Best entry route into Large Format?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Matt5791, Oct 17, 2006.

  1. Matt5791

    Matt5791 Subscriber

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    I am considering large format - I know that this might be a difficult question, but what would people recommend as a good [economical] entry into large format?

    I am assuming 5X4 has the best availability of film emulsions, but I'm quite interested in 5X7 (especially as I have a 5X7 enlarger - DeVere 507)

    I think that I would mainly use for monochrome landscapes, with some transparancy too.

    Thanks for any help.
    Matt
     
  2. david b

    david b Member

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    Instead of saying what is a good "economical" camera, you might want to say I have (X) amount to spend, what can I get.

    Set a budget and then we can go from there.

    Right off, I thought about the Shen-Hao 5x7 that is about $1100(US).
     
  3. DBP

    DBP Member

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    The cheapest reasonable way in is a 4x5 press camera, which can handle many situations, but has limited movements. Here in the USA, common models included the Speed Graphic in its many incarnations, the Crown Graphic, the Busch Pressman, and the Burke and James Press. There are cheaper approaches involving plate cameras and pinhole cameras, but those are cumbersome and limited in usefulness, respectively.
     
  4. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Matt,

    In the UK, no question. Look out for a Kodak Specialist half-plate (external dimensions for 5x7 inch and 13x18cm are identical, so film holders are interchangeable). It may take a while but you should be able to find one silly-cheap sooner or later.

    Take a look also at the free 'Large Formats' module in The Photo School at www.rogerandfrances.com.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  5. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Best way in?

    Both feet together, flex knees, take a deep breath, then jump.

    Depending on budget, it could be anything from a brand new Ebony to an ancient plate camera. After all the main purpose of a camera is to provide some dark space between the lens and the film, and some support for both lens and film.

    Since you're thinking of landscapes, I'll recommend against a monorail - they're mostly too heavy to carru around. The limit for me is a Technika 5x7", but I don't miss it after I replaced it with a Gandolfi Traditional (7x5").

    Another low-cost 5x7" alternative is old German plate cameras, or the newer FSU "copies": The FKD. These are actually very similar to the Gandolfi Tailboard camera on Roger's site, and some of the German ones are almost as nice. I use one as a "test bed for odd lenses" - it's equipped with a universal lens mount. Total cost was about £ 150.-! I got three double plate holders with it. Never buy a plate camera without plate holders by the way, these things were not standardised.

    Slightly more expensive is a new camera from Argentum Cameras in Hungary. They're worth considering, and I'm considering a 8x10" one myself.
     
  6. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I second this option. The 4x5 press cameras are a great way to get started, and for ~$300 you can have a complete kit. You can shoot handheld, or you can slap on a 612 back and shoot roll film, or you can treat it like a field camera (albeit with more limited movements). My crown graphic has a coupled rangefinder so I can really use it on the go if necessary. It is also waaay lighter than any of the view cameras I know, and lighter than most field cameras as well. A very economical entry to the format, but not a good choice if you want to learn about camera movements- then you really need a field or view camera.
     
  7. 25asa

    25asa Member

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    SPEED GRAPHICS FOREVER!!



    and a modern lens.
     
  8. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    If you are certain you will only ever do landscape work (infinity focus, modest wide to modest telephoto), a Speed or Crown Graphic or other press camera will be fine. If you want to focus close, get really wide, shoot the occasional building, still-life, or portrait, you should seriously consider a field camera. If you're not sure, get a field camera. Better to get the right tool up front, than buy one, build a system around it, then find out that it won't do what you need it to do.

    If you are interested in primarily black-and-white work, I'd look at a 5x7. Since you already have the enlarger to handle 5x7, go for it. If you ever decide to try contact printing, 5x7 is a very nice size. While 4x5 is more common, and the equipment is more compact, you'll very quickly find that for contact printing, 4x5 is REALLY small.

    Depending on your budget, look at a Shen Hao 5x7 (I have their 4x5 model and I love it- had it for close to six years now, and it has been a real trooper). They make two models of 5x7 - one has a shorter bellows, less movements, and weighs less, the other one has a longer bellows and more movements. The smaller camera sells for about $1200 USD, and the more versatile one goes for about $1500.

    When I got my 5x7, I seriously considered the Shen Hao as well, but ended up with a pre-owned Canham instead. The Canhams are fantastic cameras, but a little quirky. New Canhams are a bit pricey, so I'd suggest looking for a pre-owned one.
     
  9. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    I would have to say, that speeds are the least expensive way into large format, of course there are other alternatives that are almost as cheap...

    Dave
     
  10. braxus

    braxus Member

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    I also jumped into 4x5 buying the Graflex Speed Graphic. Mine wasn't in the best of shape, but it does work. And you can still get new lens plates for these to use whatever lens you desire. I went with the Ektar 127mm.
     
  11. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    get the 5x7/ 13x18.
    for some reason - everything looks nice in that format :smile:
     
  12. Matt5791

    Matt5791 Subscriber

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    Thanks for all the help - some very useful information.

    Ole - those Hungarian cameras look very reasonably priced.

    Roger - I will look out for the Kodak half plate.

