Musings on LF use.

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by rodeo_joe|1, Jan 18, 2019.

  1. Maybe this belongs in another forum, but.....
    I find it quite sad that this LF forum gets neglected for days or even weeks on end. Does that reflect a wane of interest in LF use?

    We're told there's a renewed interest in film (AKA analogue - yuck!), but that seems to be limited to 35mm or rollfilm.

    Now even the most ardent film fan has to admit that digital cameras can easily exceed the quality of 35mm, and pretty much match that of medium format film. So why bother with them? When 5"x4" and above is just so much better. With limitations on portability obviously.

    Then we hear the nouvelle (pretentious, moi?) pro-film converts bleating 'film slows me down' - as if it's a good thing, and that you can't work as slowly as you like using any medium. Well, what slows you down more than using sheet film and an LF camera?

    Then there's the ability to use camera movements without spending a fortune on a special lens that offers a pathetically limited range of adjustment.

    So, why the apparent waning of interest in LF, when it would appear to offer so much in the face of digital competition?
  2. I am a recent convert to social media. I joined Facebook not for "friends" but for the public and private "groups". There are very active LF "groups" such as the one for 5x7/13x8 and the one administered by Steve Simmons, and also some camera specific groups, e.g. one for Linhof users.
  3. As an ex-dinosaur, having worked in Mainframe computers since 1966, when the asteroid hit, I decided to climb on board and join the revolution.

    I enjoy the convenience of digital photography, including the camera in my Samsung S5 phone. However, since also having an avid interest in LF since 1966 with the joys and heartaches inherent in an analogue processes, I still get a thrill looking at the ground glass of my 5x7 Linhof Kardan Bi.

    Camera movements - once you have seen this in action, it is hard to go back to those old-fashioned "fixed" camera systems, both digital and analogue.

    I still dream of a super fast scanning back for LF cameras, or even an economical "one-shot" super size sensor. The nearest to this dream at the moment is adapting the Fuji GFX camera body. Current larger sensors are far too expensive.
  4. I am not sure that it is as much a waning of interest as it is the venue... and I don't mean that as a derogatory comment! If you visit the Large Format Forum website, while there is certainly less activity than there once was, it is still pretty active. I sometimes go for weeks without logging in here simply because there is apparently such a low participation rate for LF - on the other hand I can't recall when I last missed a day on LFF. I hesitate to say this because I may be completely wrong, but I think it may be a case of trying to "be all things to all people." I will also concede that, by not posting here in the LF forum, that makes me part of the problem (if indeed it is a problem). I only came back here at all because I recently started shooting medium-format again (finally left 8x10 because I just got too old to pack it on the trails). Photo Net simply isn't known as a hotbed of LF activity and (I think) the majority of us on LFF are "old geezers" who have been there for years. Bottom line - maybe a start a thread on "your favorite LF Field Camera and why" ... see if there are enough folks around who are willing to converse. (By the way rodeo_joe, your posts are indeed some of the ones I always look for because I find them well thought-out and expressed.)
    I tried digital with a full-frame DSLR, large-format printer, etc - just didn't like it... my darkroom is too comfortable and too much fun/challenge, I still can pack my 4x5 and do MF as the "walk-around-town" stuff.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2019
    andyfalsetta likes this.
  5. AJG


    I agree that LF has real advantages over smaller film formats and I have shot thousands of sheets for both commercial and personal use. But even though the cameras and lenses are very reasonable to buy on the used market now, sheet film is still expensive and processing is more difficult, which limits interest for amateurs. Despite an apparent uptick in film sales I still don't see film as a viable economic option for the vast majority of commercial photography so the lack of interest in LF isn't a huge surprise. There is also the fact that LF cameras, tripods, sheet film holders, etc. are bulky and heavy and many people are unwilling or unable to deal with hauling all of it around. It is human nature to want spectacular results with minimum effort, and LF has never been easy or quick.
    pablo_escobar and Jochen like this.
  6. AJG pretty well nailed it... add to that the fact that many folks today have never actually seen or had the ability to touch a large-format camera. It is a discipline which is not easily acquired and can be daunting for the beginner but for some of us I believe it is as much a love of the process as it is the product. I will readily admit that my foray into digital was sheer folly, not as the result of the equipment, but the process. Could I have slowed down and approached it in the same fashion that I use with LF... yes but it didn't work out that way and I found that the lack of camera controls - tilts, swings, shifts, rise and fall - just didn't accommodate my "vision" (pompous term not really intended). Film (sheet) is admittedly expensive and chemicals more difficult to acquire but I haven't processed more than one sheet of film at-a-time for over 45 years and I rarely make more than 3-4 exposures on any outing, preferring to go back to the same location over and over under different seasonal/lighting conditions - sometimes not making any exposure at all. It isn't an approach that is suited to everyone and if you have never experienced it there is little reason to start down that path.
    Jochen likes this.
  7. - Err, no. I think I'll pass on that 'Ebony versus Ivory' type of discussion. My old MPP Micro-technicals and a DeVere Devon rescued from a skip are the totality of my interest in LF camera equipment. I really couldn't care less about someone else's Gandolfi or Sinar.

    As, I said, I find it sad that newcomers to film just want to take the easy option, and seem unwilling to put the effort into making images with the best quality possible.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2019
  8. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I did much enjoy using my old 5x7 kit, but sold it many years ago. Recent Classified for a very nice appearing 4x5 kit was tempting, but reality set in. I don't even use my 35mm film cameras as much I should, and the darkroom remains in cartons. Resolved to shoot more film, but digital is so convenient and affordable.
  9. If the films I used in my 4x5 camera were still available, I'd likely still be shooting those cameras.

