4x5 vs 8x10

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by eyunicean, Oct 14, 2017.

  1. I need help!

    I shot 35mm and medium format for the past few years and would like to move on towards large format. They would predominantly be used for still life (with speed lights and strobes) in colour. I often do macro shots as well. I'm moving to large format because I would like to make large scale print (as large as 48x65 and 32x96 as well as smaller 30x40 / 24x72).

    Could anyone give me advice on this?

    Whilst an 8x10 system would give a sharper negative, I worry about purchasing 8x10 lenses (which I heard aren't as sharp?), as well as how hard it is to process 8x10 with a larger margin of error (I would most likely be sending them off to a professional) and film flatness. Would a 8x10 give a drastic difference in terms of quality to the 4x5 if, let's say, they were both drum scanned.

    Would a 4x5 be sufficient for a 48x65 inch print?

    Further, what brand would you recommend, especially considering my usage with strobes and speedlights. I predominantly use speedlights, but often time borrow strobes from a friend when needed. What sort of lens should I be looking at as well...

    Thank u.
  2. Also, would 8x10 or 4x5 colour film be obsolete anytime soon?
  3. Is a 35mm neg sufficient for a 12x18" print? - Its linear math and my counter question just picked the wrong sides to compare but I guess you are getting the direction.
    Erm, you are aware what you are heading for? - On 8x10" shooting something like a shoe will already be macro work of the nastiest kind. - if you are planning to stick to 35mm macro subjects, you'll end with absolutely no DOF at all. - As somebody who misses DOF with macro lenses on APS C bodies at f16, I can only warn and advise to hit a DOF calculator before you buy anything. - Focusstacking drum scanned 8x10" negs won't be cheap.
    On a side note: If you intend to keep things comparable (to answer your print size question above), maybe don't ponder hitting the realm of pinhole photography by stopping down into diffraction range.
    Film processing: 4x5 is not overly complicated at home, since you could do it on a Jobo processor, just like 135 / 120. You might appreciate a bigger changing bag or tent to load your tank though. - My changing bag which was fine for loading a 5 rolls Jobo tank is too small to load 5x7" holders conveniently; so 8x10 must be worse.
    Sorry, I am not into color stuff. AFAIK 5x7" & bigger get tray or dip & dunk processed in the dark. If you are very(!) lucky you'll find a lab still somewhat equipped & ready to handle them with machinery. I saw an old pro rotary processor by Mafi, able to handle some amounts of sheet film but it was manually operated. I haven't heard of automated counterparts, but I am no expert.
    Find your lab as a very first step and figure out what they'll charge + look at film and scanning cost.
    If still life & macro is your goal, you might be happy with process lenses Schneider Claron comes to mind as an not overly expensive line. Get them longer than normal, somewhere in the short portrait lens range. (Also check what the manufacturers are offering for your purpose now). Process lenses tend to be slow, have a rather narrow image circle and unlike 35 mm macro lenses, they aren't really made to be shot around infinity.
    Systems: almost every LF system comes with leaf shuttered lenses (exceptions might be a Speedgraphic, antiques and Sinar) and should that way be ideal for your studio work. I'm confident the Sinar behind the lens shutter will work well enough too. Still life doesn't shout for fast sync speed, does it?
    Speedlites: Will they cut your cake? LF is shot at f22, bellows draw might eat even more light so can you do what you are planning with your current cameras and them speedlites dialed down to 1/4 output or even less? Are the strobes you are borrowing strong enough?
    To my limited understanding the current market is primary hobbyists. So anything highly portable or field camera gets valued higher. get yourself some rocksolid less expensive studio camera. Look for bellows and bench extensions to come with your set, maybe convenience features like it being yaw free. Big caveat with used LF especially Linhof: Get a bellows in decent shape!
    My crystal ball is foggy. I noticed that even Ilford 13x18cm film is no longer regularly supplied; you have to pre-order what you'll need each year. All I can tell: B&W might be around longer than color, which always seemed a bit too expensive in my eyes at more than 300% B&W cost. Maybe professionals know more than me?

    I suppose if 8x10 lenses are really a bit worse, you could still assume them to perform 2x as good as 4x5", although the film would be 4x the area.
    bertliang likes this.
  4. I totally agree that large formats are completely unsuitable for macro work. To fill the frame with, say, a postage stamp on 5"x4", you'd need an RR (reproduction ratio) of around 5:1. Even using a 50mm lens you'd have a bellows extension of 300mm and a subject distance of less than 60mm. Plus need a very sturdy tripod to keep the whole rig steady.

