medium format vs. large format : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Occasionally I find myself asking if I should jump from 8x10 to medium format for the easier portability, quicker setup, cheaper film, and a slew of other apparent advantages. I know that I would never be able to duplicate the tonality of contact prints, but I often find myself passing on potential photographs because it would take too long to set up the view camera, or it's too windy, or too heavy to carry. I take landscapes mostly, with only a few portraits every now and then. Often I'm out in my boat and I find photographs I wish I could take but don't because I'm unwilling to lug a view camera onboard. I know the solution would be to have both formats, but I really can't afford that. I'm not trying to start a LF vs. MF debate. I'm just curious to know if anyone has tried a medium format transition and then returned to LF.

-- Bruce Schultz (, February 22, 2002


About ten years ago I went to medium format from 4x5 and I was not truly happy because of the lack of movements primarily. I had a Hasselblad which produced excellent image quality but there were many times I could not get the desired depth of field due to no tilts available or nonconverging verticals from no rise. So I went back to 4x5 and live with the fact that certain shots are not as easily obtainable with it. If movements are not important for the images you are contemplating then a good medium format camera can produce the quality you seek.

-- Jeffrey Scott (, February 22, 2002.

I started with 4x5 about 20 years ago (I've never tried 8x10 but think about it occasionally). About 10 years ago for many of the reasons you mention I decided to add a medium format camera to my arsenal. I settled on a Linhof Baby Technica IV which came with 3 lenses cammed to its rangefinder. I have since added a fourth lens, without rangefinder coupling. It gives me almost all the movements (lacks front swings) that I get on my view camera but provides the convenience of rollfilm. I have used it hand-held on a few occasions but primarily use it as a medium format view camera on a tripod. With fine grained film, I can get almost the same sharpness, etc as I get with 4x5 (I rarely enlarge to greater than 11x14). I still do use the 4x5 quite a bit but have found the baby tech to be more than adequate for most situations.

-- Ron Gratz (, February 22, 2002.

Bruce, You probably can afford both formats. Last year I bought a Rollieflex T for about the same price as Kodak charges for a 50 sheet box of 8x10 film. The Rollei dosen't have interchangeable lenses like Hasselblad, but I haven't found that to be inconsistant with my LF 8x10 experience having to make do with one focal length lens(I secretly envy 4x5 shooters who carry an assortment of nifty glass in little #0s and #1s that make a single #5 universal look like a city manhole cover!) There are other quality, inexpensive TLRs out there that are perfectly adequate for going places where your 8x10 can't fit. Come to think of it, you could get a Speed Graphic and have (nearly)the best of both worlds. With a polaroid or graphmatic holder such an outfit would be pretty handy for the purposes you've described, though adding such a back would probably cost more than a TLR. I'm trying to figure out what to feed my Rollei now that Verichrome Pan is out of the picture. By the way, don't forget the Holga! If you tape it up good enough, if you accidently drop it overboard don't be surprised if the darn thing floats! Good Luck!

-- John Kasaian (, February 22, 2002.

About 10 years ago I was shooting mostly 4x5 and 8x10. I hurt my back trying to unload a motorcycle frame from the back of my car, and at the time I thought I would never be able to carry a heavy camera again, so I sold the 4x5 and bought a Mamiya 7. I love the Mamiya (great camera, great lenses), but now that my back is better I'm looking at taking up the 8x10 again. You are correct, there are some shots you simply can't make with the 8x10, but there are also some shots where only an 8x10 negative will satisfy your desire for minute detail. Now if I could just get an 8x10 enlarger...

-- Ed Buffaloe (, February 22, 2002.

Sounds like that familiar crossroad that I've certainly gone through where you're kind of 'hashing it out with yourself' on whether to do it, or not to do it. Do you know how many shots I've missed because I didn't have any of my cameras with me?

I was in Rio for Carnaval this year, the one day I go to dinner and don't bring my camera the sun sets behind Vidigil sending shafts of beautiful golden light in every direction, I have to sit there and watch. I've promised myself from now on, that I'm going to have something with me wherever I go, period.

There's e-bay, if there's gear you've got gather dust, sell it on e-bay, if there's a will, there's a way. Sounds from your post like your heart has already made the decision, your mind is just figuring out the angles. I won't say I moved up to LF, because I feel like I need all three formats, for exactly the situation you're talking about.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, February 22, 2002.

