My cameras - Part III - 4x5

We are getting back to cameras as promised in my unusual Wednesday post. Browsing through the archives can be quite challenging, mainly when covering such an extended time frame. It can also be refreshing. I find strange pleasure looking at old photographs. Even my own ;) Memories and some forgotten ideas comes back. 

Today I will share my experience with large format cameras. In this case, however, examples of images will be reduced to a minimum, and it is for a reason. Everyone knows that the final quality of photographs depends on many factors. First of all - on photographer’s talent and skils. It is out of the question. Then technical matters come into play.

In the case of work with analogue cameras, it is a bit more complicated. In addition to choosing the optics, it is crucial to choose the right film, then chemicals and then the way it will be used. The next stage is darkroom printing (again skills, equipment, paper and other chemistry) or scanning (skills, scanning software and digital processing). 

I intentionally missed the cameras. Why? Here, technical quality can be affected mainly by optics and used film (then mentioned processing). The camera itself is of little importance once it is fully functional. 

Now we can start to talk about formats. Yes, large format is unbeatable. When we are talking about the equipment available in the shops - there is no digital camera that the quality of the pictures could even come close to a large format. Even 4x5. I won’t mention bigger. The bigger the film, the better technical quality which usually can be appreciated on print or looking at the full size scanned file. Not much on the computer screen.

Initially, that was one of my main motives to get the first 4x5 camera.  

1. It was Graflex Crown Graphic which came with Kodak Ektar 127mm f 4.7 lens. I bought it in 2010. Excellent, simple, lightweight camera. Easy to carry around. Once folded, it can fit in any bag. I enjoyed it a lot, but it’s a press camera. It means limited movements. In my case, extended movements became crucial. Especially shifts. I was making lots of portraits back then, but architectural photography was about to become my main subject of interest. 

2. Calumet CC-400 was my second camera. It came with Wollensak Raptar telephoto 250mm 5.6 lens. A bit too long for my photography, so I was using Kodak 135mm, which I got with Graflex instead. Calumet was a monorail camera. Quite heavy and not ‘user friendly’. Also not very precise. Mentioned above lenses were quite good. Overall image quality was often much better, even comparing to Hasselblad’s lenses I was already using. It’s a matter of negative size as mentioned above. I needed, however, something better, and I knew it was easily accessible. Two perfect optically lenses arrived one by one - Schneider Kreuznach Symmar-S 150mm/5.6 and Schenider Kreuznach Super Angulon 90mm/8. These two beauties served me very well for almost a decade with all other large format cameras I was using. It also explains my opinion about little importance of a camera itself when talking about image quality. In large format, all depends on what you will use the camera for. Portraits, landscape, architecture, product photography, still life. Will you need portability, precision or movements? Often it is difficult to have all in one unless you are ready to spend a fortune. I wasn’t, so movements and precision was my priority. 

3. That’s why my next choice was obvious - Sinar F2. That’s an incredibly beautiful, precise, full of movements camera. And I was using it along with Schneider optics till the moment when suddenly I decided almost to abandon large format for simple convince reason. This probably comes with age :)

4. In the meantime, I had for a while MPP mk4 technical camera as well. I decided to get this one as an alternative for Sinar when travelling. It has more movements than Graflex, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t even half as good as Sinar. Well built and precise but still relatively limited shift and recessed board required for a wide-angle lens. Also heavy as for a portable camera.

Sinar could cover every type of photography, and it’s incredible for architecture. I already explained all the reasons I decided to put the large format (and some medium format) on hold except lovely super light pinholes with perspective correction, so I won’t repeat it here. You can check this old post HERE.

… but GAS… As long as these lovely pinholes fulfils most of my needs and requirements, lens-based large format camera is again in my head. It definitely will have to be something super light like Intrepid Mk4 4x5 - small field camera which can be easily packed into jacket’s large pocket ;) And you don’t have to sell a kidney to buy it new. 

I know that people who are using 8x10 and bigger cameras are laughing when I am talking about the lack of portability in case of some 4x5, but when you cycle or walk the streets with a camera like that, size and weight means a lot. 

