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Thread: 4x5 for portraits

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    Member MJMoore's Avatar
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    4x5 for portraits

    I am a portrait photographer that wants to try 4x5 - I have done some research and looked at lots of setups online (ie. vintage graflex, Cambo,etc).

    Can anyone with experience give me some guidance please -
    I want to shoot color and black and white - Will be processed at a pro lab - a Polaroid back would be nice
    What system could I shoot 4x5film and my Phase IQ140 back?


    Thanks
    Michael

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    The only 4x5 instant film that's left is the Fuji 3000 B&W. But you can get a holder that will allow you to use the 3.25x4.25 Fuji instant film in a 4x5 camera.

    A general point: the specifications for optimal use of 4x5 vs an IQ140 are so different that it's usually an awkward compromise at best to try to serve both purposes with one camera. And perfectly good used 4x5 cameras can be had for so little these days, that it wouldn't save much anyway.

    If you're going to be working in a studio, or at least going to particular locations, unpacking there and working for a while, it's reasonable and economical to start with a basic 4x5 monorail camera. My monorail kit is Sinar, but Toyo and Cambo/Calumet also have extensive systems and entry-level models that are very affordable used. There are excellent cameras from other brands too.

    Lots of info here...

    A large format photography home page

    ...and here:

    Large Format Photography Forum

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Michael....

    Have you considered shooting with a Fuji GX680?

    I used to shoot 4x5 and Fuji GX680 and in the end ended up dropping 4x5 in favor of the Fuji GX680 and 8x10.

    The Fuji GX 680 gives you tilt and shift and a reflex view finder. The lens being tilt shift lenses have a very similar look to 4x5 lenses.

    I also found that with the Fuji thanks to the reflex viewfinder I could compose nice an tight in camera and found that with the 4x5 I had to leave some breathing room due to having no reflex viewfinder and ended up with crops not that much larger than 6x8cm.

    You can also use your IQ140 on the Fuji GX680 with a kapture group adapter kit (I have one for sale). Lenses are far more suited to the IQ140 than 4x5 lenses.

    Here are a couple of examples of what I shoot with the Fuji gx680:











    And here is a polaroid shot with the GX680



    The system has lenses from 50mm to 500mm including a 100-200mm zoom lens and they all have tilt shift.



    Here is one of my Fuji GX680 cameras:



    IF you are interested in the Fuji system send me a PM with your email and I can send you a couple of PDF files that cover the system in detail.

    Prices on these cameras are really good. I can refer you to a great dealer from Japan that sells on ebay.
    Great gear and ships really fast despite the distance. (5 days to the USA)

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Fred, Wonderful portraits!
    Michael,
    You are going to get a lot of good 'common practice' advice to your question. Here's some 'non-common practice' advice from an old hack.
    Avoid monorail, you don't need the movements. Any field or folding camera will do as long as the front end can bear a heavy lens without wobble. That is, if you really want to do head-shots with a long lens. But I would humbly suggest avoiding head-shots with long lenses anyway. You need shoulders, elbows and hands for attitude. You get attitude from body perspective which implies having the camera at conversation distance and using a normal or slightly shorter lens (sorry, I shouldn't be telling you this).
    You need a Prontor press shutter on your lens so the only fuss is loading the film. If you don't have an assistant to load, Readyloads or similar make your relationship with the sitter a lot smoother. Before Readyloads, I used three Grafmatic six-shot film holders. They often turn up on eBay but make sure the innards are in good order.
    My favourite is an Ebony SW45 and a 135mm lens - the camera with least fuss ever.
    For many years I used the Cambo TW54 which comes with a 150 and a 250 lens - a sort of Gowlandflex. If you can find one, you will never regret it.
    Here's the twin-lens Cambo on someone else's site.
    Here are some of my portraits done on 4x5 with Cambo and Ebony .

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Downstairs...

    This is really beautiful!



    Unconventional pose and composition, yet not gimmiky in the slightest... so natural and rich.
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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    All I can say is BEAUTIFUL work guys!

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by FredBGG View Post
    ....