Bruce, I think it is possible to utilize both formats without abandoning one for the other. The two are really very different tools and permit a different way of seeing. As an example, view the work of Brett Weston who used 11x14,8x10,5x7,4x5, 6x7 and 6x6 formats. As you suggest, some things can not be done with the larger format and certainly there will be a slight technical sacrifice. But for an extension of your vision using multiple formats might work. Give it a try. I just reread your remarks and see that you can't afford both formats. Perhaps you can if you keep it simple, maybe 6x6 with with a single lens for starters. In any event, there will become a day when you can no longer lift an 8x10 and the decision will become very easy. Trust me. Best regards, Merg Ross

-- Merg Ross (, February 22, 2002.

A few years ago, after considering the options (including the cost of buying and processing film), I made the decision to stick with medium format instead of moving up to large format. Accordingly, I bought a Galvin 2x3 view camera (and have since bought a Toyo 23G as well) and now have the best both of both worlds ... well, sort of. I've really grown to like geared movements, which means I shoot with my Toyo more than the Galvin, and it's anything but compact or light ... still, it isn't as bulky or heavy as most 4x5 monorail designs and it's quicker to setup and shoot than my friend's 4x5 flatbed camera. Someday, I'm sure I'll eventually join the large-format ranks (probably with a 5x7 or 8x10 instead of a 4x5) but for now, medium-format view cameras are (IMO, anyway) a decent compromise between cost, size and performance.

-- Jeffrey Goggin (, February 22, 2002.

The Mamiya 330TLR is a wonderful camera! Viewing lens is unfettered by the shutter action of return of the mirror, it's quiet and people usually aren't aware that you're there taking shots.

It is the PERFECT camera for infrared since your filter goes on the taking lens and doesn't obstruct the viewing lens(ever tried looking through a lens with a 89b over it, you can probably see more with a lens cap). No backs, just load it up and shoot, sure it's involved to change the lenses, ergonomic are bad(get a grip), but it takes beautiful pictures and the price sure is right.

E-bay always has 'em, and it won't hurt your conscience to look!

-- Jonathan Brewer (, February 22, 2002.

Yes MF and LF can co-exist. Usually I shoot first with MF then... if time permiting I will shoot with LF ... there's some situations that I'm glad that I have my MF with me such as when lighting is going away fast... or curious onlookers...but the thrill of using LF is "priceless"...

-- dan n. (, February 22, 2002.

I personally use my Sinar F for 95% of what I shoot. I use 4x5 sheet film for B&W. But I have a Horseman style 6x7 back for color, it is much more cost effective then 4x5 transparencies. Plus incamera dupes are a cinch. However, a view camera can be cumbersome.

I commented on Micheal Kenna's work previously and he is highly successful with his approach. He uses almost all 2 1/4 square. Check out his website for a different perspective. Ansel Adams also shot almost exclusively with Hasselblad in his later years that produced great works.

Having the roll film already loaded and an slr viewer, is far more spontaneous then a viewcamera. Shielding the camera from the wind is also much easier then having a bellows, focusing cloth flapping in the breeze. Your feel for compositional balance is also different from square to rectangle and the change can help one expand their vision.

Personally, if I could afford some additional Hasselblad lenses, I'ld shoot more medium format. But I will always have a view camera.

-- Rob Pietri (, February 22, 2002.

I read all of this with great interest. Right now I shoot 35mm, 6x7cm, 4x5, and 8x10. I actually use my medium format so seldomly, though (been at least 6 months now), that right now I'm considering selling off the whole kit and putting the money into a few new LF optics or a 5x7 camera. I've just found that working with a view camera fits how I think and see so much better than anything else that I rarely see much point in using anything else. Before you sell anything and invest in MF gear, my one suggestion would be to rent or borrow as many different medium format systems as possible and try them out to see a) which system you like best, and more importantly b) if the difference in working style is disruptive to the creative process for you. When using my MF camera, if I had to think about what I was doing as little as I do when using my 8x10, I'd definitely be shooting more 120.

-- David Munson (, February 22, 2002.

Hi Bruce

I have vote also for the coexistence of MF and LF but also 35mm and Digital. I have always a 35 mm camera (just a point and shoot) in my car and if I go for a shooting I take at least one of my Nikons with me as adition to the slow LF. And in thes days it is many times also a digital one. Not every situation is good for LF. SO if I go with my car for a to or 3 days trip I take also a MF with me.

-- Armin Seeholzer (, February 22, 2002.

I use a variety of formats and have learned that each has its own unique use. the LF cameras are almost entirely used for work that is preconceived and part of on going projects, many of the sites first explored with a 35mm Nikon. The Nikon is always with me in my vehicle for those "sketches" when the subjects present themselves. I use a Mamiya 330 mostly for urban work, especially in areas and locations where using a view camera draws unwanted attention. If I am traveling on the road to locations that I may not get a chance to return to, I take both the medium and LF gear.

-- (, February 22, 2002.

