Objective evaluation of the 5x7 format?

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Those of you who use this format, would you let us know how you use it and if you think that the step in quality from the 4x5 standard makes it worth considering? I have realized that 8x10 would draw me back from many situations were I would think the picture is not worth the investment. But carrying a 5x7 camera with a 4x5 reducing back seems a valid option to me. These cameras are not much larger than 4x5 and have more extension. Is the difference of quality of 5x7 significant enough to make it worth shooting the two formats (in my case: color slides)? Thanks!

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), February 03, 2001


5x7 is nearly twice the size of 4x5 so there is a quality difference. a 5x7 camera with a 4x5 reducing back is not a bad idea. but ... for color transparency can you find a reliable and plentiful film source (for the type of film you use)? are your 4x5 transparencies on the edge of being too small for your purposes? is the 5x7 aspect ratio better than 4x5 for you in general (so much so that cropping of 4x5 is not worth it - you need full frame or "see" better on an uncropped screen)? i think 5x7 makes more sense for black and white and contact printing and 8x10 is the next step up from 4x5 where the difference in quality is really noticeable. but this is only my opinion.

-- adam friedberg (asfberg@hotmail.com), February 03, 2001.

I like the 5x7 format, but I gave it up many years ago as being impractical compared with 4x5. Without a 5x7 enlarger there is simply no versatility, which raises the anti considerably, both in size and cost. One can only make contact prints, and if they have to be cropped you're back to 4x5, more or less. My personal favorite is 3 1/4x4 1/4, (60% of the film area of 4x5, and easily hand-held), but if you think 5x7 film is hard to come by....On the other hand, for 50 years I've lusted for a 5x7 Home Portrait Graflex like Paul Strand's.

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@home.com), February 03, 2001.

Paul, May I just say if I was 30 again I would turn to 5x7, buy an Ebony SV57 and a DeVere 507. I enjoy 4x5 but don't always find the ratio of the format to my liking and often crop top and/or bottom.

If you haven't already done so see Jan./Feb.2000 edition of Viewcamera for an evaluation of the format from Paul Caponigro et al. Regards,

-- Trevor Crone (trevor.crone@uk.dreamcast.com), February 03, 2001.

Thanks so far! Trevor, It's been longtime since I have turned thirty, but the Ebony SV57 is my dream too! But the price of this camera would mean I should work hard selling more photos :-) Actually I am no longer enlarging my pictures but rather treat them digitally. So the enlarger is not the weak point. Nor the availability of films as Adam suggests, as for the time being 13x18 Fujichromes are on the regular list here in Europe (but for how long?). Bill your answer is raising a good point here: how 4x5 and 5x7 can be mixed, with their different ratio's aspect, this deserves a second thought. I was not aware of this article in View Camera Magazine. Thanks!

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), February 03, 2001.

I started out with large format with an 8x10 and found the only reducing back that came with the Kodak Master was the 5x7. I really wanted a 4x5 back, but decided that it was worth a try. The ground glass on the camera has both of the smaller formats etched into it. After working with the camera for a while, I found that having different proportions as per the 5x7 was a breath of fresh air. You hit the nail on the head as far as the modest increase in weight for considerably longer bellows. I recently acquired the Canham 5x7 metal camera specifically for the purpose of having a camera where I am unable to get my 8x10 to location. My final selection as to proceed with purchasing this camera was to look at slide samples of both formats over a light table. The proportions were fantastic although I thought that the additional surface area would be its greatest attribute. I stocked up on T-Max in 5x7 and was pleased to hear that Badger is stocking 5x7 Velvia and Provia as well as Ilford B&W in 5x7. Canham says that he is selling as many 5x7's as his 4x5 cameras. Canhad is going to be offering a panoramic roll film back for the 5x7 metal camera in 2 1/4 x 7" this spring. I also got the 4x5 back to use with readyloads.

Good Luck.

