starting out with a speed graphic : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

i'm just starting out with an old Anniversary Speed Graphic...all i've got right now is the camera body and a lens (137, F. 4.7)...i need some suggestions for some cheap, good accessories, specifically a tripod and a light meter to get started with...i've heard that Sekonic is good to start with, but i'm so confused by all the different models...i need something that won't require a graduate degree to figure out...i see myself shooting landscapes (more urban and small town, rather than mountains), and i know that while i should have a more appropriate 4x5, the Speed Graphic is all i can afford right now...what would be a good wide angle lens to get? any help would be appreciated...

-- tim mccarthy (, March 30, 2000


I happen to think you can do a helluva lot with a Speedgraphic and its standard 135mm lens. That's like a 40mm perpective in the 35mm format. It's neither wide or longish - but that's often a good compromise

That said, what do you like as a wide in the other formats? Get one that's corresponding to that focal length, but for 4x5. 28mm = approx. 90mm in 4x5, 24mm = approx. 75mm. The old Schneider 90mm Angulons can often be bought for about $200. Most are good. Look for Linhof badged ones or late production models (you can tell by the serial nos.)

Which Sekonic are you referring to? I use an L508 which is a nice Swiss army knife of a meter, but have need for a Minolta Spot F sometimes because of the poor sensitivity of the Sekonic under 3EV. If I have to choose just one meter, the Sekonic will probably suffice for most situations in good light. FWIW, the Minolta Spot F is the cheapest spotmeter amongst the major players, hence its terrific value, but its probably (IMHO) the least intuitive to use. The Gossen Dual Spot is about the best one you can get but very pricey.

If you're going to use the Zone System a lot, a Pentax spotmeter might be a lot more intuitive to use for that system of working. A cheap Soligor digital spot is very usable as well.

There are too many tripods to suggest, but I think if you poke around the used equipment section, you can find old LARGE metal tripods with a pan and tilt head usually used for video. Those make excellent support for view cameras and are usually sold very cheap!

-- Kah Heng (, March 30, 2000.

You could also try getting a Wollensak, Congo, or Wray wide angle lens NB Wray lenses really need hoods to protect against flare. If the rangefinder works you could either mask the negatives so you can make two exposures on one sheet or rent or buy a roll film back preferably 6x12 and take vertical panoramas like Horst Hannerman - they look brilliant, though they do seem mor suited to more urbanised areas. As for the tripod go for whatever you are more comfortable with - try it out at the shop.

-- David Kirk (, March 30, 2000.

Tim: The other guys have given you some good advice. You don't need to apologize for using a Speed Graphic. That camera will take you a long way in large format photography. The only thing it really lacks is back movements. With a decent lens or two, you can make some great photos after you get used to LF. Incidentally, you don't need the latest, biggest and most expensive lenses for large format. Stop down to about f22 and nearly all of them will give you a decent negative. You have to watch for flare with the older uncoated lenses, but great photos were made with uncoated lenses, including many of Saint Ansel's best shots. Coating really didn't come into it's own until the 1940s. Shop around and find a good, solid tripod. The wimpy 35mm tripods ain't much good for large format, but a lousy one is much better than no tripod at all. Good tripods and filters make more difference than just about any assessory when it comes to the quality of your pictures. No need to rehash what the other guys said about wide angle lenses. Get a tripod, load up some film holders and go out and make good pictures. Good shooting, Doug.

-- Doug Paramore (, March 30, 2000.

Like the others said, no need at all to apologize for using a Speed Graphic. Mine is my "duty" camera (old Navy terminology) It's always loaded with a Grafmatic or Polaroid holder and charged up flash unit. I can be out the door and taking pictures at the drop of a press card.

You should visit for a whole lot of good stuff on these machines.

-- Tony Brent (, April 02, 2000.

Regarding spot meters, the statement that the Sekonic L508 is not sensitive in low light is correct. I wish I had known this before selling my Sekonic L778 (a great spot meter, though a bit heavy) for the L508 (which is both a spot and incident meter). There's a whole forum devoted to Sekonic meters at It's worth your visit if you plan to buy a Sekonic.

-- Edie Rothman (, April 02, 2000.

Tim, regarding a tripod, I use a Bogen 3401 with a 3047 head. Less than $200 and works for me and my Crown. The added benefit of this tripod is that you can mount the camera vertically so its pointing down (if you like to do flowers, etc). Do get a quick release adapter. As for a meter, I'm using the Gossen Digital F. Cost me about $175 with the rebate. Great little meter and does just about everything the Sekonic does at half the price.

The one thing I've been dissappointed with on my Crown is that the 152 Ektar doesn't have very vibrant colors. Even Velvia seems unusually pale. But my B&W picts just leap off the page! I find it hard to even use my Nikon N70 for anything other than point and shoot type of pictures. (Now if only the Crown was as portable and easy to use . . . )


-- John Welton (, April 03, 2000.

I'll second the remarks about the Gossen meter. It's the handiest one I have found and it's right on. They seem to have put it all in a nice package that is easy to carry. It also uses 1 standard AA battery instead of exotic specialty ones.

-- Tony Brent (, April 03, 2000.

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