Handheld LF, why?

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I'm always amazed when I see posts about handholding 5x4.
Is there some myth that camera shake has less effect with large formats?

I've been through the geometry and maths, and my conclusion is that, for either angular camera movement, or movement parallel to the image plane, there's no difference between formats.
Have I overlooked something?

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), January 22, 2001



I think you're right on technical grounds... but the implicit assumption is that people choose LF to achieve very high levels of image quality. Why, then, use LF if camera movement is going to limit image quality to that achievable by smaller formats... essentially a "weakest link in the chain" issue.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (gkroeger@trinity.edu), January 22, 2001.

"Why, then, use LF if camera movement is going to limit image quality to that achievable by smaller formats... ". That's more or less the whole point of my question Glenn.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), January 22, 2001.

Hi Pete,

I don't know why people would want to use a 4x5 hand held, but conceivably here's one reason. Camera shake is camera shake, but it becomes more noticable the more it's enlarged. You'd have to enlarge a 35mm neg much more to get an 8x10, so perhaps that's the reason - though somehow I don't think so.


-- Pete Caluori (pcaluori@hotmail.com), January 22, 2001.

Why not hand-hold a 4x5? That's what thousands of press photographers did before 35mm cameras became popular for newspaper work - and - how else can you get that "Weegee look"?

-- steve (s.swinehart@worldnet.att.net), January 22, 2001.

"I think you're right on technical grounds... but the implicit assumption is that people choose LF to achieve very high levels of image quality. Why, then, use LF if camera movement is going to limit image quality to that achievable by smaller formats... essentially a "weakest link in the chain" issue"."

Because my 4x5 hand held stuff has an entirely different look that my 35mm Leica stuff or even my 6x7 work. Camera movement isn't always an issue (or rather, is an issue for any of these formats). Suffice to say, it can work and work well. Quite simply, it works. Of course you are shooting in a different way though. And you also get a different reaction if shooting people. It's not just technical stuff.

Also, having worked on a lot of hand held 4x5 stuff in an Archives, there was plenty there that was damned sharp - way sharper than anything in 35mm.

-- tim atherton (tim@KairosPhoto.com), January 22, 2001.

there are several occasions where i must use a handheld 4x5 to do my job. to get certain views for my HABS/HAER work, i sometimes must get into fairly precarious positions, often in places where tripod placement is simply impossible, and i pull out my old crown graphic. to acheive appropriate image sharpness, i do try to use as fast a shutter speed as conditions will allow, and often i cannot filter the same way i might with a tripod situation. i do have to be careful and steady, but i have successfully used shutter speeds as low as 1/4 second. to give you an example of the effects of camera shake on LF work, i have had the opportunity to work in the field with jet lowe, HAER photographer, under some difficult conditions. one of these was recordation of the historic steel bridge across the willamette river in portland, oregon. we climbed up into the truss superstructure above the roadway to get a shot of the trusswork, and jet setup his tripod on a small platform near the operator's house. there was a lot of traffic on the old bridge, and the entire structure shook enormously and moved continuously as we worked there. jet was unperturbed by the movement, and i asked him what shutter speed he was going to use on the shot - 1 sec at f/22. i said, "jet, there's no way you can get this shot like that," commenting on the amount of camera movement during such a long exposure. he just smiled and stuck his hand on the lens and released the shutter with his thumb (not even using a cable release). he told me that even with some shake, he would still be able to get an acceptable 11x14 print from his 5x7 neg, since the enlargement amount is so small for the large negative size, and he was not worried about it. after seeing the resulting image, it was obvious he was quite correct.

-- jnorman (jnorman@teleport.com), January 22, 2001.


The shake is the same, but to get equivalent depth of field in LF as you have in SF you will need a smaller aperture and a resulting slower shutter speed. You usually find yourself forced to use shutter speeds that border on the ability to hand-hold.....In situations where depth of field is not an issue and you can use big apertures and fast shutter speeds, LF works great. The 9" aerial stuff I shot in the Navy was much better than anything I did with smaller formats.


-- Bruce Wehman (bruce.wehman@hs.utc.com), January 22, 2001.

If you're shooting 4 x 5 handheld WITH FLASH, and you can hold the camera reasonably steady, I don't see what factor "camera shake" plays.

