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Thursday, 25 November 2010


It's a weird thing about this old stuff. A local (Ottawa, Canada) classifieds web site is showing a working Rolleicord TLR for $150. I have no use for it but am somehow tempted to buy it anyway. I feel as if I should have owned one sometime in my life.

.... sooo, how many megapixels do these cameras have?

This is making me feel very young and inexperienced.

That's actually a very involved question, because film size and digital pixel density don't equate exactly, either technically or practically. The beauty of contact printing is that it seems to have an almost limitless level of detail and tonal smoothness. It can be implied onscreen, but not really adequately reproduced.

I don't want to fall into the trap of seeming to claim that it's somehow "better," though (photographers can just be so relentlessly status-oriented when these things come up...). It's just different. Those who love it, love it, and those who don't don't need to worry.


I can't say why, but these articles fascinate me. I think it must have something to do with the visceral nature of the direct (or more direct than with digital anyway) creation and craftsmanship involved with medium and large format film photography.

Every time you post an article, even just to put a picture of a view camera, I envision myself traveling through the unspoiled, forested interior regions of Guyana with my view camera, wooden tripod and old landrover, waking up long before dawn to set up for a morning of photography, followed by resting in a hammock during the day to begin the process again for sunset (I'll ignore for now the less romantic, but probably no less satisfying, days in the darkroom).

I've traveled our interior (seen by relatively few people) before, but never really had a chance to capture many of the wonders I've seen. Certainly never with the time, introspection and contemplation that must come using a view camera.

One of these days maybe, after I make my millions with conventional photography :)

Two nits: what happened to 3 1/4 by 4 1/4. B&J in Chicago used to have a page or two of these that I drooled over but never bit into (Thanksgiving choice of phrases). And the problems of big cameras do not increase exponentially, but as the square or the cube of the camera size. (film cost as the square, weight as the cube, etc...). Photographer population, however, may be dropping exponentially -- if every added inch on the edge of the film is a factor of 10 or 100 decrease in the population, that's exponential.

population of 4x5 users = 100 x
population of 8x10 users = 100 x
population of 11 x 14 users

If this isn't clear, ask Oren. He's numerate.



Shouldn't the caption be:
"Grace Greenwood, on being told B&H's shipping costs for the 10x8 enlarger her husaband had just ordered...."?

Happy Thanksgiving to you too Mike. I couldn't think of a nicer way to celebrate the day than you writing about whole plate. Not to mention linking back to Oren's article.


Interesting to learn that Minolta was involved in the development of APS. I'd been led to believe that Kodak and Fuji were the prime movers. I was living in Rochester at the time and the introduction of the APS format prompted full-page coverage in the local paper - partly because of the unthinkable (until then) notion of Kodak and Fuji cooperating with each other!

As a side note: When I was at the George Eastman House workshop last week one of the staff mentioned to me that he knew of at least two 8x10 enlargers for sale. I'd be happy to pass on any serious inquiries.

And Happy Thanksgiving to you too, Sir. (Everyone needs a "whole plate" on Thanksgiving.)

You wouldn't happen to know where I could get a WP Gandolfi with a few holders, now would you? [g]


A fantastic reference Mike.
Thanks ;-)

Nice post, Mike, and happy Thanksgiving to all in the USA (I have recently discovered that I have several thousand distant American cousins, clustered overwhelmingly in Georgia and Utah, but thinly spread elsewhere in the USA).

One observation: modern film scanners seem to me to mostly get around the enlarging problem, and the images on a backlit LED monitor are every bit as vibrant as a colour slide on a lightbox.

I know I'm just publicly justifying my inevitable purchase of an iPad, purely as a display mechanism for favoured images. The screen size is fairly close to the 6.5 x 8.5 whole plate you mention, as well. Ctein's recent endorsement (http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2010/07/why-i-needed-an-ipad.html) of the screen quality of the iPad makes the case more difficult to resist....

Okay, you've convinced me: My 8x10 outfit gets another reprieve from eBay ... for now, anyway.

