large format, medium format: is 'more' necessarily more...?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Dean Taylor, Feb 2, 2012.

  1. Dean Taylor

    Dean Taylor Member

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    hello--

    Please take moment to define different qualities of prints for both medium and large format photography. Said another way: is it true that for b & w prints the larger format will capture more light-bearing image--and, is preferred for that reason (owing solely to larger surface area of negative) than a medium format negative--or, does the MF negative have features particular to that format size (e.g., thinner emulsion) that LF does not?

    I am venturing into LF--keh has a couple of basic 4 x5 cameras for around $200: an omega

    4X5 OMEGA VIEW 45C LARGE FORMAT VIEW CAMERA BODY http://is.gd/liCTaQ

    and a calumet

    4X5 CALUMET 540 CHROME LARGE FORMAT VIEW CAMERA BODY http://is.gd/6yc7N6

    Which appears to be the better value?

    Thank you

    Dean Taylor
     
  2. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Morning, Dean,

    Each camera would serve you well. One consideration might be that the Calumet can use all or most of the widely available Cambo accessories.

    Films can vary somewhat from manufacturer to manufacturer but a given emulsion is usually essentially identical from format to format. Kodak LF film is typically on thicker base than roll film, but that doesn't have much or any effect on the image. If you stick with something like TMX or TMY, you'll have the same quality image regardless of format size, but the larger the format, the more information can be stored, usually making for better tonality in a print. All that, of course, is "other things being equal," which won't always be the case. For example, lenses for smaller formats are often capable of higher resolution, more lines/inch, than lenses for large format. Even so, the final image from a LF negative is usually noticeably better than a similar rendition in 35mm or MF.

    Konical
     
  3. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    Format size depends on what you want as a final product and how much work you're willing to do to get the image quality you're after. LF allows you to expose and develop negatives one at a time for ultimate process control. An 11x14 print is about a 2.75X enlargement from a 4x5 negative, an 11-by-X enlargement from a MF negative is at least a 5.5X enlargement depending on how you crop it or the aspect ratio of the original film. Bigger neg=less enlargement=better quality print given the same film. There's no way around it.

    Negative size is only one variable in the equipment equation as well. Being able to manipulate the plane of focus and perspective control when using a view camera is another big plus. Speed and spontaneity goes to MF. MF is a great compromise in terms of image quality, portability, spontaneity. I choose format for any shoot by the nature of the situation, what I'm likely to be photographing and how far I'll have to haul gear.

    Your camera choice depends on what you're going to do with the camera. The Calumet is a little heavier and sturdier, the Toyo a little lighter. As far as performance, they'll be identical, and both have accessories readily available. If you're doing field work and packing gear, the Toyo might be a better choice. If you're using it indoors or in a studio, either will do the job. My prejudice is for the Calumet, which I believe is made by the manufacturers of Cambo cameras. Both are good choices for a basic LF kit.

    Peter Gomena
     
  4. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    The role of the printing method is very important to consider, particularly if you plan on working 100% analogue. In that case, should you want to do alt printing processes (most of which require contact prints) then you will want a larger neg. People who do Pt/Pd or such may well advise you to go to a larger format.... but of course it is all individual and depends on the imagery.

    There are many other important considerations such as those mentioned above... it's not as simple as bigger is better.

    Regarding the two cameras, I think I'd go for the calumet... but admittedly only because I have own and know it to be very sturdy. But I am sure both are very capable and there may be technical reasons for one over the other e.g. tilt without yaw or whatnot. You'll have to research that if you think it's important.
     
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  5. papagene

    papagene Membership Council Council

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    I photograph with both LF and MF cameras. I use the LF cameras simply because I enjoy photographing with them. With the MF cameras it's the same reason... I like using them. Which camera I choose depends more on my mood than anything else.
    My $0.02 and YMMV. :D
     
  6. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    You get less grain with LF over MF or 35mm at the same print size. Larger formats require you to stop down more for the same depth of field. So while they capture more info, they give up some to diffraction. But camera movements can sometimes mitigate this. I see no difference in the films between formats, other than some films are coated on different supports so may be more dimensionally stable.