    In short, any subject that requires a high magnification - macro or telephoto - is better done on a small format.

    As for 10x8 vs 5x4 in general; there's a law of diminishing returns. Theoretically 10x8 could give twice the image quality over 5x4, but since it's 4 times the area, then its costs are also nearly 4 times as great for film and processing. Outsourced scanning is also going to be a lot more costly for 10x8 as well. With no guarantee that the end print quality will be noticeably better.
  5. I'll just throw in that large format photography requires a lot of discipline and thinking about things that you've never considered before.

    Just the process of loading film holders and then getting the film into the camera, exposed, and out of the camera without double exposing, failing to expose, and fogging requires staying on top of things. Anyone can do it, but chances are you're going to mess up a few frames.

    A sheet of 8x10 film is 4x the cost of a sheet of 4x5-with some makers the cost scales linearly with film size, while with others you will pay a premium(over and above the linear scaling with size) or get a slight discount for 8x10. Whatever the case, though, film like Ilford FP4+ is ~$1.44 a sheet in 4x5 and ~$4.76 a sheet for 8x10(prices taken directly from Freestyle Photo 8/14/17). The lower cost of a screw-up is appealing to me.

    There's also the fact that 4x5 equipment is plentiful, cheap, and light while the same is not necessarily true of 8x10. I have bunches of 4x5 film holders-I've been given some, and aside from glass plate holders I don't think I've ever paid more than $5 for a new in box one. When I was getting started, I went into a local shop, loaded up a box with some(hand selected to make sure they weren't warped and didn't have other obvious defects) and was given a great price on it(I think $50 or so). By contrast, I've seen really ratty 8x10 holders sell for $20, and new in box ones for over $100.

    The magnification ratio that Joe mentions is also not significant. Independent of format, you lose 1 stop at 2:1(half life size) and 2 stops at life size. With APS-C and 35mm, this doesn't start getting relevant until you get into true macro. By contrast, for an adult headshot in 4x5 you're going to be at probably at 1:5 or so, and in 8x10 you're going to be near life size. As you move up in format size, the "bellows factor" becomes more and more significant for what I'd call a "normal sized" subject. As Joe says, when you get into what we traditionally consider "macro" subjects in smaller formats, the magnification ratios become quite high.

    My go-to macro subject is a pocket watch-I want good photos both for research/cataloging of my collection and they are also interesting because lighting them effectively can be quite a photographic challenge. I'm typically working at around 1:6 on 35mm/full frame for a complete 18 size American watch. 6x6 is 1:1, while 4x5 is in the 4:1 range. As others have mentioned, DOF is miniscule. At 1:1 you're looking at a few millimeters at best even at f/32, and when you start cranking the aperture down too much you will start to lose the advantage of higher resolution/a larger format due to diffraction(the effects of which also scale with reproduction ratios). In fact, even though I do most of my digital work with full frame D800, I still use an APS-C D2X for macro work specifically so that I can get more DOF without having to crank the lens all the way down.
  6. I just checked film prices: Portra 160 is 27.9 Euro / sheet in 8x10", 6.19 Euro in 4x5" at Calumet Germany. Adding out of house processing on top of that, it looks way(!) out of my reach.
  7. This has been a crusade of someone on the LF forum and something many of us have grown tired of, but Kodak and Fuji sheet prices are very much out of line with their roll film pricing.

    135-36, 120, 4 sheets of 4x5, and a single sheet of 8x10 all have roughly the same area(135-36 is actually a bit more-surprisingly enough filing a bunch of backlog in Printfile pages in a 1-day session made this all "click" for me). Aside from the annual ULF special runs, Ilford actually pretty much "flat" across formats, while Foma(and Arista, which I think is made by Foma) actually gives a slight price advantage to sheet film. We can debate it all day(or not-it's been hashed out on the LFP forum ad nauseum if you care to look) but that's the reality if you want to shoot Tri-X, TMAX, or any kind of color in large format.