Many years ago I talked to an old photographer who recommended full plate to me because it was a beautiful size to have a 'one to one' with, and with the older ortho films and silver rich papers images exuded a very special quality. Being much younger then, I couldn't afford and didn't have that particular drive to pursue this. However, his remarks got me to doing mock, slightly vignetted whole plate prints at 6 1/2 by 8 1/2 printing on 8x10 paper but from an assortment of Medium format cameras. I love this size, but wish I could get the tonality rendered from a whole plate contact print with the true characteristics of the lens.
I've dabbled with 5x4 but my enlarged printing doesn't do it full justice and like you said, it's not big enough to contact, whereas (contrary to yourself) my taking of pictures is probably better than my printing at the moment, making contact printing more in tune with how I see.
Thanks Mike, now I have more photo nouse and some leeway with what I do with gear you have re-kindled a long held desire, oh heck.

I definitely recall reading (about 20 years ago) in a photography reference book - probably the Focal Encyclopedia of Photography - that miniature formats were Officially Defined as anything smaller than quarter-plate. OK, out of date now, but amuses me when you have people on internet forums arguing fiercely about the extreme quality differences between 4/3 and APS-C sensors, for instance.

Does the photographer choose a film format or does the film format choose the photographer. I don't know.

I've definitely seen what we call "medium format"--2 1/4--referred to in old photography manuals as "miniature cameras."


I am thankful this day for fun essays such as this.

Interesting LF site!

"Virtuoso shooters like Edward Weston and Joel Meyerowitz (who published ~100 of ~400 8x10 exposures in his great book St. Louis and the Arch (OoP and rare), which still amazes me as a "keeper" ratio) can make great work with bigger cameras."
I wonder how many promising talented photographers we´ve missed throughout the years, who have never managed to create any lasting beautiful personal photography all due to their obsession with large format cameras, all because of their disdain for small formats like 35mm which is perfectly suitable for most of us.
True 4x5 has always been a little too small for contact prints.... then comes Michael Kenna with "Monique´s Kindergarten" and does it highly successfully!!!
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!!

Interesting thought about the decline in number of photographers. Although film sales were in a steady decline, there have been several reports over the past few years that sheet film sales (b&w at least) have been on the increase. I suspect that if the same % of photographers in China choose to use sheet film as use it elsewhere, we will have plenty of film to shoot for years to come.

Dear Kevin,

Wrong units. The fetishistic unit of measurement for film pixel-peepers is milligrams.

(Yeah, a joke. But also true-- OCD-ish photographers have been known to obsess about how much silver films and papers contained, the same way they do about pixel counts. And with equal validity-- that is to say, nearly none.)

pax / Ctein

Interesting musings as always Mike!

Couple of points:

1. Glad you brought up the 6X7/4X5 thing. For most professional photographers that did multi-formats, this is a "dirty-little-secret". The difference between thickness of film (hence "diffusion"), variations in film holders for 4X5, actual quality level of 4X5 vs. 120 lenses in resolving power (especially over the "field"), precision of focus, etc., all make an impact. A really good quality 6X7 kit will easily give better (or equal) enlargements to a 4X5 kit any day, any time! Proved a million times in my studio back in the day. 4X5 does allow you to control plane of sharpness and perspective, but 6X7 allows you to subjective focus on portraits better, and control "decisive moment". Note: this is NOT true for roll film backs on 4X5, an "unsharpness" disaster, most of the time (at least for me).

2. Pro studio photographers rarely shot 8X10 because it was "better" than 4X5. What happened before professional drum scanning, was that studio photographers shot catalogs "in-pro". They would make a tracing of the full bleed photo pages to fit on 8X10, and then use that percentage "blow-down" for all the pics in the book. If it was 80%, then the whole book was shot at 80%, hence the smaller photos might be able to be shot on 5X7 or 4X5. And since Kodak Ektachrome all needed to be tested for color shifts, you basically shot everything on 8X10, but used cards or panels in the backs of your 8X10 Deardorf to shoot "2-up" or 4-up" on 8X10 sheets, placing the cards certain ways and then rotating the film in the holders as well. An intelligence test if there ever was one! When cheap drum scanning and pre-press started happening in earnest, no one shot "pro" anymore (or the same film emulsion even!)...

