Lens and Large format camera advice

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by jaycee, Nov 24, 2008.

  1. jaycee

    jaycee TPF Noob!

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    Hey guys,

    I am a newbie to the forum. I'm looking forward to posting quite a bit more in the future!
    I am in a bind right now and any advice would be very helpful. I just bought a Nikon D300 about 6 months ago and I am in the process of buying another lens. With the economy being what it is, I need to make the best use of my limited funds!
    I usually photograph Urban landscapes, buildings and interiors, models, and natural landscapes.
    I have an 18-135m lens that is not wide enough for my current needs.
    I am considering either a Nikor 14-24 m 2.8 lens, or a 17-55m 2.8 Nikor lens. I should probably rent them each for a day first, but I have limited time to do so! I am wondering what is best for my uses? Is the 14m lens too wide (is that possible)? I do not wish to have any distortion or fish eye like shots.

    Another issue I am having is that when I bought my camera, I thought all high megapixel, pricey cameras were capable of producing very large prints. I have good experience with art and I wanted to produce photographs that were like 4x6 feet wide and high.
    To my dismay, I found out soon that my Nikon is only able to print to about 18x24 without looking too grainy and non-resolute. So, I believe I need to buy a large format camera. There is a class being offered at a local community college for large format cameras, as I have never processed my own film. Are the digital large format cameras far too expensive? Would the old school large format camera be the best option for me for making very large prints that are clear and resolute? And if so, does anyone have any advice as to what kinds of cameras and film to look for?

    I apologize for being so uneducated! I hope to be where some of you guys are at in the near future. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    JC
     
  2. RyanLilly

    RyanLilly No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Have you tried printing bigger or is this just an assumption, or something another person has told you? What will your viewing distance be on 4ft x6ft. Most printer do not even go that large in regular prints. Mpix just started offering 24"x36" as their largest size. A well exposed shot from your D300
    will print just fine as a 24"x36" and even larger at greater viewing distances. Also if you are shooting city/landscapes, you can stitch together many shots into one very large file.
     
  3. JustAnEngineer

    JustAnEngineer TPF Noob!

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  4. Mitica100

    Mitica100 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Hi Jaycee from another 'zonie', all the way from Ahwatukee. Scottsdale Community College is a great way to start your experience with the Large Format cameras and film. Do not expect digital backs for those (or even the Medium Format) for less than an arm and a leg. It's in the tens of thousands right now. The LF cameras have a resolution that no digital cameras (DSLRs) can even come close to, if the film is exposed, processed correctly. You can find LF cameras for about a couple of hundred dollars, entry level mind you but that's exactly what you need for now. Check the flea bay, aka eBay. ;) Something like a Toyo 45CX (monorail) or a Graphic 4x5 would be a nice start. I would also look into Kodak T-max 100 for black and white, to start with.

    By the way, welcome aboard! And don't hesitate to PM me if you need more info.
     
  5. Sw1tchFX

    Sw1tchFX TPF Noob!

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    I suggest the tokina 11-16 if you can find one for a wide lens, and as for printing big, just make sure you interpolate and sharpen your images before printing big.

    I've made 20x30's from my D700 that rival the detail i've seen from many darkroom medium format fiber prints of similar size, not to mention, the digital prints are cleaner, especially shot at base ISO.
     
  6. jaycee

    jaycee TPF Noob!

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    Thanks guys, it is so great to be able to get some expert advice here, I am very appreciative!

    As far as the Tokina 11-16m, I will definitely look in to it. It seems to be out of stock at many of places, but it is a much more affordable option than the Nikor lenses. I think the Tonika would work well for landscapes and architectural shots but I may need another lens for models I am assuming...

    RyanLilly, I tried printing larger and it did not look right at all. Cost me $160 to find that out! I could probably stand to learn to stitch shots together, and to learn the inner-workings of photoshop a bit more.
    As for viewing distance, for my liking, they need to look good closer up. I don't expect sharp, crisp details from say, 7 inches away, but I do not have the square footage in my place to be able to place it at the needed distance for it to pass as a good print!
    When large format cameras are so inexpensive, I think it would be wise to learn how to use one. I can never find cool, very large prints for less than a few grand that fit my style.
    I like shots of places like Times Square, the rolling hills/ trolley shots in San Fran, (cool street level Urban stuff). I decided I would take the trips and photos myself and blow them up and put on my walls. Boy did I not know when I made that declaration how hard it would be!