-- Nick Rowan (nrowan@vf.com), January 22, 2001.

Hi Pete, I some times shoot a Graflex hand held with a 150mm lens in day light. The images look fine to me. I think they look much better than hand held 35mm shots I've taken. Even in doors, 5.6 at 1/15, this a group of men having coffee at a cafe table, and I liked the results. David

-- david clark (doclark@yorku.ca), January 22, 2001.

Pete, you seem to be under the assumption that hand held LF cameras are inherently shakey. Not so. The six to ten pound mass of a Speed Graphic or Linhof, the gentle, symmetrical motion of Compur shutter blades, and no moving mirror makes it far, far easier to take shake- free negatives than a 35mm SLR. Because of it's great mass, and the ergonomic position of holding it, even a 4x5 Super D Graflex can give needle-sharp negatives. You should try applying Newton's Laws, rather than geometry and math here.

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@home.com), January 22, 2001.

Hi: In Camera Ansel Adams talks about the impact of a bigger camera -- both the big neg and inertia. He does the math, and it sounds good to me -- works too -- so read his answer.

Plus, on the slippery why bother slope, why bother enlarging a negitive to 4x6 when you can have a 4x5 contact print without the trouble of using a pesky enlarger... why bother... Dean

-- Dean Lastoria (dvlastor@sfu.ca), January 22, 2001.

Wow! I didn't expect feelings to run so high on this subject. No offence was meant.
I just want to counter a few points, though.
Bill, I hadn't taken the inertia factor into account that's true; but I know from personal experience that muscle fatigue plays a big part in adding to camera shake.
Hoisting a metal bodied view camera's rangefinder to my face by a single strap and fiddling with the focus for more than a few seconds gives my arms the shakes almost before I can set the shutter and fire it. OK, maybe I need to work out more, but if I wanted arms like Shwarzenegger, I'd have become a navvy. :-)
J Norman (sorry, you didn't give your first name). I see the myth lives on, from your anecdote about 'Jet'.
The smaller enlargement needed by LF just doesn't reduce the effect of camera shake at all, because the image has a larger magnification in the camera to begin with. For a given print size, any angular movement of the camera results in the same degree of image blur regardless of film format.
The case is the same for movement of the camera parallel to the subject too. This has the same effect as if the subject had moved by that distance during the exposure. If the camera moves one millimetre, then the blur is the same as if the subject had jumped one millimetre. No matter what format you use, the end result is the same.
I suspect Jet got away with his 1 second exposure because both the bridge and the camera were moving together, nothing to do with the format, and you say he was using a tripod anyway!

I guess we'll all have to agree to differ on the merits of hand-held LF, but I was really a bit curious why people still did such things nowadays.
I can't imagine many cigar chewing editors thrusting a Speed Graphic and two double dark-slides at young Jimmy Olssen, saying "f/8, and be there", in this 21st century. Not when lightweight 6x7 rangefinders are available, together with T-max and Delta fims.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), January 23, 2001.

........T-max and delta films. Maybe fims are what fishes use to take their pictues.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), January 23, 2001.

If I might help my pinch of salt, most of the contributors forgot that there is a modern version of the hand held camera which simply didn't exist before and these are the widecameras or the panoramas, when you are in focus from 1m to infinite at aperture 16, you just need a sunny day to enjoy yourself let alone if you add a flash and go into the crouds and shoot 4x5" or 6x12cm superwide, it must be a lot of fun! Almost point and shoot! Lifting a technika with 240mm and make a portrait without tripod on a cloudy day with no flash might be impossible, but why would you want to create an impossible situation? Work with the things you have and not agaist them. Use the modern version of the Weegee Look, very trendy indeed! Regards

-- Andrea Milano (milandro@multiweb.nl), January 23, 2001.

Another thought. Most of the things we do in large format can be done very well otherwise, but it is love and this is by definition blind so all the rational things play very little role in the choice of the format you use but rather the way it feels, for you, to handle the equipment.

-- Andrea Milano (milandro@multiweb.nl), January 23, 2001.

pete - i guess i am not sure what you are trying to say. i am telling you that i do this occasionally as part of the work i do for HABS/HAER, and i do not have that much trouble hand-holding my crown graphic (135mm lens) at even fairly slow shutter speeds. the work becomes part of the collections of the library of congress - i dont know what higher standard you would want to set for acceptable professional work. what exactly is your point?

