I'm thinking of going large format

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by dealy663, Aug 15, 2005.

  1. dealy663

    dealy663 Member

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    Hey everyone, I'm thinking of selling off my medium format gear in order to fund a large format camera and lenses. Lately I've been pining over the seemingly infinite detail in LF pics. I'm only interested in going for a 4x5 setup, and I don't really have a lot of money to get started with. Probably only on the order of $1000 after selling my MF gear.

    My big question is how feasible is at home development going to be given that I don't have a darkroom. Currently I load up my 35 and 120 rolls in a closet at night and then do all the processing in a Jobo daylight tank. I've seen a few things here and there that seem to indicate that daylight processing of 4x5 film is not quite as easy or straightforward as processing my roll film.

    Any suggestions or pointers would be appreciated.

    Thanks, Derek
     
  2. Canuck

    Canuck Member

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    Hi Derek,
    If you can load and develop your 120, you can do 4x5 also. Its really isn't much different until you see the final results :D Do you print your own stuff?
     
  3. Mongo

    Mongo Member

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    I've never developed my 4x5 (or, for that matter, 8x10) film in anything other than a daylight tank. I use a Unicolor print drum and motorized base. There's a great description of the process on lfphoto.info. I use a changing bag to load and unload film holders and to load up the print drum for processing.

    My darkroom's dark enough for printing but not for handling film. Although I'll soon finish up the remaining 1% of light-fastness, I'll probably still continue to use the Unicolor drum for development. The process is very easy, the drum and motorized base set me back all of $25, and my results are very consistant.

    I'm not saying that tray development is bad...in the right hands it's probably better than what I do. But for my needs the print drum works very well, and doesn't require anything more than a changing bag and a bit of practice.

    One question I will ask: Are you sure you want to sell off your MF setup to finance a large format purchase? If LF's not for you, you could end up losing money on the deal when you go to re-purchase the MF gear. Just a thought...

    Good luck with your new direction.

    Be well.
    Dave
     
  4. dealy663

    dealy663 Member

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    I'm in both the analogue and digital worlds.

    I scan my negs and print with an inkjet. We simply have no place for a darkroom. Even if we did I would still probably print with the inkjet.... well then again I'm not so sure. If I had a real darkroom, I'd probably do all my photoshop work just the same (the ability to selectively make sharpness, and tonal corrections is really amazing) and then print a neg on film with the inkjet and finally make a wet print with the inkjet neg. But that is all completely out of range for me 'till we move to a bigger house!
     
  5. dealy663

    dealy663 Member

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    Well Dave, I'm pretty sure I'd be ok with the LF gear. I'm pretty slow with my MF gear right now. I've never used it for anything but artsy photos which are shot on a tripod. My current camera is a Koni Omega Rapid, which is a totally manual heavy beast of a camera. If I could have both MF and LF then I certainly would. You know honestly I'm pretty happy with the 6x7 neg. If someone made a 6x7cm camera with movements I'd consider going that route also. But as things currently stand 4x5 seems to have everything I'm after, including variety.
     
  6. Digidurst

    Digidurst Subscriber

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    That's what I do and it's tons of fun. And I don't have a traditional darkroom either. Just a spare room that with tons of black curtains, plastic, etc. to make it light tight. Before I got the whole room, I used my laundry room which is no bigger than a closet.

    But I would, as others have, caution you against selling your MF gear. I didn't even have a MF camera until after my LF camera... they each have their place in my heart but are chosen for a particular day's shooting style and/or subject.

    So my question is, what type of photographs do you enjoy making? Are you looking for a LF camera that will be at home in the studio or one that you can easily backpack with? The answers to those questions will dictate what sort of LF kit will make you a happy camper. Once you've decided, then start hunting. You'd be surprised at how economically you can get into LF if you are patient and build your gear up one piece at a time.

    Good luck to you :smile:
     
  7. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    Come visit the dark/bathroom in our 1 bedroom apartment in Manhattan, and you might change your mind. See this thread for my darkroom and other darkrooms of all shapes and sizes--

    http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=10966

    There are a few options for daylight processing of 4x5" film. Jobo tanks, the HP CombiPlan tank, print drums as described in the previous post, and if you can find one, there is a Nikor stainless steel daylight tank for 4x5", which I often use.

    Even if you don't have a darkroom, a 4x5" tank line is also not an unreasonable option, as long as you have a room that you can make dark and a place to store the full tanks when not in use (I keep 5x7" tanks in a closet and bring them to the bathroom for processing). And if you do have a room that can be made dark temporarily, like a bathroom, trays would be an option as well. 3 8x10" trays plus a wash tray or film washer don't take up much room.
     
