Should I Go ULF or stick with Miniature Cameras?

Discussion in 'Ultra Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by pandino, Jul 29, 2006.

  1. pandino

    pandino Member

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    I'm looking for some thoughts from those that have shot bigger than 4x5...

    The largest format I shoot is 4x5, but the contact prints are a wee bit too small for me. I find that my favorite size to print is 5x7 ( enlarging 35mm-4x5) because they are inexpensive and my photos don't usually warrant anything bigger.:sad:

    As we are raising five kids on a single paycheck, photography usually has to be a zero net cost impact hobby for me. I have the best kids in the world and wouldn't have it any other way, but it means I have to sell/trade to keep things pretty close to expense-free. I think I just bought an 11x14 for really cheap, but no film holders or lens.

    I'd love to see contacts from 11x14, but I'm afraid this thing will collect dust for months/years until I can find an ultra-cheap filmholder and lens. My current lenses only cover a maximum of 5x7.

    My question is, "Should I keep the 11x14 and get it working, or maybe trade the beast for a miniature format (5x7 or 8x10) to do contact prints?" If I kept the 11x14, I'd probably have to shoot paper negs 90% of the time and (if I can find one) have just one filmholder.

    Also, is it possible to remove my lens' rear elements to get coverage to 8x10 or 11x14?

    Thanks for sharing your experience!
    Chris
     
  2. DBP

    DBP Member

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    As for the lens part, you could always make a pinhole. Or buy a very old barrel lens that you could skip a shutter on. If it were me I would trade down to an old 5x7, which is more reasonable to carry around, costs less to operate, and matches your favorite print size.
     
  3. Early Riser

    Early Riser Subscriber

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    If you're looking to keep things at a reasonable cost I would stick with the gear you currently have. The cost of 11x14" sheet film is considerable and as you say "my photos don't usually warrant anything bigger" than a 5x7" print. With 11x14" film being so much more expensive, you might find yourself shooting a lot less or spending a lot more. And then you still have to purchase 11x14" holders, maybe a lens or two, possibly a heavier tripod, another case, etc. It always adds up. And for someone who prints to 5x7", 11x14 film seems like serious overkill.
     
  4. pandino

    pandino Member

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    Hadn't thought about the tripod... So you're saying shooting 11x14 won't automatically make my pics better?:wink:

    I do enlarge to 11x14 from 4x5, but it's pretty rare. I see the ULF film is expensive, but what kind of results do you get from contact prints from paper negatives?
     
  5. Scott Peters

    Scott Peters Member

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    A large contact print is a beautiful thing and addictive. I love it and highly recommend it. ULF is more work, but can be a lot of fun and rewarding as well.

    If it weren't the money issue, I would try and assemble an older lens, perhaps a barrel, and obtain a used holder and go for it...

    A couple of other thoughts....if you really like 5 x 7, perhaps a 5 x 7 camera would be a nice replacement for the 4 x 5? You may also look into a less expensive 8 x 10, which holders can be had for $20 on the used market. Both can be contact printed.

    I might lean towards 8 x 10?

    Perhaps if you shared how much you are willing to invest?

    As far as film goes, it is expensive, but I find myself shooting fewer images in ULF than 4 x 5! Not sure if it is a 4:1 ratio though...
     
  6. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Um, hate to burst your bubble, but the camera you bought is a 5x7. Not a bad price for a 5x7, in any case. You'll find it much more manageable than an 11x14. Trust me. I think in the end you'll like it much better, at least until the increased size addiction kicks in and you HAVE to shoot bigger :D . 5x7 is still affordable. I just picked up a 5x7 field camera to take with me on my vacation to Argentina; I only have to add a few new film holders, as my camera will take all my existing 4x5 lenses.

    One of my shooting buddies has an 11x14 which he dragged out in the field the other day. Three film holders. A Ries A-100 tripod. Two lenses. He came back with only two shots the entire day. And very nearly a herniated disc and/or coronary infarction from carrying all that crap in 90+ degree weather.
     
  7. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    A 5X7 on a miniature washer and dryer? If you look at what it is sitting on for scale, I can't see how it is smaller than an 11X14.
     
  8. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Opps. My bad. I was reading the description, and didn't notice what it was sitting on.

    In that case, that was a STEAL on the 11x14. You might want to talk to Ryan Macintosh about his experience with the Burke & James 11x14.

    If you decide to keep it, your wife will start to ask if you have a new mistress named Ebay>Cameras&Photo>Lenses>For Large Format, because you'll be spending a LOT of time scouring the listings for lenses to cover the format. There are exponentially fewer lenses that cover 11x14 than there are for 8x10 or 5x7. Film holders will be the next element of torture for you, as they're hard to find, and expensive. If you want to shoot 11x14 glass plate ( :D ) I still have a few 11x14 glass plate holders I'm willing to sell at a very reasonable price. You'll love every minute of the torture you'll endure to use it, but just be forewarned - if you're using it outside of your home for studio portraits, it WILL be torture to use it.
     