Dear Bruce

I started out in MF, then ventured into 617 panoramic, then to 4x5 and after all that bought a 35mm digital rig. Since then I have added an Xpan and most recently an 8x10 What I like is how all the formats can compliment one and other. When my square images did not convey what I was trying to do, I often found the panoramic solved my problems. You may want to look into either the Fuji 617 or fiddle with the Hasselblad Xpan. The Xpan is really a neat system with the ability to switch between panoramic (the images are bigger than what you may have seen with other switchable cameras) and normal 35 sized images. It is compact enough to carry in your bag, put in a jacket or keep in a car.

As for the digital and as I have talked about previously in other threads, I am finding it an ideal way to 'scout' locations and capture ideas for future shoots with my LF equipment. I go back and download the images and it helps me visulize and set up what I want to do with the LF and cuts down on time searching for where I want to set up my LF cameras at later points in time. Does digital replace LF for me, no, but digital has fired me up for shooting many, many more images than I would ever imagine.

Best Regards,

John Bailey

-- John Bailey (, February 22, 2002.


John Kasaian's suggestion that you purchase an inexpensive Rolleiflex is a good one. I suggest that it be a 3.5F, usually available on EBay for a relatively low price. If you buy a MF camera system and then start buying lenses, you could end up with almost as bulky a system as your 8x10. Also, if you are looking for a camera that you might want to use in adverse weather conditions or on your boat, an expensive MF camera might not be what you want either. The Rollei (or another fixed lens inexpensive MF camera, such as a Fuji 6x9) will give you the capability to work in situations where your 8x10 would be awkward. Linda Butler used a view camera and a MF camera when putting together her book on Rural Japan; in that book, she produced images in two formats that were very gracefully coordinated.

-- Michael H. Alpert (, February 22, 2002.

Go for it. I shoot a lot of industrial areas, etc and don't always like the baggage/target required for even my very modest large- format. I have a Rolleicord V (even cheaper than Rolleiflex, but not bad, esp. if there's a chance of damage/loss) that I use with a monopod or mini-tripod when I don't want all the luggage. I also have an old Zeiss-Ikon 6x4.5 folder I bought for $25 that I carry everywhere. My 35mm has been relegated to a meter at best for most uses. There are inexpensive ways to get into medium format, just like large format. Give it a whirl and see how you like it, at a reasonable price. If it's everything you want, then maybe you upgrade. I agree with everyone, a TLR is nice and friendly and, except for the Mamiya, won't tempt you with additional lenses, etc.

-- Terry McDonagh (, February 22, 2002.

I use 6x7 about half the time, 4x5 and 8x10 the other half. I know exactly what you mean about passing up potential photographs because of the time/effort involved in setting up the large format gear when in many situations it isn't really needed. I would never sell either the medium format or the large format systems, I think they complement each other and I'd encourage you to keep your large format gear and just add a relatively inexpensive medium format system. I use the Pentax 67 system and for landscape/people/still life, I think it's a great system. Not so good for anything requiring interchangeable backs (e.g. weddings) or flash generally, but it doesn't sound like these two drawbacks would be a problem for you. Since Pentax has recently introduced the Pentax 67II, which is an update of the Pentax 67 that was in production for some thirty years, you can get excellent deals on the Pentax 67 bodies on e bay and Pentax lenses are outstanding as well as inexpensive (by Hasselblad/Rollei standards that is).

-- Brian Ellis (, February 22, 2002.

David......Don't sell your gear, put it in a closet and forget about 'em, because the day will come when you'll walk toward that closet wishing they were there and glad that they are.

Everybody goes through these 'phases' of being 'in love', 'out of love', happy and/or sick and tired of a particular piece of gear, you'll come 'full circle' before you're through.

A Mamiya 330TLR is a wonderful camera BECAUSE you can add lenses. I'm not knocking Rollei, but if you change your mind lenswise with Mamiya you simply add a lens, with the Rollei, if you need and/or want another lens, you're gonna have to get another camera.

The 135 is the only other lens you would need.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, February 22, 2002.

I'm a right tool for the job guy. You need one of those little Fujinon GSW690's and some Velvia. Put it on your wifes credit card and go have some fun. Get the one with the 65, not the 90. You sling it around your neck with a strap and forget it's there.

-- Jim Galli (, February 22, 2002.

Fast 35mm autofocus is a more natural compliment to your LF than MF, in my opinion.

-- Andre Noble (, February 23, 2002.