    I use both LF, MF and 35mm. They all have their place. Image quality in a 16x20 from a Mamiya 7 is as good as my 4x5 if you do not use a loupe, and even then it's close. The Mamiya 7 is worlds better if I choose not to use a tripod.

    Regarding your camera choices, they are both monorails. This is a bonus in the studio, and a pain in the a__ out in the field if you plan to hike with the system. I don't know either system so no comment on which is better.
     
  7. Brian C. Miller

    Brian C. Miller Member

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    There's nothing magic or sprinkled with fairy dust going on here. The reason to use MF or LF cameras is because they fit what you want to do.

    LF cameras give you movements, which really is the most important reason. You can adjust the plane of focus, so you don't have to stop down to get something into focus. The back can be moved independently of the front to correct perspective. I use a Graflex Super Graphic, which folds up and I take it on my bicycle.

    MF cameras give you more area on the film, so grain in the print is reduced. This is what, of course, gives them an advantage over 35mm. I started with a Pentax 6x7, and I've never really been a 35mm photographer. The camera in my backpack is a Fuji 645.

    Is there something magic in using the various cameras? Of course not. Each has a place. If I want to make a lot of exposures fast or I need to conveniently carry the camera, of course I'll use roll film. If I have some more time, I'll use LF because I have more options of what I can do.

    Think about how you photograph, what you want to photograph, and whether or not 35mm is not fitting into what you want to do.
     
  8. couldabin

    couldabin Subscriber

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    I find 4x5 to be the antidote to ADHD photography. When I was shooting 35mm, motordrives brought on image-blasting. Digital cameras, with their real-time capabilities, amped that even further. Large format forces me to get back into my head.
     
  9. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    First off- those two cameras you showed are essentially the same camera. They're equally good values. I also wouldn't worry about which one has a greater variety of system accessories, especially with your first large format camera. Unlike a 35mm system, it will definitely NOT be your last if you stick with it long enough, because you'll find that certain types of large format cameras are better suited to certain types of photography. The ones you pointed out, monorails, are great for studio/tabletop/still-life subjects, architecture, and anything you plan to photograph less than 50 feet from your car. Field or flat-bed cameras are better for landscape and general-purpose shooting because they fold up more compactly and generally weigh less. These are extremely broad, general categorizations of the two types of cameras, and specific models within each type will defy those preconceptions.

    As to the question of "is more, more", well, it's not necessarily more, just different. There is certainly a qualitative as well as a quantitative difference between 35mm or medium format and 4x5. If you are enlarging, the old Detroit adage "there's no substitute for (cubic) inches" applies. It's easy to get caught up in the math of photography, though, and neglect some of the more subjective aspects. Shooting with large format is a very different style of shooting than 35mm or medium format. The lenses are different, and as a result, there is a different quality to the images produced. You can control perspective and plane of focus, and it is much easier in some ways to control depth of field with large format, both maximizing and minimizing it. Another quality in addition to the increase in detail is the improvement in tonal value transitions - gradations are smoother and creamier, for a variety of reasons. Thinking of lenses, another reason to shoot large format is the lenses are absolutely interchangeable - you can use a 100 year old lens on a 1 year old camera with 100% compatibility, so long as you have a lensboard and/or lensboard adapter. This means you can really play around with the look you want to achieve. If you want super-sharp optics with absolute color fidelity, you can get modern multi-coated optics. If you want something dreamy, soft-focus, and aren't concerned about color accuracy, you can throw on a vintage portrait lens. You can even use an early 19th century Daguerreotype lens to combine a sharp central image with wild, swirling out-of-focus areas.

    Because you shoot individual sheets of film, it is possible to process each sheet according to its needs. One exposure may need to be push-processed, and the next pulled to control highlights. You can't do that with roll-film. The downside is of course that you'll be processing one sheet at a time then, and spending a lot more time in the darkroom (not that you can't batch process sheet film - I soup mine in a Jobo CPP2+, others tray process their sheets sometimes as many as 10-12 at a time).
     
