Please tell me how easy it is to shoot with a 4 x 5 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm looking at getting a large format camera, but I can't help to be some what intimidated about how easy it is to use when I first get started. It will be used mostly for landscape. I heard that right away (not even using any movements) that I will get awesome results! (of course with a good camera, lens and proper focus/exposure). I heard that it's a situation of "what you see is what you get". In other words if that's true, I should be able to start shooting right away without being paranoid of what seems to be a somewhat complex exercise in learning how to use shift/tilt/swing movements. Even adjusting those movements should'nt be very complex at all if it's really a situation of "what you see is what you get". If that is true I should be able to figure out by seeing with a loupe, what movements are doing what. I have also read that each large format camera, depending on design, has to have each control operated on in a certain order, which would just take a little time to get use to. As far as film goes, that looks like it can be a real pain, mostly out in the field! Unless, at first I use the prepackaged/preloaded film that seem's available in a decent assortment of film types. So folks, here it is, if I purchase a well made 4 X 5, some top notch lenses, it should be very easy to use when I'm first getting started.....right?? If I don't use any movements, and I just load the preloaded/packaged film, (later on I'll load the sheet film myself if I desire), adjust shutter speed, aperture, focus and shoot (basically, and not in that order) ....but thats about it right?..huh? That's how easy it can be when your first getting started with a large format camera system....RIGHT? Fairly fast and easy, providing the exposure is correct, I'll get better results than a medium format system? What ever I see on the groudglass is what I get in the picture??...RIGHT? Thanks for all your time and remarks.

-- David.R.Williams (David.R.Williams2@JSC.NASA.GOV), April 12, 2000


Thats about it. My first LF images were done without movements, and after seeing the resulting chromes, I was hooked forever.

-- Ron Shaw (, April 12, 2000.

Your 4x5 will be as difficult as you make it. Basically, focus & compose, meter & set the film in it & shoot. If you are the type who likes the creativity freed by the 'zen' of the process you should do fine. While there are a lot of little ways to screw up, you don't have to worry about them after a bit of experience. And you won't have nearly as many settings to worry about as with a new auto everything SLR.

-- Dan Smith (, April 12, 2000.

Yes and no. For me, the hard part of photography is the same no matter what format I use.

I would say no to the notion that large format is wysiwyg. Images on the ground glass don't appear to have as much contrast as they do in real life. It can be difficult or impossible to preview depth of field, because many subjects aren't bright enough to view with the lens stopped down. Perhaps the ground glass doesn't lie, but it doesn't tell the whole truth either.

There are ways around these problems (I don't do all of my composition on the ground glass, and if in doubt, I shoot a Polaroid).

But yes, you should be able to start right away and get decent results (providing you understand the basics of composition and lighting, etc., etc.).

Good luck.

-- David Brown (, April 12, 2000.

If you want easy, buy yourself an automatic point-and-shoot type camera, Dave. It will save you from a lifetime addiction to large caneras!

Because with large format, from your very first picture, you will be amazed at the sharpness and the clarity of the image. From the first image you will be hooked. From then on, you will become obcessed with learning the hows and the whys of all the movements of the camera. You will no longer see things in color, but in "zones". You will have nightmares because of some guy named "Scheimpflug". You will try to get your backpack as light as you can, but it's a losing battle because you know the lens that you leave in the car will be the one you need! You will become pale from the time spent in the shade of the focussing cloth. And you will learn to curse the wind!

So if easy is what you are looking for, don't EVER take your first picture in large format. I made that very mistake in 1969, and I have been addicted for 31 years. -Dave

-- Dave Richhart (, April 12, 2000.

