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Thread: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

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    Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    A number of years ago, I bought a large format view camera from a camera market in rough condition for about $60. It's some kind of old wooden field camera. I don't know much about it but was told that some wood near the back was missing and that I needed to make a replacement from scratch though I don't know the specifics or exact details. To be honest, I don't even know what film format it takes. All I know is that the format it's designed for is larger than 4 x 5. In all likelyhood, It's probably a 5 x 7 camera but there's a slim chance it could be an 8 x 10. It's been years since Ive seen it. It didn't come with a lens and the ground glass is broken.

    To be honest, I'm not sure if it's in my possession anymore. It was in storage for a long time but I haven't seen it in years. I hope someone didn't throw it out. I'm going to have a look for it today. The origin plan was to buy a reducing back for it so that I could shoot 4 x 5 film with it. However, Ive discovered that in general, reducing backs are pretty pricey. Then again, there is the option to build my own or adapt an existing back obtained from elsewhere. Though as I don't know a lot about these types of cameras, I would have no idea how to attach it and I guess the camera's original back (including the ground glass) would need to be removed?

    After a bit more research, I wonder if it's really worth using this camera to shoot 4 x 5. Some say there are advantages of using larger format cameras for 4 x 5 because you have more bellows to use longer lenses. Though later down the track, I would like to use wide angle lenses on 4 x 5 like 90mm, or maybe even 75mm. And Ive heard it's harder to use the shorter focal length lenses on cameras designed for larger formats (generally more restrictive.) Would it make better sense just to buy a dedicated 4 x 5 camera?

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    Senior Member darr's Avatar
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    Re: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    What type of photography is it you do or want to do?
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    Re: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    Quote Originally Posted by darr View Post
    What type of photography is it you do or want to do?
    Primarily landscapes. I would probably use a standard lens in 4 x 5 (150mm lens etc) a great deal of the time. Only on occasions, would I use a longer lens. Though I'd probably use a wider lens a bit more often than a longer lens when it comes to landscapes.

    Ive also considered using 4 x 5 for portraits later down the track. Though currently, I don't actually shoot portraits on any format or medium. Portraits are something I'm interested in getting into one day when I can successfully get people to model for me (perhaps via Instagram as some photographers do.) Regardless, I would start shooting portraits on digital M4/3 and possibly large format film later on. Evidently, longer lenses are recommended for portraits. However, I wouldn't mind using a standard lens for compositions which incorporate the upper torso and head. Regardless, portraits wouldn't be something I'd shoot on a regular basis.

    By the way, I had a look for this wooden view camera in the storage room but didn't have any luck. There's a small chance it might be there as there are some boxes below and behind other boxes and hard to gain access to. I'll have another look another time. Such a camera would come in handy for my idea of shooting 6 x 17cm (using sheet film as usual but cropping the image to 6 x 17 in post.) It would save me from having to build a camera just for that purpose. Though I'm not sure if it's worth the hassle of acquiring a reducing back for it to shoot 4 x 5 as well or if it would be better to get a 4 x 5 camera.
    Last edited by tribal-warrior; 25th August 2019 at 02:01.

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    Senior Member darr's Avatar
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    Re: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    Quote Originally Posted by tribal-warrior View Post
    Primarily landscapes. I would probably use a standard lens in 4 x 5 (150mm lens etc) a great deal of the time. Only on occasions, would I use a longer lens. Though I'd probably use a wider lens a bit more often than a longer lens when it comes to landscapes.
    If landscapes is a priority, then assume you will need a camera that will handle a standard wide lens without problems.

    Quote Originally Posted by tribal-warrior View Post
    Ive also considered using 4 x 5 for portraits later down the track. Though currently, I don't actually shoot portraits on any format or medium. Portraits are something I'm interested in getting into one day when I can successfully get people to model for me (perhaps via Instagram as some photographers do.) Regardless, I would start shooting portraits on digital M4/3 and possibly large format film later on. Evidently, longer lenses are recommended for portraits. However, I wouldn't mind using a standard lens for compositions which incorporate the upper torso and head. Regardless, portraits wouldn't be something I'd shoot on a regular basis.
    To keep the option opened for portraits with a 4x5", add a lens between 210-250mm and a camera with enough bellows draw to your list.

