About to step up formats, advice appreciated

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by strapping, Dec 27, 2010.

  1. strapping

    strapping Member

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    Gday all. I shoot landscapes which are commonly printed up to 2m wide. I stitch 35mm shots to give sharp results. However the time has come to upgrade formats. Unfortunately, I dont have any experience with LF.
    I've read http://www.largeformatphotography.info/, this site, photo.net, and whatever other random discussion I can find. I'm yet to go to my library, but I think I've got a basic understanding of what it's all about.

    I'm after a relatively portable field camera, 1 lens to start out with, with a budget of no more than $800ish. Scanning/printing costs do not matter.

    4x5 is what I'm looking at for the time being, however considering enlargement quality is what I'm after I wouldn't balk at looking at 6x7 if other users think it might be an idea, it's just 4x5 seems a good, cheap starting point in the world of LF. Wood v metal isn't an issue, or looks, or having a lot of movements. The Chamonix 45N-2 would be my first choice, and everyone elses by the sounds of it, but is maxing out my budget, and they are apparently not easy to get.
    Other budget-limited options are Shen Hao, Toyo (maaaybe), or ?.

    This camera is going to be carted around on my back most of the time, but I'm fairly fit and am used to carrying round 10kg of 135 gear anyway. I have a good tripod but I suspect the pan/tilt head might be a bit limiting, but it'll have to do for now.

    I'm hoping photographers with some landscape experience can recommend me a camera/lens, or just give me whatever advice you think might be relevant. I'd just like to know what people think.
    Thank you in advance, Tom.
     
  2. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I'd advise first to try to find some LF-using apuggers nearby who can bring you up to speed on the gear basics and let you take a camera or two for a testdrive. Most LFers are more than happy to get together, show off their gear and trade insights and tall tales. Why not look in your geographical area and find an apugger or two.

    I don't know if 4x5 is right for you... hard to tell. What you need to talk about and think about is what you want out of the camera, what your workflow will be etc.

    My first LF camera was a crown graphic and it was a great introduction at a very low price (around $300, with a good lens and some film holders). I wound up getting a lot of other stuff, but the crown graphic taught me almost everything I needed to know as a beginner to LF. I was out shooting and developing and contact printing in no time, and having a ball. I still have it and use it from time to time. The next LF camera I bought was a metal monorail and had lots of movements. Then after that I fell in love with simple old wooden ones. Then a pano 4x10, etc. It's a slippery slope, proceed with caution!

    Oh and yes definitely consider 6x6 / 6x7 / 6x8 / 6x9 !!! There are many wonderful entries in that general size range. I adore my mamiya 6 cameras for landscape. And they cede almost nothing to 4x5 except movements (which I seldom use for landscape).
     
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  3. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    And do not undersell the tripod. As mentioned on another thread, you have to look at it as a tripod that will be holding my (insert monetary unit here) camera kit. You need a heavy tripod.
     
  4. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    If the tripod and head are sufficient to support whatever camera you get, I think you'll find a pan/tilt head to be fine to work with. I find a ball head to be less suitable for LF cameras.
     
  5. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    If you aren't interested in a lot of movements a Crown Graphic would be a good starting platform. You can get one with an excellent lens and a decent tripod and stay well within your $800. budget.
    You can even hand hold it if you like, if you're concerned that working from a tripod might be limiting.

    Working with 4x5 is a big change from what you're used to with 35 though. There are lots of 6x7 rigs that you could get and stay in budget. You would make a big gain in image quality, but keep some of the ease of handling you are used to with 35mm.
     
  6. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Welcome to Apug.

    Find a mentor if you can. If not, keithwms' idea of someone who well let you walk around with the camera is a great idea. I took a view camera course at the local college using their studio cameras to learn. I bought a camera before the class was done. Sinar had some step by step assignment books that I found on eBay that would be a way of taking a course by yourself, but without benefit of instructor or fellow students.

    Put your location in your profile or at least in a post so we know where you are. Guessing by your “Gday all,” you and I are on opposite sides of the world, but for now only you know.

    In addition to the sites you mentioned, reading through any one of these books or similar will give you almost a hands on experience of what steps are required. It took most of us a while to remember all the steps and in what order you have to take them. I like Stone’s book best, but have read them all. It can’t hurt.