  8. dealy663

    dealy663 Member

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    I'm an outdoor photographer, it has never even occurred to me to use my MF camera indoors. So I'm going to be looking at a camera that comes closest to my needs of being relatively affordable, good quality, lightweight and has as many movements as possible. Given that I have so many needs I know that I'll be after a camera that makes compromises, it'll likely be the best at none of the above, but adequate for everything.

    Derek
     
  9. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    OK, I'll offer the contraian view. I sold all of my MF gear...everything that was sale-able that is - I still have a broken ciroflex...but that's another story. Anyway, I sold all of my MF gear and bought a bevy of LF stuff with money to spare. You don't need a ton of cash to get started. I started with a crown graphic with a 135mm Xenar, a handful of film holders and a homemade darkcloth all for less than $250.00.

    I still dev my 4x5 b&w negs one at a time in a paterson super system4 tank inteded for 35mm and 120...

    One word of caution though...the LF experience is quite different from that of MF...and quite addicting. Enjoy!
     
  10. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

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    After you learn movements and a new concept of DOF and exposure - The biggest difference is the print - it takes a really good MF print to match up to an average LF print - huge difference. That is why I just hiked 15 miles with my 40lb backpack plus 20lbs of LF gear. For all the suffering, I knew that I would not be as happy with the 6x6 negs as I would with the 4x5 negs. Then there is 8x10 contact prints on AZO in Amidol. That is the Holy Grail of prints. I settled on a used Tachihara $500, a Rodenstock 210mm Sironar used $600 and a used Caltar II 75mm - $700. - That - a loupe, a dark cloth, a changing bag, tripod, shutter release, filters and film holders and you are in business. I have been very happy with the Jobo tank. I have motor rollers but like the look of the negs done in full tank with inversion.
     
  11. dsisaacs

    dsisaacs Member

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    not to be contrary... but of you are going to scan your LF negs into the computer and print from your home inkjet... are you really going to get that great detail that you speak of?<P>
    what inkjet are you using now?
     
  12. brent8927

    brent8927 Subscriber

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    I have to agree... It seems to me that there wont be much of a difference in detail from scanning LF vs. MF. I switched from MF to LF a few months ago, thinking that LF was perfect for me, so I sold my MF gear to buy some nice LF gear.

    I quickly realized that even though you can make a better print with LF, as far as detail and depth of field go, and assuming time isn't important, I found the experience of LF just wasn't very enjoyable, so I sold my LF gear after I learned how to shoot 4x5 and then bought a 501C again. Because I didn't enjoy working with a 4x5 my photographs actually turned out much worse and I also rarely ventured out to take photos, which was always my favorite aspect of photography.

    I think most people on APUG will say they enjoy large format photography the most, but I think all of them will say you should use what you enjoy the most (if you're a hobbyist that is; professionals don't always have that luxury).

    So I'd say first rent/borrow and make sure you like LF before you make the switch. I think I ended up comming out even because I got a great deal on my camera so I made extra money there but lost out on the rest of the gear, like lenses, etc.

    I think you should definetely hold onto your medium format gear until you know you prefer large format more. Nothing hurts more than wanting one of your old "friends" back...
     
  13. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Member

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    Howdy 663!

    I wouldn't be in a hurry to sell that MF gear!

    You can get started slowly in 4x5 without spending big bucks - cruse a particular online auction site and pick yourself up an inexpensive 4x5 camera and lens - older folders and Graflex go fairly cheap - add a few film holders and a Combi-Plan tank and your in business. You can even do E-6 in a Combi (with a tempering bath) and a 4x5 trannie will blow your socks off!

    Be warned though - LF is addictive! I started a bit over a year ago with a home made 4x5 and now have three 4x5s, a 5x7, and an 8x10 :sad:
     
  14. MikeS

    MikeS Member

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    David:

    When are you going to learn that the Nikor 4x5 tank is JUNK? I mean they're terrible! In fact, they're so bad, I think you should send yours to me for disposal! :smile: (and this goes for anyone else that still thinks they're any good, send them to me, I'll dispose of them properly!)

    All kidding aside, if you can process MF now, there's no reason why you couldn't process 4x5 or even larger. Well larger than 4x5 starts getting more interesting, but 4x5 is definitely doable.

    -Mike
     
  15. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Which Jobo tank do you have? All you may need is a new reel. It can be that easy. At worst you need a new tank and a new reel. Add a motorbase for the luxury setup-)
     
  16. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    Like many others have said, keep your MF gear. By a cheap simple LF camera with one lens (they do exist, my cheapest cost $34!), some film, and a packet of POP (printing-out paper). Or a cyanotype kit, or a van Dyke kit. Make prints. No darkroom needed.
    Then decide if you want a bigger/better camera, more lenses et cetera.
     
  17. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Hi Derek

    I just took a look at your gallery: lovely work.

