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 

Using Format