Large format newb question

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by roman_thorn|1, Sep 10, 2018.

  1. Hi. I’m sure similar question has been posted in the past: trying to decide between 8x10 and 4x5? My question is not which one is better but rather, is there any benefits to buying a 4x5 as a beginner when I know down the line I will still want to go to 8x10. There is a significant price difference, which I find a little strange since it’s just a light resistant box only a little bigger. My other question is, if I was to start with 4x5 as a learning tool, what normal wide lens (115mm-125mm) is available that has a big enough image circle for 8x10? Thanks in advance for any input you folks might have:)

  2. unless you have access to an 8x10 enlarger, 4x5 is a better option. Cost and availability of film can be another issue with 8x10.
    Gary Naka likes this.
  3. With 8x10 you can do displayable contact prints, of course, but the cost of equipment and supplies is substantially higher, as said.

    Since my large format work was predominantly with Polaroid Type 52 and film pack Tri-X, I only shot 4x5.

    The 4x5 format is useful for data recording.
    If you have a 4x5 enlarger, you can get "salon" size prints, but at contact print size, it's kind of puny hung on the wall.

    However, because of the investment required for 'learning,' cost is an extremely strong argument for starting with 4x5. Maybe after you fuss with all the adjustments, your path to 8x10 may not be so obvious.

    If you're going to be doing ART or ARCHITECTURE, then a view camera will be better than a press camera.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2018
  4. And don’t forget, an 810 enlargement from 45 is only a 2x enlargement. That would be the less then a 3x2” print from 35mm.

    But 45 is easier to transport and handle, weighs less, Has far more lenses available in a very wide range of focal lengths, needs a far more common and lighter tripod, probably has more direct and indirect movements on the front and the back.

    Is far less expensive, has a much greater range of film types available. And is far easier to develop and print.

    But the choice is yours!
  5. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    Hmm... I wouldn't touch 8X10
    with an 8X10 foot pole...
  6. AJG


    +1 for starting out with 4x5 instead of 8x10, for the cost of film, lens selection and other reasons. There really aren't very many lenses in the range you mentioned that would cover 8x10 with any movements, but for me there wouldn't be much point in shooting 8x10 if I couldn't take advantage of camera movements.
  7. The Nikkor-SW 120mm f/8 is a nice wide angle lens on 4x5 that also covers 8x10.
  8. Thanks so much everyone, very helpful. I'm still leaning towards 8x10, but maybe start with 5x4 and invest in the nikkor-sw 120mm.
  9. Maybe you think that 10x8 is going to get you sharper pictures than 5x4?

    I have two words: Sail area.

    It's bad enough trying to keep a 5x4 steady in a slight breeze. 4 times the bellows area makes that task even harder, especially if you opt for a lightweight wooden camera body.

    It gets quite boring waiting for the perfect wind-less day to take pictures.
  10. Some 4x5 cameras aren't much affected by the wind.

    Many moons ago, here is the "artiste" with his 4x5 Marine Combat Graphic
    In the service of the River Basin Surveys, Smithsonian Institution
    stuart_pratt likes this.
  11. I went straight to 8x10 more than 30 years ago and never regretted it.
    Back then a friend prompted me to think about why I chose the 8x10 black and white contact photograph as my principle format. This is what I wrote:

    The 8x10 contact is a canonical form with a deep history in photography.
    Grievous error aside all 8x10 contacts are technically equivalent; mine, yours, Ed Weston's, Ansel Adams'.
    No camera upgrade is ever essential or necessary.
    No image grain ever. Visually infinite sharpness and gradation are available with no particular effort.
    Cheap materials if one buys wisely. From go to whoa for less than $5.
    Enough possibilities for a lifetime of work.
    Thousands of 8x10s can be stored, they can be mailed, displayed conveniently, and they won't become a nightmare like a huge pile of giant enlargements.
    No elaborate darkroom is required, no enlarger; just a safe-lighted work space, a light, and a few trays.
    It's easy with a bit of practice do everything: film exposure, developing, mounting, matting, and framing. No need to buy expensive services from back-room people.
    It's a self-contained medium with no competition. Why would I strive against 50 million talented digital shooters climbing over each other's backs trying to get noticed?
    Anything well photographed on 8x10 seems to acquire a nobility that invites attention.
    The 8x10 photographer is pretty well guaranteed to be taken more seriously than someone plinking away with a cell-phone.
    The format offers ultimate conceptual integrity. The 8x10 is seen, exposed, processed, finished, mounted, and displayed without changing its original size or its original vision.
    There is no cropping. The photographer takes full responsibility for the content right to the edges and corners. The viewer knows they are not short-changed.
    No digital technology is used or required. No files need reformating into new media. Everything is eye readable. If you like the whole process can be completed without even using electricity.
    What do you think? Did I miss something?
  12. Yes, you did not write that 30 years ago!
    There was no digital.
    There were no serious cell phone cameras.
    You can not do 810 for $5.00.

    You can not easily dodge and burn 810 contact prints without substantial investment in a very sophisticated contact printer, and even then, it is not easy.
    If 810 prints are your goal, it is a very small enlargement from 45.
    Making 810 prints from 45 allows one to easily manipulate the image, if necessary or desired.

    Lastly, 45 is infinitely more versatile, more convenient, less expensive, much lighter, unless you get a full blown, modular studio camera!
    45 offers a vastly greater range of lenses from extreme wide angle to the longest focal length you could possibly use on most 810s to macro lenses.

