What is the cheapest/easiest way to get into ULF?
For most people, ULF is way out their price range. Cameras and holders are difficult to find.
11X14 seems to be the most common ULF format. Should I start here?
What are the cheapest ULF cameras available and where can I find film holders for them?
I recently bought an antique 24x30cm (9.5x12") plate camera with three double plate holders and a lens for about $250 off ebay. You can't get much cheaper than that, for a fully functional camera!
I also have a Russian 30x40cm camera, but it's so heavy that shipping alone is more than the $250.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
Older cameras like my American Optical or Korona or similar can be had inexpensively if you don't mind doing a little work on them, and if there are a few things beyond your mechanical abilities, you can think of it as a way of spreading out the payments. I think I paid $550 or so for the camera and around $325 for a new bellows. I had lenses in my 8x10" kit that covered the format and adapted the camera to use the same lensboards as my 8x10".
Filmholders are costly. No way around it, really, but if you can find a camera with holders, that's a good thing. You might at some point find yourself buying a second camera just for the filmholders and selling one of the cameras.
Look for cameras with rotten bellows. They usually go really cheap, and most of the cameras with 'good' bellows need new ones anyways.
art is about managing compromise
DIY pinhole would be the cheapest way.
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This is just my take on the issue of the cost involved when you start ULF.
I think it is very important to think squarely about how much it is going to cost you. I mean buying a camera or film holders are the just the beginning. Everything becomes bigger and costs you more, like film, papers, chemicals, and storage solutions... So, you should also look at costs of the consumables to find out if it is feasible or not. If it will cost you siginificantly more than what is costing you now, maybe it is not for you.
You don't want to be in a situation where you bought a camera and film holders, but can only shoot 5 sheets of films a month. You will still need to take a lot of pictures to get good ones just like 35mm if that is what you are after.
Go to the local home improvement store and buy a half or quarter sheet of 1/8" thick hardboard (aka "Masonite"). Get a few sticks of 1/2" square poplar for reinforcing frames. Get a bottle of glue, tube of brads, and then stop at the craft shop for a bottle of India ink and a small foam brush (for blackening the inside of the box -- helps cut down on flare). Build yourself a light tight box with a slip-in mount that will hold an 8x10 sheet of enlarging paper. Mount a pinhole in the front, with a sliding shutter or filter adapter to which you can attach a lens cap for shutter duty (make it fit your filters, if you have some).
Get a package of "soft" graded photo paper, and start learning exposures. Experiment with preflashing and developers to control contrast and improve shadow details (which improves effective speed). Contact print onto VC paper, using filters to control the print contrast.
Above shouldn't cost more than about $50, possibly as little as $30 or so, depending what tools you already have -- assuming you already have the setup to make prints (darkroom, trays, developer, etc.). You can't even get a used 8x10 film holder for that...
Photography has always fascinated me -- as a child, simply for the magic of capturing an image onto glossy paper with a little box, but as an adult because of the unique juxtaposition of science and art -- the physics of optics, the mechanics of the camera, the chemistry of film and developer, alongside the art in seeing, composing, exposing, processing and printing.
When I went from 5x7 to 8x10 I ended up with what I call format fatigue, the symptoms include the need to get more stuff and learn more techniques that you ever imagined, and make mistakes that are almost comical in time.
Two years ago I picked up an Anthony Normandie 11x14 field plate camera, circa 1880, for 150$. I thougt it was a really cheap way to get into ULF with an extremely rigid light weight camera. I already had some lenses for 8x10 that have great coverage and a zone VI tripod with a Majestic head capable of dealing with the camera. No big deal right?
There was the conversion for the plate back, and the film holders, and , well you really never have enough lenses do you? And the big packard shutter. Oh, and then there is the film. And a new light source for printing, and the negs sleeves, and you really need a bigger vacuum easel to convert to a frame. And its either a really big dark cloth or a new bellows for such an old camera. And something to move it all around in.
I am right now building a shutter box for the packard, and should be exposing film in the next few days. I suspect there may be a 3" 9010 richson brush in my future, as well as more chemistry and paper. And probably some new trays for film processing. Good thing the new Lodima paper is going to be available in 11x14. better get more amidol as well. And the need for more platinum and palladium....I know I am forgetting something here.... Oh, more money....
It wont be cheap. but if the siren sings....
I think large format and ULF are additive like crack. Only more expensive.