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  10. snederhiser

    snederhiser Member

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    Hello Dean;
    I shoot three formats, 35mm, medium, and large. Each has it's place and I tend to shoot mostly medium. But for serious work, nothing beats large format. Have film backs for my Graflex's just in case, Steven.
     
  11. Dean Taylor

    Dean Taylor Member

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    hello all--

    Thanks to everyone for taking the time to share their expertise here...


    At any rate--and, not to throw a wet blanket on this dynamic thread topic--I have looked into lens boards for the Calumet (not cost prohibitive at all...) and all that remains for me to begin exploring 4X5 is the matter of the lens. Here is my (clumsy) question:

    As it would seem to be the case that a lens for this 4X5 may run upwards of four hundred dollars (or more) have any of you encountered a photographer who has made a go of--for lack of a better term--gerryrigging a lens/shutter front from an inexpensive camera (garage sale, ebay, etc.) to the Calumet lens board? Or, is it more likely than not that by attempting same I would be throwing away fifty or so bucks? Or--and, if that is somehow feasible (and not to press the issue) is it within the realm of practical possibility that I might then purchase, e.g., a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D (about a hundred bucks) and attach it to the lens board?

    I dare pose these tedious/tacky suggestions as temporary remedies to a temporary scarcity of funds--i.e., until I can manage the proper Calumet lens from keh, and, in order to get started loading b & w 4X5 film in the Calumet and, off I go! Just the mathematical possibilities kindle excitement: 4X5 = 20 sq inches of negative--a HUGE canvas for me to fill (pardon the metaphor: I also paint murals w/acrylics)!

    Thanks again!
    Dean
     
  12. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Well if you are doing macro or even tight portrait closeups then you don't necessarily even need an LF lens at all. I use smaller format lenses for macro all the time, and I recall Per Volquartz using a 50mm lens from a 35mm camera for macro work. People also use shutterless enlarger lenses which are mostly dirt cheap. If you have the slightest musical rhythm, you can easily hand shutter down to 1/8 or 1/16 or so.

    Do not feel inferior because you don't buy a nanocoated apo aspherical moneygon! Plenty of people do what I describe or LF pinhole and get great results.

    Where you get into serious money with LF optics is when you need a big image circle and good coatings and apo correction for colour work. Otherwise I htink you'll find that many LFers are quite proud of their inventiveness, when it comes to getting the job done at lower cost. It's quite a relief if you come from a certain 35mm culture :wink:
     
  13. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi dean

    depending on what lens you want to use some might work, some might not work for general photography.
    some may work if you use them for macro type photography, but in general smaller format lenses
    won't work on large format cameras because of the image circle and they just don't cover the whole negative.
    you can sometimes find lenses from old folders that will throw off enough of an image circle, but then ... you run into
    the problem of not having a shutter ( unless you harvested the shutter off of the folder too :smile: )

    i often use a speed graphic and a graflex slr because ... they are both large format cameras and because the cameras
    have internal shutters so using junque lenses, enlarger and copy/process lenses, magnifying glasses, prescription glasses
    or anything else you might want to try to get an image out of, are no problem.
    if you are using a 4x5 camera, or looking for one, primarily because of the negative size, and not because bellows camera
    allows you to do perspective control ( straighten out diverging/converging lines, selective focus &C ) than maybe a camera
    with an internal shutter might be a better pick than a traditional bellows camera ( like the monorail cameras you mentioned before ).

    have fun!
    john
     
  14. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    Dean,

    I don't quite understand what you intend to do. My LF lenses have front and rear elements and each is mounted on a lens board that was drilled to accommodate a lens of a particular size. Also you want a lens that will cover your format and whatever movements you intend to do. I would think that with some searching you can find a 100, 135, 150 or 210 lens in a decent shutter as a starter for a reasonable price. Find a studio that is closing or has gone digital and has some good equipment sitting around. Not long ago a pro that I know gave me an old 135 with a broken shutter. I bought a new shutter and lens board and now have a nice extra lens.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  15. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    The latest, greatest large format lenses will cost you a fortune. Luckily, there is 150 years worth of photographic equipment out there for you to choose from. Take some time and learn about the lens types and manufacturers. Some great bargains can be had from as recently as the 1980s. Improvements since then have been incremental.

