Large format as a cure to wide angle corners

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by fluppeteer, Oct 8, 2012.

  1. Dear all,

    I'm coming from a 35mm digital system, and I'd always planned to get a large format camera to play with. My biggest motivator has been when taking a wide-angle landscape shot, wanting to make a large print and stand with my nose to the middle of the frame to get as immersive an experience as possible.

    My first attempt at this, with a 12 megapixel Nikon D700, simply ran out of pixels. Now I have a 36 megapixel D800E (36x24mm sensor, for anyone not used to dabbling in the toy formats), and I'm running out of lens instead - at least in the corners. I have a Nikkor 14-24mm, which is generally considered to be pretty competent, but it can't keep the corners (reasonably) sharp for me. The Zeiss 21mm is another option, as a lens with a stellar reputation, but even that seems to struggle in the corners on a D800E.

    So, before all the film supplies dry up, I'd been looking longingly at a cheap 5x4 (such as a Horseman 450LE, unless there's a reason I shouldn't go with one of these - I appreciate the difficulties of carting a monorail in the field, but I won't be taking it far and my 35mm kit is heavier...) and the second-hand market for, say, 47mm and 65mm f/5.6 super angulons. I'm assuming I'll be drum scanning the results.

    I'm now concerning myself with the corner performance of the large format lenses, assuming that I'm stopping down to f/16-ish. At least one review seemed reasonably complimentary of the 65mm (at least, the corner numbers for lppmm were reasonable), but a full analysis of these lenses is defeating my google-fu. Are either of these lenses (or any viable alternative) likely to do better than my 135-format options?

    I'm considering the 47mm to be vaguely equivalent in field of view to my 135-format 14mm, and the (cheaper) 65mm lens to be roughly 18mm equivalent in 135 terms (from the long edge in both cases). The latter may well be wide enough for most of my shots, but knowing the relative performance of the two would be helpful.

    Or shall I just give up and resort to stitching? Any assistance (other than "stop pixel peeping") is gratefully received - I'm a large-format novice.
  2. AJG


    You need to be careful about which 47 you get--older ones will only cover 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 and will definitely show vignetting and poor corner resolution on 4x5. Covering power is one of those things that comes up with large format that most photographers have never had to think about. Without enough, the movements that cause the size and weight of the camera to increase are useless. As for the question of digital SLR vs. large format film, they are totally different ways of working. I genuinely enjoy the necessary slowing down that the 4x5 necessitates for what I like to do, not that I would prescribe it for everybody. For me, the look of silver prints from large format negatives is still more satisfying than the digital B&W that I have seen in person, but I will freely confess that this is biased by 30 years of experience with 4x5 cameras and darkroom work. My commercial work is completely digital and has been for a number of years, but I still miss the more "hands on" medium of film.
  3. Thanks, Andrew. My feeling is that slowing down to take a shot - especially landscapes - would do me good as a photographer, so I'm not too scared of that. I'm not sure that the mechanics will slow me down - even with bag bellows - as much as knowing that each shot is costing so much... Thanks for the heads-up: I'll look into the 47mm variants and check what I might be signing up for.

    Still, any feedback on how good those wide lenses with real 5x4 coverage might be, compared with their 35mm equivalents, would be much appreciated.
  4. You say yourself " ... before all the film supplies dry up ... " - to be honest, I wouldn't bet on color film being around for too much longer. Purely technically, I would think making big high-resolution prints would be far easier using a moderate wide-angle lens on a digital camera (much easier to get good edge performance for a reasonable price) and stitching multiple exposures together. This is of course to disregard the unquantifiable experience of working with LF (I presume you are thinking of using LF film, not a digital back) but as I say I think it's a bit late in the day to start LF color work with film. A further factor is that 90mm is the normal wide-angle lens for 4x5 - 65mm is considered extreme and anything wider is what I call a "last gasp" lens, used in practice only by professional architectural photographers who HAVE to get a picture even in city centers and very confined spaces - not many examples of these lenses about, definitely not cheap.
  5. Hi David. I'd actually value a comment on the film situation. The two colour films of most interest to me are Portra (because of its dynamic range when scanned), which Kodak are planning to get rid of but seem to be hoping that someone else will continue, and Velvia, which I'm hoping may be continuing in Velvia 100 form but Fuji are definitely discontinuing in 50 and 100F form for large formats (I need to try some of my 135 Velvia 100 film and remind myself whether I can live with that, or whether I should fill a freezer with Velvia 50). However, so long as I can get it developed, I am prepared to stick a load in the freezer - I don't expect to spend all that much time shooting it, so it should last. And I'd always have black and white - or a scanning back, after saving up - to fall back on. I've got to say that I'm more nervous about going to 5x4 than I was a couple of years ago, though.

