Handheld 4x5

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Max

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I know this is the ultimate forum faux pas, as there is a wealth of information about handholding 4x5s, but that's the problem - where to begin?!?

I was thinking of picking up a Super Speed Graphic, but the more I read, the more I got confused. Is there something better?

I mostly shoot 8x10 (after years of 35mm), but I'm thinking it would be nice to have the 4x5 to get a little more DOF for taking pictures of my infant daughter who doesn't understand "stay there" and "sit still."

Anyone got pointers for where to begin?
 

mark

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Tried it with my son and a Busch pressman. Not a worthy combination. You need fast auto focus and agility. I bought a MF camera, no auto focus though but with practice I am getting faster at focusing. Made the job a hell of a lot easier. It has been the only camera purchase my wife has been happy about.
 

Loose Gravel

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An aquaintance of mine used to do 8x10 with polaroid at the auto races. He sold the prints on the spot. Don't know the camera, but he used it on a monopod.
 

ann

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check B&S, the HOBO
 

John Kasaian

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As I recall, if you prefocus for infinity at 20', use the sports finder and a fast lens like the ubitqitous 127mm Ektar. You can get nice shots when stopped down to f8. Far more accurate instructions are available a www.graflex.org, just check their forums archives.
 

David A. Goldfarb

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Consider a Graflex reflex camera. If you find one in good working order, these are very quick to focus, but no flash sync.

It takes some practice to do this with a rangefinder press camera, because the focus window is separate from the framing window, but it can be done. Of course a slightly wide lens and flash will give you a little more margin of error.
 

Sjixxxy

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Its doable, just need to remember that you are shooting a speed graphic, and not a 35mm. The process is a little bit different. Usually it is easier to focus on a spot and just try to keep that distance between you and the subject, instead of constantly changeing the distance and trying to refocus. If you can find a graphic, or similar with a Kalart Focuspot on it, you can turn that on indoors and get a visual reference to where your focus is without having to keep switching bewteen the rangefinder and viewfinder. I shoot my brother's kid and my other brother's dogs handheld just for practice. The young child is nothing compared to two overworked canines. (Very young children just can't move *that* fast compared to a big dog of the same age)

Attached image: f/8 with flash. Tri-x 320 developed in Diafine. Anny Speed graphic with Wollensak 135mm Raptar.
 

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ThomHarrop

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I use my Speed Graphic handheld all the time. It's a bit cumbesome but if you get one with a working rangefinder (one that works correctly) it's not that much more difficult than medium format. Add a set of Grafmatic backs and you practically have a motor drive.
 

David A. Goldfarb

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Somehow, portraits of living children were made using much more cumbersome equipment than handheld press cameras and slower materials than modern films in the past. It's not that absurd an idea.
 

kwmullet

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esearing said:
I've said it before...Why not use the right tool for the job. For consistant results, Fast moving kids requires 35mm or medium format if you must have the large neg. Don't pound screws with a hammer.
Just as the experience of shooting 35, MF and LF are all different, the point of view displayed by 35, MF and LF photography tends to be different. I don't see anything inherently wrong with applying the large format "eye" to children. I'm clawing at that particular learning curve myself. While, with 35mm, one tends to explore a subject, thinking out loud with the shutter, more of this has to go on with previsualization with large format (I'd venture a guess...) Likewise, the same exact shot captured with 35mm, MF and LF will each have different aesthetic characteristics, so I think I'd have to respectfully disagree that one camera or another is required for chasing down good images of children.

I would like to hear more from the handheld 4x5 shooters among us. I suspect that would be mostly Graflex and Linhof folks.

- Does the graflex or the linhof have more "travel" from infinity to the closest rangefinder focus position? My top-rangefinder crown will focus up to five or six feet, but the bellows actually goes out a few inches longer than is serviced by the rangefinder mechanism. Would a Linhof permit closer rangefinder focusing?

- What are the mechanics of good rangefinder focusing where you have separate focusing and framing ports and a dynamic subject? Do you frame up with lots of "wiggle room" for later cropping, then focus with the rangefinder and shoot? When a subject is not so very active, I find I can usually focus, then frame and lean forward and back to compensate for any post-focus movement of the subject. What do other handheld LFers do?


-KwM-
 

David A. Goldfarb

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It depends on the lens, but on my Tech V, I can usually focus to about 3.5 feet with a 135 or 150mm lens before exceeding the length of the cam. I think the near distance is about 5 feet with a 360mm lens, and somewhere in between for a 210mm lens.

