large format, medium format: is 'more' necessarily more...?
Please take moment to define different qualities of prints for both medium and large format photography. Said another way: is it true that for b & w prints the larger format will capture more light-bearing image--and, is preferred for that reason (owing solely to larger surface area of negative) than a medium format negative--or, does the MF negative have features particular to that format size (e.g., thinner emulsion) that LF does not?
I am venturing into LF--keh has a couple of basic 4 x5 cameras for around $200: an omega
4X5 OMEGA VIEW 45C LARGE FORMAT VIEW CAMERA BODY http://is.gd/liCTaQ
and a calumet
4X5 CALUMET 540 CHROME LARGE FORMAT VIEW CAMERA BODY http://is.gd/6yc7N6
Which appears to be the better value?
Good Morning, Dean,
Each camera would serve you well. One consideration might be that the Calumet can use all or most of the widely available Cambo accessories.
Films can vary somewhat from manufacturer to manufacturer but a given emulsion is usually essentially identical from format to format. Kodak LF film is typically on thicker base than roll film, but that doesn't have much or any effect on the image. If you stick with something like TMX or TMY, you'll have the same quality image regardless of format size, but the larger the format, the more information can be stored, usually making for better tonality in a print. All that, of course, is "other things being equal," which won't always be the case. For example, lenses for smaller formats are often capable of higher resolution, more lines/inch, than lenses for large format. Even so, the final image from a LF negative is usually noticeably better than a similar rendition in 35mm or MF.
Format size depends on what you want as a final product and how much work you're willing to do to get the image quality you're after. LF allows you to expose and develop negatives one at a time for ultimate process control. An 11x14 print is about a 2.75X enlargement from a 4x5 negative, an 11-by-X enlargement from a MF negative is at least a 5.5X enlargement depending on how you crop it or the aspect ratio of the original film. Bigger neg=less enlargement=better quality print given the same film. There's no way around it.
Negative size is only one variable in the equipment equation as well. Being able to manipulate the plane of focus and perspective control when using a view camera is another big plus. Speed and spontaneity goes to MF. MF is a great compromise in terms of image quality, portability, spontaneity. I choose format for any shoot by the nature of the situation, what I'm likely to be photographing and how far I'll have to haul gear.
Your camera choice depends on what you're going to do with the camera. The Calumet is a little heavier and sturdier, the Toyo a little lighter. As far as performance, they'll be identical, and both have accessories readily available. If you're doing field work and packing gear, the Toyo might be a better choice. If you're using it indoors or in a studio, either will do the job. My prejudice is for the Calumet, which I believe is made by the manufacturers of Cambo cameras. Both are good choices for a basic LF kit.
The role of the printing method is very important to consider, particularly if you plan on working 100% analogue. In that case, should you want to do alt printing processes (most of which require contact prints) then you will want a larger neg. People who do Pt/Pd or such may well advise you to go to a larger format.... but of course it is all individual and depends on the imagery.
There are many other important considerations such as those mentioned above... it's not as simple as bigger is better.
Regarding the two cameras, I think I'd go for the calumet... but admittedly only because I have own and know it to be very sturdy. But I am sure both are very capable and there may be technical reasons for one over the other e.g. tilt without yaw or whatnot. You'll have to research that if you think it's important.
Last edited by keithwms; 02-02-2012 at 12:47 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I photograph with both LF and MF cameras. I use the LF cameras simply because I enjoy photographing with them. With the MF cameras it's the same reason... I like using them. Which camera I choose depends more on my mood than anything else.
My $0.02 and YMMV.
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You get less grain with LF over MF or 35mm at the same print size. Larger formats require you to stop down more for the same depth of field. So while they capture more info, they give up some to diffraction. But camera movements can sometimes mitigate this. I see no difference in the films between formats, other than some films are coated on different supports so may be more dimensionally stable.
I use both LF, MF and 35mm. They all have their place. Image quality in a 16x20 from a Mamiya 7 is as good as my 4x5 if you do not use a loupe, and even then it's close. The Mamiya 7 is worlds better if I choose not to use a tripod.
