is LF really complicated?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by stradibarrius, Feb 10, 2011.

  1. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

    Messages:
    1,382
    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Monroe, GA
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    is LF a lot more difficult than shooting MF? As much as I love photography I don't like or care for the extreme details like formulas and ratios.
     
  2. David William White

    David William White Member

    Messages:
    1,179
    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2007
    Location:
    Hamilton, Ca
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    What you see is what you get.
     
  3. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    9,555
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It's only as complicated as you want to make it. The one thing you REALLY have to know about is exposure compensation when focusing. The simple rule is that when focused at 1:1, you have to add two stops of exposure comp. At 1:2, you add only 1 stop. This is seldom an issue when shooting with smaller formats if you are doing landscape or even portraiture (a 4x5 portrait, even a tight headshot, is still not even 1:2 reproduction). It's pretty easy.
     
  4. Barry S

    Barry S Member

    Messages:
    1,347
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Location:
    DC Metro
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Large format is simple--a piece of film, a lens, and an empty box. A couple simple rules are all the math you need.
     
  5. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,051
    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2009
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yes and no. It's easier because the camera is usually a lot simplier. The hard part for me is looking at an upside down image on the ground glass. The swings and tilts took a while for me to learn. Once you've mastered LF cameras, it's very rewarding. I learned a lot through using Polaroid type 55. It gave me instant feed back. It's going to be harder because Polaroid is no more :sad:
     
  6. Wayne

    Wayne Member

    Messages:
    2,130
    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2005
    Location:
    USA
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Do the bellows extension math once for each lens, mark it on a ruler, tape measure or your camera bed, and you never have to do it again. Or just eyeball the extension and add 1/2 stop for every additional 20% of extension over the focal length. Bring a table or graph along for reciprocity corrections at various speeds and you will be math free, until you start adding filters. The only time I start to get confused is when I'm combining bellows extension with long reciprocity corrections, then my brain sometimes swells. But slowing down and being careful takes care of it.
     
  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    20,244
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    local
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    hi barry

    a lf camera is only more complicated because you
    have more things to remember ...
    for example : " did i close the shutter after i focused "

    and it is cheaper than film, because you can
    shoot paper negatives when you are learning the ropes
    and process your exposure in 2 mins, instead of shooting rolls of film :smile:


    have fun !
    john
     
  8. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

    Messages:
    1,897
    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2004
    Location:
    Saint Paul, MN
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Actually, the issue with bellows factor is not much different than using an extension tube or other macro device. If you not doing closeup type work, you will not have to deal with it much. It becomes a bigger issue on larger formats, where a head and shoulders portrait can be approaching 1:2 or even 1:1.

    The other issues that might seem confusing have to do with movements. There are formulas or rules for determining the plane of focus but most of us don't to too much with that and can get what we need from eyeballing it.

    The only thing I would say about large format is that it does take a lot more time. There are a bunch things to check that you don't have to do with MF or especially don't have to do with a modern whiz bang 35mm. Of course, many of use find that the benefits of slowing down and paying attention to everything outweigh the costs in time.
     
  9. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

    Messages:
    20,720
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Location:
    Southern California
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Since there are not interlocks, LF photography allow one to make mistakes in many unimaginable ways. Your inventiveness in finding new frontiers of screwing up will amaze you. Then you will establish a set pattern of doing LF photography and most mistakes will disappear.

    Steve
     
  10. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,051
    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2009
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think for some applications 4x5 is excellent. It slows you down so it makes one see differently. I like cook so I see it like cooking from scratch with a stove verses microwaving a tv dinner. One is more an art and the other is just do what is necessary to get the job done to eat.
     
  11. keithwms

    keithwms Member

    Messages:
    6,070
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2006
    Location:
    Charlottesvi
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Don't sweat the formulas; we don't photograph formulas.

    Just try LF and see if the simplicity of the gear appeals. That's definitely LF's main attraction to me: simplicity. Less gear and gizmos... just you, your film, some bellows and a lens. Photography in its purest form; you add the complexity, not the gear. Limited and limitless at the same time.

    If you decide, in the future, to use the analytical approach to optimize this or that technical element in your images, then fine. But you certainly don't have to do that. Remember, Weston developed a deep intuition based on ~zero analytical training, and he used some of the simplest gear possible. Adams was far more analytical, but did he install BTZS formulas on his iphone?
     
  12. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,129
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2005
    Location:
    Two inches to the left
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I don't know if it will help, but I have a dumbed down LF video in the APUG video archives. It's the B&J video. Might make it look simpler than you're thinking it is.
     
