Camera for a whannabee taking photography this spring : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I was curious if you could reccomend a camera (least expensive please) which would be good for someone starting out. I am taking photography in college in the Spring. I am an adult returnee and I love taking pictures of family with my point and shoot. I would really like to do much more. Thanks, Kathy

P.S. I was blown away by your photographs

-- Kathy Masone (, December 06, 2000


Most classes will probably recommed you start with a 35mm camera and not a large format camera as is discussed in this forum.

There is no one easy answer. Your budget will be an important consideration.

You might want to look at look under the learn section for some ideas. You can also look at the forums for recommendations. look under help files. There is typically a thread somewhere on the page where someone is asking for help picking out a camera. You may also wish to contact the instructor of the class and as him/her what is recommended.


-- David Willis (, December 06, 2000.

Kathy, You may already know much of this, so forgive me if that's the case. Large format cameras, as this site is dedicated to, are bulky, slow to use, and somewhat complicated relative to 35mm. The cameras themselves are not hugely expensive, but I would think that a modest setup of a used camera and lens, tripod, lightmeter, and other accessories would start at $500. and may likely end up more. The rewards are, as you've noticed, very nice photos. I don't think there is anything insumountable about large format that a beginner couldn't handle, but it will take a little more effort. A very good article about camera and format selection can be found here: If your still sold on large format, I'd say go for it. For me, it's really been alot of fun.

-- Roger Rouch (, December 06, 2000.

I looked at this post long and hard before I decided to respond. I think that starting with large format is a hugely intelligent decision! From the start you will learn patience of vision, thought, and process, something which is sadly lacking in both small (35mm) and, to some extent, medium format photography. Earlier in my life I had a ton of Nikon gear and lucked into my first 8x10 camera. I had owned a 4x5, but did not really appreciate it. After having owned the 8x10 for a few months I realized that I was almost never shooting 35 so I went out and sold every piece of 35mm equipment I owned and I never looked back. I found that my photographs were much better in their inspiration, but the technique changes were, at times, daunting. I have since moved into the digital realm and find that very satisfying and challenging. I very heartily recomend starting with 4x5-I think the rewards of having to stop and think about every photograph taken are well worth the time required to insure an adequate representation of what your initial vision was!

Phew! A long post for me! Best of luck and study the masters. They figured it out. I have studied with George Tice, met Ansel Adams, Clarence John Laughlin, Duane Michaels, Jerry Uelsman, and probably more that I have forgotten. Find what works for you and follow your instincts.



-- fred (, December 06, 2000.

Hi: I think you will enjoy LF, but keep in mind that if you have a family then getting a chance to get into your dark-room might be tough. For economic reasons, B&W home processing is a must for us amatures. Also, though the Graflex cameras seem cheep and are in fact excellent, they may not be what you want (or they might be) try After 2 years of LF, I finaly got an 8x10 -- should have got it to start. Sally Mann uses one, in for a penny in for a pound. So maybe think on going to the big guns right off ... I'm not sugesting that you do it, just think on it. Finaly, if you are going to school, then a cheep-o system like what I have is going to be an embarasment. The shutter won't keep standard times, moths will fly out of your bellows -- people will laugh. Do you have the tough hide to have a bunch of auto-everything people gigling at you (always remember that your camera falling on thier toes hurts more than thier camera on your toes). And can you handle thoes tourist hiding behind you as you are under the dark cloth? I'd say go for it. 4X5 is good, but it is a shame if you really should have gone 8x10 -- heck, you can sell it. also, for a good cheepo outfit that works is good and fair and my dealer. Mr. E is also helpfull. Good luck. Dean

-- Dean Lastoria (, December 06, 2000.

In many ways, the larger the format, the easier it is to get wonderful results. With 4x5 and above, contacts will provide plenty of rewards. At any photo school, I would ask students to use TLRs (Ricoh Diacord, Yashica, Minolta, Rolleicord, whatever-spend less than $100, add $75-100 for a good CLA and focus verification): they will get wonderful images quickly and see easily the quality of a B&W i

-- David Stein (, December 06, 2000.

Hello Kathy, it's probably a good idea to check with the professor who will be teaching the class to see if the photo lab is equipped to handle 4x5 film. If they are not, you're out of luck with large format. If the professor is supportive of your large format ambition, you might want to look into something like a used Graphic View ($200) or Toyo's entry level 4x5 ($500). You'll need a lens, meter and tripod. They can be costly. Large format is an expensive way to learn. You might consider the more traditional route of Beginning Photography, using a 35mm camera. For under $100 you can have a completer setup of camera and lens. The cameras usually have a built-in light meter and with 35mm a tripod is not required. Good used cameras that I would consider are Canon FTb, Olympus OM-1, Minolta SRT-101 single lens reflex cameras. Rangefinder cameras might be worth looking into, as well. A Minolta Hi-Matic 7 or Canon Canonet QL17 are nice cameras that have manual controls, in addition to automatic exposure. Drop me an e-mail if I can help. Good luck with your class.


-- Dan Carey (, December 07, 2000.

I second the Cannonet QL17. Just a little range finder. You'll need it eventualy. Inexpencive but beautifull. It is still 35mm but a joy to use. When you do get a big ol' view camera, think of it as your sketch book (and meter till you can afford a spot-meter) Dean

-- Dean Lastoria (, December 07, 2000.


If you want to learn photography beyond "point and shoot", large format will certainly give you that. But I would recommend starting (as most college photo classes do) with 35mm - Strictly manual! I have always been a proponent of the totally manual approach for any beginner. In that situation, you are forced to know exactly what you want, and to learn how to achieve it.

My recommendation is something like an old K1000 or similar. Learn from the basics up.

-- Matt O. (, December 08, 2000.

Kathy, wait until you go to class to find out your requirements. I am a photo educator and trying to second guess a photo one instructor is futile. I have had instructors that started and worked camera less for most of the semester. Building pin holes and working with photograms. So don't be in a big hurry until you get your syllabus. That being said, if you have enjoyed your point and shoot it might be because of its ease of use. When you wish to do something more you need controls. Shutter speed, aperature, focus and film speeds. You can do something more with your point and shoot. You can push the camera to its limits. Change your angle, get in close, try putting diffusion material over the lens etc. The choices are only limited to you. Your particular class my be a learning to use class, or it may be a truly introductory class. Where you learn to do your own developing and printing. If that is the case, you may not need to buy anything other than lots of film, paper and mounting supplies. Just the fact you are taking a photo class is your first step on what can be a wild ride. Enjoy it. You may e-mail me if you have any other concerns.

-- jacque staskon (, December 08, 2000.

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