    Figure out what your subject matter is likely to be and go from there. A "normal" focal length lens for 4x5 is 150mm, and those are relatively cheap. The next most common is a 210mm focal length, which is excellent for tabletop work, landscapes, and portraits. A 90mm wide-angle lens would fill out your kit, but save that for last unless you photograph a lot of architecture or work in tight spaces. 90mm is valuable in landscape work as well. A 90-150-210 lens kit is the basic setup for a lot of folks. The 150 and 210mm lenses are my most-used focal lengths. Rodenstock, Schneider and Nikon are the big names, and there are lenses by Fuji out there, but not as common, that also are excellent. Calumet lenses were rebranded Schneiders and Rodenstocks from the 1980s on. Earlier ones are decent lenses but not as highly regarded in some instances. A 150mm lens in a shutter is relatively cheap and easy to find, so I'd start there if you're on a budget. I prefer lenses in a shutter.

    Calumet/Cambo cameras were standards for students and professionals, and many used components are available. You will find many used lens boards for sale that are already drilled. Standard shutter sizes for modern lenses are "0" "1" and "3". Most 150mm-and-shorter lenses will use a "0", most 180-210mm lenses will use a "1", and many but not all longer focal length lenses will take a "3".

    If money is tight, go ahead and buy the camera and a used lens board. Get a copy of Eric Renner's book on pinhole photography and start playing! Also check into the Large Format Photography Forum, http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/ and read the back posts on cameras, lenses, film, etc. It's free and a great resource. Good luck and have fun!

    Peter Gomena
     
  16. Dan Dozer

    Dan Dozer Subscriber

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    I think one of the challenges you will face with the Calumet boards (and the Toyo Omega boards for that matter) are that they are metal as opposed to wood. Making wood boards and drilling them for lenses is a piece of cake, while working with metal is somewhat more complicated. However, if you have source for the metal boards that is cost effective and can get the holes drilled, go for it.

    Concerning lenses for your 4 x 5 - you will see prices on auction sites for lenses in the 90 - 210 mm range (which are standard sizes for 4 x 5) for several/many hundreds of dollars. However, these are overpriced and are from dealers hoping someone will be desperate enough to pay that much. Those lens sizes are very common and if you are patient, you'll be able to find those for less than $200 (Schneider lenses in Copal shutters). I was patient and got a 150mm Symmar for about $130 a couple of years ago. There also older versions of the Schneider lenses that sell for less - and I'm assuming similar versions from Nikon, Rodenstock, etc.

    It is always possible to fit older lenses to modern boards. However, they may mount differently than a more modern lens - a mounting flange rather than a threaded ring with retaining ring. However, if you're handy with tools, there isn't any reason why it can't be done. The one challenge you will find is if you get an older lens that has no mounting flange - you will find that mounting it to a metal board will be challenging.

    One thing to keep in mind when trying to us old lenses from "junk cameras" is that if the flee market camera lens is from an old camera that uses smaller film than 4 x 5, the image circle for the lens probably won't be large enough for the 4 x 5 film.

    Hope this helps.
     
  17. redrockcoulee

    redrockcoulee Member

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    I got the same 150 as Dan for $78 four years ago and paid only two hundred for my Symmar S 210mm. You should be able to get a couple of good lenses for three to four hundred and many only have a total set of 3 or less lenses. Buy one and use it until you know 1) what other lenses you might want and 2) if you even like LF

    Visit large photography forum for more advise and a more active LF market place

    http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/
     
  18. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I found that as my cameras grew in size I was still shooting about the same amount of film in square inches. Just fewer, and much better exposures. Once I hit 4x5 and got past making mistakes (like, say, shooting an entire day with empty holders) my keeper ratio got up to about every other exposure, give or take. I ascribe this to the distillation of effort and attention enforced by the format.

