Get the Linhof. You won't regret it, and if you don't like it you can always sell it later for probably what you paid for it.
You'll have to get an enlarge, of course, unless you're satisfied with small contact prints.
After a while (maybe a long while) of learning the camera movements, you'll get to the point where the camera will seem to set itself up, and you'll concentrate solely on the image. Set up time will get shorter, and shorter, and shorter...
I went from 35mm to 4X5 (I had a Hassy for a shot time, but it stunk!), a steep learning curse that almost replicated itself when I went to 8X10. Now, 4X5 is my almost point-and-shoot.
Large format is worth the effort. Enjoy. Dean
This is a good point.
Originally Posted by doc4x5
I gave some 8x10s to a friend in Toronto in July. She took them to work and showed her coworkers (I deal with her office professionally so they all know me). One of the coworkers was convinced that my prints could not possibly be from 35mm negatives as I claimed because the quality was too high.
I took this as a high compliment of my technique but couldn't help but think that if I had shot the film on 120 or 4x5 that the tonality would be even better.
If you shoot carefully and process carefully, you can get incredibly good results from surprisingly small formats, but of course those improvements in quality will also work on the larger formats, so it won't necessarily mean you won't want to make big negatives one day - it'll just mean that the benefit you get out of it will be less obvious on small prints but far more obvious on large ones.
I get beautiful 11x14s out of 35mm and traditional non-t-grain emulsions. I can't wait to see what my 16x20s look like from 4x5.
Jim MacKenzie - Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
A bunch of Nikons; Feds, Zorkis and a Kiev; Pentax 67-II (inherited from my deceased father-in-law); Bronica SQ-A; and a nice Shen Hao 4x5 field camera with 3 decent lenses that needs to be taken outside more. Oh, and as of mid-2012, one of those bodies we don't talk about here.
Favourite film: do I need to pick only one?
"When looking at a great print, most people can not tell the size of the negative, nor do they care."
This IS a good point, but only to a point.
My wife has perfect pitch. If we go someplace that has a band, she can tell instantly if the piano is in tune. Unless it's horribly out of tune, I can't tell the difference.
Anyone experienced with photography can usually tell what format was used just by looking at the print. I know a gallery owner who can barely take a photograph, but can tell how most photographs were made, including 19th century processes. Everything depends on how sophisticated your audience is.
Now, having said that, I have to admit that it's a mute point. The image itself counts above all else. I'll take an interesting 35mm print over a boring 8X10 contact print any day of the week.
I get excellent 8X10's with a Contax G and a Leitz Valloy enlarger. I prefer 4X5 and 8X10 because I want to take my time to really look at things.
You go into large format if it suits your way of seeing things, and if you want to use what camera movements give you. And, you get a bigger neg, too. Dean
I own MF, plus various large formats. I would choose 4 x 5 over MF due to camera movements and it slows me down, so I tent to shoot better...BUT, the darkroom enlarger, etc. is something to consider as others have said. You will also have more control over each individual negative for zone/developing with large format.
I enjoy and use my 8 x 10 over my 4 x 5 (contact printing - easier in darkroom) and rarely use my 4 x 5 anymore (except for color trans.). I like the larger glass in the field too.
The let-out here is 'usually'. Most negatives are over-enlarged. I would suggest that the abovementioned trick of 3x off 56 x 72mm would, if executed by an adequately skilled photographer, be indistinguishable from a whole-plate contact even to your gallery-owner chum.
Originally Posted by dphphoto
It's not just tonality and sharpness, either. It's subject type, composition, paper surface...
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negative size and image quality
Since my comment in my post "When looking at a great print, most people can not tell the size of the negative, nor do they care." has been quoted a couple of times, I would like to add to the conversation.
One can look at a photograph as a technically oriented photographer, eg stick your nose 2 inches from a 30x40 inch print, or back off and appreciate the image; what was the photographer thinking, how did the photographer decide on that particular piece of the world to place in the finder?
John Sexton said at a recent workshop, "There's nothing you can do with a Hasselblad that you cannot do better with a 4x5." While all things being equal, there's no substitute for negative real estate, many of us, myself included, focus (pun intended) on sharpness, tonality, and other technical issues at the expense of creativity. Most of us photograph for the sheer joy of it, for fun.
We need answer to no one for our choices and we should not. What matters is the image. I have struggled with this forever. I often get sidetracked into worrying about the wrong things, technical things, when I should relax and enjoy the process. I am not making excuses for technical sloppiness, photography is a craft as well as an art and sloppiness is not acceptable, but perhaps because the medium is so technical, by its very nature, we spend too much time on that aspect. It is true that painters argue about paint and brushes and canvas, but not to the extent that photographers argue about lenses and film.
BBonte, unless you have compelling reasons, should choose the format you enjoy, make the best images you can, and try to think creatively about what you are doing with a camera in the first place. Even at APUG, supposedly free of the digital technocracy, one can get caught up in technique to the detriment of art.
Now... I've said it.
Seeing in 4x5
Not wanting to hijack the thread, or anything, but expanding on the theme a little, I am interested in opinions on "seeing in 4x5" - - let me explain:
I have been shooting MF since I was 8... let's see... that's 45 years. I also made extensive use of 35mm working for our university daily paper and working in the field as a technical photographer for archaeological projects. All the time, I was also shooting 6x6 for my own purposes.
I have recently (within the past year) begun using 4x5. I try to shoot as often as I can and, as people have stated above, try very hard to make each negative count. But when all is said and done, I'm undewhelmed with the images - - not exposure-wise... I have that down pretty well - - moving from the Mamiya c220, c3 to 4x5 was not that hard to master, exposure-wise. I am concerned because I photograph images that I have shot before as 6x6 or that I would feel certain would be good 6x6 shots, only to have them turn out very blah in structure and composition.
In my own mind, I chalk it up to not seeing well in the 4x5 format after decades of seeing "square." But is is not as if I don't see the image prior to exposing it. I have always shot 6x6 as a "measure twice, cut once" process - - the Mamiya TLRs force that on you. So either I'm not paying attention to the composition of the image, or there really is something special about the image perspective created by the 4x5 size that I cannot assess on the ground glass. Perhaps I would have the same problem if I tried 6x7 MF.
I will continue plugging away on making exposures... I develop and scan them immediately for feedback while the images are still presh in my mind. But if there is some exercise or visualization technique or process that would improve seeing in this format, I'd like to try it.
And, to come back to the thread, I agree that bigger is not necessarily better, in all regards - - I have the negatives with great density and extremely fine grain of very mediocre compositions to prove it.
I found it generally impossible to tell the difference in terms of sharpness and tonal gradations between 4x5 and 6x7 with prints of 11x14 or smaller, as long as the image was made in a situation that didn't call for swings or tilts (i.e. both my Pentax 67 and my 4x5 camera being used "straight on"). At 16x20 the difference was generally noticeable though not gigantic. But things change radically in situations where you can take advantage of swings or tilts with a LF camera to alter the plane of focus and thereby maintain sharpness from front to back even in extreme near-far situations or to maintain (or intentionally alter) the shape of objects in the scene. That, IMHO, is why LF is superior to MF for most applications. It isn't the tonal gradations, it isn't "sharpness" (with prints smaller than 16x20), it's the movements.