View Full Version : 4x5 or 8x10?

24-Jan-2011, 22:32
Greetings. Please forgive the newbie questions. I am now in a position to purchase a large format camera.
I have used medium format for a while and just love the look of LF.
I am weighing the options between 4x5 and 8x10 and need some input from the experienced crew here. I want to shoot primarily black and white outdoor portraits and landscapes. I have been viewing and loving a lot of work on 8x10 lately but am worried that the xtra size and weight might be discouraging. I am also concerned with developing the negs. With 4x5 i could conveniently use a Combi tank but would probably have to tray develop the 8x10. Will I be disappointed with the look of 4x5 over the 8x10?
Thank you for your time and comments.


John Berry
24-Jan-2011, 22:56
Cheaper to learn on 4x5. Sheet film will be a little different than roll film. In the end your going to have to make the same choice in the end by yourself. I have an 8x10 and love it, but sometimes I take out the 4x5 because I know I can't pull what I want out of a scene with 8x10. How about an 8x10 with a 4x5 back? No, that's no good for short lenses. Sooner or later you will realize that it is not which, but, which first. 4x5.

Jiri Vasina
24-Jan-2011, 22:59
Hello Joby,

I'd recommend starting with a cheapish 4x5 camera - especially if your route is hybrid (scanning the negative after development) (or if you intended to shoot color, but you say you want BW). As a newcomer in the field of LF you should best try for yourself if the "hassle" and joys of LF are for you - some people try and find they don't like it.

Also at the moment you don't know if you want/need/prefer/like a field camera, or a monorail. Each of them has it's virtues and also it's cons. Also, how wide or long lenses will you shoot? (that means what's the minimum and maximum bellows extension you need with the camera) What movements will you employ with your photos?

For all those reasons I'd recommend getting a second hand 4x5 camera (so as not to have too much money in it), give it a try, shoot some 100 sheets with that camera. Then you can decide for yourself what size and what type of camera you really want...

(If you want to contact print, and feel the 4x5 would be too small, you could also think of the 5x7 size...)


24-Jan-2011, 23:26
I should have given a little more detail. I am planning on scanning the negs and I am looking at the field camera variety of LF. I inherited a 90mm lens from an beat up crown graphic. It's shutter needs a CLA before I can use it. If I go the 4x5 route I will probably get a 150mm as well. It seems that I have been gradually moving up in format size( 35mm, 645, 6x6) and wondered if I should just skip to the top. I know I am not prepared to handle anything above 8x10. Financially I guess I would prefer the 4x5 since I already have a lens and accessories are cheaper. Thank you for your advice. I am ready to embrace the "hassle" and joys of LF because the results are worth it.

Jiri Vasina
25-Jan-2011, 00:01
If you buy a cheapish second-hand 4x5, you can usually sell it later with very low/minimal loss, and buy whatever camera fulfills your needs. As you are scanning your images, the quality of well exposed, developed and scanned negative might be enough for most purposes - there are so many photographers here that only shoot 4x5 and make stunning (and large) prints...

True, you could also get a cheapish second hand 8x10, either a monorail (Calumet?) or older field cameras (Seneca, Korona...) and later sell it too...

As to the accessories for 4x5 being cheaper - that might not be entirely true: if you think there is a chance you will go larger in the future, you might want to invest in the accessories too... get a sturdy tripod that could be used with an 8x10 too, get a larger darkcloth, get tanks that allow not only developing of 4x5 sheets, but may accommodate 8x10 too (my Jobo tank can be used to either develope 12 4x5 sheets on 2 reels, or (2) 8x10 sheets (well, I use it for (4) 13x18cm or (4) 5x8", but that's the same)...)

(several times I have mentioned 5x7 as the size to consider too - to me it's a kind of sweet spot. Larger than 4x5, but no so much more expensive, no so much larger camera, no so heavy as 8x10. True, the choice of films might be more limited than 4x5 or even 8x10 - but I have a Chamonix 58" that broadens the possibilities with 8x10" film cut in half...).


