upgrading to LF

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by BBonte, Aug 25, 2006.

  1. BBonte

    BBonte Member

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    I have the chance to buy a Linhof 4'x5' camera technika. I am using with great satisfaction my Bronica EC TL, but always wanted a bigger negative. But my enlarger can do only 6x6cm, so then I have to buy another enlarger... I read on this forum a time ago that it is so difficult to get good results and at the end it is not worth it compared to the great results that you can obtain with MF film
     
  2. argus

    argus Member

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    Opinions, opinions...

    Everybody thinks different regarding each format.
    You can get superb results with MF, I will not deny that!

    If you want to go LF, don't do it only for the bigger negative but for the possibilities (read: movements) the cameras have to offer.

    Greetings,
    G
     
  3. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Great results can be obtained in any format with practice. It is only necessary to develop ones skills to suit the format. These skills are different for small , medium and large format. Even going from 4x5 to 8x10 reguires new knowledge, vision and skills.

    Is the change worth it? In my opinion. a definite YES.
     
  4. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have a Bronica S2a system, and I have a Technika (as well as a few other LF cameras). They do different things. There are some things kinds of photography that are easier to do with an SLR, and some things that are easier to do with a large format camera that has movements or with a big rangefinder camera, if you choose to use it that way. Lately, I tend to shoot more large format and use the Bronica less, but it still has its place for some kinds of portraits, work with longer lenses, and a few other things.

    I agree with the above post that by working with different formats, you can learn what each format does best.
     
  5. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Or of course buy an MF camera with movements, or use a rollfilm back on 4x5 inch.

    My own view is that 4x5 is a small step up from rollfilm, while 5x7 inch is a worth-while step. But then, a 3x enlargement off 56x72mm (Linhof's 6x7) is the same size as, and can be made indistinguishable from, a whole-plate contact print.

    Too much depends on what you want to do, for anyone else to answer this for you.

    Cheers,

    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com -- you might want to take a look at the free large format module in the Photo School on the site)
     
  6. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I couldn't agree more. I've been chuckling about the word "upgrading" in the title. Many people seem to feel this way when going to larger formats (whichever is bigger than what they've typically been using). I don't really consider it an "upgrade" but, rather, choosing the tools/techniques that best match the photographic vision, goals, and requirements.

    If LF is right for your needs, by all means... give it a try!
     
  7. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Like David said. Different things for different tasks.

    I don't think a MF camera with movements is the right comparison. The advantage of something like a MF SLR is it's a lot smaller and quicker to use then LF. If you start using movements you give up that speed. Which leads me wonder why not use the LF?
     
  8. doc4x5

    doc4x5 Member

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    There's no question you can get smoother tonality, and have the opportunity for larger prints with a 4x5. Having used 4x5 as well as MF, Hasselblad and Mamiya 7, for many years though, I really believe the single most important unique advantage of 4x5 is the ability to use camera movements, as has been stated. Just the ability to tilt the standard, front or back makes all the other hassles worthwhile for me. Also, while equipment (used) is much cheaper now, it is still a formidable process to set up a 4x5 darkroom.

    Using TMAX 100 in my MF cameras I get negatives that print beautifully to the largest size I generally use, 11x14. Using multiple backs with a MF camera, one can even use zone system development. There's much to be said for MF. I'd encourage someone to use a 4x5 if they genuinely enjoy the entire process, the slowness, the precision, the upside down and backwards view under a cloth, AND the ability to shift, tilt etc, not for basic quality of image, unless one prints regularly larger than 16x20. I genuinely love to get out with my 4x5 but at my mature age can no longer hike uphill for miles with a 4x5 pack. So the 4x5 is used when I'm not on a serious hike.

    Think this one through carefully. If possible, rent or borrow a 4x5. See if the whole process appeals to you. If so, go for it. Try not to get caught up in LF snobbery, "...my negative is bigger than yours." When looking at a great print, most people can not tell the size of the negative, nor do they care.

    Good luck.

    Eric
     
  9. P. Yee

    P. Yee Member

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    I went from 35mm with a short stop at 645 and 4x5 and am now at 8x10 large format. If you are quite happy with the medium format, I would recommend staying there. Using a 4x5 in many ways like using the smaller formats. You really need a enlarger and full dark room setup to get the best of the 4x5. Also, large format format learning curve can be rather steep (depending on the camera model)- see this list of what can go wrong: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/mistakes.html
    My first shock on using a 4x5 large format was seeing how long it took to set up a camera to take one shot and still mess up the picture. However, when everything work, the resulting picture was great, at least enough to keep me trying.

