Close-up photography with large-format? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I've been doing a lot of macro photography with my 35mm SLR, and I'd really like to be working in a larger format instead, since I do a lot of in-darkroom manipulation of the negatives, etc. My question - is it possible to do close-up photography with a large format camera? Can I expect to get 1:1? Is it possible to _magnify_ past 1:1? (Ideally I'd like to fill the frame with pretty small things, like fingertip-size...)

I've found a pretty good deal on an old Speedgraphic, but something tells me that one of those field-cameras is going to be a lot less good for close-up work than a monorail - any suggestions?

-- Charles Bandes (, March 03, 1998


1:1 magnification is eminently doable in large format. However, once you start getting meaningfully closer than that, two factors start becoming a real problem. The first is the length of your bellows. If you use a 6" (150mm) lense, 12" of bellows draw will get you to life-size, but as your magnification gets larger the bellows draw that you need increases rapidly. I haven't done the math, but I wouldn't be surprised if the kind of magnifications you're talking about (filling the frame with something the size of a fingertip) could require a yard or more of bellows. That's certainly not doable with a Speed Graphic (or any other field camera, for that matter). While it may be theoretically possible with a modular monorail and lots of extensions, I suspect that it would be very cumbersome.

The second problem is depth of field. Since you've done 35mm macro work, you know the kinds of f-stops that you need to get any kind of depth when you're in close. In 4x5, after accounting for the fact that you need less enlargement to produce the same size print, you still need something like 4 more stops to produce equivalent depth of field.

As a result of these problems, I tend to pull out the 35mm when I want to photograph something smaller than about the size of a 4x5 sheet of film.

-- Rob Rothman (, March 03, 1998.

A Speed Graphic will max out at about 1:1 with a 150mm lens. I guess you could use acromatic diopters and increase this, although I dont know what kind of quality you would get with diopters. These may need to be matched to s specific lens. Would reversing your lens work in large format as well? Dont forget to compensate for any bellows extension (+2 stops @ 1:1)

-- Ron Shaw (, March 03, 1998.

Forgive my ignorance - what are achromatic diopters?

If I can get 1:1 with a SpeedGraphic, that's at least a decent place to start for me - I did a lot of work with a Polaroid copy-camera (focus was fixed at 1:1 for the pack-film size negs) and enjoyed it, so 1:1 at 4x5 isn't *that* much more stuff in a frame...

-- Charles Bandes (, March 03, 1998.

you could magnify as much as you want, but you need long bellows (the one of the sg is shorter than most of the 4x5 cameras), and adequate depth of field, which is difficult to obtain in 4x5 if your subject is not flat. it helps a lot also to be able to focus the rear standard, since focussing the front standard (which is your only option with the sg) alters the magnification.

many lf shooters resort to smaller formats when it comes down to macro. a good compromise would be to use a view camera like the arca-swiss with a roll-film back, and work in mf for macro.

-- Quang-Tuan Luong (, March 03, 1998.

Maybe diopters isnt the right word. How about 'close up filters'? Its those jobber-doos that screw on to the front of your lens in the 35mm world. I have never used them, but I guess they work ok., but the jist I get from those that use them is to get the achromatic (2 element) type rather than the cheap single element types. Nikon, as well as others, make them. I dont know if these are like telextenders, and work better with certain focal lengths, but at least they are fairly cheap. Good luck.

-- Ron Shaw (, March 04, 1998.

A fairly easy way to get greater than 1:1 magnification with a speed graphics is to substitute a shorter focal length lens (or better, an enlarging lens) for the standard one. A 50mm lens will have plenty of coverage at a 12" bellows extension!

-- John Lehman (, March 04, 1998.

Of course it is possible to make enlargments in 4 X 5. I am an old pro in that field, and has used both Sinar, Lindhof, Plaubell and Horseman. The easiest way to come over the problem vith the long bellow is to use at shorter focal length. Find an old lens for a medium format camera, and use it. Dont be afride of the lens coverage. It vil increase by the bellows exstension. For a bigger magnifying you coud even use a lends from at 35 mm camera. An entlarger lens could also work. Excuse my english, but I live in the lowely state of Denmark.

-- Bent Jakobsen (, May 23, 1998.

Following Edward Weston's descriptions of his efforts in photographing small objects at near life size, I used my 203mm f/8 Kodak Ektar (my normal lens for my 4 x 5) on my 8 x 10 Deardorff. I had plenty of room for adjustments when racked out to near life size, and the lens was very sharp, even at near full aperture.

-- Tony Brent (, September 08, 1998.

The two-element close-up lenses that Nikon makes (the 62mm versions are the 5T (+1.5 diopters) and 6T (+3 diopters)) should work fine on LF gear, effectively reducing the focal length of your lens (in this case, to 122mm and 103mm, respectively). Their quality is optimized for long-focus lenses, but should still be reasonable on a normal lens.

One thing that you can do with them on a large-format camera that you can't do on a 35mm is focus to infinity, but I don't know what kind of quality you'll get; I've been meaning to try it.

For reference, the formula for finding the effective focal length when using one of these is 1000/((1000/f) + d). That is, a 210mm lens with a +3 close-up lens becomes a 1000/((1000/210) + 3) = 129mm lens.

-- J Greely (, September 11, 1998.

I read an article somewhere - don't remember where about using a 50mm enlarging lens reversed on a 4x5 monorail lensboard for photographing at 2-5x magnifications. Depth of focus is tiny. Small apertures necessary, but at large bellows extensions, coverage was no problem at all.

No shutter this way. The author either used flash, or a black card in front of the lens for longer exposures.

With the reversed enlarging lens, these reproduction ratios were within or close to the optimum range of the lens. At this magnification, a geared stage for positioning the subject can come in very handy.

At high magnifications, camera rigidity becomes important. Solid rail, solid standards, solid tripod, no wind.

-- mike rosenlof (, September 11, 1998.

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