-- jnorman (jnorman@teleport.com), January 23, 2001.

Jnorman wrote: "pete - i guess i am not sure what you are trying to say...... what exactly is your point?"

As I tried to explain previously, I was just curious why anyone would want to hand hold LF out of choice, since there seems to be no good technical reason for doing so.
Then someone replied, off list, to the effect that they did it just for the hell of it, and I suppose that's as good an answer as I'm likely to get.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), January 24, 2001.

Maybe. It seems to me though the answer given above, about needing to use the camera in places where a tripod will not go, has some virtues that "for the hell of it" doesn't. Then there was another answer up there, that the results are better than 35 mm handheld. Both these answers came from people who actually have done the thing they are talking about.

-- Erik Ryberg (ryberg@seanet.com), January 24, 2001.

OK. I accept that if you're stuck out in the field with only an LF camera, then a handheld shot from the right viewpoint might be better than a rock-steady shot from a less than ideal position. But this assumes that no other camera is available to you, and you don't have a 'Benbo' tripod which gets almost anywhere.
I did qualify my question with the phrase "out of choice", and in those circumstances the answer "for the hell of it", still seems the only suitable one.

I've never advocated using 35mm as a substitute for LF, only medium format, and if you're implying that I've never tried hand-held 5x4, think again.
My own attempts at handheld LF were slow, uncomfortable, and mostly unuseable. That experience gave me a higher admiration for those reporters and photojournalists that were forced to work with 5x4 in the past. I can only think that they must have had an extra arm grafted on, and masochistic tendencies.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), January 25, 2001.

A little thought tells me that Pete may be right that the blur is proportionally larger for angular movement depending on the size of the format. For translational movement, I don't think this is so. One of the photo mags had a feature on resolution loss with handholding a 35 mm some years ago. The conclusion was that, for most people, the 1/focal length rule for the shutter spped was too liberal by a stop, but that at double that speed there was no loss in resolution from the very fast speds such as 1/1000. Then, as others have pointed out, one has to admit that the greater mass of the LF camera and the leaf (vs. focal plane w/ reflex mirror) shutter should allow hand holding at a slower spedd with equivalent results. Since the LF photographer can use 400 speed film easily for most work without objectionable grain, and since the sunny 16 rule modification for full shade is about f5.6, this gives 1/400 @ f5.6 for full shade. With a 135 or 150 mm lens, this is more than adequate if the study is to be believed, and 1/250 should work, or something even slower if the greater mass of the camera and the leaf shutter improve results some. While hand holding inside without flash might result in some degradation, it seems that much could be done outdoors even on an overcast day or later in the day. If you had a Xenar (f2.8?) you could do even better. If you braced on a wall or had a monopod, that would extend the range, too. I've about got myself convinced to try it.

-- Roy Kersey (jess4203@aol.com), January 25, 2001.

HI All,

I havn't mastered setting up the tri-pod for action shots. planes on take off, chasing trains, ballons in the winter, doing the foilage tour in vt. now for my 8x10, havn't figgured how to hand hold that yet.

-- Bill Jefferson (jrfferw@together.net), January 29, 2001.

As an ex 35mm shooter who now regularly shoots LF hand-held (Linhof Master Technika with coupled rangefinder) as well as MF (Rollei TLR) I would like to dispell some of the misconceptions expressed above.

A 16X20 print from a 4X5 B&W negative, taken hand-held, shows far greater detail and richness of tonal information than a print from either a hand-held or tripod mounted 6X6 negative. I have many examples on the walls around me (of tripod and hand-held 35mm, 6X6, and 4X5 shots printed to either 11X14 or 16X20), so I speak from experience. I am not giving you an 'opinion' based on the conjecture of pseudo-expertise, but facts based on proof. I do not pretend to be an expert, but I do have some expertise to share.

From experience I can also say that camera-shake becomes more of an issue as you move to SMALLER not LARGER formats. For example, a 1mm vertical movement of the film plane during exposure creates far more image degradation in a small 35mm negative than the same 1mm vertical movement in a comparatively huge 4X5 negative. Think of the effect of the apple that landed on Isaac Newton's head compared to the gravity of the situation caused by the one that landed on the ant basking in the sun next to him.