3. Love the idea of the "half-8X10" Chamonix, if I had any money, I'd buy one!

4. Do a fair amount of work in San Francisco, and not unusual to see assistants going into labs with big piles of 4X5 film holders from architectural guys. A scanned 4X5 is still going to be scads better than a Nikon D700 with a 24 perspective lens, and if you already own the stuff...if you need to buy the stuff, the 24 perspective lens is more expensive than a whole used precision 4X5, and a 75, 90, and 120 Nikkors...

5. Amazed at the amount of people who did shoot catalog 4X5, now shooting on just a Canon 50D or a Nikon D300! But what really changed, was that a lot of catalog now is "single-item" photos, rather than the one photo of twenty items it was 20 years ago, and all the perspective and sharpness control you need to do with that. No need to have those cameras, and the small guys can't afford the perspective controlled 120 based digital stuff with the "micro" lenses anyway...

5. Been trying to decide over the last 2 years: Do I sell all my 120 Hasselblad and Mamiya stuff, my 8X10 Deardorf stuff and finish off a precision 4X5 kit as the last format standing? Everything else digital? Or do I keep the 'blad and hope someone makes a 3K dollar back for it someday, and use it on people shooting, which is what I mostly do. The greatness in 4X5 is that it can be used for EVERYTHING in film, even tho it doesn't do "the best" at some things, it does them all!

Dear Mike,

I agree about the lovely quality of contact prints. There's a distinct difference in look between them and enlargements that is hard to describe and, so far, impossible to quantify.

I've seen many printers attribute it to the notion that the contact print is a more "pure" transfer from film to paper, lacking intervening enlarger lenses, light sources, etc.

My physicist's intuition, based flimsily on semi-related experiments I've run, is that it's the opposite. The usual darkroom contact print is, with very rare exceptions, a less faithful copy of what's in the film than projection printing, enlarged or not. But my thinking is that the way it's unfaithful just happens to click aesthetically. Think of it as being similar to the difference in sound between classic speakers and tube amps and modern systems. The technical measures don't favor the new systems, but the old systems have the "right" sound.

Just musings...

pax / Ctein

Speaking of archaic standards or maybe you've already covered this is the concept of focal lengths. Many do have a concept of what a 35mm-equiv. is, but it is confusing. Of course angle of view makes more sense until you use it on a different sensor.

Great article, Mike. Looking forward to the followup. Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm very happy to see yet another article concerning Large Format film shooters - and in a positive way, as I understand it...

Regarding the availability of Whole Plate (WP) film: you are right the sources are limited, to either cutting down 8×10" film, or ordering from Ilford. But there is also another way (actually 3 of them) which I think you should mention:

1. Foma (from the Czech Republic where I live) that produces the Fomapan 100 (and also Fomapan 200) sheet film could be made to cut the film to WP size if the order is large enough. But here large order does not necessarily mean the same as custom cutting from Kodak or Fuji, or even Ilford. I think they might be willing to consider it even if it was in the tens of boxes (like 25+ boxes). That's comparatively very small. And Fomapan 100 film is rather popular among LF shooters, even the ones in US know it well... (and it's my main film in 13×18cm, too)

2. Adox ("Adox FotoImpex Berlin") is supplying film in quite a few non-standard sizes, so they might be willing to prepare the WP size too... (I'm using the Adox CHS 25 film in 5×8" size)

3. There's another film manufacturer in Europe, Wephota (producing Wephota NP 15 - ISO 25 and Wephota NP 22 - ISO 100/125 films) , that's usually willing to cut to any size...

(I'm not affiliated with any of these manufacturers, I'm just using those films and want them to be available as long as possible, so I'm only advertising them...)


Mike- this is a VERY interesting column. I knew a lot of the stuff, but learned some new things, too. I have 35, 2 1/4, 4x5 and digital equipment. I love shooting with each, but particularly when I put the Crown Graphic to my eye, compose, focus, remember to pull out the dark slide AND cock the shutter, and hear the solid click as I make the exposure. Developing the sheets in total darkness is not fascinating, but the results to print are pleasurable. Thanks for the primer.

