View Full Version : Newbie Questions

John G.
20-Jan-2010, 05:40
I'm very close to taking my first step into the world of large format. Over the last 6 or so months I've bought Adams's "The Camera" and Steve Simmons "Using the view Camera" and read them both, lurked around the internet and looked at a lot of awsome pictures by way of research.

Along the way I discovered that there were more then a few sizes in large format and it's left me with a dilema. Quite simply I really like the aspect ratios of 4x10 and 5x8 far more then the squarer look of 4x5 / 8x10.

Because of where I live I'm basicly going to have to be self taught, and I'm wondering, given the imminent demise of quickloads, if there is any real reason to get a 4x5 system first or whether I should step straight up to an 8x10 and a pair of half darkslides. So any thoughts on that would be appreciated.

At this point I should say that my reasons for going to large format are mostly a need for perspective contol and also I'd like the option of larger enlargements then I can get off a DSLR. But I'm also going to hump the thing up some awfully big hills so weight is an issue. I'd rather carry more and get there slower then take a "lesser" shot, but first I have to get there kind of thing.

With the weight criteria in mind, I'd also ask if anyone has ever used a half darkslide on 5x8 for panoramas, and if so would they be prepared to post examples or otherwise direct me to them.

Many thanks in advance


20-Jan-2010, 06:27
Don't forget that you're going to need to enlarge anything smaller than 8x10. And one of the nicest things about Large Format is that it's so easy to crop and still have oddles of quality in the print. I'd start with 4x5.

20-Jan-2010, 06:35
If you're looking to enlarge,but you're concerned about weight, start small. Maybe a 2.25"x3.25" Speed Graphic or a Busch Pressman (C, I think. D is 4x5).
If those don't work, move up in format until you find something that works for you.
5x7 is close to 5x8. 5x7 film can be ordered from retailers, but 5x8 film holders are hard to find and you will need to cut film yourself from 8x10.
Give 'em hell.

20-Jan-2010, 06:37
You haven't mentioned the 5x7 format, it seems to me the ideal way to go. Equipment prices, weight and versatility are on a par with 4x5; the only drawback is fewer emulsions are available.

Get a 6x17 back with it and you're in business!

Lachlan 717
20-Jan-2010, 06:42
If you like 4x10 and full movements, I'd strongly recommend getting a 6x17cm field camera (especially a Shen Hao 617).

These use 120 roll film, so will be cheaper to run for a newbie (your phrasing!!). Look at Ken Duncan's work; no need to go any bigger in formats to get good shots.

Th hen allows you to mask down to 6x12 and 6x15 (same ratio as 4x10) and has the advantage of using 5x7" lenses. In other words, more choice than 4x10 coverage lenses.

Drew Bedo
20-Jan-2010, 07:00
Hello John,

Don't agonize over your choice . . .there are no single "best" choices in photography equipment. Everything is a compromise in some way.

I'd say that the single MOST important thing is to jump in and start shooting. Whatever camera you start out with will not be the only camera you ever use use.

Best wishes.
Good shooting!

Drew bedo

kev curry
20-Jan-2010, 07:34
The difference between 5x4 and 8x10 in terms of portability/hike-ability is pretty substantial. I think you really need to spend a little time with an 8x10 kit -about half an hour uphill should do it- to see how you really feel about humping ''the thing up some awfully big hills''. Personally the biggest thing I got out of backpacking 8x10 apart from exhaustion and popping veins was an appreciation of how 'easy and portable' 5x4 was!

Robert Hughes
20-Jan-2010, 09:45
Personally the biggest thing I got out of backpacking 8x10 apart from exhaustion and popping veins was an appreciation of how 'easy and portable' 5x4 was!Seconded. After carrying around my 8x10 lately, going back to 4x5 is like working with a toy camera!

