I'm with Ole. 5x7 or bust. The other nice things about 5x7 are the aspect ratio, I love it. And I can hold a piece of 5x7 film in one hand. This means it is easier to develop or load holders than with the 8x10. 8x10 is fun, but the camera is a pig.
Before selecting a camera you need to decide on the following
what are you going to photograph?
wha lenses do ou want to use?
Without knowing the anwers to these questions you can not decide on what features you need on a camera body.
Here is some reading I recommend
The free articles on th View Camera web site www.viewcamera.com
One of these books
User's Guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone
Using the View Camera that I wrote
Before taking anyone's advice about their camera you need to know what they photograph and what lenses they use. Otherwise it is advice without any context.
Badger Graphics also sells the Shen Hao.
Steve's advice on these questions is always good. Poke around in the books and the various internet forums on large format. All too often, as with other camera formats, everyone swears their particular set-up is the greatest. I always compare that to selling fishing lures. Every fishing lure is gaurenteed to catch fish. But there's no gauretee the user will know how to use nor be in a place where its the right lure at the right time.
Just one more plug for going straight to the 8x10; Remember, with reducing backs, you can shoot 4x5, 5x7, and 120 roll film. There's a great deal of verstility there.
There is nothing wrong with 4x5! The real advantage to going larger is in contact printing B&W. The aspect ratio of 5x7 is very satisfying and 8x10 is an absolute joy to work with(check out the latest cover of Esquire!)
I find the added cost of "going big" not all that much of a deterrent. For film (in the US) you can enjoy repackaged Forte for 60-64 cents a sheet in 5x7 and about $1.40 a sheet for 8x10. Repackaged Ilford(bless 'em) 60 cents to $1.08 a sheet in 5x7 and about $2 a sheet in 8x10. Even Kodak 8x10 will only cost $2.76-$2.88 a sheet which even I find do-able when rare circumstances require the unique reciprocity qualities of Tmax. The economic folly of "burning up" film supports the slower pace of LF many find to be quite rewarding.
Most chemicals can be purchased in bulk quite cheaply, especially if you're willing to mix powders or dilute the "institutional" stuff. While printing papers aren't cheap (nor should they be if you care about your prints) you can still shop around for good deals if you're prepared to buy in quantity, such as Arista's Classic Graded Fiber(I think its Ilford Galerie) in 250 sheet boxes, or Michael and Paula's AZO in 500 sheet boxes. While this seems like a lot of paper(and it is!) these same papers and others that might suit your tastes are available in small quantities. I only bring it up because it can still be considered an economical alternative if your output can justify the order.
Best of all, you don't need an enlarger(or the space for one!)
What ever large format you choose, live large, and enjoy it!
I got the Shen Hao 4x5 a few months ago, and I've been happy with it all in all. I upgraded the GG to the SatinSnow (simply a very finely ground glass, I have never tried a fresnel) which was a big improvement.
Most of my issues are simply making the transition from my sturdy Graphic View monorail- I find the Shen (as probably any field cameera would be) very "fiddly".
The monorail is still my favorite- but I need to get out there and really get good with the Shen- it's definately a great buy.
I am resisting the temptation to move up to 11x14 (I rarely print 8x10) contact/platinum printing because I want to learn to get 99% out of my 4x5/enlarger setup first. (See the infamous "magic bullet" article).
Good luck, whichever way you go.
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It seems that I should revise my 4x5 choice and check out 5x7 and 8x10. I am very keen on 5x7, as I still think 8x10 is big! But I am going to use it mainly in the studio so that really doesn't matter....confused...? I am!
Thank you all for the comments.
Greetings Morten (who may be entering the LF world soon...thanks to APUG)
One quick question for you, What type of enlarger are you going to use with the film? If the largest size your enlarger will handle is 4x5, does that not tell you what format to buy? If you are going to contact print, by all means go for the 8x10. In fact Jim Chinn is coming out SOON (big hint Jim) with a line of ULF cameras. You might want to get an 11x14 with an 8x10 reducing back from him. That would give you a negative choice for contact printing of 8x10 or 11x14. Once I figured out what my darkroom can handle, that is when I would choose a corresponding format size camera.