Questions at moving from MF to LF : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello folks,

I started photography with a Lomo, before the marketing hype was initiated. The first big system I owned was a Canon 35mm one, and after some years, I moved upwards to MF. I got a Kiev-88CM and today, I own five lenses, among them the fish-eye and a 55mm shift. Nevertheless, I feel very attracted by LF. I will now try to show you my favourite subjects:

Most of my pictures are made during travelling. I love travelling, and I shoot both landscapes and street scenes. MF has been a big leap forwards, especially because of the composition possibilities of the waist level finder and because of the shift lens. In addition, the larger format has lead to a substantial shift in quality, not only because of the bigger format, but also because of the more concentrated and more artistic way to create a photograph.

I don't want so spend that much money on a new camera, so I consider a 8x10" Bender or a 4x5" Super Graphic. I feel attracted to the Bender because of the movement possibilities and because of the large format allowing for contact prints. Problems are that the camera is not very sophisticated and that it is a bit bulky. The woodworking seems not to be a problem for me. On the other hand, I feel attracted to the Speed Graphic. Because it's possible to use it with a tripod, or in "action". Because it's very portable (which is quite important for me), and because it's a very affordable sophisticated design. The only "lack" is the "smaller" format not really allowing for contact prints.

In a way, I think that LF would not be a bigger effort than MF (in means of equipment size and weight), but it would offer me the advantage of movements and even better quality, although I'm very satisfied with the quality of my Kiev system and the photos I have done with it so far. So my plan is to substitute the MF system for LF, and to keep a 35mm system as a small reporter camera in addition to LF.

So I just want to know what you think about my plans, whether LF would be of advantage for me, and which camera of the two I consider would be better. As I like to shoot landscapes, the many movements of the Bender would be of advantage, but in general, I tend towards the Graphic and I travel and hike a lot.

Thanks for your help in advance!

Cheers -David

-- David Haardt (, May 09, 2001


NOTE: I mean the Super Graphic, not the Speed Graphic I once mentioned in error.

-- David Haardt (, May 09, 2001.

I would choose your camera based on the lenses you will be using. For example, I shoot landscapes. I also enjoy architectural photography. And, I enjoy close-up shots of rock formations while backpacking.

So, my lens choices were: 75mm, 90mm, 150mm, and 210mm. Just my 'personal' choices. So, not many field cameras will accept anything shorter than 90mm without either a bad bellows or a recessed lens board. And, when shooting close-ups, you really need the longer bellows. I don't use much movements, except with architecture.

So, I decided on the Canham DLC 45, because of its ability to use really wide lenses without a bag bellows, and has about 21 inches of bellows for me to work with when doing close-ups.

Voila. Decide on a camera that will accommodate the lenses, not the other way around. Also look into the Calumet Cadet.

-- Andy Biggs (, May 09, 2001.

You might also consider a Horseman 6 x 9 cm VHR, which would give you everything you seem to need, albeit in a rollfilm forat. I use the VH, the same model, but without a rangefinder, and, IMHO, the quality, flexibility, movement possibilities, compactness, lightweight, and cost of roll film, offer a combination that is hard to beat.

-- Howard Slavitt (, May 09, 2001.

David, unlike the improvement in going from 35mm to MF, going to 4x5 isn't going to do anything for you unless you plan on printing larger than 20x24. Sounds like you have a nice outfit now. I'd stick with it. (Going to 8x10 contact prints is a different story.)

-- Bill (, May 09, 2001.

David, I agree with Bill if you are only going to produce contacts then 10x8 is the way to go for its an art form in its self. To get the full benefit from the 4x5 format you should be looking at producing enlagements and not just making contact prints, although 4x5 plantinum, cyanotypes etc are quite delightfu but 5x7 and 10x8 hold just that bit more information which is so important to a contact print. 10x8 "Street Photography" is probably not quite as spontanious as with the smaller formats so this has to be taken into account. Like most things in life their is no universal solution its a case of 'horses for courses'. I wish you well and may the light be with you,

-- Trevor Crone (, May 09, 2001.

David: Why not just pick up a used Graphic with one or two lenses and see if LF does what you want it to do before you trash your MF system. You may find that LF isn't for you or that it doesn't offer any advantages over MF for your subject matter. I love making photographs with LF, but to some it is as exciting as watching bumpers rust. In my opinion, which my wife says is worthless, keep the Kiev system until you are sure you can't live without LF, or keep both systems. MF is certainly easier if you shoot people pictures, and a lot more portable. You ought to be able to find a decent Graphic and a couple of older lenses for $300 to $500.


-- Doug Paramore (, May 09, 2001.

Hello folks,

Thank you for your tips so far. As far as the contact prints are concerned, I just wanted to say that if I bought a 4x5 camera, I would use enlargements, and if I bought a 8x10 one, I'd probably stick to contact prints only.

I also took a more detailed look at the Calumet Cadet, and it also looks pretty fine. It's portable, with loads of movements, but in the Bender price class (considering that the set with lens and film holder is at 700 dollars) rather than in the Graphic one.