    As for lens prices, I remain a bit astonished at the current new large format lens prices. Let's say that they don't hold their value very well... the going rate for, say, a used 65mm f/5.6 Super Angulon seems to be about £250. I can stretch that far - and I'm used to wider angles from my 14-24 lens, so the exotic ultrawide nature doesn't bother me. Used, I could buy a 65 and a 47, a 5x4 and some film for less than the price of only a 21mm Zeiss for my Nikon. It balances out when the per-shot price is included (especially with drum scans), but if it would get me the shots I'd want, I'd do it. However, if it won't, I'll concentrate on less exotic glass if and when I get a 5x4 and worry about stitching in digital instead. Incidentally, I presume there's no longer lens with enough coverage for it to be worth me trying to stitch 5x4 images?
  6. I'd say you should give it a try. Buy used and you'll reasonably be able to resell without much loss. Your biggest difficulties are going to be composing and focusing with the ultrawides, they are much more difficult to use than longer focal length lenses. You'll also find that the process of shooting/scanning film introduces many more difficulties than the D800... lots of things that can go wrong and you'll need a good scanner to pull more detail than the very good D800E. Color correction and dynamic range will also be challenges. You'll also need to think about thinks like center filters and grad filters, depending on what you're shooting.
    For lenses the 47mm Super Angulon XL is the only lens that will cover 4x5 with good performance. The older 47mm lenses aren't going to do as well for you. The 58mm Super Angulon XL is good too, and also very wide. Both of those can push close to $1k on the used market though. A 65mm lens is a good starting point to see if you like the results and want to push further. For stitching with 4x5, the 72mm Super Angulon XL actually has enough coverage to to that, and is a very good lens. Heck, if you want to go up in format and shoot wide, use the 72mm on 5x7 film! :)
  7. When you say that you wanted to get your nose up close to immerse yourself in the photo, in other words, as if you were actually "there" it made me think you would be happy with a panoramic camera that takes a good 120 degree or wider photo. Have you thought about panoramics?
  8. Jim: Thank you, good reading.

    Sheldon: Thank you - that might put me off the affordable 47mm idea. The 65mm might suffice for me if the older multicoated variant still does sharpish corners. Alas, 5x7 film is even harder to come by than 5x4. Centre filters had been bothering me a little for Velvia (less so for Portra if I can rely on the dynamic range). Having luxuriated in cameras with TTL meters for a while, the whole exposure thing worries me somewhat. It feels as though it ought to be possible to use a non-fresnel ground glass and meter off that (inside a hood), stopped down, with my DSLR - which ought to allow for extension and vignetting - so long as I allow for the transmissivity of the glass. But I don't know whether that's optimistic crazy talk. I'm not too scared of calculating exposures the hard way, but stick some tilt in there and give me a variable subject and the idea of the dynamic range of Velvia starts to worry me.

    I'm assuming that, by the time I've paid to get this stuff developed and taken a shot that justifies having used any 5x4 film in the first place, I may as well get it drum scanned, which should make the best of whatever dynamic range is available. I'll contemplate my options.

    Tom: I hadn't (much), but I will. I'd prefer a more regular frame, though.
  9. AJG


    Some further comments--you will definitely want a fresnel for the finder with wide angle lenses, without it seeing the corners becomes a severe challenge. For landscape work, extension is rarely an issue for exposure, so I wouldn't worry about using the finder to compensate for magnification. Also, landscape work doesn't generally require the extreme movements that architectural or product photography can.
    You could probably use your digital SLR in spot mode for metering at least initially, although a regular spot meter would be smaller and lighter. As for lenses, I have a 65 mm f/4.5 Caltar II N that has given me excellent results. These were made by Rodenstock and are identical in specs to their Grandagon series, and imported to the US by Calumet. They were slightly cheaper than the Rodenstock equivalents when new and seem to be the same now as used lenses. Good luck!
  10. Andrew, I suggest you look at a second hand Cambo Wide with either the 65mm SA or later 58mm SA XL. Extremely portable, rugged,
    and relatively quick to use. You can use readily available 120 roll film for 6x12 format (don't dismiss this format before you see it, plus it's
    easily cropped). Solves many of your issues for less pain.
  11. Andrew: Thank you, you make large format sound much less scary! My default plan was to use my DSLR as a spot meter for the scene - I'm likely to have it with me anyway for those "not quite worth wasting a sheet on" moments - but I'd only been thinking about non-fresnel glass for metering on the assumption that the camera movements would throw my calculations off. I'll certainly look into your suggested lens. I'm in the UK, if that adjusts your expectations of what I can find.

    Rod: Thanks for the tip, I'll check those too. I'm a little hazy on the specs of most view cameras, never having really played with one - I'm doing a lot of peering at images and trying to make sense of the geometry (at least I've used T-S lenses in 35mm). The lack of tilt on the Cambo Wide worries me a bit (not that I'd get much from an affordable ultrawide anyway), but I'll certainly learn more.
  12. Take a gander at some youtube video spots like this one ... basic "how to" -
    Back to school reading :eek:) -
    (everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask) The Merklinger book can be found at Scribd for download, and probably other sites (or public library). Check out all the links on that page and save them for your library.
    I'm new to LF too, about a year now. What a hoot! I found an old, yet pristine, Calumet CC-400 with 210 Symmar-S, carry case, about 15 film holders, roll film holder for 120, a decent loupe and focus cloth on eBay for a total of about $300 USD (a real steal, in my opinion).
    That's not nearly as wide as you want to go, but the image quality is phenomenal to say the least.
  13. Cool - thanks for the tips, Jim. Actually, having used TS lenses before and having a mathematical bent, Scheimpflug doesn't scare me (besides, if it's not much easier to deal with given a big ground glass at the focal plane, I'll dine on some headwear). Metering scares me, but maybe more than it should for my landscape aspirations - though knowing that there's a finite quantity of film to waste doesn't help. I'm sure I'll go LF anyway, for fun, but it sounds as though 65mm is the affordable starting point for a wide lens with decent corners. I'll go hunting for lens reviews - funny how there are more of them for 135 film - but I'd still value any further advice that 5x4 wide shooters can provide.
  14. Incidentally, to summarize, am I right in understanding that, of the f/5.6 lenses and corner performance, "47mm Super Angulon bad, 47mm Super Angulon XL good, 65mm Super Angulon also ok?" There definitely seems to be a premium with the XL lenses, but if the 65mm is the exception of decent performance at a low price then it may be my best bet. (Schneiders seem to turn up on the used sites I'm checking; I'll look for other brands shortly, but Rodenstocks seem to be rarer.)
  15. AJG