25-Jan-2011, 01:56
The aspect ratio of a 5x7 will be close to what you are used to from 35mm and 645. The hassle factor is higher with 5x7. You can burn film with a 4x5. If you choose lenses well, for a 5x7, they will also cover 8x10. Some 210 lenses cover 8x10, most 300 lenses do. So more overlap between glass with 5x7 and 8x10 if you want to go up in size later. 4x5 is better to learn on and lots of fun and has plenty of film options which the larger formats dont. 5x7 can still be scanned at high resolution on an epson v700, 8x10 cant except at low resolution. You can use a 4x5 reduction back on a 5x7 but not all 5x7s will easily handle a 90mm lens.

25-Jan-2011, 03:12
I started on 4x5 and then decided to try moving up to 8x10. The local Linhof dealer has always been a great source of encouragment, advice and gear... and when I told him I'd just bought an 8x10 Deardorff his immediate advice [probably the best he's ever given me] was to make an appointment to see a psychiatrist.

I love the 'dorff and I'm actually very glad I got it... but in retrospect I wish I'd thought through and costed every step that I was going to have to go thru. Proper planning would have made it so much easier. Having finally sorted out the camera I've just sorted out the darkroom side and I'm now at the point of being able to make a photo. You'll have to ask me later whether the results were worth the journey.

25-Jan-2011, 03:35
8x10 requires less gear. All the gubbins you need for developing and printing 8x10 will fit in a carry-on bag. 4x5 needs a real darkroom, enlarger and all.

Richard Kaye
25-Jan-2011, 04:32
I disagree (but only slightly). I have had my 4x5 for nearly 12 months and having finally set up a darkroom I am at last beginning to really appreciate it. But it was a struggle until now, and the scans and prints I was able to make without the enlarger were disappointing. Personally, I'd agree with cjb that the darkroom is a must have, especially for B+W. However my 10x8 prints look small, and I wouldn't be happy being limited to 10x8 contact prints. There is no way I have room for a 10x8 enlarger so a 10x8 camera would be a waste for me, and 4x5 will be my staple diet for a long time. I might just consider ULF (14x11 perhaps) and contact print this, as a n occasional alternative, If I could find a way to adapt my camera without it costing too much (I already have a suitable lens and am good at making things).

Walter Calahan
25-Jan-2011, 06:17
Test an 8x10 system against the 4x5 gear you have. Whatever works for your vision is the format to pick.

Noah A
25-Jan-2011, 06:20
Only you can say if you'd be disappointed by 4x5. What 'look' are you talking about when you say you like the look of large format?

For soft tonality and a shallow DOF, there's no substitute for a big negative. And if you're shooting B&W and processing yourself, then the film and lab costs for 8x10 may not be as bad as they would be, say, for lab-processed color.

I had shot 4x5 in college but had been away from LF for ten years or so. I decided to go straight to 8x10, but it didn't really work for me so I ended up going back to 120 and finally compromising on 4x5, which is a great balance of portability, affordability and quality, which is of course far better than medium format. I make large color prints and often shoot in urban environments where perspective control is necessary. So the movements and quality of 4x5 are the biggest advantages for me.

Do you travel with your gear? Is portability a factor? Do you want to walk around with your gear or are you staying near the car? It's pretty easy to pack up a 4x5 kit and a few hundred sheets of film for a trip or to stuff a camera and some holders in a shoulder bag for a day of walking around. With 8x10 it gets more difficult. Everything is just so much bigger. The camera is only the beginning. The film holders, film boxes, lenses, tripod, etc. are also bigger.

Are you shooting for pleasure or for work? If you need to produce a certain amount of work for clients or if you're a prolific amateur shooter, 8x10 can still get expensive even in B&W. If you want to enjoy the shooting experience and don't care how much work you produce, (or if cost isn't a big issue) then 8x10 can be a lot of fun.

If you plan to shoot any color, keep in mind that a sheet of 8x10 color film costs around $16 processed.

I don't think you HAVE to start with 4x5, there's no reason you can't go right to 8x10. In some ways the large groundglass makes it easer to learn.

If you buy used gear you can resell it and probably get your money back. So in a way it's not a critical decision.

25-Jan-2011, 07:42
I know I am not prepared to handle anything above 8x10.

