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Thread: New to Large Format Landscape Photography

  1. #11

    Join Date
    Nov 2017

    Re: New to Large Format Landscape Photography


    Thank you for the warm welcome. I really appreciate you taking the time to provide such an in-depth response. In light of what you've helped me to understand, it seems a 4x5 kit is much more versatile. And since it also doesn't have to be much heavier than a 6x9 kit, in addition to the fact that I would like to shoot 4x5 film as much as I can, it definitely makes it the more appealing option. When I look at photographs made with large format cameras, the detail retention and the depth of focus are the most readily evident and desirable qualities. It seems to me that the ability to adjust the plane of focus for sweeping vistas and produce detailed studies of intimate natural scenes are made eminently possible with field cameras. I'm really excited to learn.

    One other question if it's not too much trouble: How much of a quality difference do you notice between 6x9 and 4x5? I am almost sure I am going to choose a 4x5 camera and also purchase a roll film back for it so I can shoot both 4x5 sheet and/or 120/220 film depending upon the situation, but I am just curious as to how much of a quality gap there is. Regardless, I'm sure they are both a large improvement over what I am used to.

    I am finding the link to lightweight lenses to be very useful as well as the ideas for lighter wooden 4x5 cameras so thank you. I also intend to get Ansel's books. By the way, I visited your website via the link at the bottom of your post and was deeply inspired. Your work is stunningly beautiful and I admire it greatly. I hope to be at this level someday. Both your photos and your "hotel and shower" comment communicated a similarity of style and approach to my own, haha. It seems you read right into how I go about all of this. Anyway, you've provided extremely direct responses to my questions and elucidated many of the issues to which I have been attempting to understand for quite some time and, for this, I am very grateful. Oh, and yes I would definitely like to read a copy of that article you mentioned that you wrote for View Camera magazine if possible. Thank you so much for all the guidance Doremus, I really appreciate it.


  2. #12

    Join Date
    Nov 2017

    Re: New to Large Format Landscape Photography

    Thank you everyone for all the helpful information. I appreciate all the support and the willingness to help someone new to the forum and the format. I am taking a lot of this new information into consideration and doing more research. Each of you have brought some new things to my attention for me to explore. Anybody have ideas they'd like to share on the aesthetic photo quality difference between 6x9 and 4x5? I think I'll be going with a 4x5 camera but also shoot roll film with it in addition to 4x5 sheets.

    Thanks again all!

  3. #13

    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    New Jersey

    Re: New to Large Format Landscape Photography

    Ryan, I suspect you will receive a number of opinions on the comparison of 6x9 vs 4x5. In my experience the difference depends almost exclusively on your final print size. I make all my "good" prints on 11x14 paper, because that is the largest my darkroom allows comfortably. The overall space requirements for 16x20 trays is a significant jump. That said, I see very little, if any, difference between the two negative sizes when printed to that size. However I much prefer working with 4x5 both because of the "tactile" feel of the big negatives (I simply find them more fun to develop and print) plus the ability to shoot the same scene on two negatives (i.e. the two sheets in a typical two-sided film holder) and then have the ability to develop the 2nd negative differently based on my results with the first negative (i.e. use a different developer or a different development time, or simply a second copy if I scratch the first or mess up in some other way).

  4. #14

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Oregon and Austria

    Re: New to Large Format Landscape Photography


    Thanks for the kind words about my website and work! Please use the personal message function on this site (PM) to send me a message with your e-mail address and I'll send you my article on movements.

    As for 6x9 vs. 4x5. The extra film area, of course, will get you a bit more quality all other things being equal. The main advantage of sheet film for me is that I can develop each sheet individually. This may or may not be a help for you depending on your film-developing/darkroom facilities. I develop sheet film by hand in trays and find it easy, low-tech and flexible (and I don't mind spending time in the dark). Others have problems developing by hand and use Jobo processors or some kind of daylight tank or even dip-and-dunk processing lines with hangers. If you decide for sheet film, you'll have to find a method that suits you.

    Some have mentioned just going medium format and using roll film. This is a fine solution for many. However, with me it lasted about a month... I found myself cursing at my 6x6 camera on a tripod because it didn't have movements. I quickly moved up to 4x5 and never looked back. My first camera was a Graphic View II monorail which I actually carried on hikes for a short time. It quickly became apparent that a field camera would be much, much more convenient.

    Camera movements, for me, form a basic and important part of my approach to photography. I use them to subtly control the perspective rendering and the optical center of my images; a camera without movements just won't work for me. I seem to end up with my camera twisted up like a pretzel much more often than I would suspect, even with "straightforward" landscape shots, and especially with the cityscape work I do. Again, it's a personal choice and approach and you'll have to find what works best for you.