I set the finder for the focal length and approximate subject distance and leave a little crop space, since it's not as precise as groundglass or SLR viewing. Then I'm usually looking through the viewfinder, only checking the rangefinder occasionally if the subject moves significantly.
 
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Max

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To be clear, I don't have any delusions of chasing her around, trying to get action shots. I also have dogs, and when it's time for action (which is rare for me), I pull out the AF. For me, that means either my wife's point'n'shoot or one of those not-to-be-named-here cameras - my 35mm body is a Nikon FM.
 

dr bob

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Here is an example of work done with a handheld Speed Graphic circ 1954 on a dark day in December. I don't remember the exact settings but I can assure you that the aperture was wide open (probably a Wollensack 135) because the uncropped image shows signs of coma at the extreme corners.
 

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Deckled Edge

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juan said:
Speed Graphic, strong flash, zone focus. Weegee.
juan

I'm no Weegee, but I have had some spectacular successes and spectacular failures with my Super Graphic hand held.
Failures: hand held landscapes and outdoor reportage
Successes: Using flash bulbs, the original "light saber" flash attachment and Polaroid film, I made a great indoor kid and party camera. The original flash works great with 4 D batteries and flash bulbs; the zone focus works fine at f16 between 6 and 9 feet; and the Polaroid film, color or B&W gives instant feedback. You could, of course substitute a strong potato masher electronic flash and save $$$$ on flash bulbs, but I had an abundance of them along with the original flash unit.
 

mark

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All of these successes have inspired me to give it another go. I have figured out how to use the range finder on my pressman but I am a bit confused at how to figure the zone focusing. Is this how it would work?

1-decide how far away the subject will be, or at least close to it.
2-Set aperature and this is where I get confused. If I set at F-16 then I get pretty good dof. If I keep it wide open how do I figure out what distance to keep the subject between? Is this a trial and error thing.
 

David A. Goldfarb

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Weegee recommended memorizing two distances, and always using those distances. Henri Cartier-Bresson did the same. One suggestion I've read is to practice at home or other places by setting the focus for, say, 8 feet or 6 feet, walking up to various objects, and when you think you're at the distance you've selected, check the focus and see if you were right.
 

mark

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It always pays to listen to the old guys.
 

Eric Rose

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heck I've used my wooden field camera as a handheld. i use a wideangle like a 90mm, Metz 45CT4 if flash is needed and fast film. stop er down, prefocus on about 10 feet and let er rip. it's worked great! the shot I took out of the plane window was done this way. I think it's still in my gallery.
 

removed account4

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David A. Goldfarb said:
Consider a Graflex reflex camera. If you find one in good working order, these are very quick to focus, but no flash sync.

It takes some practice to do this with a rangefinder press camera, because the focus window is separate from the framing window, but it can be done. Of course a slightly wide lens and flash will give you a little more margin of error.

while a super speed graphic would be a great thing to have, i'd second david's suggestion and get a graflex slr. if you can find a super d, they are the last ones that were made, and i know the 3x4s have a flash sync. they are pretty easy to focus, and with a little practice they work pretty well for "action" photography but just the same, if you can get the "zone focus" thing down with a speed/ super speed you can pop-up the sports finder (the wire that pops up on the front standard) or the viewer ( if you have the masks for the different viewers) and you have yourself a giant point and shoot !

i used to climb on a switchbox, focus at infinity and use the sports finder (never could find all the masks :smile: ), not to photograph kids but building wrecking crews that were tearing down local landmarks.
 

livemoa

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Have a look at this thread from the other day. I am thinking about one!

(there was a url link here which no longer exists)
 

Poco

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Sorry, this has nothing to do with the topic really, but it IS something I found funny: earlier today someone thrust a digital camera on me and I found it next to impossible to point the thing. It was one of those hold-away-from-body-and-squint-at-screen jobbers and I was always moving it in the wrong direction because I'm so used to reverse images on the gg. For a moment I thought I was losing my mind and couldn't figure out what was wrong with me -- thought I'd lost all hand-eye coordination. Then, of course, it "clicked."

Got a chuckle out of it.
 

darinwc

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I've bee using a century graphic 2x3 handheld for a few months. I've calibrated the Kalart rangefinder (from instructions on graflex.org) with my 80mm f2.8 Xenotar. It is very accurate down to about 3 ft. A 4x5 like the graflex or busch would be easy to use in this mode as well. I would second the reccomendation for a monopod. Not only do they allow for slower shutter speeds, but they make a 2x3 or 4x5 much easier to handle.

Also fast lenses and film make life easier.

I am also going to try my century with a Vivitar 285 flash in auto mode.

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century 2x3 xenotar f2.8 80mm
 
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