Ultra Large Format 12x20 & 16x20

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Hello All,

I have decided to go nuts and work towards obtaining a 12x20 or 16x20, ideally I would like the latter. New purchase is just out of the question. I know Korona made a 12x20, and Empire State 18x22, what other older manufactures made these UL format cameras? Aside from eBay, is there a dealer(s) that specialize in this size?

As always, thanks for the help! JC P.S. I am still trying to Identify my 8x10 camera with no luck, if anyone else wants a shot at it, let me know and I can send pics.

-- James Christian (jcc928@aol.com), August 31, 2001


Check out Quality Camera in Atlanta.


They only have a minimal web site, but it has a phone number and email address.

-- Steven Dial (sgdial@bellsouth.net), August 31, 2001.


Lens and Repro has an 8x20 Gundlach for $1,700 listed on their web site. You might also try looking at Midwest Photo which lists an 11x14 Korona for just over $1,000.

Gundlach Korona and Folmer Schwing produced the largest number of banquet cameras. Korona made 7x17, 8x20, and 20x24 models and Folmer Schwing made both 7x17 and 12x20. Burke&James and Deredorff also made a small number of cameras in these formats.

You might also try to find an old process camera which is more likely to be available in the 16x20 or 20x24 size.

It is difficult to find ULF cameras partially because there is both a user's market and a collector's market. Expect to pay at least $1,500-$2,500 used depending on the condition of the camera. You may also find it difficult to aquire filmholders. Some but not all used cameras come with filmholders, and their is no guarantee that old holders will be light-tight. Moreover, not all ULF filmholders are interchangeable and a holder built for one 12x20 might not fit another 12x20 made by different manufacturer. If you have to buy a new filmholder, expect to wait several months since these are often custom built. In addition, remember that the cost of a single filmholder for 12x20 starts at about $400.

One final but important note: Everything changes in ULF (not just the camera) and the "move up" often requires an endless spiral of equipment additions. You may, for example, need a new contact print frame, new processing trays, and a new lens that will cover the format. In addition, be sure to check the supply of available film. While increased interest in ULF has led to some increased film availability, supplies are still limited. With digital imaging on the rise and cutbacks (rummored or actual) in 4x5, 5x7, and 8x10 filmstocks, its hard to believe that banquet film is going to be increasingly available.


-- Dave Willison (dwillisart@aol.com), August 31, 2001.

I was lucky and got into 12x20(korona in decent shape)for $600/w dagor from a photographer retiring from the banquet trip that supported him for years...There are deals to be had if you look around and hit the camera shows etc. I am glad I aquired the camera and it's really a different kind of groove than any of the smaller formats because it's a BEHEMOUTH even at 18 lbs. I feel like I'm tapping into history with that camera for some reason...it's hard to explain. When its set up it looks like a real world t.v. screen ...a big groove ...my wife's first reaction was WOW! Having said that I definatly would not have liked to spend $2500.00 or more for that format just for the experience as I am not committed to ULF totally yet. But am glad and honored in a way to be able to shoot in the very beautiful 12x20 dimentional format. It's a REAL groove BUT watch your cash and you will need a GREAT tripod!

-- Emile de Leon (Knightpeople@msn.com), August 31, 2001.

Darkroom Innovations has carved out giant format as part of their niche. You might give them a call. They're in Fountain Hills, AZ. You can also find them under www.viewcamerastore.com.

I was considering giant format at one time and thought that 14x17 would be interesting. 16x20 seemed just a bit large to me. One series of lenses to consider for these sized cameras are the De Golden Busch lenses. They are relatively modern, and they have huge image circles.

As to my own direction, after checking the prices of lenses, cameras, etc., I decided to go with enlarging 8x10. I think one would get near the quality at much less cost, and not be burdened with the substantial inconvenience of dealing with a camera and lenses of that size and weight. And then, there's the expense of film, it's future availability, film holders, the length of exposures, reciprocity, etc. Oh boy!

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), August 31, 2001.

Another direction to consider that would give about the same results is to scan 4x5 negatives and digitally "print" large negatives onto mylar. These negatives can be contact printed onto paper. I believe that Calumet sells a book on this approach. This last June, they offered a class at their Calumet Institute in Salisbury, Maryland.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), August 31, 2001.

I just finished building a 2nd 20x24 with a 30" Goerz Artar. Total cost for the camera about $40 and total weight with the lens is 25 lbs. It's easy to backpack, just affixed my old backpack to it via threaded inserts. About a week to build during a family reunion. Fixed on infinity everything is in focus at f64 for distance or f128 for "closeups" (8'-300'). As far as I'm concerned this is the only way to go. No focusing. Set up time is about the same as 35mm and everything is always in focus. No movements needed for landscape. Framing is basically right on every time. A Stanley Workmate works perfect for a tripod or even the roof of the car. It's a no brainer. Did the same thing in 4x5 with a 100mm WFE. Now that's my point and shoot.

-- Mark Stevenson (marks@cwo.com), September 01, 2001.

Mark - If you ever get a chance to throw some photos of this setup onto the web, I'd love to take a peek. Feel free to e-mail some if that would be easier.

-- Tim Klein (timklein@qwest.net), September 01, 2001.

James - You've gotten a lot of good info so far, but don't be discouraged by some of the replies saying how difficult ULF is. It's not. In a lot of ways, it's simpler: You're probably using one lens. You probably only have one or two holders, which means you only make a couple of exposures per outing. You're developing one neg at a time, probably in a tray. You don't need an enlarger - you contact print everything. No fancy contact printing frame needed - a piece of heavy glass and a flat board will do as well.

Yes, the whole process is more contemplative than the smaller formats (in other words, SLOWER) and if that doesn't suite your style then stick with whatever you're using now, but there is something very Zen about seeing the final image in front of you under the darkcloth, 20" wide. Digitally enlarged negs or enlarging a smaller format may indeed give nice results, but it's not the same thing (either the process or the output).

You don't need megabuck gear to do ULF. Like Emile, I use a Korona and a Dagor. Love them both, wouldn't swap for the world. You don't need a $600 tripod, either - lots of big ol' used ones around. I'm currently using the largest wooden Berlebach, which I got on sale from Calumet for $139. For holders, contact Alan Brubaker. I think he's at Filmholders.com. As for film, Ilford recently INCREASED the availability of their ULF films, so I wouldn't panic about it. I use both FP4+ and HP5+, depending on the light. They're both wonderful.

Good luck!

-- Mark Parsons (polar@thegrid.net), September 02, 2001.

All this talk about 12x20 has inspired me to take the BIG BOY/12x20 out for a stroll this fall....and....I can hardly wait for winter here in New England to do some ULF snow scenes!Glad to hear that Ilford is making film for ULF...I have no complaints at all with Ilford...great film! Keep in mind though that $10 a shot adds up fast and the errors add up too. Once I tilted the camera down to take a shot of some flowers and forgot to level the camera after the shot before replacing the darkslide and the film was bulging (I guess) and due to gravity... the darkslide crunched the film up...It's a crappy feeling wasting that amount of film in one shot but the lessons are hard earned and you WON'T do that again!Also with my camera I use 2 tripods...an extra one for the front bed for ultimate rigidity. E.

-- Emile de Leon (knightpeople@msn.com), September 02, 2001.

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