In earlier posts, you say that you carry the Mamiya 7II around regularly and that what you like about it is that, for the format, it is relatively light and compact. I also use a Mamiya 7II, as well as an Arca-Swiss 4x5 and Arca-Swiss 8x10, and I wonder whether the larger negative that a 4x5 camera will give you is worth the tradeoff in greater weight and bulk. Unless you want to make very large prints, or have decided that you need to make in-camera perspective corrections, the Mamiya will fulfill your priorities (unless you want to do head and shoulders portraits) every bit as well as a 4x5, with less weight, bulk and hassle.
I think that you should step back a bit and take your time on this. I'd like to suggest that you ask the gentleman that you met at the darkroom whether you can go with him on a shoot. Most people who use large format cameras would be delighted to do this, and it would give you an opportunity to use a 4x5 camera and perhaps to process and print some film.
I'd also suggest that you have a look at Jack Dykinga's book Large Format Nature Photography. It contains many examples of landscape photography, which is your primary interest, with detailed information about how they were shot. You will come away with a clear understanding of how 4x5 cameras operate and lens options. If you are technically oriented, I would also suggest that you have a look at Leslie Stroebel's View Camera Technique.
If you decide to purchase a view camera, one of the key considerations is what lens or lenses to get. As I understand it, you are using your Mamiya 7II with the 80mm lens. In 4x5, a lens around 150mm would be roughly equivalent. I would suggest that you have a look at the depth of field tables on the Schneider Optics site to get an understanding of the impact on apparent depth of field of the longer lenses used on large format cameras. The tables are at https://www.schneideroptics.com/info...bles/index.htm
. These tables apply not only to Schneider's lenses, but to those of any maker of large format lenses (e.g. Rodenstock, Nikon, Fuji). All of this said, I do wonder whether you might be better off buying an additional lens for your Mamiya, if you think you need one, or a good tripod and head, if you don't have one, than buying a 4x5 camera and all of the paraphernalia that goes with it.
Hope this helps.
Thank you so much R.E. !
I really appreciate your inside and bringing up the comparison between the Mamiya and a possible 4x5. I guess I was just really impressed with the negative quality, which is great form the Mamiya, but I felt that the transition between tones were smoother on the 4x5 neg. In this case I was lucky enough to look at a negative of acros 100, a film that I also usually shoot.
But you are right, I maybe should step back and be rational about it. As you mentioned correctly, I love my Mamiya 7 for the ease of carrying it with me wherever I go. I started using the 150mm as well and I rented the 43mm on occasion. I have excepted that I can not do headshots with my Mamiya as I used to do with my RB67. The Mamiya 7 is a great camera and I am not looking to replace it. I just would like to add a 4x5 to the mix. So to put it in one sentence, do I absolutely need one? Probably not! Still I am really intrigued looking at the great extra possibilities and being able to have perspective control in a camera.
I think I will follow your advise and find someone to shadow on a 4x5 shoot and maybe even rent a kit and see if it is really what I want. Thank you again!!!
There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.
~ Ansel Adams
Again, thank you very much everyone! I really appreciate the great answers and all the help that you are giving me, even though I know my question was very hard to answer, you all gave me great direction of thoughts to follow.
I guess I will get myself one of the recommended books and after reading it I will try and shadow a 4x5 shooter and make a decision then.
There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.
~ Ansel Adams
The Simmons book is quite helpful.
Originally Posted by Thingy
As for focus plane, you can get sharp foregrounds either by tilting the lens or the back. Some cameras, including my Technika III, have back tilt but only backwards lens tilt, which is the wrong way for sharpening the foreground. They include this for use with a dropped bed. Dropping the bed is something you can do with these cameras to prevent getting the bed in the image area with a very wide angle lens, but you then have to tilt the lens back to vertical. There is a work around if I need it, but I'll get to that in a minute.