    “Large Format Photography Kodak”
    “User’s Guide to the View Camera,” Jim Stone
    “Using the View Camera,” Steve Simmons, Amphoto

    4x5 is where most LF shooters start and where you will find the widest range of used equipment. Many people stop there and many go on up in size. Roll film backs can be attached to many 4x5s. This allows you to shoot a lot of film as you learn at lower prices and may be easier to develop, depending on your darkroom plans. Roll film backs can also give you different formats in one camera. 6x7 is the same shape as 4x5, 6x9 same shape as 35mm, 6x12 for wider format, and 6x17 a much wider format.

    After you get started, do not hang around with people with larger cameras. In my case that led to 8x10 and 7x17. There is a saying in boating that costs do not scale up with increase in size, they square or worse, but those big negatives (a relative term) are so attractive.

    Have fun. Let us help.

    John Powers
     
  7. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    Welcome strapping, if you put your state/country in your profile, there may be people nearby willing to help in person! The site mentioned is helpful.

    For LF, I use a speed graphic with the stock 135mm lens and have made 16x20" prints with no lens flaws present. I also have an 8x10 B&J with a symmar-s 300mm 5.6 which makes nice scans and contact prints as I don't have an enlarger for 8x10. Any tessar or planar lens will be very good, especially stopped down a bit as would be done in landscapes. It's not that critical a choice and many other lenses can do well. Just makes sure the lens has a properly operating shutter so you don' t have to spend more money to get that fixed. Your choice of camera is a good one, but I'm happy with what I've got and not that fussy. A crown graphic would be similar to the speed, except it lacks a focal plane shutter option that may or may not be functioning on the speed. A monorail camera has lots of crazy movements I don't use and is also pretty cheap, but not as portable. The 45N2 is some of each. Whatever you get, you can sell it pretty easily if you decide you want something different later on.

    For Film and how you develop it, you can probably keep shooting what you are familiar with from 35mm. I mostly have standardized on TMY2 as it's not as grainy as most 400 speed film for 35mm/120 and does a super nice job in 4x5 and I'm comfortable and familiar with making it do what I want. You will need to either develop the film in trays in the dark or get a combiplan tank or a mod_photographic reel for a paterson system tank. I print with a beseler cb7 color enlarger or scan with an epson v700. You'll want to get some film holders for your 4x5 shooting which are often bought cheaply in lots here, ebay, and the lf-info forums. And some negative sleeves or negative storage for the film after it's processed.
     
  8. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    First, to get a 2m print from a 5" negative (image is actually 4.75", or right at 12 cm) is a 16.6x enlargement, with zero cropping. This will or course result in a somewhat soft and grainy print. IMHO, you'd be better served by going to 7x5, which will give you about a 12x enlargement, which is about the biggest enlargement I'd consider making. Of course, much depends on your skill level and your film/processing.

    Second, you can certainly get started for the price you list. The used market is your friend.

    Third, weight. My 5x4 kit, which was chosen almost exclusively to give me a light weight kit, comes in at 16 Kg with 3 liters of water. You can't hike far without water. I could get it somewhat lower with fewer lenses and/or film holders, but that's also limiting in its own way. If you are trying to go light and 5x4, then look at the Toho. I've been using one of these for nearly a decade now. Excellent camera, extremely light weight, but like every camera made it has its quirks.

    Forth, lenses. Start your search with the light weight lens list.
     
  9. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    I disagree. You need a tripod that's sturdy and that controls vibration. It can be fairly light and do an excellent job of both. I've been very pleased with the Gitzo carbon fiber tripod I've been using for six or seven years now. Very light, but very sturdy. I highly recommend them for a light weight 5x4 kit. Not a 6 Kg Deardorff maybe, but certainly for cameras 3 Kg and under.

    The only shot I've missed with this tripod was my fault. It was a 90 second exposure on soft ground in the rain, and I moved and put my foot down right next to the leg in front (so I could more easily shield the lens from the rain) -- and the leg moved my weight transfer. I can hardly blame that on Gitzo! But the resulting sheet of film looks like a double exposure just slightly out of register. Sigh....
     
