New to LF 4x5 vs. 5x7 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello all, I was reading many of your posts and you seem like a friendly bunch so I thought I would ask some beginner questions. I just ordered a used 5x7 Wisner tech field camera with a Rodenstock 210mm sironar-N from Quality Camera Company in Atlanta. I was doing some research tonight and came to realize that the films available in 5X7 are extremely few in comparison to what is available in 4X5. I wanted to go with the 5x7 as at some point I would like to get into platinum printing and thought the 5x7 would be more suitable for contact printing purposes. This camera will be used for many other purposes (possibly to include color work) as well and know I fear that the choice of 5x7 may be very limiting in scope. So the first question is.... Do any of the 5x7 users out there feel constrained by the limited choice of films that are available? Also if I go with the 5x7 Wisner is it possible to get a reducing back so that I can shoot 4x5 film? If yes are there any drawbacks to doing so? Finally, and likely the biggest concern is, how does one create enlarged prints from a 5x7 B&W neg? Am I looking at spending a few thousand more dollars on an enlarger that can handle 5x7... I was researching this as well and I can't find any anyway. Sorry if these seem like whacky questions but I am seriously thinking of chnaging the order and going with the 4x5... Your help would be very much aprreciated. Thanks!!!!

-- Steve zippilli (, January 24, 2002


I think you have made an accurate assessment of the problems of an otherwise wonderful format. If the trends hold, 8x10 film may remain easier to find than 5x7, although 4x5 will continue to have the most varieties. Why not take the risk and if you are hobbled by the lack of variety you can get a 4x5 reducing back for your camera. You could probably buy your enlarger used for less than a grand, although there are several new that can handle 5x7 such as Beseler, Zone VI and a couple of others.

-- Phil Glass (, January 24, 2002.

Ok, let me start with the last question, yes you can get a Zone VI enlarger that will handle your 5x7 negative (sold by calumet, but it will set you back about $3500 new, sometimes they come up on E bay, so far is the cheapest enlarger I have found that can handle this size. You should check the Wisner web site and check what kind of camera you have, I am sure you can get a 4x5 reduing back for it. You should not have any trouble handeling the 4x5 back, and the only difference is that you are using a heavier camera than you should if you are only using the 4x5 back. If you can change the order it would be good to think that you can get a beseler 4x5 enlarger much cheaper than a Zone VI and there is lots of them on E bay. If you wish to go larger you can always enlarge onto a negative to make contact prints.

Ok, I hope this helped....

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, January 24, 2002.

You will find excellent B&W films still available in 5x7. Pick one & learn it inside & out for great results. For most of your work you will be using only one anyway if you want the most consistent quality. From TriX to FP4plus to Bergger, they are available & should be for some time to come. Freestyle in Los Angeles carries 5x7 in 125 and 400 both at a price hard to resist... excellent film. Yes, you can get a 4x5 reducing back and get double duty from the camera. Used 5x7 enlargers are available if you look around a bit & are patient. If you want new they are still made as other posters have mentioned. The last 5x7 enlarger I bought was a Beseler with cold light head, 210 Schneider componon & negative holder... for $225 and it works very well. 5x7 as a choice is a nice one. If you decide to print Ziatypes you will love the intimate size that is still small enough to work with easily & large enough to see. If you contact print on Azo you can get excellent images. If you go with Platinum/palladium you can get beautiful images. The format translates very well for those used to 35mm. Get the 5x7 & hone the craft until it is second nature & then concentrate on excellent vision and you will have a lifetime of fun.

-- Dan Smith (, January 24, 2002.

One approach would be to make 5x7 inch negatives with the intent of contact printing them in platinum, then use a 4x5 reducing back to take negatives when you want to enlarge. Wisner will certainly sell you a reducing back. For the platinum, ideally, one want to develop the negatives to higher contrast than would be suitable for enlarging to silver paper, so making different negatives for the two purposes already makes sense.

If you want to enlarge the 5x7 negatives, there are enlargers out there. Color enlargers are either hard to find or more expensive, so you might want to do your color work in 4x5 and buy a enlarger for B&W. New, there is the Zone VI with diffusion heads using fluorescent bulbs. Used there are quite a range, from cheap Elwoods to professional quality Dursts. The Dursts show up frequently on ebay. Check that the enlarger isn't worn out and try to get one that has the accessories that you want, because accessories will take effort to find separately and will probably cost more outside of being packaged with an enlarger.

-- Michael Briggs (, January 25, 2002.