The choice between tilting the back or the lens comes down to this: tilting the lens changes only the plane of focus and not the shape or relative size of objects. Tilting the back moves the film plane farther away in one area than another and thus changes both the apparent shape (much as tilting the camera up causes converging verticals) and relative size of foreground objects. For many landscape shots many of us prefer tilting the back for just this reason. By making things in the foreground appear slightly larger it can add a sense of depth to the image. This is sometimes called "looming" of foreground objects. That makes it sound more pronounced than it usually is. The effect isn't that radical, but it's sometimes helpful and more often at least harmless. But if you have geometric shapes in the foreground or things that you don't want to emphasize or distort (faces, parts of buildings, whatever), it's better to tilt the lens.
In that case, one thing to learn about large format is there's often more than one way to get the exact same subject-lens-film plane relationship. I can't tilt my lens forward, but I DO have front swing, and I can simply turn my camera up on its side on the tripod, as if shooting a vertical (not necessary with large format to actually shoot verticals since we generally have either revolving or reversible backs - mine is revolving) and then the front swing effectively becomes front tilt. Likewise, many field cameras lack front shift. I have it but rarely need it. But if you need it and don't have it you can re-aim the camera and swing the front one way and the back the other and end up with exactly the same lens-film relationship. This won't be clear form any amount of text description but is obvious with a couple of photo illustrations, a big reason for getting a book or two.
I shoot both LF and MF for exactly this reason.
Originally Posted by rince
I just had a few prints in a little show some friends did, sort of a thing to show of the various art of people in our loose knit community. Two of them were 11x14 prints from 4x5 negatives and tack sharp and apparently grainless even from a very close viewing distance. The third one is about 10.5x10.5 (very slight rectangular crop actually) from a 6x6 negative. That one could have been shot on 4x5 and would have been slightly better (it's on FP4+ and unlike the 4x5 from TMY, if you get very close and look very close you can barely detect some grain, for example) and considerably easier to print if I'd taken the time for a 4x5 shot. I'd have done more metering, given more shadow exposure and probably given N- development so I wouldn't have been printing the main image with a grade 3 1/2 filter and burning down the sunlit tree highlights with a softer filter. BUT - the shot was of a courtyard where we stayed on a trip to New Orleans. I took it while heading out to somewhere or other, with my Yashicamat. Taking that negative probably took 15-20 seconds including a meter reading with the Luna Pro. To shoot it on 4x5 I'd have dragged out the big camera, set it on a tripod, and probably taken 10-15 minutes to carefully compose, focus, spot meter etc. I had other things to do and places to go, which is why I shoot both.
Large format is great when I'm going out for the purpose of photographing and feel like spending some time at it. When I'm going out for other purposes too and might see something I want to photograph, medium format gives me quality closer to large format than to 35mm with speed and ease of shooting much closer to 35mm than to large format. It's a great compromise, but I'm glad I have all three (including 35mm.)
Do you need it? I dare say not. I don't really even need a film camera. But something I learned in other expensive hobbies, the relevant questions are: 1) can you afford it? and 2) do you enjoy it? If the answer to both is "yes" then get it and quit worrying about need or trying to justify it.
Last edited by Roger Cole; 10-05-2011 at 05:31 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Welcome to your large format journey, you are really going to enjoy it! Most people find the proper camera for them after they've used them for a while. So I will give you my thoughts and history with my cameras:
1) I started out with a super graphic because it was cheap and portable. I shoot mostly landscape and scenic subjects so it seemed the right tool for the job. It had very nice front movements and could handle a decent variery of lenses. You don't need that much movement at all for landscape specific work, unless you want to start playing around with perspective in which the back movements are important.
2) I moved on to a Cambo 4x5 monorail which I backpack into the field with a Lowepro Super Trekker. I find that my large format kit is lighter than my digital kit because I have less lenses and accessories for it. I got the monorail for a song and absolutely love the amount of control and higher quality of workmanship with the camera. It takes less than a minute to get the front and rear standards out of the backpack and put them on the rail.
