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Thread: Presence in 8x10 photography

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    New Orleans, La

    Presence in 8x10 photography

    good morning all,

    I'm sure this has been answered over and a over however I'm wondering if anyone can comment or send links on enlarged 8x10 vs 4x5. I've been shooting 4x5 for about 9 years always thinking grass would be greener with 8x10. I finally bit and sold all my medium format and 4x5 gear to get into 8x10.

    I've yet to find my way, in the past in the past 5 months I've purchase and sold 2 very nice 8x10 cameras as they were too limiting or too heavy (Deardorff and Chamonix alpinist horizontal). I've currently got my hands on a Chamonix 810V and am torn whether to purchase it or go back down to 4x5.

    What I'm after is Andrew Moore, David Leventi or Robert Polidori looking prints, esp. in the texture. The "Revelations" exhibition up at the Ogden currently features work from a long list of amazing photographers working in a variety of formats. It is a great show with some stunning imagery, however, there are two Andrew Moore images that separate themselves not necessary as images but as objects. The texture is so prevalent it stands alone looking almost like a painting rather than a photograph.

    Is this a quality of 8x10 alone?


    thanks -

  2. #2
    Drew Bedo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Houston Texas

    Re: Presence in 8x10 photography

    Some one or several someones here will probably come post accurate information with detailed formulas, optical theory and concepts involving ratios,the circle of confusion and lots of other really good stuff. Read it and digest it . . .its all good stuff.

    Myself: I have enjoyed using an 8x10 Kofak 2D, even though it has limited front movements. The actual shooting experience is pleasant to me. The image on the ground glass is always captivating; sometimes I have to remind myself to actually load in a film holder and shoot. Transpariencies and printed images (the ones thqat are properly exposed) look great. \

    however, I do not see a difference between prints from 4x5 and 8x10. I am sure that there are differences in resolution but I don't see it. I do use the same lens on both; aresolution, butI do not see any. I do use the same 210mm f/5.6 lens on both cameras. Another reason may be that I have never printed anything larger than 11x14 inches.

    Working with the 8x10 format is less convenient than 4x5. I just don't take it outside any more. The camera and tripod weigh more than my entire 4x5 kirt.
    Another drawback is the expense. A fresh box of 8x10 (ten sheets of Velvia ) is now a small fortune.
    Drew Bedo

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

  3. #3

    Join Date
    May 2006

    Re: Presence in 8x10 photography

    I had a similar feeling when I first looked Edward Weston's prints on the wall of LA city Library. All 8x10 contact prints. I have never had the same feeling when I looked at Ansel Adams enlarged prints.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Oct 2015

    Re: Presence in 8x10 photography

    Many years ago, nearly 40, in fact, I did some direct comparisons between 4x5 and 8x10 shot on the same film, processed the same, etc. I enlarged the 4x5 to 8x10 and contact printed the 8x10, and finished in my normal way through selenium toning. In a side-by-side comparison, I wouldn't say that it was obvious which one was the contact print, but that contact print did reveal a presence that just didn't show in the enlargement. It glowed! There was something about the edges of detail that seemed to be missing in the enlargement. However, I knew then that contact prints were how I wanted to present my work so I didn't use any other format for more than a decade.

    That said, though, shooting 8x10 is more about the experience for me vs any apparent increase in print quality. This going to sound a bit odd, but I find that there's something that happens to be brain when viewing my actual print size on the ground glass. I don't get that with smaller formats such as 4x5. Yes, shooting 8x10 is expensive, but that's a choice one makes for themselves. I shoot B&W and there are films available that won't break the bank. As a matter of fact, at nearly 70 years young I switched from my Deardorff to an 8x10 Intrepid and lightweight Fuji A and C lenses because it all enables me to pack it and continue shooting my favorite format. I still shoot other formats, but still prefer 8x10.

    Oh, and IMO print quality isn't that closely tied to format. I've seen absolutely beautiful prints from 35mm! Check out the work and teachings of Steve Sherman, if you want to see prints with exceptional local contrast. I believe he shoots 5x7, too.

  5. #5
    Corran's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    North GA Mountains

    Re: Presence in 8x10 photography

    Quote Originally Posted by View Post
    Is this a quality of 8x10 alone?
    No, it's more likely to be the light and photographer's ability to bring out "presence" in any format.

