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Thread: Choosing a film camera for the future... (35mm vs 4x5!)

  1. #11
    Scyg's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Chicago, IL, USA

    Re: Choosing a film camera for the future... (35mm vs 4x5!)

    One thing to consider is cost, beyond the cost of the camera. In general sheet film is going to be somewhat more expensive (that's assuming you'll make more exposures with the F2 per finished image, which is usually the way things go. On a 1-to-1 frame basis 4x5 is going to be much more costly.).

    In the final breakdown it comes down to personal preference. I strongly believe that the quality of the final images doesn't depend on the size of the negative but on your own approach to your photography: Yes, you'll typically get more detail, smoother tones, less grain and overall more control with a view camera than with a 35mm SLR, but I've seen huge prints from tiny negatives that have blown my socks off because the image was so good, and underwhelming 8x10 contact prints from mediocre photographers.

    Personally over the years I've gathered film cameras in sizes ranging from 35mm to 5x7" (not counting the 8x10" I'm restoring), but the only reason I've had to pull the 35mm's out recently was when I was teaching my daughter. In my mind there's not much advantage over a decent DSLR in terms of image quality, and a big drawback in ease of use. When shooting film I end up using medium format for action (street, etc.) and large format for more careful compositions.

  2. #12

    Join Date
    Apr 2017

    Re: Choosing a film camera for the future... (35mm vs 4x5!)

    Talk about apples and oranges...

    Nikon F2 Pro's: Small and easily portable, especially compared to a 4x5 monorail camera. Learning curve should not be that steep since you already use a Nikon DSLR. 35mm film is relatively cheap compared to 4x5, so mistakes are not as costly. Cost per frame for developing film is far cheaper for 35mm compared to sheet film. You will be able to easily take spontaneous portraits. In general you will be able to shoot very quickly. Film size is small, with many frames per roll and you can easily carry multiple rolls allowing you to shoot for quite some time without running out of film. It is an absolute workhorse with all mechanical construction (the battery powers the meter only) that will last forever if cared for properly.

    Linhof Kardan Pro's: 4x5 film is much larger than 35mm and will capture an insane amount of detail with comparatively very little if any noticeable grain. Movements allow you to take technically precise architectural images and when even allow you a great deal of creativity with portraits. If you plan on scanning (or having scanned) images, 4x5 scans will come out far nicer than 35mm scans. Endless selection of lenses. For the most part, as long as the image circle is big enough and you can fit it on a lens board, you can use it.

    Nikon F2 Con's: Honestly I love mine and cant think of any cons, though relative to 4x5 it's lack of movements can be seen as a disadvantage.

    Linhof Kardan Con's: Large, heavy, needs a tripod, and not very portable. Using it has a steep learning curve if you have not shot large format before. Shooting it is a very slow process (though I also consider this a pro in many ways). Not very suitable for spontaneous portraits, though it will excel at more formal portraits. You will be limited in how many frames you shoot at any one time by how many holders you have. Film is more expensive, and costs far more per frame to develop.

    While I shoot everything from 35mm to 8x10 and digital, for me having cameras in every format allows me the ability to choose the camera that is best suited for the task or idea I have at hand. Given what you have said about yourself, being an "occasional DSLR shooter", and knowing nothing about your general photography knowledge, I think the F2 would likely be a better fit. Could you learn to shoot the 4x5? Absolutely. Would you love the images? Again, yes, but from what listed information you gave, while both cameras are great for what they do, they both do quite different things well, and it seems the f2 would better fit you.

  3. #13

    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    Re: Choosing a film camera for the future... (35mm vs 4x5!)

    Ignore the 35mm -vs- 4x5 idea.

    Begin with what are your print image goals? This seemingly simple question is key and primary to camera-lens and a long list of other choices that must be made. If one does not have any print image goals, and the image results are to be in a digital format, why a film camera becomes an added question.

    IMO, neither film format (35mm or any roll film format -vs- 4x5 or any sheet film format) is superior or better than the other. The appropriate choice should be print mage goals driven. As for camera brands, it is not as significant as many believes. At a foundational level, cameras are essentially a light tight box with a lens on one end of the box and a light recording device or material on the other end of the box. Cameras and all related should be considered print making tools used as a means to an end.

    ~Discuss print image goals, then film format can be added into this discussion.


  4. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Northern Virginia

    Re: Choosing a film camera for the future... (35mm vs 4x5!)

    A film-based 35mm camera differs from a DSLR in two ways: It has far fewer features (yes, even an F2), and it uses film. It basically does the same thing as a DSLR, but with film. Granted, it's an elegant machine that is worth appreciating just for that reason, the same way I feel about my Pentax 67.

    But a 4x5 view camera is radically different from a 35mm camera. It provides image-management capabilities no small-format camera can do, and presents an utterly different experience to the photographer. It will change how you approach making photos, and slow you down dramatically. You'll often spend many minutes, maybe dozens of minutes, setting up a photograph. The learning curve is steep, and something you can enjoy pursuing for years, with always something new to learn.

    The thing is, what makes a Linhof different from a DSLR has almost nothing to do with film versus digital capture. So, do large format with a view camera because you want the view camera experience, and learn its special capabilities. The film part comes along for the ride, but there's far more to using a view camera than just the film part.

    But I will warn you--a Linhof Kardan with a 210mm lens is just the first scratch of what you'll end up needed to create a 4x5 film capability. It will be more expensive, but it's worth it.

    Rick "whose first large-format experience was with a Kardan Color" Denney

  5. #15

    Join Date
    May 2015
    SooooCal/LA USA

    Re: Choosing a film camera for the future... (35mm vs 4x5!)