Here are the links to previous posts:

My cameras - Part I - 35mm

My cameras - Part II - 120

And this is not the end yet…

Thank you 

In the meantime…

It is the third time I have to change the topic of the blog post suddenly within the last couple of months. It also probably not the last one. 

This blog is dedicated to everything related to photography (and architecture) and will remain as such. From time to time, however, I will share here my opinion about other subject matters as well. Don’t worry ;) No politics - just life-related topics. 

Now and then each of us is getting into an unexpected, sometimes tricky situation. Making the right decision in such a moment is a crucial element. Quite often, it is not easy but necessary. 

About two weeks, all of us ended up on the same boat. Strange times most of us would like to forget about in the future entirely but we won’t. The impact it will make on our lives will be too significant. We are still at the beginning of all disruption. At the same time, the end of it is drawing away and it will as long as people will ignore it. 

Panic itself is bad, but ignorance is much worse. It’s terrifying and dangerous. It will get only worse as long as people won’t change their approach. 

Let’s be serious. Let’s be responsible. Let’s take care of each other.

Once we all start to act as we should (from the very beginning), it will be all over with no time. After all, it will be an important lesson for us as human beings. 

Going back to photography - I had to revise everything for the next couple of months (as for now). Plans of photographing places and buildings outside Dublin had to be cancelled for now.  Also, most of commercial assignments are postponed or cancelled for now. Luckily I still have negatives to process and a few brief ideas for blog posts. It will also be the right time to think about future projects. Besides that lots of books and music. Next week I will get back to cameras topic unless something new will pop out all of a sudden ;) Will try to prepare the 3rd part of ‘My cameras’ series. This time about large format. 

Stay safe!

Church of the Annunciation

Church of the Annunciation in Finglas West is one of the biggest churches in Dublin. It was designed by David Keane (David Keane & Partners, later KMD Architecture) in 1967. A massive building with a capacity of 3500 people (!). Large scale structure with impressive concrete roof. Stephen Walsh designed beautiful, abstract stained glass windows including a huge window above the main entrance.

I was thinking about photographing it for quite a long time, and It happened around two weeks ago at last. One day in the morning, I packed cameras, films and a tripod. Then I loaded all on the bicycle as usual and headed towards Finglas. 

I was late, unfortunately (obviously). The building is facing demolition announced in 2017, 50 years after its opening. It is due to structural problems, too expensive to fix and also a decreased number of people attending masses. A smaller church (with capacity up to 350 people) and parish centre will replace it. 

I can only imagine how amazing the entire internal space is, especially stained glass windows which are hard to appreciate from the outside. I knew I would not be able to see everything at this stage. Still wanted to photograph at least elevations especially if weather was so good for a while. I went there once again a few days later, this time in the afternoon. I was looking for a better illumination of previously overshadowed parts of the building. The weather was glorious. 

Above information, it’s all I could find online and in books I have at home. I know it’s not much so if anyone has a reliable source where I can find more details about this building, please share it. Let’s focus now on photographs. 

Here is the link to a few pictures from RTE archive - please click HERE. I also have another link to photographs made by Paul Tierney for Architectural Archive. Please click HERE

Below are the ones I made over the last two visits. 

Church of the Annunciation in Finglas is the fourth church I am photographing. Third in Ireland. These are fascinating buildings with unique details and approach in the design itself.

Please have a look at photographs. Links below:

1. St Johannes XXIII catholic church, Cologne, Germany

2. Saint Fintan’s Church in Sutton, Dublin, Ireland

3. Our Lady Queen of Heaven Church at the Airport, Dublin, Ireland

Technical info: 

Most photographs were made with Rolleiflex T camera loaded with Ilford Delta 400 Pro film and later with Ilford Ortho 80, with filters yellow or red (depends on sunlight). Ilford Ortho 80 proved once again, its incredible quality - resolution and fantastic dynamic range. You can read my first impression of this film HERE

The last presented above (and previously on social media) image was exposed on 4x5 direct positive paper (Harman/Ilford) in a large format pinhole camera with perspective correction. 

Thank you! 

Using Format