Another odd format : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Unless my memory is deceiving me, the ancient Greeks found that when a line was divided into parts, the division that was most pleasing to the eye was when the ratio of the large part to the small part was the same as the ratio of the whole to the large part. This leads to the so called "golden ratio," which is mathematically equals 1 to (1 + sqrt(5)) / 2, or about 1:1.61. The Greeks incorporated this ratio into a lot of their works. For example, the height to width ratio of the fronts of the major Greek temples is at this ratio.

Bearing this in mind, I looked at large format photography, and found that there was no format that was near this ratio, but there was one that could be. Take an 8x10 sheet of film, and cut it in half the short way, producing a 5x8 negative. That's 1:1.60, which is really close to the 1:1.61 that the Greeks found so pleasing.

Note that 35mm is 1:1.5, 5x7 is 1:1.4, and 6x12 is 1:2.

So has anyone out there played around with 5x8? Deep in the memory archives, I remember reading about some 8x10 camera that had a half plate option so that you could shoot a 5x8 portrait on each half of the 8x10 film. I know that there probably isn't a lot of equipment out there, esp as 5x8 is just a smidge bigger than 5x7. But if anyone out there has some 5x8 stuff, could you comment on it?


-- Martin F. Melhus (, March 26, 1998


Looking at the date of this post makes me think I'm writing for very thin air but here goes....I have admired the 5x8 size for a long time...bigger ground glass than 4x5 or 5x7... more film availablity,just cut an 8x10 sheet in two ,don't have to hunt for 5x7 film ...way better proportion than 4x5 or 5x7, longer neg,just wish that someone made the cameras currently. The only disadvantage is a 5x7 enlarger won't do... you need an 8x10 enlarger. But for contacts real cool! Also that little extra in neg length is just grand...must have some connection to the sacred geometry of the ancients who based their artistic laws upon the perfection of certain patterns in nature i.e the nautilus shell. Which does indeed seem to represent the ultimate physical/visual truth.... of universes within universes...all in perfect proportion. Anyway.... a while ago I purchased a VERY OLD/1800's wet plate camera(5x8)that I converted to film substituting the guts from regular 5x7 holders into the 5x8 ones that came with the camera and it works just fine.Just cut an 8x10 sheet in two and load into the converted holders. On the plus side the camera is light and simple to use...on the down side I'd like more movements,a better film holder system and a current bellows. In other words I would buy a NEW 5x8 in a minute over a 5x7. Really I just like the way 5x8 looks! So....I dont use the camera too much because there are some problems with light leaks because of the age of the camera...but again.... I REALLY like the format. And....I wonder WHY camera makers are jumping yhrough their hats to make 4x10s and not giving 5x8 a chance. They probably think it's not commercially viable and they are most likly correctbut how viable is a 4x10? difficult would it really be to come up with a new 5x8...not really that difficult I think.. using some of the parts already in production. Wisner sells 6x10's which seems cool, but is a lot heavier than the forgotten 5x8. So...I have three choices at the moment... Rebuild my camera completly(destroy an antique)or find someone willing to make me a 5x8 from scratch(probably expensive) or a new most likly choice...then I can use my 5x7 enlarger without cutting off the ends of a 5x8. I dont own an 8x10 enlarger but maybe I can convert my 5x7 Durst...hmmm. I know you can get a 8x10 Deardorf with a split back (2-5x8's)too, so you might want to look into that...I have.But I think I will either pay someone to upgrade my old 5x8 or just go 5x7. The real dilemma is which camera company to endorse and which lenses for 5x7/8 to explore!. Peace and good luck, E.D.L.

-- Emile de Leon (, August 25, 2001.

Spare me. The "Golden Rectangle" is 2500 year-old bullshit. It is of historic, but not artistic interest.

-- Wilhelm (, August 25, 2001.

Wilhelm, that would now be 2,503 year-old bullshit :>)

-- Andre Noble (, August 25, 2001.

I doubt it is 2503 year old Bullshit as the calender jokers can't even agree when the new Millenium started.

-- Dan Smith (, August 26, 2001.

It's not bullshit....there are works of art and there are works of art...A real work of art and I don't mean most of the trash most photogs drool over... will affect a person/being in a very deep and profound way when seen or experienced ....any person... any time... any place the inner level/development of that being.Many of the timeless works of art in the past are INTELLEGENTLY based on this exact formula. Listen to Bach...see the Pyramids...go and experience the Sacred Temples from long ago...find a REAL teacher/adept... maybe feel YOUR OWN inner presence/perfection for a change(the real teacher) when creating a photographic work of art..... even if you can't.... pull that off when living ordinary life/washing the dishes etc....and you may sense a deeper reality and artistic skill rarely, if at all seen today.....IF.... you are not too dense and IF.... there is a particle of hope for you this time around. Now....I dont know about you.... but I photograph for perfection.... and if I can use a format that corresponds more closely to that perfection in a mathamatical and geometrical sense relating to the BEAUTY/TRUTH of reality.... i.e the nautilus shell in its perfection... then I will... and even if I'm skeptical like some,which is by the way an admirable trait.... til it results in total blindness.... which I would think every photog should fear....I would not want to manifest proudly my ignorence and deny a potential truth... one which could be alive in my pocket. So...5x8 is closer to this perfection much more so than the BORING/STAID 4x5 and 8x10 formats. Not that these don't have their rightful place in photographic art....obviously..... but there are much better proportions than those. I like my women to be in beautiful proportion both internally and externally.... and I like my camera to be the same....TRULY GOLDEN PERFECTION!

-- Emile de Leon (, August 27, 2001.

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