    The price is right for 35mm stuff right now, so no excuse not to buy one... Some stuff is stupid expensive now like Leicas, but Nikons + lenses are a bargain... The older F and F2 will last beyond you, but the meters won't and are often out... Great values are F3, FE, and FM's... Other than some foam rot, they keep going... And you can use most of the AI MF lenses on many of the Nikon DSLRs... Pro Canons use some of the older breech lens mounts that will not work on DSLRs...

    The trick with the AI Nikkor lenses for highest resolution is there are apertures that are sharper to use (Usually f8 is best, but f5.6 and f11 are almost as good)...

    I bought a lot of Leica (M&R) gear during the 2000's cheap when many were switching to DSLRs, but noticed prices shooting up shortly afterwards when cinema people discovered the optics... But I tend to baby this stuff, and when I found a black FE for 5 bucks at a thrift store (and still had a bunch of Nikkors left over from before and I had a rainy day shoot, started using it constantly as a beater field camera that took a beating... (I would be not afraid if camera was lost/stolen/destroyed, just the film in it...)

    The next step is experimenting with 35mm color & B/W film development... That gives a big boost in quality from mini lab processing & printing... The other hot tip is enlarging with a (complete) Leitz enlarger... Stunning enlargements for 11X14's but quality slightly falls off past 16X20...Very good films now, and you can change look with processing variations... Grain can be made to blend with image with right combinations... And a classic (I hate this word) "analog" look...

    Rarely use 120 film except with a Rollei TLR, 4X5 roll film backs, or some speciality cameras, as I experimented with 35mm enough to fine tune the practice and process...

    And a 300mm (I use a lot) produces very tight shots not available on other formats without monster rigs... And you can carry it around all day exploring a city with little sweat, shooting on the fly... Great for night work too...

    You can get a system for under $200 if you shop around...

    Steve K

  6. #16

    Join Date
    May 2010
    St. Louis, Mo.

    Re: Choosing a film camera for the future... (35mm vs 4x5!)

    I'd go with the 4x5. You will get shallow depth of field for your portraiture plus perspective controls for your religious architectural work. Plus the experience will be much different from your dslr. It's all for fun, right?

    Shooting 4x5 will cost quite a bit more though so do your research first. Welcome to the forum!

  7. #17
    Join Date
    May 2020

    Re: Choosing a film camera for the future... (35mm vs 4x5!)

    Just a quick "Thanks for the information and well wishes" to everyone who has posted in this thread. There's even more to consider than I realized. I'm going to research and sit on this decision for another week before making up my mind.

  8. #18
    Jim Jones's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Chillicothe Missouri USA

    Re: Choosing a film camera for the future... (35mm vs 4x5!)

    Today's better DSLR cameras make using older 35mm film cameras mostly a fetish. I used Leicas since 1953 and Nikon SLRs and large format most of that time, and am not merely speaking of theory. Such cameras were marvels of craftsmanship and ingenuity with some quirks, and were built to last many years. In today's rapidly evolving digital photography, such durability is pointless. Almost any digital system that gives a photographer adequate image quality is more practical than almost any film system. However, the versatility and better image quality of view cameras can be decisive for some. Also, the darkroom can be a haven from today's chaotic world. Ultimately, every photographer has to juggle their goals in photography with their ability to reach those goals. Us outsiders can only say what worked for us.

  9. #19
    Drew Bedo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Houston Texas

    Re: Choosing a film camera for the future... (35mm vs 4x5!)

    I used to have a 1980s era Canon AE-!. It worked fine and I took care of it and used it. At some time in the late 1990s, I took it in to a reliable technician for a CLA prior to a trip somewhere fart away. They said it was OK for just then, but would soon need to have internal seals and foam bumpers replaced . . .and the parts would not be available. Within the next 18 months I turned it over.

    I had a buddy who was a professional wedding photographer. He looked on his cameras as tools. When I admired some new digital Nikon he had bought. He held it up in front of me by the lens and said, "To me, this is just like a hammer." With that said, a few years earlier he was using Mamiya 7s. At some point, he had a body in for service and was told that if the rubber mantle that allowed the lens to collapse ever failed, they could no longer get a replacement part. He soon moved to another system for that reason. In the digital world he changed camera bodies about every two years.

    If you are looking for a film camera to keep for the next 25 or 30 years, I'd say that the maintainability of large format equipment is a bettor bet. My 8x10 Kodak 2D is near 80 years old. My 4x5 Zone VI is 35 years old. My current suit of lenses is about that old as well. I get them CLA'd every 5-10 years without trouble.

    Its a little like the difference between a 1970s era muscle car (not really my thing), or a 1925 Model-T . . . and one of the zippy new cars with all-electric everything. I mean, they are really great, but: The older cars can be maintained even though they are 50 years old or more. I have doubts that a Tesla Model 3 will still be a viable classic car in 2070.
    Drew Bedo

    There are only three types of mounting flanges; too big, too small and wrong thread!

  10. #20

    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    Re: Choosing a film camera for the future... (35mm vs 4x5!)

    The basic view camera is essentially a light tight flexi box with a lens on one end and light recording device holder on the other end. If a lens in barrel is used, lens could be mostly reliable too. Given a view camera is built in this style-form the camera is often mostly repairable due to it's inherent simplicity and speciality parts.

    Digital cameras of today are designed to be toss-aways due to the technology used to design and produce them. For organizations that design, produce them and support them for a finite time toss-away products are more profitable and provides some assurance of product turn-over to promote future sales. It is consumerism by definition. There are those using lenses and cameras over a century old with image recording methods going back to the very beginnings of Photography. Or why the initial tools of Photography can remain viable for a extended duration of time even in the current world of pixel based image making.


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