Help! Cheaply delve into 8x10 setup for contact printing

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by scott_mcloughlin|1, Sep 28, 2012.

  1. Kind folks of infinite and priceless experience and wisdom, I need your help.
    Motivating Problem: I'm tired of fighting digital shadow noise, posterization and banding. I want to make photographs where nearly all of the interesting parts of the composition are comprised of shadow tones (lower zones), not mid-tones or highlights. Researched for digital technique and technical information for days. Found everything from the ludicrous (use fill flash, i.e., eliminate the shadows!) to the sublime but complex (physics and math of sensor technology). I experimented with "HDR" but was only frustrated.
    I want to make prints with creamy-smooth-as-chocolate transitions between oodles of shadow tones and from shadow-tones to mid-tones. I'm wasting my time fighting the wrong technology for the job.

    Solution: Give up! Instead, just pick the "right technology" for achieving my shadow-tone and smooth-shadow-tonal-transition goals. Go back to Edward Weston era materials and techniques. Shoot at print size on B&W film and contact print. The perfect "technology" for the kind of photographic prints I want to produce.
    Question: How can I easily and inexpensively take the most direct route to an 8x10 camera, lens, film back, etc. I love the 5x7 format for prints, but I worry that finding film and equipment for that format will be more difficult and/or expensive. My needs are simple, but I do require a PC socket to fire my studio strobes. A simple true normal lens or a little longer (up to a 50-60mm 135 format lens) will do perfectly. Negative developing chemistry (I've developed oodles of 135 format film years ago) and contact printing gear looks straightforward - except for the negative/paper holder. What do I need here? I'd love recommendations on good "beginner" films and papers and chemistry. Also, I'd love any pointers to books, articles or videos regarding dodging/burning techniques when contact printing. That's brand new territory for me.
    A final note: I'm looking for "stellar image quality" within the limits of this film format and printing technique; I'm not interested in general experimentation with "alternative processes"

    Any and all sagacious wisdom greatly appreciated! Many, many, many thanks in advance!
    - Scott (I'm only 46, but contemporary photography is starting to make me feel old... LOL!)
  2. Not sure why you feel that you need to go to 8x10. Why not 4x5 ? It will still give you the range. You can get papers and chemicals from Freestyle. Either camera (LF) is large and cumbersome, well unless you get a "field model". The lenses have to accomodate larger circles to deal with all the adjustments. Most guys that use 8x10 also use a stroller or some other way to transport the rig.The tripod has to be stout to accomodate all this weight. You'll also need a decent scanner. Sure, you can get your scans farmed out, but if they will be of any quality, you can expect to spend minimum $80/sheet....and usually more. It's a totally different approach to photography and you slow down and take your time to get that 1 or several images.

