To boldly go....into 4x5

Danny Rowton

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Hi all

Im thinking about Large Format every day, but dont have a LF camera!

Im a film only shooter and I joined the forum today. I shoot Medium Format (Pentax 6x7 and Fuji GW690III) and the odd bit of 35mm. I love it, I really do. I dont do it enough, but thats time constraints not effort. I think the situation has come about because when I was shooting 35mm and saw how great things can look in 120, I went 95% Medium Format. Now, you can guess where this is heading! Yes. Now I see 4x5 stuff and think theres a place for this in replacement of Medium Format.

I know what set up I want too. But may need to make space financially by selling my old bass guitar, as I used to be a pro musician a few years ago.

Ive been inspired by modern 4x5 people like Jason Lee and Sandy Phimester, as well as the usual classic LF shooters of yore. Its all heading towards 4x5, but if Im honest, with my full time 'day job', part time degree studies and 2 little boys, my hands are full. Would you recommend holding off or just go for it? What are your experiences when you think back to how you all got into Large Format?
 

martin henson

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It's slow, thoughtful and very different from the cameras your using now, however, because of those reasons its a relaxed way of working and enjoyable go for it and have a go you will not regret it, do you have a darkroom or are you developing and scanning negatives?
 

Danny Rowton

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Hi Martin

I dont have a darkroom. I wish!!!!!
Ive been scanning my own negs for a couple of years and just started developing black and white, as Ive only just recently started thinking on a different plain. My usual thing has been sparse night time urban landscapes. Long exposures without human activity.

But ironically, lately Ive got into portraiture, some colour but, artistically, I guess you could say, more Black and White. So I wanted to take more control and home develop and mono is easier due to the fact its less temperature critical.

Its all a learning curve that never ends, which is essential to ones development as an artist / photographer.
 

David M

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Wouldn't mind seeing some of these night-time urban landscapes, even it not actually on 5x4. It sounds as if they're made in the spirit of LF.
 

martin henson

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I had a darkroom for some 40 years, I still dev my own negs from 35 to 4x5 and scan them, 4x5 on the Epson the rest on a Nikon 9000, so not having a DR is not a problem, although I still get the urge to go back to pure analog.

Some good night shots there, I love shooting at night in black and white, the last ones were with a Holga.
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Danny Rowton

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I guess you just needed to simplify things or at least scale it down a bit on gear and space Martin. Those are nice Holga shots. I like the one with the (Christmas?) Lights best. Adds to the narrative well.
 

David M

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The urge to master the craft in all its aspects can be very strong. Finding the right process might be as important as finding the right subject-matter in the creative journey.
Everybody remembers the magic moment when the image appears in the red light. Who remembers the first digital print?*
A 5x4 contact print can be beautiful and doesn't need much investment in kit. The biggest expense might be black plastic sheet for the window, plus a picture frame and a desk lamp from IKEA? (Other popular and economical retailers are available, of course.)
Although you say you know what set-up you want, it might be worth looking at older and cheaper lenses. They have limitations, of course, but they are often very sharp. There are all kinds of LF cameras, from cheap to startlingly expensive, but the price isn't reflected in the quality of the negative. Until you've tried LF in real life, you can't be altogether sure what equipment you'll eventually need, so an old banger might provide a useful toe in the water. No need to sell the kids.
As Martin says, the LF experience is very different, but from looking at your night shots, you are probably halfway there already.

*This is unfair. The first digital print was probably an invoice. Creative invoices exist, but they are best avoided.
 

Ian Grant

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I'd see if there's an LF shooter near you who would let you have a play with an LF camera. I'd offer to help you out but my guess is your an Estuary lad so too far away :D

It's possible to get a reasonable 5x4 camera for around £100, that's from practical experience - I paid £70 for a fully functional MPP MkIII MicroTechnical with parts from most of a second just missing it's back, which nI bought for £20 but still needs re-assembly. I'm tending to use a Graflex Super Graphic a lot particularly hand held and that was only £120 but had issues (now fixed), I also picked up a nice MPP MkVII MicroTechnivcal with a lens (in excellent condition) for the same price. DDS film holders I won't pay more the £5-£7 for and I can get these regularly at a local camera Fair.

