large format "primer"

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Ces1um, Jan 27, 2018.

  1. Ces1um

    Ces1um Subscriber

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    After recently purchasing a large format pinhole camera I find myself wanting to dive into 4x5 large format photography. I'd like to learn more about what the bellows extension does, what the heck a recessed lens board does, and to just generally familiarize myself with the parts and pieces of what large format is. Can anybody point me in the right direction for a website or book that I can purchase which may explain all these things to me? I'll likely end up purchasing a large format this coming Christmas, likely something new, but I want to make sure that the camera I buy is more suited to my shooting style and is able to do everything I would want it to do.
     
  2. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Afternoon, Ces1um,

    There's a lot here in the APUG forum under various headings. Worth some time searching. The Large Format Photography web site has an excellent tutorial which covers just about all the basics.

    Konical
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
  3. voceumana

    voceumana Member

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    1. The bellows, in essence, permits the lens to move forward and back for focusing. In smaller format cameras this is usually done with a helical mount--rotating the front of the lens moves the lens back and forth for focusing.

    2. A recessed lensboard moves the lens closer to the film. With short focal length lenses, they are useful to permit the bellows to flex up, down, left, and right because if the lensboard is too close to the fiilm, the bellows are compressed enough to limit that motion. Those motions are used to control the field of focus and image placement. This is useful for perspective control.

    Ansel Adams "The Camera" is a good place to start with the basic functions and parts of a view camera. Probably any book on view cameras will be fine--the information is basic and there aren't any secrets that one writer will have that others won't.
     
  4. paulbarden

    paulbarden Member

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    The Kodak book "Photography With Large-Format Cameras" is a well-written, concise manual I can recommend. It won't cost a fortune to find a copy either.
     
  5. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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  6. paulbarden

    paulbarden Member

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    +1
     
  7. jimjm

    jimjm Subscriber

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    Steve Simmons' book "Using the View Camera" is a great place to start. For a really technical deep-dive into large-format concepts and practice, "View Camera Technique" by Leslie Stroebel has been useful.
     
  8. OP
    OP
    Ces1um

    Ces1um Subscriber

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    Thank you everyone! I'll start learning about large format so I have some idea what I'm doing when I go to select a camera. Thanks for everyone's help!
     
  9. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    I second Ansel Adams' "The Camera." There's a pdf version floating around the web for cheap too. Google is your friend.

    And, I also recommend the LF fora and home page linked to above. That should more that get you started.

    Doremus
     
  10. narsuitus

    narsuitus Member

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    Also, search youtube.com for large format photography tutorials.
     
  11. paulbarden

    paulbarden Member

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    Speaking of which, Fred Newman has some very nicely done tutorials on subjects like rise and fall, tilt and shift. Check this out:
     
  12. OP
    OP
    Ces1um

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    I watched one of his videos (view camera movements) and it's very interesting. One thing I noted is the affect tilt/shift had on the amount of light reaching the ground glass. Using tilt/shift must affect your exposure. Are there rules for adding stops of light based on how far you've tilted/shifted?
     
  13. OP
    OP
    Ces1um

    Ces1um Subscriber

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    Ordered a copy of "The Camera". Thanks for the suggestion!
     
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  15. OP
    OP
    Ces1um

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    I've watched quite a few but I'm finding a real lack of info on lenses/lensboards/compatability.
     
  16. OP
    OP
    Ces1um

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    Bookmarked those sites. I'll start pouring through them today.
     
  17. jim10219

    jim10219 Member

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    No. How far the bellows are extended beyond infinity focus can effect your exposure times. This is called “bellows compensation”. But for tilts and shifts, you generally don’t have to worry about that because you’re not moving the lensboard all that far in comparison to when you focus. The angle you view on the ground glass can sometimes give you the illusion of certain areas being brighter than others, especially if there’s a fresnel lens attached. Once you get the camera, spend some time with these movements viewing them on the ground glass to familiarize yourself with how it all works.