It is true that I should test LF somehow. But I doubt whether I could afford buying a LF camera without selling some of my MF equipment (let's say, at least the shift and the fish-eye lenses). It would be useful if I could rent LF equipment for a weekend or so, but in Austria, LF is rather rare, so I doubt that you could do so. And then again, I couldn't rent the very cameras I'm interested in. That's a bit of a problem.

Waiting for more tips and hints from you

Cheers -David

-- David Haardt (, May 09, 2001.

If you are in Austria you have your own very fine LF camera maker - Lotus (not in the budget range).

You might make contact with them and see if they can help you out. They were recently selling of a bunch of other brand LF cameras - wisner, Canham etc on ebay, which looked like they were maybe bought to help in their own design process. Maybe they have a few more lying around and might let you rent one... (just an idea). They might well be able to point you in the right direction.

Tim A

-- Tim Atherton (, May 09, 2001.

Dear Tim,

I did already hear about them, but instantly forget them as I saw their prices ;-) Nevertheless thank you for making me remember them, I just wrote them an e-mail describing my situation, whether they could help me. To be honest, I doubt whether they would want to help me at all, because I'm really no potential customer for them, but I thought I'd give it a go anyway.


-- David Haardt (, May 10, 2001.

Don't overlook used cameras in 8x10. They're not as plentiful as 4x5's, though, so probably not as cheap, but certainly look into them before going with the Bender.

-- John H. Henderson (, May 10, 2001.

You know, I always have some hesitation when buying really *used* cameras. I always prefer near mint ones - Just because I'm afraid that I spent several hundred dollars on an old bunch of metal and wood which I with my knowledge cannot repair or even restore. That's why so far, I didn't look at the used 8x10" market in detail. But nevertheless, you're right of course, thus I'll browse this site's camera reviews of cheaper 8x10" cameras, too.

-- David Haardt (, May 10, 2001.

David- I started off in 4x5 with a Bender kit. I now use a Sinar F-1 for professional architectural work and a Wista SP for field work. I also have a Super Graphic, a Hasselblad system with PC Mutar and Nikons with shift lenses, so as you can see I have experience with similar equipment to what you are considering. Here are my thoughts:

1. The Bender 4x5 kit got me started, but was only a compromise measure until I could afford the Sinar. It was somewhat fragile and does not fold into a compact package. It is also not very precise or rigid (but it is cheap). It was a great revalation when I started working with the Sinar (I didn't know what I was missing). 2. Although I have replaced the Super Graphic with the Wista SP, mainly because it did not have bag bellows capability and is limited in front rise, I think it is a great starter camera. It is very rugged and collapsible, simple and light-perfect for travel. They are not much more expensive than the Bender, but much more professional and rugged.

3. You will like 4x5 as an alternative to MF. The movements are much more flexible, there is a vast array of lenses available, and the ability to switch from one film type and development to another from exposure to exposure is hard to beat. I got into MF after 4x5 (opposite to what you are doing) and I find the Lf cameras much more user friendly than the Blad. It seems that MF is heavy, expensive complicated and fussy. It can give good results on a tripod but is very hard to use handheld and is very limited in perspective control capabilities. It really seems that using MF for architectural and travel photography is like pushing rope up hill. If you get a Super Graphic and a 120mm lens it will really open up your photographic possibilities. Hope this helps!

-- David Rose (, May 11, 2001.

Dave, one of the things I like about my Super is the rangefinder incorporated into the top. If cammed with the typical 135mm lens, it make it easy to use by DOF, which can be printed out thru one of the various estimating formula tables around, as long as you don't need shifts and tilts etc. The graflok back is nice for the vertical shots. These are pretty popular cameras, so unloading it if you don't like the medium is accomplishable. I personally find the 6x9 format more to my liking from a size, weight, cost perspective. Also, unless your shooting B&W and doing your own processing for contact prints forget saving money in the 4x5 field. To go to larger prints will either entail an enlarger and all the many accessory items or expensive outside processing/printing for color as well as B&W. The other thing, is that for me, I can get a whole roll of 120 processed for the cost of a single sheet of 4x5. Fortunetly now I have a darkroom, so that has been resolved for the B&W stuff. For your subject matter, and wanting to get more on film and better/bigger prints, a Horseman 6x9 might be up your alley. At least you wouldn't have to crop that 6x6 neg for other formats.

-- Wayne Crider (, May 13, 2001.


I just wanted to say "thank you" to all of you who contributed to help me. I have to say that you were a big help to me. At the moment, I'm reading the catalogue of the Shen Hao, but it seems to me as if a nicely used Super Graphic is the best for me. At least I can tell you that I can't await the moment when I see my first large format Polaroid... ;-)


-- David Haardt (, May 14, 2001.

Hello folks,

I finally bought a Super Speed Graphic in super condition. Here's a photo of the beauty: pg

Now I want to get some backs. My plan is to get a roll film back, a Polaroid 545/545i holder, and maybe a Grafmatic. (And of course a or some regular double sheet film holders.)

As far as the roll film back is concerned: Is there really a problem when using a "23" back (knob wind) with modern film, or will this not be noticable in pictorial photography? Which f-stop will be necessary to compensate for the film not being totally flat? Because the lever wind backs are far rarer, although not really more expensive. I think I'll go for a 6x9 (2 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches).

Cheers -David

-- David Haardt (, May 21, 2001.

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