Best entry route into Large Format?
I am considering large format - I know that this might be a difficult question, but what would people recommend as a good [economical] entry into large format?
I am assuming 5X4 has the best availability of film emulsions, but I'm quite interested in 5X7 (especially as I have a 5X7 enlarger - DeVere 507)
I think that I would mainly use for monochrome landscapes, with some transparancy too.
Thanks for any help.
Instead of saying what is a good "economical" camera, you might want to say I have (X) amount to spend, what can I get.
Set a budget and then we can go from there.
Right off, I thought about the Shen-Hao 5x7 that is about $1100(US).
The cheapest reasonable way in is a 4x5 press camera, which can handle many situations, but has limited movements. Here in the USA, common models included the Speed Graphic in its many incarnations, the Crown Graphic, the Busch Pressman, and the Burke and James Press. There are cheaper approaches involving plate cameras and pinhole cameras, but those are cumbersome and limited in usefulness, respectively.
Originally Posted by Matt5791
In the UK, no question. Look out for a Kodak Specialist half-plate (external dimensions for 5x7 inch and 13x18cm are identical, so film holders are interchangeable). It may take a while but you should be able to find one silly-cheap sooner or later.
Take a look also at the free 'Large Formats' module in The Photo School at www.rogerandfrances.com.
Best way in?
Both feet together, flex knees, take a deep breath, then jump.
Depending on budget, it could be anything from a brand new Ebony to an ancient plate camera. After all the main purpose of a camera is to provide some dark space between the lens and the film, and some support for both lens and film.
Since you're thinking of landscapes, I'll recommend against a monorail - they're mostly too heavy to carru around. The limit for me is a Technika 5x7", but I don't miss it after I replaced it with a Gandolfi Traditional (7x5").
Another low-cost 5x7" alternative is old German plate cameras, or the newer FSU "copies": The FKD. These are actually very similar to the Gandolfi Tailboard camera on Roger's site, and some of the German ones are almost as nice. I use one as a "test bed for odd lenses" - it's equipped with a universal lens mount. Total cost was about £ 150.-! I got three double plate holders with it. Never buy a plate camera without plate holders by the way, these things were not standardised.
Slightly more expensive is a new camera from Argentum Cameras in Hungary. They're worth considering, and I'm considering a 8x10" one myself.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
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I second this option. The 4x5 press cameras are a great way to get started, and for ~$300 you can have a complete kit. You can shoot handheld, or you can slap on a 612 back and shoot roll film, or you can treat it like a field camera (albeit with more limited movements). My crown graphic has a coupled rangefinder so I can really use it on the go if necessary. It is also waaay lighter than any of the view cameras I know, and lighter than most field cameras as well. A very economical entry to the format, but not a good choice if you want to learn about camera movements- then you really need a field or view camera.
Originally Posted by DBP
SPEED GRAPHICS FOREVER!!
and a modern lens.
If you are certain you will only ever do landscape work (infinity focus, modest wide to modest telephoto), a Speed or Crown Graphic or other press camera will be fine. If you want to focus close, get really wide, shoot the occasional building, still-life, or portrait, you should seriously consider a field camera. If you're not sure, get a field camera. Better to get the right tool up front, than buy one, build a system around it, then find out that it won't do what you need it to do.
If you are interested in primarily black-and-white work, I'd look at a 5x7. Since you already have the enlarger to handle 5x7, go for it. If you ever decide to try contact printing, 5x7 is a very nice size. While 4x5 is more common, and the equipment is more compact, you'll very quickly find that for contact printing, 4x5 is REALLY small.
Depending on your budget, look at a Shen Hao 5x7 (I have their 4x5 model and I love it- had it for close to six years now, and it has been a real trooper). They make two models of 5x7 - one has a shorter bellows, less movements, and weighs less, the other one has a longer bellows and more movements. The smaller camera sells for about $1200 USD, and the more versatile one goes for about $1500.
When I got my 5x7, I seriously considered the Shen Hao as well, but ended up with a pre-owned Canham instead. The Canhams are fantastic cameras, but a little quirky. New Canhams are a bit pricey, so I'd suggest looking for a pre-owned one.
I would have to say, that speeds are the least expensive way into large format, of course there are other alternatives that are almost as cheap...
I also jumped into 4x5 buying the Graflex Speed Graphic. Mine wasn't in the best of shape, but it does work. And you can still get new lens plates for these to use whatever lens you desire. I went with the Ektar 127mm.