Shooting large format cameras VS anything else?

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by Ricochetrider, Dec 4, 2020.

  1. Howdy folks.

    Been sort of toying with the idea of getting a bigger camera. Along this line, I was thinking about something like a 4x5, and I'm wondering just how different this experience is from shooting a smaller, handheld camera such as medium format, or from any other camera for that matter?

    Are exposure times, other functions, or techniques all that different?

  2. Yes! Completely! - Google is your friend and will provide all the info you need.
    Ricochetrider likes this.
  3. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Had a minty old 5x7 for several years. Great fun, every use had to be planned, and was a bit like an expedition, since you had at a minimum, cased camera with film holders and lenses plus a big tripod and dark cloth, not to mention light meter. Other than the number of available exposures, the photographic process isn't any different than with any manual film camera. Probably the easiest sessions were portraits, since you never left the house. Plan on a lot of interest if you use one in an area with foot traffic, people find the process anachronistic and fascinating. At one point, many years ago, between jobs, I had to let it go. Since I haven't revived my darkroom for film cameras I have, the odd urge to get another view camera gets tabled.
  4. Technically, the fundamentals aren't a bit different than small cameras. That said, the whole process and way of thinking is different and much slower. BTW, don't forget that the image is upside down!
  5. The fundamentals indeed are still the same. But it is a much slower proces. And you have to carry much more in bulk and weight.
    Ricochetrider likes this.
  6. Thank you everybody. It’s just a pipe dream at the moment but doesn’t everything begin this way?
    NHSN likes this.
  7. Funny, I've been vaguely thinking about large format myself.

    In my case, I can only handle 8x10 in my tiny bathroom/darkroom, so huge prints wouldn't be the goal. As I have no room for a 5x4 enlarger (mine has to break down into a suitcase), I'd be looking at shooting and contact printing 8x10 - and that's about where I've stopped thinking for now.

    Things to consider are:

    Are you going to process and print yourself?

    Even if you have a lab process your film, you're still going to need a darkroom or big changing bag to load the film holders.
    charles_escott_new likes this.
  8. Large format is simultaneously frustrating and rewarding.

    The cameras tend to be big-even in 4x5-and can be intimidating. EVERYTHING on them is manually operated, and there are no interlocks to keep you from messing things up. Fogging, double exposures, and blank exposures are incredibly easy if you don't mind your Ps and Qs. Add to the fact that the "stakes" are very high for every frame. Even inexpensive B&W film runs over 50¢ a sheet, and if you get into shooting transparency film you can easily run $5/sheet plus about that much to process it.

    LF cameras, in general, are very flexible both literally and figuratively. Monorails typically have tilt, swing, rise, fall and shift on both the front and rear standards. Other types of cameras will have fewer movements-i.e. on a Speed/Crown Graphic you have a small amount of front rise and fall(more rise than fall, and fall takes some interesting contortions), some front tilt, and a small amount of front shift. Technical cameras like the Linhof have a few more movements, and field cameras tend to have even more.

    Exposure is the same, with the caveat that you REALLY have to start paying attention to light fall-off at closer focus distances. The larger the format, the more of an issue this is. At full-frame-headshot distances, you'll need some exposure compensation.

    The film handling is a set of skills unlike anything you've ever encountered in photography. You need to load your film holders in the dark, which is easy with a bit of practice, but still not a "natural" skill. Dark slide handling is a big deal, and of course keeping straight your exposed and unexposed film.

    When mastered, the results are second to none, and make it all worthwhile.
  9. You do indeed.
    But it is not correct that there is a difference here between formats. There isn't.

    What you will have to get used to is that you probably will not be using TTL metering. TTL metering is what hides the fact that you need exposure compensation. And TTL metering is the standard in miniature and even medium format photography. So stay alert and remember that you probably will need to correct a non-TTL metered exposure suggestion.

    But no matter what format, every time you focus in from infinity, you need to compensate exposure. The more the closer you get. No difference. The same amounts.
  10. I don't dispute that correction is always needed, however my point is that normally even in 6x7 we wouldn't worry about it at less-than-macro distances.

