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View Full Version : 4x5 versus 8x10 portriats



scathontiphat
10-Feb-2012, 13:47
Yeah, i know the 4x5 versus 8x10 question has been raised many times. Figured it wouldn't hurt just to ask again but in regards to portraiture. I'm interested in getting into large format for portraiture. I've managed to borrow an 8x10 camera, and shot my first 2 sheets of film ever (as in i've never shot 4x5). In the excitement of snapping my first shot, I didn't attend to as many details as I would have preferred to have done, but I LOVE the feel of the shot and the way focus falls of into super cream.

The problem is that after shooting these first 2 sheets, it has truly hit home just how expensive it is to shoot 8x10 and i'm starting to look at 4x5 as an alternative.

I'm wondering from those people who have shot 8x10 and 4x5, what are your thoughts are on the "feel" (I know, super subjective) of 4x5 compares to 8x10. Deep down I think i know what the answer is, but I'm trying to convince myself that maybe 5x4 is a viable alternative. I'm not bothered by resolution. For me it's all about that oh-so-subjective feel of a format (which to me comes mostly from the way that the focus falls away, but also the tonality of the image).

Like i said, deep down, i think i know my answer. But I'm having a hard time accepting the fact that I might have to "invest" in a camera, which then I can only afford to shoot about 1/4 of what I could afford to shoot if I had a 5x4 camera.

thanks for the discussion :D below is my first snap of a large format shutter! Can't wait to shoot more.
http://www.santiu.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/IMG8458-web.jpg

BrianShaw
10-Feb-2012, 13:50
I've only shot LF portraits in 4x5 and can't imagine any significant benefit to 8x10 unless contact printing.

rjmeyer314
10-Feb-2012, 14:00
Yes, 8x10 is expensive. I don 't make money with my photography, it's only a hobby. For most of my adult life I did 4x5 because of the cost. Now I can afford 8x10 and so I do it. For me the main advantage is that I can make truly large prints from 8x10 negatives using my 8x10 Elwood enlarger. I can't make as large prints from my 4x5 negatives and my Beseler 45M, mainly because of how my darkroom is set up.

Brian C. Miller
10-Feb-2012, 14:04
Excellent start!

Some of the guys here use 8x10 x-ray film because, well, it's dirt cheap! There's a number of threads about it. The emulsion is fragile compared to normal film, but there's some really good information on how to get great results from it.

The main difference would of course be the focal length of the lenses. 8x10 uses about double the 4x5 focal length. If you enjoy how the image looks, then that's the reason to use it!

jp
10-Feb-2012, 14:10
It's both good (4x5 and 8x10). There are old lenses for 8x10 that are nice for portraits that aren't available for 4x5. One nice 8x10 beat 1 nice 4x5 + 3 not so nice 4x5s. Results aren't produced simply by more sheets of film. (except when learning a new lens)

I like 4x5 because I can enlarge it with my 4x5 enlarger. 8x10 makes really really nice silver contact prints (and alt process contact prints) and I can still scan it on the epson like 4x5.

If you develop it yourself, 8x10 and 4x5 are inexpensive to process, but if I had to send film away to develop, I'd probably be more deterred even from 4x5.

You might also try printing with different papers for even more exceptional results and choices. The ilford art300 is pretty nice stuff for portraits.

Pawlowski6132
10-Feb-2012, 14:12
C'mon. 8x10 is not that much more expensive. I just looked at B&H and picked Ilfford
HP5 as an example. 4x5 = $1.14/sheet. 8x10 = $3.48/sheet. That's $2.34 more per sheet. If your typical session uses, say 6 sheets, that's only $14 more per session. If your margins are that thin to start, LF is prolly not the right direction.

DolphinDan
10-Feb-2012, 14:22
I shoot 4x5, 5x7, and 8x10. Still trying to get the hang of portraits; I mainly shoot landscapes and flowers. In shooting landscapes I noticed a difference between 4x5 and 5x7, not so much difference between 5x7 and 8x10. I would say decide between economics and love: is cost the deciding factor in your choice or is "the look"?

I definitely prefer 8x10 to 4x5, but it is more expensive. And color film for 8x10 is getting harder to find relative to 4x5 :-(

Hope this helps.

Daniel

scathontiphat
10-Feb-2012, 14:53
Appreciate the discussion guys. Thanks a bunch. I think I'm going to see if i can borrow a 5x4 camera and see for myself, but you all know how it is. Nice to talk it out a bit :D


C'mon. 8x10 is not that much more expensive. I just looked at B&H and picked Ilfford
HP5 as an example. 4x5 = $1.14/sheet. 8x10 = $3.48/sheet. That's $2.34 more per sheet. If your typical session uses, say 6 sheets, that's only $14 more per session. If your margins are that thin to start, LF is prolly not the right direction.

