thinking of giving 4x5 a try, a few questions
I'm not sure how much better a 4x5 negative will be in comparison to a 6x6, but the difference is noticeable to me, even on flickr.
My reason for getting into 4x5 is for the larger negative mostly. My 6x6 negatives blow my 35mm negatives out of the water so I'd like to give 4x5 a try. My photographic interests is in on-tripod available-light portraits. I want something that is light, sturdy, and easy to carry and use. I don't care for many if any movements, a rangefinder, or 120 backs. I don't think that those will be very useful (but I may be wrong ofcourse).
Now from my limited research it seems that a folder fits my criteria pretty well. The graphics seem to be the best-value while Linof's seem to be the cream of the crop. The focal length that I'd want to start off with is a 150mm.
I need to do more research, but maybe a little help can narrow it down a bit.
1. Which camera models would you recommend that I look into? What what would be a starting price? I'd probably start with a 150mm f5.6 lens. If I were to start today I'd probably go with a graphic but if a Linof isn't that much more, then I'd start with that.
2. What mount do I need for the lenses? I looked at keh.com and I see db mount, 32 mount, 42 mount. The lenses, are universal, right? Would a 150mm f5.6 lens fold into my camera? I'd want a lens that does.
3. Any particular brand of lens I should look into? Or is this a Canon vs Nikon Vs Leica Vs Zeiss type of thing? I see Fujinon's, Sinaron, Symmar, etc. I really do not know what qualities they have but I figured that the jump from MF to LF would make a bigger difference than between brands.
4. What do I need to start. I guess a tripod, film, 4x5 holders, dark cloth, lens (board too?), and a folder camera? Are film backs universal?
Last edited by msbarnes; 07-01-2012 at 01:01 AM. Click to view previous post history.
A graflex is a good start. And it also happens to be a good use camera as it is quite portable and fairly easy to use. A graflex is around a few hundred bucks, I paid about $200 for my Pacemaker Speed Graphic. From experience, I would suggest a Pacemaker Crown with the top rangefinder.
I have a 135mm lens on mine and a 150mm on my sinar. On both, the lenses screw into a shutter which mounts to a lensboard. Lensboards are rarely compatible between cameras. They are usually compatible with various shutetr and lens combinations, as long as the shutter is the right size. On my graflex, the 135mm does not need to be dismounted for the camera to fold. My 150mm is not much bigger, but I have no interest in trying it.
Lenses, to start, if you can find a camera with one already included is the best start. Again, graflex cameras on the bay of e frequently have a lens included. Most all LF lenses are quite good. Even the older lenses made by places like kodak and who knows where are still quite good. Fujinon, sinaron, rodenstock, and new schneider lenses are really good. There are plenty of more brands, but I can't think of them all. Then of course, there are things like process camera lenses.
To start, a tripod is useful. I personally started with a borrowed graflex and shot handheld. You will need 4x5 film and some film holders. Avoid wood holders, go for newer metal or plastic ones.
My big tip is to buy a complete graflex set. They have a nice lens and shutter combination (usually) as well as wire frame, viewfinder, rangefinder, and ground glass focusing. They also have a folding piece in the back that works as a focus hood, negating the need for a dark cloth.
My big bit of advice is that you browse graflex.org and join their forum, as well as read the articles at largeformatphotography.info and join the forum there.
Basically, the stuff I mentioned gets covered in multiple articles and many books. There is a lot of info on what to choose and how to use it, as well as how to get the most out of it, it is simply amazing.
Also, I suggest picking up a copy of the book View Camera Technique. Get the newest edition you can.
Bets of luck.
If you can get a field camera with a longer bellow draw at the price of the Graflex get it otherwise there is nothing wrong with buying the Graflex. For portraiture you don't need the sharpest lens, old single coated ones are fine. Film backs are more or less universal, there even exists a six sheet holder for the Graflex the Grafmatic, if you buy one make sure that none of the inserts has bend corners.
Graflex is a good start - cheap and has everything you need (camera & lens) in one package. You won't want it after a year, but it's an easy sale on the bay or elsewhere -- when I did this, it ended up costing me nothing.
You'll need film holders and a light meter (but even that may be optional).
One thing about the Graflex press cameras, is that if you are doing portraits in what I assume will be in 'portrait mode' (vertical orientation), you will always be using the camera turned 90 degrees. My older Speed Graphic does have a tripod mount hole on the side as well as the bottom.
