Thinking of investing in a 4x5 large format camera, and looking for experiences of those who also shoot medium format on them.


Consulo 15 840 10 Scotland
19 Jan 2016 11:49AM
Morning all,

So after many years of photography I find myself arriving at a point that I dreamed about when younger (and film was the thing) but that I thought would never be a possibility: large format photography.

Over the past year or so I've found myself more and more drawn to the format and the possibility of finally having a camera with movements is very, very alluring indeed. I've been a very happy shooter of medium format for a good while now but there are a number of occasions recently that I've been longing for movements and my beloved RB67 just doesn't provide in that department. I've been doing a lot of reading about large format recently and I've found myself on ebay scouring the listings looking at potential outfits. At this point it's going to be a field camera if I do make the jump and I have two options open to me that I'm hoping I can get thoughts on.

The first of these options is to keep my RB67 set-up and save for a few more months and then purchase a field camera and a lens (which atm is looking like a Toyo 45A or 45Aii, and a 150mm lens). This might sound like the no-brainer option as it means I would be able to enjoy both cameras and take advantage that each system has to offer.

My second option is to sell all of my RB67 equipment and use the pool of money generated to bolster what I already have saved and invest in a medium format roll film, which means that I could shoot both formats on the one camera. I'm aware that I would be ditching an excellent camera system that has advantages that a 4x5 field camera would not so I was wondering if anyone here has gone this route and used a field camera to shoot medium format? If so, how have you found it? I primarily shoot a lot of things that don't require a massively quick set-up (and I have my Nikon D7000 for such instances anyway) so that's not of great concern. I'm asking this primarily as I'm aware that 4x5 is not cheap and that having the option to shoot cheaper medium format film would be excellent, but I'm just not sure as to how people find shooting with medium format film on a large format body.

Any experience with this that you can pass on would be greatly appreciated as it would really help clear up my mind as to what I should do.

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sherlob Plus
13 3.1k 129 United Kingdom
19 Jan 2016 11:57AM
I envy you - I hope one day to have a play with large format.

Bearing in mind I am coming from the perspective of a complete novice and therefore not in the know....

I'd have thought keeping both systems an advantage, if only from a perspective of flexibility. The LF system is likely to weigh more, need greater time to set up, have less flexibility in terms of available exposures (a roll of film versus a series of plates).
Consulo 15 840 10 Scotland
19 Jan 2016 11:58AM
*Edit - should read 'My second option is to sell all of my RB67 equipment and use the pool of money generated to bolster what I already have saved and invest in a medium format roll film back'
Consulo 15 840 10 Scotland
19 Jan 2016 12:13PM

Quote:I envy you - I hope one day to have a play with large format.

Bearing in mind I am coming from the perspective of a complete novice and therefore not in the know....

I'd have thought keeping both systems an advantage, if only from a perspective of flexibility. The LF system is likely to weigh more, need greater time to set up, have less flexibility in terms of available exposures (a roll of film versus a series of plates).



Yeah, I've looked on enviously at those shooting LF for a while now.

I'll address the issues raised as I understand them:

1) The LF system is likely to weigh more
Having never used one I cannot say this definitively but I'm given to understand that a field camera probably wouldn't weigh that much more than my RB67. When I have my RB67 kit with me I'm usually carrying a fair amount of weight already so I'm kind of used to it.

2) need greater time to set up

This is indeed correct, and no getting away from it. I have taken shots using my RB67 that I may have missed had I been using a field camera at the time. However, I'd say the greater majority of what I shoot atm generally requires a more considered approach.

3)have less flexibility in terms of available exposures (a roll of film versus a series of plates)

Indeed, and this is why I have my second option of selling the RB67 and buying a roll film back so that I can take advantage of both formats. A box of 4x5 Kodak ektar is about 35 for 10 sheets (!) and a box of 5 rolls of 120 Kodak Ektar is 21. Given that I get 10 shots per roll of 120, that work out at 42p a shot per 5 rolls of MF ektar vs 3.50 per box of 4x5 ektar. I would definitely not be burning through 4x5 film in the way that I might with MF film, so having the option to shoot roll film would be excellent, plus I have all of the advantages that movements offer.

