More on large format


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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More on large format

21 Jun 2020 8:04AM   Views : 458 Unique : 331


First of all, thanks to Howard2, who suggested an excellent hour’s viewing on the BBC iPlayer, ‘The Man who shot Tutankhamun’ – and since Howard Carter’s excavations were nearly a century ago, the official pictures were taken on large format glass plates.

That’s really upping the game: the plates involved were 10”x8”, four times the area of the sheet film I use in my monorail camera. And the hook for me was that a modern photographer, Harry Cory Wright, took his Gandolfi to Egypt to discover some of the pitfalls of working in a makeshift darkroom in the desert.


Now, Wright is a far more experienced large format photographer than I am, and he was working with specially made plates, I suspect: normally, 10”x8” pictures are made on sheet film these days. I’ve checked: a pack of 25 sheets of FP4+ that size is nearly £150. The plates were notably slow – an exposure of a second at f/45 in desert sunshine suggests something around 25 ISO, but I may be a bit out.

f/45? Yes – the very large size of the film and lenses means that diffraction is far less of a problem than with modern digital kit, and the incredibly shallow depth of field means that stopping down (or using the camera movements I described the other day) is necessary to get front-to-back sharpness.

Now… Since I get out my own large format beastie, my wife has been commenting that it takes up a lot of space, so I took it out into the garden for some exercise yesterday. I plan to write up the processing in the next day or two, and show you the results: for now, please enjoy (if you can) the spectacle of a man under the traditional cloth…


In practical terms, you use one hand to hold the cloth tightly below your chin and the camera, excluding almost all light, with the other sticking out to reach for the focus controls – more than ever, it pays to know where the controls are! Fortunately, you can operate the darkslides in full daylight.

Better than the pictures of me are the sequences in the BBC documentary where an expert uses a beautiful camera… Gandolfi used hand-machined brass and seasoned mahogany for their cameras, and the finishing is as meticulous as could possibly be imagined. Go and watch - they make the shots of me here look very 'Silly Sunday'!


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Howard2 Avatar
Howard2 8 3 5 United Kingdom
21 Jun 2020 8:47AM
One point that hit me from that BBC documentary was, that if he - the photographer - wants real hi-quality hi-res. pictures, he still uses his plate camera. Even with all the digital i-tech equipment available now.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
21 Jun 2020 12:51PM
That struck me, too!

And any way round, large format is costly. At some point, there will be 10"x8" digital sensors of 500mp and more. At a price...

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