5x7 instead of 8x10?

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Currently I have been using a 4x5 camera and in my quest for greater clarity I have been considering moving to a larger format. The natural progression would be to go to 8x10. Unfortunately, 8x10 has a bunch of draw backs such as restricted DOF, very expensive to outfit, very expensive to operate, and very heavy.

As a compromise I am considering a 5x7. With the 5x7 I can use most of my current lenses (with less movement), and the Wisner 5x7 Pocket camera only weighs 4.5 lbs. I hope to get a 4x5 reducing back when lots of coverage is needed and have my 4x10 back standard modified so that it is interchangable with the 5x7 back for panoramics.

So here is my question. To use a 5x7 with color negative film, I plan on cutting 8x10 film to 5x7 - two sheets per 8x10 sheet. Has any body had any experience doing this? Have you had any problems with dust due to extensive handling? What other problems have you had? And last, for those who have a 5x7, can you give me any advice about your experiences with this format?

Thanks for any help.

-- Stephen Willard (willard@peakpeak.com), December 04, 2001


I've cut some 8x10 to 5x7. You just have to trump up some sort of system -- make palpable marks at the appropriate spots on your cutting board or whatever. I got clean negatives out of it even though it seemed at times like I was doing a lot of fumbling around in the dark. -jeff buckels

-- Jeff Buckels (jeffbuck@swcp.com), December 04, 2001.

This is admittedly not an answer to your question, but I'm interested in your statement that you want greater clarity than can be achieved with 4x5. Could you tell us what kinds of things you are doing for which 4x5 is proving inadequate?

-- David Bradley (david@davidbradley.com), December 04, 2001.

The old-timers had good solutions here: look for one of the 8x10 backs that had sliding "doors" to create 2-4x10s or 2-5x8s, no need to cut down film, buy special panoramic backs and holders, etc. By the same token, I have opened many an old glass plate holder and found attached inside a film sheath for a smaller format. Where there is a will there is a way. I think your overall ideas about 5x7 make a lot of sense, including having generous bellows when shooting 4x5. Good luck.

-- David Stein (DFStein@aol.com), December 04, 2001.

FWIW, if done right, 8x10 doesn't have to be any heavier than 4x5. My 8x10 system (Deardorff, 1 lens, 4 film holders, Ries tripod) is noticably lighter than my 4x5 kit and infinitely lighter than that blasted RB67 of mine.

-- David Munson (apollo@luxfragilis.com), December 04, 2001.

I second David M, my 8x10 outfit even with the 300 Sironar N, 2 film holders, Gitzo CF and magnesium head is way lighter than my 4x5 with all the lenses, and to tell you the truth more enjoyable.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (jorgegm58@prodigy.net.mx), December 04, 2001.

Stephen, I use 5x7 black and white film so no need to cut down film but I do cut 8x10 to 4x10 with no problem. I use a roller type cutter I purchased just for this purpose. Jay Dusard told me how to make a template out of mat board that works fine. If you would like e-mail me with a mailing address and I'll send a copy of his instructions along. Hope this may help William Blunt

-- William Blunt (wmblunt@fidnet.com), December 04, 2001.

Stephan, I can speak from both perspectives. I have a Deardorff like David and it is quite useable. Still if I didn't want to fiddle with platinum contacts my 5X7 is so much easier and enjoyable to use. For enlarging negs, 5X7 is a very logical stopping place and like I said other than contacts, I probably wouldn't keep the 8X10 around. And there are so many fabulous lenses for 5X7. Half the ones in your 4X5 bag. I bought a roll of KodaK Aerial Pan that's 5"X 500 ft and have been cutting it down. I have a cheap plastic Fiskar wheel cutter, and I simply tape a ruler where the film is to stop. It works well but......are the pinholes from bodily fluids that come out of my hands even after a good washing?? It's making me think twice about my 17¢ 5X7 negs. Good luck.

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), December 04, 2001.

I heard Wisner is making a 5x8 back for their 8x10 cameras soon.for 2 pics on one sheet of 8x10 film. No cutting and two formats instead of one.I'm in the same dilemma .....I'll most likly end up with a 5x7.

-- Emile de Leon (knightpeople@msn.com), December 05, 2001.

I am a 5x7 photographer. I chose to cut myself the film from 8x10. This is done neatly with a Rotatrim Mastercut II, a rotary blade cutter, and while it sounds a delicate task at first, it is in fact very easy to do. I wouldn't use anything else, as precision is critical. One tip: I've found that it is difficult to align the film with minute precision, I cut slightly smaller than 5x7 to be sure there won't be problems to fit holders. Because of that, you'll need to cut a sheet of 8x10 three times to make two 5x7. If you use only one kind of film, it is not necessary to punch a new notch. I just keep the film emulsion facing the top of the film box. I have misloaded film only one time, out of more than a thousand of sheets cut. It takes me between 30 min to one hour to cut 25 8x10 sheets. It's not that tedious if you listen to music at the same time. The problem is that while you don't have to worry about finger marks which are washed away by the developper, you increase significantly the chance of getting dust on your film, which in turn can cause surface scratches as you are traveling. If I was not planning to print digitally all my film, this would dissuade me from cutting film. With this method, you can use any emulsion which is available in 8x10.

