8x10 LF Questions

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I am considering purchasing a large format 8x10 monorail camera. I have a couple of questions.

1. Does any fellow large format photographer know of any good dealers (mail order) where I can get good prices on 8x10 film, particularly Kodak TMX 400?

2. I realize that on an 8x10, most do not come with revolving backs. Is the only way to change from vertical to horizontal format going to be to rotate the entire camera on the tripod head?

3. Which brings me to my last question, what is a good geared tripod head that someone could recommend? Is a geared head a good way to go, or are there other tripod heads that you might recommend? Concerning tripods, what is a good tripod? I'm only familiar with Bogen because that's what I currently have. But I would like to get another tripod with a geared rise. Should I stick with Bogen or should I get a Gitzo or Ries?

Thanks for your help and suggestions!


-- Ron Whitaker (contact@141.com), December 03, 1997


1. to get cheaper prices than B&H you will probably have to buy expired film. Two sources i have used are Midwest photo exchange and Freestyle.

2. most do have reversible backs (ie a back with a V and a H position where you remove it and replace it). the only cameras which are horizontal only that i know are the philips, and you would have to rotate them.

-- Quang-Tuan Luong (luong@ai.sri.com), December 03, 1997.

Re your question on tripods, I would just mention that, when I used a Gitzo, I had all sorts of trouble with the leg locks. The rotating collars often locked up, and I wound up with blisters on my hands from trying to loosen and tighten them. During one workshop in the Utah desert, I would up buying a pair of bicycle gloves in desperation, just so I could get a grip on the collars without destroying my hands. This was an old Gitzo--I heard that they've since started using a different material for the internal bushings, and the new ones may be better in this regard. However, I've been a lot happier since I switched to a Bogen (Manfrotto) with lever-style locks.

-- Rob Rothman (rrothman@riag.com), December 04, 1997.

I concur with all of the above but would like to add assorted IMHO's. Freestyle sells Arista 8X10 film in 100 & 400 asa for $36.00/25 sheet box - a good bit cheaper than TMAX.

Which I guess brings me to one of my favorite topics, DOING THINGS INEXPENSIVELY. Why a monorail? There are many studios doing top notch work in 8X10 with flatbeds - even Dickie Avedon uses (or used until recently) a Deardorff (albeit on location). Flatbeds are often less expensive and often have adequate movements for most applications.

This sort of ties into your tripod question which leads to a bigger question - what kind of work do you intend to do and how much do you want to spend? Do you want a Mercedes Sedan or a Ford F-150? Majestic geared heads and tripods with geared columns are quite nice and as they've been around awhile are often inexpensive - BUT HEAVY! The grey heads may require modifications to work on more recent tripods and the company does not stock parts for their older grey models. Bogen has a geared head but it's kinda pricey. Bromwell has several wooden tripods with a geared column and a ball and socket joint that might eliminate the need for a head completly, depending on what kind of work you want to do. Brett, Cole and of course Edward Weston got along fine with the earlier Ries sticks. I kinda like the idea of mounting a Ries single tilt head on a 100 or 75 mm ball head film/video tripod like the older O'Connors or Millers or maybe a newer Bogen 3190 or 3191. That way the camera is still quite close to the junction of the legs and can be leveled horizontally quite easily. I haven't tried it yet as finances haven't allowed. Some may balk at the idea of putting a traditional "wooden" head on modern aluminum sticks.

But all of this is subjective and really dependent on your needs - what you're gonna shoot and where you're gonna shoot it and how you're gonna get your gear there.

-- Sean yates (yatescats@yahoo.com), September 18, 1998.

Get a Ries Tripod.

There is a difference between a reversible back one that goes horizontally as well as vertically--which ALL 8x10s have with the exception of the aforementioned Phillips, and a rotating back--one that would go 360 degrees, which none of them have, nor are they necessary.

-- Michael A. Smith (smitcham@epix.net), January 28, 1999.

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