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Thread: 4x5 LF appropriate for on-location group portraits? Can cheap LF cameras produce great prints?

  1. #1

    4x5 LF appropriate for on-location group portraits? Can cheap LF cameras produce great prints?

    From a LF newcomer, Should I go LF (4x5)?

    First of all I love this site, and your technical forums—allot of detailed info from some seemingly quite experienced folks. I currently shoot weddings (mostly) with a Nikon D100 digital SLR. I am particularly unhappy with the sharpness of prints 11 x 14 and larger. I would like to offer my clients very, very sharp enlargements (of their formals/ group shots at the alter) to print sizes up to 20 x 30. I can also see myself doing landscapes when I get time (If I ever get time). Digital scanning, image manipulation, and printing processes would be employed. I believe a LF 4x5 will meet or exceed my expectations. I believe a 16x20 print produced from a scanned LF 4x5 negative will be distincly sharper than that produced from a MF system. (Opions Please!)

    However, I have reservations about speed/ease of use and adequate depth of field not so much for the large groups but for close-ups. And the over-all practicality of such an endeavor. Am I going to have to shoot at f/32 and blind everyone w/ maxed-out moonlights?

    Assuming your answer to that drawn-out question is ,” yes go for it!”, I am at this time overwhelmed by the selection process—why the $160 – over $3000 price range? I’ve heard there’s really not much can go wrong with these cameras and all of them are capable of great pictures. Will I have trouble getting sharp images from a cheap camera?

    At the present time I’m considering a CALUMET 45NXII 4X5—inexpensive, but quite nice in appearance to me, and going with a high quality used lens.

    All suggestions are welcome

  2. #2
    Doug Dolde
    Guest

    4x5 LF appropriate for on-location group portraits? Can cheap LF cameras produce great prints?

    See "Film size versus print quality"

    http://www.westcoastimaging.com/wci/page/info/articles/formatsize.html

    With regards to the camera, $750 is pretty cheap but personally I'd pick a field camera for landscapes as opposed to a monorail.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Oct 1998
    Posts
    240

    4x5 LF appropriate for on-location group portraits? Can cheap LF cameras produce great prints?

    Put your money in the lens, not the camera. The cheapest Calumet will take just as good photos as the most expensive Sinar using the same lens, provided it is steady.
    Alec

  4. #4

    4x5 LF appropriate for on-location group portraits? Can cheap LF cameras produce great prints?

    The only difference in $160 vs $3000 is one of usability. Considering you are doing pro work get the best tool you can afford. The Calumet is great. Speed of use? Once you are familiar with it you should be able to set up quickly enough. You'll be blown away by the print quality in 4x5 and if usuing film holders is too slow I would think a 6x9cm rollfilm back would work well and still give those 20x30 enlargements. Print quality is more dependent on the lens than the camera assuming the camear isn't so old that it shakes when you release the shutter.

  5. #5

    4x5 LF appropriate for on-location group portraits? Can cheap LF cameras produce great prints?

    If it were me, I would get an 11x14 camera and contact print the negatives. You want sharp, go big. If you feel that it will be too much for what you need , then get a 5x7 camera. Big enough for some contact prints, big enough to scan and enlarge, and it has nicer proportions for the portraits and landscapes than a 4x5. Also have in mind that focusing and composing on a larger glass is much easier than focusing in a tiny 4x5. You didn't say whether you are shooting Color or B&W. With color you can use small cameras, it will save you money. With B&W go big, it is cheap. Anyway you go get ready to get blown away.

  6. #6

    4x5 LF appropriate for on-location group portraits? Can cheap LF cameras produce great prints?

    I would not pick not any kind of 4X5 for this work. I think for what you are doing you'd be much happier with a Mamiya RZ, Mamiya 7 or similar and a "normal" lens, an 80 or 90mm. Lots faster and much more convenient, cheaper to shoot, good for more things you might do as a wedding photographer and lots easier to pack around for landscapes. Medium format cameras can give you wonderful 16X20s for your wedding clients.

