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Thread: They say to start with 4x5, but...

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  1. #1

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    They say to start with 4x5, but...

    ...exactly how representative is it of 8x10?

    I really would like to jump into a LF system for landscapes. 8x10 (and actually 4x10) is where I am fairly certain I'd like to end up, but I'm having difficulty getting clear answers on some threshold questions. Image quality ("resolution") is really paramount to me; I regularly print at 6-8 feet. The siren song of this 8x10 vs. Phase One comparison is haunting.

    1. My understanding is that

    The rule of thumb is that resolution measured in line pairs/mm is limited by diffraction to 1500/f ratio. At f/1, the limit is 1500 lp/mm. At f/22 the limit is 68 lp/mm. And so on.
    (from this thread).

    Since larger formats generally require smaller apertures - especially for sufficient DOF - how representative will 4x5 film be of 4x10 or 8x10? Velvia 50 is spec'd around 160 lp/mm, so using the rough 1500 rule you'd have to be shooting at f/8 to avoid the diffraction limit. That is wide open for most lenses...at best one stop down. At what point does the smaller format actually yield technically better results due to these coinciding variables?

    My frustration lies in the upfront cost of an 8x10 system. Cameras are fairly reasonably priced but the good modern lenses run around $5000 when you can find them (ie., the 150mm Schneider f/5.6). Getting real exposed film in my hands to answer these questions seems like it will cost north of $10,000. I'd have no real issue starting with 4x5 if I had a better read on how representative the comparison would be. (I'd also have no problem just diving into 8x10 if I could get better information up front.) Does image quality scale linearly with square inches? Or do these other factors reduce the benefit of increased film size?

    Joe

  2. #2

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    Re: They say to start with 4x5, but...

    Why not buy an inexpensive 8x10 camera and a 300mm Nikkor M and a couple film holders and try a few exposures?

    You most likely won't lose money if and when you decide to sell it.

    Light meter, dark cloth for focusing - just normal stuff. A solid tripod - like a used Gitzo Studex series with a head to handle it can be had for under $300. You can develop the film in trays in your home after dark. Very simple and low tech.

    This will get you the 'feel' and let you know how it will work for you.
    "My forumla for successful printing remains ordinary chemicals, an ordinary enlarger, music, a bottle of scotch - and stubbornness." W. Eugene Smith

  3. #3

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    Re: They say to start with 4x5, but...

    The rule of thumb doesn't seem right to me. Maybe Dan Fromm can add some details.

    I rarely shoot 4x5 with an f-number less than f11. I rarely shoot a four-thirds digital with an f-number higher than f11.

    For that rule of thumb to be meaningful, it would seem that there would have to be a magnification and focal length associated with it somehow.

  4. #4

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    Re: They say to start with 4x5, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie View Post
    Why not buy an inexpensive 8x10 camera and a 300mm Nikkor M and a couple film holders and try a few exposures?

    You most likely won't lose money if and when you decide to sell it.

    Light meter, dark cloth for focusing - just normal stuff. A solid tripod - like a used Gitzo Studex series with a head to handle it can be had for under $300. You can develop the film in trays in your home after dark. Very simple and low tech.

    This will get you the 'feel' and let you know how it will work for you.
    That's fair. I suppose my hesitation with that course would be expressed in the feeling that I was buying a "disposable" camera. But they do seem to hold some value.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Keller View Post
    The rule of thumb doesn't seem right to me. Maybe Dan Fromm can add some details.

    I rarely shoot 4x5 with an f-number less than f11. I rarely shoot a four-thirds digital with an f-number higher than f11.

    For that rule of thumb to be meaningful, it would seem that there would have to be a magnification and focal length associated with it somehow.
    Interesting; I'm glad I requested advice then. It's difficult to know how reasonable my assumptions are, so this is good way to crowd source a sanity check.

  5. #5
    Andrej Gregov
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    Re: They say to start with 4x5, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie View Post
    Why not buy an inexpensive 8x10 camera
    +1

    I think the recommendations around starting with 4x5 is to learn the basics of how to use a view camera. The whole workflow from loading film to understanding movements and (in your case) scanning is much simpler to learn with 4x5. But you can start with 8x10 if you like. In the same spirit of starting out more basic, start with an Intrepid 8x10 and a basic lens (210-300mm). Add some film holders and you could put that kit together for $1500 bucks. If you like the results, then you can invest in more equipment. No way you need to spend $10K out of the gate.

