View camera for portrait studio work

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by andrew_horodysky|1, Nov 9, 2008.

  1. Hi everyone,

    I would like to solicit some recommendations for view cameras for studio portraiture work.

    Preferences for 4x5 vs 8x10 and visa versa? Lenses?


    What do you use, and why?

  2. When you say "for studio work", essentially what you are saying is "weight doesn't matter". In that case, there
    are three cameras that fit the bill - the Sinar P2, the Arca Swiss Monolith and the Linhof Kardan Master. They
    all have the vast array of movements and other features that studio work is likely to need.

    However, only for portraiture, you rarely need all the features of a full fledged studio monorail; in fact for
    portraiture you'll be quite OK with a Shen Hao or Tachihara field camera, or one of the Arca Swiss F series
    cameras, like the F metric with Orbix or a Sinar F2. Or for that matter any other LF camera.

    Unfortunately your requirement is still too broadly defined to narrow down to a single camera or brand,
    especially since most LF cameras work so well anyway.

    I will point out one thing though - the Sinar cameras were used in large numbers by professionals, making used
    Sinar equipment cheap. There is also the rentability factor - highest with Sinar, and the repair and repair cost
    factor - again best with Sinar.

    As for lenses, I generally use Rodenstock (mainly because I can pick up cheap Caltars), but that is a personal
    preference. I doubt anyone can tell the difference between Rodenstock or Fujinon or Nikkor or Schneider of the
    same generation. LF lenses are chosen more on the basis of coverage or weight or filter size or price or some
    other practical consideration than on the basis of subjective (small format) parameters of "glow" or "mystique".

    If you want a (biased to my style of working) recommendation, I'd say Sinar P2 or X (or even F2) with a 210mm Apo
    Sironar N (or S if you want to splurge) to start off with. If you go to 8x10 (you can do that with the P2 simply
    by changing the rear standard, back and bellows) you could get an Apo Sironar N/S 360mm. This is the combination
    I use most; I have, quite as expected, no complaints. I have used some of the Apo Symmars, and I can't tell them
    apart from the Apo Sironars. Truth be told, I can't tell apart my 210mm Geronar from my 210mm Apo Sironar S (both
    without movements); that tells you how good even cheap LF lenses can be.

    With LF, the best recommendation is - get some camera, some lens and start shooting. The results will depend more
    on your skill than equipment quality.
  3. I am an Ebony dealer so some of you might consider my answer biased. It is not. The best choice for studio portraits is the RW series Ebony in mahogany wood. RW 45 or RW810. These are simple lightweight cameras in mahogany with titanium fittings. Costs are kept low with non-interchangeable bellows, no side shifts and mahogany instead of ebony. I have one of each and will not part with them.
  4. Any 8x10 view camera, any normal lens produced in the last hundred years or so, a reliable shutter, workable film
    holders and the usual bits and pieces.

    The great portraitists, from Steichen to Karsh to Avedon, all did impeccable camera work but it was not the basis
    of their success. People skills are the key. The ability to be empathic, engaging, affable, persuasive, and
    complimentary goes a long way. Getting famous people to pose helps a lot too. A colleague of mine, an exhibitor
    in the National Portrait Gallery of Australia spends half his waking hours on the 'phone just schmoosing
    potential subjects to come and sit for him.
  5. There's another side to this too....sitting in front of a view camera/monorail whilst somebody fiddles around checking focus and composition hidden under a dark cloth must somehow kill the moment, however using a hand held 4x5 that's light weight and fast certainly takes the stuffiness out of it. There are many portrait shooters I know who use this method and it appears to me they get far better results. Surely no one shoots portraits using a DSLR on a tripod, so why should a 4x5 be any different.
  6. Dean: You get a different kind of moment with large format studio portraits, especially if you use tungsten or natural light. The subject is required to hold still for the picture, which normally gives it a quieter more eternal look. One of the benefits of that setup is that it discourages snap shooting. Even 4x5 may be used for quick shooting poortraits, but the cost of 8x10 film will, fortunately, slow most photographers down.
  7. I use 4x5 for the large number of film options and ease of getting it locally processed. I use a studio monoraial on a very heavy tripod. In addition to a sharp lens I find a soft focus lens is essential.
  8. Bruce, does Ebony make an 11x14 in that RW series? One that will accommodate the big lens boards necessary for those large
    portrait lenses?
  9. I know the only right answer;--))))

    I recommand a Sinar because its the only camera with a modern behind the lens shutter, so you can use any old portait
    lens in front of thad shutter and get flash synchro and reliable times etc.
    You only have to switch the back from 4x5 to 8x10 with the bellows and you can expand the camera in 4x5 with the sliding
    back to a very fast shooting camera!!!
    Sorry but I like the Ebony's but of course not in studio use just outside they are great!!!

    Cheers Armin
  10. I prefer a range finder Speed Graphic or an SLR Super D.

  11. Charles: No they don't. I tried to buy one for myself, but they would not make it. The 11x14 lensboards are 6 1/2 ".
  12. if you can find yourself a rembrandt portrait camera that might work very well for you.
    or a graflex slr ...
    and ... there is rembrandt for sale ( or seems like there is ) in the classifieds section.
    suggested the rembrandt because it is pretty inexpensive and will work for a long time,
    and the slr because they allow you to have the film in place and look at the subject as you are depressing
    the shutter, so you can make sure s/he didn't move while you were feeding your camera.

    as for lenses, it is all a matter of personal tastes. some folks like taking eye piercing sharp portraits, others like
    softer ones. about a 10" is what most folks suggest works for a 4x5 portrait, 14" for 5x7 ... good luck!
  13. I wouldn't waste my time with 4X5 as it won't be visibly different from a Hasselblad etc. or even a 12 megapixel SLR. But, 8X10 is worth exploring as a niche product for a small percentage of upscale clientele that are looking for something unique.
    The depth of field and character of the older lenses on 8X10 is in a class by itself. Lots of examples on my web pages.
  14. In the old days the "purpose" of using a 4x5 for portraits work was that one got a bigger head on the negative; it made it easier to retouch with pencils on an Adams retouching machine
  15. I guess I'm hesitant about the jump to 8x10 for several is far more expensive for these beasts than 4x5 and the cameras are usually quite unwieldly old pieces of eight...(no pun intended). To obtain a well proportioned head shot, one would require a focal length of at least 500mm and I find that after using an 8x10 field camera for a day the 4x5 feels somewhat like a toy camera.
    The 8x10 woodies always seem a little wobbly and inaccurate in regards to their stability, so any camera this size is better suited to being of metal construction, but then there's the weight factor to consider. Fixed upon a sturdy tripod in a studio environment this might be quite acceptable, but for me the 4x5 format has more than enough resolution for a very large print.
    I will soon be comparing my hand holdable 4x5 rangefinder to the new Sony A900 and the Canon 5D MK11, so stay tuned for the outcome of that...

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