  10. Jose LS Gil

    Jose LS Gil Member

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    The Camera

    If you plan on using the camera for landscape photography, then I would suggest you pick up AA's or St. Ansels books. Start with the Camera, it has lots of info that is relative to landscape or photography in general. I'm not too sure where you are at with your knowledge on photography, but reading this book, helps review what you know and what you thought you knew :D

    The Negative and The Print are the follow up books to this series. You can purchase these books used for a few dollars on fleabay or check with your local library.

    One major advantage when you do step up to LF, is that you can really use the zone system to get the image that you had intended.

    Good luck
     
  11. strapping

    strapping Member

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    Apologies for my absence, my computer got a virus. I should have mentioned, I'm based in Victoria, AU, and will primarily be using this camera for commercial work. I think I would like to start with a 5/6x7 rig. I am competent technically with most aspects of 135 photography, but I think a trip to the library might be in order for this. The Camera and The Negative are must-reads, but considering I'm going the digital route post-negative I might hold off on the last book until I get a darkroom happening. Now I would definately like to meet some LF APUGers, but I am also confident in my ability to jump right into this. 5x7 fits the 135 mantra fairly well, so would people have any recommendations for cameras in the format?
    Thanks all
     
  12. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    5x7 changes the game somewhat, but not too much. Look around for an old tailboard Agfa/Ansco or Burke & James. They're fairly plentiful and will fit in your budget. Another option would be to keep an eye out for a monorail like a Sinar Norma (although these are rather popular of late and would probably break your budget). The holy grail in a field 5x7 is something like a Deardorf, Canham, or Ebony, but those are all definitely out of the range you're talking about. There's a 5x7/4x5 monorail kit in the APUG classifieds right now that would be a good option for you if you could stretch the cash a little. Shen Hao and Chamonix also make 5x7 field cameras but again they're out of the price range you mentioned. If you stick to 4x5, the Shen Hao is a very nice option at an affordable price. Not quite as light as a Chamonix, but still a fair bit cheaper.
     
  13. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    Consider that if it's a more horizontal image you're after, something more like 35mm, that either a 6x9 roll film back for a 4x5 camera, or simply cropping the 4x5 frame will give you a great deal of image to play with. While it's had a rebirth among LF enthusiasts in the past few years, 5x7 is somewhat of an orphaned format. The variety of film available is much smaller than for 4x5, particularly for color films. 4x5 offers a larger choice of more modern lenses as well. That said, there's nothing like scanning a larger format negative - that is, unless you're printing it.

    Peter Gomena
     
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  15. strapping

    strapping Member

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    I wasn't aware 4x5 was so much more prolific than the slightly larger formats. Considering this, it looks a good place to start. I've been considering a Wista. How much could a BGN Wista 45(VX maybe) + standard lens be had for, abouts?
     
  16. lilmsmaggie

    lilmsmaggie Member

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    I belong to both APUG and LFPF. I suggest do more than just read LFPF - Join and ask plenty of questions; do lots of reading and ask more questions. I started about 2 years ago down the same path you're embarking on. After a year, I purchased my first camera; a Chamonix 45n-2.

    You're gonna get recommendations and suggestions up the kazoo, so you need to decide what is going to be your shooting style and what format. 4 x 5 is usually the place to start.

    Going the 5 x 7 route will limit your film choices, so keep that in mind and it may, add a bit to your carrying weight. I'm not gonna kid you, I'm biased towards the Chamonix since I'm an owner. Beautiful camera, lightweight, compact and will have all the movements you need for landscape. The choice of camera is yours and what your budget dictates but do give the Chamonix and the Shen Hao serious consideration.

    When considering you choice of lens, keep in mind the image circle. It has at the very minimum need to cover the diagonal of the film. For 4x5 thats aprox. 153mm.

    If your subject require movements, you'll need a lens that projects a larger image circle.

    If you decide on 4 x 5, your first lens consideration should be 210mm. It will allow a large image circle giving you an opportunity to learn various movements. e.g. rise, fall, tilt & shift. 135 - 150mm is considered a normal focal length for 4 x 5.