From a certain point of view, the more money you have to spend the easier it is - i.e you CAN afford a spotmeter combined with ambient and flash metering modes, as well as a colour temperature meter (though this is, unless the job in hand requires no deviation from a certain colour temp, unnecessary) and the latest glass from Nikon, Rodenstock, Fuji or Schneider) as if you have all the latest kit thats' a few less variables to worry about. That said, but it is quite feasible to take gob smackingly beautiful images on 50's vintage lenses (like me - Xenar 150mm, Kodak Ektar 203mm and - don't slag it down - a Wray 89mm one of the batch for the MPP S92 cameras in MOD service). Please note you can qutie easily pick up a nice second hand 4x5 camera for well under a grand - approx #780 including darkslides the above lenses, a polaroid back and some film, oh and a 6x7 roll film back. BTW it is quit easy to start as I remember my first exposure was spot on, perfectly exposed an all, pity about the 15th to 21st kinda buggered them up a bit:)

-- David Kirk (, April 12, 2000.

rent or borrow.

LF is a large scale endeavour. you will be elated and severely disappointed at times. my first outting with a rental Toyo was comical and disasterous. everything that could go wrong, did. the Polaroids were lacking, the discomfort factor high, the opportunity for error vast. I must have seen potential, because the weekend drew to a close and I was still picking up the view camera books.

one word though .. do not let friends or loved ones see you at work the first time out. when the wind picks up, blowing the dark cloth around your neck, you drop the lightmeter, forget to pull the darkslide at times and multiple-expose the rest, lose your loupe, and miss the perfect light because you forgot to cock the shutter, words you have never used since boot camp will surely flow from beneath the cape. and I haven't mentioned exposure settings .. trust me, you'll forget. best of luck.

-- daniel taylor (, April 12, 2000.

Dave, I will give you my perspective as someone who has been at LF for about a year and still has a lot to learn. My first LF camera was a Busch Pressman and a cheap light meter for a total of about $250. From my first box of film (10 negs) I got a photo that is still on my wall and is as good as or better (to me) than anything I had done with several years of 35mm. Part of this is at least due to the enlarability of the format. I think i would recommend a better camera and lens(es) for a beginner, but I do think you can get started very well for less than $1000 with many choices.

I have had the problems that others warned of. I've had double exposures, no exposure (forgot to cock the shutter), light leaks, exposure mistakes, focus challenges, no film in the holder, and so on. I got over this fairly quickly and all-in-all it has been great fun and I've had many nice photos. It's really not that hard.

I would make some suggestions that I'm sure others would differ from. I would say to go ahead and jump into regular film holders. I had just as many problems getting used to quick loads as sheet film. The only probelms I would see with regular holders is weight if you're packing a ways. After you've done it once it's easy and it's cheaper. I would also skip the polaroid back. It's just one other piece of equipment to add to the complicated nature of things, especially when your in the field. They do have their place, but I didn't find it an advantage when starting out. I would also suggest that you can get by with less than a spot meter unless you have plans to use the zone system and do a lot of B+W. I use a Gossen Luna Pro and at the point I'm at it does fine. I do use the 7.5 degree spot adapter occationally. I would also suggest that you use negative film (vs slide) for at least a short amount of time. It's more forgiving for exposure miscalulations and will avoid some unneccessary frustation right out of the starting box.

Focusing with movements is still a challenge to me, but as you may know, there will be many times when you don't need them at all and other times when they will be slight.

To me, LF is like a lot of other things - it's not that hard to do an OK job with, but you can spend a whole lifetime perfecting. For what it may be worth, Roger

-- Roger Rouch (, April 12, 2000.

David: Large format gives you many opportunities to make a complete ass of yourself. It also gives you an opportunity to make some of the best images you will ever make. Large format images gives you what you were trying to get all these years with smaller format. There is a learning curve, but what worthwhile does not have a learning curve. Most of the common errors are as the previous respondents have listed: failure to pull the slide, failure to reset the lens after focusing, failure to load film in a holder, failure to reset the shutter, etc. I would suggest that you set up the camera in your house or yard and practice the drill with blank holders. Do it until you don't have to really think about it. Focus, close the shutter, set the aperature, set the shutter speed, put in a holder, pull the slide, click the shutter, turn the slide over and reinsert, remove the holder. Do this over and over until it becomes habit. You will find it helps a lot when you get in the field. Above all, don't hurry. LF is a contemplative image making process. Take your time at first. You can build up speed as everything becomes more familiar. This is not motor drive photography. Make some images and develop carefully. Be prepared to get your socks knocked off. Sit back and see what a real print looks like. Good shooting, Doug.

