close-up w/4x5 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Greetings all,

I am not (yet) a LF photographer, but am very intrigued. Since I am a newbie to LF matters, please feel free to giggle at my question. I have been shooting 35mm for about 20 years.

Specifically, I love to shoot landscapes and macro/close-up. My question is, does the LF camera suffer from so significant a DOF loss that it is impractical to use for macro work? I am talking about magnification of 1:1 and higher. Is the physical size of the box a significant limitation? Any input on using LF gear for this purpose would be greatly appreciated. I read all the article in the newbie section and none touched on this subject to my satisfaction.

The related factors of wieght and size with respect to portability do not concern me as much as the images I can obtain. I am primarily a 35mm user, but shoot 6x6 with an old Yashica as well. I was almost convinced that I wanted to go MF until I realized that with virtually every published image I see in a magazine that had 35mm, MF and LF printed side by side, the 4x5 (or greater) image was the one that made me drool.

Sorry to carry on so. Thanks for any and all input.

Jim Korczak

-- Jim Korczak (, September 14, 1998


For landscapes, and close up work with objects, I can't imagine a better choice than a LF camera.

For close up work, you can actually choose the focal plane; it doesn't have to be parallel to the film plane. Tilt and swing will accomplish this. It's all well defined by the Scheimpflug rule. For books, look at Steve Simmons or Jim Stone's books on using LF cameras, or look at the descriptive info on B&H's web site.

For wide angle landscapes, LF is pretty straightforward. For architectural work, shifts and swings are important.

The only problems that LF could pose for you are (as I see it, anyway)

1. Cost. LF gear is really expensive. A typical lens runs $1000. They can be had for less, but new ones are not cheap. Film and developing are also a lot more than for 35mm. 2 Quickloads cost about as much to develop as a roll of 36 35mm slides. An average LF setup new will cost about as much as a Hasselblad or Mamiya 6x7 rig.

2. Bulk. LF gear is heavy and bulky. I have a book of breathtaking photos along the Colorado trail. The photographer used 2 llamas to carry his gear.

3. For landscapes, you'll probably want a bag bellows, and a wide and semi wide lens. For close-up work, you'll need a flat field or macro lens, and a very long bellows. So you'll have to get 2 bodies, one for each of your chosen areas.

Anyway, good luck. I have a Koni-Omega 6x7 setup with 3 lenses, and a Super Speed Graphic. I'm getting more use out of the SSG setup, even with fewer lenses and greater reload times.

-- Martin F. Melhus (, September 14, 1998.

For landscapes, and close up work with objects, I can't imagine a better choice than a LF camera. Martin was pretty much right on with his answers except for the following: "3. For landscapes, you'll probably want a bag bellows, and a wide and semi wide lens. For close-up work, you'll need a flat field or macro lens, and a very long bellows. So you'll have to get 2 bodies, one for each of your chosen areas."

I can think of at least one camera that would satisfy the urge to do greater than 1:1 macro and wide angle landscape work without needing a bag bellows, an extra long bellows and extention rails for shooting macro work: the Canham DLC. Not cheap (approx US$2150) but very practical and easy to work with, Other choices would be just about any modular design monorail camera (like the Arca Swiss, the Sinar, the middle and high end Toyo and Horseman cameras) IMO, the Canham DLC is the most versatile folding field camera. Another excellent choice would be the Linhof TK45s but about 50-75% more expensive than the Canham. Check the reviews on this web site for some excellent reviews of all the above cameras.

-- Ellis (, September 15, 1998.

I agree that LF will give you superior images for your type of shots. I enjoy landscapes and still lifes myself, and use a Speed Graphic, which performs quite well, and has the benefit of being cheap, and can do 1:1 with a 150mm lens. Used LF cameras and lenses need not be expensive, and you can find many used cameras in fine working condition starting at a few hundred dollars. Its far cheaper than a top line 35mm these days. Even an old cheap lens will beat the pants off 35mm. And, also, I thing all LF shooters drool :-)

-- Ron Shaw (, September 15, 1998.

For macro, for a given magnification, LF gives you a greater DoF than 35mm.

The basic formula is DoF = 2.C.N.(1+m)/(m*m)

where m is the degree of magnification, C the diameter of Circle of Confusion, and N is the marked aperture number. So if you are shooting at 1:1, at the same apertures, 5x4 will give you about 3 times the DoF than 35mm (because C increases by about 3).

But 5x4 at 1:1 requires a larger subject area than 35mm (5x4", rather than 1x1.5"). If you want to fill the 5x4 frame with a 1x1.5" object, you need a greater magnification, about m=3, which will reduce the DoF, but still give you an advantage over 35mm.

One handy thing to remember when considering lenses and cameras: 1:1 requires an extension equal to the focal length. So a 72mm lens needs an extension of 72mm (total bellows length 144mm), which most cameras will handle. But a 180mm lens needs 360mm of bellows, which is trickier.

If you drool at magazine reproductions, just wait until you see the prints or slides.

-- Alan Gibson (, September 15, 1998.

Thank you all for the input. The magnification is the key issue, I guess. I will be getting the recommended references to better understand the finer points, as well as the basics. I now realize that I need to go to 2 or 3:1 to get a full frame of a 1" subject at 4x5. That may be stretching the limits of the equipment (no pun intended). Perhaps I do not need to go that far, but to me the point is not to crop. I might as well go for MF with that approach.

Thanks again.

-- Jim Korczak (, September 16, 1998.

Also, something that may be of use to you are the 'close up filters', like used in the 35mm world. They may be able to save considerable bellows draw (and light loss). They are at least cheap enough to experiment with, before shelling out a lot for a special lens. Use the dual element ones.

-- Ron Shaw (, September 17, 1998.

unless you buy a kowa medium format camera all other camera systems will cost you much more than a large format system. A Bush/Pressman or later Speed or Crown Graphic camera will cost only a few hundred dollars US and a nice 150-210mm lense will run the same. On the other hand a cheap MF camera like Hassy, Broni or Mamiya bodie will run at least $700+ and a single lens will run at least as much. You can develope and print your own negs or trannies relatively easily in your bathroom with the new generation tubes and chemicals for a fraction of what it costs you at a lab. The most rewarding aspect of the LF system over the MF system is that you have a great deal of perspective control which you don't get with a MF system unless you plan on spending a bundle. I have been using a Bush/Pressman 4x5 camera for a long time and with my 150 lens get some pretty close shots of the interiors of my orchids including the damn bugs. Choice is yours. Check the shutterbug for prices and availability of systems.

-- james (, September 24, 1998.

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