Musings on LF use.

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

  1. - I can't agree more. But I still can't help thinking that if more people tried LF photography they'd be enticed to stay by its superior image quality over anything else available.

    OTOH, maybe good enough is, well, good enough.
    akocurek likes this.
  2. Too me, nothing quite compares to seeing a well-exposed 4x5 transparency on a light table(I'm sure 8x10 would be even more dramatic, but I'm also not fond of ~$30 a shot).

    It's the same "wow" I got the first time I shot Velvia in 35mm in the first place, and then when I first shot medium format. Every step up in format brings its own change in impression.

    I wish I DID shoot more 4x5, but ultimately the convenience of lab processing color wins out. B&W also somewhat gets shuffled aside, at least for now, because I don't have a 4x5 enlarger. I've been offered them for free or cheap, but they're always too far away from me...

    I do have a very old, but nicely built contact printer for 4x5(yes, I know you don't need a special one, but having one to keep the film absolutely flat is handy) but when I print I'd rather have an 8x10 at the minimum.
    akocurek likes this.
  3. You folks have tons more experience than I at LF but what I can add/agree with is the love of the process that comes with shooting LF. After spending a fair amount of energy transporting equipment, a minimum (for me) of ten minutes to compose my shot, Even the simplest of shots with a LF camera has a presence that I just haven't seen in any other format. I have had my Linhof for two years and have shot solely b/w that I develop myself, usually 8 or so sheets at a clip. But Its not hard to understand that LF has no appeal to an audience whose first inclination is to figure out how to hold the camera in one hand and to point it at themselves.
  4. Sadly true.
  5. I will toss this out that one thing POSSIBLY hindering large format adoption is processing issues.

    I've said for a long time that anyone doing B&W in any format should be processing it themselves-not only is it simple and inexpensive, but short of the lab processing by hand you can actually give each emulsion/EI the development it needs and also use different developers to their advantage. I've said before that, for example, at 20ºC D76 straight will give usable results with most any B&W film on the market(and my local lab does pretty much just that, albeit in a minilab at higher temperature for shorter time). "Useable" and "Optimum" are not the same, though.

    Daylight tanks are certainly around for 4x5, but they're not as plentiful as roll film tanks. Tray developing, or developing in an old hard rubber tank with stainless hangers, requires a dark room(not just a changing bag)...and a darkroom that's workable for printing may still be too bright for handling film with 10-20x the sensitivity of paper.

    There's also the fact that cheap 35mm enlargers abound, and even really high end ones(it's hard to justify me keeping a separate 35mm enlarger, but at the same time I genuinely enjoy using my Focomat V35 too much to get rid of it) are not that expensive or large. Something like a Beseler 23 will go up to 6x9(and can do double duty for 35mm), isn't that expensive, and isn't terribly large either. There's no getting around the fact that most all 4x5 enlargers, even if free, are physically quite large and may be pushing the limits of a home darkroom.

    Color, of course, can be done at home, but is a LOT of work and something I do out of necessity, not desire. I'd much rather let a lab dealing with a significant volume of film and running control strips handle my color processing.

    The fact of the matter, though, is that there are just not that many labs around that will handle sheet film for any process type. In my reasonably sized city, I know of three C-41 minilabs, two B&Ws, and one E-6 lab. All of them will do 35mm and 120/220 all day, but it's physically impossible for them to handle sheet film. Even large volume commercial labs like Dwayne's don't do sheet film. The last lab I knew of in Kentucky that could handle sheet film closed in ~2007, and they only did C-41(dip and dunk). If they were still around, I'd likely only do C-41 color, but since I'm pretty much stuck doing it myself or shipping, I just opt for E6 since I prefer it anyway. It goes without saying that commercial labs are expensive.