    I then tried 8x10, and was delighted in the resulting contact prints and since stopped using the 4x5 and 645. I also like the fact that an elaborate darkroom and enlarger is not needed to do contact prints. But the 8x10 did bring about a new set of problems- more expensive and less choice of films, much bigger camera to pack and carry around, more ways to get your finger caught in something and longer setup time. I still use my 35mm equipment for most anything that moves and color macro photography.
     
  10. leeturner

    leeturner Subscriber

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    I've recently started using 5x4 in addition to MF and 35mm. I still use all three regularly. The main reason for me going to a LF camera is movements with the larger neg size being a side benefit. The other benefit I've found from using larger formats is that the techniques have filtered down to my usage of smaller formats. I now tend to be a little more circumspect with the 35mm and MF in respect to framing, composition and exposure. Before I tended to look for a keeper or two per roll. Now I try to treat each frame of 120 the same way as a sheet of 5x4 and it's having a positive effect on my picture taking. I have to admit though that most of my better pictures are still coming from the old Rolleicord. Maybe it's just familiarity, or the fact that one has to be in the mood to pack all the LF equipment.
    I regard LF as being an expansion rather than an upgrade to my kit.
     
  11. dphphoto

    dphphoto Member

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    Get the Linhof. You won't regret it, and if you don't like it you can always sell it later for probably what you paid for it.
    You'll have to get an enlarge, of course, unless you're satisfied with small contact prints.
    After a while (maybe a long while) of learning the camera movements, you'll get to the point where the camera will seem to set itself up, and you'll concentrate solely on the image. Set up time will get shorter, and shorter, and shorter...
    I went from 35mm to 4X5 (I had a Hassy for a shot time, but it stunk!), a steep learning curse that almost replicated itself when I went to 8X10. Now, 4X5 is my almost point-and-shoot.
    Large format is worth the effort. Enjoy. Dean
     
  12. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    This is a good point.

    I gave some 8x10s to a friend in Toronto in July. She took them to work and showed her coworkers (I deal with her office professionally so they all know me). One of the coworkers was convinced that my prints could not possibly be from 35mm negatives as I claimed because the quality was too high.

    I took this as a high compliment of my technique but couldn't help but think that if I had shot the film on 120 or 4x5 that the tonality would be even better. :smile:

    If you shoot carefully and process carefully, you can get incredibly good results from surprisingly small formats, but of course those improvements in quality will also work on the larger formats, so it won't necessarily mean you won't want to make big negatives one day - it'll just mean that the benefit you get out of it will be less obvious on small prints but far more obvious on large ones.

    I get beautiful 11x14s out of 35mm and traditional non-t-grain emulsions. I can't wait to see what my 16x20s look like from 4x5.
     
  13. dphphoto

    dphphoto Member

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    "When looking at a great print, most people can not tell the size of the negative, nor do they care."


    This IS a good point, but only to a point.
    My wife has perfect pitch. If we go someplace that has a band, she can tell instantly if the piano is in tune. Unless it's horribly out of tune, I can't tell the difference.
    Anyone experienced with photography can usually tell what format was used just by looking at the print. I know a gallery owner who can barely take a photograph, but can tell how most photographs were made, including 19th century processes. Everything depends on how sophisticated your audience is.
    Now, having said that, I have to admit that it's a mute point. The image itself counts above all else. I'll take an interesting 35mm print over a boring 8X10 contact print any day of the week.
    I get excellent 8X10's with a Contax G and a Leitz Valloy enlarger. I prefer 4X5 and 8X10 because I want to take my time to really look at things.
    You go into large format if it suits your way of seeing things, and if you want to use what camera movements give you. And, you get a bigger neg, too. Dean
     
  14. Scott Peters

    Scott Peters Member

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    I own MF, plus various large formats. I would choose 4 x 5 over MF due to camera movements and it slows me down, so I tent to shoot better...BUT, the darkroom enlarger, etc. is something to consider as others have said. You will also have more control over each individual negative for zone/developing with large format.

    I enjoy and use my 8 x 10 over my 4 x 5 (contact printing - easier in darkroom) and rarely use my 4 x 5 anymore (except for color trans.). I like the larger glass in the field too.
     