Should say that I'm living in the UK at the moment. HP5 25 pack of 5x4 ~ 33.60, 10x8 = 112.74. 3.17 price difference per sheet, so 6 sheets = 19.02 difference ($29.95). What's more painful is shooting in color: ~11 difference per sheet, so 66 per 6 shoot session (a little over a hundred bucks).

Jim Galli
10-Feb-2012, 15:23
Here's something for argument sake. If there was a golden age of portraiture you can argue it was the 1910's through the 1940's when big studios that were getting plenty of work and cash were using 8X10. Thus all of the glorious portrait lenses of that era were made for that market.

Consider depth of field and fall-off, something you mention. 300mm f4.5 lenses litter ebay for very little money. The equivalent in look in 4X5 is a 150mm f2.4 or so. Easy math. There aren't any. You can perhaps buy a 150mm f2.8 Xenotar, but there went your savings.

Then I would argue the Golden Era lenses, all made for 8X10, while some are very pricey now for just all of the reasons you've already argued for, have nearly limitless possibilities of nuance and personality. Lost to the 4X5 world. Mostly.

So now we've gotten ourselves into the world of what some would argue parallels the stereophile types who pay large amounts for certain tube type amplifiers to play their vinyl on. Most of us un-washed can't 'hear' the differences, or if we can perhaps, we say, it aint' worth the extra trouble and money. I just want some tunes.

For me, I can "see" the tonality, the brute force smoothness, the personality profile etc. that the 8X10 and even 11X14 brass cannon's can produce. Like having 585 horsepower under the hood of the grocery getter. Kind of silly, most of the time, but if you pull up next to me and rev your motor, you may be in trouble.

Wade through some of the pages on my little web site. I think what I'm arguing speaks for itself in some of the images, even at 86 kilobytes.

Now as to $$. Xray film is one way to go. $ for $ I think the end results are more bang for my buck on 8X10 than on 4X5. That's subjective. It isn't a half cost ratio in any case. More like $40 for 4X5 shots to $55 for 8X10 (if you're careful at all). But that extra expense bought me 80 sq. in. of brute force compared to 20. Sorry Mrs. Scathontiphat. Not helpful, I know.

John Conway
10-Feb-2012, 16:01
I think it is really a personal choice. It is really up to you. You can get a thousand responses to your question but in the end it ultimately is what you get out of the format that you choose. Both 8X10 and 4X5 have their own unique qualities. I am not a pro, photography is a hobby for me. So my opinion is based on how I "see" the final print. I like like both 4x5 and 8X10, use both, but have a special fascination with 8X10 because to me it has a unique "look". Mr Galli explained it much better than I can. I would not want to limit myself to just one format. And as far as cost, I feel the difference is not enough to pick one over the other. Prices have never been better on large format cameras and lenses. It's a great time to get into large format. By the way, your first portrait is great, I like it.

Jody_S
10-Feb-2012, 16:58
There's a learning curve for LF photography, same as any other. Some would say it's a steeper curve, I don't know about that though because most people getting into it already have considerable photography experience and some idea of what they want to accomplish with LF. But I digress.

Fact is, you'll need to shoot hundreds of shots to get comfortable with it, be it 4x5 or 8x10. You'll need to experiment with films, lenses, cameras, tripods, backpacks or studio gear, the works. If you want to start out with 8x10 and can afford the projected cost of hundreds of shots in your first couple of years (plus the gear, which is much more expensive), then have at it. I'm glad I started with 4x5, and honesty I didn't really learn it until I got a couple boxes of expired B&W film and started doing my own processing, which brought my costs down to about $0.25 a shot. That meant the gas I spent driving to my shoots cost more than the shots I took. In other words, I didn't care anymore about 'wasting' a shot if I just wanted to try something, thought I should bracket exposures, got a 'new' old lens, whatever. But that's me, and honestly it's mostly because I only have the time to spend on it when I'm between jobs (and short of cash).

John Kasaian
10-Feb-2012, 17:11
Ugly people look a whole lot uglier on 8x10..... just sayin'

Ben Syverson
10-Feb-2012, 20:09
Ugly people look a whole lot uglier on 8x10..... just sayin'
Or less, since there's less DOF

Thebes
10-Feb-2012, 22:39
I'm shooting both 4x5 and 8x10.
I prefer the look of 8x10, but the larger camera is not always practical.