    Still, like I said, nothing beats a transparency on the light table. If I had an enlarger, I might be tempted to experiment with C-41 and making optical RA-4 prints from my 4x5 negatives, but doing RA-4 at home is another headache also. If Cibachrome were still around, I'd be tempted to at least try it(if anyone has paper and/or chemistry lying around that they don't see themselves using, please let me know! If it's enough to make it worth my while learning it, I'd try it).
  6. AJG


    @ Ben: Be grateful that Cibachrome isn't around any more--I did prints for a show of my work back in the day and mixing the bleach from powder for that was horrendous. I know that you have access to a well ventilated lab for mixing so it wouldn't be so bad for you, but for me in the basement/laundry room darkroom that I had at the time it was probably the worst chemistry (health wise) that I have ever worked with.
    As for LF and labs, when I shot a lot of it commercially I had to ship it out to process since my local E6 lab had a small roller transport machine that did 35 and 120/220 but not anything bigger. At that time some pro labs used the wonderful Refrema dip and dunk machines that did anything up to 8x10 with the right hangers or reels for small formats. My favorite lab had a standard 2 hour turn around for E6 so when a client absolutely had to have it ASAP I would drive the hour or so to the lab, drop my film off and have a nice lunch and espresso at the nearby cafe and then come back ad pick up my finished film, which they always did to perfection. You're right that there is probably nothing as satisfying as looking at a good transparency on a color correct lightbox with a good loupe for checking out details.
  7. @AJG

    Funny enough, I was talking to a chemist friend this weekend and swapping "war stories." We were in "mixed company" with non-chemists, and when she mentioned having to mess with an HF pickling bath at work I had a shiver go up my spine(my worst one was on dealing with a cylinder of fluorine gas). In any case, I get a bit numb to it, but admittedly also don't have great ventilation at home. If I deal with photographic "nasties" I usually mix them at work to use at home.

    In any case, the lab I mentioned above was a half hour away from me. They would run E-6 twice a day-at 10:00 and 2:00. If you got there by 10:00, they'd usually have your film ready by 1:00, and the 2:00 run would be ready by closing time at 5:00. I'd generally drop my film off, kill some time at the camera store a few miles up the road, have lunch, and then kill time in the lobby of the lab if it wasn't ready when I got back around.

    Come to think of it, that particular lab had a rather large roller transport machine for E-6. I just tried to dig up their website on the Wayback machine, but now that I think about it they MIGHT have been able to do 4x5 and maybe even 8x10.

    Also, my web hunting found another place in Lexington, KY that is mostly a professional photography service but also runs a small lab as an offshoot, and claims to "occasionally" run E-6 in a D&D processor. I shot them an email to see what they say, as the thought of not having to do my own E-6 makes me anxious to go out and shoot some LF...
  8. AJG


    There were bigger roller transport processors, but they were much more likely to scratch film if not kept perfectly clean. A friend of mine who worked in a lab that ran one once trashed an entire 8x10 shoot for a big time NYC photographer--it wasn't pretty... The Refrema was the Rolls Royce of the D&D machines--excellent temperature control and accurate, repeatable agitation and replenishment. But they only made sense with very high volume.
  9. In Jacksonville FL Fototechnika has a dip and dunk machine they use for B/W and C41 (but no E6!). They can't handle 8x10 or 5x7, but they have processed my 4x10's by using 2 4x5 holders. They did a few back in 2012 but the processing was a little inconsistant, so I haven't tried since. I have since sold my 4x10 Fotoman and replaced it with a Linhof Kardan TL with a 4x10 back from China, but it is waiting on some modifications I had done by a local machinist that requires some work (by me) to reattach the rack and pinion mechanism. Using a SA 90mm f/5.6 makes for a nice 4x8 without any movements on the 4x10 film. As the Fotoman guy once said, that is a supersized 6cmx12cm format when he agreed to make a cone for the 90mm SA.
  10. I guess it depends on what circles you hang in really...

    I know several of the young people (18-23) I mentor have taken up LF and quiet like it, but they would not likely be on here and most certainly not LFF who's age bracket really shows in the poor attitudes and especially the oppressive moderation practices used. Besides expense of materials, one of the problems LF might be having in terms of recruiting new users is just how tragically boring much of the imagery shown on the web is. People go on and on about the technical image quality and yet the resultant images often have no pulse, just flat in every way imaginable. But somehow because it took a long time to setup and is a really nice sharp and grainless negative, it is supposed to be a better photograph?

    I use 4x5 and some of my work, but it is not my favorite format to work with due to how many boxes need to be checked before tripping the shutter, often in critical lighting nuances that are fleetingly brilliant and need faster reaction times. MF is by far my favorite for this reason, still big enough image area to handle enlargements up to 45" inches but far more controllable in fast changing or adverse conditions.