    A comment about depth-of-field vs. format size. The laws of physics don't really change for format However, in practice, a smaller format with a shorter-focal-length "normal" lens will render more depth of field for the same angle of view than a larger one at the same aperture. The challenge with larger film is to maximize DoF by stopping down more and using movements to optimally position the plane of sharp focus in the scene in order to minimize the effective focus spread. Hence tripod, small apertures and movements.

    An indispensable resource that I didn't mention in my first post is the LF home page: There are a lot of articles there that I found particularly helpful, especially the ones on focusing the view camera and choosing the optimum f-stop.

    Have fun!


  5. #15

    Join Date
    Jul 2016

    Re: New to Large Format Landscape Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan S. View Post
    Thank you everyone for all the helpful information. I appreciate all the support and the willingness to help someone new to the forum and the format. I am taking a lot of this new information into consideration and doing more research. Each of you have brought some new things to my attention for me to explore. Anybody have ideas they'd like to share on the aesthetic photo quality difference between 6x9 and 4x5? I think I'll be going with a 4x5 camera but also shoot roll film with it in addition to 4x5 sheets.

    Thanks again all!
    This depends on a number of factors... one is aspect ratio.

    6x9 is 2:3 and 4x5 is 4:5 aspect ratio. So... are you thinking in a final print aspect ratio ? A lot of people prefer 6x7 becasue they hate 3:2 ratio, but 3:2 may be way better for panoramas, of course you always can crop...

    IMHO with 6x9 you get a lot of Image Quality allowing big prints, here you have a test (I think very fair) about image quality:

    The aesthetical difference comes when using defocus as an aesthetical resource, the longuer focal length delivers a bit different defocus look in the same way that DX DSLR looks different than FX when defocus is used, as you frame the same scene with a different focal length.

    If in your scene all is in focus you won't notice much aesthetical difference.

    Also it depends on how you shot. With 120 you may do a shot that's not much worth, or shot something with not much care, but a sheet is a sheet, one tends to think very carefully before spending a sheet, not only because sheet price, also because you have hauled all that gear, made very accurate metering, framing and focusing until perfection, stayed sitting on the snow since 6:00AM, then (if BW) you calculated a developent and dedicated time to cook that sheet alone with the suitable process/agitation and then you also are to obtain a very big file after a long scan or you have to design a custom drakroom procedure (that can be extraordinarily complex) to obtain a sound print.

    It is a personal choice how easy you press the shutter release and what amount of devoted dedication you throw in a particular shot.

    IMHO when you want to invest a lot of effort for a great image then 4x5 (or 8x10, when you can...) is the great thing. When you want to take a lot of shots with lower commitment then 120 (or 35mm) has an advantage.

    My personal view is that today there are tons of easy made photographs everywhere, some really, really good (art does not depend on format), but a choice is to invest an effort to get best image you can by traditional methods. I can bring home 1000 photos in an SD card that I will not remember its existence... see here how Ansel was remembering the "EXIF" of a shot long decades after (min 0:30):

  6. #16

    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    North Yorkshire

    Re: New to Large Format Landscape Photography

    Ryan, as well as thinking about the weight of a 5x4 camera and lenses, you should also consider the weight of the film holders. This is easily overlooked. Six film holders weigh about 2.5 lb. My Shen Hao field camera and lens weigh about 5.5 lb. Plus six film holders that's 8 lb.
    People always joke about the weight of a Mamiya RB67, but mine , together with 127mm lens, weighs 6 lb. That's 2lb less than the Shen Hao and 6 film holders. And I've found that 16 x 20 darkroom prints from RB67 negatives stand up really well in comparison to 16 x 20 prints from 5x4 negatives... But the RB doesn't have movements. But I can develop 2 rolls of 120 film at a time, compared to 4 sheets of 5x4 film at a time...And I can afford to use my favourite Ilford film in 120 format, but not in 5x4 where ilforf sheet film is prohibitably expensive..
    And so the arguments go round.
    In my case I have a home-built lightweight 5x4 camera that weighs only 2lb, and tips the argument in favour of 5x4, but there are other points in favour of medium format...
    If you come up with a good solution to all this, be sure to let me know!

    Good luck,

  7. #17
    Jim Jones's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Chillicothe Missouri USA

    Re: New to Large Format Landscape Photography

    Ryan, I used 35mm almost exclusively for many decades during a rather mobile life. Eventually a 4x5 became practical for some photography. Roll film is a good compromise for someone wanting better print quality without the hassle of large format.
    A few medium format cameras have some of the versatility of LF, and are affordable. Burke & James, Busch, and Graflex made press cameras with some front movements. Older Roll film holders are occasionally available for all of these. The practical Graflok back works on most medium format Graflex cameras. I have an older Busch onto which a previous owner neatly grafted a Graflok holder. On most of these little press cameras there are inconvenient work-arounds that duplicate rear tilt. The later Burke & James have a revolving back and front swings, but aren't built as well as the Graphics. All of these cameras accept a wide variety of lenses. Despite the potential in such roll film cameras, I find that an appropriate 4x5 can be little bulkier and heavier. The 4x5 Ikeda camera, three lenses, and a few film holders weighs about 16 pounds. Some full SLR kits are heavier than that.
    As for depth of field, it is equal regardless of film size when similar photographs of the same scene are shot from the same position and enlarged to the same size with the same linear diameter of aperture size. This means that a 4x5 camera has the same DOF when stopped down to f/32 as a 35mm camera at f/8.