  9. wfwhitaker

    wfwhitaker Member

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    I vote it's an 11x14. B&J didn't use independent rear springs on anything smaller. Then there's the point about the washer/dryer....

    The film holders will be your biggest expense. There's just really not any way around it. They're expensive and they're an important aspect of the camera. Film is expensive, but you can look for specials at J&C and shoot judiciously. There are a lot of lenses which will work. Many may not be "great" lenses, but they'll make images. The results really are in your hands anyway. Consider adapting a surveyor's tripod if you don't already have anything big enough. There's a lot of that stuff on Ebay.

    It can be done on the cheap, but the "5 kids/1 paycheck" remark doesn't bode well. ULF is expensive. Everything is bigger. That includes trays, chemistry requirements, paper, washers, negative storage, presentation and framing. It does add up! You got an amazing deal that the rest of us missed. But in an ironic way you'd almost be better served if the camera really were a 5x7.

    Actually it was one shot of a garbage can and I was mostly just pissed off...
     
  10. Terence

    Terence Member

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    That was a KILLER deal. Selling that beast should easily be able to fund an entire 5x7 outfit. I have an old Korona 5x7 that is actually lighter than my 4x5 cameras and is a joy to use. They can be had pretty cheap and 5x7 cameras can probably use some of your 4x5 lenses. The contact prints are great. The tripod required isn't really different from 4x5 as they're comparable weight (although I tend to use a heavier tripod anyway for stability). Film is a little pricier than 4x5, but it's worth it. Right now J&C has a deal on 8x10 400 speed film that is cheaper than 5x7, so I'm looking at cutting some down and doubling the savings.

    I shoot 4x5, 5x7, 8x10 and 8x20, but the 5x7 is the most fun. It just seems the "right" size for initmate lanscape prints and nice portraits. 8x10 prints are nicer, but the cameras are much heavier and the dimensions aren't as pleasing for many subjects.

    I have a B&J 8x10 reducing back for the 11x14 that I might be willing to part with. I was going to make a homemade 8x10 out of it. But I think you'll find the 11x14 too heavy to carry, so unless you're only shooting indoors I'd vote for reaping the profit and raking it back into a smaller format.
     
  11. pandino

    pandino Member

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    Thanks for everybody's input. From the auction pics, I figured it was either a pygmy washer & dryer or an 11x14. If you look closely at the GG pic, you can see the 11x14 grid.

    That ship has sailed.... Between work and a wireless network at home, the laptop only sleeps when I do. How do you think I found this gem? :D


    That was kind of my thinking. I'm hoping to at least come out of this with a 5x7 outfit or an 8x10 at best....either at my zero-net budget would be nice.:wink:

    Thanks to all those who PM'd about buying it. If I make a decision to sell, I'll post it in the classifieds here first. I'd really like to take a shot or two before passing it on.
     
  12. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    I shoot 35mm with a fire I never dreamt of until had had been an 8x10 and 11x14 shooter for a couple decades. Clean technique, a good body and a single lens, make images few LF'ers can touch: you just have to commit to it.

    And it makes pictures without all the drama and hardship.

    But I guess you really have to work through it: not until you are sick of all the LF rubbish that stands between one and the image do you see the virtue of a small camera. If you want to go with sheets, clarify your technique and stick with 4x5.

    d
     
  13. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    Terence echos my sentiments exactly. It is a Killer Deal, but with 11x14 you will be spending so much more to operate it. I would consider trading/selling it for a nice 5x7.
     
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  15. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I totally agree with this...
     
  16. sanking

    sanking Member

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    There is no question but that a larger camera will make you a much better photographer. And you won't even have to try to improve. Moreover, when you take the larger camera out you will get a lot more attention. People will immediately understand that you are a serious photographer and have a lot of respect for your photographs. And even if your work is not entirely satisfactory, when you pull it out and show people they will be to ashamed to say anything negative about the work, because with the big camera you have already established your credentials.

    Best part, you won't have to waste a lot of money on negatives. You can just print the same one ten or twelve times since everything made with a large camera is a masterpiece by definition.

    Please do not consider that the fact that I sell large format film holders is in any way influencing my advice, even though S&S will be happy to take a couple of thousand off your hand for five or six nice holders. As for the kids, hell, just forget them. They are going to grown up anyway and be asking you for money thirty years from now. I know this for a fact since I have a 38 year old daughter who just asked me to loan her $25,000 because she neglected to pay her taxes last year. So, just go ahead and put yourself in a situation where the family won't be fighting over your money. Spend it now while you are young enough to enjoy it and you will solve a lot of future family problems.