    If you check the 65 mm Schneider Super Angulons, you will find f/8 and f/5.6 versions. The f/5.6 will have a bit more covering power, and with a 65 mm on 4x5 every little bit helps.
  16. Thanks, Andrew - I'd spotted that and, since the f/5.6 65mm SA is affordable (at least, a fraction of the XL lenses), that was the one I was primarily investigating, if it's good enough.
  17. " I'll look for other brands shortly, but Rodenstocks seem to be rarer.)"
    Unlikely, Recent Calumet Caltars and all Sinar Sinarons are private label Rodenstock lenses. So besides Rodenstock branded lenses you can also get a Rodenstock with either of the above.
  18. Ah, thank you, Bob. I've still not seen so many on the couple of sites I've checked in the UK so far, but at least they exist. I'll keep checking - cheers for the heads-up. (Unhelpfully, the used camera sites in the UK seem not to know much more about these lenses than I do...)
  19. You need to be careful that the camera you select accommodates the lens you want to use. Some graphic type cameras do allow much movement with 65mm lenses. Sometimes the movements are stiff because the bellows are compressed, sometimes the bed gets in the way. Just ask somebody who has used the camera if it is a potential problem before you buy anything. A monorail will not have this problem at all.
    Also, when you make the decision to start shooting large format, be aware there is a ton of other crap you need to have with you beyond camera and lenses. Meter, dark cloth, loupe, film holders, tripod. It makes for a pretty big bag. Also, try and think through the whole workflow, film management, developing, scanning, editing.
    Good Luck with everything. I started about a year ago and will not be going back, way too much fun.
  20. :) Thanks, Seth. I'd been looking at monorails (partly for the movements, partly because they're half the price) on the assumption that I either won't take them far, or that I need the exercise. A friend took her field camera rock climbing in Zion and never used it... I choose to plan ahead. Fortunately, bag bellows don't seem to expensive, although everything adds up. Finding someone who used a camera that I want to buy from a reputable used camera store might be harder, but hopefully my research will suffice.

    The thing that's worrying me at the moment - apart from all the film disappearing - is that I'm going to have to work out how to load film in a house where every room has windows (and the same for my work place); if only there was still Quickload. I've no idea if you can load a 5x4 in a dark bag without getting stuff on it... After that, I've no interest in gassing myself with chemicals and I'm quite happy to send stuff off to be developed, especially for Velvia - and I'm hoping sticks around (it'd take a while to justify a V750). Fortunately, those dumping large format cameras on the used market mostly seem to be dumping the accessories, too. I'm currently looking at a tripod upgrade (055CXPro3 to either a RRS TVC-33 or Gitzo 5532LS), but that'll be useful for 35mm anyway.

    My current (main) camera bag holds a D800e, D700, 500 f/4, 200 f/2, 80-200 f/2.8, 14-24 f/2.8, 150 f/2.8 and some smaller primes. Unless I go 10x8 (unlikely given the film availability situation) I suspect large format isn't going to make matters worse. :) However, I may be made unduly optimistic by noting that my friend's field camera weighed less than a Nikon F5 - this may not be so true of, say, a Horseman 450LE, but a quick rummage here suggests that even this weighs only about as much as my 200 f/2 and one of the DSLRs. Though I might get some exercise before I try to use it to capture dawn at Glaslyn, especially using a DSLR as a meter.

    Thanks for the advice. I'm glad I'm not alone in moving in this direction (it makes me wonder if Fuji know what they're doing by discontinuing their larger format films). I keep hoping that Amateur Photographer in the UK might try to get people into large format - it's still a viable upgrade from a small DSLR for some uses.
  21. AJG


