Medium or Large

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Stephen J. Collier, Jun 13, 2004.

  1. Stephen J. Collier

    Stephen J. Collier Member

    Messages:
    163
    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2004
    Location:
    San Francisc
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I recently posed a thread asking for opinions on which medium format system I should seriously look at for my step up from 35mm. Over the past few hours I have read all the responces and talked to a pro photographer that I met and I now have been faced with another question: should I skip medium format and just make the jump to 4x5. I knew the negatives were larger, but I didn't think about the limitless possiblities of being able to correct the perspective and focus plane. One of the things that I am worried about is the cost of film. Other than that, I was wondering if anyone might have a few recomendations on brands and about how much it would cost to get set up in a beginner 4x5 system. Oh, and what is the learning curve for the jump to 4x5, are there any good books and ways for me to teach myself? Thanks for the time.
     
  2. bmac

    bmac Member

    Messages:
    2,156
    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2002
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Stephen,

    Not sure which part of the bay are you are in, but if you are in the south bay or travel this way much, I'd be happy meet up with ya and let get some hands on time with the 4x5 and 8x10 to see if it is something you are interested in.

    Personally, I went from 35mm to a a Mamiya RB67 to a 4x5, and finally settled on the 8x10 format. The bigger the negative I got, the bigger I wanted. The learning curve isnt too bad, it is mostly a mindset thing. Unless you are independently wealthy, you can't shoot sheet film with a 35mm mindset. I really like spending a whole day shooting and coming back with 8 or 10 negatives.

    Brian
     
  3. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

    Messages:
    4,532
    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I think the question you need to answer yourself first is, what is your style of shooting? For example, I started with 35 mm many moons ago, after 6 months I realized it was not the thing for me. The camera was always on a tripod, I used very slow speeds and I wanted grainless negatives, I was ready to show Ansel Adams how it should be done.. :smile:

    So I jumped straight to 4x5. I stayed with 4x5 until I became what I think was a good printer. I would visit galleries every month and examine the work there, but in the end I became bored with silver. So I jumped into 8x10 and 12x20 to contact processes. I would never go back now, my hasselblad is my snapshot camera, and the 4x5 is sitting in my safe gathering dust.

    So, to get to the point, what is it you want to do with your photography? the answer will lead you to the best format for you. Film is not expensive, you dont go through a hole lot of film in one outing and even then just carrying the holders will dissuade you from getting more than 5 or 6.

    With all respect to Brian, 8 to 10 shots with an 8x10 in one outing is a prodigious rate.. :smile: Then again he has a new toy, so that is part of it...

    After a while you will see that you go out and you take 3 or 4 pics at the most. If you go larger than 8x10, 1 or 2 pics is the norm, at least for me.

    Dont worry about film, you will see that it balances out, worry about your style. If you are a grab shot kind of guy, you will hate a LF camera. If you find you work deliberately and at a slow pace, then maybe the LF is best for you.
     
  4. Stephen J. Collier

    Stephen J. Collier Member

    Messages:
    163
    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2004
    Location:
    San Francisc
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Brian---
    I live in San Jose and would love to get a look at a 4x5 before I get into one myself. Did you find it important to go to medium before large or was that just how it happened for you personally. I guess the question is: do you feel that you benifited from using medium before large format. I have been trying to slow down when I am out photographing and so I think the more expensive film would be good for me. Thank you for the imput.
     
  5. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

    Messages:
    6,242
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I had the same order of progression as Brian. In retrospect, I wish that I would have done things differently. However, as Jorge mentioned, there is no right or wrong way to proceed. It depends more on the individuals temperment then anything else. It depends on your pace and also on what you want to produce in the way of photographs...both in subject matter and also in quality.

    Each format has it's own niche.

    In retrospect I wish that I had moved into 8X10 with my first camera (over twenty years ago). I had the same concerns that you have about costs and I ended up spending the money on equipment that I no longer use. I could have bought a lot of film and chemistry instead.

    As someone famous once said "Don't sneak up on it".
     
  6. bmac

    bmac Member

    Messages:
    2,156
    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2002
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Here Here!
     
  7. bmac

    bmac Member

    Messages:
    2,156
    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2002
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    I Went into medium format because I wanted a bigger negative, and a more grainless enlargement.

    Good points: it forced me to slow down, I used different backs, so played around with N-/N/N+ development

    Bad points: I picked the wrong camera for field work, it was WAY too heavy to lug around a body and three lenses, as well as three backs. While it gave me a taste for the larger negative, for my standards, it was close but no cigar when it came to the look I was after.

    I went and bought a 4x5 monorail. Again, this was probably the wrong camera for field work. It was heavy, and it was too big to hike with. Enlargements were much better, but I still liked the way my contact prints looked much better.

    I then bought an 8x10 (probably what I should have done in the first place). I have taken down my enlargers, and am going to focus the next 12-18 months just shooting LF and printing contact prints. I still have a 4x5, and will use it when I feel the image would be better as a 4x5 contact print, and take it with me when I go on multi-mile hikes, since the 8x10 would be too heavy.

