Digital Backs for large format photography : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I am currently studying a ND in photography at the Bournemouth Arts Institute in the UK.

One of my final projects focuses on the impact that digital is having for the large format market.

Is anyone using 4'5 digital backs? If yes, what are the advantages & how has your work flow changed?

I'm also keen to look at any large format digital imaging, if anyone could recommend websites or photographers to reserach I'd be really grateful!

Many thanks, look forward to hearing peoples opinions Eleanor.

-- Eleanor Skan (, September 26, 2001


An ND in photography? Is that a Neutral Density? North Dakota? No Data? I am familiar with BS, MS and PhD(BS and MS piled higher & deeper) but not ND, what is it?

-- Dan Smith (, September 26, 2001.

Stephen Johnson has been working on a National Parks project shooting a Sinar 4x5, a Dicomed digital back, and a Mac Powerbook laptop. You can find more info here... You might want to contact him through the website. He has made some nice images. Hope this helps.

-- Scott Bacon (, September 26, 2001.

Eleanor, You should contact Sinar Bron, also Better Light, and Dicomed. All of these companies will have more info than anyone here.

-- Ellis Vener (, September 26, 2001.

Best bet contact Robert White in the UK, he has lots of knowledge of the impact.... Email or call him...

-- Bill Glickman (, September 26, 2001.

I think Dicomed finally went out of business a few years ago, at least I understand that Betterlight has taken up support for their backs. We looked at some 4x5 Dicomed backs back in the mid 90's (ha! until we realized how $$$$$ they were). The results were incredible though, but there were limitations to the design, and workflow, and the whole digital archiving thing just wasn't there back in 1996 or so, and really hasn't arrived now either. The ones we saw were the scanning back, and the Big Shot back. They were base priced at $35K for the scan back, and 55k for the 1-shot & 3-shot 2.25" back. The 2.25"x 2.2.5" back came in a version that was a lower res but would capture the shot in one exposure, as opposed to one that was higher res, but took 3 consecutive (RGB) exposures to assemble an image. It used a liquid crystal type filter that would change colors to a R-G-B for each was higher tech than the previous generations that used a spinning wheel type filter. The downside of these backs, besides cost (!), was that the Big Shot back would only fit a Hasselblad, or a view camera with an adapter. On a 4x5 camera, the focal lengths would all double. The scan back, since it could take literally 10-15 minutes to assemble a high res image, could only be used with HMI lights, or some suitable flicker free light source. So, that would be a bummer if you were sitting on a huge amount of strobe gear in your studio. The Big Shot backs, could be used with strobe, but only for a one-pop exposure. On a hasselblad, that's probably no big deal, but on a view camera, that could be problematic. The sales rep I talked to at the time, when asked why they didn't make a back for a Mamiya (what we also use), said "at $55k, the price of a Hassy system is a drop in the bucket"...same reasoning for buying HMI lights as well, there was a hensel HMI/Strobe combo light they were pushing. So, he said they only sold a few backs a year, and that the original models sold for around $350,000 a piece, so 55k was about as low as they would go...

Of course, that was back in 1996 or so, which was literally in the dark ages of digital photography...all things are relevant. We wound up buying the Nikon that was the presdecessor to the D1, an antique now and twice the price of the camera that replaced it. My guess is that the only studios using these scan backs & higher end ones, are those that can recoup the cost within a job or two...such as production catalog work, where they'd make perfect sense. I've read in business journal, of one long established studio in our area that has gone this route.

-- DK Thompson (, September 26, 2001.

-- william blake (, September 26, 2001.

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