Regarding your camera choices, they are both monorails. This is a bonus in the studio, and a pain in the a__ out in the field if you plan to hike with the system. I don't know either system so no comment on which is better.
There's nothing magic or sprinkled with fairy dust going on here. The reason to use MF or LF cameras is because they fit what you want to do.
Originally Posted by Dean Taylor
LF cameras give you movements, which really is the most important reason. You can adjust the plane of focus, so you don't have to stop down to get something into focus. The back can be moved independently of the front to correct perspective. I use a Graflex Super Graphic, which folds up and I take it on my bicycle.
MF cameras give you more area on the film, so grain in the print is reduced. This is what, of course, gives them an advantage over 35mm. I started with a Pentax 6x7, and I've never really been a 35mm photographer. The camera in my backpack is a Fuji 645.
Is there something magic in using the various cameras? Of course not. Each has a place. If I want to make a lot of exposures fast or I need to conveniently carry the camera, of course I'll use roll film. If I have some more time, I'll use LF because I have more options of what I can do.
Think about how you photograph, what you want to photograph, and whether or not 35mm is not fitting into what you want to do.
I find 4x5 to be the antidote to ADHD photography. When I was shooting 35mm, motordrives brought on image-blasting. Digital cameras, with their real-time capabilities, amped that even further. Large format forces me to get back into my head.
First off- those two cameras you showed are essentially the same camera. They're equally good values. I also wouldn't worry about which one has a greater variety of system accessories, especially with your first large format camera. Unlike a 35mm system, it will definitely NOT be your last if you stick with it long enough, because you'll find that certain types of large format cameras are better suited to certain types of photography. The ones you pointed out, monorails, are great for studio/tabletop/still-life subjects, architecture, and anything you plan to photograph less than 50 feet from your car. Field or flat-bed cameras are better for landscape and general-purpose shooting because they fold up more compactly and generally weigh less. These are extremely broad, general categorizations of the two types of cameras, and specific models within each type will defy those preconceptions.
As to the question of "is more, more", well, it's not necessarily more, just different. There is certainly a qualitative as well as a quantitative difference between 35mm or medium format and 4x5. If you are enlarging, the old Detroit adage "there's no substitute for (cubic) inches" applies. It's easy to get caught up in the math of photography, though, and neglect some of the more subjective aspects. Shooting with large format is a very different style of shooting than 35mm or medium format. The lenses are different, and as a result, there is a different quality to the images produced. You can control perspective and plane of focus, and it is much easier in some ways to control depth of field with large format, both maximizing and minimizing it. Another quality in addition to the increase in detail is the improvement in tonal value transitions - gradations are smoother and creamier, for a variety of reasons. Thinking of lenses, another reason to shoot large format is the lenses are absolutely interchangeable - you can use a 100 year old lens on a 1 year old camera with 100% compatibility, so long as you have a lensboard and/or lensboard adapter. This means you can really play around with the look you want to achieve. If you want super-sharp optics with absolute color fidelity, you can get modern multi-coated optics. If you want something dreamy, soft-focus, and aren't concerned about color accuracy, you can throw on a vintage portrait lens. You can even use an early 19th century Daguerreotype lens to combine a sharp central image with wild, swirling out-of-focus areas.
Because you shoot individual sheets of film, it is possible to process each sheet according to its needs. One exposure may need to be push-processed, and the next pulled to control highlights. You can't do that with roll-film. The downside is of course that you'll be processing one sheet at a time then, and spending a lot more time in the darkroom (not that you can't batch process sheet film - I soup mine in a Jobo CPP2+, others tray process their sheets sometimes as many as 10-12 at a time).
Last edited by TheFlyingCamera; 02-02-2012 at 02:41 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I shoot three formats, 35mm, medium, and large. Each has it's place and I tend to shoot mostly medium. But for serious work, nothing beats large format. Have film backs for my Graflex's just in case, Steven.