    Mitica100, thanks for the advice and offer!
     
  7. ksmattfish

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

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    A 4x5 press camera or old fashioned, solid steel monorail are going to be your cheapest camera body options. The gray, steel monorails were marketed under several different brands including Kodak and Calumet; they usually go for well under $100 without lens and other accessories. I like using Speed Graphics. I've owned fancier, wood field cameras that were much more expensive, but the Super Graphic was perfect for 99% of the 4x5 landscape photography I was doing. My body cost about $200 with no accessories, and it's built as tough as it gets.

    The cheap press lenses that often come with these bodies are often usable, and occasionally very nice, but you'll probably want to keep an eye out for something nicer: Schneider, Fuji, Nikkor, Rodenstock.... Unfortunately the nicer lenses are usually much more expensive.
     
  8. I haven't read the whole thread, but let me tell you: you can print as large as you want. Any software will let you resize up, and a little bit of sharpening will make the thing razor sharp. There's a lot to consider, incl. viewing distance and subject matter. I routinely print at 40x40 inches plus from an older Canon 5D, and get great landscape and architecture prints.
     
  9. djacobox372

    djacobox372 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Digital large-format backs are extremely expensive, and very slow at scanning... you're better off with film.

    The cheapest entry into large format is a speed-graphic press camera... it doesn't have the range of movements as a traditional 4x5 view camera, but it's easy to use and can even be used for hand-held street photography (which it was designed for). A speed graphic with a 130mm "normal" lens can be had for as little as $200... even if you do ad a 4x5 view camera to your arsenal later, the graphic will still be useful for those street shooting situations.

    Film isn't a huge concern with large-format due to the size of the negative almost anything looks good... but for black and white tmax-100 is by far the most popular.

    For color you should shoot e6 slide film, it's almost impossible to find anybody that will develop negative color film anymore.

    You can also develop/scan yourself if your so inclined, developing black and white film is easy and can be done with a daylight tank without a dark room, color film is much harder and is better left to the lab IMO.

    I scan my large format negatives with an epson v700 and love the results!

    As for comparison to digital, there is none IMO... large format film is akin to 150+ megapixels with at least twice the exposure latitude.
     
  10. djacobox372

    djacobox372 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    There's really no comparing a 35mm dslr photo enlarged to 40x40 and a 4x5 negative enlarged to the same size... night and day IMO.
     
  11. Samriel

    Samriel TPF Noob!

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    While I agree that there will be a visible difference between a 12MP print and a 4x5 film enlargement (although viewing distance is important), I'm not sure large format is the right thing for you. While it is true that for the ultimate in resolution you should probably choose large format, it does have it's problems:

    - LF cameras are somewhat big and cumbersome. Better get used to carrying a lot of stuff around. You'll most probably need a tripod all the time, so that adds some weight too.
    - LF cameras take time to adjust before taking a shot - everything's manual. Also, since it's sheet film you won't be able to shoot as many shots as with roll film or digital.
    - LF film is not cheap. Also, depending on where you live, you might not have access to a shop with a 4x5 enlarger, and might end up setting up your own darkroom.

    If you're fine with these things, feel free to take up one of the suggested LF cameras. IMO, you seem like you might want to consider a medium format film camera as well, since it seems to give a good compromise between the mobility of the SLRs and the resolution of the LF systems, and films is usually easier to get developed and printed. Many pros were/are using MF cameras (be it digital or film - digital being extremely expensive though) for their billboard shots.

    In the film section of the forum you'll find a MF and LF section. Try asking any questions you might have about it there, the people are quite forthcoming.
     
  12. jaycee

    jaycee TPF Noob!

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    Thank you everyone, so much!
    Samriel, some good points to consider. It seems like I will need to become very marksmanlike and disciplined with the large format or medium format!
    I do not mind the weight and clunkiness so much, it would only be for certain shoots and the Nikon would still remain my main camera. I'll look in to the advantages of MF, it would suck to have to go through hell to get the LF photos printed...
     

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