Only sort of related, but I've long wondered why 35mm photography is frequently referred to as '135'?


I once interviewed a young photographer from India who, after showing me his portfolio of 8x10 enlargements, bought out something really special to show me. He had created a series of contact prints from 6x7cm color negs. He was inspired to make these images by a particular tradition of miniature Indian oil paintings. The subject matter were of street scenes in villages, and I remember REALLY having to look hard at these images, because of there small size. Then it occurred to me: that was the whole point - to really focus on what I was looking at. They were charming. Wish I could remember the photographer's name.

It's snowing here in Vancouver. Thanks Mike for the good read.

When I joined the first company I worked for after graduating from college. They were in the process of changing their cameras to 'small format'.

There was a great deal of testing and discussion done, and in the end the decision was made. So out went the Half Plate camera backs and in came a set of 5"x4" backs for the Sinar Norma cameras

Ouch! ... this one hurt.
I absolutely love shooting 4x5. I love the deliberate, contemplative way of working it demands. I love the way the negatives look as they come out of the tank, and I love the fact that 4x5 negatives scan and print beautifully on digital equipment so there's a viable alternative to darkroom enlarging. But as time goes on "life" takes over and (*sob*) my 4x5 cameras and lenses have gone totally unused for the past two years! I feel terrible about this! The worst part of it is that I can see my favorite films and chemicals gradually disappearing from suppliers' shelves, and am afraid that by the time I'm ready to get back to it it'll be too late ... of course that's *if* I ever have the time to get back to it.

They say you have to make time for these things, but they never tell you how ...

I was always wondering the following: is there a camera that takes standard 135 film and that allows aspect ratios different from the usual (boring) 3:2, e.g. 1:1 or 5:4 or 4:3?

I don't count half frame cameras like the Olympus Pen, as they simply divide the frame in half while rotating the image by 90 degrees.

Does such a beast exist?

I only found this one here, but it is a toy camera:


I fall into the third catagory of photographer descriptions that you did not mention. That of a digital only shooter who is interested in the film area but is clueless where to start. the material covered was new and a fun read. I have my dad's circa 53 Rolliflex and plan on using next year.
You talk about the rising sales of B+W film. I would take it that there are quality differences between B+W film versus digital. I have no knowledge in this area to work with. Does one have the edge over the other?

Happy Thanksgiving...Mathew

"You wouldn't happen to know where I could get a WP Gandolfi with a few holders, now would you? [g]?"

I've been aware of another TOP reader, a Floridian, who also covets that bit of kit. Since one of my daily diversions is a cruise through eBay's large format listings, I emailed him the last time such a collection was offered. Unfortunately, he didn't have Internet access for a few days and missed the opportunity.

Now that I know you'd like a WP Gandolfi too, the next time one is listed I'll email both of you. Then you can bid against each other for it. :)

Nice post to digest along with my even longer Thanksgiving meal.

Ever the contrarian, I love small prints (despite many years taking and collecting larger format work). Kertesz is one of my favorite photographers and his early Hungarian contact prints are a treat...(Available at Amazon for under $15)

The National Gallery had these on display about 5 years ago in conjunction with the book. Many are only about 1x2 inches or so (you may know exactly). I had the pleasure to see some in person about 15 years earlier and still regret not buying a vintage print before it became cost prohibitive. His carte postales, only marginally bigger, are also a delight.

Talk about not "carrying a room." One would need a whole collection (or very small walls).

Happy Thanksgiving.

... and I can only wonder if you're preparing us for the next print sale Mike!

On saying that, I've started printing out contact sheets only this year and I do agree with many points in your article (especially that it is a magical thing to see and hold -- and that I wish I had a camera format larger than 35mm!!!)


Mike, When I was just converting to digital my good friend Dave Woodruff helped me out by suggesting that aps-c prints nicely as 6x9 on 8.5x11. This has become my standard work or file size, just right to hold.

having just recently started contact printing 8x10's I think I now see what everyone raves about, and I'm not sure I could put it into words. Got to love the simplicity of the process.
You seem to have more passion in this posting than most of your posts about pixel machines, and I felt far more fascinated as well!