    Quote Originally Posted by tribal-warrior View Post
    By the way, I had a look for this wooden view camera in the storage room but didn't have any luck. There's a small chance it might be there as there are some boxes below and behind other boxes and hard to gain access to. I'll have another look another time. Such a camera would come in handy for my idea of shooting 6 x 17cm (using sheet film as usual but cropping the image to 6 x 17 in post.) It would save me from having to build a camera just for that purpose. Though I'm not sure if it's worth the hassle of acquiring a reducing back for it to shoot 4 x 5 as well or if it would be better to get a 4 x 5 camera.
    To do 6x17cm on a 4x5" requires a 6x17cm roll film back. If you shoot with a 5x7" camera, you could crop from 5x7" film, but 5x7" film is no longer available AFAIK, other than x-ray film. You would have to buy larger film (8x10") and cut it down to size which would be expensive. You might be able to get a 5x7" camera cheaper bc of the lack of film availability, and hopefully it will come with a 4x5" reducing back.

    So if you cannot find your camera that has been put in storage, it sounds like you need a basic 4x5" that can handle 90-250mm lenses (depending upon camera type, a 75mm lens may require the front bed to drop) and a 6x17cm back. I have a 6x17cm back and it is built like a tank, so I would recommend a metal camera first (I shoot a Linhof MT) or a very solid wood camera second. Whatever you get it should have a Graflok back that can handle the attachment of a 6x17 roll film back.

    Hope this helps, and looking forward to what others may share.

    Kind regards,
    Darr
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    Re: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    Quote Originally Posted by darr View Post

    To do 6x17cm on a 4x5" requires a 6x17cm roll film back. If you shoot with a 5x7" camera, you could crop from 5x7" film, but 5x7" film is no longer available AFAIK, other than x-ray film. You would have to buy larger film (8x10") and cut it down to size which would be expensive. You might be able to get a 5x7" camera cheaper bc of the lack of film availability, and hopefully it will come with a 4x5" reducing back.
    Seeing that 5 x 7 is a bit of an obscure format and that demand for shooting it hasn't been all that great, I expected that the choice of film stocks would be pretty limited. Though I didn't know that it had gotten this bad. There was another thread where someone mentioned some cheap prices for black & white 5 x 7 film but maybe they were referring to x-ray film. And no Fomapan in 5 x 7? Regardless, although I like the idea of shooting black & white landscapes in 4 x 5, I would prefer 6 x 17cm panoramics in colour. I know that some colour neg films are available for 5 x 7 on special order but I imagine the cost would be prohibitively high. I do like the idea of shooting 6 x 17 on 120 film with a wide range of film stocks to choose from. And yea Ive considered those 6 x 17 roll film holders before for view cameras. Certainly not cheap equipment but far cheaper than buying a dedicated 6 x 17 panoramic camera.

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    Senior Member darr's Avatar
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    Re: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    Quote Originally Posted by tribal-warrior View Post
    Seeing that 5 x 7 is a bit of an obscure format and that demand for shooting it hasn't been all that great, I expected that the choice of film stocks would be pretty limited. Though I didn't know that it had gotten this bad. There was another thread where someone mentioned some cheap prices for black & white 5 x 7 film but maybe they were referring to x-ray film. And no Fomapan in 5 x 7? Regardless, although I like the idea of shooting black & white landscapes in 4 x 5, I would prefer 6 x 17cm panoramics in colour. I know that some colour neg films are available for 5 x 7 on special order but I imagine the cost would be prohibitively high. I do like the idea of shooting 6 x 17 on 120 film with a wide range of film stocks to choose from. And yea Ive considered those 6 x 17 roll film holders before for view cameras. Certainly not cheap equipment but far cheaper than buying a dedicated 6 x 17 panoramic camera.
    I just checked B&H Photo for 5x7" film and there is a selection of B&W available, but no color.
    I read a post from 2017 over at Photrio that "Keith Canham periodically organizes special orders of 5x7 Portra 160 and Portra 400 from Kodak."

    So it might be available from time-to-time, but would definitely do some research before I commit myself to the 5x7" format.
    I had a Wisner 5x7" Technical camera many years ago that I disliked. It was actually an 8x10" in size and weight.
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    Re: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    Quote Originally Posted by darr View Post
    So it might be available from time-to-time, but would definitely do some research before I commit myself to the 5x7" format.
    The 5 x 7 format is having less and less appeal to me. I think a versatile 4 x 5 camera seems like more of a logical choice. The only benefit I see from 5 x 7 is cropping it to 6 x 17cm and saving the cost of buying a 6 x 17 film holder.