    I'm not trying to keep you away from your dream, but there is lot to it. You'll need a loupe, good light meter, etc etc. It's a wonderful process for a person that can be patient with the medium.
    The rewards are enormous....and I never felt old using 4x5 back in early 70's or's just a tool. I'd suggest you check out LF forum...these guys are very knowledgeable and informative.
  3. If you are not enjoying fighting the digital effects the film ones won't be anymore pleasant or less frustrating. I have used a view camera for 20+ years and digital is easier.
    Film needs to be exposed and developed precisely to get rich dark blacks but the same is true for digital to get similar effects. Digital noise reduction and selective blurring can be precisely used and have been improving.
    It seems most Photographers are scanning negs and using digital tools which brings up scanning which I loathe.
  4. Thanks for your response. I'm sorry, I might have overstated the single-mindedness of my motivations. I have a friend in another city with an MFA in photography who shoots LF (4x5), and we've discussed it now and again for some years.
    But I've always been fascinated with trying contact printing, hence my interest in the 8x10 format and my minor deliberation above over the 5x7 vs. 8x10 formats. I've become sick in recent years and don't travel far from home these days (I can't drive). Being chronically ill, I've become schooled in patience and slow, deliberate activities.
    My immediate interest would be in photographing people, still life and maybe a few "cityscapes" in my neighborhood (I've had a project shooting alleyways for some years now). I have a rather heavy, metal Manfrotto 475B tripod (I'm not sure if it's heavy enough for an 8x10 camera though). I also have a Sekonic L-358 which I've used as an incident meter for years, but I believe it takes spot metering attachments.
    I'm just curious how I might get started with 8x10 shooting and contact printing in a relatively straightforward or "canonical" manner - always better to avoid commonly made mistakes, etc.
  5. I started 8x10 by making a pinhole camera from black matt board scraps, duct tape, and a little piece of brass shim stock. Total cost less than $5, and a free box of unwanted outdated film. Still have a couple of contact prints from it.
    My next phase several years later was finding a derelict 100+ year old wooden 8x10 on Craigslist. It was in bad need of TLC and needed missing parts, but it was really exciting to eventually get an image from it. I have deep regrets selling it. Now I have a beater Deardorff obtained through being in the right place at the right time. And another large format truly derelict camera for almost nothing that was a strange twist of fate.
    I have to admit that this has often been frustrating with numerous obstacles, but also most gratifying. I once read that you don't find a large format camera, it finds you. That has happened to me more than once.
  6. 1. NO doubt, the 8x10 contact is the gold standard of black and white prints---but it's also four times as expensive and heavy!--and requires four times the effort of 4x5 or even 5x7.
    2. What you learn doing large format is this: large format does not insure superior quality-unless you can master the whole process. It's not like buying another camera with a bigger sensor.
    3. Something to think about: I have a friend who uses and old 8x10 Korona---he has learned to make beautiful 8x10 contacts using paper negatives---but it's taken him more than a year to learn how.
    4. Large format looks back to the olden days when hands-on craftmanship mattered.
    5. Scott, you sound like you love black and white prints and their tonality. The contact print is really the only way to get that unique quality. in my opinion.
  7. I think you are right to go 8x10 but I'm prejudiced because I am going 8x10. I have two cameras actually but I think I am going to go with the big old Century Studio and dump the other one. I haven't gotten started yet photographing but I do know the type lens you are looking for is 12" to 15" (300mm to 375mm). I am also at the beginner stage.
  8. I own a Tachihara 8x10--very handsome! The lens I like is the 12 inch Ektar---it's a classic lens that I got from lens and repro. It has a bi-post sync.
    I once owned a 14 inch Ektar-- that' when I used the 8x10 Kodak Masterview---wow. A giant clamshell type camera.
  9. Pick up an old Deardorff. Just do not get a refinished one because the placement of the glass might be off.
  10. keep your eyes open on the auction site, the large format site, apug the classifieds here and craig's list
    buy a camera and few film holders ... get a sturdy tripod
    and go to the fabric store and get a black sheet of felt or denim for your dark cloth
    go to the same places you looked for your camera and film holders and look for a lens
    maybe a convertible, or triple convertible, or a single FL ..
    then save all your $$$ up for film, and either trays or a rotary system or racks and deep tanks
    to process it ...
    you'll probably have to practice a bit with the processing bit ( maybe not ? )
    the contact printing is easy, its just a light bulb, paper, and glass ...
    i shoot 8x10 and larger i use film sometimes, i also use paper negatives.
    i find the tonal range to be nice ( i like it better than panchromatic ) and paper costs
    very little compared to film. and it is easier to process with the red light on.
    outdated paper has a little basefog so it helps with the contrast issues associated with paper
    and if you go the paper negative route, you don't usually have to worry about shuttered lenses
    because you can stop down ( or not ) and do longer exposures ...

