Wisner good/bad/?? for portraiture

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by smdiani, Mar 26, 2009.

  1. smdiani

    smdiani Member

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    I'm new to Apug, and I apologize if this question has been asked and answered already. I'm a photojournalist switching to portraiture. Most of my work is digital, but I'd like to slow things down a bit and invest in either a 4x5 or a RZ67. I've found a Wisner Technical kit locally being sold, used, but in good condition. Anyone have experience using this camera for portraiture? I'm not new to LF, but I'm not a genius at it either. RZ would definitely be cheaper/easier. Thanks for any thoughts.
     
  2. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Go for the RZ.
     
  3. Andrew O'Neill

    Andrew O'Neill Subscriber

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    I've never used a Wisner camera before but I hear they are quite nice. I use a Canham 8x10. Anyways, you would have a lot more creative control with the 4x5 camera than you would with the RZ67 (I have the RB67) with tilts swings, etc. Plus, you have the larger negative that could be contact printed and of course enlarged without losing detail, compared to the 120 negative.
     
  4. archphoto

    archphoto Member

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    Ok, you are at 100 mph now and want to go slower....: A RZ 67 (or RB67) would cut your speed back to 55 mph, LF you would be at walking speed and with experience maybe at running speed.

    The transition from a DSLR with 5 fps to the RZ would be relatively easy and would be a good first step.
    The next step would be LF. I have done portraits with LF and I love it, but it is more formal than the casual look you will get with the RZ.

    I have all 3 right now and it verry much depends of what kind of look I want what camera I choose.
    I would grab my RB with the 150mm SF first I think....

    Peter
     
  5. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    with a wisner or any 4x5 camera you won't be using many movements
    for portraiture. maybe you will tilt the back a little bit.
    it is as good as any 4x5 camera when photographing people ...
    if the price is right why not :wink:

    good luck!

    john
     
  6. smdiani

    smdiani Member

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    Thanks for the thoughts all. May come down to a coin toss. I'm looking for formal, a la Todd Hido/alec soth. But the medium format would definitely be easier. thanks again.
     
  7. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    Well, I think you'll have two different interactions with the sitter between the two cameras. With the 120, you'll be looking through the viewfinder and paying attention to what is on the screen. With the 4x5, you'll be interacting with the subject away from the camera somewhat and paying attention to them. The results will differ in terms of more than film size and relative ease of taking the picture.
     
  8. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    What?
     
  9. Robert Brummitt

    Robert Brummitt Member

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    I use a Wisner and RB. I would say the medium format is your best bet but you might have more fun with the 4x5. Nothing like using a "Big" camera for portraits.
     
  10. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    large format portraiture generally means you set up the camera, pose the subject, then take a half-step aside to fine-tune composition, expression, etc, then take the picture. You're not looking through the viewfinder at the moment before exposure. It's a different style of working, and when done well, gives portraits that you can't get with a smaller format camera, because the camera is no longer an intermediary/barrier between you and the subject. Done right, you can get the subject to forget they're being photographed at the moment of exposure, because they're looking at/talking to you, not a box with a funny piece of glass in front of it.
     
  11. archphoto

    archphoto Member

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    Sorry, I don't agree with that.
    You can mount your MF camera on a tripod and get the "same" result (in looks that is ).

    The diference would be in the grain than. (6x7 against 4x5 inch)

    Peter
     
  12. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Yeah, I also don't agree, Scott. The more automated camera is always going to give you more time to interact with the subject. And the RB/RZ system uses ground glass and a waist-level as well, so you can shoot in that mode if you wish.

    Look, the RB/RZ and hassie systems have been the portrait cameras of choice for decades. There are many good reasons. Not the least of which, if you are interested in capturing fleeting expressions, then medium format is far better at doing that than a view camera.
     
  13. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    If the photographer has the camera on a tripod and is looking directly at the subject, and is taking the picture with a cable release, I don't see why medium format should be any better than large format at capturing fleeting expressions. The difference is in the convenience of getting ready for the next exposure, is it not?
     
