Linhof or Speed Graphic for Portraiture : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm considering doing a project of casual/environmental (non studio) portraiture using a LF camera, principally for the ability to get high resolution, larger format enlargements; the portraits will be half life and life size.

I'm considering using a Speed Graphic with a grafmatic or a Linhof Super Technika IV or V, both with a high quality modern day lens. Are these practical for use in these kind of situations? e.g. Outdoors, fluid portraiture situations. Or should I be sticking to MF/Rolleiflex?

-- Mani Sitaraman (, September 02, 1998


I think you will be better off sticking to the Rolleiflex (question TLR or SLR?)

-- Ellis (, September 02, 1998.

I think MF for portraiture is preferable, as well. If you are determined to use LF for portraits, then a Speed Graphic is plenty. Rugged and cheap.

-- Ron Shaw (, September 02, 1998.

I gather the LF cameras you're considering are hand-holdable, so would be nearly as fluid as MF. But depth of field will be reduced.

Most LF portraitists use a tripod, and if you're willing to do this, the results can be spectacular. See the 4 x 5 work of Arnold Newman and Shelby Lee Adams, not to mention the 8 x 10 work of Richard Avedon, Jock Sturges, and Nicholas Nixon.

-- Stewart Ethier (, September 02, 1998.

I do not mean to discourage you. I enjoy taking pictures hand-held with a Crown Graphic. But I would not consider it nearly as easy as it would be with a modern MF camera.

Comments on the Graphics:

If you are planning to use these hand-held with the range-finder and a modern lens, I suggest you go to and pick up some details about the rangefinders. You will want to be sure that you can couple the range-finder with your lens of choice.

These cameras will never be as fluid in use as a relatively modern MF camera. You have to look through one opening to focus (the range-finder). You have to use a viewer of one sort or another to compose your shot. You have to set aperture and depth of field on the lens in front of the camera (not visible from the back). You have to cock the shutter on the front. You have to either load and unload sheet-film and have a place for exposed and unexposed holders. Or you can use a roll-film back, but then you are shooting MF anyway. Of course there is polaroid (although this has its own set of inconveniences).

Of course, many of the greatest spontanious images were captured with these cameras in the days of yore, when one photographer could do with very slow film what ten photographers today cannot....

The question we cannot answer for you is if this camera will work with your working style.

A couple MF alternatives that will be fluid and offer a large negative (6x7): Mamiya 7 (very expensive) and Fuji's line of rangefinders (less expensive). If you are planning to buy a modern 4x5 lens, the alternatives in quality MF seem less dear. You can get a Speed Graphic with a good older lens for under $400, but a modern lens will set you back a bit more.


-- Derick Miller (, September 06, 1998.

Yes they certainly will work. As some of the others have pointed out, 4 x 5 might not be your best choice depending on how quickly you have to work.

But some very fine "candid" work has been done with these cameras over the years.

Do you own one of these cameras now or are you going to buy one in order to do this project?

I ask because there will be a period of learning how to handle the big box easily, and it will probably take you longer than if you are used to a 35mm or 6 x ? camera.

I keep a Speed Graphic loaded with a sheet of Polaroid type 52 where I can grab it on a moment's notice. It is my "duty camera," a hold over from my days as a Navy photographer. Have caught a few nice things with it from time to time.

Good Luck.

-- Tony Brent (, September 07, 1998.

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