    FP4+ is one of my staple LF films, but I still go back to old faithful Tri-X since nothing is like it, and I use Velvia for color. Of course, therein is one of my criticisms-in large format we have Tri-X Professional 320(TXP) while in smaller formats we have Tri-X 400(TX). TXP USE to be available in 220, and I have some in the freezer, but for fresh film TXP is only available in sheet film(and TX is not available fresh in sheet film). Although the "feel" is similar, TXP is a different film with a much longer toe. If, like me, you buy 35mm TX by the brick and 120 by the case, don't blindly expect sheet film Tri-X to behave the same way. Since there's enough to learn in sheet film anyway, I'd suggest using Ilford or Arista products as the exact same emulsions are available in all sizes. They're also much less expensive than Kodak products. The last 4x5 TXP I bought was around $100 for 50 sheets, compared to $35 for 25 sheets of FP4+ or HP5+. I've only bought one box of Arista, but I think it was just a bit over $20 for 25 sheets of 4x5 100.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2017
  8. Sorry, Ben I didn't want to re-heat the crusade topic.
    And that triggered a red flag in the back of my brain: If we aren't talking offset printing or LF film; who imagines color being 4x as expensive as B&W? Digital camera shoppers and small format film shooters might be used to paying extra for B&W.
  9. Yeah, that's true.

    It's funny how the entire scene has changed. I was talking to a good friend/former colleague a while back who worked at a photo lab in the 70s. He talks about how color was expensive and exotic, and with B&W they charged extra for RC paper.

    On the other hand, it wasn't too terribly long ago that you could go to any Wal-Mart in America(along with most drug stores and grocery stores), drop off a roll of 35mm C-41, and have 4x6 prints an hour or so later for under $10. If you didn't mind waiting a day or two(for the send-off service), you could get that down to under $5/roll. On the other hand, the few times I sent off B&W(through the same box) it took two weeks or so and was a fair bit more expensive than C-41.

    Of course, doing it at home changes things, and it makes sense even for the most casual B&W shooter. Multi-grade RC paper is so ubiquitous and inexpensive now that I just keep a selection of sizes of Ilford on hand in my preferred finish and tone(plus a few other finishes for special purposes). Graded fiber base paper is something of a specialty product-I don't keep graded papers on hand. If I want to print on them, I use a multi-grade paper to determine what grade fiber base paper I want.
  10. I appreciate how off-topic this is, but... huh? The D800 has a perfectly serviceable DX crop mode with 4800x3200 pixels, compared with 4288x2848 for the D2X, and I strongly suspect you'll get better dynamic range out of those pixels. I get the convenience of leaving a camera set up in macro mode (possibly bolted to a rail with a cable attached), but it wouldn't gain you detail. Similarly you wouldn't get any more macro detail out of a 135 film body than a medium format if you cropped the medium format down to 36x24mm. (I won't extend the analogy to large format, since I'm aware that some films differ in thickness and that can have an effect - but I'll say that stopping down to f/64 does just as much damage to the sharpness of a full frame film as it does on smaller formats, it's just hidden by the total film size being larger.)
  11. Not to get too off topic, but basically you nailed it-pretty much everything I photograph with this set up is about the same size, so it's easiest to just leave all the lights, tripod, backdrop, etc set up and use a camera that I don't otherwise use much. There's a limit to how much resolution I actually NEED for this application, and the 12mp from the D2x is more than enough.

    If I can get tethered live view going, I'll probably switch to the D300, although that's actually a camera I use at least somewhat often "in the real world." The attraction to that camera would be the better dynamic range as compared to the D2X, although since I'm using studio strobes I can pretty well control the contrast of what I'm photographing. I do blow highlights fairly often, but a good friend who's been a professional for 40 years(he does this type of photography as an extension of his hobby) said that he struggles with highlights in the same areas and advised to just "let them go" rather than losing important details elsewhere. BTW, he was using a D810 but managed to get a D850 from the first batch that shipped.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2017
  12. Ah - thanks for explaining, Ben. :)
  13. Hello everyone. I am soon to be 75 yo & only in the last year have decided to pass my 4x5 Calumet kit off to a friend. 8x10 work was last done in 2012, but that camera kit was lost in a fire storm in 2015.
    Here is my take on the question of 4x5 vrs 8x10 other than that given by all above. If you are under 30yo, go for the 8x10. You have a decade ahead in which to "learn" the system. Then your in your 40's & should start thinking of joining a gym for regular work-outs to lug all the gear around (Did you know a Myjestic tri-pod is close to 30 #'s??).
    OK, lets go for the 4x5 set up. You can develop 4-6 sheets of b/w in a UN54 daylight kit. Takes about 1.2 liters of solution, but my set up was housed in a very large Igloo cooler similar to one I have posted in other forum. My V800 has yielded excellent scans from the 4x5's, and even a few 8x10's salvaged from the fire (never "thought" to do them before !!). Color you will have to work up some outside lab resources.
    Either way (b/w or color, either format) SERIOUSLY consider getting a high end digi printer with archival ink sets & software ! The last time I had a high quality b/w print done, from my scan, it was well into the $75 range. Excellent print, but would break my bank account for the number of negs/scans I want to print!! Perhaps in Dec (BD), I will relent my Scrooge factor & get MY Epson ! It's at the top of my Bucket List now!
    Pic is from a 1970's, 4x5 2k17-4x5-525-001 r9.5ks10ce bc z 11X14.jpg shot at Tenaya Lake, Yosemite, scanned 5 years ago & just now "finished" the re-work of massive neg defects. Enjoy, Bill
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2017
  14. "I totally agree that large formats are completely unsuitable for macro work."