So it's possible to begin LF on quite a tight budget with reasonable camera.

Ian
 

David M

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One factor in mentally planning an ideal outfit that can be forgotten until you set off, is weight. It's not just the camera. Some lenses can weigh as much as the camera itself and a collection of dark slides is surprisingly heavy. A decent dark cloth can be bulky, although there are alternatives.
Ian G will know more about price, but I suspect that we have passed the trough for LF equipment. Thanks to forums like this one, LF is reviving and prices might be on the way up.
 

Ian Grant

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I agree David about weight and prices. I built up a second LF kit to use while living in Turkey about 11-12 years ago and prices at that point were at probably their lowest point. I'd bought a Crown Graphic with a 135mm lens for $100 plush shipping to the UK, and a90mm f6.8 Angulon (a tiny, light, lens) and later added a 203mm f7.7 Ektar, with half a dozed DDS and a small Slik tripod it all fits in a sports backpack. I replaced the uncoated 135mm Tessar with a coated 150mm CZJ Tessar a year later.

The down side to the Crown Graphic is restricted movements so when a Super Graphic was up for sale from London I snapped it up, it has sufficient movements for the work I use it for. The Graphics have viewing hoods and with a fresnel screen they very are easy to use without a dark cloth

There are still bargains around as long as you know what to look for and know how to resolve any issues, or replace missing/damaged parts. The only thing wrong with my MPP MkIII is the covering looks poor, but they always do as the material used doesn't age well, that changed with the MkVI-VIII, but they are all on the slightly heavier side although very robust and have far more bellows extension than most cameras.

Ian
 

Danny Rowton

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Thanks for all the advice. Well the gear I have in mind isnt all that expensive. As I am looking to shoot landscapes and portraits, I am pretty sure I would start with a Speed Graphic as its got the focal plane shutter and of course has a top speed of 1/1000th. Useful for outdoor portraits with the lens wide open. Its not too expensive, and built like a tank. For a LF starter I need as many youtube help videos, parts and advice out there as possible. There wont be more of that than that which comes with a Speed Graphic, not for a budget set up. The lens I really want for portraits is the 178mm Aero Ektar. Something like the 127mm would be good for landscapes.
 

David M

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It seems you have taken our advice before we gave it. Spooky or what?

A word of advice on Ian's advice. He is a clever chap and a dextrous one. Refurbishing cameras is a fascinating thing, but not necessarily the way you want to start in LF, unless you are already a dextrous chap yourself.
 

Ian Grant

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You could look for an MPP MicroPress, they are essentially Speed Graphics in sheep's clothing, same front standard, focus track, shutter, I'm fairly certain the case is also made by Graflex. Just the back and door which is the base forthe focus bed were made by MPP, and they fitted a Wraay rangefinder.

Speed Graphics often need servicing and the shutter curtains need checking as they may have pinholes and retensioning. I've refurbished a few as well as a MicroPress.

There are other fast lens options, there was an f2.7 165mm CZJ Tessar which can be found in a Compur shutter or barrel mount, and Dallmeyer made n f2.9 Pentac lens. I have a 6" f3.5 Dallmeyer Press lens on a Dallmeyer Press SLR (actually a re-badged Ensign reflex), I can use it on one of my Speed Graphics, it was usually sold as a Dalmac lens.

Ian
 

Danny Rowton

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Cheers Ian thats really useful. I have looked at MPP and 'played' with one in person. I do like the sound of that fast lens. I think Im decided but of course if the right opportunity came along....

I will research the lenses you mention. Cheers. Well, thanks everybody so far for your contributions. This seems a great outlet this forum.
 

Alan9940

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Danny, I'm a little late to this thread and there is some great advice given here, but one thing I'd urge you to consider if heading in the direction of a Speed Graphic is movements. Typically, camera movements on the Crown or Speed Graphics is very limited. If you're planning on shooting landscapes and/or what I'd call the natural scene, you may eventually find the lack of camera movements limiting. I had a Crown Graphic for awhile and it was a fine camera, but I eventually sold it because I found it too restrictive. If you're considering the Graphic route, you may want to look at a Super Graphic or a Busch Pressman 4x5.

Have fun!!
 
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