    IF you are interested in the Fuji system send me a PM with your email and I can send you a couple of PDF files that cover the system in detail....

    Hi Fred,

    Beautiful work. For some reason PM is not enabled under your account. Can you please PM with your email and I will email you back. I would be interested to learn more about the Fuji system.

    Thank you,
    Valentin

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Well basically any system with graflok back will support back adapter to your digital. From crappy fotodiox one for 399$ to freakishly priced but nice ones by K group.

    Depending on what you want to spend and what your final goals are - you choices are seriously vast in 4x5.
    Cheap Graflex, pricey Alpas, Folding cameras, rail cameras & etc.

    If you looking for light, flexible (movement wise) and one that won't need special bellows for wide angles - Chamonix is solid choice. But if you need precision movements - can't beat Technika (version V and up.. late IV may be). In rails - same Technikardan Linhof, Sinars..

    Then it depends if you want to spend money on shutters. If not - Sinar has interesting mount-in shutter, and Speed Graphic, while lacking movements , may offer blazing 1/1000s speeds with in-camera shutter , so you save a lot on lenses, but .. it depends if you really need to save, b/c new sharp ones aren't in barrels anyway

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Thanks everyone for the comments and suggestions - still on the hunt....

    Michael

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Michael,
    Digital backs require 4 times more precision than film. This due to many things not least that the digital capture device is a bout 1 micron thick and film emulsions are several thousandths thick. Also many 4x5 cameras are not nearly precise enough to accomodate the precision required. Arca Swiss has some advantages as to an excellent screen and precision. So you might look at our offerings.
    We also have technical cameras that can accomodate 4x5 and digital with the highest precision available. As you are speaking of portraits, I might add the speed of working with an RL3d or RM3di is also a worth while feature and the fact that wide angles are easily focused on these cameras verses trying to groundglass or screen focus is an added bonus.
    see the video: An introduction to Arca Swiss R cameras by Rod Klukas on Vimeo
    It is the lillte brother but there is a 4x5 model that operates the same.
    Hope this helps.
    Rod Klukas, US Representative
    Arca-Swiss International

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Dunno.. I keep hearing about tolerances and such.. but I used my Leaf (+ fotodiox back adapter) on back of Technika V and on back of SpeedGraphic.. Havent got around to check it on back of Chamonix. And i used old lenses, new lenses.. Never had a problem with tolerance. Whenever i was focused right - everything worked like a charm. Rodenstock 150mm was softer than wee 150mm Xenar , but thats just my usual luck.. Even had some shots done with funky petzvals, when was feeling mean

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    almost every portrait I ever did that I still like was done with a speed graphic that I got at a camera flea market for $300 when I was a student and couldn't afford anything else.

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits



    I went with an 8x10.....the journey begins!
    www.michaeljmoorephotography.com
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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Back when I was with an ad agency, the photographer who did the head shots for everyone shot them on a 4x5 with B&W polaroid. They were all great.

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Michael

    had a browse through your web site - some really sensitive portraits - really felt inspired by the boot maker guy - thanks.


    Mal

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by malmac View Post
    Michael

    had a browse through your web site - some really sensitive portraits - really felt inspired by the boot maker guy - thanks.


    Mal
    Thanks Mal!

    M

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by FredBGG View Post
    Michael....

    The Fuji GX 680 gives you tilt and shift and a reflex view finder. The lens being tilt shift lenses have a very similar look to 4x5 lenses.

    I also found that with the Fuji thanks to the reflex viewfinder I could compose nice an tight in camera and found that with the 4x5 I had to leave some breathing room due to having no reflex viewfinder and ended up with crops not that much larger than 6x8cm.

    You can also use your IQ140 on the Fuji GX680 with a kapture group adapter kit (I have one for sale). Lenses are far more suited to the IQ140 than 4x5 lenses.
    I know I'm replying to a very old post here but I'm curious about the supposed framing advantages of a reflex viewfinder over the ground glass of a 4 x 5 camera. Surely, with the ground glass, you'd be able to see the outer parts of the frame just as well and would be able to compose accordingly? After all, what you see is what you get! Unless I'm missing something?