Oh just you wait, I bet that when you moved from 35mm to 645, you could never imagine yourself getting a 8x10 :) If you get a 8x10, soon enough you will notice that a Ritter 11x14 isn't really that much heavier for twice the negative area...

Personally I'm a very satisfied 4x5 user, using a scanner. The ground glass experience and most importantly movements make it much different from other smaller formats I shoot, and at my print sizes, I'm not feeling a need for more detail than a well shot 4x5 negative provides (which is far more than I get from any of my other cameras).

Still, as long as you buy used at reasonable prices (the helpful people here on the forum can guide you), you can sell anything without loss. If you use a digital workflow, you'll probably want a V700 capable of both formats anyway, adding trays for developing 8x10 costs nothing, and you could try contact printing. Trying everything at once would probably be overwhelming and contra-productive, but with a bit of care you will not have to put your lunch on the line to find your format.

25-Jan-2011, 08:53
4x5 needs a real darkroom, enlarger and all.
If you want to print 8x10 as large as I print 4x5, you're going to need a real darkroom, enlarger and all. And a much, much bigger enlarger at that.

25-Jan-2011, 09:19
Thank you all for your comments. I am not a pro photographer. I am a pro musician and photography is my way to recharge the "creative" batteries. I started as a spray and pray digital shooter. I got some good photos but couldn't explain how or why. I then forced myself to learn exposure and slowdown by shooting 35mm film. I got my hands on a Pentax 645N and never looked back at 35. Looking for something smaller that I could shoot street with, I bought a Fuji GF670 rangefinder, which I love. My local color lab closed so I now develop my own black and white. I scan all my negs on a V700. I bought a fuji instant back for the Crown Graphic that I have and had disappointing results due to the really dark and dirty ground glass and sticky shutter on the 90mm.

Only you can say if you'd be disappointed by 4x5. What 'look' are you talking about when you say you like the look of large format?

The shallow DOF is part of it. I don't think it is all about resolution either. The large optics combined with the large film area create such a unique and beautiful look. I am also interested in experimenting with the movements. I have always been a fan of tilt-shift/lensbaby/weird DOF shots and wanted a lot of controls to play with.


Lynn Jones
25-Jan-2011, 09:22
Hi Joby

I haven't used my 8x10 for several years, my 8x10 film has been frozen for about 10 years, it is heavy as all get out with my SS Majestic tripod and all, Ii'm like a pack mule doing that now. Film is getting harder and harder to find and for color there aren't many labs anymore.

In studio I still use my monorail 4x5 and in the field I use my Wide Field Calumet 4x5 (my invention back in 1965) and myfavorite in the field is my Galvin 23.

I recently completed my b/w darkroom since we no longer have darkrooms in my college (all digital for the last several years). While I own 3 enlargers I don't use them any more, I scan negatives and print by inkjet. I haven't used 5x7 for 2 dozen years, its hard to get film and film holders, I don't have an enlarger over 4x5, and that format is seldom sold in this country, in fact for many years the majority of 5x7 cameras have been sold in Japan, who knows why.


25-Jan-2011, 16:49
if you have a V700 you can scan up to 8x10 so you don't need a darkroom as such because you can develop using a tent and a tank system like jobo and the tent would let you change film anywhere... that makes life a lot easier

I'm not surprising that you aren't happy with a crown with a poor lens on it! You might be pleasantly surprised how much nicer it is to use a good 4x5 with full movements and a top end lens on the front

by all means go for an 8x10, it might be the best thing you'll ever do!
but do look at availability of gear and add up how much you're going to spend all up when you add on all the bits'n'pieces like lens[es], film holders, developing kit, new tripod etc etc and how that'd compare to an equivalent 4x5 kit. And don't forget to look at what film you can buy and where you can get it processed if you aren't doing it yourself.

from the lensbaby comment I'm guessing you may actually be looking at images made with old lenses like petzvals or achromatic meniscus? if so you'll also have to factor in how to shutter an old barrel lens. Several solutions there but they're best thought through before you commit to the 8x10 because there's always the option of a shorter focal length lens [cheaper than the big ones] mounted on a speed graphic...

