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First time 5x4 buyer- Any tips?

I’m looking to buy a 5×4. Can anyone suggest a good camera to start learning on? I won’t be using it in a studio, but on location and will often be taking it abroad. Should I buy secondhand? Where is the best place to source one? Any tips would be gratefully received. Simon.

by Simon Roberts at 2006-07-28 15:09:24 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Brighton , United Kingdom | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Simon, I definitely suggest a foldable one. There are a vast range of brands and models, varying mostly in material/manufacturing quality and capacity of movements (it can be an issue or not depending on type of work). Bigger names are Walker, Gandolfi, Linhof, Ebony but there are also good middle-priced choices like Wista and Shen Hao.

I bought mine online in US at http://www.badgergraphic.com and shipped to France. They have a good scope with fair prices.

Good luck.

by JP | 28 Jul 2006 16:07 | Paris, France | | Report spam→
get a light one!
as for going second-hand,i would.its not a format that has been worked extensively on in recent years by the camera tech boys.if the technology has not advanced much in the last few years,then an old one should be just as good.also,they don’t usully get caned,unlike our slr’s,so old ones are by no means worn out.

by Michael Bowring | 28 Jul 2006 16:07 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
get a light one!
as for going second-hand,i would.its not a format that has been worked extensively on in recent years by the camera tech boys.if the technology has not advanced much in the last few years,then an old one should be just as good.also,they don’t usully get caned,unlike our slr’s,so old ones are by no means worn out.

by Michael Bowring | 28 Jul 2006 16:07 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
Don’t get one at all!

Get yerself a 1Ds Mk 2, a tilt/shift lens, a decent raw converter an’ stop messin’ abaht…

200MB 16-bit Tiff, straight outta the can with no coverging verticals?

OOOH! Suit you sir.

by [former member] | 28 Jul 2006 20:07 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Just what are you up to mate…?!?! Yeah, listen to Sion above….!…If you have to, then a Linhof Technika…..or, one of Norfolk’s cast offs…! ;-) S

by Steve Coleman | 29 Jul 2006 04:07 | Bangkok, Thailand | | Report spam→
buy a leornado 4×5 pinhole!

by Bill Putnam | 29 Jul 2006 06:07 | Portland, Oregon, United States | | Report spam→
I’d rather shoot a few frames, put the film in the lab and go for a beer (or bath Jemima if my wife’s reading this) than spend all night processsing digital files!

by Simon Roberts | 29 Jul 2006 06:07 | Brighton, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I recently used a Toyo 45AX and found it relatively compact, easy to use, and apparently they aren’t too expensive.

by Mike Morones | 29 Jul 2006 11:07 | Fredericksburg, VA, United States | | Report spam→
I know sod all about 5×4, but I’d estimate that most of the work needs to be done at the exposure stage. It would be when you come to print the neg that you’d be faffing about, or farming the neg out to a more expert faffer.

So processing the raw file would be a coupla button clicks at most, as you’re in effect ‘processing your negative’ in a digital deep tank.

Or better yet, set up an automated Photoshop action to process ‘em while you’re down the pu…er, attending to childcare needs.

Then take the file to a lab, just like a negative.

If ya wanna be a bit techie about it, you can acquire the raw file at different exposures, and then sandwich them together (with perfect alignment, as its the same file) to get a massive tonal range in the eventual picture. You can automate this in Photoshop as well.

Some large format photographers are beginning to talk about ‘unit of resolution against unit weight’…more simply, how much does a bunch of 5×4 film holders WEIGH when you’re tramping around Yosemite National Park (or in your case, lugging them through airport X-Rays) compared to digital capture? How much difference is the resolving power of each? And how much does it cost to expose and process 5×4 compared to film? If you look at it that way there’s very little room between them.

Getting that gorgeous 5×4 dynamic range look is a craft process rather than a process of image capture, and can be produced digitally. If your main concern is the craft elements of 5×4 as a process in itself (and I can see the attraction), then buying a 5×4 film camera is the route to go for.

However if your concern is producing beautiful images economically and efficiently, then digital capture is worth investigating. After all, the more you shoot, the cheaper it becomes…

I sometimes suspect people are shooting 5×4 just so they can say ’it’s on 5×4′, and are more concerned with the expectations and reactions of a particular audience to the image format, rather than the picture itself.

by [former member] | 29 Jul 2006 12:07 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I think you will end up spending more time getting dust off your scans than you did processing RAW files. I certainly did, which is why I sold mine. That and the fact that the images were going to end up as digtal files anyway. I agree with Sion: sandwiching RAW files can produce wonders. I stopped using 5×4 for the same reason I stopped printing in black and white – I realized nobody was going to pay me more because I had chosen to make life difficult for myself. And certainly not a price that reflected the effort that went into producing the photos.

by DPC | 29 Jul 2006 14:07 | Paris, France | | Report spam→
But is it not a bit unfair to compare a £4000 camera with one that can be bought for £600?

by Jonathan Biles | 29 Jul 2006 15:07 | Johannesburg, South Africa | | Report spam→
Not when you factor in the costs of the film and processing over time. A black and white 5×4 neg, hand processed and contacted in a lab, is about £10.00

So 340 5×4 images later and you’ve spent 4 grand. (600 quid plus 3400 quid).

That’s not a lot of images over the life of a camera used productively.

If you buy a 4 grand camera and shoot 400 high res, Raw, large bit depth usable images…the camera has effectively paid for itself.