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    The 4x5 is considerably slower, and for portraits much less versatile than is a reflex camera,.......the image on the screen is upside down for a start and then the shutter has to be closed and the film holder loaded either in place of the screen or in front of it, then the darkslide drawn out and shutter released to make exposure.......

    ........With most reflex cameras it's 'just' a matter of composing/focussing/waiting for the required image to form on the screen then gently pushing the button and winding on.

    That said, the best portrait users of 4x5 (and larger) usually adopt an 'eye to eye' relationship with the sitter and just trigger the peviously set up camera when they see the reaction or facial attitude that they are looking for,..so in that respect the 4x5 workflow could be said to be more intimate and personal.......if you read the post from 'downstairs' above you can learn from a master; none other than the world class British photographer Christopher Broadbent.

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by tribal-warrior View Post
    I know I'm replying to a very old post here but I'm curious about the supposed framing advantages of a reflex viewfinder over the ground glass of a 4 x 5 camera. Surely, with the ground glass, you'd be able to see the outer parts of the frame just as well and would be able to compose accordingly? After all, what you see is what you get! Unless I'm missing something?
    The main issue here isn't framing per se, it's release lag. With most large format cameras, once you have finished composing, you have to close the shutter, insert the film holder, pull the dark slide, cock the shutter, and only then make the exposure. If you've framed very tightly and are working with a living subject, there is a risk that while you're fussing the subject will move and mess up focus, composition or both. Roll film SLR cameras like the GX680 have release lag too, but much shorter.

    There are large format cameras that allow real-time viewing with the film holder in place - for example, technical and press cameras that allow focus by rangefinder, and twin-lens cameras like the Gowlandflex or the Cambo TWR. The tradeoff is that you're back to worrying about parallax, though with care this can be compensated. And there are large format SLRs like the Graflex, though these tend to be challenging to focus and have relatively slow mirror actions so that release lag is much longer than with a 35mm or medium format SLR.

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Valid points. Yes, I have considered those factors. Nevertheless, I have seen a small number of youtube videos where view cameras have been used to photograph portraits without finders etc. And the results are really nice. I guess the important thing is to tell the model to hold that pose and freeze like a statue.

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    For sure! I wouldn't argue against using a standard 4x5 view camera for portraiture. It's just a matter of setting realistic expectations - it will likely take a bit more practice to achieve a decent yield of good negatives. But when you do, the results can be very nice indeed.

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    It's just a matter of setting realistic expectations - it will likely take a bit more practice to achieve a decent yield of good negatives. But when you do, the results can be very nice indeed.
    Oh for sure. I wouldn't dream of jumping into portraits with a view camera straight away. I actually have very little experience with shooting portraits and using view cameras. Before even considering such a combination, I would start with getting sufficient practise with shooting portraits on digital. And also using a view camera with sheet film on static, non living subjects like still lifes and landscapes etc. Then after a period of time, I might be ready to tackle portraits with a view camera.

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    The GX680, in itself a unique camera, and a 4x5 camera are very different animals. The GX680 does however offer a great opportunity for practicing the use of movements at a more modest price, since it uses roll film (9 exposures per roll) and because the camera body and lenses can be had for very modest prices nowadays.

    Don't expect to feel the winds of classic camera works blowing through your hair though. The GX680 is a design from the nineties and a very modern camera with batteries and LCD displays.

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits




    ARCA SWISS + PS945 + Polaroid 55


    ARCA SWISS + PS945 + Polaroid 55


    --

    I have made a few portraits with 4x5" cameras and nice lenses.

    What I have found however, while most people are intrigued by the 'old type camera' they are sitting in front of, the experience of having to have them sit still while we go through our checklist of duties is not easy for them. So after going through it a few times before pulling the trigger, they still seem to feel out of sync with the experience. They really do have to freeze for a tiny bit, and that can come out looking unnatural IMO. There is a reason why a lot of the antique portraits of the past have unhappy faces staring back. Professional models are a different story and that is why they get paid for their talent. If I were a rich woman, I would hire beautiful male models to pose for me, but that is not possible.

