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Thread: Rendering quality when shooting 120 on 4x5 camera

  1. #1

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    Rendering quality when shooting 120 on 4x5 camera

    Entry level question - I'm considering getting a 120 roll film back for my Graflex Graphic View II. I know of grain and resolution loss, but in terms of the rendering quality - DOF, etc. do i lose anything from shooting with 120 instead of 4x5 sheet? That is, will I get that "large format look" on 120?

    Thanks!

  2. #2

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    Re: Rendering quality when shooting 120 on 4x5 camera

    No. You'll gain the use of movements over a medium format slr. I guess it depends on what you mean by large format look. Clarity, tonality, lots of detail? Then no. Why not just shoot sheet film?

  3. #3
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Rendering quality when shooting 120 on 4x5 camera

    Depends on a lot of things. I sometimes get into situations where I try to make a chihuahua have the attitude of a rottweiler. Getting critical focus on that smaller film area is a more finicky business, and not all roll film backs are precise, nor the film plane itself on many camera. You also have to be certain the roll film back will not tug the film plane out of focus due to excessive weight or thickness. But if you take the time to check all these variable for precision, you can save money on film and attain greater portability for those situations you don't need big enlargements. And at the same time, you still have the option of shooting full sized 4x5 when necessary. My brother sometimes shot 6x9 on his 4x5 Technika, which is obviously a very precise camera, but almost never got sharp shots that way. But I seem to get extremely sharp ones using my Horseman roll film back on both my Ebony and Sinar cameras using modern films like
    Ektar and ACROS; but I've done a total protocol on both systems, including measuring the flatness and exact depth of the film plane using machinist's precision
    tools. But logistically, I just returned from backpacking in Wyoming for two weeks, and that's quite a load of food and gear at my age when you account for a
    full view camera system too. The extra weight of a changing tent and actual 4x5 film would have been negligible, so that wasn't my motive. Bulk was, but an even bigger priority was lens selection. I wanted long lenses to home in on the crags. A 450 would have been approriate on full 4x5 using my Sinar, but with
    my little Ebony I get less extension, and a 300M gives me the same perspective on 6x9. I also wanted that slightly more rectangular crop for many of these
    scenes, so in this particular instance I mainly shot 6x9 instead of sheet film. In the darkroom I'd much rather be enlargin stiffer sheet film every time, but with
    a little more fuss I'll still get some excellent prints. I've got a neg in the enlarger right now, and maybe I'll get a break this weekend to print it. Maybe not.

  4. #4

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    Re: Rendering quality when shooting 120 on 4x5 camera

    You lose half the picture!

    You're not thinking about this the right way...

    A camera is just a box to hold in the dark. Doesn't matter what size it is!

    Now in 4x5, a "normal" lens would roughly be a 150mm. The 120 would roughly be 90mm. So if you use a 120 back on a 4x5 camera, you'd also need to use a 90mm for the normal focal length. Then you're just using a large 120 camera. If you put the 150mm on it with the 120 back, you're using a 4x5 camera but cropping out the picture at the 120 film size.

    There's nothing wrong with either way which is why 120 backs were popular. But try using a 120 film wide lens like a 65mm on the GVII. It gets a little tight...

  5. #5
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Rendering quality when shooting 120 on 4x5 camera

    He's talking about 120 film size, Rich, not hypothetical lens focal length, which he didn't even mention. But yeah, it's trickier to do this kind of thing with shorter
    focal length unless the view camera is specifically made for them. One currently popular application involves 6x12 roll film backs for panoramic work. If you're
    just going to crop 4x5 in half anyway, this makes a lot of sense. Personally, I'd rather be shooting 8x10 than any of the above; but there are those times.....

  6. #6
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Rendering quality when shooting 120 on 4x5 camera

    Good idea to use a rollfilm back to get used to the camera before going to 4x5" film. But, as the others have indicated, your images will be similar or perhaps identical to those taken with a medium format camera. If you are going to stick with rollfilm, make sure the camera's zero detents are aligned correctly (you can use a laser/pointer). Imagine how poor the horizon focus would be on a Hasselblad if one held the lens on with duct tape and tried to 'eyeball' the alignment.

  7. #7

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    Re: Rendering quality when shooting 120 on 4x5 camera

    Quote Originally Posted by ic-racer View Post
    Good idea to use a rollfilm back to get used to the camera before going to 4x5" film. But, as the others have indicated, your images will be similar or perhaps identical to those taken with a medium format camera. If you are going to stick with rollfilm, make sure the camera's zero detents are aligned correctly (you can use a laser/pointer). Imagine how poor the horizon focus would be on a Hasselblad if one held the lens on with duct tape and tried to 'eyeball' the alignment.
    Thanks everyone! This was really helpful. My primary reason for considering roll film was from a cost and ease of use standpoint while I learn the ins and outs of my camera. Well, I'm guessing it would be easier...I'd have more exposures without having to change media right? Developing by 3rd party lab is cheaper too. I think the local lab is charging 4.50 per 4x5 sheet vs 6.00 for one roll of MF. Youch! My darkroom will come in time, but until then...it's the shop!

    I was mostly curious about the much shallower DOF of LF vs MF and how it compares form one format to the other. I suspected I'd crop by using a smaller film size. I didn't consider at all how tricky it would be for focus though. Or is that just for shorter focal lengths?

    Anyways I've been plastering the Intertubes with all my newbie dumb questions and learning along the way from you more experienced types :-).

  8. #8

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    Re: Rendering quality when shooting 120 on 4x5 camera

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    But logistically, I just returned from backpacking in Wyoming for two weeks, and that's quite a load of food and gear at my age when you account for a
    full view camera system too.
    Drew, that's my ultimate goal - to take a LF cam out into the mountains and shoot. Would be difficult will this monorail but if the LF process works for me, I'd switch to something more portable. I paid $55 for the GVII with no lens or back. I couldn't resist that deal, otherwise I would have gotten a field camera.

    I even have fantasies of doing collodion out there. heh. But that's getting ahead of myself by a lot. Do you have a gallery or anything? Would love to see your work.

  9. #9
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Rendering quality when shooting 120 on 4x5 camera

    Quote Originally Posted by Peakbagger View Post
    ...I was mostly curious about the much shallower DOF of LF vs MF and how it compares form one format to the other. I suspected I'd crop by using a smaller film size. I didn't consider at all how tricky it would be for focus though. Or is that just for shorter focal lengths?...
    To keep it simple, DoF is controlled by three factors 1) focal length of the lens (longer the lens, the less DoF), 2) Aperture (larger the aperture, the smaller the DoF), and 3) camera-to-subject distance (closer to the subject, the less DoF). Format does not really enter into it if one is enlarging the different formats to the same degree (or contact printing). LF was the rep of having shallow DoF only because one tends to (but not always) use longer lenses than MF and 35mm.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  10. #10
    IanG's Avatar
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    Re: Rendering quality when shooting 120 on 4x5 camera

    If you're shooting 120 with a 5x4 camera and want results that are close to 5x4 sheet film quality you need to use the slowest 120 film you can, in my case that used to be Agfa APX25, these days it would be Pan F.

    Although I rarely use it these days I used to always carry a 120 6x9 roll film back when out backpacking, I stopped about the time APX 25 was discontinued and I began to run out of it.

    Ian

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