Large format just has a look that only a large sheet of film and a 'long' (but not for the format) lens produces. I think Alec Soth or Richard Renaldi said something like "The world just looks different through a 300mm lens." It's absolutely true! 60+ MP backs don't replace that simply because the chips are barely 645.

I shoot 4x5 in NYC because I can't move around an 8x10 without my car (It pained me to sell my Deardorff). I do it more for the aesthetic than the resolution.

Also, my 5D2 has in a lot of ways replaced medium format for me. When I can make such beautiful medium sized (13x19ish) prints I really have no reason to shoot 120 other than the look of film.

For financial reasons I had to sell my Mamiya 7. When I'm back on my feet I might not get another one, save for maybe a cheap 6x6 TLR.

It's sad and not sad how things change.

Also, as easy as it is to make a contact print, it still sucks scanning 8x10 negatives at home (on the Epson V700 for instance). We need a better solution because you don't need a super high end scanner to make a spectacular, and enormous, file.

"I've long wondered why 35mm photography is frequently referred to as '135'?"

135 was the original Kodak designation for 35mm film in pre-loaded cassettes--meaning, intended for still photography and not for movie cameras. The designation dates from the 1930s.


"Does such a beast exist?"

The Blackbird Fly you liked to is a rollfilm camera.

To answer your question, I believe a Japanese company or two once tried to standardize on a different aspect ratio--24x32 if memory serves. But the penalties for bucking universal standardization probably doomed those attempts. I just can't give you a time frame from memory...'30s? '50s? Maybe someone who knows for sure will chime in.

And there are some cameras that take 35mm film that shoot or else can be adapted for panoramic aspect ratios.


Interesting and informative article (well, what else!) Mind you, you don't mention a couple of things that made me invest back in medium and large format. The possibilities of scanning / digital printing as opposed to the problems of the wet darkroom. I'm still not convinced that digital printing gives equal results, but it's pretty good. Also, what about the other things that come with larger formats - such as the better exploitation of DOF at "standard" focal lengths?

Anyone know where I can get fresh 11x14 BW film? I have a working Montauk 11x14 with some working Dagors and Protar VII lenses but no film. I'm mostly doing digital now with Pentaxes.

Thanks Joe Kashi, Soldotna, Alaska kashi@alaska.net

Jiří, I wonder if that Adox has anything to do with Fotokemika films. Known elsewhere as Efke.


They say their ISO 25/50/100 films "are made using the ADOX formulas that were first introduced back in the late 1940s".

For all the instructions how to develop the film, they don't specify the sizes. The site is otherwise completely useless because a lot of it is just placeholder text. And has been for the last two years. You'd need to contact them, most probably.

Why do you guys keep calling it 4x5?

It's 5x4 this side of the pond.

Late 40s to early 50s. The Nikon I was 24 x 32. The Nikon M and the Nikon S were 24 x 34. Their first RF at 24 x 26 was the S2 in 1954.

24x32mm on 35mm film would be nikon http://imaging.nikon.com/products/imaging/technology/d-archives/history_e/index.htm
Robot made 24x24 24x36 and 24x18 cameras I think . And I used to have a Konica Autorex that you could switch between 24x36mm and 24x16mm in mid roll

The term "135" is clearly missing from the "35mm" entry. It's used quite often and in such a great encyclopedic listing should be included.

As for the formats in 35mm, before the Leica (and even for a while after that), there were camera makers with differing formats on 35mm.

There's been a reasonably heated discussion over on the flickr LF forum this past week as to the definition of LF. It starts at 4x5 and above, depending solely on image-diagonal not on sheet-versus-roll, so your 2x3" is mis-categorized.

Otherwise, good overview article. I've shot 4x5 happily enough, although this year has been 99% digital by time (99.99% by quantity... hmm). I still think "full-frame" should be 4x5 though. ;)

Is it a coincidence that WP is about the size of an iPad display?

Mike, it's people like you, like YOU I say, who drive my gear obsessions...