    As for the cost of film. I am using Tmax 400 (TMY) a box of 8x10 (50 sheets) is over $150. Add the cost of chemicals, and paper, I figure every time I press the trigger, it costs me roughly $5. With the 4x5, I'd say about $3. With two kids under two years old, and a single income, you bet shooting LF has slowed me down!


    Jorge, the reason I can fire off 10 shots is because it is just so beautiful up here :smile: Actually, since I have a lot of family commitments, I only get to go out and shoot one or two days a month, so I have to make it count :smile:
     
  8. mark

    mark Member

    Messages:
    5,262
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    I would take Brian up on his offer.
     
  9. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

    Messages:
    3,221
    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2002
    Location:
    S.E. New Yor
    Logistically, on the darkroom end, the step from roll to sheet film is a consideration. Different processing equipment, different enlarging equipment. Moving to LF offers wonderful, unique advantages all of it's own but consider the whole picture. There is more to it than simply buying a different camera. The photographic experience is different. As has been suggested before by smarter folks than me; decide where you want to go with your photography and then choose the equipment that will take you there.
     
  10. jss

    jss Member

    Messages:
    200
    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2004
    Location:
    San Francisc
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    i can't add much here to say, except to add that my first 4x5 was a monorail.. and a few weeks into using it, i learned it wasn't for me. i got myself a new shen-hao 4x5 and love it. while i was still using the sinar monorail, i decided to at least learn as much as i could with it. i really should sell it off. what's great about doing 4x5, is i managed to get an omega 4x5 enlarger for free! i totally love printing from LF.

    just last week i sealed a deal on a 8x10 ansco and am looking forward to going bigger.

    i too live in the south bay, and wouldn't mind checking out bmac's 8x10 gear ;-)
     
  11. dr bob

    dr bob Member

    Messages:
    871
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Annapolis, M
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I agree. I tend to use cameras like any other tool. I select the one (or two) that I think will do the job (like a hammer) and then hang it up when finished (like a hammer). There is a little bit of fun messing about with all the "necessities" and gadgets, but that isn't really photography (for me) :smile:, is it?
     
  12. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,124
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2004
    Location:
    Jacksonville
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The offer of an opportunity to actually handle and shoot a bit with LF equipment is too good to pass up. I wish I'd had that chance at various times too. I'm delighted to be multi-format, though, and not have closed any doors at all as each one leads to a different place.

    I can't add much to what's been said about cameras, but I would like to add this about printing. It would be unfortunate to not be able to enlarge your negatives when the need arises. Contact printing has a myriad of virtues I'm sure, but so does enlarging. Consider the largest negative your current or future enlarger will handle and keep in mind that the end of the chain is as important as the beginning. Darkroom dimensions and processing space for larger prints needs to be taken into account as well. Again, good luck!
     
  13. gma

    gma Member

    Messages:
    793
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2004
    Location:
    Texas
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I recommend that you rent some 4x5 equipment before you jump into LF. Keep some of your 35mm equipment. There are many uses for both formats.

    gma
     
  14. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,987
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    As others have alluded to you don't pick up the tool before you decide on the job you wish to do. You don't use a wrench to put up a fence and you don't use a hammer to open your beer (usually).

    In my opinion, decide what type of subject matter you plan to use the camera with. The subject matter often defines what format is preferable.

    Shooting sports and children with an 8x10 is a challenge. Shooting portraits with a 35mm is fast and easy but the end results may be lacking. If the subject sits still, bigger is often better.

    If money is an issue, as it usually is you may have to compromise at first and pick a system that can handle more than one type of photography. In that case it is probably medium format, that you'll want.

    Maybe get to know the people in the Bay Area APUG. They have every kind of system there is and you can see what works best for you.

    Michael McBlane
     
  15. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

    Messages:
    2,512
    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2002
    Location:
    Omaha, Nebra
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    As someone already pointed out the darkroom is a consideration. If you go 4x5 you will need a 4x5 enlarger and lens. Both can be had for good prices on EBAY or refered to you by someone on APUG. I assume your current enlarger can handle MF negatives. Also you will need a more sturdy tripod.

    8x10 affords you the luxury of contact printing, requiring only a contact frame to make beautiful prints. Of course the camera will be bigger, heavier and more expensive, although bargains on field cameras such as Deardorffs abound.

    Remember these are not point and shoot cameras. Format really determines what your subject matter will be. There are exceptions but with LF you are talking static scenes or non-anonymous photos of people. People will know you are there, but that can work to your advantage.

    If you want to go 4x5 and want unlimited movements you need a monorail design. Calumet C300 and 400 series (heavy, but indestructible from the 50s) Cambos and calumet cadets go for around $200-$300 all the time on Ebay. You can get ideas about a lens(es) from APUGers. The other option is a Crown Graphic. It has some front movements but is much more portable and if you can find one with a working range finder it can be a point and shoot.

    if you could elaborate on what you enjoy shooting and a budget we could be more specific on suggestions and ideas.
     