  15. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    The let-out here is 'usually'. Most negatives are over-enlarged. I would suggest that the abovementioned trick of 3x off 56 x 72mm would, if executed by an adequately skilled photographer, be indistinguishable from a whole-plate contact even to your gallery-owner chum.

    It's not just tonality and sharpness, either. It's subject type, composition, paper surface...

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  16. doc4x5

    doc4x5 Member

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    negative size and image quality

    Since my comment in my post "When looking at a great print, most people can not tell the size of the negative, nor do they care." has been quoted a couple of times, I would like to add to the conversation.

    One can look at a photograph as a technically oriented photographer, eg stick your nose 2 inches from a 30x40 inch print, or back off and appreciate the image; what was the photographer thinking, how did the photographer decide on that particular piece of the world to place in the finder?

    John Sexton said at a recent workshop, "There's nothing you can do with a Hasselblad that you cannot do better with a 4x5." While all things being equal, there's no substitute for negative real estate, many of us, myself included, focus (pun intended) on sharpness, tonality, and other technical issues at the expense of creativity. Most of us photograph for the sheer joy of it, for fun.

    We need answer to no one for our choices and we should not. What matters is the image. I have struggled with this forever. I often get sidetracked into worrying about the wrong things, technical things, when I should relax and enjoy the process. I am not making excuses for technical sloppiness, photography is a craft as well as an art and sloppiness is not acceptable, but perhaps because the medium is so technical, by its very nature, we spend too much time on that aspect. It is true that painters argue about paint and brushes and canvas, but not to the extent that photographers argue about lenses and film.

    BBonte, unless you have compelling reasons, should choose the format you enjoy, make the best images you can, and try to think creatively about what you are doing with a camera in the first place. Even at APUG, supposedly free of the digital technocracy, one can get caught up in technique to the detriment of art.

    Now... I've said it.

    Eric
     
  17. wclavey

    wclavey Member

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    Seeing in 4x5

    Not wanting to hijack the thread, or anything, but expanding on the theme a little, I am interested in opinions on "seeing in 4x5" - - let me explain:

    I have been shooting MF since I was 8... let's see... that's 45 years. I also made extensive use of 35mm working for our university daily paper and working in the field as a technical photographer for archaeological projects. All the time, I was also shooting 6x6 for my own purposes.

    I have recently (within the past year) begun using 4x5. I try to shoot as often as I can and, as people have stated above, try very hard to make each negative count. But when all is said and done, I'm undewhelmed with the images - - not exposure-wise... I have that down pretty well - - moving from the Mamiya c220, c3 to 4x5 was not that hard to master, exposure-wise. I am concerned because I photograph images that I have shot before as 6x6 or that I would feel certain would be good 6x6 shots, only to have them turn out very blah in structure and composition.

    In my own mind, I chalk it up to not seeing well in the 4x5 format after decades of seeing "square." But is is not as if I don't see the image prior to exposing it. I have always shot 6x6 as a "measure twice, cut once" process - - the Mamiya TLRs force that on you. So either I'm not paying attention to the composition of the image, or there really is something special about the image perspective created by the 4x5 size that I cannot assess on the ground glass. Perhaps I would have the same problem if I tried 6x7 MF.

    I will continue plugging away on making exposures... I develop and scan them immediately for feedback while the images are still presh in my mind. But if there is some exercise or visualization technique or process that would improve seeing in this format, I'd like to try it.

    And, to come back to the thread, I agree that bigger is not necessarily better, in all regards - - I have the negatives with great density and extremely fine grain of very mediocre compositions to prove it.

    Thanks.
     
  18. Campbell

    Campbell Member

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    I found it generally impossible to tell the difference in terms of sharpness and tonal gradations between 4x5 and 6x7 with prints of 11x14 or smaller, as long as the image was made in a situation that didn't call for swings or tilts (i.e. both my Pentax 67 and my 4x5 camera being used "straight on"). At 16x20 the difference was generally noticeable though not gigantic. But things change radically in situations where you can take advantage of swings or tilts with a LF camera to alter the plane of focus and thereby maintain sharpness from front to back even in extreme near-far situations or to maintain (or intentionally alter) the shape of objects in the scene. That, IMHO, is why LF is superior to MF for most applications. It isn't the tonal gradations, it isn't "sharpness" (with prints smaller than 16x20), it's the movements.