-- Doug Paramore (, April 12, 2000.

I just read Doug's suggestion about practicing with a camera without loading the film holders. I think it's a great way to learn, Doug, and it reminded me of a cheap and simple exercise I learned years ago.

Don't use film, but load the holders with photographic paper. I think you shoot the paper at around ASA 60.

That way you get to practice loading the film holders under a safelite (using paper instead of film). You actually go through all the motions involved in setting up the camera, and making an exposure. And after developing the paper in a normal manner, you have an image that you can evaluate to see if you are doing things correctly. You can go from the camera, to the darkroom, and have an image in under 5 minutes!

It's a cheap, easy, and quick way to learn the basic mechanics. Some of the results may even surprist you.

Paper negatives, anyone??? -Dave

-- Dave Richhart (, April 12, 2000.


I agree with previous posts...but no one appears to have responded to your notion of "Fairly fast and easy...".

Look at the see words like contemplative and Zen...this may not fit your definition. You will also find times when you set up the shot...look at the ground glass for awhile and decide it isn't right...and put the stuff back in the pack...which saves the money that would otherwise be spent on the film and processing...even if you never make a print.

I think the watchwords are to take your time. Think about what you're doing...and why. Consider the subject carefully. Maybe the light isn't right today...but it may be terrific next week. For me, this is what sets LF work apart from 35mm or even medium format. And when you've got 'one', you can measure its neg size in tens of square inches instead of one or two...which REALLY stands out in the finished print on the wall whether it is an 8x10 or 16x20 or ... .

-- Fred Leif (, April 12, 2000.

Fred: I couldn't agree with you more. I can't count the times I have set up the camera, studied the scene, and never made a shot. The wonderful thing about large format is the shooting process itself is quite enjoyable. I love studying the image on a ground glass even if I don't make a negative. I, too, have set up the camera and watched as the clouds turn to mush, the wind picks up, of the image just won't come together, and I couldn't answer to myself why I was making the neg. I wanted to get the message to Dave that with practice, setting up the camera and managing the image would become habit and allow all the focus to be on the art instead of the mechanical side. Repetition is still one of the best ways to become familiar with a process. Doug.

-- Doug Paramore (, April 12, 2000.

I don't think I would ever characterize LF as easy. fun, exciting, rewarding, but not easy. you want easy, go elsewhere. one of the most exciting aspects for me, is the hands-on involvement of loading film holders, loading the Expert drum, developing, and the magic feeling when the lid is popped off and those magnificent negatives come to life in the tray and on the light table.

-- daniel taylor (, April 12, 2000.

Something I didn't see mentioned above: get a polaroid back for your 4 x 5. This is the best tool for LF. You can see the results of your exposure and movement experiments immediately.

I have been using my Toyo field for about 2 months now, shot 2 boxes of Polaroid, one box of QL Velvia, one of TMAX (reg film) and one of 100VS. I will never go back to Med format. 35mm has its place but LF is where the beauty is.

For film Quick load is by far the way to go. If you eliminate the pictures lost by misloaded film, fogging, fingerprints - QL ends up being CHEAPER! However there are limited emulsions available - Velvia, Astia, Provia and Neopan 80 in Europe. I had 100% of my QL come out fine.

I shoot mostly landscape and cities at night and love the large chromes - nothing else comes close. I dove right in - new camera, Schneider lens, spot meter, 545 back, QL back, and some other misc stuff. I use a black t-shirt for a dark cloth - works very well if you get a size that snugs around the back of the camera and it will not blow around and smack you in the side of the head!

If you do some research and buy the "right" stuff you can sell it after trying it for a while without much loss. Check Ebay, overseas and the back of Shutterbug.


-- Alex Corbishley (, April 12, 2000.