addit: just to clear about it, having got my 8x10 kit togeter I am absolutely hanging on to to it !!! :)

27-Jan-2011, 07:19
Joby, I have been struggling with a simular problem. I have 4X5 and 8X10 gear and was about ready to get rid of the whole mess, mainly due to the realization that 8X10 B&W film had doubled in cost since I last purchased a box. My 4X5 and gear is portable and very usable - but - I just don't seem to experience the pleasure of shooting with the 4X5, as I do with the 8X10. I just love composing and focusing on that large groundglass. And I really love an 8X10 print. And I guess I have a sentamental attachment to the 8X10 (it is old, to big, has limited movements, prefers to stay close to home, is very slow - just like me).

Of course, the 8X10 is far less portable (I am in the process of getting a nice hand-truck with big inflatable tires so I can haul the gear off into the woods).

But, I still enjoy shooting 35mm and especially 120. I am rather fickle.

Sure would be nice if you had access to an 8X10. Nothing like experience to help you decide (to use both :)

27-Jan-2011, 21:40
Thank you all for your time and comments. I am still thinking this all through. I will post again once I have made a decision. I look forward to joining the ranks!

John Kasaian
27-Jan-2011, 22:49
An option to consider is a 4x5 camera you can put a 5x7 back on, such as inexpensive old Agfas and B&Js. For pure fun, you can learn on cheaper 4x5 film, shoot color if you like, enlarge(4x5 Omegas go for very little $$ or even free) and with the 5x7 back you can make intimate contact prints and the whole alternative process thing will open up for you.

OTOH 8x10 will cost quite a bit more to get into, but there is something very attractive and satisfying about contact printing the big negatives and photographing with a minimal number of holders(which are not only cumbersome, but expensive, even when bought used) and maybe only one or two lenses in your kit. Nothing else is quite like it and if you have the $$ and that is want you want then go for it.

Keep in mind the cost of 8x10 film, while never cheap, seems to have been hit hard with a considerable price increase lately.

30-Jan-2011, 02:09
hello Joby,
In my opinion, you can try a 4*5 first. It is cheap and easily handling.When you should change camera to 8*10, that based on what you need, what you want to do. I also have a suggestion, you can buy a camera which can support 4*5 & 8*10 back.it seems sinar p2 can change the back to 8*10.

Brian Ellis
30-Jan-2011, 12:52
4x5 = more practical

8x10 = more fun

Take your pick.

Being a little facetious but that's what it's always come down to for me. I love 8x10, composing on that nice big ground glass is sheer pleasure compared to what seems like squinting at a 4x5 screen. But there are practicalities involved - cost and availability of film for one thing but mostly just the problems of getting to places I want to get to with an 8x10 system, carrying enough film holders, etc.

P.S. As someone who spent about 12 years printing in a darkroom and who spent a lot of time and money learning how to do it well, and who's spent the last 8 or so printing digitally, I can tell you a darkroom is not only unnecessary to making the best possible b&w print, it's a hindrance. In my opinion the only reason to use a darkroom for printing these days is because someone just enjoys the whole darkroom process. Which is a perfectly good reason - maybe the best reason of all for someone who doesn't make their living from photography - but enjoyment doesn't equate to better.

30-Jan-2011, 18:38
I can tell you a darkroom is not only unnecessary to making the best possible b&w print, it's a hindrance.

A darkroom is necessary to make the best possible darkroom print.

The distinction is lost on many, but that doesn't mean it's not there.

neil poulsen
31-Jan-2011, 00:39
What size prints do you want to make?

Vlad Soare
31-Jan-2011, 01:44
but enjoyment doesn't equate to better
Generally it doesn't, but in my case I find that it does. That's because when I like doing something I put all my energy into doing it as well as possible. On the other hand, I tend to be sloppy and not to care too much about details when doing something I don't particularly like. If I don't like the process, then I tend to settle for "good enough" results, to get the whole thing over with as fast as I can.

Robert Hughes
2-Feb-2011, 08:25
From my small experience, the difference is:
4 x 5 = enlarger or scan
8 x10 = contact print