    I think LF is alive and well, but people who are considering trying it need to see some better imagery made with it because most of it is pretty lackluster.
  11. Unfortunately the costs of film/processing have doubled since I sold my 4x5 in 2011. Not only that, the couple of options that I had for local processing are gone. I used to pick up next day. Now my only option would be to mail them in, wait one to two weeks for processing, and then get them mailed maybe 4 weeks if lucky, maybe 6 weeks!

    I am considering going back to 6x6 but that is for an extremely unique lens/camera with equally unique uses. So the expenditure each year would be minimal. Nothing about the cost of 4x5 film/processing is minimal.

    Hence, I believe the reduced interest.
  12. has always had the best forum presentation on the internet. The easiest to read and to follow post by post. I have never had pop ups and there is only one small consistent spot at the top of each page that has advertising. I don't even notice it anymore. I will certainly refer to the other website for the odd bit of research but my main focus will always be here.
    Vincent Peri likes this.
  13. Now I'm intrigued.
    May one enquire further about this 'uniqueness'?
  14. Probably a Hasselblad superwide with 38mm Biogon. I was tempted once but luckily that idea passed before I made the stupid (for me) decision!
  15. Ahh...the SWC with 38mm is not even wide enough for me! I just found out in the last few months that my Canon 17 TS-E has enough coverage to even be shifted when on the Fuji GFX 50R and 50S (not to mention new 100mp body). Of course these bodies are in the $5500-6500 CDN range, with no affordable used ones available for another 5 years. There is also a digital German system in the $10,000 range. So I started researching putting my 17 onto a 6x6 medium format film camera. The 17 TS-E has a circle of coverage of diameter 67.2mm so most of it will fit in a 56mm x 56mm frame of 6x6 using 120 film. I can then scan and crop to whatever rectangular proportion or square within that frame.

    By the way I don't scan my 6x6, I photograph them with 35mm full frame DSLR at approximately 1:1. I typically stitch 6 images to create the final 56mm x 56mm image. I was very successful copying my old 6x6 and 4x5 images using my 5D II, and macro lens copying jig. Now that I have a used 5DS R I may not need as much stitching...maybe 2 images for 6x6.

    I am currently investigating using the Mercury Camera Works system for using the 17 TS-E to expose onto a 6x6 roll film back. Obviously I can't use the whole image size of 56mm x 56mm but it will be vastly wider than the 38 biogon, which is just about the widest you can get in medium format. If I can achieve this the final outcome from shooting the 17 TS-E to get say a 44mm x 50mm image will be an equivalent view that is wider than a 10mm lens on 35mm full frame DSLR. Of course a Canon 11-24 would do the trick but up here in Canada that is $4500 CDN. I believe each exposure on 6x6 will cost about $2-3 CDN so I can take one heck of a lot of film images for the $4500-6500 options.

    As I said, a very unique lens/camera combo and one that I won't even use 10 rolls for in a year. If I get lucky, and assuming the Mercury works, the whole camera will cost under $500 USD.

    P.S. I currently shift and stitch full frame images from the 17 TS-E to provide a final size of 36mm x 48mm or 24mm x 60mm, which is approximately equivalent to a 12mm lens on full frame DSLR. Stitching means photographing absolute still scenes (clouds and leaves moving can have adverse effects). If I can achieve below 10mm equivalent (which really intrigues me) and get 44mm x 50mm or 36mm x 56mm size and do it with one exposure...then wow!
  16. Since it is such a wide combo I will likely still have to use focus shift and stitch methods to get the depth of field that I will need. This is much easier than shifting and stitching though. I currently use both methods together for extreme situations with the DSLR.
  17. 38mm might be the widest rectilinear lens for 6x6 but both Rollei and Hasselblad offered both the 40mm rectilinear and the 30mm fisheye for their 6x6 SLR camera’s. The 30 was quite a bit wider then the 38!
  18. There are a few more fisheyes available for medium format but I don't want the curves for my purposes.

    To bring this conversation back a little closer to 4x5 the other option is to use a Schneider 47/5.6 SA XL on a 4x5 body with a 6x12 roll film back. This would provide a wider rectilinear view than the SWC. It would get to about a 14mm lens on full frame DSLR, so I think my 17 TS-E would be more fun, and half the cost.
  19. Get the 35mm Apo Grandagon if you want rectilinear extra wide on roll film.

    And what format 6x12? Linhof = 56 x 120 or the other ones that are closer to 56 x 112?

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