landscape black&white : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

My interest is black&white landscape photography. I recently purchased a Tachara field camera. It is an older camera in good condition. After much research I purchased a Nikon 150W in like new condition. As well I purchased three film holders and a 3X loop. My intention is to keep the lens and purchase a better camera once I have enough knowledge to make a good decision. I will be developing in trays and making contact prints till I have enough knowledge to make a good decision as to the type of tank or system for development and enlarger to purchase. My questions are:

Is this a good camera for B&W landscape, what would you recomend? Is the 150W a good lens, what other lens would you recomend? What B&W film would you use? What developer? What paper? What method would you use to develop? What enlarger would you recomend?

Thanks for the advise.

-- Tim Kimbler (, January 14, 1998


I haven't used the Tachihara, but from what I've seen and heard, it's a pretty good camera, IF you like woodies (a matter of personal taste) and IF the bellows draw is adequate to your needs (a matter of personal style). I looked at this camera when I was first getting into large format a few years ago. In my own case, because I wanted to use a 210 mm as my "normal" lens (about which more anon) and because I frequently photograph moderate close-ups, the bellows draw wasn't enough, so I decided against it. With the 150mm lens, I believe you can get close to 1:1 magnification, so unless you plan on using longer lenses you may find its enough for you. You can actually use longer lenses with a short bellows draw if you use telephoto designs, but this limits your options somewhat.

As far as lenses go, most 4x5 shooters use either a 150mm or a 210mm as their "normal" lens (the latter is actually a "long normal"). Which feels right for you is really a question of how you "see." If your compositions tend to be broad scenics, you might feel comfortable with the 150; if you like to concentrate more tightly on details, you may find the 210 more to your liking.

I's suggest sticking with your setup for a while. You'll get a feel for whether you like working with a woody, or whether you'd prefer the greater precision of a metal camera (I'm a woody-phile myself). You'll also get a sense of whether the 150mm feels right for the way you see the world. After you've worked with this equipment for a while, you'll know whether it is working for you or whether it is limiting your work. If you decide that you like wooden cameras and that the 150 feels comfortable, you may not want to change at all.

Welcome to the world of large format.

-- Rob Rothman (, January 15, 1998.

Rob got you started right, so I'll concentrate on the darkroom aspect of your inquiry. If you take your time and look around, you can put together a first-class darkroom inexpensively. I recently purchased a Beseler 45 MXT with negative carriers from 35mm to 4x5 for $600, and added a cold-light head and timer for $200. Get yourself a good used 135/5.6 enlarging lens, and you can turn out stunning prints for $1,000.

For developing film, take a look at the Jobo CPE2 Plus Starter Kit. You can get everything you need to develop 4x5 film for about $700. The water bath and constant agitation help yield consistent results, wihtout which your tests and photo trips are meaningless.

Which film should you shoot? I can't answer that for you. Get a box each of Tri-X, T-Max 400 and Ilford Delta 400. Print the negatives and decide for yourself which film works best. I use HC-110 to develop medium format Delta 100 and T-Max 100, but haven't concluded yet which film I like better. Give me a few more weeks printing some 16x20s and I'll have a better idea, but my results won't apply to 4x5 and they certainly won't apply to your taste and shooting style.

-- Darron Spohn (, January 15, 1998.

I'll agree with the basic advice above & hit the darkroom a bit more. If you really want the best you can get on the 4x5, upgrade the Jobo recommendation to the CPA or CPP 2 so you can take advantage of the Jobo 6shooter style film development drums. They are much more consistent than anything else on the market short of a full out dip & dunk machine costing thousands more. John Sexton uses them & everyone I have ever spoken with who has tried them has switched to them as soon as possible & won't go back. That said, take a look at TMax 100, as long as you will be able to be very consistent with processing. Its big advantage is in the reciprocity characteristics. After about 15 sec or so of exposure it becomes one of the fastest films on the market becauses it doesn't lose nearly as much sensitivity as nearly everything else. But, see what fits your vision & way of working. One really big advantage of the 4x5 is your ability to load a holder with different films on each side & shoot the same scene back to back & do a very direct comparison of the films shot within seconds of each other. I think you will enjoy large format work if you are a careful worker. It can really open up the options and vision both.

-- Dan Smith (, January 15, 1998.

The process I use to develop sheet film is cheap and extremely consistent. I use the tray method, one sheet at a time; very similar to process as developing paper. I started out with the dip-and-dunk method and had awful results half of the time. The only disadvantage with the tray method is being only to process one sheet at a time, but I have never had any consistency problems whatsoever. Good way to start out if you have a budget to watch

-- Bryan Fleishman (, January 20, 1998.

Another alternative for developing is the Combi Tank (for more information see the Q&A dealing with the tank). It's a little more expensive than tray (because of the cost of the tank - around $50), but you don't handle the negative as much. You process much like 35mm film with the Combi.

-- Stuart Goldstein (, January 20, 1998.

I have been using a Tachhara for about three years now and I specialise in B&W landscapes. By and large I think you will go a long way (or pay a lot more) to find a more appropriate camera. It's about as light and small as this style of camera can get. If you're used to a Linhof you may feel that things don't lock as tight as you would like, but everything seems to return to a square position so I guess that's all that really counts.

As for lenses, I use 90mm and 210mm. Both are just fine, as is the 150mm, I find that you tend to see images that suit the equipment you have on hand. Therefore I think you will get good images regardless of the equipment you have. Only once have I felt the need for a lens between these two. Luckily I was with a mate who had a 150 (and the same camera) so I borrowed it. With only 300mm of bellows draw the above comments about closeups/long lenses are valid. However, unless you want to photograph flowers or use long lenses this is not a limitation in practical terms.

For processing, the Jobo is renowned for being very good. It is also pretty expensive. I tried a daylight tank but could not get even development. I tried tray processing and the less said about my efforts the better :-) I then built my own dip-n-dunk tanks (grand total of $70 in parts) and ever since have had PERFECTLY even negs.

Film. I used to use FP4+ but grew tired of carting 3kg of double darks around the bush. To get over the wieght problem I changed to TMX (it's available in readyloads) and soon realised that I should have used this film ages ago. Assuming that you have good control over your development this film is great and can easily have it's contrast controlled. (Of course this is a failing if you have sloppy processing procedures).

-- Rob Gray (, February 04, 1998.

I think that the pevious comments are really sound but I will toss in my two-cents worth. I use an early Wista 4X5 Field which looks to me to be almost identical to the Tachihara. I have found it to be a delight to use, and while not as sturdy as the Linhof Technika that it replaced there is something about working with a wooden camera on a wooden tripod that I like. I dip and dunk in small tanks with good results and use an old Omega D-3 with coldlight head which has served me well for years. Buy a "good " enlarging lens and you should be set for years of enjoyment. I think that if your previous experience has been 35mm or even medium format you will come to love the slower methodical approach that large format dictates, not to mention all the goofy comments you will hear while under the darkcloth. Welcome to large format...there is nothing quite like it.

-- Bob Parsons (, February 05, 1998.

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