Today’s post is on film. Yes, a medium I love very much. But this is not the film your grandparents used from the local drugstore. This is film is on the professional side , more so used to photography architecture, landscapes and portraits back when there were not as many photographers and you had to know how to use the settings on the camera…not auto focus nor the auto setting on today’s modern digital cameras.
I am also going to take in fact that most reading this have basic or very good understanding of ISO, Aperture, Shutter speed and dynamic range of film (negative) and digital cameras.
Now keep in mind, this is my opinion and my opinion only. I do not know everything there is to know about working with large format at all. These are just my observations thus far.
I am not going to go into the details and nuances of the inner workings of the system with it’s tilts, rises, falls and a whole lot more technical terms that can involve some crazy math (my least favorite subject). One particular formulation involves a beer mat (coaster for us Americans- Simon & Andrew)
I am also not going to go into the MANY different kinds and types of cameras, lens and variations that are still available today.
Some of you reading this, if you happen to follow the blog will not know what I am talking about. But you have seen one variation of a sorts in the movies. Just think of all the 40’s and 50’s movies or ones set in that time period with the reporters who were taking photos with the big flashes attached to the camera. That is just one of the Large format cameras still being used today.
So that’s more or less what a Large format film camera is. But the one last thing to know before I get into my thoughts on this are the camera and film sizes they still come in. They are as follows and this is the most widely available in sizes that can be ordered from websites on a normal basis. But there are also ones you can order up to ultra large format. You have mainly 4x5 and 8x10. Yes I mean inches, not mm. These produce very large negatives and can render beautiful prints. But there are larger. But for sanitie’s sake, I will stick to these two sizes.
About the lens selection, you will need to purchase a lens and lens board to mount the front of the camera. Not unlike 35mm and today’s professional level digital cameras. But with this you have to make sure that the lens will fit the 4x5 or 8x10 format to project the image onto the negative.
You may ask why I decided to delve into Large Format. Well the reason is very simple. I needed more of a challenge for my creative side more than Medium Format and 35 mm were giving me. The chance to actually have to “really” think about a shot before you take it and be very methodical. Lets face it. You only have as many shots as you have film holders. 1 film holder…2 shots. A lot less the any other format. So you have to invest in more than 1 film holder and hope you never get that client that wants 30 images from a LF session.
I mainly work with 4x5 for now. The images that follow were all shot on 4x5 camera made in 1940. That’s 80 years old folks.
Okay, so now onto why I think photographing with large format is better.
Bigger sensor (negative). Most modern full frame digital’s can’t beat the resolution.
Bigger megapixel file. 4x5 can capture up to 298.7 megapixels according to this wiki article. Translates into more data to work with when editing. Lets face it, even images were photoshoped back the day before there was photoshop.
No screen to look at afterwards. More interaction/connection with client or subject you are photographing.
Better dynamic range. Able recover more in post unless way underexposed. This applies to even digital photographs. But with the advent of new software…it can possibly be fixed. But better to get it right camera 1st.
You can shoot higher ISO films and not worry about the grain, unless you want grain. Which IMHO can make the image look better and more of a old time feel to it. Nostalgia. Digital noise is just a tad bit unsightly and not beautiful. Lets all face it, we have reduced noise on a digital image and it looks to soft or creamy. No one needs barbie skin.
Finally, it just makes me appreciate what came before digital and shows how we used to create images rather than just taking or snapping them.
Remember these are my opinions, not concrete must does and the gospel of film or digital photography. These are just the things I have seen and experienced on my journey learning a new medium.
So now enjoy the images. All were created on a Burke and James: Watson field camera with a Zeiss Ikon Jena 150mm (15cm) f3.5 lens.
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55b043d3e4b0c8f53a9d2928/1573144243774-MFZRWC3CNW5XW6A1S7F9/BT_AtomicX_4x5_oct19_1.jpg" alt="New 55 Atomic X, ISO 100 4x5 Film" />
New 55 Atomic X, ISO 100 4x5 Film
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55b043d3e4b0c8f53a9d2928/1573144320610-DMUNGDWHLMVDYHJU0XFJ/AI_p160_4x5_1_1.jpg" alt="Kodak Portra 160, 160 ISO 4x5 Film" />
Kodak Portra 160, 160 ISO 4x5 Film
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55b043d3e4b0c8f53a9d2928/1573144384023-9Q6SPS2U5SZJ0PMWH4OO/ReReLaLa_BJ4x5_HP5_aug19_1.jpg" alt="Ilford HP5+, 400 ISO 4x5 Film" />
Ilford HP5+, 400 ISO 4x5 Film
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55b043d3e4b0c8f53a9d2928/1573144503229-ZFWM42CB0OTSCKED8KPX/ektachrome_4x5_2.jpg" alt="Kodak Ektachrome Slide Film (expired) 100 ISO 4x5 Film" />
Kodak Ektachrome Slide Film (expired) 100 ISO 4x5 Film
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55b043d3e4b0c8f53a9d2928/1573144596003-GYWE2TELX86ZW6KANXJQ/Cavern+Theater_oct19_B%26J4x5_p160_1.jpg" alt="Kodak Portra 160, 160 ISO 4x5 Film" />
Kodak Portra 160, 160 ISO 4x5 Film