    A changing bag is exactly what you need, even if you do decide to brave chemistry. There are a lot of ways of developing film in lightproof tanks. Get a changing bag with a tent frame inside; I have one made be Photoflex also sold by Calumet which works well. I have loaded and unloaded hundreds of sheets of film on location with this with no dust problems. One other device worth having--a small vacuum cleaner to clean sheet film holders each time you are about to load them. I have a small cordless model made by Black and Decker with interchangeable batteries that can clean 30+ holders on a charge. Dirty holder=black spots on transparency film and a lot of Photoshop time cleaning them up.
    A bag bellows and a recessed lens board should solve the movement problem with most cameras for a 65 mm lens--shorter than that might be difficult with some designs.
  22. Ah, thank you Andrew, that's very reassuring (and helpful advice). I'll see what I can find.
  23. Andrew,
    A problem with very wide lenses I didn't see mentioned is the recessed lens board which is awkward to use. I suppose you could get use to it. That said, I never had one but have shot with friends who did and they seem to be a huge problem, in addition to the expensive center filter needs and the bag bellows.
    I use a Schneider 75mm f/5.6 Super Angulon, regular bellows on a Monorail which has worked well for me over the years getting close to the subject, but it also has a vignetting possibility if I use fall or rise too much.
    It might be a cheaper alternative though.
    I also may have the last box of Fuji Quikload in the universe, in my freezer, while waiting for motivation to shoot it.
    good luck,
  24. A problem with very wide lenses I didn't see mentioned is the recessed lens board which is awkward to use. I suppose you could get use to it. That said, I never had one but have shot with friends who did and they seem to be a huge problem, in addition to the expensive center filter needs and the bag bellows.​
    Yes, I wondered about recessed boards. I'm leaning quite firmly towards a 65mm f/5.6 Super Angulon, mostly on the basis that I can find them for sale in the UK fairly easily and cheaply, and a Horseman 450LE (for the same reason, plus a review of successfully using one in the field). Bag bellows don't seem to be too hard to find; it looks to me as though the 450LE should allow the standards to get close enough that I needn't worry too much about a recessed board, but actually finding any kind of specification on this is a bit tricky. (I also don't know whose boards are interchangeable, being new to this kind of thing.) I think I read a review suggesting that this lens didn't need a centre filter, but now I look again, it seems it does - which is a shame, because the filter seems to be substantially more expensive than the lens, mostly because I can't find it used. I don't mind fixing up most films in post, but if I'm going to run out of Velvia's dynamic range then a centre filter it is. Fingers crossed I can avoid the problem if I get a normal lens as well.

    All else being equal, I'd prefer to aim a little wider than the 75mm unless there's a significant performance improvement from the longer lens - too much field of view that I can then crop is better than too little. The price seems equivalent (and it takes the same filter) - though if the filter makes much less difference to it than to the 65, that might swing me to the longer lens.
    I also may have the last box of Fuji Quikload in the universe, in my freezer, while waiting for motivation to shoot it.
    good luck,​
    Meh, give it ten years and it'll be worth a fortune on ebay. But I sympathize - I have a load of smaller format film in the fridge which is very out of date. I'm guessing that splitting the twenty pack of 5x4 Velvia up a bit might be a good thing - repeatedly defrosting the whole lot so that I can load some dark slides with a small number of sheets doesn't seem like a good idea, and I suspect lifting out individual frozen sheets isn't so clever either... I've never had this problem with roll film!

    Thanks for your support. :)
  25. Hmm. More research suggests that a 75mm might be appreciably better from a vignetting perspective without resorting to a centre filter. Maybe that is the way I should go. They seem rarer than the 65mm, for some reason. I may have underestimated the price difference, though - the one I spotted before was shutterless. Choices choices. (I think I've persuaded myself that 90mm is too long for me, so 75 is probably the limit.)
  26. AJG


    A lens without a shutter is no bargain--you will want a leaf shutter, not a focal plane shutter or Sinar shutter for field work. I wouldn't be quite as concerned about vignetting as you appear to be--it isn't that hard to correct for at a later stage most of the time. When I shot a lot of 4x5 chrome for interiors I would light the edges a stop brighter than the center, but I never used a center filter.
    As for the recessed board, you might not need one. Check the specs for the camera you are considering and see what the minimum extension is with a bag bellows--you might be in luck. One of the things I like about my Toyo 45G is the large opening in the Toyo recessed boards that make it possible to easily change settings. Other brands don't give you as much space, and require small fingers to make adjustments. A dentist's mirror and a small flashlight can be helpful for this if you wind up with a very high or low camera position.
  27. Thanks, Andrew. The lens without a shutter was my failure to read the specs, rather than by design - otherwise, I'm really struggling to find a 75mm f/5.6 SA anywhere (although at least KEH have a center filter at a slightly more reasonable cost). I'm planning on scanning to digital, so I don't mind too much so long as I'm not throwing away all the film's dynamic range. The 65mm is now looking more tempting again, if only because it's actually possible to buy the thing.

    I finally (my google-fu must be off) found some specs for the Horseman 450LE I was considering: 60mm minimum extension with a 20mm recessed board, so I will be needing one. I suspect most monorails would be similar, though, since the swing support is going to need a bit of room.

    Fortunately, I have a dentist's mirror and a flash light. Finally I've come prepared!

    Thanks again for all the help, everyone.
  28. Dear Andrew, I have been there and done that.
    When I began professionally shooting architecture I bought a Schneider 47mm XL for tight interiors. It just covers 4x5. I also shot a 65mm Fuji, 75 Schneider XL, 90mm Nikkor F8, Schneider 110 XL, etc. Carefully handled they all produced good results, with the 90 and 110 being the sharpest. The problem is physics, the wider the lens the more the light has to be bent, and the greater the correction and manufacturing precision required.
    Then I moved to 8x10, and using the 110 XL as a super wide angle the quality blew me away. Now we were talking about 80 square inches of film as opposed to about 20 in 4x5, and that makes a really dramatic difference. I have 40x50 inch prints in which you can bury your nose and see every little detail.
    Now most of my work for clients is done with a Nikon D800E with a similar set of lenses to yours, but also all the PCs. The architectural clients are happy with the results, but when I want to really see the detail I shoot the Nikon with a vertical and horizontal panning head from Really Right Stuff and stitch the images in Photoshop. The results can be every bit as dramatic as 8x10 film, and a lot easier in terms of time and effort. I have not thrown the 8x10 away as there are still images that work better in one capture, but I do not find myself using it nearly as much these days.
    The 4x5 gets all most no use today because while the quality of a single capture can exceed the Nikon single capture it does not offer near the quality jump of good stitching or 8x10.
    Looking back to my film days I wish I had skipped 4x5 and started with 8x10.
    Jim Scholz
  29. Thanks, Jim. I started on my large format thoughts by wondering about 8x10, but was mostly persuaded that I'm unlikely to make enough enormous prints... the absence of Velvia in the larger formats is also a worry, since I'm mostly thinking landscapes. But you do a fine job of making me doubt myself! I'm generally a believer in deciding not to compromise once I've got past a certain point, and I admit that, once going to the inconvenience of large format, having done with it and going 8x10 does have some appeal. I don't think I can justify it, though - but maybe I'll be back in a year trying to work out who still makes 8x10 film.