  16. jss

    jss Member

    Messages:
    200
    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2004
    Location:
    San Francisc
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    renting -- answering your own questions about gear

    renting is a good idea. i had all mystical and dreamy expectations of a hasselblad until i rented one for the weekend from keeble+schucat in palo alto. the trick is to reserve it ahead of time, pick up early saturday morning, then you return before closing on monday and get charged for one day only (since they're closed on sunday). granted, two days may or may not be enough to answer all questions, but it at least gets it in your hand for the weekend for under $40.
     
  17. steve simmons

    steve simmons Inactive

    Messages:
    368
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2002
    If you are thinking about large format here is some suggested reading

    Getting Started in Large Format

    this is a free article on our web site

    www.viewcamera.com

    There are several other free articles on the site as well that might be helpful

    Here are some books

    User's Guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone

    Using the View Camera that I wrote

    You can ask me any questions you have. Just e-mail me at

    largformat@aol.com

    steve simmons
     
  18. Loose Gravel

    Loose Gravel Member

    Messages:
    921
    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2003
    Location:
    Santa Barbar
    With different kinds of cameras, you will take different kinds of photographs. What kind of photographs do you wish to take? ...Buy them all.
     
  19. gma

    gma Member

    Messages:
    793
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2004
    Location:
    Texas
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have to say I am amused by the repeated comments, "progressed" to LF. Some other photographers might progress from LF to 35mm or MF to LF or LF to MF, etc., etc. I use 4x5 and I use 35mm. I have used MF very little. I really haven't thought about progressing from one to another. Each camera type fills a niche.
     
  20. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    17,919
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I have to agree with gma. Lots of people start out with a 35mm system and add lenses serve different purposes, but when I started trying different formats, I really learned what each format does best, and now I use them all for different things. I skipped over 4x5" and went straight to 8x10" after shooting 35mm and MF for some time, but then added 4x5" when I saw what it could do well, that 8x10" didn't.
     
  21. colrehogan

    colrehogan Member

    Messages:
    2,016
    Joined:
    May 11, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis, M
    Shooter:
    Large Format Pan
    I have taken similar steps to those mentioned above. 35 mm, 6x4.5, 6x7, 4x5, 8x10. I feel that I learned a lot with the 4x5, but find myself wanting to shoot more 8x10. I have an Agfa/Ansco that I got from Midwest Photo.

    If you have the opportunity to check out other people's gear, do so. I never had that chance. I am going to start doing some alt-process printing in the near future and that's why I decided to get the 8x10.
     
  22. Allan Swindles

    Allan Swindles Member

    Messages:
    250
    Joined:
    May 10, 2004
    Location:
    Wirral, Engl
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Stephen,
    I am very new to large format photography and most of my work until recently has been on Hasselblad. However, I became interested in macro work and dug out my old 35mm system. I don't see the point of photographing something less than 36mm long on anything larger than 35mm. So I think it's down to fitness for purpose. My 35mm. landscape shots are fine, equipment easily carried, very convenient etc., but my Hass. pics. are very,very nice but the gear is not quite as transportable, and L/F, well you need a pack-horse and a lot more time, but the pics. are very, very, very nice. I now use 35mm, 6x6, and 5x4 depending on subject choice. You don't see L/F at sports events these days so I think it's down to the type of photographs you take and the sort of photographer you are. I'll stop now, people will be getting bored....

    Allan Swindles.
    Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em, and little fleas have smaller fleas and so ad infinitum.

    PS. It's not the equipment that matters, it's the end result!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 16, 2004
  23. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,247
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2003
    Location:
    Port Hueneme
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Large format is for those things that give you time. Landscapes, portraits - anything not moving much. I regularly backpack with my 4x5. What I will shoot there lends itself to that format very well. If the subject would look best on AZO or as a Kalitype and would be good as an 8x10 print, I will use my 8x10 camera. I really enjoy 8x10. I don't have an 8x10 enlarger and I love the detail and sharpness of the contact prints I make with it. Portraits and landscapes - things that do not require much hiking or movement.

    Now for the other part of the story. A good fast handling lightweight medium format camera will get you those steet shots and spontaneous shots that you will not have time to get with a 4x5. Smaller and lighter will fit fine with you anyplace you go. An equal amount of my photographic time is spent with a cheap used Bronica and a monopod. With careful shooting and good film and developer choice, I can make photos that will hang proudly on the wall next to shots taken with the 4x5. I make my camera choice based on this: shots that will be no larger than 4x6 - 35mm camera - point and shoot - Canon Rebel. For anything really worth taking a photo of but I can't set up for it - The Bronica ETRS. For shooting where I can set up - The 8x10 if I can drive there or the 4x5 or Rollei SL66 if I walk there or need to enlarge it.