You’ve either passed on the digital costs to clients, or you’ve ‘saved’ processing costs you’d have to pay when you’re shooting for yourself.

Either way, its more cost effective.

And you can use the camera for other purposes of course – take the tilt/shift lens off and it’s a reportage SLR again.

by [former member] | 29 Jul 2006 15:07 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
And dev and contact isn’t the end of it because you either have to scan the 5×4s yourself (definitely less pub time !) or pay to get them scanned.
Then you will have to get on with the real work because a straight scan will not satisfy you…
If you want to take advantage of the large film size, you will be making big scans and big scans need powerful computers and lots of disk space, all of which increases costs.

by DPC | 29 Jul 2006 16:07 | Paris, France | | Report spam→
Linhof Technika are great cameras. A little heavy but, I’ve used it for street awesome results the range finder is a bit hit and miss sometimes and higest shutter is 500 th of a sec. But, awesome love it will be buying one as soon as I can find one cheap enough. An alternative is the Speed graphic lighter, the old press cameras. Of the two I would go for the Linhof. It has more pan and tills and can double as a studio 5×4. Sion brings up a good point for the digi though.

by Bruce Meyer | 29 Jul 2006 16:07 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
I would suggest a clean Toyo 45A or 45AR for a modern camera or one of the numerous Linhof Technica models if you want something vintage.
I shoot more 1DsMkll raws,monthly,than I should and a few dozen 4×5 exposures.
Single image or stitched,the DSLRdigital files still don’t hold a candle to LF for certain applications or looks
without resorting to serious post processing time.It’s far more complex,to do convincingly, than running a couple of actions
Shooting with LF is a completely different shooting experience (and often a major pain) than DSLR and that,in and of itself is often beneficial if time,
situation,and willpower is there.
Check out this months National Geographic for the New Orleans article illustrated by David Burnett to see some examples of 4×5 view camera/vintage lens images.
Online,at Nat Geo,there also is a video featuring,and narrated,by Burnett where he talks about his LF experience,and gear used,in illustrating the article.

by [former member] | 30 Jul 2006 04:07 | Montreal, Canada | | Report spam→
Funnily enough I was looking at David Burnetts website yesterday because he’s one of my favourite photographers…particularly his recent taking up of 5×4 (just in case you all thought I was a pixel zealot). The website has pics from New Orleans taken with 5×4 images er…digitally stitched together :)

The Nat. Geo. video was interesting in that he says its ‘horses for courses’ as we say over here. If 5×4 is gonna give you what you’re after, crack on.

Personally however, without the bottomless financial resources of Nat. Geo or Time Magazine behind me, I’d have to be a little more practical. While surfing about I came across this:


which is a comparison of working methods between 5×4 and the 1Ds with a tilt/shift. Working with either one in this context is pretty labour intensive. Depends on what you want. I’d rather have the pictures in front of me than go through scanning etc, especially if I was shooting work out of my own pocket.

What made me smile was the New Orleans images on David Burnetts website were taken on 5×4...at wide open apertures. With the heavy vignetting and softness, for a second there I thought they’d been taken on a Holga…

by [former member] | 30 Jul 2006 12:07 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Crown Graphic or Speed Graphic cameras are great entry level view cameras that are reasonably priced, you can probably get one with a lens on ebay for around $300. You will never know until you try it.

by Bill Koplitz | 30 Jul 2006 12:07 | Falls Church, VA, United States | | Report spam→
Apart from David Burnett, my other favourite photographer is Weegee. Maybe I’m in denial…

by [former member] | 30 Jul 2006 13:07 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
thanks for the burnett connection.some of those hurricane aftermath pics are superb.those ones of the half buried cars are strange,somehow they look like models or toys,and oddly beautiful.to me,anyway,they evoke the brutal power of the storms more intimately/poetically than the pics of mass,widescale destruction.his portraits are the pups nuts too.

by Michael Bowring | 30 Jul 2006 13:07 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
Thanks for the tips everyone. I’ll let you know how my 5×4 experience goes.

by Simon Roberts | 31 Jul 2006 19:07 | Brighton, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Hi Simon.
just find an old lens mate and i’ll make you one out of an old packing case
warm regard nigel coleman

by Nigel Coleman | 01 Aug 2006 19:08 | northants, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
some years back there was a cambo cadet on sale, the cadet is a light 4×5 monorail that offers full tilt and shift and swings though it lacks all the rail/tilt and shift and swing markings.

by Billy Soh | 02 Aug 2006 03:08 | Singapore, Singapore | | Report spam→

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Simon Roberts, Photographer Simon Roberts
Brighton , United Kingdom
Rio De Janeiro , Brazil
Michael Bowring, photographer Michael Bowring
Belgrade , Serbia
Steve Coleman, BookDesigner|Photographer Steve Coleman
Bangkok , Thailand
Bill Putnam, Producer. Bill Putnam
Washington, D.C. , United States
Mike Morones, Photojournalist Mike Morones
Fredericksburg, Virginia , United States
DPC, Photographer DPC
Paris , France
Jonathan Biles, Jonathan Biles
Johannesburg , South Africa
Bruce Meyer, Photog/teacher Bruce Meyer
Tokyo , Japan
Bill Koplitz, Photographer, Writer Bill Koplitz
Photographer, Writer
(photographer, writer, video)
[undisclosed location].
Nigel Coleman, Nigel Coleman
London , United Kingdom
Billy Soh, Photographer Billy Soh
Singapore , Singapore


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