I'm going to try large format, but I need help!

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by ctwehues, Jan 30, 2005.

  1. ctwehues

    ctwehues TPF Noob!

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    hello everyone,
    I've decided instead of purchasing a Nikon d70 (way out of my budget anyway), I should try large format cameras to get the feel for all of the manual controls. Could you please recommend a good beginner's set with all of the necessary equipment to take pictures? There are so many options out there. I would like to spend as little as possible, and I don't mind used equipment. Anyone have any ideas? Or places to shop? The thing is, I wouldnt even know what to buy????
    Craig
     
  2. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    You would do better to go for medium format (6x6, 6x7).
    There is a lot more to large format than just the camera - the expensive bit is the lens for a start. Then there is the film - not cheap. Darkslides too. And how are you going to process? You will need hangers and deep tanks for that. Then there is printing - 5x4 enlargers and lenses don't come cheap. True you can contact print 10x8 but the cost of camera, lens, DD's, film etc is far more than that of 5x4.
    I really do think that you will find that the whole enterprise is far more expensive than you imagine.
    And what manual controls are you talking about - the shutter and aperture are pretty much the same as on any camera. Or are you talking about the movements? In which case you don't get a 'feel' for them but work them out using the Scheimpflug principles.
    If you really want to proceed along this route then your first move should be to find a workshop or a College class where you can get your hands on a large format to try it out first. But I would still recommend working your way up through medium format.
     
  3. ctwehues

    ctwehues TPF Noob!

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    Whew, Im glad I contacted the board first! Ok, what I really want to do, aside from becoming rich and famous, is simplymake large prints of my landscape shots to frame and place on my wall. I am not quite certain how large, but larger than and 8x10 for sure. Do you all feel the d70 is capable to print large photos with great quality? it seems it should, but I have never used one. Second question--how large could you print with a d70 without losing quality?

    These prints will simply be for my house, for my own taste and appreciation.
    Thank you very much everyone for your help!
    Craig
     
  4. paul rond

    paul rond TPF Noob!

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  5. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    There is a huge difference in the style of photography between a DSLR and a 4x5 field or view camera. I would take a very serious look at how you'll be using the camera. Like Hertz said, manual exposure (shutter and aperture) is pretty much the same on any camera. The large format camera is going to be big and heavy and cumbersome compared to a DSLR. Most folks will never use their 4x5 cameras handheld, so a tripod is a must. With large format the act of photography is a much slower, thought out process; too much so for many subjects (like almost anything that moves ;) ). A DSLR would probably be an overall more functional camera due to it's flexibility of use, but landscapes from large format film are pretty awesome. LF cameras are usually all manual, and I don't mean just exposure. You have to remember to do a lot of things that even roll film cameras we call fully manual do for you automatically.

    If you aren't going to process your own film then you'll need to find a lab that handles 4x5 processing. It's not hard to find places that can scan sheet film, and print from it, but developing is another thing. On the other hand, do it yourself! BW would be easier, but there are people doing their own C-41 and E6 processing and printing.

    Don't worry about the cost if you think you would be interested in learning large format film. All photography is expensive; no matter what format or image capturing type. It's going to cost you alot if it turns out you're into it. ;) Besides, what does a D-70 cost? How about the computer, printer, ink, paper, memory, batteries, and other accessories?

    You can get a Speed Graphic 4x5 press camera with a slightly wide angle press lens for under $200. This is the other stuff you'd need to shoot BW landscapes with it:
    sturdy tripod ($150-200)
    film holders ($5-$10 each, at least 4 to start with)
    dark cloth (make it your self for $cheap)
    cable release ($10)
    lens hood ($5)
    light meter ($75-$300)
    ISO 400 4x5 film ($40 for 100 sheets at Freestyle^, that's $1.60 for 80 square inches of film. 80 square inches of film costs 2 or 3 times that in 35mm or 120)
    a backpack to haul it all in ($20)

    If you can find a deal on a tripod, and get a cheaper light meter, a 4x5 BW landscape rig can cost less than $600. If a D-70 plus accessories cost $1300, then you still have $700 left over for a BW darkroom, and maybe a fancier lens. Ebay is filled with darkroom set-ups and 4x5 enlargers, and they're going dirt cheap. I set up my 4x5 BW darkroom for under $400, and I did it years ago before used darkroom equipment flooded the market. Of course, shipping an enlarger across the country could get expensive.

    Medium format can also be had for very cheap. The popular brand prices are dropping like rocks. This makes the less popular brands even a better deal. You can get an excellent Bronica SLR for a steal these days. Older cameras such as the Norita 6x6 SLR are super cheap. Medium format TLRs run $75 to $750 depending on quality and collectability. There are other vintage medium format options. Medium format film is still easy to get processed at labs almost everywhere. Some medium format cameras are more hand holdable than other. Medium format photography is a lot more like 35mm photography than large format; it's just bigger gear and bigger film. Many of the features you find on modern medium format cameras are the same as you'd find on 35mm SLRs, and even DSLRs.

    Most LF photographers can't even pronounce "Scheimpflug", and I'm positive that my LF cameras have never even heard of him ;) I've found that with a little practice and a decent loupe it's not very difficult to move the DOF or change perspective the way I want to without really contemplating Scheimpflug principles. I force myself to read up on them a few times a year, and every time I get a little closer to understanding. And in the meantime I'm out in the world straightening buildings, and maximizing the DOF by making it run parallel to the ground. For more info on the infamous Theodore Scheimplug and his rule check out this link:

    http://www.columbia.edu/~akj19/scheimpflug.html

    http://www.trenholm.org/hmmerk/index.html#SRpicR
     
  6. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Scheimpflug is dead easy - it's the rule of converging planes. You draw an imaginary line through your plane of focus, then move the lens and/or the back so the lines all meet at the same imaginary point. Do this for each of the two planes making sure each doesn't change the other. Only really needed when you are doing studio still life and you have a tricky focussing problem. If you are good you can do distortion too and make an oval egg look spherical (I could do it but why?) :mrgreen: Rising front is the most useful tool for landscape. ;)
     
  7. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    I use front rise for architecture shots a lot, but my favorite movement for landscapes is front tilt. I live here in Kansas where the ground is pretty flat. With front tilt and a 90mm lens I can get the DOF to run from the grass at the base of the tripod to infinity at f/16.

    All of the Speed Graphics have front rise. Many have a drop bed, and the more recent models have more front movements. The Super Speed Graphic has front rise, tilt, swing, and shift, and a drop bed. Speed Graphics can be modified to have some rear movements. I find that in combination with the front movements of the Super, I can use my tripod head to simulate some rear movements. If I really need to twist it up like a pretzel I break out the old, solid steel Calumet monorail. It's heavy, but inexpensive. I got mine for $75 (no lens), and I see them go for less than $150 on Ebay.

    more info on Speed Graphics at www.graflex.org
     

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