Newbie - what's that old camera with a cloth hood?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by buddyboy101, Mar 2, 2008.

  1. buddyboy101

    buddyboy101 Member

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    Hey, i'm new here and getting into old-school photography. I was wondering how do you refer to that real old type of camera you see in the movies where hte photographer is underneath a cloth hood that is connected to the camera.

    Do they still sell those any where?

    Also, if what's the cheapest and most practical way to take some photos with a real retro feel to them (i.e. type of film/camera)?

    Thanks so much!
     
  2. David William White

    David William White Member

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    View camera. You're definitely in the right place -- this board is full of them. Common film sizes are 4x5 inches, 5x7 inches, 8x10 inches. These view cameras are referred to as 'large format' cameras. Ultra large format (ULF) could be 11x17 inches and even bigger. 4x5" people generally do enlargement printing, but 8X10 and bigger often do contact printing.

    There are many used view cameras on eBay in all the common sizes and there are a few manufacturers still making them. Common lenses are still being manufactured, and film as well.

    See some of the links to sponsors & vendors for sources.
     
  3. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Do you mean one of these crazy gizmos?

    [​IMG]
    (photo by HCB)

    Indeed there are plenty of nutjobs here who use 'em happily! You can buy them for next to nothing. The main expense is the large format film. Spending anywhere from ~$1 -20 per shot is not unusual, depending on what kind of film you use and how you process.
     
  4. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    Funny I was using one of those 'real old type' cameras the other day. Guess that makes me a 'real old type' photographer. But I ain't been in no movie. Grin.
     
  5. buddyboy101

    buddyboy101 Member

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    keith, that's exactly what i meant! is that the same type of camera that david was referring to? what type of film is used? do i have to process it myself in my own dark room?

    thanks!
     
  6. David Grenet

    David Grenet Member

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    It uses film which comes in sheets - and yep it's the same as David referred to. Many prefer to process their own black and white film (in any format) but professional labs are certainly able to process the film.
     
  7. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    Let me dispell one myth in a previous answer - those who practice this form of photography do so because they are very serious about photography, and not because "You can buy them for next to nothing." In fact, modern view cameras represent both advanced technology and exacting craftsmanship, and can be very expensive to purchase.

    The reason people use view cameras has to do with the kind of images that they make, and the process involved in making them. View cameras require the photographer to slow down dramatically, and think through every aspect of creation of an image. Exposures themselves tend to be longer, but the fact that view cameras have no automation at all means that the photographer has to methodically compose the image on the ground glass, focus, determine the exposure, close down the shutter, insert a holder and pull the darkslide, etc. A single exposure can take anywhere from five minutes to several hours to make.

    And the result is a negative that has far more detail than can be achieved with any other form of photography. A skilled large format photographer controls every aspect of making the image - and for that reason, may large format photographers insist on doing their own darkroom work rather than surrender control over that portion of the process. Many take advantage of the larger negatives to make prints using alternative processes - including platinum/palladium, an expensive and craft-intensive form of printing that can produce some of the most beautiful prints imaginable.

    Large format photographers certainly aren't Luddites, and many use GPS receivers to identify exactly the location of the images they make, and use PDAs to calculate exposures taking into account filter factors, bellows extension adjustments and film reciprocity.
     
  8. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Why Louie, I don't think I contributed in any way to the myth that LF is backwards or that LFers are luddites! What did I say, what did I say! N.b. I will admit that I have no tolerance for pretense, and perhaps that is all too evident in some of my posts.

    When I became interested in LF, I followed the same path that got me into rangefinders and fast Nikons etc.: I had a list of people whose work I deeply admired and I took the time to research what gear they had used. In my case, the LF standouts were Edward Weston, Minor White, and of course, Ansel Adams. To my shock and amusement, I discovered that these three LF legends all used quite spartan gear, particularly Weston. The most expensive thing you'd find in any of their closets would be White's Sinar and maybe Adams triple convertible lenses... but comparable items are a relative bargain on today's market (remember: the high-end digital stuff is currently running $40k, batteries and computer lab not included). It was a thrill for me to discover that the LF camera is a relatively simple and wide open piece with no electronica and no intricacies beyond the straightforward way you use it. I would call it "transparent" in its usage. So, in spite of being a certified technogeek, I fell in love with LF right away.

    What LF gear do I use? Well, for travel I recently used a $250 5x7" King Poco wooden field camera which was built in 1903. I patched the bellows and replaced the ground glass, and found that I loved the old double-convertible lens that came with it but usually opt for a modern lens because I need accurate shutter speeds when shooting transparencies. With that very light rig I went on one of Per Volquartz's outings in the Yosemite area and had a ball shooting 5x7" velvia 100. You can peruse some results on my site, if it interests you to see what a relative newbie does.