This is not the first time Mr. Andrews expresses incredulity at the use of 4X5 hand-held (see previous thread):

"Oh come on! We are talking hand-held 5x4 here are we? At f/22 in available light? MTF curves! Taking a couple of tranquiliser tablets would surely have more effect on image quality than whatever lens is on the camera. Or is this just a leg pull?

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), February 02, 2000.

To expound on some previously made enlightened comments:

One of the most celebrated images of the 20th century, Migrant Mother, was taken in 1936 by Dorothea Lange using a hand-held 4X5 camera (Graflex). To quote Robert Cole's essay in "Dorothea Lange- Photographs of a Lifetime" regarding the taking of 'Migrant Mother': "She was retutning home on a rainy, cold, miserable March evening... Lange spent less than ten minutes with the woman, making five exposures." He further added: "She seldom shot indoors, seldom used artificial light."

Even Alfred Stieglitz used a 4X5 camera hand-held. There is a long and rich tradition of hand-held 4X5 photography. Press photography was, for many decades, dominated by hand-held 4X5 cameras (look at Weegee).

And no, I doubt that f22 would be the aperture of choice for hand-held available light 4X5 photography. That is why MTF curves at f5.6 and f8 are so important, because these apertures would actually be used if necessary!

'Migrant Mother' was taken in poor light, hand-held, without flash, using a relatively slow emulsion by today's standards. I am sure the lens was close to being wide open... Today we have faster and sharper films, sharper and contrastier multicoated lenses and better engineered and built equipment for hand held range-finder 4X5 picture taking (Linhof Master Technika?).

As for the unkind suggestion to take tranquilizers... Pry open your mind and expand your imagination and accept new creative possibilities. Not all large-format photographers are worrying about what zone to place the foot of Mt. St-Ansel in as they try to pre-visualize it with the entire scene in focus, their lens at infinity and set at f22, displaying ultimate depth of field...

Diversity of thought and creative expression is what makes the art of photography so rich, compelling, and absorbing.

I will enjoy a different way of making images with a large format camera. I certainly will not be the first to do this, nor the last. Let the nay-sayers laugh, for they will cry at my next exhibit and wonder how the hell I did it!

Regards from Toronto, Dr. Mark Nowaczynski (I am only licensed to prescribe tranquilizers in the province of Ontario)

-- Mark Nowaczynski (archivalprints@home.com), February 02, 2000."

-- Mark Nowaczynski (archivalprints@home.com), January 29, 2001.

See another previous thread on this topic titled 'Observations on hand-held large format photography':


-- Mark Nowaczynski (archivalprints@home.com), January 29, 2001.

See also the thread I quoted from in my first message on this topic in this present thread:

'Hand-held Linhof Technika lens choice?'


-- Mark Nowaczynski (archivalprints@home.com), January 29, 2001.

Mark wrote: "For example, a 1mm vertical movement of the film plane during exposure creates far more image degradation in a small 35mm negative than the same 1mm vertical movement in a comparatively huge 4X5"
No, it doesn't. Work it out. Moving the camera 1mm doesn't create 1mm of image movement, except at 1:1 magnification. The image movement is simply the camera movement multiplied by the subject magnification, and for a given size of final image, the image movement is the same and the negative size is irrelevant.
The fact that you can get acceptable results from handheld 5x4 proves nothing, I can tell you that I didn't, and no longer attempt to.

"This is not the first time Mr. Andrews expresses incredulity at the use of 4X5 hand-held "
That's because I'm still incredulous that anyone would want to do such a thing.

"One of the most celebrated images of the 20th century, Migrant Mother, was taken in 1936 by Dorothea Lange using a hand-held 4X5 camera (Graflex)."
Yes, and that image, even in a small reproduction, clearly shows the effect of camera movement.
This in no way detracts from that very moving and powerful picture, or Dorothea Lange's skill as a photographer. However, I'm pretty sure that had Ms. Lange had the benefit of modern films, and a more flexible editorial attitude to back her up, then she wouldn't have chosen to use a Graflex, and the image would be just as moving.

