between eyes and lens might be 200 centimeters. But if you recompose and place the eyes at the top of the frame, the distance of the eyes to lens is now 203 cm....

It burnt me all the time.

I used the Grafmatics with the upside-down back too. It is easy to shoot too fast with a Grafmatic, you might as well use a Hasselblad. I switched back to regular holders purposefully to slow myself down. They also have the advantage of only ruining one sheet at a time, wheras a jammed Grafmatic will ruin your day.

The shorter lens you can use the better. More light is always better, it is sweet to shoot the modern lenses at f/11-16 and stopping down that much pretty eliminates teh error I described above.

Ed Richards
22-Mar-2009, 19:10
Good points Frank, but I want to try for that limited DOF look. I am also planning on doing this on a tripod, unless there is a lot of light. I just do not want to have to keep messing with the camera.

I do understand the focusing problem, and you make a good point about the shift - does not make that much difference with 35mm.:-) Probably pays to shoot some backups at F16.

22-Mar-2009, 20:14
I've made portraits of myself and others on a 5x7 camera using a lens wide open at F/3, with good results.

I use a focusing target, made from cardboard, with an adhesive paper label B/W laser printed focusing target stuck on front. The target is a large circle divided in half black and white. A heavy duty string attaches the target to the front of the camera mount. The length of the string is adjustable.

To use the focusing target I first compose the subject, seated in front of the camera, then stretch the string out and have the subject place the target to their cheek, under the eye, adjacent to the nose, with the string taught. I then focus on the target on the ground glass. Then the subject relaxes while I fiddle with meter, lights, f/stop, shutter and sheet film holder. When I'm all ready, I simply have them stretch the string taught, and place the target to their cheek and, holding their head still, they simply lower the target from their face and I snap the picture.

This method also works for self-portraits. I tape the target to the end of a yard stick, then adjust the length of the string and using one hand pull the string tight, with the target at the approximate position of my head in front of the camera, I adjust focus on the ground glass. After setting the film holder, lens and shutter I sit in front of the camera, pull the string taught and place the target to my cheek. Lowering the target I then snap the shutter.


PS: The attached image is from a homemade 5x7 nested box camera, using a 150mm f.l. binocular objective lens at f/16, onto Efke's direct positive paper, preflashed prior to the in-camera exposure. I used the above-mentioned focusing technique.


Vlad Soare
23-Mar-2009, 04:07
More than a half century of photojournalists using everything from speed graphics to Technikas should tell you it is one of the things the camera is made for.
True, but they were using those bright flashbulbs that made the sun look like a fill-in light, which enabled them to close the aperture down and to rely on the depth of field. I doubt they were using 240mm lenses wide open. ;)
Also, the pictures were destined to be printed in newspapers, where small focusing errors would be eclipsed by the lousy overall print quality.

A friend of mine came to me yesterday to show me his newly acquired Crown. The rangefinder was spot-on, checked with the ground glass. But trying to shoot a few handheld portraits proved not to be so easy. Merely moving my eye from the rangefinder window to the viewfinder seemed to be causing enough camera movement to throw the subject out of focus, at least with the lens wide open.
As for inserting or removing the film holder, it required both my hands (and even a third one would have been very nice), so I needed to sit down and put the camera in my lap before and after each picture.
Hardly a setup for candid shots. :)
Maybe a Grafmatic would have helped.

I have two two-year-old daughters who won't stand still for more than a couple of seconds at once. I can photograph them with my RB67 handheld, lens wide open, and get an average of six or seven sharp pictures on a film, but I don't think I could ever do it with my friend's Crown. :)

Frank Petronio
23-Mar-2009, 04:53
Besides flashes that gave the early guys f/16 or better even with slow film, they also never got that close. Most photojournalistic shots done with 4x5 rangefinders are from a middle distance, not close portraits. They cropped A LOT.

Indeed the rangefinder scales and accuracy fade away as you get into portrait distances...