I agree. I tend to use cameras like any other tool. I select the one (or two) that I think will do the job (like a hammer) and then hang it up when finished (like a hammer). There is a little bit of fun messing about with all the "necessities" and gadgets, but that isn't really photography (for me) , is it?
Originally Posted by jdef
I love the smell of fixer in the morning. It smells like...creativity!
Truly, dr bob.
The offer of an opportunity to actually handle and shoot a bit with LF equipment is too good to pass up. I wish I'd had that chance at various times too. I'm delighted to be multi-format, though, and not have closed any doors at all as each one leads to a different place.
I can't add much to what's been said about cameras, but I would like to add this about printing. It would be unfortunate to not be able to enlarge your negatives when the need arises. Contact printing has a myriad of virtues I'm sure, but so does enlarging. Consider the largest negative your current or future enlarger will handle and keep in mind that the end of the chain is as important as the beginning. Darkroom dimensions and processing space for larger prints needs to be taken into account as well. Again, good luck!
I recommend that you rent some 4x5 equipment before you jump into LF. Keep some of your 35mm equipment. There are many uses for both formats.
As others have alluded to you don't pick up the tool before you decide on the job you wish to do. You don't use a wrench to put up a fence and you don't use a hammer to open your beer (usually).
In my opinion, decide what type of subject matter you plan to use the camera with. The subject matter often defines what format is preferable.
Shooting sports and children with an 8x10 is a challenge. Shooting portraits with a 35mm is fast and easy but the end results may be lacking. If the subject sits still, bigger is often better.
If money is an issue, as it usually is you may have to compromise at first and pick a system that can handle more than one type of photography. In that case it is probably medium format, that you'll want.
Maybe get to know the people in the Bay Area APUG. They have every kind of system there is and you can see what works best for you.
As someone already pointed out the darkroom is a consideration. If you go 4x5 you will need a 4x5 enlarger and lens. Both can be had for good prices on EBAY or refered to you by someone on APUG. I assume your current enlarger can handle MF negatives. Also you will need a more sturdy tripod.
8x10 affords you the luxury of contact printing, requiring only a contact frame to make beautiful prints. Of course the camera will be bigger, heavier and more expensive, although bargains on field cameras such as Deardorffs abound.
Remember these are not point and shoot cameras. Format really determines what your subject matter will be. There are exceptions but with LF you are talking static scenes or non-anonymous photos of people. People will know you are there, but that can work to your advantage.
If you want to go 4x5 and want unlimited movements you need a monorail design. Calumet C300 and 400 series (heavy, but indestructible from the 50s) Cambos and calumet cadets go for around $200-$300 all the time on Ebay. You can get ideas about a lens(es) from APUGers. The other option is a Crown Graphic. It has some front movements but is much more portable and if you can find one with a working range finder it can be a point and shoot.
if you could elaborate on what you enjoy shooting and a budget we could be more specific on suggestions and ideas.
"Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
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renting -- answering your own questions about gear
renting is a good idea. i had all mystical and dreamy expectations of a hasselblad until i rented one for the weekend from keeble+schucat in palo alto. the trick is to reserve it ahead of time, pick up early saturday morning, then you return before closing on monday and get charged for one day only (since they're closed on sunday). granted, two days may or may not be enough to answer all questions, but it at least gets it in your hand for the weekend for under $40.
Originally Posted by gma
If you are thinking about large format here is some suggested reading
Getting Started in Large Format
this is a free article on our web site
There are several other free articles on the site as well that might be helpful
Here are some books
User's Guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone
Using the View Camera that I wrote
You can ask me any questions you have. Just e-mail me at
With different kinds of cameras, you will take different kinds of photographs. What kind of photographs do you wish to take? ...Buy them all.
I have to say I am amused by the repeated comments, "progressed" to LF. Some other photographers might progress from LF to 35mm or MF to LF or LF to MF, etc., etc. I use 4x5 and I use 35mm. I have used MF very little. I really haven't thought about progressing from one to another. Each camera type fills a niche.
I have to agree with gma. Lots of people start out with a 35mm system and add lenses serve different purposes, but when I started trying different formats, I really learned what each format does best, and now I use them all for different things. I skipped over 4x5" and went straight to 8x10" after shooting 35mm and MF for some time, but then added 4x5" when I saw what it could do well, that 8x10" didn't.