suggestions for novice LF user re optimum eqpt for portraits : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Dear all I have recently developed a somewhat persistent notion that I would like to extend my interest in portraiture to large format. What I would value is help in stopping myself from going insane trying to decide the best configuration within my budget($4ooo approx). I am obviously seeking optimum quality (would appreciate your thoughts even if it is well outside my budget) and was therefore wondering whether I should be concentrating on 8x10? Being studio based portability is not an issue. Many thanks to those who find the time to reply. Regards P.King

-- paul king (, October 23, 1999


Certainly 8X10 would be very interesting for portraits and you may well be able to get into that format for about the same as 4X5 - assuming the gear is used of course. The materials will be a lot more expensive though, and access to an 8X10 enlarger - if you want to do your own darkroom work - may be problematic. And for every 8X10 enlarger you'll find, you will find 1000 4X5 beasts.

However, a good quality 4X5 field or mono rail camera and a lens like the Nikkor 300 mm f9 M, as well as all the stuff you'll need like film holders and such would come well under your budget.

-- David Grandy (, October 23, 1999.

If you go with 8x10, would you consider enlargements? And does your $4000 budget include darkroom equipment? That would be a pretty tall order.

Do you want new or used gear?

-- Chad Jarvis (, October 24, 1999.

If you are going to shoot 8x10, consider just making contact prints. If you are going to shoot 4x5 (or 5x7) then an enlarger does become part of the equation. In either format look for a camera that has lots of bellows draw without need for accessories like extralong bellows or intermediate standards that would allow you to link standard bellowss together. My favorite large format cameras right now (for portraits or location work) are the one made by Keith Canham @ K.B. Canham. he makes cameras from 4x5 to 8x10 and maybe beyond. Try http:// for on-line info & pricing. Also a good place for advice and lenses. A 300mm (like the 300mm f/9 M-Nikkor) is a great head & shoulders portrait lens for 4x5, approx. equivalent to a 100mm lens in a 35mm system, and a similar lens would be a 600mm for an 8x10. Figure you'll need about 50% more bellows length for head & shoulders studies. The 450mm f/9 M-Nikkor is also a terrific lens. But the truth is you can do wonderful portraits with virtually any lens & camera.

-- Ellis Vener (, October 24, 1999.

Why do you think you need to go to 4x5 or 8x10? What do you shoot with now? LF is fun and exciting but MF will do a better job in portraiture in my opinion. And lighting is in the equation also. Do you own any lighting equipment? 4x5 has some problems that MF doesn't, like DoF and subject movement. Getting someone to hold still is a chore unless they are used to sitting. You can hand hold MF for different angles and more spontaneity too. Processing is less expensive in MF as is printing. And depending on which system you buy, MF has some very nice soft focus lenses. I'm not trying to talk you out of LF, just hoping you are aware of some of the questions that you should be getting answers too. I shoot mainly LF and love it. But I use MF for portraiture because it is easier in my opinion. Keep asking questions before you decide. James

-- james (, October 24, 1999.

Hi Paul, I think James has a point with his MF arguement. However, just to throw out a few wild ideas, if you are commited to the LF path, and you have 4 grand to spend what about a 5*7 RB Graflex or 4*5 RB Graflex, both SLRs and with something like a 240 Fuji soft- focus or 240 Imagon? Or what about a Gowland twin lens reflex? you could have Steve Grimes attach a matching pair of portrait lenses with an iris in the focusing lens for depth of field composing. If you could dial in a degree of difussion, so much the better. And, it seems the above would work well on a medium weight tripod. I don't have any experience with the above; however, either of these combinations should work pretty fast from pose to exposure. Perhaps someone with experience with the above could contribute their opinion on the subject. But, I think James had a good arguement for MF. David

-- david clark (, October 24, 1999.

Has anybody seen a 5x7 RB Graflex for sale lately? I'm looking. Mitch

-- Bill Mitchell (, October 24, 1999.

I concur that portraiture with LF is challenging. I have done a lot with 8x10, now settled upon MF because of its speed, flexibility and moderate cost.

8x10 will give you something that no other format can. But it's not for everything. It's almost impossible to keep the subject in focus long enough to stop down the lens and get the holder in the camera. And a full-frame head shot is nearly 1:1! What kind of depth-of-field are you getting that that magnification?!

IMO, 4x5 is a "halfway house", more a glorified medium format than LF. And don't worry about enlarging 8x10.

I could ramble on about this subject endlessly. Better still, look over my site:

-- Peter Hughes (, October 25, 1999.

Paul: I concur with Ellis, as usual. The Canham 45DLC and the 300mm Nikkor is an excellent portrait combination, which I use myself for (among other things) portraits of friends and family. With a small lighting kit, you could do in-home portraits, which has a bit of cache and exclusivity, especially when done with 4x5. I disagree that the 4x5 is a glorified medium format; IMHO it's the perfect format and will give noticeable improvements over 6x6 or 6x7.

-- john costo (, October 26, 1999.

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