I know this might read as if I have my mind thoroughly made up but it's not meant to, it's just my thoughts on the points raised. I am keen to hear from those who shoot both formats on a field camera to see if it's worth selling the RB67 kit.
Philh04 Plus
14 2.1k United Kingdom
19 Jan 2016 1:36PM
Just a thought and may be quite hard to find, but have you considered something like a Horseman VHR, basically a 6 x 9 roll film field camera, you get the best of both worlds then...

Phil
Philh04 Plus
14 2.1k United Kingdom
19 Jan 2016 2:23PM
I know you are interested in a field camera but there is a Toyo TV23G on Ebay at the moment. Should have said that one problem with adding a roll film back to a 4 x 5 field camera is when you come to use a wide angle, unless you get one that accepts bag bellows...

Phil
Consulo 15 840 10 Scotland
19 Jan 2016 3:14PM
Hi Phil,

I've considered a Horseman VHR but it would need further investigation. I've read of some people love them and others who weren't keen on using them at all.

I think I'd probably prefer to shoot on a 4x5 as it gives me the option of both. Regarding the bag bellows, would that be needed for only very wide angle lenses? My widest lens for my RB67 is 50mm (roughly 24mm in 135 format) and I probably wouldn't be using a lens with a focal length smaller than 90mm if I went with 4x5. Would the bag bellows still be needed when using a 90mm on roll film?
Philh04 Plus
14 2.1k United Kingdom
19 Jan 2016 3:23PM
You may get away with standard bellows on a 90mm lens, bare in mind that that lens when used with a roll film back will be a 'standard' lens...

A few years ago we had a full VHR kit, with three lenses etc, I used to thoroughly enjoy using it preferring it to our Sinar 5 x 4 systems, mainly because of the convenience of movements coupled with roll film.

It is great using large format cameras, when I was at college for my first year we were only allowed to use Gandolfi wooden field cameras, those old faithfuls taught me a lot about photography...

Good luck and enjoy

Phil
thewilliam 11 6.1k
19 Jan 2016 5:52PM
If you buy a "field camera", it and its lenses should weigh a lot less than your RB outfit, The heavy part is your film stock. Each DDS only holds 2 sheets so you'll need at least a couple of dozen.

Remember that the sheath is reversed after exposure so decide at the outset whether the white side is going to indicate unexposed or the other way round.

Number the film holders so you can keep track of which shot is on which and have a notebook so you can record how each shot needs to be developed.

Invest in a spot-meter and a book about the "zone system" so you can get exposures bang-on. This makes darkroom work a lot easier.
Philh04 Plus
14 2.1k United Kingdom
19 Jan 2016 6:40PM

Quote:Remember that the sheath is reversed after exposure so decide at the outset whether the white side is going to indicate unexposed or the other way round.


Absolutely... the standard that I was taught and was abided by in most large organisations was white/silver side out = unexposed... Black side out = exposed.... The white/silver side also has a tactile indication as well. It is also worth using the 'locks' as well... loaded DDS were locked, unloaded were not, in fact unloaded were stored in a dust free drawer with the slides slightly pulled out.

When loading, notches on the film top right... back in the good old days seasoned veterans could identify what film it was, in the dark, from the pattern of the notches...

Phil

Consulo 15 840 10 Scotland
20 Jan 2016 11:31AM

Quote:If you buy a "field camera", it and its lenses should weigh a lot less than your RB outfit, The heavy part is your film stock. Each DDS only holds 2 sheets so you'll need at least a couple of dozen.

Remember that the sheath is reversed after exposure so decide at the outset whether the white side is going to indicate unexposed or the other way round.

Number the film holders so you can keep track of which shot is on which and have a notebook so you can record how each shot needs to be developed.

Invest in a spot-meter and a book about the "zone system" so you can get exposures bang-on. This makes darkroom work a lot easier.



All good advice, William.