One thing is that it's best to show up before the light is optimum so you have enough time to set up. If you're planning to shoot an early evening shot and show up after sunset hoping to just setup and shoot within a few minutes, you'll find that the ground glass might be too dark to even focus, or you'll be so rushed that basic mistakes might occur! It helps if you scout the sites out in advance. I usually bring both the 4x5 and 6x6 systems w/ 4 lenses each. If I see a great shot and barely have enough time to setup the tripod, it'll be shot on medium format. I won't get the big chrome that I desire, but it's big enough for a respectable enlargement.

-- James Chow (, April 13, 2000.

And if you think 4 X 5 is easy, wait'll you try an 8 X 10.

-- Sean yates (, April 13, 2000.

After working with 35mm, medium format and large format systems I've come to the conclution that it's all a scam! I sold all my gear and bought the cheapest polaroid camera I could find brand new ($29.99) and it's every bit as good as a 4 X 5 print! Even more detail! The other benifit is that there is no need to buy any studio lighting equipment either! It came with a flash system on top of the camera! See Doug....I don't need to buy a 4 X 5 camera to make a complete ass out of myself, I mastered that years ago! O.K. now that my off the wall, early morning humor is out of the way, let me say a few things. I must say I'm very impressed with how quickly you all replyed and how many considerate and compationate people there are in the large format field. After reading other forums about 35mm and medium format, you can tell that you people shooting large format are a differ'nt group of people. It seems I must ignore some of the people that have told me that there's little reason to buy a medium or a large format camera system with all the advanced scanners and printers that are comming out on the market. It seems all of you are all very compationate about this format and that it puts your medium format systems to shame. If that's true (even though all good tools have thier time and place) then it seems that I have no choice but to invest in a 4 X 5 system! After shooting 35mm all my life (currently with an F5 system) and even though I plan to invest in medium format, it seems that I must budget myself into having a quality 4 X 5. I'm not the type of person to zig zag up the mountain. After researching my options, I will make up my mind and get what I feel is the best for what money I will be willing to spend. I have never owned studio lighting equipment before, nor have I ever used any! I just purchased (2) of the newly released PROFOTO ACUTE "II" 2400's with (4) heads, (2) PROFOTO COMPACT 600 SPECIALS, (1) PROFOTO PRO 7B portable battery system with (2) heads, POCKETWIZARD "MAX" 32 channel digital radio slaves (2) transmiters (4) recievers, SEKONIC L-508 light meter and a bunch other accessories. I still need to buy a bunch more equipment to go with all this lighting equipment. Why am I telling you people all of this crap? To drive a point home, that I've never used lighting equipment before, but it's something I've wanted and needed for years and when I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right! My other point is that I am willing to learn how to use this lighting equipment from scratch, and after spending a bank load of money on it with out knowing anything about how to use it, it also seems a little scarry. Getting a high end 4 X 5 camera and at least three high quality lenses seems a little scarry too, but just like the lighting system, with a little effort and time, I will master them both and be very happy with the results! Even though I will still get my medium format system (for fashion photography, etc,) it seems that I must have a large format system for my true love of landscape photography up in the Pacific Northwest. I'm woundering how great my results will be shooting 4 X 5 in "some" fashion photography? I was looking at getting 3 of the SCHNEIDER lenses to start out with. Maybe the 72mm 5.6 XL SUPER ANGULON, 150 5.6 XL SUPER-SYMMAR HM and the 300 5.6 APO- SYMMAR. What do you think? Would this be a good lens spread to start off with? Would I need a "CENTER FILTER" for each one of them? ...or can I just buy one for the largest filter thread and buy step down rings for the rest of them? Thanks again to all of you nice people who have replyed and all of you who will reply.

-- DAVID R. WILLIAMS (David.R.Williams2@JSC.NASA.GOV), April 13, 2000.

well David, I think you just punched some holes in your credibility. it's clear that LF is a tangential pursuit for you. save your money and shoot medium format. there is a much better resale market. LF is more than equipment, it is a way of thinking.


-- daniel taylor (, April 13, 2000.