  13. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,129
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2005
    Location:
    Two inches to the left
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Oh, and so does Jason Brunner.
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. totalamateur

    totalamateur Member

    Messages:
    142
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2008
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I started shooting film 18 months ago on a kodak 8x10 view, but switched to a 4x5 because film was cheaper and easier to get. I've got a Mamiya TLR, and Holga (so I can be trendy), a DSLR, a couple of digital point and shoots (all that for only 18 months of GAS) The 8x10 is by far the simplest - to - use camera I have. 4x5 is a very close second, but has front swings where the 8x10 doesn't, so it's got one more knob.

    There's no white balance, center weighted or evalauteive metering, wandering autofocus, batteries, power button, blah blah blah , blah blah. Hell, with film, the exposure doesn't even matter that much, so I don't even use a meter - sunny 16, shady 8 rule for me - If i'm a stop or two one way or the other Tri-X doesn't seem to care that much, so I don't worry - I spend more time looking at the scene and trying to visualize what i want on the film - which was the whole point to begin with.

    The only caveat is that if the subject is moving quickly, in low light, and all you want is a record of events, not a "wall hanger", there may be a more "useful" system. Holgas with big effing flashes have their place.
     
  16. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

    Messages:
    1,897
    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2004
    Location:
    Saint Paul, MN
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Jason Brunner is simpler than we think he is?
     
  17. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

    Messages:
    1,897
    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2004
    Location:
    Saint Paul, MN
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    This is all a really good point. While trying to make things simple, modern technology can create complexity beyond what we are really capable of dealing with.
     
  18. David Grenet

    David Grenet Member

    Messages:
    310
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2007
    Location:
    Sydney, Aust
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yeah, except now whenever I start to consider bellows factor I get this craving for bacon which can be quite distracting when out in the field...
     
  19. vdonovan

    vdonovan Subscriber

    Messages:
    511
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2008
    Location:
    San Francisc
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    This is a great post. Thanks for putting this up. You've inspired me to do some LF.

     
  20. David Grenet

    David Grenet Member

    Messages:
    310
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2007
    Location:
    Sydney, Aust
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Oh, that's right there was a point to this thread originally too, wasn't there...

    Not more complicated at all. Borrow a camera if you can and have a go, otherwise just jump in and do it. When I first started in LF I didn't worry too fuch about the finer details (including bellows factor) and if you're shooting landscapes or other things which tend to be focussed at infinity it doesn't come in to play anyway...

    Movements can be learnt later too, and it sounds like you'd be best served just spending some quality time under a dark cloth and playing with tilt and swing until you get an intuitive understanding of how they work.
     
  21. heespharm

    heespharm Member

    Messages:
    529
    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2009
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Try it... But to warn you... Once you look in the front of a multicoated plasmat lens, you be mesmorized into buying more... Such pretty glass... My prrr... My prrr... MY PRECIOUS!!!
     
  22. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

    Messages:
    8,003
    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I wouldn't call it more complicated in the way of being much harder to understand...perhaps in the "more involved" meaning of the word. You need to be "on it" all the time or your shots don't come out at all. It is rather unforgiving of user error. The technical things that really matter (understanding light and metering, for example) are the same across all formats. You don't have to worry about the exposure compensation unless you are focusing on a close subject, and even then, the formula is simple (one act of subtraction, one act of division and one act of multiplication), and there are ways (including gizmos) that let you avoid plugging numbers while working.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 11, 2011
  23. Willie Jan

    Willie Jan Member

    Messages:
    1,935
    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2004
    Location:
    Best/The Net
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Life is complicated too.

    If you see the quality once, you're lost...
    A single lens can be used from landscape until macro by just extending the bellow. With MF you have a minimum distance. tilt,shift etc.. can be used to adjust your image. But it's heavier and slower than MF...
     
  24. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

    Messages:
    9,066
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Edwin Land, inventor of Polaroid instant film, promoted "simplicity through complexity". i.e. using complex design and manufacture to make the user interface as simple as possible. This was true of his Polaroid cameras as they were easy to operate.

    Modern designers of all electronic cameras might think that they are doing the same thing but they are not so much hiding the complexity, rather they make it all user adaptable by putting in multiple layers of menus.


    Steve.
     
  25. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

    Messages:
    18,141
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    Location:
    West Midland
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Barry, there's nothing remotely complex using a LF camera, however it's well worth spending an hour or so with an experienced LF user, it's far easier to see and grasp things like movements with guidance & practice than reading books etc.

    As others say you can mark the bellows extension/exposure factors on the camera and it's very straight forward.

    Ian
     
  26. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,494
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2004
    Location:
    Bath, OH 442
    Shooter:
    ULarge Format
    A different approach. Goal orientation. Look at a good contact print, 8x10 or larger. If you can see and enjoy that quality, the work to get there is nothing compared to the reward.

    On the other hand the formulas are nothing compared to having to carry a big camera and that stuff a mile or two in a babyjogger.

    John Powers