  7. #7

    4x5 LF appropriate for on-location group portraits? Can cheap LF cameras produce great prints?

    I am going to get flamed but what the hell....

    I don't think 4x5 is the answer....it is slow for your application (and experience- don't get offended) and with it comes more labor, time, and expense which gets passed on to your client.

    I feel you should just either shoot medium format or step up to a better digital slr. A nikon d1x is going to give you much more quality than a D100. Yes it costs more, but it will make its money back easily. Plus the trade in value of your D100.

    Since you are shooting digitally already, factor in the time and money spent on scanning, processing, the learning curve, and the added expense of 4x5 film. Also buying a camera is not your only expense, holders, a polaroid back, a decent tripod, lenses...all add up to money. Plus, carrying yet more equipment and having to either train or hire an assistant who is familar with large format. You cannot possibly get all of the shots done in time for a wedding by yourself if you are going to shoot digital AND 4x5 at the same time.

    Since you already own nikon optics, and are familar with your workflow digitally- why change everything up, go with the D1x??? If you wish to become film based, I think your money will be better spent on a Mamiya than a Calumet 4x5. Time is money. Scanning, waiting for the lab, and having prints made in a wet darkroom add lots of time and more overhead which gets passed on to your cleint. If you were shooting film already, I feel the answer would be a lot differant, but your not.

    When shooting for yourself, who cares. But when you earn a living, things are a little differant.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jan 2001
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    4,590

    4x5 LF appropriate for on-location group portraits? Can cheap LF cameras produce great prints?

    James Driscoll makes good sense. Or, I wonder if you might not be able to achieve your 16x20 print goals by a simple switch to Nikkor Prime lenses (instead of any zooms which you may be using now).
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  9. #9
    Founder QT Luong's Avatar
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    Aug 1997
    Location
    San Jose, CA
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    2,311

    4x5 LF appropriate for on-location group portraits? Can cheap LF cameras produce great prints?

    I've done a couple of group photos at weddings with LF, and even at size 8x10, the results were noticeably better than 35mm. Technically, outdoors it is not much of a problem at f32. But this was for friends, not clients. In general, for group photos, you need at least MF for good results. Would I recommend LF ? No. You just don't go LF just to make group photos. The stress on a wedding day is quite high, and even a seasoned LF photographer can easily make mistakes. I set up a group photo at my own wedding using LF ... turned out I forgot to pull out the dark slide in one of the shots.

  10. #10

    4x5 LF appropriate for on-location group portraits? Can cheap LF cameras produce great prints?

    Thanks to all who have replied. i agree MF or better is needed. And I'm sure more practical than LF systems. But when "the best" is what you strive for every day, LF really caught my eye. Perhaps some of you may have misunderstood. I've made several large prints that look sensational, but they all have one thing in common -- the subjects are relatively large in the frame. When it comes to large group portraits with a 6MP camera (No matter the workflow, interpolation, sharpening . . .no matter the lens (Both the D1x series and D100 have CCD's less than the area of a 35mm negative. Optics must be precise. ) there just arent enough pixels to go around showing fine detail in everyone's face.

    A side note about Digital SLR's to the gentleman who asked to be flamed:

    D100 (Mine) Just over 6MP, $1700 D1x Just over 5MP, $4000 Canon 1N 8.9MP or so $8900 Kodak 14N 13MP or so was $13000 about six months ago maybe 10 now?

    D1x is a photojournalism dream camera -- 1/500 flash sync speed, more advanced metering, quicker focus, much better write speeds than my D100. But when you're in a tripod with studio lighting, an incident meter -- well none of those pluses equal better sharpness of big formal prints, on the contrary...

    The Canon and Kodak offer significant improvements (surpassing 35mm) but still lag behind MF a little (got this info from somewhere in the depths of the (Superb) NormanKoren.com website.

    sorry about all the parenthesis

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