I already use a Sekonic L558 for my medium format work so I have that aspect covered, though I haven't really made any use of the zone system and have only a passing knowledge of it. Maybe something to read up on!
jembo 15 139 United Kingdom
20 Jan 2016 8:40PM
Consulo - I am in the same boat. Would love to have a go at large format and the Chamonix seems to get good reviews if you are looking to buy new. Check YouTube as there are several users who have favourable comments. For inspiration check out Clyde Butcher and printing massive from his 10x8 enlarger.

As for the Horseman, I think I read that some users have had to modify the lensboard? to accommodate the rear of certain lenes. But you might want to check up on that. But the Horseman is a camera I have considered as there seem to be a good number available (albeit mainly from Japan).

I have also had a look around at large format hire (try before you buy) but the only cameras I see available are Sinar monorail (or similar) - and I would prefer a field camera.

Let us know what you decide.
Sooty_1 9 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
21 Jan 2016 12:06AM
How much do you covet the movements that LF gives you? Are there things you can't do with your existing kit?

Personally, I think starting cheaply is the way to go....a new Chamonix, or indeed a new anything is going to hurt.
It is perfectly possible to pick up a monorail camera for just around 100. A technical camera costs a little more, and a field camera a little more again.

Quote:Each DDS only holds 2 sheets so you'll need at least a couple of dozen.

You only need a few film holders to start with (you're not blowing lots of shots at a time as you might do with roll film) and 5x4 dds can be picked up along the way. A roll film back is handy, but once you've used sheet film, I suspect you'll prefer the larger image.
I use a 90mm without a problem, and a 75mm with a recessed lens board, both without having to resort to a bag bellows. Anything wider, and it's probably going to cost a lot of money, and you'll also find that a much more limited lens range is all you'll need. Many LFers only ever use a couple of lenses. If you can only get one, and you like moderate wide angle, a 120mm or a 135mm is a good compromise. A 150mm is standard on 5x4 and a 180/210 MM. is a good portrait length.
One thing you may need to check, is your tripod's stability...LF cameras aren't always well balanced and they act like main sails outdoors!

Check out 'large format photography forum' if you haven't already...lots of great information in there.
Careful shopping and you could be up and running in LF for well under 500. A view camera does not have to be new, they've been making "modern ones" for over 100 years!!
I would keep your RB kit for times when you want a little more convenience.

If you were wondering, I use 5x4, 5x7/half frame and at the moment home made 8x10. I have an MPP (6x9) and a linhof (6x7) roll film backs, and have barely used them.

Half the fun is the difficulty, but the results when you nail it are something else. Forget the zone system. Meter the way you're used to and remember to add in a factor for bellows extension if not at infinity. If you're getting good exposures manually with your RB, you'll get good ones with LF as long as your shutter is accurate.

You can always start with a homemade LF pinhole, built around a dds and use paper negatives or direct positive paper.

Nick
pentaxpete 14 667 1 United Kingdom
22 Jan 2016 4:48PM
I have used 4x5 MPP Mk VIII when i was a photographer at University College London ( left in 1970) and I own a German Voigtlander 'AVUS' 9x12 cm plate camera -- i did a Video on it showing glass plate loading and 120 rollfilm back and loading and a darkroom print result -- you can see it here :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzJNMUvr5z8

31387_1453481293.jpg

Consulo 15 840 10 Scotland
25 Jan 2016 1:33PM
Thanks all for the replies, very helpful indeed.

The Chamonix does look like a lovely camera though it would be blowing more than my budget (around 700 tops) on a body alone, so that's obviously a no go. I would sooner be spending money on a camera that gives me all of the movements that I need and that stands up well, and spending more money on a good lens to begin with.

For those in the know, and there seems a few of you here, would you say that getting a camera with back movements for shooting landscapes is essential or something that is nice to have? The cheapest field camera I've seen in the intrepid camera but there are no back movements there and those that do seem to push the price up a bit. Are there any 4x5 field cameras that come to anyone's mind that offer both back and front movements that is floating around the 300 mark?


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