I'm sorry Mark, but none of your invective has changed the laws of optics one little bit, nor answered the question of why anyone, with modern materials and equipment at their disposal, would choose to use handheld 5x4.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), January 30, 2001.

What a strange and ridiculous argument. I chose 8x10 because it was the only system I found that gave me the results I like. Mark chose hand-held 4x5 for the same reason. He isn't taking pictures of things that let him use a tripod. He is getting better results than when he used 6x6. So that's what he uses. The world is a diverse and beautiful place, and people have different styles and different approaches. You use a tripod, Mark doesn't. Yet it is theoretically possible that neither one of you belongs locked up in the asylum, despite this difference. The sun sets, and the sun also rises.

-- Erik Ryberg (ryberg@seanet.com), January 30, 2001.

I am responding late in this thread to again counter the re-itteration of half baked miconceptions about and prejudice against hand-held LF photography. Opinions without the substance of experience are not a substitute for facts. When we were teen-agers we all had friends who were obsessed with sex (as we were ourselves) and who were vocal sex experts even though they were virgins.

This forum also serves as an educational resource and therefore it is important to embrace differing points of view. For example, I don't use the Zone System for the simple reason that its not geared to hand-held situations, and moreover I use an incident meter exclusively. Brett Weston didn't even use a light meter, never mind previsualizing zones... There is no single RIGHT way of exposing a negative. There are alternatives and variations that WORK and give outstanding results. If the results obtained meet your goals, your methods are thus validated. Brett Weston's prints are no less excellent than St-Ansel's, despite his 'deviation' from the 'true path'.

I shoot 4X5 on a tripod as well as hand-held. You simply have a greater range of photographic oportunities this way. Its called the best of both worlds. Hand-held LF gives better results than MF (tripod or hand-held). That is a simple fact that makes the time, trouble and expense worthwhile. It is also one hell of a good excuse for buying a Linhof Master Technika. Thus begins one of life's great creative adventures with one of the 20th century's great photographic tools.

Dorothea Lange's 'Migrant Mother' is perhaps not the best example of the technical excellence possible with hand-held LF photography. It is a great and moving image despite its flaws. The single greatest technical problem with the image is that the centre of interest, the mother's face and right hand, are out of focus. The plane of sharp focus is behind her face. Look at her right shoulder, her left shirt collar, and the top left of her hair as well as the hair of the blonde child on her left shoulder. All of these listed areas are tack sharp and show no evidence of camera shake. There is beautiful tonal and textural richness as well as detail. That is, all the hallmarks of good LF photography. (Not all reproductions of this image are equal, the best approximation of the original I have had the priviledge of seeing on a museum wall can be found in Keith Davis 'The Photographs of Dorothea Lange', Hallmark, 1995).

Why is her face out of focus? Because there is punishingly little depth of field due to the adverse conditions that Dorothea Lange had to contend with. It was the end of the day, it was overcast and there was a drizzle. The light was very poor and she probably had great difficulty seeing well enough to focus in the dim low contrast light. Her lens was probably wide open, and the shutter speed slow (it is amazing how slow a shutter speed you can use hand-held with a big camera and still maintain sharpness, so this is not a factor contributing to image degradation).

The other important factor in 1936 was film speed. According to 'Das Linhof Kamera Buch', Verlag Photo Technik International, Munich 1990, under the description of the Linhof Technika in 1936 (page 106): "...the fastest films of that period rarely exceeded the equivalent of ISO 10". ISO TEN!!!!

So in fact 'Migrant Mother', even though the centre of interest is out of focus, actually shows the the advantages of hand-held LF photography despite the multitude of adverse factors faced by the photographer.

And people revere the 'Mona Lisa'. Well eat your heart out Leonardo.

-- Mark Nowaczynski (archivalprints@home.com), February 01, 2001.

How about the same reason a lot of us shoot various iterations of Large Format camreras. Just because we want to.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), February 02, 2001.

A one-degree rotation of the camera, enlarged to a 10x8 print, will indeed give the same blur, no matter what the format.

This is not the reason some of us like handheld LF. Sure, a 5x4 SLR has enough shake to frighten the subject, and me, when that mirror goes BLAM. Quiet a stupid camera, really. But a more conventional LF has that very quiet 'chut' that is a joy to hear. The real pleasure comes from the image qualities: all those square inches do count.