AJ Edmondson
20-Jan-2010, 10:11
I have shot 4x10 in the manner described (8x10 darkslide split) and was never very fond of it. One consideration, in order to capitalize on the width you need fairly wide (short focal length) lenses and the only lenses which I could use to good effect were a 120mm Nikkor SW and a 165 Super Angulon. Unless you are happy with 4x10 contact prints you still need an 8x10 enlarger!
Depending on your own desires you can obviously burden yourself with enough equipment to defeat your efforts to actually make photographs but an 8x10 field with one lens, light meter, tripod, 3 film holders and the other "necessary stuff" is not (in my experience) that much heavier than 4x5.
8x10, in terms of actual usage, is my absolute favorite - but I use 4x5 about 95% of the time. A "non-scientific" comparison of the two in terms of image quality satisfied me that the economics of the two dictated 4x5.
Good luck with your decision and, as Drew stated - "everything is a compromise in some way."

Jack Dahlgren
20-Jan-2010, 11:54
If you are a newbie - start out with something simple and standard and cheap. 8x10 film is expensive and you are going to run through a fair amount of it getting up to speed. I'd recommend 4x5 for a start or even using a rollfilm back on 4x5 - which will give you 6x9 or 6x12. That is plenty of negative for most enlargements.

Once you get the hang of it, you can consider selling your 4x5 and buy an 8x10. Most standard used LF equipment can be sold for about the same price you can buy it for so you don't need to worry much about a loss if you stick to the popular models in decent condition.

John G.
21-Jan-2010, 19:09
Thanks all

Rather then reply to indiviual posts I'd just state the following points

RE: 5x7 I like the format but the shortage of emulsions is not going to get better. And provided proper darkroom care is used then cutting 8x10's in half shouldnt be that much of an issue.

RE: 6x17. I tend to see in panorama but I wouldnt want to have it as an only option. And it seems to me that unless you get a dedicated 6x17 view camera that the weight of rollfilm backs, bag bellows, and a 6x17 GG as well as 4x5 gear adds up pretty quickly.

RE: costs in general, my experience in most things is that the cheapest way is usually to set it up right the first time. Film cost obviously is different, but I'd have to upgrade my darkroom in any case.

I'm not trying to justify doing things differently to "normal", rather I'm chasing input from you who have experience. I'd say at this point I'll probably go 4x5, but shop for lenses with sufficient coverage for 5x8.

I's still like to see a 2.5x8 panoramic though.. it's an insanely wide AR.

And, just how much of a PITA are half darkslides anyway?

thanks again

21-Jan-2010, 21:42
IMHO, its not just the using of half dark slides, its also having to set up the camera to have the image on the half of the ground glass you want it on. Totally doable if the camera has enough movements, but it will slow you down and complicate its use.

For a newbie to LF I would recommend a 4x5 monorail. Get a good cheap system one and play around with it, that is the best way to learn to use movements, its what I did and how I was taught in college. A Cambo SC (what the university used) costs less than most lenses used and is very versatile. Right now I only have a camera with front movements, these are enough for my work, I knew this buying it, and I know how to set it up to do what I want using only those front movements- but as a new shooter it would have been very frustrating, probably I would have given up. I can imagine that using a half darkslide might be similarly frustrating until you know how you plan to set the camera up from a bit of experience.

Many 4x5 monorails are useable in the field, and if you get creative you will be able to put lenses in boards to use with a future 6x17 or 5x8 or even 8x10 that will not only work on a 4x5 monorail but will offer significant movements useful for still lifes, tabletops, etc. I have a 210mm plasmat on the way which will almost cover 8x10 but I bought it for 4x5... you don't normally get this interchangability with medium format or 35mm, but you can with LF. Most monorails offer a large lensboard and you can often get an adapter to, say, put a lens mounted on a linhof board onto a cambo monorail, so you could consider one as being something extra for your future setup rather than not buying the right gear the first time.

For 6x17 there are cheap(ish) Chinese extension backs now than will go onto a 4x5 graflok back. Many people like these, but do understand that the camera and back outfit might limit lens choice during its use, for example you might not be able to focus a short lens to infinity with an extension back.

AJ Edmondson
23-Jan-2010, 15:23
I didn't find using half darkslides that much of a pain but I had a pretty rigid routine which dictated that the first exposure was always on the top-half with the film back installed from the right and the second exposure, top-half with the film back installed from the left ... with the old Calumet 8x10 I was using I simply reversed the film back as soon as I had made the first exposure (if the second exposure wasn't made at the same time/location) so I didn't forget which half of the film holder was already exposed.