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  1. #1

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    About to step up formats, advice appreciated

    Gday all. I shoot landscapes which are commonly printed up to 2m wide. I stitch 35mm shots to give sharp results. However the time has come to upgrade formats. Unfortunately, I dont have any experience with LF.
    I've read http://www.largeformatphotography.info/, this site, photo.net, and whatever other random discussion I can find. I'm yet to go to my library, but I think I've got a basic understanding of what it's all about.

    I'm after a relatively portable field camera, 1 lens to start out with, with a budget of no more than $800ish. Scanning/printing costs do not matter.

    4x5 is what I'm looking at for the time being, however considering enlargement quality is what I'm after I wouldn't balk at looking at 6x7 if other users think it might be an idea, it's just 4x5 seems a good, cheap starting point in the world of LF. Wood v metal isn't an issue, or looks, or having a lot of movements. The Chamonix 45N-2 would be my first choice, and everyone elses by the sounds of it, but is maxing out my budget, and they are apparently not easy to get.
    Other budget-limited options are Shen Hao, Toyo (maaaybe), or ?.

    This camera is going to be carted around on my back most of the time, but I'm fairly fit and am used to carrying round 10kg of 135 gear anyway. I have a good tripod but I suspect the pan/tilt head might be a bit limiting, but it'll have to do for now.

    I'm hoping photographers with some landscape experience can recommend me a camera/lens, or just give me whatever advice you think might be relevant. I'd just like to know what people think.
    Thank you in advance, Tom.

  2. #2
    keithwms's Avatar
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    I'd advise first to try to find some LF-using apuggers nearby who can bring you up to speed on the gear basics and let you take a camera or two for a testdrive. Most LFers are more than happy to get together, show off their gear and trade insights and tall tales. Why not look in your geographical area and find an apugger or two.

    I don't know if 4x5 is right for you... hard to tell. What you need to talk about and think about is what you want out of the camera, what your workflow will be etc.

    My first LF camera was a crown graphic and it was a great introduction at a very low price (around $300, with a good lens and some film holders). I wound up getting a lot of other stuff, but the crown graphic taught me almost everything I needed to know as a beginner to LF. I was out shooting and developing and contact printing in no time, and having a ball. I still have it and use it from time to time. The next LF camera I bought was a metal monorail and had lots of movements. Then after that I fell in love with simple old wooden ones. Then a pano 4x10, etc. It's a slippery slope, proceed with caution!

    Oh and yes definitely consider 6x6 / 6x7 / 6x8 / 6x9 !!! There are many wonderful entries in that general size range. I adore my mamiya 6 cameras for landscape. And they cede almost nothing to 4x5 except movements (which I seldom use for landscape).
    Last edited by keithwms; 12-27-2010 at 09:11 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

    [APUG Portfolio] [APUG Blog] [Website]

  3. #3
    Christopher Walrath's Avatar
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    And do not undersell the tripod. As mentioned on another thread, you have to look at it as a tripod that will be holding my (insert monetary unit here) camera kit. You need a heavy tripod.
    Thank you.
    CWalrath
    APUG BLIND PRINT EXCHANGE
    DE Darkroom

    "Wubba, wubba, wubba. Bing, bang, bong. Yuck, yuck, yuck and a fiddle-dee-dee." - The Yeti

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by strapping View Post
    ... but I suspect the pan/tilt head might be a bit limiting, but it'll have to do for now.
    If the tripod and head are sufficient to support whatever camera you get, I think you'll find a pan/tilt head to be fine to work with. I find a ball head to be less suitable for LF cameras.

  5. #5

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    If you aren't interested in a lot of movements a Crown Graphic would be a good starting platform. You can get one with an excellent lens and a decent tripod and stay well within your $800. budget.
    You can even hand hold it if you like, if you're concerned that working from a tripod might be limiting.

    Working with 4x5 is a big change from what you're used to with 35 though. There are lots of 6x7 rigs that you could get and stay in budget. You would make a big gain in image quality, but keep some of the ease of handling you are used to with 35mm.

  6. #6
    jp80874's Avatar
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    Welcome to Apug.

    Find a mentor if you can. If not, keithwms' idea of someone who well let you walk around with the camera is a great idea. I took a view camera course at the local college using their studio cameras to learn. I bought a camera before the class was done. Sinar had some step by step assignment books that I found on eBay that would be a way of taking a course by yourself, but without benefit of instructor or fellow students.

    Put your location in your profile or at least in a post so we know where you are. Guessing by your “Gday all,” you and I are on opposite sides of the world, but for now only you know.

    In addition to the sites you mentioned, reading through any one of these books or similar will give you almost a hands on experience of what steps are required. It took most of us a while to remember all the steps and in what order you have to take them. I like Stone’s book best, but have read them all. It can’t hurt.