First there was your Wista birthday post, which got me lusting (again) over those lovely cherrywood Tachiharas; I went so far as to check a certain (well known and world famous) online auction site to see if I could get one on the cheap (none around, it seems - thankfully :D ); I did manage to find a couple of lenses that looked interesting, but I was strong and turned away.

Then you go and post this review/comment/tutorial/wistful reminisce and get me all worked up again. I was in a renewed state of cherrywood lust by the time I got towards the end of this post, but now I have a new "object de'sire" (mock-French for I WANTS IT NOW); Whole Plate sounds like just my thing; large enough to make it worth making prints from, slow enough and expensive enough to make me concentrate on what I shoot, 'out there' enough to make it fun to be out and about in public, and seriously old-school, which is what I love about film.

The problems that arise are; what do I do with my stable of digital cameras, and how do I justify to myself buying yet another camera when the 2 I've bought in the last fortnight haven't even turned over their first 100 shots yet? So many beautiful toys, so little time.

If you don't cease and desist with encouraging my gear lust, I'll have to stop visiting here. Honest, I'll go, I will. Right after I read the next post, I'll go. Just you see if I don't.

(Dear casual reader - lest you think I'm actually planning on leaving, fear not. TOP is somewhat akin to the Hotel California - you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. As Mike says somewhere hereabouts, it's a place for photo-dawgs of all stripes. Count me in as one of the pack. Woof-click.)

"Why do you guys keep calling it 4x5? It's 5x4 this side of the pond."

...Because we're on THIS side of the pond, that's why.

(The grass is greener over there, though.)


I am a long term user of medium format cameras but a few years ago I took a step into LF and got myself a 4x5 Ebony. It was a beautiful camera and I enjoyed using it... for a while. It got to be too much effort to set it all up etc. So I sold it and ever since I have been hankering after a roll film camera with movements. A few months ago I bought a Fuji GX680 (the studio camera you refer to in your post). Needless to say that I am extremely pleased with the camera. It's a real beast and weighs in at around 4kg (8lbs). I got it mainly to shoot a project on plants that I was about to undertake. This is the first photo I made with the GX680: http://www.sar-photography.com/RFF/GX_Image_00084.jpg (not sure how to include an image in my comment Mike, but feel free to insert it if you like.). I often use the GX680 handheld for taking photographs in towns near where I live. I do get some funny comments though!

I don't know about Wisconsin Mike, but the only green grass I've seen in the US, Canada and Mexico is the rather bilious shade maintained in gardens and golf courses by sprinkler systems. Everywhere else where maintained by nature it seems to be brown or yellow. This side of the pond, on the other hand, has more than enough rainfall, hence "The Emerald Isle" and "England's green and pleasant isle".

It is depressingly wet, though, and light levels seldom get anywhere near as bright as I have seen in the States. As I type, it is grey skies and EV 5.4 in my (naturally green) garden, at five to three in the afternoon.

Unless you are talking about a different sort of grass? ;)

Since one of the purposes here was to provide information about film formats for people new to film, it should be pointed out (and nobody else seems to have done it yet) that the metric nomenclature for 120/200 roll film that we all use is a recent imposition, and only approximate.

That film format was designed in inches, and the formats using it are "really" inches. 2.25 inches by 2.25 inches ("two and a quarter") is what "6x6" "really" is. 6x7 is 2 1/4 x 2 3/4. 6x4.5 is 2 1/4 x 1 5/8). Oh, and 6x9 is 2 1/4 x 3 1/4.

Hugh, I don't know why you and we have opposite habits, but it's definitely "4x5" over here (and also "8x10"). "5x4" just looks and sounds wrong. (And I assume our way sounds just as wrong to you; it's just a matter of what one is accustomed to so far as I can see.)

There is a mistake in metric conversion in your second paragraph. 1/1.7" isn't 5.7/7.6 mm (that's tiny! ). It's 25.4/43.18 mm. (1 inch = 2.54 cm)

No, no mistake. That's the actual name of the format and the actual size. The naming convention is weird--see the article "Image sensor format" on Wikipedia for chapter and verse.


