Moving to large format and need some help
Hello everyone. Its my first time in APUG
I need some help to get started. I am mostly a "weekend-photographer" who loves to take natural/landscape. Recently I bought myself a Tachihara 4x5. The only time I have seen this camera in real was when I took a photography course as elective way back in college. 100% of my experience is shooting and processing 35mm. I need some help to get started.
The reason skipped medium format and went straight to 4x5 is that I needed something to shoot only nature/landscape. At the same time, I wanted something reasonable in size and weight that it won't be sitting in my house. I got the camera for a very good deal. MF didn't appeal me that much. If I am to be methodological and controlled photography, I wanted to shoot large. Hopefully I picked it up for the correct reason!
1. What is a good lens to get started? Something that can help me with landscape is a priority. If money left, I would like to get a portrait lens. Or is there a specific set of lenses from experience you guys have found most useful/necessary in the field? Also, if I get the lens seperate from the mounting board, is that easy to mount myself?
2. Film. I have mostly used Velvia for color and many ilfords for B&W. Since I am a starter, which is easier to expose and have a good latitude in 4x5? Something that can help me learn the mechanics of the camera and be consistent with exposure.
3. Processing: I use the tank and hewes reel method. Do you process it via tank like that or some other method. (I couldn't find a hewes reel that takes 4x5 sheets). At least, until I get to learn to expose properly, I cannot afford the professional labs for my trial and error learning method.
4. Chemicals: Same as 3. What goes with what film?
5. Meters: Any suggestions?
6. Holders. Can I get film holders for 4x5 and will it work for tachihara? I see a lot in ebay. Is there a "Tachihara specific" film holder that I have to get?
Last edited by rakmaya; 12-31-2012 at 07:13 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Good Morning, Rakmaya,
You might start with a good comprehensive book on LF, such as Steve Simmons' publication.
Take each of the six topics listed in your post and do an APUG search; the material here is voluminous to say the least.
An excellent primer also exists on the Large Format Photography.info site and is well worth the time it takes to read.
This would be a good place for you to start looking for answers.
BTW: the big kid in my avatar is my hero, my son, who proudly serves us in the Navy. "SALUTE"
Large format is a broad subject and research before purchases is the best idea. Landscape photography can also be wide ranging and have a very personal approach. To weigh in on your questions:
1. You might consider a general purpose lens that will cover your format and permit movements available with your camera and bellows extension. I went with a 210mm -- slightly longer than the 50mm for you 35mm camera. If drilling your own lens boards be sure you can do it accurately and dead center.
2. I would start out with 400 ISO film such as Ilford HP5.
3. I use old Kodak hard rubber tanks that last a lifetime if you can find some. the film is held in individual frames and not touched until perfectly dry.
4. Same chemistry as for other size film. ( my preferences are Ilford ID11 or Pyro PMK)
5. A spot meter.
6. Lisco film holders are generic and I would expect them to work. You might be able to find a roll film holder and practice with 120 film.
Happy New Year! Ihope this may have been of some help.
Hello and welcome to APUG.
I'm a Tachihara 4x5 owner and I recommend a 90mm, 135 or 150mm and 210mm 3 lens kit for the camera. That gives a nice spacing between focal lengths. The 90mm is the most popular wide angle for landscape and it will work fine on a flat lens board on your camera. The 135 or 150 is a normal lens and the 210 is an inexpensive long normal lens that is very popular for portraits. It's just a great general purpose focal length. I don't know if you want to do head shots or head and shoulder shots. Most people prefer a 300mm for that but you can't close focus a 300 due to the short 13" bellows draw on your camera. You might pick up a cheap monorail for close up portraiture. I would recommend a normal focal length (135mm or 150mm) or the long normal 210mm for your first lens. Wide angles are a little harder to learn on.
Look for Fujinon, Nikkor, Rodenstock, Schneider or Caltar lenses in modern Copal shutters for your camera. Don't worry about brand (they are all fine lenses). Look for condition and price. Your camera takes Linhoff style boards. They are available new and cheap from Badger Graphics or used on Ebay. You can easily mount a lens using a lens wrench. The cheapest ones are made from a flat sheet of metal and work great. I know B&H has them among other places.
Any of the modern plastic film holders from Toyo, Riteway, Lisco, etc. work fine. There is no Tachihara specific holder. Just look for ones made to hold 4x5 sheet film and are in good shape with nice tape joints so they don't leak light. If you buy new, the Toyos are said to be the best today.
I'm also a member of Large Format Photography Forum. Click on the link that Rick A nicely provided and check out the home page for a wealth of free information. I also own and recommend the Steve Simmons book, Using The View Camera, which Konical wisely recommended. Steve's book is easy to understand with plenty of photographs and is available at Amazon.
The most important advice any of us can give you is to just have fun!
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I do a lot of landscape work for advertising, editorial and now fine art outlets, full time. Some of the best selling work I have done for those uses have been with 35mm and now more often medium format. That is due to the fact that the landscape images that people either react to the most or pony up the cash for fastest are not ones that are technically the sharpest and a nice arrangement of elements placed neatly in the frame, but more emotive images in terms of timing, lighting and dynamic angles…
The reason I am even saying this is that it is my firm belief that a great image exists without the camera even being brought to the eye of a great photographer. The camera is merely a tool and if that tool is overly complex, it can and often will prevent the photographer from getting the best photograph…
In my direct experience with all three formats, It is actually a medium format camera system employing roll film backs that gives me personally the greatest chance of success in getting that fleeting shot on to a print in my darkroom. While 35mm is light and fast, you can not swap film out after a single shot like you can with a good MF camera system.