-- Michael Kadillak (m.kadillak@home.com), February 03, 2001.

I think the quality in terms of square inches and equal lens quality is in favor of 5x7. In terms of color or B&W, you will have more film emulsions to choose from in 4x5. But how many different films are you going to use? If 5x7 provides what works for you then it is only personal preference. Using a 5x7 with 4x5 reducing back is a good alternative. If you use 35mm then 5x7 is a natural progression. You can use 4x5 to expand a bit with some compositional situations and when you know you will enlarge a specific image. It gives you a nice choice in the field and you can keep the 4x5 component lightweight by using Fuji Quickloads or Kodak Readyloads while still carrying 5x7 holders.

By choosing lenses carefully you can have excellent glass to cover both formats and easily use 72mm to 500+ without any problems. You will find color slide film in 5x7, or even the european equivalent, to be smaller than 4x5. But if your favorite is made in 5x7 you are OK.

Be aware Kodak has cut way, way back on 5x7 film choices. Fuji isn't great but has some. But it is the format aspect that some of us really like. It just works for some of us better than 4x5. I have one 5x7 with 4x5 back as well, nice & lightweight, but I find I seldom use the 4x5 back any longer. I use the 5x7 often for everything from portraits to copy negatives & like it a lot.

You are right about how it handles like a 4x5 camera. If I were purchasing a brand new one I would buy a Canham in a minute. Very nice & if you get the wood one you have the options of a 4x10 inch back or the upcoming 6x17 cm film insert to allow use of roll film. A bit more to carry, but certainly maximum versatility from one camera. The 5x7 contact prints in B&W do stand on their own very well and getting a 5x7 enlarger should you want to print these negatives is not difficult or expensive. At least now for now. (If we keep boosting the format they will probably become more expensive, sorry 'bout that)

All in all, I find the format works well for me. I do use 8x10 as well and in the field, with the vehicle, I carry both & find often that specific images call for one or the other and seldom do I have a problem in choosing which format I need to complete the shot.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), February 03, 2001.

Hmmm...A 617 back from Canham. Will that fit Canham only, or can the rest of us {5x7 Deardorff} use it too?

-- Steve Clark (agno3@eesc.com), February 03, 2001.

I just wish I could afford the change!! Like Trevor I would hanker after the Ebony and a trusty DeVere!!

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), February 04, 2001.

Thanks for all your valuable inputs. Well, I am tempted! Even if good part of my shots would still be done with the so handy QuickLoads, having an alternative for the specially precious shots is appealing. As well as the possibility to make high quality panoramics on sheet films, or even on rollfilm.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), February 04, 2001.

Lenses for 5x7 are mostly the same as for 4x5 so you don't have to invest much. You lose some movements, but you get wideangle lenses from normal ones and normal lenses from tele for 4x5. I like this format very much. I carry camera and lenses a lot in the field, I also found old and cheap, but very good enlarger. I have also a 20$ (used) enlarging lense, but I get very good results since I only magnify up to 4x and I get 50x70cm prints! Contact prints look very nice, especially printed on larger paper (18x24cm). I also use 4x5 reducing back, mostly for slides since 5x7 slide films are only special-order.

-- Janez Pelko (pelko@iskratel.si), February 05, 2001.

If you're going to alternate between 4x5 and 5x7, two nice lenses to carry are the Nikkor SW120 f/8 and Nikkor 300mm f/9, which will enable you to respond to most situations in either format. Different filter sizes, unfortunately.

But if I was mainly a colour photographer, I'd try to be sure of a reliable source of 5x7 sheet film before committing myself to the 5x7 format. In Tokyo Velvia 5x7 was normally available off the shelf in Yodobashi, but this is obviously the exception.

There is another nice format, 6.75" x 4.5", or half plate, which despite being listed in an Ilford catalogue has probably now disappeared altogether.

-- fw (finneganswake@altavista.net), February 05, 2001.

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