    There are many threads in the forum about shooting 4x5 versus 8x10. Probably much more than you can get from a single question thread. Google Advanced Search works great for this.

  6. #6

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    Re: They say to start with 4x5, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by agregov View Post
    +1

    I think the recommendations around starting with 4x5 is to learn the basics of how to use a view camera. The whole workflow from loading film to understanding movements and (in your case) scanning is much simpler to learn with 4x5. But you can start with 8x10 if you like. In the same spirit of starting out more basic, start with an Intrepid 8x10 and a basic lens (210-300mm). Add some film holders and you could put that kit together for $1500 bucks. If you like the results, then you can invest in more equipment. No way you need to spend $10K out of the gate.

    There are many threads in the forum about shooting 4x5 versus 8x10. Probably much more than you can get from a single question thread. Google Advanced Search works great for this.
    The risk is that if I go this route and I am not overly thrilled with the result, I will have to wonder how much of the problem is due to the fact that I cheaped out on the equipment. So I will either abandon 8x10 without full information, or be forced to double down to know for sure. Of course, I could also be amazed right out of the gate. I'm just trying to minimize the risk of the gamble.
    I've been down too many thread rabbit holes prior to posting and my research led me to post this question. I've read everything from "don't enlarge 8x10 more than 4x" to "8x10 is king for big prints...do it and don't look back." The diffraction/film size issue is particularly vexing.

  7. #7
    Andrej Gregov
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    Re: They say to start with 4x5, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by jdk View Post
    The risk is that if I go this route and I am not overly thrilled with the result, I will have to wonder how much of the problem is due to the fact that I cheaped out on the equipment. So I will either abandon 8x10 without full information, or be forced to double down to know for sure. Of course, I could also be amazed right out of the gate. I'm just trying to minimize the risk of the gamble.
    My earlier point was mainly one doesn't need to purchase something like a used Ebony 8x10 and say a 600mm Fuji lens for a test (that could easily net you over the $10K range). A low price 8x10 and standard lens should give you all the information you need assuming you know how to use it. That said, it's hard to expect oneself to learn an entirely new camera system and format right out of the gate and find excellent results. Realistically, it takes years to get excellent results in any photo workflow one uses (analog or digital). With regard to equipment, most any view camera with a decent lens should provide outstanding performance. My Tachihara 4x5 ($500) takes equally good pictures as my Arca Swiss F line ($5K), with the same lens. Some cameras are more stable, some have more movements, some are lighter, etc. If you really decide to embrace large format shooting, you can decide on those advantages for yourself eventually. They will likely depend on the type of shooting you like (architecture versus landscape, etc). But you should be able to get an excellent quality image from something like an Intrepid 8x10 + Nikkor 300mm lens as a test system.

    It's great you're trying to avoid a big purchase or equipment/technique rabbit hole. Perhaps another idea is to try to rent an 8x10 setup for some basic tests? I ran a Google search and found some options out there (might require some travel). Or maybe reach out to some 8x10 photographers and ask if they might send you a high res scan of a few of their images which you can run some resolution and printing tests? A lab that offers both drumscan and flatbed services might have some sample files too.

  8. #8
    Drew Bedo's Avatar
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    Re: They say to start with 4x5, but...

    My experience in LF is that as the size of the format increases, everything else increases exponentially; weight, ease of transport, expense of consumable (film, chemicals), and so on.
    Drew Bedo
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    There are only three types of mounting flanges; too big, too small and wrong thread!

  9. #9

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    Re: They say to start with 4x5, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Bedo View Post
    My experience in LF is that as the size of the format increases, everything else increases exponentially; weight, ease of transport, expense of consumable (film, chemicals), and so on.
    Thankfully none of those things are of particular concern. I’ve really just narrowed the inquiry to the comparability of 4x5 and 8x10 image quality in view of limitations inherent to the format.

  10. #10
    (Shrek)
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    Re: They say to start with 4x5, but...

    The largest cost difference between 4x5 and 8x10 is film. But with the availability of x-ray film in 8x10 for less than the cost of 4x5 B&W sheets, I think the advice to 'learn the ropes' on 4x5 no longer holds. Yes the best of the best lenses are significantly more for 8x10, but since they're all used and already depreciated, it costs little or nothing to try one. If you're careful, you can even make a profit doing so.

    The only reason I still shoot a lot of 4x5 is arthritis.

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