making the jump-- 4x5 to 8x10 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

hey friends, having pined for years over the frustratingly visible difference between prints made from 8x10 versus 4x5 originals-- even when printed in small size, i've decided it's finally time to make the jump. my 4x5 is a Wista SP-- totally bombproof metal camera that i have sworn by for a decade. I'd like to get something similar in 8x10 (i.e., not one of those bendy wood cameras), but it doesn't need to be backpackable-- just sturdy and reliable.

any thoughts generally on issues I need to consider-- differences in the way 8x10 operates, equipment suggestions, etc? i've been shooting all these yars with a 210mm lens on my 4x5, so i'll probably get a 420 or something close to that range. i know depth of field is a big issue with 8x10, and of course weight and the cost of film-- any other things i should consider? general comments, suggestions, etc?

thanks a bunch! ~chris jordan, Seattle

-- chris jordan (, April 12, 2001


I admire your guts. You sound like someone who's gonna successfully make the transition to 8x10 (not the 90% whose posts begin I'm gonna sell my K1000 and buy a Deardorff, etc). My only suggestion: sign up for a Gym so you'll be able to carry the damn thing and its tripod without killing yourself. Best of luck!

-- Bill (, April 12, 2001.

I did this a few months ago (actually I added 8x10 to my 4x5 system, I didn't replace the 4x5). The main issues for me have been:(1) weight - I don't camp out but I do usually carry my equipment on day hikes. For me that's pretty much impossible with 8x10. The camera (it's one of those bendy wooden things, a Deardorff) weighs 12 pounds, the tripod and head weigh another 12 pounds, and the holders and accessories probably weight another 8 or 10 pounds. I just can't walk for miles with that on my back, which tends to limit what I can find to photograph but if you're younger or more physically fit that may not be a problem for you (2) inability to enlarge - I don't have an 8x10 enlarger and don't plan to get one though that could change. I love 8x10 contract prints but it does get a little boring doing everything in the same size; (3) film cost - my black and white 8x10 film costs about $2 per sheet so it gets expensive - no bracketing, no making duplicate negatives as I often do with 4x5. (4) limitations on number of holders you can carry - 8x10 holders are four times as large as 4x5 holders and they are really heavy. Four is about the maximum I can carry so I have to be really selective in deciding what to photograph. I often have the feeling that photographs I pass up might have been good but with 8x10 I feel I have to have almost complete certainty before making the photograph because I can carry so little film with me. Those have been the main considerations for me. Good luck, I think you'll like it but personally I wouldn't give up my 4x5 system before trying 8x10 for a while. Oh yeah, one other thing - not many people claim to be able to tell any difference between enlargements made from 4x5 and 8x10, at leat not until you get up into the 20x24 range. I'm not always sure that I can even tell a difference between my 8x10 contact prints and a good 4x5 negative enlarged to 8x10.

-- Brian Ellis (, April 12, 2001.

I don't know about such a long lens. I use an old 12" Dagor, and sometimes even with front and rear tilts I can barely get the depth of field I need for a landscape shot, especially if I am "in the woods."

-- Ed Buffaloe (, April 12, 2001.

It really makes a difference if you'll be working out of the back of your truck/car or going on long hikes. You can spend an entire day in one fairly small area and get a lot of work done. Think about one of those camera cases that converts to wheeled airline luggage, or a small durable hand truck, with suitable wheels, etc.

Gordon Hutchings described his working kit for long versus short trips in a V.C. issue a year or two ago. I have it, but not with me. It's worth a look. Also bear in mind Edward Weston was all of like 5'5" and Ansel Adams 6'1" and 120 lbs. soaking wet (in his youth). Read Charis Wilson's description of Weston's carrying method in "Through Another Lens..."

If you insist on metal than you'll want a Toyo 810M (or MII) which goes ~15/16 lbs. I have an Austrian friend who lugs his all over creation, overseas, NYC Times Square, etc. and he hasn't complained. But he's a big healthy young'un. If you're looking at older gear the Kodak Master is a good idea ~12/13 lbs.

The Calumet C series is swell but unless you luck into a magnesium one you are gonna have to spend serious time at the gym. It runs ~14 lbs in magnesium but ~18 lbs in aluminum.

If you can afford new I would give the Phillips and the Canham a SERIOUS look. Yeah they're wood, but the Phillips has so much epoxy and teflon that it's really not the same thing.

Also see if you can find a used MIDO system to save on film holder weight/bulk. I haven't used them myself and they are apprently no longer available new.

Get used to shooting less and learn to pare things down to the minimum - one lens, gelatin filters (or none at all) and a shoulder bag for a couple of holders.... No extras, just the basics.

-- Sean yates (, April 12, 2001.

I would think that an 8x10 enlarger would be the most significant consideration, both in terms of darkroom space and cost. Do you have an enlarger that can accommodate an 8x10 head? Or, would you purchase a new/used enlarger?

Also, how would you rate enlargements from 8x10 against contact prints from 11x14, 16x20, 20x24 or one of the banquet sizes? Ever considered jumping over 8x10 to ULF?


-- Dave Willison (, April 12, 2001.

Chris, try out the 810 format and see if you like it first. It takes more time to set up and shoot than 4x5 (in fact, after shooting 810 for a while and then switching back to a 4x5 camera, the 4x5 seems like a small compact camera with a relieving short set-up time! It feels like you can work it alot quicker). The 810 film holders are also bigger and seem more susceptible to damage than the 4x5.

If you are looking for a metal field camera, the TOYO is probably your choice. It folds nicely and flat enough to be carried in a pack. I have this camera, it's not bombproof, but it is very durable and precise (your biggest concern will be not breaking the ground glass).