    “Large Format Photography Kodak”
    “User’s Guide to the View Camera,” Jim Stone
    “Using the View Camera,” Steve Simmons, Amphoto

    4x5 is where most LF shooters start and where you will find the widest range of used equipment. Many people stop there and many go on up in size. Roll film backs can be attached to many 4x5s. This allows you to shoot a lot of film as you learn at lower prices and may be easier to develop, depending on your darkroom plans. Roll film backs can also give you different formats in one camera. 6x7 is the same shape as 4x5, 6x9 same shape as 35mm, 6x12 for wider format, and 6x17 a much wider format.

    After you get started, do not hang around with people with larger cameras. In my case that led to 8x10 and 7x17. There is a saying in boating that costs do not scale up with increase in size, they square or worse, but those big negatives (a relative term) are so attractive.

    Have fun. Let us help.

    John Powers

  7. #7
    jp498's Avatar
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    Welcome strapping, if you put your state/country in your profile, there may be people nearby willing to help in person! The site mentioned is helpful.

    For LF, I use a speed graphic with the stock 135mm lens and have made 16x20" prints with no lens flaws present. I also have an 8x10 B&J with a symmar-s 300mm 5.6 which makes nice scans and contact prints as I don't have an enlarger for 8x10. Any tessar or planar lens will be very good, especially stopped down a bit as would be done in landscapes. It's not that critical a choice and many other lenses can do well. Just makes sure the lens has a properly operating shutter so you don' t have to spend more money to get that fixed. Your choice of camera is a good one, but I'm happy with what I've got and not that fussy. A crown graphic would be similar to the speed, except it lacks a focal plane shutter option that may or may not be functioning on the speed. A monorail camera has lots of crazy movements I don't use and is also pretty cheap, but not as portable. The 45N2 is some of each. Whatever you get, you can sell it pretty easily if you decide you want something different later on.

    For Film and how you develop it, you can probably keep shooting what you are familiar with from 35mm. I mostly have standardized on TMY2 as it's not as grainy as most 400 speed film for 35mm/120 and does a super nice job in 4x5 and I'm comfortable and familiar with making it do what I want. You will need to either develop the film in trays in the dark or get a combiplan tank or a mod_photographic reel for a paterson system tank. I print with a beseler cb7 color enlarger or scan with an epson v700. You'll want to get some film holders for your 4x5 shooting which are often bought cheaply in lots here, ebay, and the lf-info forums. And some negative sleeves or negative storage for the film after it's processed.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by strapping View Post
    Gday all. I shoot landscapes which are commonly printed up to 2m wide. ...

    I'm after a relatively portable field camera, 1 lens to start out with, with a budget of no more than $800ish. Scanning/printing costs do not matter. ...

    This camera is going to be carted around on my back most of the time, but I'm fairly fit and am used to carrying round 10kg of 135 gear anyway. ...

    I'm hoping photographers with some landscape experience can recommend me a camera/lens, or just give me whatever advice you think might be relevant. I'd just like to know what people think.
    Thank you in advance, Tom.
    First, to get a 2m print from a 5" negative (image is actually 4.75", or right at 12 cm) is a 16.6x enlargement, with zero cropping. This will or course result in a somewhat soft and grainy print. IMHO, you'd be better served by going to 7x5, which will give you about a 12x enlargement, which is about the biggest enlargement I'd consider making. Of course, much depends on your skill level and your film/processing.

    Second, you can certainly get started for the price you list. The used market is your friend.

    Third, weight. My 5x4 kit, which was chosen almost exclusively to give me a light weight kit, comes in at 16 Kg with 3 liters of water. You can't hike far without water. I could get it somewhat lower with fewer lenses and/or film holders, but that's also limiting in its own way. If you are trying to go light and 5x4, then look at the Toho. I've been using one of these for nearly a decade now. Excellent camera, extremely light weight, but like every camera made it has its quirks.

    Forth, lenses. Start your search with the light weight lens list.
    Bruce Watson
    AchromaticArts.com

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christopher Walrath View Post
    You need a heavy tripod.
    I disagree. You need a tripod that's sturdy and that controls vibration. It can be fairly light and do an excellent job of both. I've been very pleased with the Gitzo carbon fiber tripod I've been using for six or seven years now. Very light, but very sturdy. I highly recommend them for a light weight 5x4 kit. Not a 6 Kg Deardorff maybe, but certainly for cameras 3 Kg and under.

    The only shot I've missed with this tripod was my fault. It was a 90 second exposure on soft ground in the rain, and I moved and put my foot down right next to the leg in front (so I could more easily shield the lens from the rain) -- and the leg moved my weight transfer. I can hardly blame that on Gitzo! But the resulting sheet of film looks like a double exposure just slightly out of register. Sigh....
    Bruce Watson
    AchromaticArts.com

  10. #10

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    The Camera

    If you plan on using the camera for landscape photography, then I would suggest you pick up AA's or St. Ansels books. Start with the Camera, it has lots of info that is relative to landscape or photography in general. I'm not too sure where you are at with your knowledge on photography, but reading this book, helps review what you know and what you thought you knew

    The Negative and The Print are the follow up books to this series. You can purchase these books used for a few dollars on fleabay or check with your local library.

    One major advantage when you do step up to LF, is that you can really use the zone system to get the image that you had intended.

    Good luck

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