I shoot 5x7 once in awhile, but I go the other way, with a reducing back on my 8x10. Or pinhole box camera. And I don't shoot color. However, I found this on the other day and it might interest you:

Subject: 5X7 films ! They're back ! Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2002 02:27:06 -0600 From: John Organization: Posted via Supernews, Newsgroups:,

Received a note the other day from Kodak which states that the following items will be available for the foreseeable future. To put it mildly, I'm shocked !

Black & White

Catalog number: 143-0271 100 sheets 5x7 Kodak TRI-X PAN Professional Film 4164

Catalog number: 143-0214 25 sheets 5x7 Kodak TRI-X PAN Professional Film 4164

Catalog number: 144-3118 100 sheets 5x7 Kodak Plus-X Pan Professional Film 4147

Catalog number: 822-6334 50 sheets 5x7 Kodak T-Max 100 Film

Color Slide (daylight)

Catalog number: 122-5325 10 sheets 5x7 Kodak Ektachrome 64 Professional Film (EPR)

Color Print (daylight)

Catalog number: 135-5825 50 sheets 5x7 Kodak Portra 160 NC


John S. Douglas Photographer & Webmaster Formulas & facts on the Photographic Process Website ------------ ==================================

So that's good news - there is a color negative film available in this format. Some people cut down 8x10 film, though that seems like a pain in the neck to me.

5x7 is a nice format and if you are good at it you will produce outstanding prints. Enlarging is going to be a problem, and I think you would probably be better off shooting 4x5 on a reducing back when you wish to enlarge. Unless you stumble into an outstanding deal like Dan did.

Also, definitely check out the Arista black and white film at You'll need the fastest, least expensive film you can find while you get all the knobs and gizmos figured out! (And you may find the fastest, least expensive film is just as good as the expensive stuff -- I have.)

Oh, one other thing: you can probably make a reducing back yourself if you have any woodworking skills at all. Buy a crunched 4x5 camera on ebay and take off the back, then mount it on a back that fits into your camera. Spend what you save on the back, on film. Good luck with your pictures.

-- Erik Ryberg (, January 25, 2002.

Durst makes a beautiful 5X7 enlarger - the 138 model which has a few variations. These also come up used on occasion. I shoot 5X7 (an old Linhof) with a 4X5 back but hardly ever use the 4X5 as the 5X7 is so cool(in my humble and subjective opinion). Contact prints on Azo are intimate and beautiful. Good luck, have fun and don't be afraid of the 5X7. For not much more in camera size you get a lor more negative real estate. There is also a nicer aspect ratio for either landscape or architecture.

-- David Flockhart (, January 25, 2002.

RELAX!!! 5x7 is a great size for contacts. And yes if you keep an eye out,you will find a fair deal on a 5x7 enlarger. And you do not need 10,000 different flavors of film. Those that are easy to get are fine films. As time goes on if you really need a flavor that is not available you can always cut down 8x10. As for the back, ask Quality Camera if they have a used 4x5 back (wood or metal) should not be very much money and then adapt it to your Wisner. You will see that this is just a very simple wood working job. It may not match but I'll bet nobody will be able to tell it in your finished prints. Also note that a reducing back from Wisner is much less than a kit to UpGrade a 4x5 to 5x7(it's late, did I say that right?).....As has been pointed out the weight issue is about the only draw back if your going to use 4x5 most of the time(I still Vote for the 5x7 with the reducing back), this issue can be solved by purchasing a larger mode of transportation. Then you'll be set to go for the 11X14 with the 8x10 Back..


-- R.L.(Mac) McDonald (, January 25, 2002.

This a little off subject, but to touch on the cutting down of film. The first time this was suggested to me, I thought "what kind of stupid hard core idea is that" but.... The first time I really did it went very well. I use a dedicated rolling wheel paper cutter(new) and less than $40.00 from the office supply. I was very pleased with myself to say the least. But you know something that all those hard core people never talked about?!?! MARK YOUR CORNERS! After I realized the problem I tried to feel the "right side" on the unmarked perfectly cut 5x7 sheets (2weeks after I did the cutting), I gave up and turned the damn light on and sure enough, I proved that I'm as disorganized in the Dark as I am with the light's on! So now I use a Conductors Punch. Another $15.00 worth of "Peace of Mind". The only other problem is Keeping things CLEAN as this is adding to the handling before making the Exposure.

-- R.L.(Mac) McDonald (, January 25, 2002.