To David at JSC (the place my friends up at Kennedy call "the place where they watch the space program on TV):

I thought I checked this board yesterday, and your message wasn't there, and today there are a zillion responses. That's impressive.

I started Large Format in September. I use a Toyo 45A. For an experienced photographer, most of it is the same. Set the correct aperture and shutter speed, and BAM! You have a gorgeous picture. The main difference is remembering to close the shutter after composing and before removing the dark slide. I hadn't had a problem with that until recently. I'd like to say that it's just because I have a superior ability to imagine geometric relationships or something, but it's probably just the grace of God. My first several outings gave great pictures. I haven't tried any push processing, or fancy developers, but I still get pictures I think are fantastic, and the detail is stunning.

Forget the movements at first. For landscapes, you may not use them at all. Lock the camera into its detents and learn to take pictures. But I think the WYSIWYG idea has some credibility - if you read books on LF photography and can't figure out the movement descriptions, set up the camera and look at the glass while you're making the movements and SEE what they do.

I see that you got a new Sekonic L-508. I just got one a few weeks ago, but for the benefit of other beginners, I had been using the meter in my Minolta SLR....and the sunny 16 rule works just as well for LF. If you have a camera with a meter, no need to go out and buy a dedicated meter. (I eventually bought the meter because I wanted to do some available light photography and the longest exposure that can be indicated in the Minolta display was 1s.)

I don't understand the criticism that people give about LF vs. digital. A DCS 660 may just barely be approaching the resolution of 35mm film. Try to add a photo-quality output device, and you drop a good portion of a $100,000 bill. The resolution of a 4x5 negative blows that way away!

One question: will the 72mm Schneider cover 4x5?

-- John H. Henderson (, April 13, 2000.

One thing I didn't see in any of these excellent responses was the little issue of getting used to looking at everything upside down and backwards in the ground glass. This one took me a while to get used to, notice I didn't say master . I think that it has forced me to study the imagine I am making much more carefully and has resulted in negatives which I didn't need to crop nearly as much as I do in 35mm.

I usually leave myself about a 1/2 hour to setup my gear, and then start shooting from there. As others have said, I consider it a good outing if I come back with one or two good negatives. ( I am still developing my Zone methodology so I tend to expose several pieces of film for each shot, and then develop them one at a time experimenting with expansion and contraction.

Hope this helps, -harry

-- Harry Pluta (, April 13, 2000.

I'm just getting in to LF and have approached it from an entirely different perspective than David. I picked up an old Speed Graphic with a pre-war Kodak anastigmat lens and three film holders. I'm into it for $150, counting my first 25 sheets of film. I'm going to use my 35 mm system as a light meter and shoot B&W that I can process myself at a community darkroom. A huge benefit to that is the core of accomplished photographers who are always ready with critique or advice if asked. I'm looking forward to the learning process _almost_ as much as the photos I'll end up with. I'm putting this out there so other readers won't think large format will have to cost them a few grand brfore they expose their first sheet of film. (But if you've got it, there's nothing wrong with spending it. . . .)

-- jeff moag (, April 13, 2000.

Boy, David started a good discussion. The beauty of LF is that there are so many of us going in the same direction but different paths, none of which are really wrong. Whether we spend thousands of dollars on the latest and greatest or $150 on a Speed Graphic with the original lens, we still wind up at the same place: great negatives and prints. The point about the upside down image is well taken. Nothing improves composition like an upside down image. It adds another diminsion that seems to make the whole process easier, although it kind of blows one's mind at the beginning. A right-side-up image looks strange after using a LF for awhile. Ain't LF great!!

-- Doug Paramore (, April 13, 2000.

Well Dave, you only have to please one person, so I guess you could go jack-off.

But if you want to take pictures with the BIG BOYS, why are you afraid of large format???

Or why do you feel so threatened that you have to post false questions?

We are a small group of people passing along whatever we can to help others with similar interests.

The internet has such great potential for the exchange of information and ideas...why do some people feel the need to take advantage???

But you know Dave...

