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Thread: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

  1. #1

    Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    I'm a young person looking at immersing myself in large format photography. I have years of experience with 35mm and 6x6, and now I'm looking to take my passion further.Took a few books out of the university library. Over the past two months a pile of notes has accumulated from my readings on view cameras. The only caveat is that I work minimum wage (albeit with tremendous savings), and I've got some budget concerns.

    I'd really like to get a hefty 8x10, which would probably clear out my savings. Perhaps it would feel well worth it, though. I've considered a 4x5, but my worry there is that by the time I decide I want to try out another camera, I might not be able to get enough resale value out of it to recoup enough cash to upgrade. This is complicated by the fact that many of the brands and models detailed in the books I've read no longer exist. The used equipment remaining from before is then contrasted against modern equipment, like Chamonix or Calumet, which I have absolutely no knowledge of. So where ought I begin? Considering the tenuous future of film negative production, would this be a poor investment?

  2. #2
    Jac@stafford.net's Avatar
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    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    First, welcome.

    I've considered a 4x5, but my worry there is that by the time I decide I want to try out another camera, I might not be able to get enough resale value out of it to recoup enough cash to upgrade.
    I'll put this out there for possible correction. IMHO values of 8x10 cameras are more likely to fall than 4x5 because they are expensive to feed. Regarding which camera, all you need to start making technically good images is a light-proof bellows (or the ability to patch a few pinholes) and all the fasteners, locks in good order. Others can speak to lens selections. An inexpensive used view camera is still an adequate camera, and it's easier to move away from inexpensive when you are more experienced.

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    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    Hi and welcome!

    Jac's hypothesis on the future value of 8x10 cameras rings true to me. But why do you want 8x10? To me it is not only 4x bigger film but a 4x bigger hassle to use. Without a good reason it might not be worth the hassle... and can be a lot more expensive to procure. And please also think about the word "investment". One generally does not buy camera equipment with any kind of realistic expectation of increased value; recouping purchase cost is hard enough and often impossible.

    But my bottom line is to buy what you want and need to make the kind of photos you want to make. Being frugal is good, but being too frugal too soon is not.

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    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    Where are you at? Some places have more gear than others.

    If you are really low budget, make a camera. study DIY and Pinhole in this forum and all Internet.

    Start with X-Ray film, study that right here on this forum.

    Many here love X-Ray film.

    Read everything you can. It takes time. I started LF 4 years ago I am still a novice.
    sin eater

  5. #5

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    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    Budget concerns? A nice Calumet 4x5, a lens and some holders might run about $250 USD if you're careful. Then get some sort of developing tank if you don't have a darkroom, another $50-100. Buy cheap film or use xray, and you're done. Triple that to get something usable in 8x10. You can easily sell the 4x5 gear later (probably for what you paid for it) if you don't like it.

    B&W negative films will be around for a long time. In terms of "investment"-- you can usually re-sell your gear for about what you paid for it if you're careful, don't expect better than break-even and you'll be fine.

  6. #6

    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    Go as big as as you can..redundancy of buying equipment over and overl...I've done it; learn from my mistakes

  7. #7

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    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    With a group this weekend in the E. Sierras (Jim Fitzgerald) doing awesome work on Xray film ~ 8X10. Jim had a bunch of his carbon prints. Gorgeous. 8X10 will be around as long as people still want to make contact prints with enough size to have some presence.

    And, there's never been a better time, as prices are diminishing because of so many old timer's bailing out.

    If you want your work to have "signature" 8X10 is the viable hold out to computer stuff. Explore soft focus. 8X10 and soft focus = brute force.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  8. #8

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    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    Cost, portability and ease of use can be significant factors between your selection of 4x5 or 8x10. Have you also considered what you intend to do for output - conventional photo printing or digital printing? If you choose conventional photo processing, shooting 8x10 means contact printing only unless you buy an 8x10 enlarger (which will set you back space and cost wise), whereas 4x5 enlargers can frequently be found on Craigslist and elsewhere, and won't consume your darkroom nearly as much (what is your plan for setting up a darkroom?). On the other hand, if you intend to scan and print the images on an inkjet printer, shooting 8x10 is massive overkill. 4x5 negs scan very well and can be printed quite large via your inkjet printer. Jumping into 8x10 without really understanding all of the associated cost and logistical ramifications could be a mistake. Despite what some may say, it isn't trivial to just sell off your LF equipment at the same price that you paid for it. There is almost always some depreciation, even in the used market, and even in this forum's "For Sale" listings. You should beg, borrow or rent some LF equipment and see what you can do with it first, before jumping in blindly.

  9. #9

    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    A big issue budget wise for me is that I live in Montreal, and our dollar is worth nothing (77 cents against USD) right now. This is why I'd like to be careful money wise. A $400 dollar camera is $500, a $600 dollar camera is nearly $800, etc.

  10. #10
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Where to start? Is it too late to start? Beginner seeking advice.

    My first decent LF camera was a 5x7 Burke & James flatbed, to which I soon added a 4x5 back for practical enlarging. That B&J was a mainstay for maybe 25 years, and is yet occasionally used. One shouldn't have to pay more than US $100 for a comparable camera without a lens today. With a suitable lens (not a 127mm or 135mm lens from a press camera with limited covering power) they can be an even better buy. Lens boards are easy to improvise. When shopping for any view camera, be sure it comes with the necessary original components such as a tripod mount or extension rail. If you track the prices of cameras of interest that actually sell both here and on ebay, you'll get to know about what price to buy or sell at. I expect only a modest change in value over several years.

    Rather than compare older cameras to the newest offerings, just consider what they are capable of. Even inexpensive old view cameras are capable of almost any photograph that the newest and best cameras can produce. They may be less convenient, and may be more (or less) finicky in some adjustments. Some of the greatest photographs of previous generations were captured by cameras that would be considered junk today. If your interest in LF photography persists, your first LF camera will likely not be your last. Consider it as part of your education. With hands on experience, you'll be far more prepared to buy a second camera, if needed. If you bought carefully, that first camera with a well written ad and perhaps a few examples of photographs it produced, should sell for about what you paid. You might even keep it for it's best features, and supplement it with a camera with different capabilities. Over many decades I've accumulated press, flatbed view, and monorail view cameras for those photographs for each type excels.

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