    I've seen enough gigapixel stitched images to know that eventually any single capture format is going to give up; For many landscapes, I may get away without something like the pano-gimbal (although thanks for pointing me at it - I may at some point upgrade my Manfrotto 393, and this is an intriguing option) and rely on distance to make up for not rotating perfectly around the nodal point, although I do have a macro rail that I may be able to abuse in order to help a bit there. I'll brace myself for a combination of disappointment and a lot of stitching! (My PC lenses are off-brand and not all that good; I look enviously at the Canon 17mm, and have vague hopes that Nikon might update their T-S line-up and tempt me...)

    Anyway, crisis of confidence aside, cheers for the advice!
  30. Lots of interesting advice above, but the original question was about wide-angle landscape photos.
    This is my area of interest, and one of my solutions was: 6X12 format, 120 roll film, and a Mamiya 50mm press lens. The reasons for this combination was: ease of use (I have the 120 film developed by a commercial processor, then I scan the negs. into the computer) no distortion from a wide shot (the lens is a Biogon clone) and a relatively compact camera (a modified Mamiya Press body.)
    High resolution prints to 24" X 36" are possible with this combination of components. See the "Salmon Falls" photo at Complete step-by-step instructions for building the canera are also available.
  31. Thanks, John. Am I right in thinking that we're talking about this?

    A very nice image (in as much as is visible on the internet, obviously). The corners look surprisingly un-stretched, for (if my maths is correct) the 135-format equivalent of 16mm lens - or possibly 21mm going from your angle of view figure (I guess allowing for 12x6 actually being a bit less than this; ah, sorry, I've now read the small print and I gather it's 106mm wide). Are you happy with the corners on the full-size version?
  32. Andrew
    I shoot with a Shen Hao 4X5 using a couple of wider lenses. Most of my LF glass is Fuji and I have been very happy with the quality that I get. The widest lens that I have is the 75mm Fuji.
    Fuji 75mm
    My one Non Fuji LF lens is a Nikkor 90 f/4.5. It is a little on the heavy side for my camera but I just could not resist.
    So to get into the flow of shooting LF relax breath take your time do not rush into buying. Explore your options on lenses and camera bodies.
    If you go the Drum scan route don't bother saving up for an Epson flatbed scanner. You will not be happy with the quality in comparison to a good Drum scan
    I almost forgot. This is a nice site for LF informtation
  33. Thanks, Michael. I'll admit that I'd been rushing because of the impending disappearance of some film stocks - but that's nothing that some freezer space can't fix for a bit...

    I'll look forward to my adventures. :)
  34. Andrew,
    I don't know if you're still following this thread but, in addition to buying pre-owned, there are a couple of other ways to save money on center filters. One is to carefully plan your lens kit(s) to allow sharing. The other is to choose lenses which have aftermarket center filters available. I bought genuine Schneider center filters but chose lenses that can share them. EXAMPLE: The 3B can be shared by the 58mm SAXL and 90mm SA f/8 or 90mm f/8 Nikkor-SW.
  35. I just noticed that you're interested in 6x12cm format. If you prefer that over 4x5in (I do) and love extreme wide-angle (I do) then you may want to try a 38mm SAXL. Following is a list of my preference for a 6x12cm lens kit. Lens focal lengths are evenly spaced with 1.5x increments.
    38mm SAXL
    58mm SAXL
    90mm f/8 Nikkor-SW
    135mm Fujinon-W (early version with writing on front)
    203mm Ektar
    300mm Fujinon-C
  36. Oops, sorry about the delay. Away from my computer for a few weeks. Thanks for the feedback, Mike.

    I'm probably more interested in 5x4 than 6x12, partly because it's more of a quality jump (in film area) over my D800, but to be honest getting a high quality wide angle out of any format is my aim. I'll certainly investigate your suggestions - thank you!
  37. If I wanted to shoot full-frame 4x5 (95x120mm) and never crop to 80x120mm or 60x120mm then my lens kit would look a bit different. The 110mm SSXL is overkill for 4x5 but it's an excellent lens and a good progression after the 72mm. A compendium shade will block excess coverage which will minimize lens flair.
    47mm SAXL
    72mm SAXL
    110mm SSXL
    150mm Apo Sym
    203mm Ektar or 210mm Apo Sym
    300mm Fujinon-C
  38. Thank you Mike. Though I may have to save up a bit!
  39. Andrew,
    Apology for the delayed reply to your Oct. 19th post.
    Yes, I am very satisfied with the quality of the 2'X3' print of "Salmon Falls." It was a hand-held shot with me standing in the middle of the stream to get it. The "circle of coverage" for most Mamiya press lenses is about 120mm, so the frame size of 56mm X 106mm is about the maximum. I have dozens of film camera and lenses, but if I only had to have one, the 6x12 with the 50mm lens is the one I would keep. I have several Super-Angulons and similar lenses, plus a center filter, but the Mamiya 50mm lens is the lens that gives me the most spectacular results.
    It could be adapted to a 4x5 view camera, but would give an image of only 120mm diagonal, but within that limitation, the image would be excellent.
  40. <p>Thank you, John. (And likewise, apologies for the delay.) I'll definitely keep looking at that lens - especially if it turns up any cheaper than the last ones I saw. I may be forced to expand my medium format shooting (I currently only have a Pentax 645) by Fuji's discontinuation of 5x4 Velvia.</p>
  41. I still shoot quite a bit of 4x5 professionally and for me, Kodak Portra color negative is the only film
    worth considering for large format color. Once that is discontinued, I should have an approximate year's
    supply and the processing lab ( will be able to process C41 for at least a
    year as well. I doubt Kodak will discontinue it before 2015 given their movie film obligations but nothing
    is certain. Realistically I expect to be able to shoot large format color until 2017.