    Fancier LF gear I use includes an 8x10" cambo and a 5x7" rittreck.. No LF gear I have purchased cost me more than a few hundred bucks; the priciest LF item I possess is a spanking new 65mm f/4 Nikkor lens which cost, I don't know $500 or so.

    So, indeed, LF shooters are neither backwards nor reclusive nor technologically challenged. They simply enjoy photography in its most "transparent" form. You can dress up the exposure technique in a number of ways... follow a technical path like Adams and White, or dare to rely on well-developed intuition like Weston. In any case, it's a whole lot of fun to find your own photography.

    You may well get into LF because you think it looks cool; what will keep you in LF is the transparent way it connects your subject and your thinking.
     
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  9. Rick Tapio

    Rick Tapio Member

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    There is a group of large format photographers in the Midwest (Chicago, Milwaukee, Iowa, Indiania & Michigan) that religiously go out once a month and shoot. We have visited such locations as the light houses on Lake Michigan, the historic Pullman District in Chicago, Iowa towns on the Mississippi River, the railroad museum in Monticello, IL, the south shore of Lake Superior in the UP, etc., etc. In January this group had their first portfolio review at Starved Rock State Park when 17 portfolios were reviewed. You can read & learn more about this group at www.midwestlargeformat.com. If you are a LF shooter, you are more than welcome to join us every third Saturday of the month.

    Rick Tapio
     
  10. David William White

    David William White Member

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    So, buddyboy, you've probably discovered quite a bit since you first posted, but maybe I can pique your interest a bit on making the plunge:

    1. Kodak and Fuji make b&w and colour 4x5 and 8x10 film. Ilford makes b&w sheet film in a variety of formats -- and will probably continue to for the foreseeable future. There are also a few Eastern European companies and Chinese companies that make b&w sheet film. Black and white film lasts decades in the fridge, too.

    2. There are half a dozen companies that make large format view cameras and accessories, so new kits are definitely available. Sheet film holders were standardized a long, long time ago, so there are many view cameras still in service that are quite old, BUT NOT OBSOLETE.

    3. A 4x5" sheet of film is 20 square inches of film. Has unbeatable resolution. Hundreds of megapixels. Quite a lot of commercial work is still being done with them.

    4. This is cool: The lens plane doesn't have to be parallel to the film plane. We can correct perspective or adjust our plane of focus to suite the situation. And when you are examining the ground glass (under the dark cloth), you SEE the perspective, plane of focus, and depth of field (as you stop down). Can't do that with any other kind of camera. Great for architectural or macro work. This makes a view camera the most advanced and versatile photographic instrument available.

    5. Many gorgeous printing processes are 'contact' processes, for which you need a large negative. Many of them can be done in the kitchen sink. Also, once you've developed your negatives, you can just contact print them on photo paper -- without an enlarger, even -- and frame (or give away) your 4x5, 5x7, or 8x10 prints. All you need is the camera, some film, paper, and simple chemistry.

    6. If you are drooling over LARGE prints in galleries, they were probably made on a view camera.

    7. Labs will process sheet film for you, but you can do your own b&w really cheaply with no special equipment. The chemisty will be available for a long, long time.

    David.

    P.S.

    Why 'view' camera? The lens images the world (upside down) directly on the ground glass on the back of the camera. As opposed to 'reflex' cameras that use a mirror or prism to flip the image. There are 'twin lens reflex' cameras and 'single lens reflex' cameras, as well as 'range-finder' cameras. View cameras are the simplest, but require you to compose upside down.

     
  11. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

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    And yes, you can get them relatively cheep.

    A good place to start is a used B&J orbit or grover or Watson. Slap a old Ektar lens on it, get a few type V (wood) film holders, get a meter (or use your 35mm) and snap some photos. Or go the press camera route but you won't learn as much about camera movements that way.

    Lots to learn though. Shooting is just the first step as you can see.

    tim in san jose
     
  12. walter23

    walter23 Member

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    Generally speaking the term is "View Camera". There are many different styles though, for different needs. Most generally, they fall into the following classes:

    Monorails for more flexibility (but less portability - they can be quite heavy and cumbersome):
    ===========================================

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Field cameras which fold for portability:
    =============================

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And press cameras for handheld photography and ruggedness (similar to field cameras in some respects):
    ===============================================

    [​IMG]

    Finally I guess there are a lot of interesting old 19th century and early 20th century wooden studio cameras, and box cameras, and things like that:

    [​IMG]

    Plus a few weird things like the gowlandflex 4x5" TLR and the graflex RB SLRs, and hybrid monorail/field cameras, home built hacks, etc.

