Get into 4x5 or Just Stay in MF?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Bokeh Guy, Nov 29, 2009.

  1. Bokeh Guy

    Bokeh Guy Member

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    Here's the dilemma: I've moved from 35mm to MF and have loved using a couple of new Rolleiflexes. I love the big negatives, tones, format, etc. Because of this, I sold off one 35mm system and now have some money to spend. Question is: Do I take a dive in 4x5, which I understand is very different from MF, or do I go ahead and delve into digital 35mm and buy a bodythat backs up my film 35mm (and MF to a degree). My forté is portraits, not landscapes.
     
  2. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    Well, I personally love film and film only and I have wanted to shoot 4X5...How have portraits been going with MF? I understand it takes a good amount of time to work with 4X5...it depends on if you have that.....If you went with 4X5 and really didn't like it I am sure you could always sell the outfit....
     
  3. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    4x5 all the way, BG. :smile: (well, at least until you move to 8x10) I can't begin to explain the thrill of working with LF. In the short time I've been shooting this format, (just going on six months) I have learned to understand my photography so much better. (I even finally get the freaking Zone System... :D ) The hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands of digital images I took years ago cannot begin to compare to the few dozen 4x5 negatives I have created.

    Just bear in mind that if you do your own darkroom printing, you will need an enlarger that is up to the job. (There's a thread lying dormant here about my quest to find an enlarger in my area.)

    Cheers,
     
  4. Wyno

    Wyno Member

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    I went from 35mm (Praktica) to 645 (Bronica ETRS) to 4x5 (Nagaoka, Shen Hao) to 8x10 (Tachihara) Each time, I've had to change my way of thinking, because each format has it's own problems/benefits. It depends on you whether you feel the benefits outweigh the problems. As you go up in size, you will find that you become more contemplative about your photography, and not just go bang, bang, bang with the shutter.
    Mike
     
  5. photomem

    photomem Member

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    I am having much the same dilemma. I have a 4X5 up for sale for a friend and have some offers on it, but at the same time I am wondering if I should keep it and make the jump up in size. On the other hand, I already have so many cameras to feed that I am afraid a 4X5 would bankrupt me.
     
  6. Larry.Manuel

    Larry.Manuel Member

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    Recently, I began printing 35mm and 6x6cm negs 20x24" on FB paper, and now realize the potential for really stunning work. A Besseler 45 enlarger came up for sale locally, and I bought it, not even needing it. However, I knew I'd want to use it someday. The next day, I bought a Crown Graphic. So I slipped into 4x5 photography in a partially unintended way. I can imagine the sweet tonality and excellent detail that will be possible. After several years of being ga-ga over using my Leica M3 [and not doing much printing], I now have a great affinity for producing FB prints.

    I'm beginning to think of the cameras as necessary tools down the path to great prints, rather than cameras as being isolated whizz-bang-neato gadgets on their own. I hope this makes sense.
     
  7. brian d

    brian d Member

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    Between that and your user name BOKEHGuy, I'm inclined to think you would be very happy with 4x5

    photomem; you might consider that when you move up to 4x5 you tend to slow down and get a lot more "keepers" than you do with smaller formats and if you process at home the Arista film from Freestyle is fairly well priced.

    Just my thoughts
     
  8. 36cm2

    36cm2 Member

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    (blackberry curve)

    The jump from MF to 4x5 was by far the greatest growth period I've experienced in understanding photography. Assuming you're processing and printing yourself, I think it's an incredible format and you'll find it tremendously rewarding.
     
  9. Dave Pritchard

    Dave Pritchard Member

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    For portraits, you can use almost any 4x5 camera. I used to take portraits with a 5x7 Linhof with a home-made lens board, an Ilex Paragon lens without shutter, and a lens cap. (Of course, I also had the use of a professional studio with studio flash at the time).

    All that really matters is the lens and the lighting. I have several 4x5 Speed Graphics, pre-Anniversary, that I got for peanuts. They are sort of plain, and don't have much in the way of swings and tilts, but that does not matter for portraits. You can do this without breaking the bank.

    Also, if you use B&W film in 4x5, you can indulge in retouching the negatives using nothing more exotic than a #2 lead pencil.
     
  10. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    This answer is sure to offend some 4x5ers but here is my feeling: MF (and by that I mean 645, 6x7, 6x8) is what I use when I wish to enlarge something. When I want to see the subject closer to actual size on ground glass and do contact prints, then I do 5x7 and up. 4x5 is just big and slow enough to be burdensome but not big enough to give me contact negs.

