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Thread: 4x5 or 8x10?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    4x5 or 8x10?

    I'm glad I stumbled upon this site.

    I'm thinking about making the leap to LF. I am just not sure whether to just go right to 8x10 or start out with 4x5 first. Either way, my budget is around $2500. Up until now, the largest I've shot is 6x7. I understand that 8x10 is obviously a lot bigger, heavier, etc. But contact printing is a very appealing process to me. If I go with 4x5, I'd have to get a new-to-me enlarger. I guess my question is, for a beginner to LF, would it be too much to jump straight into 8x10 and bypassing 4x5, or should I start small and move up?

    Thanks in advance!

    Wes

  2. #2

    Join Date
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    4x5 or 8x10?

    Wes -- you could purchase an 8x10 with a 4x5 reducing back and have the best of both worlds.

  3. #3
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    4x5 or 8x10?

    For me, working in 4x5 and working in 8x10 are really different experiences. Enlarging from 4x5 is more like an extension from medium format, but contact printing with large negatives is an entirely different game. The experience in the field is quite different too, not just in the weight and bulk of the equipment, but also in what it's like to view the image on a 4x5 vs an 8x10 ground glass.

    My own tinkering with LF started with 8x10, using a borrowed camera and lens and making contact prints. It spoiled me forever. I've never really been happy with 4x5, although I do use it once in a while for specific reasons. I don't see it as a worthwhile detour if your ultimate goal is to work with the big camera.

    You've got enough budget to assemble an excellent basic kit even in 8x10. If you can handle the weight of the larger kit, I'd say go for it.

  4. #4

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    4x5 or 8x10?

    You should consider what you want to take pictures of. Some things lend themselves to 4x5 more easily than 8x10. (I am assuming you are going to do black and white.) Do you already have a darkroom?

  5. #5

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    May 1999
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    4x5 or 8x10?

    I am in the same opinion as Oren. If you are tempted, nothing will stop your curiosity. I moved up from 4x5", 5x7" and then 8x10". You can go straight to 8x10", and then to consider if you like to enlarge 4x5".

  6. #6
    Donald Qualls's Avatar
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    4x5 or 8x10?

    If you don't already have an enlarger with 4x5 capability and a 135 mm or 150 mm enlarging lens, it'll likely be cheaper initially to go 8x10. Used cameras are similar price to used 4x5, lenses not much more, and while film holders are a lot more expensive you can start with only a few; you'll tend to make fewer exposures in the larger format and the price of film will even out. Contact printing will mean you save hundreds of dollars on enlarger and lens(es), even though you spend some of that on a printing frame (but if you're at all handy you can make a nice printing frame yourself).

    Even an 8x10 enlarger is often cheaper than a 4x5 size -- simply because they're so expensive to ship that they're almost impossible to sell (and you can convert the camera into an enlarger without difficulty, in a way that takes hardly any longer to set up and take down than tripod mounting to expose a film -- it's heretical to say it, but for the enlargements you'd be likely to want from 8x10, either a taking lens will work, or you can manage nicely with an inexpensive process lens).

    And after you've shot and contact printed 8x10, you likely won't want to go back to 4x5 unless you're backpacking with your gear or otherwise need a light, agile rig for some reason.
    If a contact print at arm's length is too small to see, you need a bigger camera. :D

  7. #7

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    4x5 or 8x10?

    You gonna be happy with 8x10 as your maximum size prints? Okay if you're Edward Weston, but personally I like to be able to print 11x14s or 16x20s. Also, it aint the camera and lens that will kill you, but the TRIPOD!
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  8. #8

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    4x5 or 8x10?

    I agree with Oren, Jose and Donald. Once I got my 8x10, the 4x5 kit remained stuck in the closet. I use it to shoot everything: contact prints, 40x50 digital prints from color transparencies, you name it. The larger negative provides substantially more detail, and the 8x10 ground glass enables me to compose more carefully and thoughtfully than I could with 4x5. The additional bulk vs. 4x5 is substantial (camera, lenses, film holders, tripod, etc.), but this just provides another reason to get in better physical shape! If you like to take long hikes with your camera, then 4x5 might be the better choice; but if you are satisfied by short hikes or working close to your car (or home or studio) then 8x10 is a great way to go.

    By the way, 8x10 is not just for contact prints. I see significant improvements vs 4x5 with enlarged print sizes of 16x20" and larger. At 16x20" the improvements are mostly those of tonality; at larger print sizes the increased resolution starts to kick in. Another nice benefit of 8x10 is that you can produce excellent digital enlargements using a flatbed film scanner, which is far more compact than a conventional enlarger. (The digital workflow learning curve, of course, is another matter!).

  9. #9

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    4x5 or 8x10?

    As someone who has recently moved from 4x5 to 8x10, I can point out that depth of field decreases with the length of the lens. If you need extreme depth of field for whatever kind of shots you do, then you might want to stick with a smaller format and its smaller lenses.



    That aside, I quote Carl Weese in his article Really Big Cameras:



    A couple of years ago PT contributor Oren Grad was engaged in a series of tests to see just how much technical quality he could wring out of modestly enlarged medium format and 4x5 inch negatives. One day a print arrived in the mail at my studio with an inscription on the back, “Finally figured out how to make an 8x10 that looks like a contact print.” Of course, what he’d sent me was an 8x10 contact print.

  10. #10

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    Feb 2005
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    4x5 or 8x10?

    If you decide to go with the 8x10 but occasionally want a larger print then scan the negative and print digitally. A $450 Epson 4990 will be good enough for at least a 16x20 from an 8x10 negative.

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