first camera for indoors, available light? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hi, I am very new to this but thinking seriously about making the leap. I've noticed most of the questions relate to studio or landscape work, but I'm interested in indoor shots, with people usually, in widish focal length (in 35mm I use mostly 28mm-50mm lenses). What is a good starter camera for me, assuming about $600-$700 budget for body, new or used?I am very patient and contemplative in my work, and I think lf is a natural match. I also love the old wood cameras because they are are so knock out gorgeous. Would any of those be at all practical for my style?

Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appeciated-this is so confusing!

Thanks, Natasha

-- natasha berger (, May 20, 1999


Try a toyo cx for 550 dollars new. (no lens)

-- Altaf Shaikh (, May 20, 1999.

The 'available light' criteria is tricky. Most LF lenses are heavily optimised for small apertures (f/16-f/22), much more so than smaller formats, so you need long exposures. Does anyone know of LF lenses that work well fully-open?

-- Alan Gibson (, May 20, 1999.

My 150 Apo Sironar still looks good at its widest aperture. But with shooting available light portraits you are going to go back to the days of asking your subject to hold still for a bit, possibly enough to require the same techniques of head braces as Matthew Brady & company. Environmental portraiture with a view camera is not difficult as long as you work with the demands of the camera. An older Linhof Technica with a matching cammed lens for hand holding & faster film will work just fine and allow you full use on a tripod as well as the options for field work. Its rangefinder focusing is nice & the images that result as you get used to its handling will get better & better. You can get a back that will hold 8 sheets of film and speed up handling a lot. I think your budget may be a bit small for what you are thinking of, buy you might get lucky. If you don't mind being limited to a tripod, the used Calumets or older wooden cameras with older lenses can be had within your price range. But, be prepared for a much different way of working. If you can adjust & finesse the outfit your images should be excellent. I have had good success with portraits in available light with exposures to one second with willing and cooperative subjects. Exposures sharp enough to withstand 20x24 prints directly from the original Chromes. You will have to learn how to relax the subject & get them to breathe in rhythm of inhale, exhale a few times so they are relaxed & hold for the exposure. Then again, you can experiment with deliberate blurring of part or all the subject for creative purposes. Learning to augment the naturally occuring lighting will be part of the process. Doing so while maintaining the integrity of the original vision is a challenge & if you do learn to do so(and it can be done) then you will certainly rise above the masses who live with formula lighting & static images. Go for it & get so good we are reading of your results as one of the best.

-- Dan Smith (, May 20, 1999.

The Kodak 203mm Ektar is supposed to be sharpest wide open (F7.7), as well as being good to 1:1 with low distortion, however, it wont give the wide perspective Natasha prefers. Even though LF lenses are designed for best performance at F16-22, you may find that they give you perfectly usable results for your applications used wide open. A wooden camera is as good as any if in good repair.

-- Ron Shaw (, May 20, 1999.

Dear Natasha,

Please read this FAQ about large format cameras...

Checkout also our other URL

For a camera search for used Tachihara 4x5 with 150mm lens to start with..

If there are any questions afterwards, feel free to ask Regards, :<})

John D. de Vries (pres. WFPA) {:]///////[ 

-- John D. de Vries (, May 20, 1999.

speed graphic, tri-X pushed, 127mm Ektar. don't pay more than $300 for cam and lens in ex condition.

-- david clark (, May 20, 1999.

Good for you Natasha,

I'll agree with most of the posts here. But lf may not be the way to go for available light! The recent release of ilford 3200 delta and other fast mf emulsions are breaking open available light photography as we speak. I'd suggest you check out some used/smaller mf cameras for this very reason. Old Rollies, a yashica 124g, mamiya c330's are all great cameras and fit your price range. If you could save a little more money I'd suggest a fuji rangefinder, they are smallish handholdable and come with a 65mm or a 90mm which would match quite nicely to your faves on 35mm. Get out your light meter and play around....test what you feel to be your definition of "available light" to find the ei's and exposures you will require then purchase your camera based on those needs. If your light levels are very low you might want a 2.8 rollieflex, if you don't mind pushing film you could go with a "slower" camera. Do tons of research before you make that leap so the landing will be soft. Good luck!

-- Trib (, May 20, 1999.

You may wish to investigate the work of Marie Cosindas. She used (uses) 4 x 5 Polaroid material to make wonderful available light portraits. I don't know what camera (s) she used. Many other good suggestions have ben posted here.

-- tony brent (, May 20, 1999.

It's not exactly l.f. but a Mamiya Universal or similar press-type roll film camera can often be had for $200 - 250.00/body & lens depending on which one you get and whether you're willing to shop a bit. Check out the old Omegas specifically the Rapid M, which I believe John Gossage used to use. It'll shoot 6 X 9 on rollfilm with the right back but a Graflex with a Grafmatic might be faster to use.

-- Sean yates (, May 20, 1999.

Sorry if that was unclear, I meant $200.00 - $250.00/body and $200.00 - 350.00/lens.

-- Sean yates (, May 20, 1999.

Natasha, I do available-light indoor work quite a bit. At night. (A sunlit room would present less of a problem.) My 150 Sironar MC does OK at f/8-22, and my shutter "speeds" on 25 speed film go from 15 seconds to 2 minutes in well-lit studios. At f/5.6 and with 400 speed film I'd probably be all the way down to 1/4 - 2 seconds.

You could A) push your film, B) blow your budget and probably your quality by shooting one of the f/4 Nikkor wideangles wide open, C) do what I intend to do and swap my 35mm loaded with TMZ for a 120 camera loaded with Delta 3200, D) use a polaroid pack back and shoot their "3000" speed B&W, or E) give in and use flash.

I shoot poets, musicians, and painters performing and working, and I let them go blurry -- I use flash if I want sharpness. Long exposures with available light are just life with 4x5 (at least for me).

Your budget sounds fine for a camera and a decent lens. Concentrate on finding the right lens. If you intend to be able to ground glass focus indoors in artificial illumination, don't get a lens slower than f/5.6. If you want to shoot 4x5, the focal lengths you like in 35mm are closest to 90mm-150mm in LF. Look up or check the image circle on a lens before you buy it -- some lenses in this range are small circle "press" lenses, and some were designed for the old 2x3 cameras, also with smaller circles.

By the way, medium format is by no means fast-paced, if all you're looking for is to slow down. Good luck!

-- John O'Connell (, May 21, 1999.

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