View Poll Results: Which format would you suggest?

140. You may not vote on this poll
  • 8x10

    32 22.86%
  • 4x5

    88 62.86%
  • Other size, please specify

    20 14.29%
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Thread: Is 4x5 big enough?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2015

    Is 4x5 big enough?

    Hi I'm really interested in getting into LF, partly for the quality, and partly for the control. It seems that most people advise that 4x5 is the most obvious choice for people who're moving from smaller formats. However I'm currently using medium format, 6x6 to be specific, and (taking the dimensions of square medium format in inches to be 2 1/4", by 2 1/4") that makes 4x5 only 78% taller, and 122% wider. It doesn't really seem like a significantly big increase in resolution between the two formats. In area the difference is roughly a factor of four, but this comes at a significant weight and size disadvantage.

    Is it better to move straight to 8x10? I've heard that the quality of 8x10 contact prints is second to none, and this is the sort of size I was thinking of typically printing to, and 8x10 cameras aren't that much larger than 4x5 camera. I know even 110 could be blown up to that sort of size without much issue, but obviously this is that cost of quality, control (and depth of field).

    So far I have short list of pros and cons (well, really just pros) for the two formats. I'd greatly appreciate the input, or opinion of anyone who has made similar decisions, or is experienced with LF, thank you all greatly.

    +depth of field (in my case, whilst a high degree of control is useful, a shallower dof is preferable to deeper one.)
    +size of contact print
    +ability to scan with cheaper scanner
    +maximum printing size

    +price of camera
    +price of film
    +price of lenses
    +variety of lenses

    N.B. This is my first post on here, I hope I have followed the correct format, and guidelines. If not I'd greatly appreciate your constructive criticisms.
    P.S The sort of photography I'd be using it for is mostly landscapes, and outdoor still life. Although I was thinking of getting into a little portraiture too.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Re: Is 4x5 big enough?

    What do you want to do? How much are you willing to invest?
    Do you want to shoot color? Then I suggest you shoot 4x5 as 8x10 color is horrifically expensive.
    If you want to make B&W contact prints or play with different photographic processes, then 8x10 (or 5x7) will probably give you more pleasing results.
    Another difference, besides the cost, is bulk---everything 8x10 is bulkier & heavier---film holders, tripod, lenses, etc....
    Not to discourage you from 8x10---it is my preferred format---but you can learn all you really need to learn about LF with a 4x5 and then, if necessary, grow from there.
    "I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority"---EB White

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    New York, NY

    Re: Is 4x5 big enough?

    You missed 5x7, the sweet spot in terms of size, resolution, weight, aspect ratio, and cost.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Oct 2013

    Re: Is 4x5 big enough?

    It would be helpful to know more about your expected output - small prints vs (really) large prints, B&W vs color? Usually cost is a very real limiting factor, but you haven't mentioned a budget. After that, there is the "degree of difficulty" factor, which goes up correspondingly with camera and negative size. Do you find your best shots from long hikes? You should also search this forum for the many other threads which debate choosing one size format over another. And then of course the ULF guys will make fun of you choosing the "puny formats"...

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Oct 2012

    Re: Is 4x5 big enough?

    The difference, and increase in quality from 6x6 to 4x5 is significant.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Aug 2013

    Re: Is 4x5 big enough?

    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Kellogg View Post
    You missed 5x7, the sweet spot in terms of size, resolution, weight, aspect ratio, and cost.
    I second that.
    Thanks, but I'd rather just watch:
    Large format:
    Mostly 35mm:
    You want digital, color, etc?:

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada

    Re: Is 4x5 big enough?

    I voted other size, as in 5x7.

    It isn't all that much bigger or heavier than 4x5, and yet the ground glass, negatives and contact prints are just a nicer size to deal with.
    However the downfall is film availability.
    Although there are several B&W films available, there is no currently produced color film unless you special order it or cut down 8x10 sheets.

    I have not tried 8x10 yet so I'm not qualified on that.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    North Bay, CA

    Re: Is 4x5 big enough?

    I have 20 years of experience as a hobbyist shooting 135 and 6x6. I shoot b/w and in the past when I had access to a dark room made wet prints. I am a beginner with large format and have so far shot 500 sheets of 4x5 or thereabouts. I didn't go for LF for the size but rather for the movements since I decided I want to shoot old buildings. I had a 6x9 "large format" camera for a while but then slapped myself in the forehead and said I could have bought a 4x5! I thought I should start with roll film. It was the sheet film and the processing that scared me not the actual picture taking. Handling sheet film in general with the holders, and then the processing and all that requires practice and even if you eventually shoot 8x10.

    When I got in to 4x5 photography a wise man told me: "you will never keep your first camera and your first set of lenses". I asked why? He said: "that is because you would never know what you need in a camera nor the right lenses until you start shooting and shooting and then you will know what you need."

    Another thing is the size. A few months ago I was in Venice Italy shooting with my Ebony SW45. I shot twice a day, sunrise and sunset. I walked roughly 4 hours a day carrying the camera, tripod, lenses, 6 holders, and the rest of the tools. I did that for 3 days. I can't imagine doing that with 8x10. This is the type of shooting I like to do, getting up at 5am and walk for hours and hours.

    My suggestion is to start with a low priced used 4x5 with a 90mm and 150mm and shoot that for a few years. It will come to you naturally after a while what you want to shoot.

  9. #9
    Jim Jones's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Chillicothe Missouri USA

    Re: Is 4x5 big enough?

    I used 5x7 for years, until losing the 5x7 enlarger in a darkroom fire. The Elwood enlarger was so tall and the ceiling so low that it sat on the floor. Inconvenient! Back then (1970s and 1980s) 5x7 was more practical, partly due to the availability of film and film holders. Downsizing to 4x5 was a pleasure. I almost never wrestle with the 8x10 camera.

    Starting with 4x5 seems logical. One can make a wiser final decision after experience with the small format. 4x5 negatives printed at 8x10 or larger retain enough image quality to satisfy many of us. They can be printed in different sizes and formats. 4x5 cameras come in a greater variety of styles, sizes, and weights than larger formats, from 2.5 pound field cameras to monorails that accept really long lenses. If shallow DOF is a priority, fast lenses in 4x5 compete with slower 8x10 lenses. A photographer that prefers the exquisite quality of 8x10 contact prints may yet use a 4x5 on many occasions.

  10. #10
    jp's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Re: Is 4x5 big enough?

    I have not decided and have used both for a few years.

    I can make nice scans out of 4x5 or 8x10.
    8x10 makes REALLY nice contact prints. A 4x5 could be blown up and printed on pictorico and have a bigger digital negative if needed, but it's nice to make contact prints with the actual negative that was in the camera.
    4x5 has more developing options in terms of tanks/systems, etc.. 8x10 is basically tray or jobo or sewer pipe.
    4x5 is easier to optically enlarge; you don't need a monster enlarger.
    I like old lenses; many are built or seem to work nicest for 8x10, others are smaller and meant for 4x5.
    If it's studio work, the size/weight difference doesn't matter. If it's lugging gear in nature for miles, 4x5 is substantially smaller and lighter. e.g. multiple 4x5 film holders fit in my jacket pocket, 8x10 film holders are the size of a contemporary laptop.

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