    One thing I had problems with when I first began with large format was loading the film holders. The first two times I did it, I did it wrong. On the first time, I didn’t seat them down far enough, so after pulling the dark slide to make an exposure, I couldn’t get it back in without popping the film out. The second time, I loaded all of the film in backwards. Eventually, I figured it out. It might be worth it to sacrifice one sheet of film so you can practice loading it in the daylight before having to do it blind.

    Another problem I’ve had is not closing the shutter before inserting the film. You have to open the shutter to compose and focus your shot, and then close it back down before pulling the dark slide or Elise you’ll get super long exposure times. Also, you have to close the aperture before taking your shot. You need it wide open to focus (usually) but don’t often shoot that way. The whole process is very slow, so take your time. I’d practice at home without film a bunch before actually taking your shots to get used to the process, so you don’t skip a step and waste film.

    Lastly, take a notepad out with you and lots of notes. Mine has stuff like actual shutter speeds of various shutters (the old ones can be off by a good bit), bellows compensation charts, filter factors, and anything else I might need in the field. It also has room for taking notes of the shots I’m taking for later use. I also always have a dry erase marker with me. I write down any important information on each film holder for later use. It’s often stuff like if I need to add or subtract development times to this shot, and what kind of film is in it. Plus I label each film holder with a number in case I find a light leak appearing in my shots. It makes narrowing down the source much easier.
     
  18. John Koehrer

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    lens/jlensboards. Most of the makers used whatever size they pulled out of the ether. There's no standardization at all.
    Many newer cameras use Technica compatible boards. The limiting factor with them is they do limit size so some older shutters won't fit.
     
  19. OP
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    Ces1um

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    I appreciate the explanation. I'm shocked that you don't need to add more light seeing how dark the ground glass got when they moved that front standard. Good to hear I don't have to worry about it!

    I'm not a complete noob when it comes to large format. I have a harman titan 4x5 pinhole camera so I've made all the mistakes there that I can make when it comes to loading/unloading film. I actually bought the pinhole just to take baby steps into large format because frankly, large format seems quite intimidating. The pinhole has been fantastic, but I find myself wanting to take clearer photos (although frankly, that titan pinhole is sharper than I ever expected it to be).

    I will likely be spending the money and buying something new. I've been looking at walker cameras but I think their rear standards don't move and frankly if I'm going to spend the money I'd prefer to have every possible movement available to me. I've emailed Mike there to get a little more information on their 4x5 wide xl though, just to make sure I understand things properly. I know there are tons of old cameras that are perfectly serviceable but I think I'd like to have new for no particularly good reason other than to improve the odds that it'll last my lifetime. I may have to buy a used lens though, and I know they are the more mechanical part of the camera. It seems like large format lenses new start at about $1000 but very very quickly ramp up to about 12 grand. Currently I'm thinking of something around the 100mm range, just roughly about a 35mm lens on a 35mm camera. Wide angle but not insanely so. Do you think this would be a good place to start? I like to take landscape photos but just as often I go out with an 80-100mm lens on my 35mm cameras but I figure I can just crop the image given the resolution you get from 4x5. Logical assumption?
     
  20. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    OP, I see that you're in Canada. If you're a well-behaved Canadian you can at least read French.

    If you can, visit the French LF site. The parent site galerie-photo.com has the articles, galerie-photo.info has the forums. Both are much better than anything we anglophones have.
     
  21. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Nah.
    Unless of course he was a Province over in New Brunswick:whistling:.
     
  22. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    BC, eh, Matt? Bilingual, English and Mandarin.
     
  23. Oren Grad

    Oren Grad Member

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    So long as you choose carefully to get one in good condition and so long as you are giving it hobbyist-level use rather than pounding it day in and day out as some commercial studios used to do, almost any LF camera that you buy will be good for a lifetime. It's perfectly fine to buy a new camera if you find one you like and it's within your budget; it's nice to support the remaining camera vendors too. But don't limit yourself unnecessarily.