Oops. I obviously didn't know to what you were referring. Not much clearer after checking Wikipedia, but thanks anyway.

"Why do you guys keep calling it 4x5?

It's 5x4 this side of the pond."

Why do you keep calling it a "pond"? It's called an ocean on this side of the.....ocean. ;-)

Robert, do not overpay for a Rolleicord. Unless it's in practically MINT condition that $150 is on the high side. With patience they can be had on eBay for $50, maybe a little more. Or perhaps you were thinking a Rolleiflex?

Another thing to remember when thinking about formats is the size of what you're photographing vs. the size of the film...this might be a killer for some people, if you think about it...

If you want to shoot a frame filling head shot on 4X5, you're basically shooting quarter life size. The same on 8X10? You're at 1:1! Do the 4X5 with a 12 inch lens and your bellows is at 18 inches, with 8X10 and a 24 inch lens, you're at 48 inches! A lot (and not easy to control focus and f/stop at the same time to check sharpness)! Tons more strobe power, and if they breath, they're out of focus!

People who used large format commercially for a long time sure understood the difficulty most of the famous 8X10 "art" people put up with on a regular basis...

I recommend before anyone buys an 8X10 or 11X14, for scenics or whatever, that they rent or borrow one for a few days to try it out. You may find, regardless of the beauty of the large contact print, that trying to shield the camera from gusts of wind outside, while trying to look at all areas of the ground glass, and the difficulty of seeing the whole image under the dark cloth, might just be a buzz-kill of monumental proportions!

I remember seeing a show with beautiful 30X30 and 40X40 inch prints from Hasselblad negs of black professional and arts women (might have been Brian Lankers, "I Dream..."show); and thinking to myself: "...with quality like this, what am I messing around with 8X10 for?" If the size and weigth of your "kit" makes you think twice about taking a picture, it's the wrong camera!

Just how "carryable" would a whole-plate camera (and accessories) be? Could I walk around the neighborhood with it, or would I have to take the car?

Paul C.,
Doesn't seem like a carryable camera to me, but then I'm a wimp.


"Just how "carryable" would a whole-plate camera (and accessories) be? Could I walk around the neighborhood with it, or would I have to take the car?"

I put mine in a Kelty Redwing backpack, along with 450mm, 300mm, 210mm, and 180mm lenses, associated filters, a Pentax spotmeter, and sometimes a 5x7 back. Film holders go in a cooler bag I purchased at the drug store. I clip those to the backpack. The tripod fits into the cross country ski holders on one side of the backpack.

No need to drive if you are in shape.

Thanks for the locate on the 11x14 film. I see a nice selection of 5x7 as well, for my smaller camera.

I shoot LF for the third reason, not mentioned in the article:


so that I can shoot with the Kodak Aero Ektar 178mm f2.5 lens, giving me, in 35mm camera terms, 50mm f0.7 equivalent images. As far as I'm aware, that the shallowest DoF/FoV ration you can get with conventional cameras/lenses (although there is that Stanley Kubrick Zeiss Planar 50/0.7... http://www.flickr.com/photos/26654815@N08/2887551617/).

I'm a DoF junkie, so if anybody knows how I can get even shallower DoF (besides mounting the Aero on a 5x7 camera, which it's said to cover as well), please let me know.

My Aero shots: http://goo.gl/kvmt6

@ Eddie,

without getting into politics - I don't think any of us need that - I recall seeing a cartoon map in a German magazine a few years ago, when the UK was fighting yet another of our battles with the EU. It showed the English Channel as the width of the Atlantic, and the Atlantic was a little thin divide between the UK and the USA/Canada. Somewhat pond-like! ;) Several Irish people I knew in the 80s also felt more of a cultural affinity with the US (particularly places like Boston, with so many people there of Irish extraction) than they did to Europe.

In the absolutely wonderful book "Jazz" by the late Herman Leonard (and Mike I presume you ordered you copy yet), the end of the book includes Leonard's discussions of the different film formats he used over the years and how they affected his photography. He started using a Speed Graphic, moved to a Rolleiflex and eventually a Nikon although on a blues cruise in 2005 we both were on, he was using a digicam to shoot Corey Harris. Not as encyclopedic as Ctein's discussion, but very interesting.