    In 4x5, filling the frame with a person's head may work out to something in the range of 1/3 life size, where exposure compensation is most certainly needed. For the same framing in a smaller format, we would be working with a much lower magnification ratio and in MF the compensation would be small if needed at all. In 35mm, it would be insignificant.
  11. My background is largely news photography and my first experiences with large format were eye opening. I was going through 20-plus rolls a week and all of a sudden six exposures in a day was quite a change not to mention all the things I can do with a monorail that don’t exist on an F2. It’s different but but worthwhile.

    Rick H.
  12. Erm, a 4x5" is pretty close to MF and there is a transition / gray zone. For my Technika I have a Graphlock and also a slide in roll holder, to shoot 6x7 on 120 + strap, grip, VF and rangemeter coupled lenses and I wouldn't know why on earth I(!)* should lust after an additional native 6x7 camera. I suppose if you shop for a higher end monorail (precion wise), you could be very happy using roll holder and focusing hood on a slider and a bag bellows and MF appropriate WA lenses.
    Depends? - How to start nailing those? - Film is film, no matter which format and almost maxed out at ISO 400. - Let's look at crop factors: A 4x5" standard lens is 3x as long as for 35mm or 6x as long as your MFT stuff's. - You have to apply that crop factor to your aperture rings, to get images with similar DOF: MFT @ f2 = 35mm @ f4 = 4x5" @ f12. So the 4x5" will need that tripod earlier than the others or you'll have to crank up your strobes' output.

    4x5" and FF with f2.8 zoom are a wash at the body building frontier.

    Different experience depends on how you choose to focus and compose. 4x5" can be handheld press cameras or SLRs with WLFs, nothing extraordinary special about that. "Different" starts when you put them on tripods & apply movements.
    • Prepare to get stronger than reading a newspaper on your table glasses, to use under your dark cloth.
    • Be either able to process film yourself or prepare to file bankruptcy. Don't even think about doing color in LF; that would become insanely expensive.
    Some folks mentioned portraits. While LF seems able to pull off "the ultimate bokeh shot" easily, you'd have to pair an ultra patient benevolent and "professional actor"-type of subject with a view camera, since you 'll need a long while of absolutely no head movements for stopping down your lens, getting your shutter closed and ready and some film in too. - To me it seems hard enough to work subjects with the other camera concepts. While I appreciate a swiftly auto focusing SLR, I'd even love to get my hands on an eye-AFing MILC. - I missed shots due to manual focus.

    Big LF problem: Packing
    Dedicated backpacks seem rare and original suitcases aren't what an amateur enjoys toting around. - Most things I've seen mean spending quite a while to rig your camera up, compared to lens cap off & *snap*.
  13. Really fine portraits have been done with LF cameras near to forever. Look at Karsh for inspiration. Portraits
  14. If wanted, TTL metering is available for 2x3 and 4x5 view cameras (Horseman Exposure Meter) and for 4x5 and up (Sinar/Gossen).

  15. Thanks again to everyone for the comments. Definitely food for thought. Only one camera I use now has any sort of metering, so that's not a problem.
  16. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I find it interesting that some easy things become very difficult in responses on threads. Portraiture with a view camera simply requires a little advance prep (as does a field excursion). Camera and lights roughly positioned in front of the chosen background. Once your model is in place, adjust lights and camera position, meter, set the camera and shoot - the same as other manual film cameras. I even shot some boudoir type shots with that old 5x7 - worked just fine.
  17. I'm hooked. I prefer slow. The results are outrageous. See here:

    Point Defiance in Color (Crown Graphic/Rodenstock/Velvia 100F))

    My pack now weighs 25 lbs., including the Manfrotto 055 xprob. So, the workout is free!
  18. I solved the packing problem at the Goodwill lunchbox space. Crown Graphic fits in Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. Film holders go in rectangle professiional insulated box. Dark cloth stuffs in a tiny purple and pink elephant kindergartner's snack box. Lenses go in my smallest camera bag. All fit modularly in an Osprey day pack with a real lunch and tripod strapped to the side. Cheap. Works. Heavy.
  19. My solution to the transport problem: hard and soft cases, cardboard boxes. Trolley. And a car.
  20. Only if you call a 95mm x 120mm image 'close' to 56mm x 70 ~ 82mm. And discount the ability to use lens rise/fall, sideways shift and tilt, plus similar back movements, and all to a far greater degree than any T/S lens allows you.

    Exposure is exactly the same as with any other size or type of camera. It just costs you more!
    wonner and peter_fowler like this.

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