As for cost- I shoot fewer 4x5 exposures than I shot 6x7 exposures. I shoot fewer sheets a day of 8x10 than I do 4x5, which has become more like mf to me since working with the bigger camera. Its hard to say that the film is as much more expensive as a sheet to sheet comparison would suggest. More importantly, when I add up my costs including gas and such, my film is normally third on my list of expenses.

Regarding the cost of gear, minimize it while learning. Don't buy junk, but its silly to spend $5 grand on equipment and worry about saving $500 on the film for it. I think if the average LF shooter spent as much a year on film as gear we wouldn't be having all the sheet film discontinuations that we've seen.

Corran
10-Feb-2012, 23:02
I just got into 8x10. My complete camera system, a camera over 100 years old and a 300mm f/4.5 lens with a few film holders and some free film, cost about $500. I got some of that x-ray film - $25 for 100 sheets. It works really, really well (after I did tests). I also discovered my 210mm Symmar-S covers 8x10 for a free wide angle.

Per sheet, 4x5 costs me more (I shoot T-Max 100 mostly). But I value the two systems - 4x5 for enlargements (T-Max 4x5 has more real resolution than x-ray 8x10, according to my scans), and 8x10 for contact prints.

If you are simply leaning towards 8x10, get an old wooden camera and x-ray film and you should be well under $1k.

scathontiphat
11-Feb-2012, 01:11
Jim, thanks for a great answer.


300mm f4.5 lenses litter ebay for very little money. The equivalent in look in 4X5 is a 150mm f2.4 or so. Easy math. There aren't any.

and good point. the picture i posted was taken with a 360mm @ f11. So that means finding a 180/5.6, of which there seems a good selection, but I imagine one that's sharp wide open would cost me a pretty penny. Maybe brings down the cost difference of 10x8 v. 5x4 gear. (BTW, it's MR. scathontiphat)


expired B&W film and started doing my own processing, which brought my costs down to about $0.25 a shot.
I think this may be a key point for me. since i've only shot 2 sheets so far, i paid for processing as i wasn't sure yet if i would end up buying a LF camera: 5/sheet + 7/sheet contact. So each snap so far has cost me about 16/$25! Old film and processing myself looks like a key point!

thanks again guys, very helpful!

jcoldslabs
11-Feb-2012, 01:16
If the average LF shooter spent as much a year on film as gear we wouldn't be having all the sheet film discontinuations that we've seen.

Amen to that!

J.

Zaitz
11-Feb-2012, 01:22
I don't think the price of a lot of the cameras differs that much. At least, comparing the cheap 8x10s to 4x5 cameras. Within the same brand they get more expensive as you move up. My C1 was the same price as my Crown Graphic 4x5. What I'm trying to say is I would recommend getting a cheap 8x10 camera with a 4x5 back. Win win! When you want or can...you can shoot 8x10. For the rest of the time you can use the 4x5 back. You also have room for a ton of movements and a jumbo lens board for the awesome lenses that are generally large. Kodak 2d, C1, any 8x10 you can find! That would be my suggestion.

Alan Gales
11-Feb-2012, 01:25
I shot 35mm for years. When digital killed medium format I started shooting medium format because I finally could afford it. I always dreamed of shooting 8x10 so I bought a 4x5 because it was cheaper and I thought it was a good idea for trying out large format. Just recently I bought an 8x10.

If you want to shoot 8x10 then just do it!

Robert Jonathan
11-Feb-2012, 20:41
B+W is "cheap" in 8x10 if you really like the format, and don't care to shoot color.

25 sheets of Ilford Delta 100 for $90? That's 100 sheets for $360.

Meanwhile, I spend close to $900 for 100 sheets of 8x10 Provia...

And then there's Kodak... $1300 for 10 boxes of E100G... bastards.

John NYC
11-Feb-2012, 22:05
I have been working on portrait photography in general for a while now (mostly in private since my subjects don't necessarily want their images posted online), and I specifically have a goal to do a lot of this work in 8x10. It has an incredible look due to the combination of depth of field for a given focal length.

Yes, I guess you could use a 50mm f/0.9 on 35mm film and get something similar to a wide open 14" Kodak Commercial Ektar in terms of depth of field, but you would not get the smooth tonality, the ability to contact print, or the ability to make a huge enlargement (either traditional or from a scan).

If contact prints or enormous enlargements are not in the mix, then the argument for using 8x10 over 4x5 is a little harder to make.

K. Praslowicz
19-Mar-2012, 13:40
I'm wondering from those people who have shot 8x10 and 4x5, what are your thoughts are on the "feel" (I know, super subjective) of 4x5 compares to 8x10. Deep down I think i know what the answer is, but I'm trying to convince myself that maybe 5x4 is a viable alternative. I'm not bothered by resolution. For me it's all about that oh-so-subjective feel of a format (which to me comes mostly from the way that the focus falls away, but also the tonality of the image).