3) I recently purchased a Busch Pressman for that ultra-light 4x5 folding camera because I also got it for a song. I still use the Cambo 4x5 monorail 99% of the time.
4) I also recently purchased an 8x10 Cambo monorail. I work out of the car with it because it is so bulky (although again, lighter kit or equal to my 4x5 kit). I also got it for a song.
Bottom line is that you won't be disappointed with any 4x5 camera you get. If you are used to backpacking and carrying weight, you can get away with most monorails. Sometimes the extra movements are great, and the while you can get folding cameras with full front and back movements, you're probably going to pay a lot more.
A really interesting and very useful thread for me also. I've just acquired what I believe is a bit of a bargain - a Wista "Field" 5x4 complete with a Wista 150mm "press" lens.
The only negative is that one of the brass locking nuts from one of the front boad is missing. However, I'm taking the camera to a local nuts and bolts emporium and I'm sure I'll find something that will tide me over until I find a way to obtain a Wista replacement. If anyone has contact details for the manufacturer, I'd be grateful to receive them. I've asked the UK distributor for the details but they have not been forhcoming and say they can't obtain a replacement part on my behalf. A bit frustrating but I'll work round them.
I have a couple of "Toyo" film carriers / dark slides. I'm looking for more. Which are the best / most compatible / cheapest options, please? Also, as I'm a complete newbie to 4x5, I would like to get my hands on a Polaroid back - so I can get instant feedback on what I'm doing - right or wrong.
I'm going to get the Steve Simmons book as that looks like a good source of sound advice and something I can carry around with me.
One of the things I like about the Wista is that it fits very easily into a Billingham Hadley bag alongside a few film carriers and my Minolta IVf meter. I have a lightweight travel tripod with an 8kg rating (I also have a Manfrotto 055 X ProB as well - but not so portable), so I just need to get a hood / blackout and I'm pretty sorted.
My main subject will be landscape. I get the impression that a 150mm lens on a 5x4 gives a similar view to a 50mm on 35mm. That being the case, will a 90mm be approximately the same as a 28mm field of view?
Sorry for the brain dump / questions but I'd be really glad to receive any tips pointers.
Good luck and best wishes to the OP as well.
Paul Jenkin (a late developer...)
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Yes, the 90mm will be very similar to a 28mm on 35mm. Not exact because the aspect ratios are not the same but close enough for a rule of thumb.
All the modern film holders are pretty well identical as far as quality and any of them are fine. The ones that are different are the later Riteways which have a locking feature. Some people do not like them for whatever reason. For one thing, the dark slide handles are larger and different and mean that the holders won't fit into a quart ziplock. Many, probably most, of us keep our film holders in ziplock bags when loaded and not in use, to keep out dust. Personally, I like the locking Riteways and use them. I keep sets of them together in a gallon ziplock. The lock release is a button on the holder that has to be depressed to remove the slide. When the film holder is inserted, the camera back depresses the button and the dark slide removes easily. It does not work with some Linhof cameras (and probably the MPP clones as well) - some say all Linhofs but I know that's not true because I have a Technika III and they work perfectly with my camera.
I'd really say to just pick up whatever you find. You probably won't need a lot of holders, at least at first. I had eight and just bought three more. That means I can carry 22 sheets of film, which for me is a lot of shooting in 4x5.