    Shooting chromes is worthless except for the fact that they look nice on a light table.

    Of course smaller suppliers like Ilford should continue to provide reasonable black and white film for
    many years afterwards as I expect there will be a small but steady demand capable of keeping a "right-
    sized" business profitable for another generation. B&W is reasonable to process in a simple home
    darkroom so my gear will not suddenly become worthless, but I am careful not to over-invest in
    extravagant equipment.

    After enjoying the experience of using many fine, exotic cameras that I wasn't able to afford back in the
    1980s-90s - wonderful Linhofs and Arca-Swiss cameras - I have settled on a versatile, professional
    quality kit built around a vintage Sinar Norma "system" camera. I also have a Crown Graphic for
    handheld and dirty work. The older Sinar Norma is, IMHO, the best of the Sinar line, with a higher build
    quality than their later F- and P-series (which are not bad at all.) I have owned a Horseman as well -
    they work well and are partially compatible with the Sinars - but for their modest price difference, they
    are a bit cruder and heavier. Also parts are not as common.

    But as with any used camera, buy on condition of the actual camera. A mint Horseman is going to be
    better than a beat-up Sinar ;-p

    Wide angle lenses on a large format camera feel different than the equivalent angle of view on a small
    format FX camera. While there are times you simply need the width to capture an entire room or
    building for an assignment, most architectural photographers find that they do the vast majority of their
    best photos with moderately wide lenses, with a fast, modern 90mm being the most popular lens
    (roughly a 28mm on FX). These would include the late model Rodenstock Grandagon N 90/4.5 and
    Schneider 90/5.6 XL lenses, neither of which are cheap even nowadays. Frankly I would start with
    either of these and a 4x5 Norma kit, shoot for a while before attempting some super wide (and I would
    opt for something like the modern Schneider 58XL if I were). I have also stitched two shots made with
    the 90mm for excellent results, plus it saved me needing to get a fancy lens for limited use.

    I would also get a 150-210mm "normal" lens for details and other subjects - these are common and
    inexpensive. Look for lenses in late model all-black Copal shutters, these will be the latest and least
    likely in need of a CLA. Avoid lenses that have been remounted into newer shutters (check serial
    numbers and reputation of seller).

    For most architectural subjects you are not using tilts, but perhaps a swing depending on your shooting
    position. Most of all you use rise and fall. If you opt for a CamboWide type camera be sure it is a later
    model with more movements.

    Other items that will assist your large format venture are getting the heaviest, tallest, best tripod
    possible. I use a Gitzo Giant #504 with the Sinar Pan-Tilt head, also the largest RRS tripod and I carry
    an aluminum step ladder. Raising the camera solves many problems ;-p You also should definitely get
    a Harrison Changing Tent for loading holders if you lack a darkroom, the tent keeps the changing bag
    from touching everything and spreading dust. Toyo makes the best film holders, although common
    Fidelity and Lisco holders in good condition are fine. A tilting Silvestri focusing loupe is nice, I prefer a
    simple 7x Horseman loupe and do not use any fresnel over my ground glass. Your DSLR is probably
    the best meter out there, once you gain some experience comparing it to your results - but the good
    thing is that Portra is a tolerant film, getting to within a stop will be fine. A Pentax Digital Spotmeter is
    the gold standard, you can easily figure the range of values in your scene with one. A polaroid 405 back
    with the current Fuji Instant pack film is also important for testing (and learning). You can scan and get
    useful professional results with skillful use of an Epson 4990-700-750 scanner, although you should
    invest in some good drum scans of your best images to know what the limitations are.

    The nice thing is that you can assemble most of this outfit for about the same price as a f/2.8 zoom
    lens ;-p

    If you think you might rather stitch digital I wouldn't fault you. A fun alternative that appeals to many
    clients and can be very satisfying is to shoot some alternative views with something like a Noblex
    612UX (the one that focuses and also has a 5mm upward shift). They are sharp in the corners.

