Jim, you mention contact printing in your question. Contact prints, which in my opinion are the most fabulous print medium of all, demand big negatives. It's just about possible to contact print from 6x6 or 6x7 but many people struggle with prints that small; likewise with 5x4 actually.
Assuming you want large prints then you've really only got three options:
1) Use a large camera
2) Use a small camera (e.g. a 6x6 or 6x7) and create hybrid negatives (lots of people do this - try Hypbrid Photo for more information)
3) Use a small camera and create enlarged negatives (people still do this but it's not easy)
Personally I prefer using a large camera to create in-camera negatives. There's something very special about seeing the image on the ground glass and knowing that you're seeing exactly what's going to appear on your final print. But it also quite an exacting process which requires discipline: if you miss something on the glass then it'll be there on the print whether you like it or not. And it's also slow: I think in terms of 20 minutes per negative (some take a lot, lot longer). And you have to learn darkroom processes that make 35mm look like child's play.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that although big cameras are immensely satisfying, they're not easy. So if you're serious about using a 10x8 then I'd recommend that you try one first or maybe take a workshop where you can use one in the field. If you were in London then I'd offer to let you play with mine, but you're a bit too far away for that. But maybe there's someone closer to you who can do this.
Exactly what reggie said.
I think you already have a plan and are confusing it with more options. Don't get caught in the what should I do mentality. Get your 8x10 and make your contact prints. Just make sure that you understand the format, limitations as well as positive points, and the dedication in time and money that it will take before you put your hard earned money to work for you. If your uncomfortable with your decision, reference this thread, maybe you have not done something yet that will make you feel better about your decision. Could it be actually experiencing the the format first? I wish you much luck and success tho no matter which way you go.
I've been thinking about this sort of thing too for a while now, and asked myself 'how often would it have been practical for me to use 8x10 instead of MF (Mamiya 330)'? I concluded that it would have been practical probably 90% of the time, apart from portraits of my niece and nephew (anyway, I still have lots of APX 400 in 120) and some landscapes in very remote/rough terrain. Also a contact print from a big neg beats an enlargement hands down every time for me, even on horrible RC paper. So 8x10 it is for me then (plus I want to do more alt process work anyway, and there's Lodima Fine Art paper too hopefully), unless I specifically want a different look or feel . Now I just have to resist the temptation to buy a new MTB instead of the 8x10....
"He took to writing poetry and visiting the elves: and though many shook their heads and touched their foreheads and said 'Poor old Baggins!' and though few believed any of his tales, he remained very happy till the end of his days, and those were extraordinarily long "- JRR Tolkien, ' The Hobbit '.
I too support previous comments and your own statements about having a vision for your photography. That is most important and could very likely change as you branch into new areas of exploration/creativity in this wonderful avocation/art we call photography.
I shoot 35mm, MF and LF and I love all three formats for vastly different reasons. For 25 years, I shot 35mm exclusively and given the amount of travel I was doing, it worked well for my needs. Then, about 5 years ago, I discovered the wonder of LF. It was such a radical departure from the travel, journalistic, and sports photography I had done and I purchased, without hesitation, a 4x5 monorail and have not looked back. There were so many new avenues to pursue in technique, equipment, composition, subject, and of course, printing. I was thankful for the emergence of digital too as it had served to depress LF prices on equipment. Sweet! That monorail and lens purchase eventually migrated to a field camera and several other lenses, as well as medium format film backs when I did not want to shoot 4x5. That capability provided considerable flexibility with little weight penalty (especially when travelling with the 4x5).
One of the ongoing issues I had, in my printing, was obtaining acceptably sharp 11x14 prints from 35mm. Well, with the 4x5 negatives, those issues were a thing of the past.
About 2 years ago, the advent of the digital frenzy had a highly inviting impact of severely depressing the prices of MF equipment. I bit and purchased an RB67 with a lens and a couple of film backs. The 6x7 format provides excellent negatives with very good sharpness retention through larger print sizes. What started as an basic outfit since grew to a half dozen lenses (often at only $1 per mm focal length), and additional filmbacks and other accessories often obtained for 10 cents on the new dollar.
Of course, there is usually some carping about the weight of the rb67, but you will not find a more rugged, reliable instrument. And, the weight issue is overblown. I have a setup where I have a body, 6 lenses, and other assorted accessories in a Lowe Pro Nature Trekker AW. Yes, it has a bit of heft, but it is not that onerous.
With respect to a 645 camera - I did not consider it at all as the negative format is more like 35mm on steroids. If I want to shoot 645, or even 6x6, it is just a matter of getting film backs in those formats for the RB67.
In the end, I did not plan to get into MF at all, but the prices on equipment were too inviting. At times when I do not want to shoot 4x5, or on very long range trips, the MF provides that capability of excellent negative quality and relative portability.