  8. #18

    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Tucson AZ

    Re: New to Large Format Landscape Photography

    I regularly shoot 6 x 12 or 6 x 9 with my 4 x 5 Technika and a Sinar Vario roll film holder. I rather like the (admittedly somewhat heavy) combination because I can use 4 X 5 when I want to and I have all the movements of the Technika, which are pretty extensive. Almost any 4 x 5 camera will accommodate a variety of roll film holders of course. Regardless of the film size, composing is a lot easier on the larger ground glass.

  9. #19

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Newbury, Vermont

    Re: New to Large Format Landscape Photography

    As you’d mentioned photographing in wilderness areas, do keep in mind that hauling gear into the wilderness is one thing, but actually using this gear successfully (in your intended manner) can be something else entirely…depending upon a host of environmental conditions - the presence of excessive wind, rain, snow, blowing sand, etc. (not to mention the terrain itself, which can make establishing a desired LF/tripod vantage point impossible), plus the speed at which these conditions (including light) can change.

    In my own case…to help ensure that I can come away from a trek into the wilds with some successful photographs, I’ll typically throw a Fuji/Voigtlander 667W (6x7/55mm lens rangefinder camera) into my mix of LF gear, and will press this MF camera into service when conditions indicate against or otherwise prevent LF use. As a 63 year old who truly appreciates that ounces matter…this “extra” camera is still worth its weight in gold!

  10. #20

    Re: New to Large Format Landscape Photography

    5x4 has significant advantages over 2x3-6x9, camera size and weight is similar, what is most different is size of 5x4 film holders -vs- rolls of 120 film. The nice 6x9 cameras like Arca Swiss are pricy, really wide angle lenses for 6x9 like 38mm super angulon or 35mm grandagon are pricy. Once the focal length goes up to say 47mm they are significantly less pricy.

    2x3-6x9 was an alternative press camera size used primarily by the new-media image making folks. Often used in much the same way as a 5x4 Speed Graphic press camera.

    Difference in image quality is not as significant as learning the skill set required to create expressive images. 35mm or digital is often about decisive moment images, while sheet film images are often about observed-conceived and crafted images.

    While there has been much discussion about camera size weight and such, packing significant amounts of 5x4 sheet film in holders can easily equal the size and bulk of the camera. One possible solution to this would be to use Graphmatic film holders. These hold six sheets per holders and about twice the thickness of standard two sheet 5x4 holder. They do weight more, but given what they offer in size savings they work well for portability.

    Sheet film availability for sheet films is best in 5x4 with modest cost. This matters due to the film cost of the learning process. Expect to burn and waste a LOT of film before getting up on the learning curve.

    Be ready to process lots of film and dealing with the post processed film process of creating the image. This could be using the traditional dark room enlarger route or scan-digital.

    Add a roll film back gives roll film ability to the 5x4 camera with not much more than adding the roll film back of your choice in 6x6, 6x7, 6x9, 6x12.

    Tripods are another consideration, given this will be a low weight camera system a good 35mm or DSLR tripod should be good enough. This is a consideration as a tripod is mostly required for view camera work.

    There are all the usual accessories that come with using a view camera, light meter, dark-cloth, focusing loupe, cable release for the shutter, small tape measure, filters as needed. These need to be figured into the overall system size, weight and bulk.

    There are negatives to a light weight view camera system as they have lower inherent stability when windy and the camera itself can have lesser mechanical precision and accuracy, but these are more often than not a non-issue.

    Suggestion would be to get a very modest cost camera as it is really a light tight box with adjustable ends and not much more. It just needs to be stable enough, precise enough, accurate enough and durable for reliable operation. IMO, brands and age matters little as long as the camera meets these requirements. If the camera looks a bit beat up, it could be better suited to being hauled around in a back pack to make images than a pretty camera sitting on a shelf being eye candy.

    As for lenses, get a compact lens set with modern and reliable shutters. Whacky shutter performance will compound the difficulty of the view camera learning process. Do not get overly obsessed with which lens is better than that lens for now. There are definitely differences, but at this point learning the process and skills required to craft view camera images is FAR more important and significant.

    Last edited by Bernice Loui; 4-Dec-2017 at 10:22. Reason: -

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