I'm always bee bopping back and forth between Leica M's.. wonderful and quiet,Rollie tlrs cant beat 6 element 3.5 planar except for rolliecord xenar 3.5...linhof 2x3 and graphic 2x3 for quality and 4x5 graphic...12x20 once in a while but my latest love is 5x7 ...why not use a Rollie...the perfect compromise camera!Or try a Brooks veriwide...6x10 ultrawide...not much bigger than a leica. Of if you have the bread a Horseman 6x12 or Alpa 6x9!

-- Emile de Leon (, February 23, 2002.

I too have a Rolleiflex 3.5E with a Planar lens, this is my "point and shoot" camera when I want to travel light. The image quality is superb, especially with T-max 100 film.

-- Jeffrey Scott (, February 23, 2002.

Both LF and MF are both affordable. I own both. Actually I own from 16mm to 8x10. But I'm an addict. But I bought a Kowa Six which is an excellent camera that is affordable and an 8x10 which is affordable if not transportable everywhere I go. And 35mm with modern films exposed and processed correctly are superb. and there are 2x3 cameras that offer both portability and affordability. The best of both worlds. Yeah it ain't contact but it is still pretty darn good. Don't sweat the small stuff. Just shoot film. James

-- james (, February 23, 2002.

I thought 4x5 for a while and settled on a Horseman 980 (should have the next version up=VHR) I have all the movements/lens interchangeability as well as different backs for color/N B&W/+ or - N/and film holders etc. However there is probably no weight advantage as the whole kit with tripod weighs over #25. George Nedleman

-- George Nedleman (, February 23, 2002.

I second the previous answer, go for a Fuji 6x9. Good value for money and the big negative you will like. :?)

-- Paul mapstone (, February 23, 2002.

The Fuji GSW690 is great, at a moderate price compared to XPan and Mamiya 7. Add that little Voigtländer VC meter in the flash shoe and you're all set for handheld shooting. I find that the DOF scale on the GSW690 is one or two stops on the optimistic side, though. The XPan is great too.

-- Åke Vinberg (, February 23, 2002.

So little time, & all them beautiful, cool cameras and formats to play with! Am I a gadget nut? Heck Bruce, you only live once, buy the darn MF.

-- Dan Kowalsky (dank99, February 23, 2002.

I second the Fuji 6x9 suggestion - before starting LF, I used a GW690 II exclusively for 3 years.
The camera is so simple that you can start making really fine pictures at once, and with a bit of practise the results ref. image quality are really outstanding! On my wall are enlargements up to 60x40cm from the Fuji, next to 70x56cm from LF (both from Velvia transparencies, and of course a tripod was used with the Fuji too), and I can't see any difference in sharpness or tonality (perspective and subject control being an entirely different matter :).

Compared to LF and many makes of MF gear, the Fuji is a point and shoot toy - I took it with me while mountaineering and skiing in the Alpes w/o problems, and it's so unobtrusive that you even can bring it to many places (museums, exhibitions etc.) where only consumer photo equipment is allowed.
Though the shutter of the Fuji is IMHO one of its weaknesses (at least compared to a current Copal) and rather vibration-prone, hand held shooting down to 1/60th works fine. With a monopod (a really advisable accessory to the Fuji), even 1/15th becomes manageable.

When I had my first ground glass experience, I was really tempted to sell the Fuji, but now I think that would have been a huge mistake - for me, it seems like an ideal compliment to an LF camera!

-- Stefan Dalibor (, February 24, 2002.

i went from 4x5 to 120 roll film using a camera called the galvin view...jim galvin has a machine shop and made me an adaptor lens board making the use of my 4x5 lenses a snap...his ad is in view camera magazine...the camera is no longer being manufactured but can ocasionally can be found for sale on has all the vc movements, is incredibly light weight, uses horseman 6x7 and 6x9 roll fim backs and with a brightscreen provides its user with the total view camera composition making experience, which is what is most important to

-- tom gage (, February 24, 2002.

and i use 4x5" technikardan with 4x5", 6x12cm and 9x12cm with lenses down to 35mm....and i like to use the new 360degrees roundshot 28/220 from makes real consequent panorama fotos. and at least a leica M with 35mm 90mm leica and 15mm (voightländer) lenses. thats all in one case...and i really have all the possibilities on the road which i need....

-- rainer viertlböck (, February 27, 2002.

c'mon everyone, maybe we should try to think outside of the box a bit. what about portable 8x10? why is it either lf or mf? why not a lighter easier 8x10? bruce, you didn't say the darkroom work was a hassle, so why not find another way to shoot lf?

i came across this site a while ago. i was interested, but being a student the camera didnt' seem versatile enough for my use. it might work for you though. http://www.bostick-sulliv maybe this would be an option also.

i didn't read all of the above posts very carefully, so if someone already mentioned this, sorry for clogging up space.


-- michael (, February 27, 2002.

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