A 5x7 camera can use European 13x17cm filmholders (their version of 5x7 - there's a 2-3mm difference in actual film dimensions between the two), and there is a decent selection of 13x17 color films available from Europe (including Kodak and Fuji films). As for enlargers you have the aforementioned Durst 138 and Zone VI as well as the Omega E and an 8x10 conversion of the Beseler enlarger. And you can always go the digital route for enlarging/printing, even enlarged negatives for contact printing processes.

-- Wayne DeWitt (, January 25, 2002.

As long as there are one or two good 5x7 films on the market, film is not a problem. You certainly don't need many choices in LF as long as good films are available. You will probably standardize on one film anyway and learn it well. I could happily shoot the rest of my life on Tri-X, Hp-5, FP-4 or T-max. There are other films photographers swear by. There has to be hundreds of used 5x7 enlargers around. Used to be one or two in every photography studio. The old Elwoods used to be pretty common and were great workhorses, as were others. I would consider the previous poster's suggestion and just build a back. It is not difficult. You can find an old 4x5 junker and remove the film sholder section from it. The biggest problem you might encounter is using extremely wide angle lenses on the 4x5 format. On the other hand, you will find the extra bellows length great for long lenses.


-- Doug Paramore (, January 25, 2002.

5x7 englargers: There are a fair number of older models out there; occasionally you can really steal one on ebay. Look for Elwoods and most especially for the Eastman Kodak Autofocus E 5x7 Enlarger. A great enlarger. A tank. Get w/ the 7.5" Ektanon lens that it was made to work with, trash the incandescent head "dome" thing and get a cold head from Aristo (they'll take your special order and get it to you in a couple-three weeks). I got the enlarger and lens on ebay for $275 or something like that and paid about the same for the cold head. As far as the modern enlargers, nothing compares with the Durst. Quite expensive. -jb

-- jeff buckels (, January 25, 2002.

The other responders covered the scope beautifully. I would add that you can get a reduction back for your Wisner. With the 5x7 you get 35 sq. in of film, contrasted with the 20 sq. in on 4x5. The weight differences between the cameras is not gargantuan. Besides, if any of us wanted small packs we would opt for 35mm! One final note--the lens system you acquire for 5x7 will work well on 4x5. I have a 210,a 72, a 110,a 135, a 300 and a 425 They cover both formats with image circles that allow me little problems for movement. Bob

-- Bob Moulton (, January 25, 2002.

On the film front, I just noticed that Badger shows 5x7 Fuji Acros as "coming soon!"

-- Sal Santamaura (, January 25, 2002.

Two things that I don't think have been mentioned above:

1) Make sure you hafe enough ceiling height for the enlrager you choose. I did some remodeling and in the process greatly expanded my darkroom but I forgot abotu the ceiling and when I was done my Zone VI with the XL column wouldn't fit.

2) The Wisner reducing back is not horribly expensive ... my recollection is around $200 ... BUT the delivery time is awful. Don't be fooled by Ron telling you "it is in stock" or "it will ship next week" he is notorious for promising eerybody what they want and often taking for ever to deliver. In my case it took a year and that is not uncommon. OTOH reducing backsa re available for virtually all the more common 5x7's on the market and virtually all of them will get one to you faster than Wisner.

-- Ted Harris (, January 25, 2002.

You made a good choice in a 5x7 Wisner. I too have one, with 5x7 and 4x5 backs. I ordered mine from 'The F-Stops Here' in Santa Barbara, California, and got the camera first followed by the 4x5 back in within a week or two.

For 5x7 I use Arista 400 from Freestyle Sales Co. and love it. Lot more film choices for 4x5, but those 5x7 negs are awesome. For some reason, 5x7 film holders are easier for me to load than 8x10 or 4x5.

Durst 138s 5x7 enlargers are very sturdy and built to last for many years. Highly recommended. I got mine and all the accessories I needed from Ebay. It weighs over 200 pounds, so shipping will run you about $250 or so. I went to a Calumet Photo show a couple years ago and examined the Zone VI 5x7 enlarger. I found it subject to vibrations and not nearly as well built as the Durst.

-- Roger Urban (, January 25, 2002.

I have a Zone enlarger and like it a lot. If you buy used, don't go for the Type I, it doesn't cover 5x7. You can tell the difference, because the Type I has a single column down to the lens stage, whereas the Type II has two.

As for vibration on the Zone VI, I have mine secured at the top, and I've never had a problem.

-- neil poulsen (, January 26, 2002.

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