    Good luck and buy a lot of film to help keep Kodak going!
  42. Thanks for all the advice, Frank. While I'm sure I'll use large format for many purposes (no, I haven't bought a system yet - in my defence I've been out of the country on work...) my most immediate concern is regarding wide angles. View an image shot with a long lens from close enough to see the limits in my 36MP images and it'll be very distorted by the viewing perspective (sure, there are reasons to want to see detail, but it's not part of the original experience). With a wide angle, the image appears undistorted when viewed from very close; obviously this makes centre performance the highest priority, but if there's a print large enough to give the right angle of view from a comfortable viewing distance, the corners are going to be clearly visible from other positions. In other words, I'm not so fussed about building a complete large format system, though I'm sure I'd get a normal lens and moderate telephoto just for completeness (especially if I want to try for ultra shallow depth of field portraits), but for now landscapes are my priority.
    As a personal preference, I'm not especially into architectural photography - I see its commercial benefit, but as an amateur (except for holiday snaps) I tend to see it as just riffing off the artistic design work done by the architect, much as I don't feel right about calling a photo that I may take of a statue "art". I don't necessarily have the same opinion of what others may do in this field, but I'm unlikely to take a LF camera out to do this myself. (I do have a couple of 35mm tilt-shift lenses.)
    I see tilt as being my priority over shift - I appreciate I lose a little image quality by doing so, but I feel I can fix shift/rise in post, whereas fixing the focal plane (other than by stacking) is hard to do. Of course, if I'm setting up a large format camera anyway, I'll use it - it's just not my priority interest.
    Regarding films, Velvia has a very specific spectral response which has been useful for some landscape and flower photography, giving results that I can't easily reproduce digitally (without selecting and painting portions of the scene) - so I've used it in 35mm and 645 even though I'm primarily a digital shooter. For less specific targets, including landscapes in general, I'm looking forward to Portra as well, having heard such good things about its dynamic range - if only because I don't trust my metering or filtering ability (also why I shoot digital in raw). Much as I love a large transparency (even 645 Velvia is amazing to look at compared with 135 film), I'm expecting to work mostly in digital; as for scans, I'm certainly thinking in terms of cheap drum scans.
    I look forward to doing some mono shooting as well - Clearing Winter Storm is one of my favourite photos, so I'm not biased to colour, so I hope I'll not have an obsolete camera for a while. Besides, I can always combine shots through three filters and get back to colour...
    Thanks for the system component suggestions - I'll go on researching, and look forward to taking the plunge in the new year. (I have, recently, upgraded my support system - TVC-34L, Arca D4, which should be plenty for a 5x4; I'll stash some Velvia soon before supplies dry up, then get on with shopping for a monorail.)
    I'm very grateful for everyone's input; still learning!
  43. Re what monorail: i second Frank in that i will say i like my Sinars a lot. But though the Norma is a great camera, nothing beats the ease of use of the Sinar P (for "perfection" - often such a claim is just a claim. The Sinar P really is the perfect monorail.) It's so easy to set up any shot using a P that you really have to wonder why people bother with other cameras. ;-)<br><br>Despite the Ps once being very expensive, you can find good samples for not that much at all. I recently played chauffeur for someone who bought a complete set, two very good Sinar Ps, a healthy bunch of good lenses, shutters, backs (sheet and roll film), bellows, extensions rails, cases, meters, tripod heads, etc. etc, for the equivalent of $2000. That's what you get when people decide that using a monorail is too much work, rather use a Canon DSLR instead. ;-)<br>Normas are sought after not just because they are good cameras, but also because they have that classic look. As a result, they are not that cheap.<br><br>I don't use sheet film much these days, instead put 120 film through Sinar backs, shooting mostly 6x12 (harder to scan on the Nikon Coolscans - needs two passes and a stitch) and 6x9 with the Ps. To retain wide angle capability on the smaller formats, i use the Schneider 47 mm Super Angulon XL (with center filter). Great lens, though still rather pricey, even used.<br>Add a 75 mm, 150 mm and 210 mm (all rather common, and not expensive) and you can tackle just about anything on both 4x5" and smaller roll film formats.<br><br>Putting a DSLR behind a monrail is doable, but with limitations. Unless you get a lens that does not even cover the larger roll film formats, no lens will be wide enough. The extra camera will also add to the extension, and you will find that the monorail's standards need to be real close next to each other to retain focus on anything outside the close up range (they already need to be rather close when using a short lens without the extra depth of a DSLR with adapter), quite severely restricting the ability to use any movements.
  44. Thanks, Q.G. I'm now leaning towards saving up for a Sinar - I have to say that the mechanism appeals to me. The used market must flood eventually, surely? :)
  45. The flood is in full flow, perhaps even starting to ebb already. Fresh Sinar P offerings appear on eBay almost daily.<br><br>The "best buys" are those that consist of complete sets, offered by people wanting to get rid of their complete LF equipment in one go, instead of having to sell each single piece separately. You can find such deals as the one i mentioned earlier: overcomplete sets for (relatively) little money. But probably not often on eBay. So keep an eye on local lists also.<br><br>There however are also many sellers (on eBay mostly) taking these thingies apart, selling each bit that comes off without having to use to hacksaws separately. Needless to say that if you want to assemble a complete camera that way, you'll easily spend as much on a single P camera (bank holder, basic rail, front standard, rear standard with focussing back/screen and bellows) as you would be able to get one of those complete "studio clearance" sets for.<br><br>You can also find "in between" buys (i.e. no such over-complete sets, but also more than single parts) for decent amounts of money without much trouble.
  46. P.S.<br><br>The thing that is more difficult is figuring out an affordable way to insert what you produce using a Sinar (or any other LF camera) into a digital workflow. No 4x5" sensors (except perhaps for some built for astronomers and other "special users" who can easily pay the astronomical amount such a thing would cost from their well filled research budget). Scanbacks are still expensive (though almost affordable) and take a while to produce a single image. High quality scanners that take 4x5" film are rare and expensive. The Epson flatbed thingies that "do" sheet film are affordable, do work, but are not quite as good as we would want them to be.<br>That's why i use roll film, which i scan using Nikon scanners. Seems a waste: 6x12 or 6x9 on a LF camera. But having the possibility of camera movements is sometimes important. So even though we still do not have affordable 4x5" digital backs, long live the Sinar!
  47. RE: Hybrid workflow and equipment. I decided I'm not going to buy pricey equipment. I'll get a good Epson flatbed and small printer to do small stuff. If there are images that are worth spending money on then I'll have drum scans made and I'll edit the images. Then I'll have a lab I trust make the prints. I'll never have the work volume to justify expenditures for digital equipment that's outdated in a matter of months. I'm better off spending that money on sheet film. This is what makes sense for my tiny work volume and budget. Of course, if I had piles of spare cash then I'd have the best of the best.
  48. Does indeed make sense, Mike.<br>But what you must not think is that a good (!) scanner will be outdated in a matter of months. It, like a good lens, or a good film, will be as good in ten years time as it is now (if it survives to live that long, that is. I'm counting on it, using those Nikon thingies for at least that long. Having and keeping an OS on your computer that supports the driver for them is a bit harder). It's cheaper equipment, equipment that isn't as good as it must be, yet, that becomes outdated rather quickly.<br>Buying an Epson, though cheap, but not quite as good as you might want it to be, will - because of being relatively cheap - seduce you into buying the next also cheap but slightly improved model. After ten years, you may be on your third Epson model. Going that route may still be a bit cheaper than that as-good-as-it-gets expensive scanner that you did not get, but not by much. If it is cheaper at all.<br>And you will then still be on an Epson that could have been a bit better...So is "cheap" really the least expensive route?
  49. They only way to "sort of" future-proof hardware that may lose driver support before you want to dispose of it is to keep a spare computer with the latest release OS and drivers for that HW. The same is true for SW which loses OS support.
  50. I've always been a fan of large format - I used 4x5 Graphics as a teen on occasion and bought a field camera about 15 years ago , mostly for architectural shots. On the plus side, using a large format makes me think more slowly and has made me a better photographer for the arranged deliberate style I tend toward. I think large format will have some real benefits for your photographic growth.
    On the negative side, Digital has gotten so good that for normal sized prints up to 20"x20" an 800E will yield indistinguishable results when compared to a 4x5 in terms of image quality. Many professional architectural photographers have gone to digital capture for work flow efficiency (rather than scan analog). Even the most compact field camera is a beast to carry, set up and use as compared to most digital. Before people cite weight comparisons, weight is only part of the problem - bulk, wind resistance, and fiddling with settings and adjustmens are all issues too. All these negatives equally apply to landscape work.
    Digital presents a lot of advantages and a lot of paths to the same destination. For example, you might want to look at the Gigapan "robot" which automatically takes a series of shots and with accompanying software will stitch images to yield infinitely detailed views.
    If you want to try the analog process to make you a better, or at least more widely experienced, photographer by all means try large format. If you are doing it for just the final image I would try more options in the digital world before going down the analog learning curve.
  51. Oops - sorry everyone, forgot to come back to this thread after Christmas. Thank you all for the advice.