With comparable cameras and lenses, 5x7 gear is 1.5 times the weight of 4x5, for about 2 times the surface area. The same can be said of 8x10 vs 5x7. 5x7 is an interesting compromise between 4x5 and 8x10.

If you are a B&W photographer, I believe that by steping up to 5x7, you'll lose only the portability of some lightweight 4x5 systems, and you'll have much to gain.

The color 5x7 photographer faces additional problems related to film and processing, which do not affect the 4x5 photographers. As the gains from the larger transparency are less tangible, 5x7 might a more debatable choice for color.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (luong@ai.sri.com), December 05, 2001.

Wearing powder free latex exam gloves during the film cutting surgery protects the film from finger prints and smudges. I try to keep the work area clean and do the cutting on a humid day for dust suppression. Cool dry air full of static is trouble. A cheap Friskars roller cutter works fine after you work out the measurements and do a little practice.

-- C. W. Dean (cwdean@erols.com), December 05, 2001.

Here is the method taught to me by Jay Dusard for cutting down 8x10 to 4x10, it works fine for me. I use a cardboard template taped to my rolling cuter. I'm sure the same template will work for the guillotine cutter; you'll have to extera careful in the dark. First of all, the exact short dimension of 8x10 film is 7-15/16". Half of that is 3-31/32". If you happen to miscut an 8x10 sheet you will end up with with two unusable sheets-- one that won't go in the holder and one that will fall out of the guides. Here's what you need to make; Take a piece of cardstock about 6" x 11". Glue a strip 2"x 11" 4-ply mount board down along the left long edge of the card stock, leaving 3-15/16" of the card stock projecting to the right. Tape the template to the bed of your cutter so that the shoulder formed by the 4-ply is exactly 3-31/32" from the cutting edge. Cut another piece of 4-ply 3-1/2" x11"; you will use this on top of the film. Cutting; Place a clean sheet of paper under the cutter where the film will fall. In the dark place a sheet of 8x10 film, emulsion side down, on the template(blade should be up). Push left edge of film against 4-ply shoulder. Place hold-down piece on top of film, it should seat snugly against shoulder and not be riding up anywhere. Pat right edge of film to left, assuring that it is snug to the shoulder;the hold-down will asure that the film is not riding above the shoulder somewhere. CAREFULLY shear the film with the blade. Pick up the right half of the film, turn it over and at this point I use a small pair of sissors and clip a small piece of the upper right corner, Jay loads each sheet into his holders as he cuts them so he doesn't need to do this. Pick up the left half of the filmand turn it over. I cut a whole box of 25 sheets at one sitting and load into boxes. I haven't have any problems with this method, I have a lot of little corners I have cut off to clean up but so far I haven't loaded any of them with the film! Jay, being the fine fellow he is, gave me permission to post his method of film cutting, Jay Dusard can be reached at jbard@theriver.com Hope this helps

-- William Blunt (wmblunt@fidnet.com), December 07, 2001.

What 5x7 and/or 13x18 films are there left anyway, I've been using T- Max 100 only with two bath developers ? By the way I use an old and very nice Plaubel Peco Universal III 13x18 with a Durst 138 enlarger (which was a gift beeing not used )for making photopolymer engravings apart from an Ebony SV45 TE, a Leica m6 and a Kodak DC4800 digital snapshot camera that came with the full photoshop 6 for the price of the camera alone nearly. Well slightly out of the topic exept for the film and 5x7 which is a very fine fomat having better proportions in my wiew than 4x5.

-- Richard Årlin (rarlin@algonet.se), December 07, 2001.

Stephen, I too have considered consoladating my 4x5 and 810 systems into one. What really got me interested in this arrangement was Keith Canhams 5x7 metal MQ. The beauty in my eyes, you can attach his new 6x17 back, (due out in a few months) and have everything you need in one format, while not being that much larger than 4x5. Check out the specs on the MQ 5x7. Of course, the only real pain is cutting the film... but its a small price to pay for this smaller field kit, specially if space is very critical on long hikes. I am wondering at size prints you feel 4x5 becomes inadequate, or less sharp then you would like?

-- Bill Glickman (bglick@pclv.com), December 07, 2001.

The only style of 5x7 film that will be hard to get is color negative. Everything else is available. Badger Graphics also now has Across 5x7.

steve simmons

-- steve simmons (largformat@aol.com), December 10, 2001.

I have a 5x7 back that I use regularly on my 8x10 field. Coming from many years of SLR, the big attraction of 5x7 is the fact it is nearly the same aspect ratio as 35mm (just a little less rectangular), so it's easy to find good subjects. With 8x10 I often find myself looking at the GG with empty spaces to fill up. Also, the use of shorter focals of course makes for greater DOF. I contact print the 5x7s, mount and mat them on 8x10, and hang them up around the house; on small walls, they look fine. Cheers, Nick.

-- Nick Jones (nfjones@stargate.net), December 11, 2001.

I would like to take a moment to thank everyone for all the comments, suggestions, and recommendations you have so generously provided. You all have been very helpful.

This website has become a vital source of information for me. I live in isolation as a large format photographer and the only contact I have for my love of photography is here. The information and experiences recorded on this website is amazing and its value is immeasurable.

In my opinion this website is nothing less than a world class act.

Thanks again!

-- Stephen Willard (willard@peakpeak.com), December 11, 2001.

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