Large format - first impressions : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Not really a question, but perhaps useful to those contemplating to take the "LF plunge". I got my first LF camera this week, took it out into the field this weekend and these are my first impressions:

I was surprised how much fun I had and that it seemed much less "work" than what I had anticipated. Can't say at this point that the camera has "merged into the background" - there is a sequence of events between getting the composition right and releasing the shutter and it will take a few more days at least to get this sequence pat down. For example, I found myself compulsively checking (and re-checking) whether I really had closed the shutter before pulling the dark slide out of my roll film back. Setting the movements was MUCH easier than I had expected, but I limited myself to lens tilt for maximum forground/background sharpness for landscapes. This was EXTRMELY easy to achieve. I was surprised how little tilt was required (a little less than 5 degrees) and the effect was very easy to see on the groundglass - of course a loupe is a must! My camera has base tilt only, so I had to refocus every time I changed the tilt, but that didn't slow me down much. Once I had figured out that I needed about 5 degrees for my tripod height, I simply left the tilt at this setting and after that only very minor adjustments from shot to shot were required. The largest "problem" for me is going to get the composition right. I am used to walking around and watching the waistlevel finder of my Hassie until it looks "perfect". I can't see myself walking around with my view camera while observing the ground glass. I guess, I have to learn to see "without a camera" ;-)

If I had known how much fun this is, I probably would have bought one sooner!!!

-- Andreas Carl (, April 16, 2000


Amazing,isn't it?

How many poor fools spend thousands for MF cameras when something much better and easier costs less.

Not that MF doesn't have it's place (I don't want to start a discussion war.)

-- Charlie Strack (, April 16, 2000.

Make yourself a framing card, a 8x10 with 4x5 cutout with a cord attached. If you are using 4x5, your eye needs to be the same distance from the cutout as the focal length of the lens. Use a knot on cord to measure the distance from your eye and start framing. This will get you into the ballpark so you don't have to drag your camera all over creation. Once you are close, set up and start scanning the area with your groundglass. You will probably have to adjust your postion, but a matter of inches rather than yards.

-- Richard C. Trochlil (, April 16, 2000.

Well charlie you made the remark & what an anal remark it was. MF has it's uses as well as each other format; but I guess because you have a LF camera you're a real photographer.

Reread sentence #1.

Guess your out there looking for AA tripod holes too.

Each format has a usage and your comment shows your lack of knowledge and obvious lack of experience.

Bear in mind that I'm not attacking you, only you're comment.

-- Artie (, April 16, 2000.

I understand what Charlie is saying. I spent a lot of money on 35mm and MF equiptment, trying to get the best quality possible. Instead, I should have just bought a cheap LF camera.

-- William Marderness (, April 16, 2000.

Now mind you I'm not attacking Artie, just his anal delivery of a stupid attack on someone who is thrilled at something new and exciting. I didn't take Andreas Carl's remark about MF with any offense and I shoot MF when the image benefits from it. If you're looking to whine about simple remarks, then go to the 35mm forum. James

-- james (, April 16, 2000.

I meant Charlie's comment about MF. James

-- james (, April 16, 2000.

James; It's not a simple remark but rather a belief that if it isn't LF "it Isn't".

I shoot 8x10, 4x5, 6x6 and even 35mm. They all have their uses.

The comment I found offensive in only that it hinted that the only real photo is accomlished by LF.

I'm trully sorry if I offended you; not my intention. It was a reaction to the myth only.

My humble appoligies for treading on unstable waters and a future response, if any, will be cognicent of the fact that others are sensitive to the realization of the real world and any reactions to it.

I stand chastised and sincerly apathetic to any real concerns to my original response.

Any Real Pro will admit to the fact that the end justifies the means.

-- Artie (, April 16, 2000.

I truly concur with your acknowlegement that each format has very distinct advantages, and disadvantages. LF can't hold a candle to what most MF and their smaller cousins can do. the speed of these formats make them imminently suitable for fast breaking events and portraiture. I can have my speed graphic take an image at 1000th/sec but I still can't get it up and focussed as quickly as the smaller formats. They are superb machines capable of extrordinary images. LF does other things equally well. The large neg and chrome size suits it to prints with increadible detail. Detail not achievable with smaller formats. And they are slow which at times elicits a different view of things which most often isn't there in the smaller formats. And they are superb at product photography. Their full perspective control is not equalled by even the MF arc-bodies. So you are absolutely right in your views on all formats being different but I would also add equal. If you know what the hell is going on and have a good command of your technique you can get close to LF with MF and 35mm to MF and so on. I too use pretty much all of the formats. But I have a fondness for 4x5 that is hard to match when I use the other formats. There is something intangible about that whole scene. Good hearing your views on this subject and I hope you stay around. James

-- james (, April 16, 2000.

Like a duck to water, my first experience with 4X5 was smooth as well. Though I did spend a good many months researching first. For the composition technique, Richards suggestion on the viewing card works well for me. It is essential! You can get the camera right where you want it before even setting it up. You can also estimate shift. You can make one with mat board and I've gone through a couple till I made one from a tupperware lid. It takes the beating and bounces back. Attach the string with knots for your different lenses. I would be lost without mine, I have an extra tucked away.

-- Gary Frost (, April 17, 2000.

Try one of the black 4x5 viewer things for the lightbox. I picked one up at Calumet, attached the string and it is virtually indistructable. Plus later you can use it to view individual slides on the lightbox - or buy two or three...