    I do enjoy enlarging 4x5 from time to time but... for me it is just too close to MF to invoke all the joys of using big ground glass and making contacts. These days, when I do use 4x5, it's for remaining type 55 and for 4x5 slides. I also like the fuji fp100c instant film, for making emulsion lifts.

    On the other hand! Since you mention portraiture, maybe a speed graphic (focal plane shutter) and some brass lenses would indeed be useful. You don't need much tilt/swing, if any, for portraiture. But being able to use vintage glass, waterhouse stops, etc... that may be just the thing for you to delve into. Before jumping into LF, though, I think the central question is what will be your final output.

    One other comment in favour of 4x5: my first experience with LF was a 4x5 crown graphic and I learned a lot.

    N.b. you can also put a 6x12 rollfilm back on a 4x5... (as well as a 6x9 and a 6x7)
     
  11. Mike1234

    Mike1234 Inactive

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    Well... I'm going to agree with Keith on this one. I'll soon have a lightweight 4x5 but I won't be shooting sheet film. It'll be dedicated soley for 6x12cm roll film. If I want to shoot sheet film I'll drag the 5x12in out (once I have it). It's been a long time since I shot 4x5. I LOVED the view camera methodology but I was always disappointed that I didn't move up something bigger.
     
  12. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    You may want to consider something more portrait friendly than the Rolleiflex (I'm assuming that it is a TLR Rollei). If all I shot were portraits, I'd be using a RB67 or RZ67 with a few extra backs. It has everything you need including close focussing to make it a great portrait camera. If I were to shoot portraits in large format, I'd go with an 8x10 or 5x7 and contact print. 4x5 requires you to be very methodical and very comfortable with the sitter. I sure couldn't do it very easily!
     
  13. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    You need to find somebody that has an 8x10 and set up a portrait with it.

    I went to a Large Format workshop a few weeks back and we did portraits one morning.

    When you get under the dark cloth and see a face on the ground glass that's nearly life size it will just knock your socks off.
     
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  15. photomem

    photomem Member

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    Honestly, I have no problems enlarging 645 negs to 16X20, just use finer grain (slower) films and they go up in size nicely.
     
  16. Perry Way

    Perry Way Member

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    I would suggest since you have 35mm and MF underway already and some extra $'s, why not try 4x5? But bear in mind that large format is expensive. You can't use the same equipment for processing and enlarging, so just keep that in mind. I have found that it helps to be well equipped in one format than halfway equipped in two or more formats. But more than anything else, stay away from making it a chore for you. When I got started in large format, I did tray development, and it was no fun at all because I use my bathroom as a take-down darkroom and my trays are on a wire shelf I extend over the tub and it is no fun to be bent over agitating trays in the dark. Now I have the BTZS tubes and I can develop in the light for half of the development and dim light for a good part of the remaining and it fits more nicely on my sink countertop. Only the hypo clear and water bath sit on the wire shelf now, so I'm only half breaking my back now as opposed to all the way :D Anyway, long story short, just make sure you have all the essentials covered with your budget and you'll be fine. If you don't, my suggestion is to hold back until you do.
     
  17. DanielStone

    DanielStone Member

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    to the OP:

    if you like bokeh(your name implies you do) then go straight for the throat :smile: (8x10)....

    I haven't shot any on my camera yet(POS no-name I was gifted with some darkroom stuff a few years back), and the 300mm lens is great(no shutter though).

    if you want bokeh, get a 300 or 450mm 5.6/6.8 and shoot it wide open. you'll get some bad@** bokeh!!!

    just sayin.... EFKE and Arista films are great. I use them for 4x5 regularly, and they contact print very well. Been using EFKE 25 in D76 1+1, rating it at 50, and the results have been great!

    -Dan
     
  18. sharperstill

    sharperstill Member

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    what did everyone do before the internet when they had to make a purely subjective decision?
     
  19. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

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    Sorry, you have no idea. Probably good you keep it that way.


    tim in san jose
     
  20. Trevor Crone

    Trevor Crone Member

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    With your handle of BOKEHGUY, as others have noted, you probably would find exploring the plane of focus, using view camera movements (swings and tilts), a very rewarding path with your interest in portraits.
     