    Best,

    Sandy
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 29, 2006
  17. colrehogan

    colrehogan Member

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    I started out in LF shooting 4x5 and moved up to 8x10 & more recently started shooting 5x12. Anyway, the things that I shoot fit mostly in the 8x10 image area (note, the 5x12 diagonal is similar to 8x10). What I am trying to say, is that if you would feel more comfortable with a 5x7, then I think you should go for it and get a 5x7. You will make more images that fit your way of seeing and isn't that why we take pictures, to express how we see the world?

    Just my 2¢ worth.
     
  18. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I definitely agree that shooting LF for a while will make you a better shooter in small formats, as you figure out what each format does best.

    For myself, I found it easier to "clarify my technique" in LF with 8x10" than with 4x5". The groundglass is big enough to see what's going on easily without a loupe (though I've always used a loupe for fine focus, of course), and it makes a good sized contact print. I think I only felt comfortable with 4x5" after working with 8x10" for a couple of years.
     
  19. Terence

    Terence Member

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    Sandy has a point. The first time I saw one of my 8x10 negs I almost soiled myself out of joy. The contact print had a similar effect. I hesitate to call it a masterpiece but it certainly wows me everytime. I haven't developed one of the 8x20 shots yet, but I'm sure I'll need to put paper down first before viewing it.
     
  20. Donsta

    Donsta Member

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    Terence

    Sarcasm hasn't made an impact on your life yet?
     
  21. pandino

    pandino Member

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    So that's how I validate the seriousness of my work.... ULF and S&S holders! And all this time I thought it was Leica & Pyro. Thanks for putting me on the straight and narrow, Sandy. :D

    I'll definitely have to try it. I haven't had a good soiling since my father-in-law met me at the door with a revolver and a grimace. (He thought I was an intruder)

    I may have a line on a cheap lens and holder from a generous APUG'er. Can't wait to give it a try.
     
  22. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Your question reminds me of a comment made to me by Michael A. Smith, "The bigger the camera the fewer the photographs you will make."

    Considering what else you have said about your budget I think you would be very happy with a 5x7. The aspect ratio of 5x7 is similar to 11x14. Holders are much cheaper and many 4x5 lenses will cover 5x7. So if you purchase a new lens for the 5x7 you can also use it on the 4x5. And you will make more photos with the 5x7. And a 5x7 kit is lighter

    I would keep the 11x14 and look for a 5x7. Over a period of time you can pick up stuff for the 11x14 while using the 5x7.

    Also if you decide to scan your images, finding a scanner that can handle 11x14 isn't that easy.

    Finally you can get color film for a 5x7.

    My 2 whatever,
     
  23. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    When you strip away the momentary excitement of having made what you judge to be a fortunate find and purchase, the reality of your situation will become apparent.

    If you have to devote yourself to the support of your family, why would you want to add another mouth to feed?

    I shot 12X20 for awhile. I have no financial constraints on my expenditures...my family is long since grown and gone. I will tell you that in my experience that I have made far better photographs and prints from 4X5 then I ever did while using the 12X20. In fact some of my favorite images could not have been photographed with 12X20 because the format was not adaptable to the image. Not only could they not have been made with 12X20, they were incapable of being made with 8X10. There are ever increasing limitations of lens availability as the negative size increases.

    In the end it comes down to you...what you see...how you see. The size of negative can be likened to the distraction of someone who says "Mine is bigger then yours".
     
  24. Terence

    Terence Member

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    Donsta, what is this sarcasm of which you speak?

    To be honest, I have a hard time telling when I'm NOT being sarcastic.
     
  25. pandino

    pandino Member

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    It brings me pleasure. Some things you've just got to try for the experience. Maybe a few times out with the thing and I'll find it brings nothing but misery. I'll wait until the darkroom results come in before making a call on that.

    It's usually only a distraction to the guy with the smaller tool...
     
  26. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    Been there done that. 11x14 holders are a real killer as is the film and yes, your 4x5 tripod won't cut it ether. For a lens, there are many good 8x10 lenses that'll cover 11x14--- consider a 10" WF Ektar, 14" Commercial Ektar, 305mm--355mm G Claron.

    I went to 8x10 which you can do quite nicely on a budget (really, you can!) 5x7 as you mentioned is also an option and is especially attractive if your 4x5 is an old timer that will take a 5x7 back, like a Agfa-Ansco or B&J, or if you've got a favorite 210-240mm that'll cover 5x7.

    How much more expensive is 11x14 than 8x10 or 5x7? $200 should get you one used 11x14 film holder if you're lucky. $60-75 will get you three good used 8x10 holders, or more used 5x7 holders than you'd probably ever want to lug around. For film costs take a look at J and C and Freestyle to see just how much more expensive film, paper (and chemicals) get when you move up in size


    Like I said I left 11x14 for 8x10 and while I still think 11x14 is a great format---especially for portraits--- I have a lot of fun with my 'little' 8x10 and I've found it quite budget friendly.