-- Alex Corbishley (, April 17, 2000.

Andreas, I too work in MF and Large. Never felt one is condemning the other. They are rather complementary. For some shots I use LF and for others I wouldn't use the expensive size. And if I want to make wildlife photographs, I don't take anything but a SF. However, when viewed on the light table, a 4x5 is a nice spectacle as compared to a 6x7 (and I guess a 8x10 compared to a 4x5). But some of my best photographs are 6x7! Now, I sometimes wish they where made on the larger format, for this is an added value, especially if they are used for large prints. When I began with a large format, I soon realized it was important to have some habits and to stick to them. For example, to always put the slider back and reversed as soon as the shot has been taken. On roll films, to always put the slider back and advance the frame immediately, before contemplating the scene again. It soon becomes an automatism. This way I was able to suppress almost completely the double exposures, black gaps and open shutter mistakes. I too use a viewing aid. A sheet of black plastic found in the old Kodak Readyloads with a window cut to the proportions of the film I want to use : 6x7 (4x5), 6x9, 6x12. It's small (overall 6x11 cm), flexible and tough. I can forget it in my pocket. I found a small cutof gives me more stand back and makes it easier to evaluate the scene graphically. I find the long loupe easier to use than a small one ( I have a Horseman 6x). It's possible to check the focus through the open focussing hood. Also in cold weather, the GG is not too prone to get breath condensation. Would be happy to share more tips on specifics if you ask. Enjoy being "at large"!

-- Paul Schilliger (, April 17, 2000.


Artie could out shoot you with a broken holga and am outdated roll of seattle filmworks film that's been dipped in a bottle of fixer... I hope I did not start a flame war (see how stupid that sounds).

I need my morning tea...

PS. Artie good to see you around again

-- Altaf Shaikh (, April 17, 2000.

Just as a carpenter would not think of having just one saw or hammer for all his work, photographers need a range of formats for different situations. I love LF, and as nearly all my present work is for fine art black and white work LF is what I use (surely there is a better term for good prints than "fine art"). I have pushed a lot of 5x7 film holders in a studio Noba back when we shot split 5x7 for protraits. It was a lot of aggrevation sliding the back from side to side and trying to remember if you slid the back so you didn't double expose. I don't know of any portrait photographer who tried the RB 67 who didn't think it was great. It, and other slr roll film cameras, replaced the old sheet film cameras in studios in just a few years time. The old Speed Graphic was replaced in short order by the TLRs and then 35mm for news work. Incidentally, James, the Speed Graphic is still the fastest camera for the first shot. We used to lock the focus track at 12 feet, set the aperature at f16, put a bulb in teh reflector, and carry the camera with the darkslide out and wire finder up. Bring it to your eye and shoot. No waiting for auto-focus to lock or trying to find the subject in a tiny hole. The second shot was a bit slower, but we didn't take a lot of second shots. It wasn't motor drive stuff. Yet, it is a lot simpler to carry one of the modern 35mm cameras with a pocket full of cassettes than to carry the Graphic and a suitcase full of holders. Simply put, there isn't a "best" or "worst". Just different tools for different jobs.

-- Doug Paramore (, April 17, 2000.

Almost forgot, Andreas best wishes with your new tool, don't forget to really play with those movements when the mood strikes you, experiment , experiment, experiment...

Drag that thing everywhere for a couple weekends and shoot with it in conditions where you think you should not, you'd be surprised how many more things you can make it do with a little creativity and passion.

-- Altaf Shaikh (, April 17, 2000.

buncha bitches.... wanna cooler? ya think so Al?

heheheee not from what I saw....

-- Trib (, April 17, 2000.

Oh my, what did I start?!?!?! But it's nice to see how compassionate you all are about your craft. No worries - I won't ditch my medium format equipment anytime soon, different tools for different applications, right?! But I have to say, manipulating the image on the the groundglass to my heart's desire is really cool! Thanks for your advices!

-- Andreas Carl (, April 17, 2000.

I've been shooting LF for over 20 years and I STILL check and double check to see if the shutter is closed before I pull the slide. There is nothing quite as like having a shutter make no noise when you push the shutter string, and knowing full well that you forgot to close the shutter. (Unless it means the shutter is busted OUCH I've had that happen too!) Now as for Medium Format...........

-- Marv (, April 17, 2000.

Reading your summary of your experience reminds me of my own. Large format is very thrilling and satisfying as are all of my other formats. I have found that each format fills a specific need in my photographic life. I shoot from 35mm through 8x10 and I enjoy all of them. I have been shooting for approximately 7 years now and I still check and recheck my behaviors and actions related to exposing a large format negative. I have found that when I neglect my normal sequence of actions...I make a mistake which sometimes causes me to loose what I thought would be a wonder large format image. In othe words, it is OK to check your camera and lens several time before removing the dark slide and exposing the negative. I started with base tilts. If you can locate a camera with axis tilts life will become a little bit easier.

Try to shape your sight to see what each of your lens are capable of seeing (their angle of view). this will help you with composition. It also take time and familiarity with your equipment to be able to do this. Never be afraid to explore and experiment with your large format camera. Many unconventional actions yeild very beautiful results. Large format is one of the artistic avenues of patience, precision and deliberate action. Wish you much luck and success on your photographic journey.

check out this website I think may contain some helpful information.

Again, good luck :)

-- W. Jones (, May 18, 2000.

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