    Determine what your favorite most used focal length lens is in your current format, then find the equivalent in LF.

    Consider bellows extension. The Chamonix 45n-2 with Universal bellows has 395mm of belows extension, allowing me to use a lens with focal length up to 350mm without problems.


    My current lens kit is composed of:

    90mm 6.8 Rodenstock Grandagon-N
    135mm 5.6 Rodenstock APO Sironar-S
    210mm 5.6 Rodenstock APO-Sironar-S
    350mm f11 Schneider APO Compact

    With the exception of the Schneider, I was able to acquire all the other lenses used and in excellent condition.

    Others have mentioned Ansel Adams and Steve Simmons books -- must reads.

    I'd also include Zone VI Workshop by Fred Picker which can be found used.

    Again, just don't read posts on LFPF, join, ask questions, read, do some research, ask more questions BEFORE you buy a camera. Base your decision on your shooting style and needs.

    You should have no trouble hooking up with LF photographers living in Australia that are also members of LFPF.

    Good luck!
     
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  17. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    strapping

    you might consider getting a 5x7 camera
    with a 4x5 reducing back if you feel you will
    be jumping up a format size sooner rather than later.
    unless you are using super wide lenses ( larger than 90mm )
    chances are if they will work on your 4x5, they will work on a 5x7.
    ( all my 4x5 glass double duties on a 5x7 even the 90mm ) ...
    but that said, if you are unsure about large format and all the stuff that
    goes with it, you might consider getting a speed or crown graphic, they
    sell easy when you want to trade-up.
    i bought mine in 1988 and still use it, and 75$ tiltall tripod i bought to go with it.
    i mention the tiltall because it is rugged and sturdy ( inexpensive! ) and can easily handle a 4x5 camera
    ( i used it for years with a monorail and the speed graphic ).

    good luck !
    john
     
  18. colourgeek

    colourgeek Member

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    Hi Multi Format,

    Here in UK, second hand prices are really low. There are so many makes too. Here are a few monorail cameras: Sinar, Cambo, Linhof. They are quite bulky, as they need to be in a case because they are delicate. The plus side is the unlimited amount of camera movements, which give you great creative possibilities. (Yes, I know you can fix or create perspective distortion in Photoshop.)

    The next choice is the folding camera: Linhof, Wista, MPP, Toyo and many more. They are easy to carry in a rucksack, but often limited to a 90mm lens on 5X4. So if you like super wide lenses, you may be limited, and the camera movements less than a monorail with bag bellows.

    Or you could go the whole hog and get 10X8 inch. Hugely expensive, especially in colour. Like the Rolls Royce car, but as slow to use, you tend to think before you shoot...

    Good luck
    Colourgeek
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 10, 2011
  19. strapping

    strapping Member

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    Starting with 4x5 is probably the best idea considering the used market. I would undoubtedly by the Chamonix given I had the money, but right now I'm looking at a used Shen Hao. I expect my first lens will be 210mm, or not ranging far from there if I can get a good price. There appears to be both quite a few designs and also quite a few market places; does anyone have any recomendations on what I should choose basd on experience? I expect to be using lab developed colour film for the first few months, but I might develop B&W at home, I already have a few tools. Also Ive read that I would be better off getting a lens board other than Shen Hao brand, is this true?
     
  20. lilmsmaggie

    lilmsmaggie Member

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    I'm not sure I follow this question. Are you still refering to camera or lens?

    I'd keep you eyes open for lenses on KEH: http://www.keh.com, be careful of evilBay. I purchased the 135mm from a professional photograher who had recently gone all digital. The others I found at KEH with the exception of the Schneider as I previously mentioned.

    Lenses are like women, wine, audio speakers, etc. Each lens imparts its own signature. In general, you can't go wrong with Rodenstock and Schneider.

    A cheaper route would be Caltar (rebadged Rodenstock & Schnedier) lenses.
    I can't speak to how you identify which is which maybe others can but I hear that they are just as good -- just offered at a lower price-point.

    Japanese glass (Nikkors & Fuji) have their own signature as well. Some people stick to the German glass, some prefer the Japanese and some have both. Just depends on what you like. The Japanese lenses tend to be smaller and lighter. That may be a consideration when backpacking.