    good luck !
  11. Regarding tripods, if you get a chance to find a telescope tripod you might want to try that. Telescopes must have zero vibration to get a sharp image and some telescopes weigh over 100 lb.s I have two telescope tripods. One is a little heavier than expected. I mean you need both arms to carry it. The other tripod is more like a heavy Manfrotto. Also, I have heard good things about surveyor tripods. Usually all these types of tripods are found cheap compared to camera tripods.
  12. I shoot 4x5, 5x7, and 8x10. The latter two are Deardorffs which are nice, but pretty pricy (I got lucky on each about 15 years ago). My favorite is 5x7. But I like small prints.
    My first 8x10 was an Agfa Ansco. They are cheaper than Deardorffs, though a bit heavier.
    If you decide to shoot film, anything larger than 4x5 requires tray processing (which I never could get right) or tubes.
    I also like paper negs. Effective speed is about ISO 6 (give or take) but no reciprocity adjustment necessary. Does take a while to calibrate/tame contrast.
    With your health problems (though I don't know what they are obviously) 5x7 would be a nice compromise. Even the Deardorff is pretty light, and if wind and/or uneven terrain are not a problem the tripod doesn't need to be too heavy.
  13. Hi. I'm Gene's friend with the 810 korona and paper negs. Camera and lens cost $425.00, excluding shipping. Gene gave me a
    holder, and later I bought two holders. A fortunate man, as I think about it now, I received a 250-sheet box of ilford grade 1 rc paper
    from the owner of a local camera store. For me, the 810 camera is an occasional camera. Using the camera makes me feel like I'm
    doing something important, significant. Delusions of grandeur. Nothing on my early 1900s-era camera lines up. You must pay
    attention to what actually appears on the ground glass and make it right there. It's hard to describe exactly the character of
    photographs produced by an 810 camera. Contact prints made from my paper negatives resemble some of those made by other folks
    using 810 and paper negatives. They lack the resolution and the long tonality of contact prints made from film negatives. Even my
    contact prints made from film negatives look somewhat amateurish to me in comparison with the best work out there. Equipment,
    technique, vision? Oh, well, I tell myself. Acceptance is all. I have posted some of my 810 photographs on my flickr photostream
    under bill.wheeler. Good luck to you. Bill
  14. Scott, with a little patience, you can build a pinhole camera, large format, with shift, and produce beautiful contact prints. Here is mine.
  15. "If you decide to shoot film, anything larger than 4x5 requires tray processing"
    Where in the world would anybody get that idea? Film hangers are made in every size, including 8x10, along with the tanks for them to fit into. I've got a couple sitting in my darkroom right now, next to my 4x5 hangers.
    As for making contact prints from 8x10, nothing could be easier. All you need is a sheet of glass. Lay down a piece of 8x10 photographic paper, emulsion side up. Lay the film on top of its, emulsion side down. Cover with the glass. Use a piece larger than the film (11x14, for example) so you have room around the edges to hold it down tight. You can use your enlarger as the light source, or just a lightbulb. Expose and develop the same as a contact sheet for 35mm negatives.
    You can also buy contact printing frames the same as the ones you get for 35mm contact sheets, just without the dividers to hold the strips of 35. Some made for 35 has removable parts so you can use them for 8x10. Some made for printing PrintFile pages dont have any dividers so they are perfect for 8x10.
  16. "Where in the world would anybody get that idea?" Irrespective of where that idea came from, tray processing uses far less chemistry and is a sensible system to start with. Tanks for 5x7 and 8x10 hangers require a lot of chemicals, ideally a replenishment system and are practical for a larger volume work than you may be doing, at least in the earlier stages. I would strongly recommend you develop one sheet at a time, emulsion side up, then later move to alternatives.
  17. Get a set of 8X10 plastic print trays and use them to develop your film and paper. Due to the larger surface area to wet, I recommend pre-soaking your film before going into the developer, which is one shot due to oxidation. I have a set of tanks for 8X10 hangers that only require 1 gallon each, but I have never seen another set.
    If temperature control due to the large surface area in a tray in darkness is an issue, try divided D-76, ( some call it pan-thermic) you can get the formula on line as well as packets of premixed powders from the Photographers Formulary web site,
    I use Divided d-76 for all my B&W shooting.
    I have been using a 20" X 20" sheet of 1/4" thick plate glass for decades, making a couple corners out of layers of tape on the base or counter to keep paper and film aligned reduces the frustration.
    Enjoy your journey!!

    Ron Taylor.

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