As a general rule (I do hate general rules), all other things being equal, larger format gives better quality than smaller format. Tripod vs. tripod, or handheld vs handheld. Unfortunately, none of my LF cameras has a decent f/1.2 lens, nor could I lift it if it had. But the Schneider 47mm makes for a lovely little hand-held camera, lighter than a Nikon F, and vastly superior images (when there's a decent amount of light).

-- Alan Gibson (Alan@snibgo.com), February 04, 2001.

L.F. handheld is meditation pure and simple....catching the transitory and the ephemeral(people and things in real life situations)...using your OWN body as the tripod/instrument...being in the moment without needing to previsualise...reacting to the environment...and getting the great 4x5 image complete with flaws. Pure emotion...One of my favorite images of my mother(recently deceased) was obtained this way with a speed graphic with a blown rangefinder....just focus on the ground glass...position body...stop down...engage film holder...click....NIRVANA. I'm glad I had the 4x5 instead of 35mm or 2 1/4. ALSO....This way of creating images is FUN/SPONTANEOUS and RISKY...which much L.F. could use in it's vocabulary. The images are tack sharp even in declining light at 1/15th.

-- Emile de Leon (khightpeople@msn.com), August 21, 2001.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! More Nails Please! This coffin's not quite shut!

Larger formats offer better tonality, not just extra resolution. In any case, at infinity, or with flashbulbs, you can have the resolution too.

Larger formats are an easy way to reduce the depth of field. Some people find this a useful expressive tool.

In any case, there is something wrong with your original post. Equal angular movements do give equal blur in equal-field-of-view prints, but hands tend to shake by a constant distance, not a constant angle about whatever they happen to be holding. Larger formats get blurred by less because the bigger cameras provide a longer lever arm, and so a smaller angle for the same caffeine intake.

-- Struan Gray (struan.gray@sljus.lu.se), August 22, 2001.

Decades of terrific photojournalism were performed with handheld large format cameras. If you're seriously concerned about whether good results can be accomplished, then you haven't tried it. Yes, you have to be careful about what is in focus, and yes you have to be careful not to induce some camera blur into your negative. With almost no practice, I could accomplish the same exposures I could with a 35 mm. Handheld 1/60th is easy, at a 30th or 15th you can rest your elbows on things and get good results. Fortunately, many of the lenses which come on the Graphics and Busches perform very well at f: 5.6 to f:11, apertures I almost never use when carrying a tripod. Even some of the very inexpensive "less desirable" original lenses (for example, the 127 mm non-Ektars) will make very decent 11X14 and 16X20 prints from handheld negatives. For 15 years I didn't think about adding handheld cameras to my large format equipment, I just thought the press cameras were interesting looking machines people collected. The last couple I have started adding a Crown Graphic (and/or a Busch Pressman) to what I take on trips. My family is overjoyed, not every car trip stop results in a 30 minutes delay. (Some of them still take hours, but they're used to that.) You will see and photograph subjects differently when you're working them handheld. You'll explore the subject from more positions in less time handheld. And for photos of people (something these cameras are great for) you can produce prints which are revelations to those brought up on 35 mm. Smooth, sharp, long scale 8X10's delight the subject. I've just started using "grafmatics," a 6 sheet magazine which allows you to shoot six sheets without changing a film holder. It also eliminated the need to take out the dark slide and park it on the back of the camera. A Crown with two lenses (the 135mm Schneider plus the 90 mm Angulon) plus filters plus a loaded grafmatic for 6 exposures) can all fit in a small 35 mm bag. Apparently a great many readers of the forum dismiss handheld cameras, I'm only trying to convey what I wish someone had told me a long time ago: this (still) works and it's fun. The investment is minimal, if you're unhappy with your attempts at it the Crowns and Speeds and Busches all sell like hotcakes on Ebay and you can get your money back.

-- Kevin Crisp (KRCrisp@aol.com), August 22, 2001.

Thanks for those last three considered replies. Pondering over the problem for 6 months does tend to give less heated and more rational responses!
I'm not going to argue about the more philosophical and contemplative reasons for using handheld LF, and I'm certainly not trying to dissuade anyone from trying it, or doing it.
The fact that many great pictures were taken on handheld LF in the past is also a total red-herring. Many great pictures were also taken on glass plates with wet collodion, but I don't see many photographers advocating their use these days.