    I save my roll film cameras for times when I wan't to shoot impulsively, spontaneously, etc.

    When I use a bunch of time to visualize my end print the slow and methodical LF workflow is a contributor, and I'm trying to take, trying to wring, everything out of the emulsion that my skill set can steal. I am taking care of the film.

    OTO, when I'm shooting off the cuff, stream of coincidence, happenstance, looking for HCB's decisive moment, the shot isn't going to wait around for a bunch of LF antics, and I'm looking for what the film gives me, for how it takes care of me, for it's inherent forgiveness.

    For me these are two entirely different yet equally valid areas of photographic creativity, and I'm very glad that there are tools suited to both.
     
  19. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    :whistling:
     
  20. Brian C. Miller

    Brian C. Miller Member

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    Let me try to explain a bit about lenses. When a lens is designed as a "50mm" lens, that means that it's center of focus is 50mm from the film plane. When then lens is moved away from that spot towards the subject, the lens will then focus on something closer. So if you were to use a 50mm lens designed for a 35mm camera, or an entire 35mm camera with the back removed, the distance required for a focused image would be like hair's width in front of the lens.

    Lenses have an "image circle." This is the area of light the lens illuminates. A lens designed for a 35mm camera has an image circle just large enough to cover a 35mm-size frame. (And some lenses are still dark in the corners!) A lens designed for 4x5 will illuminate the entire sheet of film.

    Like has been said, there's lots of excellent lenses to buy for very cheap! Be patient, and you will find something good. If you are impatient, then you can always use a pinhole "lens" on the front of your camera.
     
  21. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    You seem to be thinking in 35mm SLR system camera terms about lenses. In large format, there is no relation between the brand of the camera and the brand of the lens with very few exceptions of specialized cameras with helical lens mounts. A Calumet camera doesn't require Calumet lenses, and there is no particular advantage to using Calumet branded lenses on a Calumet branded camera, since they are both rebranded items anyway (old Caltar lenses were made by Ilex mostly, Caltar-S by Schneider, and Caltar-N by Rodenstock). Pretty much any lens will mount on any camera--Schneider, Rodenstock, Nikkor, Fujinon, Caltar, Ilex, Wollensak, whatever. Each lens comes in a shutter typically, and there are three basic sizes of modern shutters, and then there are older shutters that may require that a lensboard be drilled to order, which is a normal and not terribly expensive thing to have done. It's not jerryrigging--it's just how it works!

    There are lots of good older lenses out there that are very affordable. If you like modern lenses, look for something like a Schneider Symmar convertible from the 1970s. These are similar in design to the latest modern plasmats and are generally single coated, and are very economically priced.
     
  22. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Just a coincidence. :smile:


    In regard to the OP, I do not have a single LF lens that's manufacturers name matches the camera's name.
     
  23. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Dean, your price estimates are a little high. I just took a look at LF lenses in shutter on eBay with the buy it now option, found a few relative bargains. I'm not vouching for any of them except to say that they're all respectable lenses and none would be a bad mistake. They're all used, and there's a law of nature to the effect that used shutters always need to be overhauled. None is mine and I have no connection with any of the sellers.

    I'm posting them to give you an idea of prices you might reasonably expect to have to pay if you're willing to be patient, not to push you to buy anything now. You'd best curb your enthusiasm for a while and educate yourself before you start spending.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Schneider-9...19821903?pt=Camera_Lenses&hash=item41622a6d4f

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Ilex-Calume...48973575?pt=Camera_Lenses&hash=item3cc1c55807

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Fuji-Fujifi...40963085?pt=Camera_Lenses&hash=item35b93baf0d

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/fujifilm-FU...39922442?pt=Camera_Lenses&hash=item35b92bce0a

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Fuji-Fujifi...76438317?pt=Camera_Lenses&hash=item4cfdda052d

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Excellent-L...42672145?pt=Camera_Lenses&hash=item2318f6a311


    Cheers,

    Dan