AS for printing your negs, the previous answer is right in saying "you can't tell the difference between an 810 contact print and a 4x5 enlarged to 8x10". I think that 810 format is most exciting if you have an enlarger to go with it, and enlarge BIG.

Portability of the camera is not too bad, I find that the camera and lens weight is not really the problem, the problem is carrying the tripod that goes along with it. If you hike with two people, this could be solved. I think someone will have to design a tripod someday where two of its legs separate from the body and double as hiking poles...


-- Dave Anton (, April 12, 2001.

Keeping your 4x5 makes sense for a variety of reasons but the "jump" to 8x10 is well worth the effort. I got a Canham last year-it's a real gem. Light (relatively), easy to set up and adjust, and very stable. They are rarely to be had used. After reading thru the threads here (and some additional advice from Nathan Congdon) I use an F64 backpack to carry the stuff (camera, BIG darkcloth, 4/5 fimlholders, up to 4 lenses, filters, exposure meter, air can, gatorade etc) around. Im smallish and totally out of shape but have recently hauled it all around sites in Death valley with Chuck Farmer (great workshop by the way) without serious injury. I started with a 305 G-Claron and a 450 Fuji C. Also checked out my Apo-Symmar 210 (at F32) and it covers 8x10 with some movements. Go for it-enlarger or not it changes the way you see.


-- Alan Barton (, April 12, 2001.

I've made the "jump", but I'm not quite yet to the other side of the canyon! I'm close, though.

To save on cost, I purchased a Calumet C3 that's in great shape. ($575.) It's HEAVY, but it's functional. I will still shoot 4x5, and I will use 8x10 on selected shots. I don't think I quite have the stamina to backpack the 8x10 all over the territory.

On a related note, I received my Zone VI type ii non-VC enlarger head that I will adapt to my type i enlarger. I purchased this unit on EBay at just over half-price. It will be easy to make a 3"-4" high adaptor that will mate the lightsource and base of the head to my negative stage. Everything clears fine. If you have the type i enlarger, don't despair on 8x10. (I will post a thread on how this works out.)

I'm running out of funds, and I still need to find film holders and an enlarging lens. What can I sell?

-- neil poulsen (portland, or.) (, April 13, 2001.

for some reason 420 is an uncommon focal length, while 210 is one of the most common. schneider made a 420 repro claron (artar type) which just covers 8x10 with approx.375mm i.c. otherwise many use a 450 nikkor or fuji or a 480 apo ronar or (apo,red dot,etc.) artar. i usually stay with shorter lenses in 8x10 and would go to a 355/360 instead.

-- adam friedberg (, April 13, 2001.

The camera you get can make all the difference. I had one of the metal folding Kodak 8x10's and hated it. It just didn't work with my photo style at all. Was so unfriendly I gave up 8x10. Sold it to a friend & he uses it constantly & loves it. Got a nice older Deardorff & it 'fits' like a glove. Somehow it is comfortable where the Kodak was not. Just personal as both are nice cameras. With the Deardorff, a 'bendy wood camera' I shoot a lot. With the Kodak, a Toyo M and a Calumet, I didn't. The Kodak was a pain in the butt and the other metal cameras felt like tools, not like comfortable friends. It is all a personal thing so if you get one & it doesn't work out too well but you still like the format and the idea of the format, try another camera. Seems silly doesn't it, that a camera can make that much difference when the film size remains the same. But, for me and many others, the process and the right tool in hand makes it a lot more than an exercise in controlled tarnishing of silver.

-- Dan Smith (, April 13, 2001.

Hi Chris, dont hesitate to do the jump. It's worthwhile. Take in serious consideration the ARCA SWISS 8x10 F-line with collapsible rail. It is only 4 kg without lens. I carry it since years in every corner of the world. I use a Stanford -Davis compact tripod with a Gitzo Mk2 Lowprofile head. I wait now for a custommade Backpack/Wheelcarry case made for me by STREBOR ( to make it a bit more like "my way". The ARCA is a very rugged, intelligently designed camera. It never gave any reason to complain. It is the camera you can easily forget, because it works and works and everything is so smoothly built in your hands, that you can simply concentrate on your picture. Even to set it up it takes about no time( in any case not more than any 4x5). For any further question, dont hesitate to drop a line. Good luck! Urs

-- Urs Bernhard (, April 13, 2001.

First let me say how much I enjoyed the pictures on your webpage. I am mainly a B&W fan, but I really, really like your color work. It seems to me anyone who has the dedication to do this caliber of work will have no trouble handling the adjustment to 8X10. has reviews of several of the 8X10s mentioned in the previous posts. Do you plan to go to the camera swap meet at Puyallup WA Saturday April 28? It should be a chance to see several different 8X10s and compare them. Email me if you need details on the meet. Have you seen the Michael Fatali feature in the March/April 2001 "View Camera" magazine? He is doing 8X10 Velvia in somewhat low light. F32 seems to be stop he tends to use. You might think of what it would be like to do the kind of work you do at f32.

-- Leonard Robertson (, April 13, 2001.

Check out htt:// for Micheal's work. His pictures emotionally move my soul in a very touching way. Now I start to understand the importance of lighting. Can't wait to see his book coming out!

-- yongfei (, April 15, 2001.

I would also recommend starting with a shorter lens than 420mm. You can get more information on a bigger piece of film, so I find that my lens choices for 8x10" are usually wider than what I would expect for various situations based on my choices with smaller formats. Aside from the short DOF of the long lens, if you're shooting outdoors and using a small aperture to compensate for the short DOF, remember you'll be contending with a lot of bellows, which can get hairy in windy conditions.

-- David Goldfarb (, April 16, 2001.

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