I never intended to even get into Large Format at all because of how utterly disassembled it all is when brought out into the field. The lenses, the camera and even the film, all requires methodical care and accountability when you are out in the field working. It takes 6 4x5 film holders to get the same amount of shots as a single 120 roll, 18 to equal a 36 exposure 35mm roll and unlike either of those formats, you have to re-load in complete darkness with 4x5 often needing to be a film changing tent which can be a pain in warmer and more humid climates..
Imagine if every time you wanted to reload your 35mm SLR, you had to go into the dark, remove the film can, take it all apart, separate and label each frame, put that into a box, then reload 36 individual frames of film into that can and put in the camera….you know that your chances of getting fingerprints, scratches and *especially* dust would go up exponentially…and it does with 4x5…
Another thing is that I have to have total consistency in my development and the only way I have found that 100% is in using expensive Jobo Expert drum processing….in short, you have few options that are going to do your investment of time and money justice. Who cares if you hit the perfect Scheimphlug principal if you hose your film in some cheap, half assed experiment. A Mod54 insert and 3 reel Patterson tank would be a perfect start, a Jobo 3010 drum on a cheap Beseler rotary base would be perfect...
But I use 4x5 now for one reason and one reason alone. I need to be able to make prints in my darkroom that are larger than 30" and large format is the best way to get that done. So despite that it takes 10X the film cost to get the shot and the chances are much lower that I will get the prime shot in the bag, dust free, I still use it. If I never had to go above 30" in print, I simply would not use it period. I would instead use what I consider to be the most professional solution to my landscape needs and is still by far my favorite, my medium format Hasselblad system.
I see far less dynamic landscape imagery out there shot on LF than I do MF or 35mm. There are a few good ones though, one great example of dynamic and interesting LF based landscape imagery is the work of Brian Kosoff who is a member here, he uses 6x12 roll film backs and I do as well as I love the format and the film handling is far easier in every aspect:
I am not saying that LF is not worth it, but for a hobby shooter coming from the ease of 35mm like your self, I would strongly consider that it is going to be a LOT harder than you think to arrive an a dynamic landscape image from LF than it would MF and not knowing what your intentions are for final output, Flickr, scan and print or darkroom based, I would take the overly enthusiastic gear centric fanfare often seen here with a grain of salt.
If you are a weekend landscape shooter that loves nice cameras and to know he is shooting with the "Big Boys" and puts a premium on that over the impact of the image, go ahead, get going in LF and see what you end up with. But if you are like me and care only about the wow factor of the image, I would strongly re-consider MF not being a valid enough option…it blows away LF in terms of getting the shot in the bag come hell or high water and getting a really nice print to boot...
In terms of color, it is no different than any other format in that you either have a Jobo processor and do it your self or you send it out. It's going to cost you a lot more to shoot color in LF than 35mm no matter what you do, so just know what you are in for and what to realistically expect from the format in terms of your end product and I guess you will be fine....
I am sticking with it because it simply prints huge, I can do 20x24's all day like they are 4x6 prints from 35mm and for what I need to get done, it's worth the enormous pain the rear it can sometimes be...
Last edited by PKM-25; 12-31-2012 at 05:47 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I would add that while 35mm is almost always developed in daylight tanks, 4x5 film is often developed in complete dark (as with the hard rubber tanks mentioned. There are daylight tanks for 4x5, but less common than for 35mm. Research here and on the LF forum will help clarify the advantages and disadvantages. Keep in mind that you need a lot of chemistry for some tanks, which can be difficult to justify for a few sheets at a time unless you are developing frequently. I suggest investigating the "taco method", tray method, and homemade developing tubes as options.
I would second the idea of using 120 film in a roll film holder, but keep in mind that you will make your lens seem a lot longer (i.e. a 90mm LF lens goes from roughly 28mm in 35mm equivalent to 50mm).
Don't neglect a decent tripod. Much has been discussed on Apug about tripods.
Do some research on lens coverage - not something usually considered in 35mm. Difference lenses will have varying angles of coverage. And your need for coverage will depend on your usage (i.e. if you use a lot of movements).
"Far more critical than what we know or do not know is what we do not want to know." - Eric Hoffer
welcome to apug !
what lens do you like using with your 35mm for the photography you do?
if you multiply by 3 you can get an approximate FL for 4x5 ...
sometimes older wollensak and ilex and kodak lenses go for a song and a dance
and they can create images just as beautiful as modern day lenses that cost 1500$
color? b/w ? do you like pictorialism ?
if you like older lenses, and want to practice with paper negatives, you might consider getting
one of reinhold's wollaston lenses. they are a barrel, but he sells waterhouse stops with them
and stopped down they can be sharpish and opener they are soft. they are worth their weight in gold !
paper negatives can be made by trimming a bit of the edge off of a sheet of photo paper and exposing it
in a film holder at around iso 6ish ( or depending on the paper maybe even iso 24 )
it is just processed in a tray ...
good luck !
You mentioned you shoot Velvia for color. Hope you do realize that Fuji just discontinued a some of those in 4x5. Not sure of which since I don't shoot it much but it might be something to consider for a landscape person. If you're not sold on BW it might be a deal-breaker. I have 4x5 friends who shoot velvia exclusively and they were pretty upset...
Also, look into some handy photo apps on iPhone/Pad or android versions. There are some good light meter apps, reciprocity calculators, and one of my new faves "Photo Tools" which is an all inclusive LF app. I found that the light meter app was very close if not identical to my $350 spot meter readings and cost way less.
Last edited by aleksmiesak; 12-31-2012 at 05:48 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: further info
"One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you'd be stricken blind." - Dorothea Lange
+1 on the iPhone apps, I don't even bother to bring my spot meter anymore, love the Reciprocity and Bellows Extension app and my favorite, Viewfinder Pro for pre visualizing what lens to use without ever needing to setup the camera...