But something with a rotating or reversable back might be nice. (The more expensive Super Graphics have one, I believe). But even wood folders can be carried around on the tripod. Many of the lightweight wood folders like the Tachihara, Horseman Woodman, etc, weigh under 4 pounds. An alternative to consider. I have a Calumet PocketView, which is a lightweight rail 4x5. With the Caltar IIN 150mm on the it, the camera weighs 2.5 pounds. Some people's tripod heads weigh more than that! So there are several alternatives.
A 210mm lens might be nicer for head-and-shoulder portraits, but if you like the look of your MF portraits with an 80mm lens, then the 150mm with the 4x5 will suit you fine. I don't think you'll find a 210mm that will fold into the camera. The Caltar IIN 150mm/5.6 lens is sweet and usually inexpensive (it is actually a high quality Rodenstock). The Copal 0 shutter is small and dependable. It is a good all-purpose lens. You can easily work with older lenses, some even have a softer look to the images that can well suit portraits, but one must deal with some less-than-perfect shutters.
You camera, whatever you decide to get, will have lensboards that fit on to it. These lensboards often fit only one brand of camera, but there are exceptions. These boards are drilled with holes sized to fit a particular lens or shutter. For example, you might have a board with a hole sized to fit the Copal 0 shutter...all lenses mounted in Copal 0 shutters will fit on that lensboard. The lenses usually require a retaining ring or jam nut on the back to attach it to the lens board, so make sure a lens you buy comes with one.
At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.
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Last year I was in more or less a similar situation as yours. In my case, I have already shoot plates, but always with classic gear: mostly 6.5x9 with a Patent Etui / Tessar 12cm, and 9x12 with a Voigtlaender Avus / Skopar 13,5cm. These sizes are easy to find here in Europe, and since I do mostly B&W I do not care of color emulsions for these sizes (although I still have several boxes of both negative and positive at the freezer). I enjoy shooting 6.5x9 on my Plaubel Makina IIIR, but usually I load it with any of the rollfilm backs.
Last year I decided that I wanted to dig my toe a bit more seriously into LF. In my case, I hunted down a Linhof Super Technika V with a Schneider-Kreuznach 150mm lens. I like Wide Angles best, and therefore I settled for a Technika V. A Technika IV may have been a good alternative too (MkV) but I found my V at a very good price. As you know I am sending it to Münich for a CLA, but even with this expense on top of my purchase price, it is still a good price. With patience, one can find bargains. The Tech V also has rear movements, something that I very much wanted.
Graflex are also a good way to start, much cheaper than Linhof. In my case, I went for it knowing what to expect of LF and with a bit of background, if only with limited movements from my classics.
Your questions are easy to answer: as soon as you pick up with your readings, you will discover the basis and understood the idea behind LF. I'd say that you should either a) go cheap for now while you decideif it suits you, with something preferably holding its value in the meantime; or b) read and learn what you need for what you want to do, and buy accordingly :-)
The Busch Pressman, was a competitor of the Graphics, back in the day.
Post war, the bodies were aluminum, and they did have limited movements. Similar to the Crown Graphic, there was no focal plane shutter. The upside is the back rotates, so you do not have to turn the whole camera. The downside is it is not a Graphlock back. It will take the same 4x5 holders as a Graphic, but not holders that require the Graphlock mechanism.
They are also cheaper than the Graphics in the current market.
the quality increase from 35m to mf is huge. don't expect the same when stepping up to 4x5. you won't get it!but you are getting into'real' photography. welcome to the lttlelarge-format!btw. don' worry about movements too much most camera movements are beyond what the lenses cn cover anyway.
I'd suggest you borrow some lenses, and perhaps a camera, before you buy, from a store that sells second hand ones. Or arrange to buy one of those with the option to return, if you are not sure yet, before you spend bigger money.
Regarding your question about lenses, they are generally all suitable regardless of makes, as they are just mounted to a board. What can make a lens unsuitable for your camera would be its focal length vs the length of bellows extension/compression, or physical size, especially with larger shutters. Don't be afraid of 2nd hand lenses, I bought a few from others on this and other forums.
Have a look at largeformatphotography.info for lots of good articles, and pick up AA's The Camera, if you haven't got it yet.
I disagree with Ralph, and believe the qualitative difference from 6x6 to 4x5 is even greater than from 35mm to MF; but it really all depends on what you're trying to accomplish, your skill level, and
how big you need to enlarge things. Working with a view camera is very different discipline than with
regular cameras. There will be a distinct learning curve. Even modest movements can dramatically increase versatility - so once you have them and know how to use them, there will be a whole new
range of opportunities (speed won't be one of them). Most of the old hand-holdable "technical" 4x5's
have some movements built-in. But working without a tripod ain't particularly easy.