It finally happened, we’ve gone and branched into the wonderful world of large format photography! So what is large format, well for the most part we’ve been discussing cameras that take roll film, that is 35mm and medium format, large format cameras for the most part take sheet film, measured in inches rather than millimeters or centimeters.
Cameras featured on Today’s Show…
Speed Graphic: the classic press camera the Speed Graphic has a focal plane shutter that allows for press photographers to shoot quickly using a film magazine.
Crown Graphic: the cousin of the Speed Graphic, the only real difference is that the Crowns do not have a focal plane shutter.
Calumet CC400: The lone monorail view camera on today’s episode the camera itself is based on the Kodak Master View Camera.
Odd-Ball Lenses for Your 4×5
Large Format is probably the oldest format of photography around since it was the original format. Sure it’s moved from plates to flexable sheets of film. But the joys of being so old is that there are a pile of old, odd, and wonderful lenses that you can use with even your modern cameras.
You may thing he’s kidding but Mike really likes Rapid Rectilinear lenses. RR lenses are fairly simply optically, having only a front and rear element separated by air. The easiest way to spot an image shot on an RR lens is that you’ll note it’s soft around the edges.
EDIT: I know I could modify the text above, but that’s not something I will do as I was wrong in the podcast and the notes have to reflect the podcast. However I’d like to make a correction here and now. I was discussing Rapid Rectilinear and totally described Rapid Symmetrical lenses instead. A Rapid Symmetrical lens is a lens that contains only 2 elements, where as the Rapid Rectilinear lens contains 2 compound (4) elements, which you can see in the image below. (Mike)
Petzval Barrel Lenses
One of the oldest lens that still produces amazing images is Petzval lenses, first developed in 1840 and offered photographers a much faster lens than earlier optics. Today these remain highly sought after especially after the Lomography version was released.
Not everyone can afford a Jobo, and they don’t often just fall into your lap (unless you’re super lucky). So what other options do you have to process your 4×5 at home without sending it off to a lab.
Print Tank and Roller Base: Bessler produced a line of drum and roller bases designed to process colour prints. Since these are light tight, you can get a set on the cheap, usually around 30$ used. With a drum designed for 8×10 you can easily fit up to four sheets of 4×5 (providing you have the right spacer).
Trays: The classic way of doing things, but you will need a darkroom that is completly 100% light tight, you can’t even have the safe light on (unless you’re processing orthrochromatic films).
Hangers & Tanks: Another classic way of doing things and could be consider the best, but again you’ll need a 100% light tight room.
What films are available?
All the major players in the film manufacturing market (Kodak, Ilford, and Fuji) are all still producing large format films, mostly in 4×5 and 8×10. There is still some 5×7 kicking around. But both Ilford and Kodak offer odd sized films of most of their stocks. But it’s not just these three, Adox is back in the 4×5 market with their CHS 100 II, Foma continues to produce 4×5 and even introduced their new Retropan film (which Alex is looking forward to trying). Then there’s New55 who has produced a new 4×5 single-sheet instant film and single shot “quickload” film both require a Polaroid 545 or similar holder.
Looking for a good spot to get your gear and material fix…check out Burlington Camera, Downtown Camera, or Film Plus if you’re in the GTA region of Ontario, if you’re on the West Coast (British Columbia) check out Beau Photo Supply. Additionally you can order online at Argentix (Quebec), the Film Photography Project or Freestyle Photographic.