    Right off, you're working with a Koni Omega ( I've got one right here, next to the 8x10 Deardorff ), and if it can't be done with a Koni, it can't be done with a 4x5.

    You can improve the technical sharpness easily by not stopping down so far. You lose at least 31% of your potential acutance stopping down from f/22 to f/32, and half your potential acuity stopping down from f/16 to f/32.

    Ahem. How are you scanning your images ? The scanner and software combination usually means you're throwing away most of your clarity.

    The important thing is to transform yourself. If you want more detail in your prints, you have to change yourself, not change your gear. The same marketing hype that wants you to go digital is the same hype that says we have to go LF. We ALL know how it sounds.


    From looking at your pictures, it looks like you're pretty close to 'breaking through'. Why not take a workshop with someone whose work you admire ?

    When you've got the detail you want in your pictures, you might want more control over it. That would be a time to switch to 4x5. Or not.
     
  18. John Bartley

    John Bartley Member

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    It's amazing what kind of space is NOT required. I too would "like" to have a large darkroom with sinks and dryers and racks and shelves and beer fridge and TV and...what I do now is block off the bathroom window with a plywood panel (removable) and block off the door with towels. That's it!! That's my darkroom. I have a plywood panel cut to fit the top of the tub for a work surface and I have a flexible hose that clips onto the tub faucet that I can use to dribble water thru' my trays for a washer and I have clothes pins clipped onto shower curtain hooks for hanging prints and negatives from the shower curtain rod.

    Like Calamity, I started just over a year ago in LF and while my output is NOT huge, I've done 80 4x5's and 23 8x10's in that space without so much as light or chemical problem. (I have made lots of "other" mistakes though :smile:)

    My personal opinion only :::: Once you've done 4x5, you will likely feel the urge to do 8x10, and since 8x10 makes a nice contact print size, and because it doesn't cost a whole lot more (in fact it cost me less to set up a budget 8x10 setup than 4x5), why not just go to 8x10 first?

    cheers eh?
     
  19. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council

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    Over twenty years ago I did just what you're thinking about. Like you, I also did most of my 35mm and 6x7cm work on a tripod. I decided to go to 4x5 because the photographers who I most respected and who's work I most connected with (through books) all used LF gear. I sold off all my other gear and mail ordered a Zone VI camera outfit - I had never even seen a LF camera until I opened the box. For the first year I did nothing but contact prints in my parents laundry room...things have been getting more complicated ever since :smile: !

    You have to be pretty sure about what you're intending to do; but then there's fewer motivating forces than jumping over the edge without knowing what's below!! Keep us posted.

    Murray
     
  20. dealy663

    dealy663 Member

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    You know its kinda fun reading through all of the replies here. They are pretty varied, and it is rather humorous to see some people suggesting I stay where I'm at and others kinda pushing me forward to go with the LF setup.

    DF Cardwell suggested that I consider putting the whole camera switch on hold, and going for a workshop. It is funny but that is one of the many things I've been considering. Just last night I was looking through View Camera magazine and saw ads for an Ansel Adams group workshop, along with another from the Lepp Institute. I may decide to go this route. I feel I already have a pretty good grasp of the technical issues related to photography, but I could use some help in composition and subject choices.
     
  21. Andre R. de Avillez

    Andre R. de Avillez Member

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    I think most people will feel safer advising you to go the same route they went (its hard to tell someone to do something you've never done. hard to be honest about it, anyway), so I would take all suggestions to heart.

    I'm sorry not to have a suggestion for you, but I've been thinking about a LF ever since I used one in a studio.

    The only thing I can suggest is for you to go to a bookstore (or library), sit down and study your favorite photographers. I've done that (and still do from time to time) and it helps tremendously.

    André
     
  22. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

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    As you probably have surmised - LF is very different than roll film photography. Everything about it takes longer. Because of the time and effort - I am more choosy - I print one or two negs on a roll of 120 film and consider that a success - With 4x5 or 8x10 it is more like 4 out of 5. I consider each view thoughfully and then set up - I try different lenses - I try a filter - or not. I change the aspect from landscape to portrait. Getting the tilts right can be time consuming. Don't be afraid to stop down - after you ruin a lot of sheets with poor DOF, you realize there is nothing sacred about f16. The wait for a calm moment for your 2 second exposure .... ...... All in all - it is very deliberate art creation. It is not well suited for shooting spontanious kids at play. That is why there are Blads. If you are a decisive moment photographer - LF may be a very big challenge. I like MF and I like LF - anything smaller just doesn't give me the results I want - and I am always happeir with the bigger negs - I wish they all could be 8x10! - But that is yet another order of magnitude in weight and cost and ever technique to some extent. If I could only have one camera it would be the 4x5 - I love the 8x10 but it cannot go where I go. I still would not give up on MF though.