    The two photos above are of my son and one of his friends. I had to direct them 100% and the best shots were the ones of them looking away from the camera, even tho I made a point of setting the camera up, and then standing next to the front standard to talk with them as I waited for the right moment to pull the trigger.

    Not being able to look at the ground glass prior to pulling the trigger can be expensive too. I have decades of experience shooting portraits with medium format cameras and that is where I do my film portraiture. But it is always fun whenever my non-photography friends come to my studio and marvel at my big cameras.

    Best of luck,
    Darr
    Website: photoscapes.com
    Photo Blog: darrlene.com
    Likes 2 Member(s) liked this post

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by MJMoore View Post


    I went with an 8x10.....the journey begins!
    Ok, this is years later but I checked out your website and this shot which I guess was made on 8x10.

    https://www.michaeljmoorephoto.com/Creative-Spaces/20

    I love this image in every way.

    Above all this image carries the nature of the relationship that happens when a photographer communicates with the sitter, this is something I think that is far more likely to get to this high level when shooting on a view camera. It also needs the right kind of sitter and relationship to start with of course.

    Then there is the precision of how you've used placement of the focal plane to create the image, making the key points the sitter and his self portrait. The way in which the paint brushes and other objects are rendered out of focus but not in some overt way creates the poetry.

    I've tried for years to capture this kind of image with digital backs on view cameras and smaller format cameras but its really tough to do. I've come close, but this is fabulous.

    There is a book called 'Portrait Theory' from the 1970's printed by Ralph Gibson's "Lustrum press" that has some imagery like this but its rare work, I wonder if you've seen it?

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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Lovely portraits !

    Use shoot with LF gear as well, not as my main camera, but often enough.
    I use the string method to nail the focus. Between the moment the camera is focused and the length of the string is set, the subjects can relax while I run through the checklist, and then have them pose only a couple of seconds before taking the shot. Hit rate (for focus) is about 90%, which is double of what it was without the string.

    Cheers,
    Charles

    Click image for larger version. 

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    --

    I have made a few portraits with 4x5" cameras and nice lenses.

    What I have found however, while most people are intrigued by the 'old type camera' they are sitting in front of, the experience of having to have them sit still while we go through our checklist of duties is not easy for them. So after going through it a few times before pulling the trigger, they still seem to feel out of sync with the experience. They really do have to freeze for a tiny bit, and that can come out looking unnatural IMO. There is a reason why a lot of the antique portraits of the past have unhappy faces staring back. Professional models are a different story and that is why they get paid for their talent. If I were a rich woman, I would hire beautiful male models to pose for me, but that is not possible.

    The two photos above are of my son and one of his friends. I had to direct them 100% and the best shots were the ones of them looking away from the camera, even tho I made a point of setting the camera up, and then standing next to the front standard to talk with them as I waited for the right moment to pull the trigger.

    Not being able to look at the ground glass prior to pulling the trigger can be expensive too. I have decades of experience shooting portraits with medium format cameras and that is where I do my film portraiture. But it is always fun whenever my non-photography friends come to my studio and marvel at my big cameras.

    Best of luck,
    Darr
    IG: charlessphoto
    Web: charles-s.com
    Likes 1 Member(s) liked this post

  27. #27
    Senior Member darr's Avatar
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    Re: 4x5 for portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles S View Post
    Lovely portraits !

    Use shoot with LF gear as well, not as my main camera, but often enough.
    I use the string method to nail the focus. Between the moment the camera is focused and the length of the string is set, the subjects can relax while I run through the checklist, and then have them pose only a couple of seconds before taking the shot. Hit rate (for focus) is about 90%, which is double of what it was without the string.

    Cheers,
    Charles

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Picture1.jpg 
Views:	13 
Size:	191.7 KB 
ID:	143748
    I remember years ago a student getting a job at a department store studio and that was how they were taught to setup the lights; via string and spot on the floor!
    Whatever works, works!

    Lovely photo Charles!

    Kind regards,
    Darr
    Website: photoscapes.com
    Photo Blog: darrlene.com
    Likes 1 Member(s) liked this post

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