Am I the only person here who regularly shot in 3 1/4 by 4 1/4? It may seem like an odd size, but if you were carrying a Graflex in a backpack while mountain climbing the advantages over 4 X 5 became apparent.

In all this fascinating nomenclature, you overlooked the glorious term for 120 film that is used in the instruction manual for the Nikon Coolscan 9000: Brownie film.

@Mike, Blackbirdfly is NOT a roll film camera, unless you redefine roll film as 135. I have one and it break down in my second "roll". I also got a to-be-made twin lens 135 film camera that comes with a magazine! Still sitting there as I do not do 135mm for a while.

You have not mention the age issue. There are two. One is whether you can carry it. But more important whether you can see it.

Carry is quite an objective measurement. But seeing is really have to experience it before you know it. Once you have Hasselblad (the bright screen) and Pentax 67 II (not so bright screen), going back to smaller one is hard. In fact 4x5 is not good (even though it is larger) from this viewing angle. You cannot easily see your movement etc. A 8x10 ground glass is much easier without much use of loupe, at least not initially.

If one read your linked document about full plate and as the back is not standardised for full plate, I would not recommend it. I still think the original advice by Ansel to get the largest camera you can carry.

Experiencing photography is important to me as a hobby. My snapshot camera is either a Hasselblad 203FE or a Pentax 67 II. One goes with me to UK for 1 month and I am still developing the 100 E6 rolls at my dark studio. The 67 II goes with me to Shanghai for expo and the 30 rolls. I just feel I have taken the pictures, good or bad not counting. Of course, if I can and if the situation is viable (not strong wind, next to car e.g.), I would take 8x10. My 5 remaining box of 8x10 E6 Velvia 50 is calling every day. But even though I did have all the 4x5 gear now (from V700, Beseler 4x5, ...), I am not sure 4x5 is a camera I aspire to take. It is a good compromise at best. (It is lighter than my 6x6 gear in fact.) I feel I taken a picture with my Hasselblad, 8x10 and partially when click the Pentax 67 II. I feel painful every time I used 4x5. But worst I feel nothing when I click my D300 (just used last night I was forced to use it again for my boy's rock concert; as I cannot change roll of my Pentax in the dark, I have to use that after 1.5 year in the absence. I might take my Hasselblad next time if the ISO400 slide works out fine.).

But when times comes, I can no longer carry these, selling them all and get a Mamiya 7 II might be in order.


...see my first post regarding the sharpness and quality of 120 vs. 4X5 sheet film, this is even moreso for 3 1/4 X 4 1/4, and reason why 2 1/4 X 3 1/4 and 3 1/4 X 4 1/4 sheet film died a pretty quick death when precision 120 roll film camera systems came along in earnest (not to mention the simpler usage and 8-12 exposures). Knew a lot of wedding guys shooting those formats, tho, up until the middle 60's, and wasn't unusual to see small regional papers using those formats in the 50's instead of 4X5.

A much older pal had a folding Voigtlander camera that took large European sized sheet film in very thin little sheet film holders, took wonderful pictures and I wish they made something like that today! Anyway, they made an "American film adapter" for it that took 3 1/4 X 4 1/4 film, and he shot a lot of it up until he bought a Rollei in the 60's...

I spent a lot of time helping my aging pal sort, organize and curate his photography before his death (most of it valuable political stuff), and looked through a lot of those 3 1/4 X 4 1/4 sheets, and regardless of visual quality, there was something about those sheets; whether they were more carefully shot than his roll film, or whatever; as he moved into the 120 Rollei and eventually 35mm, everything seemed to take on a less "studied" quality, or a more "shoot-from-the-hip" style that wasn't as interesting or impactful. The 3 1/4 X 4 1/4's became more precious than a contact sheet full of junk with one good image.

Great article - it's interesting to note that the Czech master, Josef Sudek, at some point decided to abandon enlargement and print all negatives (from roll-film to 8x10) as contact prints. It sure worked for him.

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