As I read back, I can identify with every message that has been posted but yours. You didn't understand before, you don't understand now, and you never will understand, and I don't care.

So, can you please tell me when your next photo will appear in the next edition of the local "Early Bird"??? -Dave

-- Dave Richhart (, April 13, 2000.

David I'd start with different lenses: the 110mm XL f/5.6 Super Symmar,a 210mm f/5.6 (schneider, rodentock or nikkor) and a 300mm f/9 M-Nikkor. You won't need a center filter for any of these lenses. From what you've told me of your interests you'll probably want either an Arca Swiss F-Line camera, Sinar X or Sinar P2, or a Linhof TK45s camera. Don't bother with the lighter weight Sinar F cameras: the Arca and the Technika are significantly better in that weight class.

Ellis Vener // Houston, Texas

-- Ellis Vener (, April 14, 2000.

First of all I would like to thank all of you nice people once again for all your kind and considerate input. All of you have been very compasionate not to mention having patience with the many people, who such as myself, are curious about large format and who desire the large format's attributes. All of you with the exception of Mr. Richhart. I'm sorry if I said anything that affended you. From what I've said and from all the warm feed back I've recieved from all the other people, I have no idea where your comming from and why you have all this rude hostilities towards me. To think that because you shoot with a larger negative makes you a better photographer or a "man" is pretty weak to say the least. I feel sorry for you. On my first statement, when I asked about it being easy, I ment "relatively easy". For the record I already have a point and shoot camera. I own two F5 Nikon's and being that there 35mm is one of the many reasons I'm looking at getting a 4 X 5 along with a medium format system. No one seemed to touch base with me on using a 4 X 5 on fashion or even portrait work for that matter. If any of you have any experience with this type of work on a large format system I would appreciate any feed back. Even though I desire a large format system for mostly landscape work and some architectural work, I would also like to use it from time to time in "some" fashion/commercial shoots. Most of the people I shoot for are Versace, Gucci, Versus, Dolce & Gabbana, Lucho, Tootsies, Festari, North Beach Leather, Givenchy and Hawaiian Tropics to name a few. I'm just doing this as a part time hobby, for right now anyway. But I would like to shoot full time some day. I still have to buy the proper tools for myself and my clients, have the desire and put forth the effort, dedication and patience to learn how to achieve the best results I can possibly obtain. Thanks again everyone!

-- David R. Williams (David.R.Williams2@JSC.NASA.GOV), April 14, 2000.

If you are going to shoot fashion with an LF camera you'd be well advised to have at least one if not two assistants.

-- Ellis Vener (, April 14, 2000.

The only thing that really scares me about getting into 4x5 is film loading and processing.

Otherwise, if you've shot 35mm off a tripod, I don't think 4x5 is all that different in principle. You set the camera up, you focus, you set the shutter speed and apeture, you close the lens, stick the film in the camera, fire. The only difference is there are a couple of extra things to remember and the camera is a lot larger, and the amount of film you can burn at once is lower.

Go get a speed graphic and play around. Its fun.

-- Pete Su (, April 15, 2000.


The three Schneider lenses you mentioned aren't going to be anywhere near sufficient for you. Three lenses! You will need more than that. Get the whole line-up, at least. Also, since different manufacturer's lenses make subtly different images, you should invest in a few of your favorite focal lengths of the Nikon, Rodenstock, and Fuji offerings. But more importantly, equipment of different eras produces different effects, too, so you will need to look into older models no longer made. Finally, you keep speaking about this as if you will only need one 4x5 camera. You will need at least two, a field and a monorail, but most likely you will require both a wooden and a metal model of each. And don't forget the tripods! You will need a great number of these. Finally, if you haven't invested yet in at least one recent 4wd, you will need to get to work on that end of things, too. Actually, having one spare SUV will be almost necessary. Only then can you get on the path to making fulfilling images in photography.

-- Erik Ryberg (, April 15, 2000.

