Digital backs for 4x5 cameras

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by randrew1, Feb 9, 2018.

  1. I "went over to the dark side" and bought a digital camera in 2005. I would like to put my 4x5 camera back in service for landscape photography. Of course, film is still an option, but it is getting expensive. I would also need a better film scanner to do the film justice. I've scanned 4x5 film on my Kodak 3570 scanner (4 scans to cover the image). This provides about 900 pixels per inch on film that can deliver 3000 to 4000 ppi.

    A Better Light scan back would be a nice option, but they start at $5000 for a used unit. They make film and processing prices look reasonable.

    I've seen sliding backs that allow you to attach a medium format or full frame digital camera and take several exposures to cover part of the image plane. It looks like the largest image you can capture with a full-frame DSLR is about 3x3 (camera in vertical position taking two rows of three images).

    Is there any reason why a sliding back can't be designed to allow four rows of three horizontal images? This would cover more than 75% of the 4x5 image plane. Is such a device available?

    Are there better options for large format digital images?
  2. And will you be using it on a digital view camera? Analog view cameras aren’t precise enough for high end digital results!
    Will you be using digital lenses? Same thing with analog lenses as with analog cameras!
    You do know that no view camera manufacturer makes a 45 digital view camera, don’t you? They make 69 digital view cameras,
    You also realize that the large format lens manufacturers no longer make analog large format lenses? They make digital lenses for digital view cameras.

    There was a manufacturer of camera body adapters in Korea that made a multiple row adapter. He showed us prototypes but don’t know if he went into serial production.
  3. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    when scanners first hit the streets, I was wondering if it would be possible to put a scanner on the back of my 8x10 camera.

    give you any ideas?
  4. But none of the digital view camera shoot 4x5. I think the OP has a good idea.
  5. Why would that be a problem? Have you personally seen what modern backs like a Phase One can do?
  6. It's about format. Since the OP wanted to use his lenses and camera made for the 4x5 format. Using the on the smaller format isn't good. Something like the Sinar P3 with the camera, lenses and back all optimized for the smaller format that it's fine. Adapting a smaller format back to a larger camera and lenses is not good.
  7. But you missed the point. A 45 camera and large format analog lenses simply can not deliver optimal results with digital backs.
  8. The issue with sticking a DSLR (of any size) on the back of a view camera, is that the sensor is recessed deeply in the body. This means that oblique rays from the view camera lens can't fully cover the sensor because they're obscured by the camera lens mount. So not much point in making a sliding back that pushes a DSLR into the corners of the 5"x4" frame.

    However, the advent of slim bodied mirrorless digitals might change this situation and allow greater coverage.

    5x4 film isn't cheap - true, but still cheaper for a small number of shots than any digital large format 'fudge' that's on the market.

    FWIW, my reasonably priced Canon 9900 flatbed scanner allows 5x4 scanning at 4800 ppi. Although I must admit that the optical resolution doesn't quite match that. Even so, a 2400 ppi scan gets a fully useable image of around 9000 x 11000 pixels (100 megapixels), which knocks most DSLRs sideways.

    In any case, the 5x4 gets mainly used for its movements, not for its size. So the number of megapixels isn't too relevant. And a rollfilm back would make it more economical to run.

    "A 45 camera and large format analog lenses simply can not deliver optimal results with digital backs."

    I thought we'd got past this 'throw away all your old film lenses; they're no good on digital' BS years ago. And what's an 'analog' lens?
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2018
  9. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    Last edited: Feb 11, 2018
  10. Wait until you have side by side comparison shots between analog of lenses and the same focal length digital lenses.
    The digital lenses reach optimal aperture at f8, the analog at f22, at 22 on digital backs you are well into diffraction with that analog lens. At f8 you are not at the optimal performance of the analog lens. Since a digital back is ¼ the imaging area of 45 film the depth of field at f8 will be the same on digital as f22 is on 45 film.
    Digital lenses deliver higher resolution, lower distortion and better performance over the image area then analog lenses.

    Go try yourself. Take your best analog lf lens from 28 to 150mm and rent the same focal length digital lens and compare them side by side at f22 and at f8.
  11. paul ron

    paul ron NYC


    The simple reason is the size of the sensor vs format size. You cant say a 35mm frame shot in a 4x5 camera is going to compare to the full frame 4x5 image? INSANE!

    DOF comparisons of a tiny sensor vs a full frame 4x5? hahahahahahaha no no no.... compare lenses on a full 4x5 sensor to a 4x5 sheet of film... then we are comparing results.

    Using your theory... whats the difference between a digital crop sensor and a full frame sensor? same problems as your 4x5 scenario? You cant compare different sized formats to each other as if they are equals. Circles of confusion.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2018
  12. Ron, go to a digital dealer and take a professional demo on quality digital backs and what they are capable of. At this time you are speaking from ignorance!
  13. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

  14. OP says: "Of course, film is still an option, but it is getting expensive. I would also need a better film scanner to do the film justice." Problem solved; read below:

    I went through what you are going through. First, my desire to use LF wasn't professional--I just wanted to have some big-film fun--so I felt that I could cut corners. The big hangup for me was cost, and then I discovered that people are using xray film in LF cameras. OK, it's not the same, but 40 cents for an 8x10??!!. Read all 495 pages of this thread, and you'll know how it works: Use of X-ray film: technical discussion with example images

    So that solved the film problem. Second, the scanner. I figured that I only needed 1000dpi at the best, more than enough for my 13x19 printer, and the HP G4050 certainly meets that standard. Before posting this, I went to Ebay and priced them, ended up buying a spare for $42! For LF you don't need holders--just lay the film on the glass.

    Examples of xray film large format work on my flickr page, Michael Darnton
  15. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    Nice work Michael.... film is expensive these days but consider what a good photo can sell for?... its really just the price of the paint today.
    But I dont see cheap film any different than say Kodak. I use arista for my LF, $40/50 4x5.... but 120 TMY is my go to for MF because of the finner TGrain.

    Ive been seeing more people using XRay film lately. Nice results too.
  16. This misses the point of the rapid evolution of lenses and lens coatings. The differences usually have little to do with whether the lens is "analogue" or "digital"

    I have a large number of lenses, admittedly mostly in 6cm and 35mm mounts, made for film cameras that I regularly use on digital bodies. Zoom lens technology did evolve very quickly, so there are sometimes major differences there, but fixed focal length lens designs have been more stable for a long time, coatings again being the major variable.
  17. Again, go try them, you are wrong!
  18. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    you can say I'm wrong as much as you like, it still doesn't make you right. back your insistence with facts instead of telling me a salesperson will show me. I use both film and digitals and disagree 100% with your logic.

    explain how a 4x5 135mm film camera lens compares to your canon 5d (or whatever you have) 135mm lens? is that what you are asking me to compare? please explain?

    its apples and oranges!
  19. Go and compare the curves, then go try some!
  20. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

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