The question, as originally asked, was to see if there were any technically sound reasons to offset the inconvenience of using a 5x4 camera handheld. I'm afraid I'm still not convinced that there really are any.
IMHO, modern film has reduced the tonality issue between 5x4 and MF to next-to-nothing. It used to be easy to pick out the format used from the quality of prints in reproduction, in galleries and at exhibitions, but nowadays, it's a near impossible task to tell what format was used.
My own experience is that by using Tmax100, I'm getting the tonality and quality from 35mm that I used to get from FP4 on 6x6cm; and 6x6, or 6x4.5cm is giving me prints that I can't easily tell from 5x4. This really only leaves the use of camera movements as the one strong argument for LF, I'm afraid, and this isn't easy to implement with a handheld camera.

Sorry Struan, but I'm not getting your 'longer lever' argument. The image displacement in the final print is the same for a given angular or linear movement of the camera, regardless of format.
Say we're taking a picture of someone 6ft tall, and we want a full-length shot of them, 6" high on the final print. Whatever format is chosen, the overall magnification is going to be 1/12th, so if the camera is moved 1mm vertically during the exposure, then the printed image will have 1/12th of a millimetre blur.
The only possible 'leverage' advantage that a larger, and heavier, camera can have is its extra inertia, but strapping a lead weight (or a motor-drive and metering prism, etc.) to a smaller format camera will take even that away.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), August 28, 2001.

To first order, your hands shake by a constant distance. If both hands shake in the same direction you get a linear movement of the camera. If they shake in opposite directions you get an angular rotation, and if you're not completely posessed, the angle is small and so equal to the shake distance divided by the seperation of your hands. With a bigger camera, you rotate by less, and if you've used a lens with the same angle of view for the larger format, you'll get less on-print blur.

The shake caused by in-sync rotation of your hands about the wrist is, like the linear shake, unaffected by format.

I agree with you in the main, but am one of those people who likes glasses to be half full. If smaller formats are as good as larger ones, then larger ones are as good as smaller ones. I often get better results handholding MF than 35 mm because I don't firk about trying to hold the camera up at eye level.

I also just plain giggle at the idea of an 11x14 point and shoot, and will try building one sometime. I see myself doing immersive imaging with two Metrogons, and two plywood box cameras hanging off me front and back like a sandwich board. The end is nigh!

-- Struan Gray (struan.gray@sljus.lu.se), August 28, 2001.

It should be obvious to all that the original poster is really just ridiculing the concept of hand-held large format photography. Many good points were raised above, based on experience, and not on the prejudiced conjecture of nay-sayers. To further argue the point is a waste of energy.

May I offer to make a portrait, using a hand-held 4X5 camera, of heads stuck in the sand? The results should neatly place both camps in their places...

-- Mark Nowaczynski (archivalprints@home.com), September 05, 2001.

Or should I have said: "The results will neatly place both camps in the correct perspective"?

-- Mark Nowaczynski (archivalprints@home.com), September 05, 2001.

The current discussion on the 'Lost Art of Hand-held LF' photography (Feb. 2002) would be enriched by perusing some of the above points...

-- Mark Nowaczynski (archivalprints@rogers.com), February 23, 2002.

Hi Pete

I fully disagree with your theory. I worked for 3 years as professionel aero photographer for a company with 2 Linhof Aerotronicas 6x9cm shooting from a helicopter. So first the Linhofs where about 20 kg with the 450mm lens I was shooting almost with a 1/800 sec sometimes a 1/500 seldom 1/1000 sec. It was possible to make enlargments up to 80x1,20m in very fine quality. The camera was hanging on a gummystrap at the doresframe. Sometimes I made shoots with my privat 6x6 Rolleflex handheld with 1/ 250 1/500 and I could they push up to maximum 18x24cm with good results. And 2 times I tried it with my 35 mm Minolta with different lenses but even in 9x13cm all pictures looked very unsharp just not for use and I worked only with 1/1000 and 1/500sec. Pete you must have somthing overlooked!!

-- Armin Seeholzer (armin.seeholzer@smile.ch), February 27, 2002.

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