    I suggest reading Kerry Thalmann's site to learn more about LF lenses and lens choices:

    http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/lenses.htm


    As far as lens boards go, the Chamonix is designed to be compatible with any lens board of Linhoff type.

    Chamonix also makes available their own carbon-fiber boards which are quite nice.

    I believe the Shen Hao uses Linhof/Wista style boards.

    And of course, check the classified sections of LFPF and here for people that are selling their gear.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 11, 2011
  21. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    LF cameras are quite frankly a pain in the assets. It will always be simpler to shoot a 35mm or MF. Always.
    Here's the trick: if you have a LF camera you really love to use, chances are you'll get out and use it more.
    The more you shoot, the better your results will become. The better your results the more you'll want to shoot.
    It's a slippery slope!
    My suggestion is to find a camera you can imagine yourself shooting.
    A camera to fall in love with.
    Then, you'll be on your way. Really.
     
  22. colourgeek

    colourgeek Member

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    Strapping,

    You got me thinking about how I would decide in advance if the change from 35mm film to large format would actually give me better final prints. Oh, and do it without having to buy the whole camera outfit!

    We know prints are 2 metres long, done on a roll fed inkjet printer from stitched images. Assuming scans aren't done on a Hel rotary scanner, which costs a fortune, a film scanner like Nikon Coolpix or Minolta D-Image might be used. This gives 4000 dpi (dots per inch) = 157.4 dpmm, which is 24,803 dots per square mm. But are Nikon/ Canon being honest? Does dots mean pixels? In a DSLR camera, demosaicing (interpolation) divides the number of picture sensors by 4, to give the actual number of pixels. Just for the record, for 35mm format (24X36mm), that's over 21 megapixels, or 5.25 megapixels if demosaicing is involved. (If only Nikon/ Canon would 'fess up and explain, not leave customers to find out AFTER they buy!)

    Cutting to the chase, your Fidelity 5X4 inch darkslide conveniently gives a transparency's useable image area of 98 X 120 mm. That's equivalent to over 291 million points, but dividing by 4, to allow for demosaicing gives a massive 72.75 megapixels. In other words, this is the resolution a 5 X 4 inch transparency would need to be scanned at to give the resolution in the same proportion as a well scanned 35mm image. In order to make use of the added resolution given by stepping up to 5 X 4, the inkjet printer would also have to be able to handle this resolution and file size, without altering or reducing its size.

    Frankly, I'm sceptical there's many labs that would make a scan at full resolution available off a 5 X 4 inch transparency, or do an inkjet print at full resolution, rather than reduce the file size but not admit what they'd done.

    So what's my conclusion? Borrow a 5X4 inch transparency off a mate, have it scanned and printed and see if there's a dramatic improvement in image quality, compared to a scanned 35mm or DSLR JPEG file. That way, you also find out how much you have to pay for large format scanning, the file size produced by the lab and if it reproduces all the detail available on the transparency. (Don't give them a duff one - it has to be razor sharp!!!) Remember: Using a lab is like giving away your profits. If the customer will pay the extra cost of large format film, processing and scanning, great. In the UK at the moment, the market for a 5X4 inch transparency hardly exists.

    Best wishes from a freezing cold UK
    colourgeek
     
  23. OldBikerPete

    OldBikerPete Member

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    Where in Victoria, AU are you, strapping. There's a a fairly active APUG LF group in Melbourne with associates as far afield as Mansfield and Geelong.
    I use a Wista 45 Metal field I bought off eBay Canada for $450 and have four lenses that I also bought off eBay for about $300 each.
    Fujinon SWD 65mm f5.6
    Caltar 90mm f6.8 (rebadged Rodenstock)
    Nikkor-W 135 F5.6
    Nikkor-W 210 f5.6

    If you are unsure whether you want to truly venture into LF and 5x4, get a crown graphic, preferably with a Schneider Xenar 135mm or 150mm lens. This will represent the minimal outlay and will be readily resellable with minimal depreciation, although they don't have enough movements for good architectural work.

