Large Format or Medium Format for use on foot and sailboat : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I would like to expand my photo horizons from Nikon 35mm to either MF or LF primarily in landscapes, seascapes and other scenery by exploring on foot as well as on my 30' sailboat.

Could you make a recommendation for a camera to use?

I almost bought a Deardorff 5x7/4x5 but am still reluctant since it may be a bit cumbersome on the boat. I have also been advised to consider Rollei 6001 (since Hassy is a lot more $), Bronica ERTS/SQA(?) and Mamyia 645.

Your comments and recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

-- McCormack, Ken (KMCCORMACK@ALCOS.COM), January 21, 1999


LF on a small sailboat could be problematic because of stability problems. The better seascapes are usually low-light and you might not be able to get shutter speeds fast enough. Set up might also be a problem, esp. with the wind. Personally I'd look into a 6x17 panoramic camera. Philippe Plisson, France's leading seascape photographer, uses those. I think the aspect ratio is great for seascapes. With a 6x6 format, I'd have a hard time finding a good background.

-- Quang-Tuan Luong (, January 21, 1999.

You've got a 30' sailboat and you're worried about cost? What's your insurance run?

Seriously though in medium a 6X9 Mamiya rangefinder, or the older & no-longer-made Linhoff Press or the Mamiya Universal.

In large format there is a guy who takes airborne pictures of jets, while in the cockpit of another jet, using the old Graphic, which one, Speed, Crown, or otherwise I can't recall, but it's the one with the rear curtain shutter in addition to the lens leaf shutter. With that he can get speeds up to 1/1000. Try the Graphlex website for more info.

Peter Gowland has made some odd/ionteresting large format cameras, TLR's and such and The Gran View is new- they advertise in Shutterbug & View Camera. Good Luck!

-- Sean yates (, January 21, 1999.

The Speed Graphic has the rear focal plane shutter. The otherwise identical Crown does not.

-- Ron Shaw (, January 21, 1999.

a speed graphic just might work. it's much cheaper than what you're thinking of so you might not consider it, but it claims 1/1000, and the curtain mechanism appears to be dirt simple and easy to clean which is important around salt water. you can hand-hold it and sight through a peep sight, or depending on the type of boat you have, you could through bolt a ball head to a cabin roof/deck for stability (i mean, at 30ft, you must have a keel. it's not like you're shooting from plywood dingy). if a speed graphic with a Kodak lens goes for a swim or takes a rogue wave you're only, say, five hundred dollars at risk, and you could probably save both the camera and the lens shutter from salt water damage yourself.

-- david clark (, January 21, 1999.


When Spielberg shot "Jaws" he assumed his cinematogrpher would use a gymbal mount on the tripod. The Cinematographer responded that no, the whole audience would get sea-sick, rather he should hand hold it, using his body as a natural cushion or shock absorber. But that's not still photography either.

-- Sean yates (, January 22, 1999.

I've done a lot of shooting for sailing and kayking magazines both aboard our Hallberg Rassey 31 and aboard various other boats from 11 to 56 feet long. Though I love large format, my advice is to use the latest fastest most electronic Cannon or Nikon system aboard boats. If you are shooting stuff that will be printed really big use a Pentax 67 (or Mamiya 7, though I don't have experiance with the 7). The 6x7 image quality is not too far from 4x5, and you can't really use tilts and swings on a boat anyway, but conveniance goes way way up. The only way my field camera gets on a boat is in a sealed Pelican case. Of course that's the ideal thing: have a Nikon for use aboard and a field camera to take to shore. But I often use a Pentax 67 can for both.

One more thing, why does everyone think only rich folks have 30-foot sailboats, when I bought mine (15 years ago) I was making less then 30k/yr - it's simply a matter of priorities, just like buying quality cameras and lenses.


-- Chris Kulczycki (, January 22, 1999.


Excellent recommendations--autoeverything Nikon or Canon if you want action, 6x17 for seascapes. I'd like to followup on Chris's thought of the Mamiya 7. I believe it's the lightest camera with the biggest negative and best grip, thus the easiest to handhold with one hand while hanging on with the other when the seas are up, IF your goal is big prints. See January Shutterbug article on Hassy with gyroscopic stabilizer for bridgetop shooting as an alternative, if holding on is not a priority. Ted

-- Ted Daughety (, January 22, 1999.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I believe $30k 15 years ago cannot be compared to $30k in '99.

-- Sean yates (, January 22, 1999.

For medium format I'd recommend a Pentax 67, and seal everything you can especially around the prism with tape. There's a good assortment of lenses, and the camera handles like a giant Nikon F2, Pentax Spotmatic etc. Do you live aboard? If so, give some serious consideration to some sort of airtight container and some silica gel cannisters; fungus just loves lenses kept on boats. If you do live aboard, I'd suggest otherwise thinking about a mechanical camera such as a clean used Hasselblad if a new one is too expensive. The disadvantage is that lenses will cost considerably more than Pentax lenses because you're buying a shutter in every lens, but it may be a big advantage that there's no electronics to turn green and corrode. I don't know about you, but the only piece of electronics I had that kept working more than a year was an Icom VHF that was so well-sealed that it could be sprayed with a water hose and keep on working. Lightning got it, but that's another story. Fair winds and following seas.

-- John Hicks / John's Camera Shop (, January 23, 1999.

One other thing; if you get the urge to play with large format, pick up a clean Crown Graphic. They're relatively inexpensive so if you dunk it or drop it it's not a tremendous loss. The Crown has only the leaf shutter, so it's a lot lighter than a Speed and you won't need anything faster than 1/500 anyway.

-- John Hicks / John's Camera Shop (, January 23, 1999.

You can probably use a Pentax 67 and 100ASA film aboard boats from 13- 600' - sail or steam. If you have a problem try a gyro-stabilizer:

I have used Kodachrome, usually 25ASA, on every size vessel since 1961, in 35mm format. I still use canoes occasionally. For the past 30 years I used the fastest Nikkor lenses money could buy, from 18mm to 300 f/2.8 As often as not, these were used wide open.

You cannot, obviously, use a tripod, nor brace your body against say the mast as a rule. If you do, you will increase the vibrations transmitted through your body to the lens. I am assuming you want to use slow film: 25-100ASA color, or 100TMAX, or Ilford XP2 at 320.

Keep the salt off the gear. Keep UV filters on all lenses for protection. The suggestion, above, to get a Pelican case is worth heeding.

Hope you have a sense of humor and that this helps.

Some lowlife, lowlight 35mm seascapes at:

-- Cap Kellogg (, January 30, 1999.

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