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  15. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Charles, since they are shooting to roll film, an RB or RZ can shoot at much faster frame rate, and built-in metering (if you do use an AE prism) means that metering is very quick as well. Another big advantage is the ability to recompose very quickly. You have the rotating back etc. and completely reconfiguring the camera can be done in seconds. N.b. there is a lovely and inexpensive zoom lens in the RB/RZ repertoire, and a dedicated SF lens too....

    With LF you are ducking under a dark cloth, changing out a film holder and withdrawing dark slides etc.... pretty much every time you shoot. (Unless you use a press camera) I mean... show me a spontaneous looking LF shot. It can be done but it's way more difficult.

    Unless the original poster is planning on making use of tilt/shift or the unique effects of antique lenses, then I see no reason to delve into LF for this. The portrait capabilities of the RZ system are very well established. There are good reasons why this is so, and why people tend to go to MF for portraiture versus LF for landscape and architecture and other more static subject matter.

    And no, I am not discouraging the use of LF, I am simply answering the original question.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2009
  16. 36cm2

    36cm2 Member

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    Wirelessly posted (BlackBerry8330/4.3.0 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/105)

    I shoot landscapes in both formats and, for that type of shooting, greatly prefer 4X5. If you are really only doing portraiture work, though, I recommend sticking to MF unless you will need to produce prints over 16x20 regularly. You won't need swings and tilts.MF will be more efficient and affordable.
     
  17. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    This is a good description of an effective portrait photography session. As others have mentioned, the only "error" might be the assumption that this working style is limited to LF. I use the exact smae technique with MF. My experience is that less fiddling with film holders and the slightly quicker pace of MF (Hasselblad, in my case, on tripod) always makes for a more effective portrait session and better portraits in the final product. That said... I LOVE the beauty of a person captured on a large piece of film. It's a thing of absolute beauty... but I find it more difficult to achieve.
     
  18. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Although this really isn't asked in the OP, it is a very good point. A soft focus lens is a key part of a portrait photography "kit". It makes almost any woman and many men over the age of, say, 30 (an age picked out of thin air) look better. I have a SF lens for LF but there is no such thing for Hassy -- the only shortcoming of the Hasselblad system that I have ever noticed. There are a number of decent SF filters, but nothing beats a real SF lens.
     
  19. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Keith-

    I was NOT talking about "spontaneity". I was talking about natural interaction and the removal of the mechanical interlocutor. I agree that for "environmental" portrait work, or "journalistic" portrait work, a large format camera is not going to be the appropriate tool. However, in a studio, on a tripod, with large format you can get out from behind the camera (there's no point to hiding behind it because once the film is loaded, you can't see through the lens anyway). With smaller roll-film formats, because they are prism finders, you have to keep your eye in the camera while working, especially when working hand-held, because a tiny movement can throw off your composition. You are creating an artificial barrier between subject and portraitist when there's a camera on your face. Perhaps because we're photographers, we forget that it isn't normal to have a conversation with a mechanical box.

    Another advantage to portrait work with large format cameras is the depth-of-field control you have, and I'm not talking about applying movements here. How many of you have actually seen/used a traditional large-format portrait camera? Most of them have very minor if any rear standard movements, and none in front. You're not applying significant movements in order to control depth-of-field. The depth-of-field control I'm talking about comes from the focal lengths of lenses you're using - a 14" f5 lens has very shallow depth-of-field wide open, and even stopped down to render an entire face sharp, will nicely blur out the background creating that "3-D" effect people so like in portraits. Yes this can be done with smaller formats, but it requires exponentially faster lenses, slower films, and very small amounts of light (in the studio).

    If you are working outdoors with natural light, it is a different equation.
     
  20. archphoto

    archphoto Member

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    Brain, Imagons were made for Hasselblad, you just have to look for them, and then, when you find one, pay a lot of money for it. ($1000,- aprox used). There was one for a Hasselblad on Ebay, but the prices......