    Lastly you can do creative printing on 45 like cropping or changing ratios, simply and easily when enlarging.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2018
    AJG likes this.
  13. AJG


    @ Wilmarco: That 120 Nikkor has an image circle of 312 mm at f/22. That means no camera movements to speak of on 8x10 except for closeups.
    bohdan_pryszlak likes this.
  14. Well spotted Bob! I wrote "cell-phone" yesterday to replace the ancient term "instamatic" which I doubt means anything to modern folks.
    8x10 for $5? Yes, it's possible. Shoot X-ray film or shoot paper negatives and contact print on RC paper. Or shoot Ilford Direct Positive Paper, no negative or printing required. Even real 8x10 panchromatic film can be bought today for less than $4 a sheet.

    I do also use 4x5 cameras and, as Bob says, everything is easier, cheaper, and more versatile compared to 8x10. But I reckon the bigger format has many attractive qualities as well as a certain grandeur (can't think of a better word) that keeps it as my first choice.
  15. The vast majority of users of analogue cameras, regardless of format, do not think of or use X-ray film or paper to shoot in their cameras!
  16. "It's a self-contained medium with no competition. Why would I strive against 50 million talented digital shooters climbing over each other's backs trying to get noticed?
    Anything well photographed on 8x10 seems to acquire a nobility that invites attention.
    The 8x10 photographer is pretty well guaranteed to be taken more seriously than someone plinking away with a cell-phone."

    - Sorry, but this smacks more of ego and self-aggrandisement, than of being about the actual pictures.

    If the image content or body of work is good enough, then the photographer will be taken seriously. And nobody will care a damn what camera or lens they used.

    I dare to suggest that Ansel Adams' pictures of Yosemite would have stood just as well had he used a 5x4 or, had they existed, a high resolution digital camera. Since I'm sure most of his admirers have only experienced his work as a halftone reproduction, or as an online digital image. I, for one, am among that throng.

    Likewise for Dorothea Lange's work, which mostly was shot on 5x4.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2018
  17. By good fortune, as I type this, I am surrounded by half a dozen Ansel Adams gelatin-silver photographs properly framed and hung upon my well lit wall. Three of them are from 8x10 negatives and look magnificent indeed. Two of them are from 5x7 negatives and pretty well look just as nice. One of them, Moon and Half Dome, is from a 120 format negative exposed in a Hasselblad camera and, while the composition is gorgeous, this photograph does not crackle with the technical excellence and aesthetic authority delivered by large format film.

    If the game is really about pictures of things, and I think rodeo_joe|1 is right about majority opinion, then a picture of Half Dome can be had for nothing in the digital realm. Frankly I'm not interested in what Half Dome looks like. What I care about, at some personal expense, is what Ansel Adams' photograph of Half Dome looks like and then to possess that photograph. Different game.
  18. "By good fortune, as I type this, I am surrounded by half a dozen Ansel Adams gelatin-silver photographs properly framed and hung upon my well lit wall."

    - Good fortune indeed!
    Anyone wishing to see an original Adams' print these days would have to do so in the half-gloom of an overly-protective museum environment.

    My point was that Adams' artistry shines through; notwithstanding the inevitable loss of detail in a halftone reproduction, or in a limited resolution and lossy JPEG file.

    I did manage to find a small pocket book (A6 sized?) with low dpi count reproductions that reduced his images to mundanity. The publishers must have been quite proud of that feat!

    Equally, some of his less than empathetic portraits could have been taken and contact-printed from 20"x16" negatives, and would still look deathly boring.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2018
  19. There something very appealing about shooting 8x10, but ultimately I have to agree with the others that 4x5 is the place to start.

    Frankly, when I shoot large format I want to use familiar and well characterized emulsions, and ideally ones that I've "learned" in smaller formats. Xray film, technical film, and paper can be fun to play with, but when it matters I like how "real" photo films like FP4+(one of my mainstays), TXP320, and Velvia behave rather than having to guess with unconventional media.

    Someone cited that it's "possible" to shoot 8x10 for under $5 a sheet. That price gets me real, in date Velvia(of course processing is a few more dollars, whether I do it myself or send it off) in 4x5. The last time I checked, that same sheet of Velvia was $15-20 in 8x10, and commercial labs charge 4x as much to process it. TXP320 is $2 a sheet in 4x5, but $8 in 8x10. FP4+ is a bit over $1 a sheet in 4x5, and again scales nice and linearly to around $5 a sheet in 8x10.

    4x5 equipment is much more plentiful in the used market. As an example, a lot of the 8x10 photographers I know might only have a handful of film holders, and even used they might run $20-50 each. By contrast, I couldn't tell you how many 4x5 holders I have, and if I walked into my local camera store and said I wanted to spend $100 on 4x5 holders, I'd probably walk out with more than I could carry if not just get told to go clean the shelf off and grab another box out of the back room.

    You can add an 8x10 kit down the line if you're so inclined, but you can still get eye-popping results with 4x5 if you do your part.

    Of course, it's also worth asking how big you see yourself printing. If your end goal is something like 16x20, you're probably not going to see a difference-provided you start with a good negative-between a 4x5 and 8x10 original.
  20. jakenan

    jakenan Guest

    get the 8x10
    you can always sell it if you
    want something smaller
    paper negatives, lith film and xray film
    are cheep ... don't forget the film holders
    and tripod .. and processing 8x10 film
    is a lot more difficult than smaller formats.
    good luck!

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