    With occasional exotic exceptions and the occasional NOS item, there are no new large format lenses offered any longer. It will most likely have to be used. Do not worry; excellent modern lenses in commonly-used focal lengths for 4x5 can be had for less than $300, sometimes much less.

    Depending on how you compare pictures with different proportions (via the vertical extent of the image field, the horizontal extent, or the diagonal), something in the range 120-135mm will be closest for 4x5. 100 will be substantially wider than what you're used to. FWIW 35 is my "normal" for 35mm, while 135mm is my normal for 4x5.

    If the point of going to 4x5 is technical image quality, you'll be much better off getting a second, longer focal length lens for those occasions. Again, this need not cost a huge amount.

    Good luck and enjoy!
     
  24. mrosenlof

    mrosenlof Subscriber

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    When looking at lenses, you need to look at the coverage at infinity. A typical 100 (105 is more common) will not cover 4x5, it's more the normal focal length for 6x9cm. If you really want something in the 80-100mm range for 4x5, you'll need to looks for a lens like a Super Angulon from Schneider or a Grandagon from Rodenstock.

    Monorail view cameras from the last 30 or 40 years are one of the great bargains in photography today. Very low prices, And they're great cameras to learn on, first of all because movements generally are independent from each other. Shift has its own lock/control, and tilt has its own, etc. They're usually easier to set up than a folder (field camera), just more bulky to transport.

    As mentioned, each camera maker tends to have their own lensboard type, though several use the Technika IV type boards. Most (but not all!) modern (last 30 or 40 years again) shutters are copal size 0, 1, or 3. And those are the "standard" hole sizes you'll find on lensboards.

    whatever you end up doing with LF, have fun!
     
  25. Oren Grad

    Oren Grad Member

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    One more point I should have made: hardly anybody actually uses "every possible movement", and particularly in field cameras, you generally pay a price in terms of extra size and weight and/or reduced rigidity in order to get the extra versatility.

    I use a fair amount of front rise, hardly ever anything else. Assuming I have enough rise on the front standard, I can be very happy with a camera that has no rear movements at all. For my purposes I've found tilts and swings to be not useful except under very narrow conditions; with most of the kinds of scenes I photograph it's difficult or impossible to use them without leaving telltale artifacts that I don't like. As always, YMMV - you'll have to figure out for yourself what you need and like. But extreme or very complex movements just aren't needed for most general scenic and portrait work.
     
  26. jim10219

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    Buy used. There are many large format cameras on the used market made a mere 20 years ago that are much better made than what you’ll likely find new these days. Most of the current makers of large format cameras (with some very expensve exceptions) make them to a price point to compete with the used market. Many older ones were built for high end professional use. I have a Sinar F1 that I am fully confident will outlast me, and I’m in my 30’s. And if anything does go wrong with it, it’s modular with tons of replacement parts available and everything is user serviceable. All of the complicated stuff is in the shutter. So if a standard were to break or the bellows got punctured, I could install a new one in under a minute without any tools. Now, my Speed Graphic on the other hand, required a good bit of work to get going. And it wasn’t modular or easy to work on. But that’s a 70 year old camera that wasn’t made to the same level of quality that had literally been through a war zone. A used Sinar, Horseman, Toyo, or Lindhof that’s been well taken care of is a thing of beauty.

    As for the 100mm lens, I’d look at getting a 90mm instead. They make 100mm lenses, of course, but the 90mm is a lot more common, cheaper, and will likely give you a larger image circle for more extreme movements. Especially if you get one of the modern fast 90’s like a 90/4.5 or 90/5.6. Again, I’d buy used just because you can save a bunch of money. One in like new condition should be under $400 which would save you enough money for a lifetime’s worth of CLA’s to keep it in like new condition.

    The beauty of large format is the market is still super saturated with them and the general public still doesn’t want anything to do with them. So unlike 35mm and to some extent medium format, their prices on the used market are tiny fractions of what they originally cost.
     
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