One thing that those who haven't tried it yet may not have thought of is the need to be very careful about dust. 120 film is dust free from the factory until it unspools in the camera. 35mm is dust free AND passes through a felt light trap just before exposure. But with 4x5 you have to take it out of the box and load it yourself into the holder then insert the dark slide. If any dust gets on the film it will result in a white, not black, spot on the negative, which will then print black on the print. These are much harder to deal with than white spots that can just be spotted out. There are a couple of ways you can approach them if you have a negative you otherwise really like: you can try spotting the negative so that the area prints white and can then be spotted down in the usual manner. If you are not VERY careful this results in a HUGE white spot on the print. The other approach is to use a very fine brush and bleach the spot on the print. It might be possible to bleach it back "just enough" but in practice that's so difficult the easiest thing to do is bleach it back too much then spot it - a PITA at best. So the best approach is to avoid dust in the first place! Thus, the keeping holders in zip locks. Those who have to load in changing bags or tents will usually have a lot more trouble with this than those of us who load in darkrooms. Everyone works out their own approach to avoiding it. I rarely have any dust problems but I go to a lot of trouble including an air cleaner in the darkroom, canned air for the holders, and even loading in long sleeve shirts to keep my "Chewbacca-like" arms covered and less likely to get a hair on the film.
For a dark cloth you can use a black tee shirt. One end goes over your head and the other over the camera. It's cheap, available everywhere, and very light. I just got a BTZS hood which is very nice but certainly costs more than a black tee shirt. Before that I used what some call the "horse blanket" because that's pretty much what it is, a big heavy cloth, white on one side and black on the other, in my case with weights sewn in the corners. It weighs nearly as much as my camera and is big even folded. The BTZS is much nicer to use and easier to carrry, but the "horse blanket" can also be thrown on the ground for a place to sit, or the white side can be used as a reflector for a portrait. In normal use the black goes inside to keep it dark and the white outside to reflect the sun and heat. The BTZS is similar except the outside is a sort of metallic silver.
If you don't have a loupe you will probably want one. Some people focus with just their eyes or reading glasses, but either those people are as critical of precise focus as I am, or else they see REALLY well. I'm nearsighted and have excellent close vision if I take my glasses off and get very close (6" for my left eye, about 9" for my right) but when I drop my 8x loupe on the ground glass I see that sometimes I get the focus right without it and sometimes I'm off. The loupe needn't be expensive. I use the common $10 or so 8x Agfa - I think it's still sold as Agfa. You're just trying to judge best focus, not display the image through the loupe.
Last edited by Roger Cole; 10-06-2011 at 04:44 PM. Click to view previous post history.
2 cents worth
I have both a monorail and a field 4x5. I find the field unit (linhof Tech III) a dream to use especially for a quick setup(rapidly changing light). But for absolute flexibility i.e. architecture subjects you can't beat a full featured monorail. When I take a road trip I have the linhof setup for handheld exposures with a 150mm lens the monorail setup with a 180mm lens both on their own tripod and a 5x7 with a 13in lens. So welcome to the club.
No escaping it!
I must step on fallen leaves
to take this path
I shoot 4x5 (Chamonix) and the Mamiya 7. I would say with fine grained film like Acros the Mamiya is about 90% of 4x5 for image sharpness/quality. I really don't think I could tell them apart at 16x20 size in a blind test. So I think the real reason to use the 4x5 is for the movements. A 4x5 with a wide range of movements in much more flexible, but takes longer to setup, weighs more and requires a tripod. The Mamiya is easily hand holdable in good light, quick to focus and easy to carry. I pick the 4x5 for a trip, unless I think the Mamiya will enable me to take get the camera to the shots, or the speed of setup will be beneficial.
But neither is perfect. I find the Hasselblad to be the best compromise when I'm taking portraits, so get one of them too
Well the movements aren't the ONLY reason. Maybe you can't tell the difference using Acos but what about TMY or, better comparison yet, HP5? The larger negative can let you use a faster film without penalty though, to be fair, the slower lenses and decreased depth of field means you stop down more too. Plus the larger camera makes you shoot slower and that can improve your images. Of course you CAN use a medium format like that, and something like an RB67 encourages it, but with a rangefinder (or my light little Yashica TLR) you're more likely to shoot quickly, which is both an advantage and disadvantage.
You can also crop the heck out of the 4x5 and still have enough negative for a good quality print.
The final reason is that it's just plain fun to use a view camera.