    Thanks,

    Matt
     
  13. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Matt,

    They're quite big & heavy, though not disastrously so, and may or may not come with the detachable extension rail which gives an inordinate amount of bellows extension. The grey-green finish is also remarkably ugly in some people's eyes, which may be one reason they're cheap. I have however seen complete outfits -- camera, one or more lenses, and a few holders -- for under £200 on a couple of occasions, and cameral alone often go for under £200.

    Some are very worn and a bit flexible, but a half-decent one is very rigid and all have good movements. Like most people I started with 4x5 (a Dawe) and have owned and still own several more 4x5 cameras including Linhof Technikardan and Toho (good for travel). I never shoot B+W sheet film in any of them any more, though I do use them with roll-film holders or transparency film (which is prohibitive in larger formats).

    Quite honestly, and at the risk of offending Speed Graphic devotees, I wouldn't touch one except for hand-held photography: far too limited, and still with that miserable little 4x5 inch format. In the UK, in any case, an MPP Micro-Technical is a far better buy (and a better camera as well). You might want to look at the MPP Users website; Google MPP and you'll find it. A want ad in their excellent journal, The Gaz (short for Gazette) will probably net you a Kodak Specialist as well.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
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  15. P C Headland

    P C Headland Subscriber

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    I like Roger's suggestion if you're after a 5x4", what with you being in the UK.

    I have an MPP Micro Technical camera. It's a MK VII, with coupled rangefinder and 150mm lens. It's nice to use, not too heavy, should have enough movements for landscape (it also has back movements) and can be used handheld too.

    I bought it a about a year ago from the UK while I was living in NL. Now back in NZ I had a chance to try it out for the first time last weekend.

    [​IMG]
    (click to enlarge)
     
  16. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    WILL YOU ALL STOP RECOMMENDING THE 5x7" I havn't found one yet :mad: :D
    Cheers
    Søren
     
  17. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    I finally got down to ordering my 5x7/13x18 Argentum. Results of that decision will be reported within four to eight weeks (estimated build time for the camera). :smile:

    I have to say I liked my Speed Graphic, very sturdy, dependable and it folded down nicely. As has been said, the MPPs would be your equivalent in the UK. But think of these things first:

    As you already have an enlarger that can take 5x7 (lucky you!), think a bit about what format you like: 4x5 is slightly squarish, while 5x7 has the same aspect ratio as 35 mm.

    If you are interested in 5x7, I think it's better to do that, rather than skimping and going 4x5 and finding out it's less than you wanted.
     
  18. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I would also recommend a press camera such as a Speed or CrownGraphic.
    For the price it will give you a good feel for a larger format and all that it entails. These cameras usually can be found on Ebay in the $150-$250 range with a very useable lens such as an Ektar 127mm or Optar 135mm. The fold up into a pretty small package and like others have said, for general subjects the movements are sufficient. If you get the LF bug and want to move up to 5x7, you will be able to sell the Graphic for what you paid for it, give or take a few pounds.

    You may also need a more sturdy tripod depending on what you are using at the moment.
     
  19. Matt5791

    Matt5791 Subscriber

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    This is what I like - the aspect ratio - While I like the square format of my Hasselblad, I think that 5x7 would be more appropiate for the sort of stuff I am likely to shoot - landscapes. It will just give me more negative to play with if I still want to crop.

    I got my DeVere 507 off one of the guys who works at my local pro lab recently, for £200, with three Rodenstock lenses too (50mm, 80mm, 150mm) - I rekined this was a pretty good buy? Now I have some more time on my hands (after the wedding season and the production line my darkroom is at that time) hopefully I will get time to set it up in the next few days!

    Thanks again for the help.
     
  20. Richard Kelham

    Richard Kelham Member

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    There's one on UK fleaBay at the moment, complete with rear extension rail, 203mm Ektar and a couple of darkslides, all for a BIN of GBP130.


    There's also a rather swish looking MPP mkVII finished in red (wow) which might be more suitable for our OP. No idea what it will go for though...




    Richard
     
  21. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Not so much 'a pretty good buy' as 'a steal'.

    Lucky you!

    Of course 5x7 is not as long and thin as 35mm and is therefore a prettier shape: 1:1.3 to 1:4 strikes me as close to an 'ideal format'.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  22. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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  23. P. Yee

    P. Yee Member

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    How familar are you with how large format works? Using and handling the large format camera is very different from medium and 35 mm format. Some introductory articles on the large format can be found in the free article sections of the View Camera magazine site. See
    http://www.viewcamera.com/archives.html
     
  24. Matt5791

    Matt5791 Subscriber

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    Thanks - some really interesting and useful links.

    Matt
     
  25. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    Here's a thread I wrote about a perfectly useable 7X5 camera fetched off evilbay for approx. £30 Of course shipping to UK would have doubled that easily but still it seems a nice bargain. Lens panels are easily fabricated for modern lenses in shutter.
     
  26. Scott Peters

    Scott Peters Member

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    With a 5 x 7 enalrger in hand, you can do both contact prints and enlarged images. I would lean towards a 5 x 7.

    You may ultimately go for an 8 x 10....

    Outside of some of the great deals others here have pointed out, 4 x 5 would seem to be the most 'reasonable'.

    On a final note, I think you will love it and never turn back.

    Good luck and email or post with questions along the way.