    There's an argument for contact printing. I like it, and I feel like I can see a tiny bit more detail in areas with a wealth of detail available. It's also something almost irrelevant once on the wall behind glass. Most of my best images come from 4x5 and smaller, because I can actually get there and setup reasonably fast. Whilst I shoot 8x10 some and recently 8x20 and now 12x20, I would never sell my 4x5 cameras. It's like buying a sledgehammer and thinking you don't need the 20oz anymore.
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram | Portfolio
    All comments and thoughtful critique welcome

  6. #6
    ic-racer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007

    Re: Presence in 8x10 photography

    Any format is like driving on the highway. Those going slower than you 'don't know what they are doing' and those going faster are lunatics.

    People using formats smaller than 8x10 don't know what they are doing and those using ULF are lunatics....

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Feb 1999

    Re: Presence in 8x10 photography

    I had a go at 8x10, but other than the thrill of composing on the big ground glass, the resulting prints didn’t seem worth the added expense and weight. But then again, I’m no Edward Weston.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Phoenix, AZ

    Re: Presence in 8x10 photography

    8x10 is easier in many ways to compose. The screen can be described as a finished print in that you can 'Hold the wall', with an 8x10 framed image much more that with a smaller print. So when composing you are seeing the finished image in your mind easier than when thinking of an 8x10 enlargement from a smaller format.
    Another thing mentioned above was the quality of a contact print. When enlarging the image with a projection print(Enlarger) the light is more or less scattered by the surface of the paper. This slightly flattens the contrast of the print and the subject brightness range of the print. In the Zone system we speak of the film/paper synergy as having 5 stops/zones of full detail. But when making a contact print which eliminates the scattering of the light from the negative to the paper, as it is in contact with the paper, you gain as much as fun zone/stop of full detail. When Weston worked the primary final image was a contact print, although they would make enlarged negatives at times to make larger contact prints for showing.
    So the 8x10 and the larger banquet cameras of the late 19th and early 20th Century were popular as well. Even William Henry Jackson's early images in the 1870s of what would become Yellowstone National Park, were made on cameras as large as 16x20 and 20x24". He needed those large sizes to impress Congress so they would fund the next years expeditions.
    But as stated the logistics of the larger camera and added costs can be a deterrent to going there.
    Even people like Weston, Jackson, Strand, Adams, and others used smaller cameras at different points for easier facility. Walker Evans used primarily for many years an 8x10, occasionally an 11x14, but always carried a Leica until later in the 1950s going to a Hasselblad and TLR cameras.
    So just understand that the larger the original film the larger a print can be made and the smaller the format the less large.
    Other factors of course would be graininess of film, and the aperture used.
    Hope my mutterings are helpful to some.
    Rod Klukas
    US Representative
    Arca-Swiss USA

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Sep 2010

    Re: Presence in 8x10 photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugo Zhang View Post
    I had a similar feeling when I first looked Edward Weston's prints on the wall of LA city Library. All 8x10 contact prints. I have never had the same feeling when I looked at Ansel Adams enlarged prints.
    I was amazed upon entering a Weston exhibit at Museum of Fine Arts Boston at how the 4X5 Graflex SLR work he did of Carris Wilson seemed to pop off the wall more than fifty feet away.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jan 2019

    Presence in 8x10 photography

    I feel you. For me, the consideration is almost the opposite one, ie. should I sell the 4x5s I have? I haven’t used them in 1 year.

    The truth is that I just enjoy 8x10. The smile you get when you see the a slide of that size is just amazing. Composition is much easier too, for me. But above all, it makes me excited to use my 8x10 to shoot.

    The only deterrent is weight/packability. The chamonix is one of the lightest 8x10 cameras! You could also invest in some light film holders, I have. Then a tripod/head that is as light as possible and lenses too. Once you get to that level of investment (which is not small) my 8x10 outings are with a bag that is around 20 lbs. when I go with my 4x5 I end up at 13-15lbs, so not a huge difference. For multi day trips I use the car as my storage for lenses/holders such that I’m always only carrying the minimum. Of course if I did multi day hiking or traveling by plane I would most likely bring my 4x5. For still shots at home I use my most rigid 4x5. They have their place.

    I mostly scan and print that way so if there’s a benefit to contact printing I miss it. I do digital negatives though for alt processes which I contact print, usually without magnification or just barely.

    I don’t think there is something intrinsic to 8x10 or any format that will give you that je-be-sais-quoi. A camera is just a tool, and besides particular lenses giving specific looks, specific films giving some particular rendering, the techniques you use, etc.... the difference is one’s creativity and inspiration, and of course the opportunity to photograph an exciting subject (whatever that may be).

    Pick whatever makes you excited, decide that you will make that investment (whichever it is that you are comfortable with) and go with it, master that tool. Everyday you wonder about “should I stay or should I go” to this or other format is a missed opportunity to walk your own path.

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