    If you ARE sure of getting into LF then you have a problem. To get ALL the benefit of the film's resolution with 5x4, you need an ultimate scan resolution of about 3000DPI which means the scanner has to have a REAL resolution of 6000DPI. Disregarding incredible deals like the Dainippon Screen pro drum scanner which just sold on eBay in Melbourne for about $500, you won't buy a scanner capable of that sort of performance for less than $15000 which means that you will pay over $100 per scan if you can still find a bureau capable of that kind of performance. Probably a Wista or Shen Hao field camera with an older lens can be bought within your budget.

    IF however, you find you can afford (I can't) a 10x8 LF outfit, a scan having an ultimate resolution of 1500DPI will give the same picture resolution and a flatbed scanner capable of that performance can be had for $800 or less.

    The tripod has to be sturdy enough to support the weight of the camera. A rule of thumb I use is that if the operation of inserting the film holder does not permanantly shift the framing of the shot then the tripod is firm enough. If you go chasing an ultimately rigid tripod then you will finish up lugging an anvil.
     
  24. lilmsmaggie

    lilmsmaggie Member

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    I'm not. I've recently had some of my 4x5 negatives scanned primarily for contact printing using QuadToneRIP, where you can create digital negatives of any size without loss of detail or resolution.

    Remember a JPEG image by its very nature is compressed data:

    Bottomline: if you don't shoot RAW, you've already lost image data. If you're gonna go the digital route, you need to shoot in RAW mode and save your files as TIFF's -- NOT JPEGS.

    If you like the "digital look," then a DSLR will suffice.

    Shooting with a full-frame DSLR may give you what you want in terms of image quality and maximum print size, but that's a decision based on personal taste.

    You have to decide if you like the look you get with digital versus the look of film.

    What is the largest print you will ever need: 16 x 20, 20 x 30

    Not sure what services are available across the pond but here in the states, I think there are labs and services where you can get good quality scans for less than $100 per scan. I know I did.

    Yes, quality drum scans will be more expensive. Lenny Eiger here in Calif. http://www.eigerphoto.com does high quality work --but it does come at a price.

    As for me, I decided I was going to shoot 4 x 5 and have the negs scanned because I'm not setup to do traditional darkroom processing/printing, nor do I have the space or $$$ to spend on enlarger, easel, trays and chemicals.

    But I do love my Chamonix and I love the the advantage a larger negative provides in terms of image quality and resolution. :D
     
  25. stevebrot

    stevebrot Member

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    35mm
    1+ regarding choice of heads. Some LF guys use ball heads, but I have found that the process of leveling the camera is pretty tedious unless you level the head prior to mounting the camera. I use an older Bogen (Manfrotto) "3D" platform head, the old version with the "L" levers. It is pretty much an ideal fit for my Chamonix 4x5 and is very easy to level.

    I also want to add my vote regarding the Caltar lenses. @lilmissmaggie has the Rodenstock 90/6.8 in his quiver. I have the Caltar version (Caltar II-N) and couldn't be more pleased with the lens. I think I paid $300 in Ex+ condition. I also have the Caltar II-N 150/5.6 that I got at Adorama for $249. I might have done better price-wise if I had taken time to shop, but I was pretty happy with the cost at the time.

    As for @colorgeek's comments...I scan my 4x5 on an EPSON V700. I could scan at the practical max of 2400 dpi to deliver a 96 megapixel image such as is currently on my harddrive, but support from my imaging tools for that large a file (almost 190 Mb from a 16 bit monochrome scan) is pretty sketchy on my hardware. As a result, I generally scan at about 1800 dpi for fine work and downsample for display or printing

    So why bother as compared to say FF digital or medium format film? One word...

    Movements​

    Once you have them, it is hard to imagine shooting certain subjects without them. Tilt/shift lenses on 35mm or medium format are another option, but oh, the price!


    Steve
     
  26. strapping

    strapping Member

    Messages:
    7
    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2010
    Location:
    melb, aus
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I do the scanning myself on an epson V7000 and the printing myself on an epson 9900. Great shots I'd get drumscanned.
    I am sure I want to get into LF. If I could pick up a great lens and a good camera for under $800 I'd be stoked. Why would you use a crown graphic over a Shen Hao or the like if back movements aren't an issue?