Not reading any of the follow ups, just going to reply. (kill me)

I did a small show of portraits printed 11x14 with a mix from one from 8x10 & four from 4x5. Having someone with no photographic background identifying the one from the 8x10 as being different and asking me why it seemed more spectacular was all I really needed to answer this question.

aluncrockford
19-Mar-2012, 16:23
it could be said that the use of the 10x8 camera will actually require less film to produce a decent result for a number of reasons, the size of the format demands a level of concentration from both the sitter and the photographer which might help produce a connection between the two parties resulting in images that have a feel unlike any other format , interestingly the subjects also tend to treat the large format with a greater degree of respect and this might well also help the outcome. when viewing on a 10x8 screen you can see the subject with ease which helps give an better overview of the image ,i would also suggest that working with a 480mm lens will help isolate the person from the background which also helps the feel of connection between the viewer and originator. So to sum up i would stick to the 10x8 but work slower,and if you feel the picture is not working keep the film for another day, If you are interested then the work of Avedon , Sally Mann and laura McPhee to name but a few might give you a overview to the quality of the work that can be obtained with 10x8

aluncrockford
19-Mar-2012, 16:30
Also I have just seen that you are in the UK, nip over to the silverprint web site, Adox CHS is 119 per box of 50 sheets and produces very decent results indeed particularly with PMK which is also a very cost effective dev

http://www.silverprint.co.uk/ProductByGroup.asp?PrGrp=2203

J. Fada
19-Mar-2012, 16:56
I still make b&w prints in the darkroom so 4x5 is about as big as is practical for me. In a perfect world I would love to have the money and space to shoot and print 8x10. Not gonna happen anytime soon though.

If I ever get a drum scanner I might give 8x10 in color a go....

Roger Cole
19-Mar-2012, 17:41
My hesitation with 8x10 is the difficulty of enlarging it. (Ok, right now it's also that I want to upgrade my 4x5 kit first, and build out the basement which will finally get me running water in the darkroom and...)

4x5 enlargers are cheap and plentiful, and some people will even ship them. In my case I already have two. 8x10 enlargers can be very, very cheap but are basically impossible (or absurdly expensive) to ship, at least the full sized ones, plus you need to house the giant thing. Something like a Beseler with 8x10 head or Zone VI is a bit more affordable but you have to luck into finding one either locally or for sale from someone willing to ship.

8x10 is on my bucket list of things I'll do some day. But that day isn't tomorrow, or next week, or next month.

Vascilli
19-Mar-2012, 18:13
How would one reduce 8x10? I think at some point I'd like to make smaller prints, like 5x7s or 4x6s.

Jay DeFehr
19-Mar-2012, 18:43
I don't think there's any way for anyone but you to answer your question, but for the sake of discussion, I'll include my perspective on the issue. I shoot both, plus MF and 35mm (and very recently, digital as well). As far as the look of the image goes, there's nothing that's important to me that can be done in 8x10 that can't also be done in any other format, excepting the enlargement factor. If I want to make really big prints, I prefer a big negative. I don't buy any of the golden age crap, but then again, I don't really go for the blurry nose and forehead, or swirly, vignetted background look, either. I would describe my preference as no-bullshit portraiture. I don't care for studio props, obvious/unnatural posing, allegory, optical gimmickery like razor-thin depth of field or soft focus lenses, retro/vintage styling, etc., etc. I aspire to a well lit, well composed portrait that is more about the sitter than the lens or whatever other gadget that so often takes center stage in the portraits I see so often. If you care about making great portraits, you'll learn to do it with whatever equipment you have, and if you don't, it won't be because you don't have a big enough camera, or an old enough lens.

I like your first portrait very much, and I think it exemplifies the values I tried to express above. Keep it up!

Roger Cole
19-Mar-2012, 19:02
How would one reduce 8x10? I think at some point I'd like to make smaller prints, like 5x7s or 4x6s.


"Enlarger" with a long enough lens. I don't know how long that would have to be, though.

Jim Fitzgerald
19-Mar-2012, 20:12
I can say that as a traditional photographer shooting 8x10 and larger doing portraits is a wonderful thing. I have to find more victims I mean sitters! I have been using x-ray film and the portraits I've done are nice. The carbon prints are exquisite as far as I'm concerned. I pencil retouch my negatives and you can SEE what you are doing with an 8x10. I've got several lenses for this format from good old brass Darlot's to a nice 14" Commercial Ektar and have done them wide open and stopped down. Contact printed portraits for me are the best way to go. If I need bigger then I can go to my 11x14 or 14x17 if needed. All of these formats have x-ray film and you can shoot a lot of film for little money. My .02.
BTW if I do need a larger print I have an 8x10 enlarger and I can make a silver print.