    If you know what you are doing this is wrong.
    Limiting factors come into play compared to smaller formats but an 8x10 can be used for macro and even photomicroscopy work. 8x10 at 100 times lifesize for stress patterns in metals has been used for decades successfully.

    The larger the camera the more you have to concentrate. It is not easy compared to smaller formats but can be done. A lot depends on the "look" you are after.

    4x5 is easier to work with for close and macro images due to size differences. It all depends on what you are after for the finished print or chrome.
  15. For the love of flowers and 8x10 Large format, I went for it despite all of the why nots. Truly an exercise in complexity!
    My set was a Big Green 8X10 C-1 Monster mounted to a Polaroid MP-4 copy stand with a fax-Nikkor 160 for glass. I composed my shot, turned out the lights opened the Iris and pulled the dark slide popped the strobe, The transparencies printed to 4'x5' are mind-bending. orangefavoritecopy.jpg Best five years of my shooting career.
    akocurek likes this.
  16. I'll just toss out that I've done 4x5 on pocket watches, most of which hover somewhere around 1:1 on 6x6.

    I was using Ektapan(I have a bunch I got free) at EI 80. I used a strobe set up that typically gives f/27 or f/32 at ISO 100 on APS-C at around 1/8 life size. Taking the bellows factor/magnification into account I think I swapped packs from 800w-s to 2000w-s(about 1.5 stops increase) and ended up with a half dozen or so pops to get f/64. If I do it again, I might run each head off its own 2000w-s pack, albeit they wouldn't both be at 2000w-s(on the 2000 pack I did one at 800 and one at 1200, which I guess would be 2000 and 1200 using two separate packs).
  17. "totally agree that large formats are completely unsuitable for macro work"

    Sorry..... but just have to disagree with that statement. I spent almost 30 years making innumeral photo-macrographs onto 4x5" film on close to a daily basis in a Govt research insitution. Should the need arise to photograph something the size of a postage stamp ter ARE better ways. A Scanning Electron Microscope used to allows you to expose at MANY hundreds of times magnfication onto 4x5 film. An SEM is however a rather expensive piece of equipment... and you cannot carry it around 'out into the field'.... But I don't think you will be able to get that 'wow' exposure in colour

    To fill the frame with, say, a postage stamp on 5"x4", you'd need an RR (reproduction ratio) of around 5:1. Even using a 50mm lens you'd have a bellows extension of 300mm and a subject distance of less than 60mm. Plus need a very sturdy tripod to keep the whole rig steady.

    In short, any subject that requires a high magnification - macro or telephoto - is better done on a small format.

    As for 10x8 vs 5x4 in general; there's a law of diminishing returns. Theoretically 10x8 could give twice the image quality over 5x4, but since it's 4 times the area, then its costs are also nearly 4 times as great for film and processing. Outsourced scanning is also going to be a lot more costly for 10x8 as well. With no guarantee that the end print quality will be noticeably better.[/QUOTE]
  18. [/QUOTE]
    No, you are wrong. Look up lenses like the 28 to 80mm Schneider M Componons or the Zeiss Luminars. Using the Linhof Macro lensboard on a 45 Technikardan you can easily get magnifications approaching 20x on 4x5 using the bellows extension on a Master Technikardan, or a V or IV Technikardan. It is all in using the proper tools for the job at hand.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017

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