    I have the 250mm Imagon for 4x5 inch, and a 200mm Imagon for my Rollei SL 66.

    The 150mm S(oft)F(ocus) for the RB is a lot cheaper, but you need the camera for it.
    It uses more or less the same priciples as the original Imagon made by Rodenstock, Germany.

    Peter

    Addition: check this number on Ebay: 120397288106
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2009
  21. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Thanks Peter. Maybe it is the $1000 price that makes me not see them! :smile: It might be cheaper for me to get a Mamiya and SF??? In the meantime I make effective use of Softar filters.

    I use a Fuji 250SF for 4x5.
     
  22. Frank Szabo

    Frank Szabo Member

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    I've used both medium and large format to do portraiture - what it boils down to is the willingness of the subject to work with you.

    I can literally run with my old and beat up RB but the LF requires an understanding subject (be still, don't vary the distance) and while LF can produce some rather spectacular results, rare is the person that will tolerate it unless you're billing yourself as an "Old Time" photographer.
     
  23. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    Oh sure, you can use the same away-from-camera approach with a medium format camera as with a view camera, but how many actually do? Keith's reply is indicative of the rarity of that approach with MF. I maintain that there is a difference in results though I didn't say one was necessarily better than the other. Just different.

    Of course, when I go into a portrait session I'm not looking to bang off 10 or 12 or 20 or 24 shots, change compositions, rotate backs, etc. I'm usually after one image. And that also means I'm not "ducking under a dark cloth, changing out a film holder and withdrawing dark slides etc.," continuously. I might have to turn the film holder around or grab another during a session, but those are at hand and the change is very fluid and certainly not a hassle. And I think the subjects are more interested in the LF process and the whole experience more formal, so you get a different response.

    As far as metering, once and it is done, especially if the lighting setup doesn't change day to day.

    Recompose? Why would you want to do that if you had a specific image in your head? And even if you did recompose, I don't think it any harder to do so with a view camera unless you are jumping around all over the place, and that certainly doesn't align with how I like to work or the type of images I'm after. My approach is usually slow and deliberate and that jibes nicely with a view camera.

    The MF lends itself to a less formal and less contemplative mode of working, IMO. That's probably better in some instances and not in others. Faster is not necessarily better. I was just pointing out there was an alternative mode and I was not condemning MF in my original post. If you read the OP you'll find the person stated: Most of my work is digital, but I'd like to slow things down a bit and invest in either a 4x5 or a RZ67. (Emphasis mine.) That sounded to me like a good reason to choose LF.

    Joe
     
  24. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Scott -- minor correction: Not all smaller roll film cameras have prism finders; some do, some don't. [I know that isn't a surprise to you :smile: ] Even my Nikon F-3 can be equipped with a non-prism finder and that's exactly what I did back in the days when I was using it for portaiture. A V-system Hassy can either be equipped with prism finder, or not. Your statement certainly holds true for hand-holding, but not necessarily for tripod-mounted cameras regardless of format. With both of these smaller-format cameras I could set up the composition (leaving some room for subject wiggle and cropping, which is inevitable), then step back from the camera with a cable release and interact with the subject face-to-face.
     
  25. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I certainly can respect your opinion... but let me point out... I, for one, can shoot MF just as slow, maybe even slower, than LF at times :smile:

    Faster certainly is NOT necessarily better!
     
  26. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    I do portraits in platinum/palladium. So I could never get use to that small 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 contact print. I shoot full length portraits with a vertical 8x20 camera. Now I know some will say shoot it with a 6x9 and then make a digital negative but I much prefer in-camera negatives. I've been through that stage of using a Nikon with an MD-12 ( or 11..I forget) and just ripping through frames and I can honestly say I have never seen anyones work suffer from slowing down. Get better?...yes, but never worse. If you're after that candid shot then go with the smaller format. But then again if its candid is it still a portrait?