    While there are a few medium format view cameras (6x7, 6x9, etc, and shoot on 120 roll film or small sheet film), most of them are large format, and take images on sheets of film in the following common sizes (and other less common ones):

    Large format sizes:
    ------------------
    4x5"
    5x7"
    8x10"

    Ultra large format sizes:
    -----------------------
    11x14"
    7x17"
    8x20"
    12x20"
    16x20"


    There are large format and ultra large format (ULF) forums on APUG here, and also a great large format only forum: largeformatphotography.info (click the "Forum" link for the active forum, or you can look at that main front page for a lot of interesting articles).

    LF photography is great fun; I hope you jump into it.
     
  13. walter23

    walter23 Member

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    Just for the hell of it, I'll also describe the three cameras I'm currently shooting LF film with.

    #1, a modern Shen Hao 4x5, bought for $650, it was constructed in 2006 and is designed somewhat similarly to almost any wood field camera from the last 50 to 100 years, but with modern components. The lens is a Rodenstock, multicoated, lens, which is getting close to as sharp as you can get, constructed around 1986 or so, but in mint condition (a lot of these lenses were used sparingly or in careful studio environments). I got it on ebay for $200, though brand new it would have cost $1500 or $2000, and even now the same lens often sells for $400 - $500.

    [​IMG]

    An 8x10 Conley camera from 1916 or so, with an early 1900s Turner Reich Triple Convertible lens on it:

    [​IMG]

    ... still needs bellows repair, I'll get to it one day ...

    The turner reich lens:
    [​IMG]

    And a home built (and currently taken apart for reconstruction) pinhole camera with a 1920s or '30s Graflex 12-shot 4x5" film magazine:


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This is what I love about this kind of photography: the possibilities are endless. You can pretty much mate up any lens with any style of camera body and any method you can find to hold film and you've got a unique camera.
     
  14. Neanderman

    Neanderman Member

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    Hey, I'm a Luddite and proud of it! And, yes, I do shoot large format. :tongue:

    Ed
     
  15. alannguyen

    alannguyen Member

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    how about something with no " up side down" :smile:
     

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  16. David William White

    David William White Member

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    Okay, but technically, you've made a straight view camera into a reflex camera!
     
  17. Zach in Israel

    Zach in Israel Member

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    You are in the right place for LF questions, well the largeformatphotography.info site is also wonderful, and has a lot of good articles, as does photo.net

    Using a LF camera is a very different thing than a smaller one. It is slow and 100% manual. You have total control over what ends up on the film, which means that you can do all sorts of cool things, of course it also means that there are a million ways to mess up :wink:.

    You can develop LF film at home (as with any other film) or take it to a good lab, both options have good and bad points.

    The main ideas behind LF cameras have not changed in 100+ years. While some of the newer cameras may be lighter or made with more modern elements the camera itself is just a light tight box. You can buy a new LF camera for thousands of dollars or a used one for a lot less, both will work fine. Though the used one may take some tinkering to get to work right.

    If you have skill with wood you can also build your own and there are people who do. In addition if you like building things there are at least 2 companies that make kits (Bulldog and Bender) which you can build yourself. Big plus there is if it breaks you can fix it yourself.

    If you want to try out LF without dropping a lot of money there are also places that will rent cameras, Adorama in NY for one. They can rent you everything you need for a few days so you can try it out. Also useful if you need one for a specific project.
     
  18. CBG

    CBG Member

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    I believe there are a few more than that. I think most of these and probably a couple more are in production.

    Toho
    Lotus
    Canham
    Tachihara
    Horseman
    Arca Swiss
    Ebony
    Sinar
    Shen Hao
    Toyo
    Linhof
    Cambo
    Hobo (Kits)
    Silvestri
    Walker
    Wista
    Bender (DIY kits)

    Best,

    C
     
  19. Jim Fitzgerald

    Jim Fitzgerald Member

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    I think that if you read the posts on this forum and the others mentioned you can learn a lot. Yes, you want to develop you B&W film yourself. About 5 years ago I took the plunge with a 4x5. Once you find your vision you will want total control over the process, at least that is the way it is for me.

    Once you become obsessed with LF photography you can build your own camera and get into ULF! With no prior camera building experience I built a tripod and 8x20 camera in my one bedroom apartment with nothing but hand tools. The 11x14 is about half way done and the obsession continues.

    Welcome to the forum! Ask the questions, ask them again and learn. We are all here to learn and help each other.

    Jim