David: Let me add my 2 cents. For portraits, a 4 x 5 format with a 210, 300 or 360 mm lens can give you stunning images. However, a 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 LF allows you to make contact prints with Azo paper that produces incrediblely rich tones not achievable with enlargements. For ease of use, I would recommend the Linhof Master Technika (inclcuding its top of the line MT 2000) or the Linhof Technikardan 45S. The MT requires only one bellows for long focal length (up to 360 mm) and short focal length (as little as 35 mm for the MT 2000). The 360/500 Nikkor T lens combination can be used with the MT cameras. The camera folds up like a clam to dimensions of 7 x 7 x 4.5 inches, one of the most compact 4 x 5 cameras available. Its metal construction enhances impact resistance, durability, and stability. Like the TK 45S, its lens board is relatively small (99 x 96 mm), which makes it easier to fit a lens into a pouch of a camera bag. The small opening of the bellows limits selection of lenses to those whose rear element diameter does not exceed 80 mm. This is not a serious problem, because only the bulkiest and heaviest of lenses have rear elements exceeding that limit. Both the TK45S and the MT have center axis lens tilt, which eases sharpness adjustment so that near and far come into focus. With base tilts, the camera has to be refocused. The TK45S has a 485 mm bellows extension. This enables use of a 210 mm G-Claron Schneider lens both for 1:1 image reproduction at 420 mm extension, for portraits, and for landscape photography at standard extension. This lens has one major disadvantage: it offers only a f9 maximum aperture, in contrast to other lenses with apertures of f5.6 I have been able to focus with ease at light levels as low as EV 7 using this lens. Macrophotography with the MT requires purchase of a separate 180 mm lens that can focus only between 1:1 and 1:4 image reproduction and cannot be used for landscape photography at infinity. The TK45S is especially easy to handle because it uses separate levers to control lens tilt and lens rise. The TK45S folds up to a book size 8.5 x 10 x 4 inches. It weighs about 6.4 lbs, slightly heavier than the MT. Unlike the MT, it leaves the bellows exposed to wear and abrasion and greater care must be taken in storing or transporting it. The TK45S has a centimeter scale on its monorail, that eases calculating increases in exposure required when shooting with the bellows extended. Neither camera has the geared movements and expandibility to 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 available with the Arca-Swiss field camera. All of these cameras are more expensive and heavier than wooden field cameras and cannot match the aesthetics of some of the wood cameras, with their brass fittings and hard wood finishes. The TK45S can use a 120 mm roll film holder with a 4 x5 adapter. I am unsure about the MT. Most 4 x5 cameras, including wooden field cameras, can use a special type of slip-in 120 mm film holder, but it is bulkier than the conventional 4 x 5 roll film back. For ease of film loading, I would recommend the Polaroid 545 film holder and Fuji Quickload or Kodak Ready-Load film if you are shooting color transparencies. Loading and carrying dark slide film holders can be a hassle and requires extra caution to avoid fingerprints and dust. Kodak's Ready-Load film selection for black and white is limited to T-Max films. One advantage of T-Max films is that reciprocity compensation is less than more conventional films. It can be the equivalent of up to two f stops more speed in low light situations. Ball heads such as the Arca-Swiss B-2 are great for ease of use. Choosing small, compact, light-weight lenses with apertures of f8 or more will ease transporting lenses in camera bags, but some photographers prefer bulkier f5.6 lenses for ease of focussing in low light situations. Consider the availability of filters for odd sized lenses. I follow a strategy of buying lenses that use either a 67 or 49 mm filter. I have a step up ring to fit my 67 mm filters to the 49 mm front lens element. I used to own a lens that required a 82 mm filter, and that was a real downer. The black and white and polaroid filters would take up too much space and were far more expensive than the 67 mm filters.

-- David Caldwell (, April 23, 2000.

Dave, I can say that moving to large format, for me, was a great great adventure. using it for very large product shoots as well as small table top is not that difficult. Of course I had at first a Sinar F1 which was great but have moved on to a Sinar X which is even better. The Sinar system, although expensive, is quite simple to use.

I would not suggest any other system....

Good luck,


-- Bob Peasley (, January 11, 2001.

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