    Ansel Adams was certainly a star of the large format, but in 1984 he said

    Ansel Adams
    1984 Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs.
    ISBN 0-8212-1 5 51-5

    I give full credit to the excellent scientists
    and technicians involved in the photographic
    industry. The research, development,
    and design aspects, as well as
    production, are extraordinary. However,
    very few photographic manufacturing technicians
    comprehend photography_ as an art
    form, or understand the kinds of equipment
    the creative person requires. The
    standards are improving in some areas,
    however: in my opinion modern lenses approach
    the highest possible levels of perfection,
    and today's negative and printing materials
    are superior to anything I have
    known and used in the past. I am sure the
    next step will be the electronic image, and
    I hope I shall live to see it. I trust that the
    creative eye will continue to function,
    whatever technological innovations may

    develop. [emphasis JDM]
    sjmurray likes this.
  10. Sandy... Sad but true. Added to everything else the demise of large-format shutters and the withdrawal of most of the lens manufacturers (the very few remaining are astronomical in price). While one can still find good used equipment, the technicians who are really competent are getting "long in the tooth" and parts have to be cannibalized. I will continue with 4x5 as long as I am able after having divested myself of 8x10 at 72. Do I miss the 8x10 ground-glass - you bet, but with film cost, equipment weight (and bulk) and diminishing physical capacity it was time!
  11. I'm a bit of a contrarian, and I'm still building up my gear. A number of years ago, I sold all my film gear (35mm, medium and large format) in favor of shooting only digital. I had done portraits, weddings, and a bit of commercial work, earning quite good money.

    Fast forward, I was in a photo shop which specializes in used gear. They had a Cambo SC, a Caltar 210mm f/5.6 lens, and a dozen film holders. I'd held on to my changing bag and focusing hood, along with my Pentax Spot Meter. While my shooting speed slowed a huge amount, my pleasure in the process of creating an image increased hugely. Since buying the Cambo, I've picked up a number of lenses in Japan, and two more 4x5 cameras (Super Graphic and a Tower Press for field use). I have to send out my E6, but the C41 and B&W are still processed in a local lab. It's expensive, yes, but the results are very satisfying.

    After amassing thousands of negatives and transparencies, I opted to scan them myself. There's now a 3rd world of art, editing the scanned images that the printers could never achieve to my satisfaction.

    Is the large format going to end? Quite surely. However, as long as it does, I'm going to enjoy the art.
  12. Good for you Dennis... I believe the "nail-in-the-coffin" for LF is still a long way off simply because there is so much stuff to cannibalize and, film and papers are still being produced. I still do all of my darkroom work ( I would continue even if there were commercial labs accessible to me) and the joy of the process is undiminished.
  13. I agree that it's the expense and shortage of materials that's killing LF.

    It's always involved large and cumbersome equipment, so nothing has changed there.

    I would gladly process my own C41 - it's no harder than B&W using a Jobo CPE-2 - but getting hold of the chemicals is expensive and a pain. No longer just a trip to my local photo store and handing over pocket money.

    Having said that; it does seem perverse that 35mm film 'thrives' while formats that can genuinely compete on quality with digital are seemingly dying on their feet.

    Had he survived, I'm sure Ansel Adams would have embraced digital. I'm equally sure he'd have been appalled at the lack of support for camera movements in today's digital offerings, and the lack of sensors bigger than a 127 film frame.
    AJG likes this.
  14. I have my 5x7 sitting there with several Schneider and Leitz projection lenses available. Could I load up some Cibachrome 5x7 sheets and shoot? I seem to remember that Cibachrome had an ISO of about 3. Checked the freezer but none there, or for that matter, the required chemicals for the Uni Drum Roller system - just a bad dream.
  15. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I liked Cibachrome a lot, though the chemicals were a bit nasty. I still have all the hardware, but I'm fairly sure paper and chemicals are no longer produced. Nice long lasting prints - too bad.
  16. Sorry, but if I have a large format question I'm asking it on the Large Format Photography forum, not on here.

    That's where the knowledge is, and I also don't have to deal with obnoxious ads or pop-overs, incompetent programming, and the way this site is run.

    I shoot a decent amount of large format, but this is not the place I want to go to ask about it.

    BTW, the Large Format Photography forum has a reasonable amount of activity.
  17. Well stated Ben - and not at all surprising given the focus of the site.
  18. I would say that film discussions here as a whole are moderately strong, and there are still some good discussions. It's just mostly limited to 35mm and MF, and as much as I love LF I do shoot more roll film than I do sheet film.

    Large format is a different story, though, and I also know that if I want to get technical on film there are folks on LFF who know as much if not more than here(and of course a handful that post both places).
    Bill C likes this.
  19. OK. I wasn't even aware of the existence of the LFF site until it was mentioned above. It appears that many former contributers here have migrated there - not sure why.

    I've been using for many years - previously under another username - and understood it to be the most active photo forum. How fickle some people can be!
  20. has never been strong in LF. Some new shooters maybe started to join discussions here but I think they use to migrate fast to more specialized forums.
    Others joined after joining the mentioned LF site (as is my case).
    In fact, I always wondered why you were not there... :)
    About the renewed interest on film, I think it is just wishful thinking. At least in my surroundings, film based image is a one try kind of hobby. Very few people like it in its whole.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2019

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