    I'd mostly been looking at the used specialist retailers in the UK, and they tend to sell components, but the advice to check out a kit on eBay
    is good - I could afford a duff one if they're enough cheaper than going the checked-out route. The only problem is I'm not sure I'm
    experienced enough to know when one's in poor condition... Still, I'll go hunting. Fingers crossed, and maybe I should give it more urgency
    than I had.

    Re. woekflow, I'm assuming, given the cost of getting sheet film developed, that sending anything worthwhile to
    isn't extortionate. I'm not sure I'm keen to spend V750 money on "OK" results when that's a lot of scans.

    As for stitching... Well, it's a bit messy if anything moves, and rotation is not quite shifting, but I should probably look into it more. I now have
    better heads for panning than when I started this thread, but still manual. I'd not realised the gigapixel products were borderline affordable -
    though I'd noticed that skywatcher have something as well (which doubles as a telescope mount). I'm awaiting reviews. More to spend... :)

    Thanks again. I'll report what I get, and I'll probably have a whole thread full of dumb questions to ask soon. (But meantime, all advice is very
    welcome while I've yet to take the plunge.)

    Happy new year, everyone.
  52. Hi - Mr here.. I'll be running the service for as long as I'm shooting LF myself as I do my own scanning on the Howtek. I'm hoping to purchase a Heidelberg Primescan at some point which has better results in some respects.
    My personal reasons for LF are to do with the film and lens rendering as I haven't seen many DSLR results that have such a 'relaxed' look. The closest I've seen is using a Hasselblad 40mm on a Mirex tilt adapter. The rendering of that lens is absolutely beautiful and 'standard' lenses look awful in comparison (e.g. the Nikon 24PCE).
    Anyway - I use both Portra and Velvia 50 for different reasons (and some E100G, Velvia 100&100F, Ektar and Provia) they all have their place (e.g. Provia 100 and Astia for rich sunsets have a much nicer and more natural separation of colour than the Velvia's).
    I've used the 47 and 58 and they're both very sharp but the 110mm XL on 8x10 is in a world of it's own.
    You'd probably be better starting with a 65 than a 47 - the 47 is pretty extreme!

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