The 4x5 remains the bell weather of creative landscape and macro/still life work, and the 35mm equipment is pretty much in the sports and wildlife subjects.
I use all of the equipment and have an enlarger to print in all formats. For me, it just comes down to deciding what I want from a particular subject and applying the equipment and technique of any of these formats that will give me that result.
Have fun with your deliberations. Whatever you decide, as long as you enjoy doing it, you have made the correct choice.
" Be happy. Take a silver break today !!!"
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If it helps I was thinking about switching from 4x5 to 6x7 a while back. I now have a second 4x5 AND a new-to-me RB67 Pro S. The lens and film for the RB will be in tomorrow so I will have to let you know how I feel about it in a few days. My conundrum is that my main 4x5 is a studio monorail, and so is big and heavy enough that when I got the RB body I thought, "Wow! I can hand-hold this!" The other problem is that I haven't even used 8x10 yet and already the 4x5 negs look a little small.
The reasons I wanted to poke around with 6x7 instead of saving a little more for an 8x10 are the wider range of film choices and affordability of experimenting with unusual films such as infrared and Delta 3200. I will post my learning 4x5 kit for sale and I was planning on using it to pay off that credit card I bought the RB stuff with, but it may end up finding its way to 8x10 gear, or another 4x5 lens. The 4x5 contact prints are like small jewels, and I'd imagine an 8x10 contact print to be a 4x bigger jewel. I love the camera movements and groundglass focusing, even if I could use a loupe.
I feel like I'm rambling, but so far a seemingly functional RB Pro S body with a 180mm Sekor C lens cost me a grand total of about $325 CDN, in addition to the film costs. I think this is a reasonable price to see how much I like the kit I wanted before I got in to LF. What I guess I'm saying is to try all 3: 6x7, 4x5, and 8x10 and see which one(s) you like. I may end up selling the RB kit for LF, I may keep both, but playing around with different cameras, formats, and films is a big part of the joy of analogue!
Painting a ground glass like the 8 x 10 is a real treat and a contact print should more than satisfy (tonality and sharpness, etc.) - see 8x10 and 7x17 contacts on my web pages as examples... As to MF, this is a tough one as Brett Weston created some fantastic work moving close in with a MF camera. So, there is the end result and the process of making the photograph....
As a suggestion, I would start with the 8x10. Give yourself some time visually...then depending, you may want to try MF as you are correct as it is relatively inexpensive to try right now with film.
Heh, after trying a couple of times to load some 35mm rollfilm and failing miserably I'd have to say the opposite. Dealing with LF sheet film in the darkroom is child's play in comparison!
Originally Posted by Ian Leake
Even 120 is a bit of a hassle but at least it's short and wide enough that I can deal with it (as opposed to 35mm).
Last edited by walter23; 10-21-2007 at 04:37 PM. Click to view previous post history.
The universe is a haunted house. -Coil
Somone earlier mentioned comfort, and each of us bring a set of experiences that define what we are most comfortable with. For me, I am most comfortable with MF because I have used it for the past 45 years, and used TLRs for most of that time (...I just got my "new" Bronica S2a kit last year...). So for me, it is most often the camera I reach for first. I keep the 35mm kit loaded to go for those times when I can't take a real camera with me - - my P&S equivalent, as someone else described it.
In thinking back over my first foray into LF about 3 years ago now, while I have enjoyed 4x5, and had a blast assembling a working Crown Graphic from 3 bags of junk, I wish that I had started with a larger format - - 5x7 or 8x10, since I have discovered that I really enjoy contact printing my negatives. So I think your inclination towards something larger than 4x5 is good.
I shoot all formats from 35mm to 5x7. All the LF shooters here are advocating the big negative. But if you are getting your darkroom legs underneath you, you are going to need to shoot a lot of film in a lot of different circumstances to get to know, really know how B+W film behaves, and how it develops, and how it prints.
You can accumulate this knowledge shooting sheet film, no question. But you're going to have to invest an ungodly amount of time and money to get there in large format.
I would say that medium format is a much better learning tool. Using Kodak prices, an 8x10 negative costs $4. A 4x5 negative costs a dollar. A 6x6 roll film negative, about 25 cents. And you can develop nearly a hundred 6x6 frames -- 8 rolls -- in 15 minutes. You'll be in a darkroom all day processing that many 8x10s.
So, I'd say go for MF for now, even if you think you want to move up to LF as you develop your understanding of B+W film and paper. As for the ultimate choice of format ... they all have their place. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Even 35mm keeps a spot in my arsenal. But if, as you say in your post, you are printing mostly on 8x10 paper, you will not, no way, not see a difference worth talking about in prints from MF and LF negatives. If you are using a really good MF camera (try a Rolleiflex), you can print a good deal larger before seeing any benefit from LF negatives. Until you're printing really big, the format choice, in my mind, is driven much more by the camera's character and fitness for the shoot, than by image quality.