  21. Willie Jan

    Willie Jan Member

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    The benefit for 4x5 is that you also can do macro work,stilllfe, architecture etc... with it.
    Be aware that portraits in the street like cartier bresson is out of the question. It's a slow system...
    But MF is also nice and has enough quality for prints such as 30x30cm. I almost never print larger from my 6x6.
    The 4x5 is used for landscapes because this allows me to adjust movements that give me a larger depth of field which can not be reached with MF.
     
  22. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    To me, the greatest benefits of using sheet film cameras are:

    1. Movements. Though it is not always the case, most sheet film cameras offer some movements as a rule. So do some medium format cameras...but it is usually assumed that when you say "4x5", you mean a camera with movements, and when you say "medium format", you mean a camera without them. Almost every shot I take, in any format, could be improved by some sort of movement, if I actually had the time and ability to apply it without missing the shot. Movements give you an insane amount of control over your images that just is not there with most smaller format cameras. If your subject matter will allow you the time to carefully set up your shots, there is no better tool than a view camera with movements, in my opinion. This is independent of format. Movements are movements, and have the same effect regardless of format, so it is not really a "4x5" advantage specifically, but most 4x5s do have this advantage.

    2. That you are shooting individual sheets, not rolls. There are many positive aspects of this. Being able to duplicate exposures and/or process the same exposure (or different exposures) in two different ways is perhaps the most important one.

    3. Raw image quality of the larger film is notably superior to medium format if you are doing very large-sized prints. With 4x5, you theoretically have approximately the same image quality in a 16x20 that you have with an 8x10 print from a 6x7 negative (assuming no or little cropping of either neg).

    4. You can use fast films in large format, and given a certain sized print, the "technical quality" is higher than it is from smaller format negs of the same emulsion. This gives you all the advantages of fast emulsions (higher shutter speeds and/or smaller apertures, lower contrast, more latitude, more malleability, etc.), but without many of the technical drawbacks (lower sharpness, higher grain, etc.).

    Numbers 3 and 4 simply have to do with advantages in film size. Number one has to do with advantages in control of your image. Number two has to do with advantages in exposure and processing controls.

    The "it slows you down and makes you think" reasons do not make any sense to me. You can do the same with any format, and hopefully you do.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2009
  23. Shaggysk8

    Shaggysk8 Member

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    If you can afford the Leica M9 or a Hasselblad HD3 go digital at least then you will have something close in quality but different in look to film, but I would go 4x5.
     
  24. TimVermont

    TimVermont Subscriber

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    I'm with Keith on this one. If you want to make contact-printed portraits, skip 4x5 and go to 5x7 or 8x10. Knowing that you will be contact printing brings a real discipline to using the whole frame as you compose. If your preference is to crop and recompose on the enlarger easel once you find the frame with the "perfect moment", I'd stick with MF as your chances of getting the perfect moment go way up if you are not messing around with darkslides and the like.
     
  25. Sim2

    Sim2 Subscriber

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    Hi there, thought that I would throw my thoughts into the ring!
    It may sound strange but I think it depends on what "type" of portraits you are intending to do - large format portraits tend to be rather set up and sometimes lacking in spontaniety - this is not a bad thing per se just different to being able to "catch" a look with a smaller format. I think this may have something to do with putting the darkslide in place *shot is coming* rather than the *always ready* of the smaller format.
    Where are the shots being taken? In a studio with full powered lighting or on location?
    Portraits can be in a context e.g. workers in a factory or singers after a performance as well as formal in a studio - although most formats can be made to work in most situations, some are more suited than others.
    Large format does have the upsides of greater tonality, less grain, easier movements etc but potential downsides of more expense, less manouverability, less spontaneity etc. Difficult choice.
    Having said all the above I have recently been admiring the work of Frank Pettriano - large format but perhaps more fashion shooting than classical portrait style.
    Have fun with your choosing!
    Sim.
     
  26. vickersdc

    vickersdc Member

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    I think Sim2 makes a good point - just how spontaneous is your portrait work?

    I've still got my Bronica ETRS camera, but I'm loving my Russian FKD 18x24cm camera (currently using paper negatives in it, but getting sorted to use glass plates).

    The Bronica (and 35mm) are good for capturing those transient moments, but the slower speed of working LF may be what you are after - you'll definitely see photography in a new light with an ~8x10 ground glass! Contact print and revel in those tones!