Every 5x7 user I have met (and that includes 13x18cm and half-plate users) does indeed see it as the ideal format: big enough to contact print (4x5 really isn't) but small enough to enlarge (5x7 enlargers aren't THAT much bigger than 4x5, and a LOT smaller and easier to find than 8x10). Once you try it, you're hooked.
For years I suspected it was the ideal format, purely on theoretical grounds, but coukdn't find a camera at the right price -- and then, by chance, about six or seven years ago I got two and a half in one year, a Gandolfi Variant, a Linhof Technika V and a 5x7 back (the half) for my De Vere 8x10 monorail. I was delighted to learn that I was right: it is ideal.
I've had two or three articles published where I plug it as such (one in Shutterbug), and I'll be pushing it again in the next Shutterbug buyer's guide. I also commend it highly in the free module in the Photo School at www.rogerandfrances.com where I run through the large formats that are currently available, and why you'd choose one over another.
I don't shoot a vast amount of LF, even though I have cameras from 6x7cm (Linhof) to 12x15 inch (Gandolfi) because it's a hassle -- but with 5x7, for most subjects, the hassle is at the minimum and the rewards are at the maximum.
Film choice? Still plenty from Ilford -- and remember that you can always switch to 13x18 or half-plate, because the holders have the same external dimensions and differ only internally.
I agree with most of what everyone has said so far: 5x7" (and 13x18cm) is the ideal format. The cameras are close enough in size to 4x5" cameras (in fact, many 4x5" cameras are 5x7" cameras with 4x5" backs!) to be convenient for carrying about, and sufficiently smaller than 8x10" to be - well, convenient for carrying about.
At the moment I have three cameras in this size: A Gandolfi Traditional, and two antique German 13x18cm plate cameras. The Gandolfi is my main camera, and one of the plate cameras is my "lens test bed" - it has a iris holder, and a rigid front that can hold just about any lens. Coupled with six plate holders with film sheaths for both 5x7" and 13x18cm, a minimum draw of 6cm and a maximum of 65cm, it's perfect for testing lenses! Besides, the size of the film lets me see quickly if the lens covers 4x5" or not.
I have very little problem in finding film for any of these - try 24x30cm if you want a difficult format!
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
13x18cm shooter over here too.
I like the aspect ratio more than 4x5".
All the rest has been said before: portability is not a great issue, contact prints...
When my interest in photography returned, I was drawn to 5x7, because I knew I'd be limited to making contact prints, at least at first. I also prefer its aspect ratio to the too-squarish 4x5 and 8x10.
Used 5x7's on eBay were not that much more expensive than 4x5's, and the film choices seemed sufficient. Tri-X, HP-5, Classic 400, Bergger 200, what more could a guy want?
And being a middle child, it just feels right.
"What drives man to create is the compulsion to, just once in his life, comprehend and record the pure, unadorned, unvarnished truth. Not some of it; all of it."
- Fred Picker
Sooooo, that's why I like it....add another (2 5x7 cameras), and love it.
Originally Posted by seadrive
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I went to Adorama last week to buy some 5x7 Tri-x and they had a good number of boxes with an expiration date in late 2008 - a good sign. I use my 5x7 with 3 lenses, a 150, 300, and 600 and it really covers all the bases. It would be nice if there were a larger selection of color film, though...
my first experiences with 5x7 format were as a printer/lab guy for a portrait photographer trained in the 30s. she had an 8x10 camera ( studio ansco ) reduced down for 5x7. i hadn't used anything bigger than 4x5 and seeing and printing 5x7s ( she didn't contact print unless they were proofs ) really turned me into a believer. split 5x7s for regular bread and butter sittings, and full 5x7 for the karsh-seque rembrant lighting + formal portraits she was famous for. down the road a bit when i was building myown inventory of equipment, i was talking to a "living room / show" dealer i sometimes buy equipment from. we were talking about what i was up to ( doing streetscape documentations, habs work and portraits ) and as i was buying my 210/370 symmar --- he and his wife said " do we have a camera for you! it is a 5x7, and most of your 4x5 lenses will fit, yadda yadda yadda ... and the next thing i know 5 minutes later i am 150$ poorer ( not counting the symmar ) and a 5x7 camera richer.
when i bought it, i kind of had reservations, but now, it is one of those formats i can't live without.
Another vote for 5x7's size & proportion. My second large format camera (1976) was an ugly gray tailboard, built like a rock, bought when a studio closed in Dallas. I removed the gray paint and found a glorious cherry wood underneath. Indestructible and a large lens board as well.
Once I moved into the Rocky Mountain west, landscapes became the calling and it was not the most appropriate camera. For once I was in the right place at the right time and a mint Korona 5x7 with the extension rail showed up in a local shop window at $125, along with 3 holders, and a 150 Tessar. Who was I to resist? It's only real failing was the small lens board.
I should never have parted with that camera - but absolutely love the Canham 5x7 that replaced it. It has a 4x5 reducing back and a 4x10 back & bellows. Precise, stable, long bellows draw. They'll have to pry it out of my fingers after rigor mortis sets in...
I believe 5x7 would have been much more popular with photographers had either St. Edward or St. Ansel used it... but that keeps the prices down for independent thinkers.
5x7 Film Availability
5x7/13x18 film is available in much greater variety than many realize. You may have to search a bit for your supplier but it is there. See the table I did on all available emulsions at http://www.viewcamera.com/archives.html (third down on the list)
Mark down another fan of 5x7. As a matter of fact, I'm going to go home this evening and load up my holders so I can do some night shooting.
Let's see what I've got in the magic trash can for Mateo!