Brian C. Miller
19-Mar-2012, 21:54
How would one reduce 8x10? I think at some point I'd like to make smaller prints, like 5x7s or 4x6s.


"Enlarger" with a long enough lens. I don't know how long that would have to be, though.

I have a reducer for my Omega enlarger. It's a bellows extension that fits on the lens stage, and then the lens board attaches to the end of the bellows. It's really susceptible to vibration. It works really well. So for your enlarger, you'd have to build something like that. (Personally, I think that I would just scan a contact print and then make an inkjet copy.)

neil poulsen
19-Mar-2012, 23:58
I think that your photograph is a good example of what 8x10 can achieve over 4x5. It's a very nice portrait. I like the bohah of having the eyes and face in focus, and parts of the sweater. Yet, other parts are out of focus in a way that emphasizes the important features of the photograph.

While I've had 8x10 for a while, and I recently purchased a second 8x10, I haven't done that much 8x10 photography. But, it doesn't strike me as that expensive. Large format is more deliberative, and less of a snapshot mentality. LF photography tends to make every negative count. So, the expense of an 8x10 negative doesn't seem that extreme, when one considers where it can lead. I think your photograph is a good example.

Kimberly Anderson
20-Mar-2012, 06:42
I have been fun learning how to shoot this 100 year old camera, 100 year old lens and 40 year old film. Me likey 8x10 for many reasons.

http://www.tawayama.com/centuryportraits/abigailcenturyportrait.jpg

Drew Bedo
20-Mar-2012, 08:29
If you can find a medical clinic that still uses film for X-Rays, the automatic processor and its chemistry will be compatable with Tri-X (but not T-Max and other films). You may be able to work out a deal,barter or otherwise, that will cut out the cost of processing. The processor will take 8x1 sheets and turn out a dry negative within 90 sec or so.

Its not much, but its something.

Bill Burk
20-Mar-2012, 08:39
Part of the Golden Age of portraiture was the retouching, which is a lot easier on larger film.

(And I assume those who dabble in the art of retouching today will not reach the level of expertise that was prevalent during that same Golden Age - so we need easier).

rdenney
20-Mar-2012, 09:06
"Enlarger" with a long enough lens. I don't know how long that would have to be, though.

You mean a long enough bellows. One can always put a box under the easel to raise it up, but it won't work if the bellows reach their limit before the image focuses.

Rick "who has made 2x3 prints from 4x5 in an Omega D3, but it took a shorter lens not to require too much bellows draw" Denney

Jay DeFehr
20-Mar-2012, 09:29
Part of the Golden Age of portraiture was the retouching, which is a lot easier on larger film.

(And I assume those who dabble in the art of retouching today will not reach the level of expertise that was prevalent during that same Golden Age - so we need easier).

I've been trying to teach myself retouching for the last year, or so. I spent most of my youth with a pencil in hand, so that's the method I began with, but have expanded from there. There's a product called Liquid graphite that I apply with a brush, and then blend like pencil. My favorite work flow is to make an enlarged interpositive, and retouch that, and then make a negative by contact and retouch that. This two-stage retouching allows me to work in pencil (as opposed to the usual scalpel/abrasion methods used on originals) to enhance both high and low values at actual printing size, without marking the original in any way.

This is a lot of fun, and I don't have any anxiety about ruining a valuable original, and it works in conjunction with various masking techniques. A well made 6x7cm negative is capable of excellent 16x20 prints, and 4x5 is more than adequate up to 20x24, but I've been using mostly 35mm and MF negatives enlarged to 8x10 for carbon printing, because that's the limit of my exposing apparatus.

I disagree about the "golden age" retouchers' expertise eclipsing anything we might do. I've seen some of Hurrell's and Sinclair Bull's retouched negatives, and they were less than subtle. I can already do better, after a year or so of experimenting in my spare time. I'm sure they did it faster, and in greater volume, but that doesn't interest me. My goal is to make portraits that give nothing away in quality to any ever made by anyone. Not quite there yet, but I'm gaining!

Vascilli
20-Mar-2012, 10:29
If you can find a medical clinic that still uses film for X-Rays, the automatic processor and its chemistry will be compatable with Tri-X (but not T-Max and other films). You may be able to work out a deal,barter or otherwise, that will cut out the cost of processing. The processor will take 8x1 sheets and turn out a dry negative within 90 sec or so.

Its not much, but its something.

Can you elaborate? My mom's a dentist and has an x-ray processor.