    Quote Originally Posted by darr View Post
    I had a Wisner 5x7" Technical camera many years ago that I disliked. It was actually an 8x10" in size and weight.
    Out of curiosity, was it the weight and size that you disliked? I'm still not sure whether my view camera is 5 x 7 or 8 x 10. It was quite large unfolded but folded up, it wasn't all that bulky and I don't recall it being heavy. As I didn't have a car, I had to carry it home from the camera market on foot (walking.) And it was a fair distance. I don't recall that being a struggle.

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    Senior Member darr's Avatar
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    Re: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    Quote Originally Posted by tribal-warrior View Post
    Out of curiosity, was it the weight and bulkiness that you disliked? I'm still not sure whether my view camera is 5 x 7 or 8 x 10. It was quite large unfolded but folded up, it wasn't all that bulky and I don't recall it being heavy. As I didn't have a car, I had to carry it home from the camera market on foot (walking.) And it was a fair distance.
    It was the weight of the camera and the flimsy bellows extension of the 5x7" Wisner Technical I did not like. It remains as the only camera I ever had trouble using. Shortly after I received the camera, I had to give Ron Wisner a call because the bellows would jump the rail every so often while extended, and it was not an easy fix to get them back on track. My husband had to fix it for me, so if he was not in town (travelled with his job), I was out-of-luck. I went back to a monorail after that, and felt that particular camera had poor workmanship and design. I remember seeing drips in the stain and thought how sloppy can this builder be? I bought it from a dealer and they took it back.

    The only other wood view cameras I have owned are Ebony cameras. While they are a beautiful camera to look at, and to use under good weather conditions, I stick to metal for stability. I really liked my Ebony SW the best, but I do not know how it would handle my 6x17 film back bc it truly is a light camera. I bought myself a Linhof Technika and have not looked back. You can pick up used ones for a decent price over new ones.

    I have owned and used many different cameras, and what I value most is stability.
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    Re: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    Quote Originally Posted by tribal-warrior View Post
    There was another thread where someone mentioned some cheap prices for black & white 5 x 7 film but maybe they were referring to x-ray film.
    No, I wasn't talking about x-ray film.

    Quote Originally Posted by tribal-warrior View Post
    And no Fomapan in 5 x 7?
    Foma offers four different emulsions in 5x7.

    The manufacturers who still supply B&W sheet film all produce 5x7 as a regular stock item, and fresh B&W film is readily available from stock at major retailers that still serve the sheet film market. Go look at the retailers' websites - B&H, Adorama, Freestyle, Fotoimpex, Silverprint, etc. - to see what is actually available.

    FWIW, I regularly shoot HP5 Plus in 5x7, with a Nagaoka wooden field camera that weighs all of 3.75 pounds and lenses that, for the most part, do double-duty with 4x5.
    Last edited by Oren Grad; 25th August 2019 at 08:52.

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    Re: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    No, I wasn't talking about x-ray film.

    FWIW, I regularly shoot HP5 Plus in 5x7, with a Nagaoka wooden field camera that weighs all of 3.75 pounds and lenses that, for the most part, do double-duty with 4x5.
    It's great that we have a decent selection of b&w film stocks in 5 x 7. Out of curiosity, do you ever have any issues using wide angle lenses intended for 4 x 5 on the Nagaoka 5 x 7 camera?

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    Re: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    The format diagonal for 5x7 is 210mm, so that's the minimum image circle needed.

    Keep in mind that a given focal length is substantially wider on 5x7 than it is on 4x5. For example, 150mm, which is dead normal (going by the format diagonal, roughly equivalent to a 43 on 35mm) on 4x5, behaves like a 31 on 5x7.

    That said, among modern lenses, 90mm wide-angle designs are generally the shortest 4x5 lenses that will cover 5x7 - the slow ones (e.g. f/8 Super-Angulon, f/6.8 Grandagon) just barely, the faster ones with some wiggle room. Most 90's will need a center filter to avoid severe illumination falloff on 5x7. Again, though, keep in mind that a 90 on 5x7 is roughly comparable to an 18 on 35mm, which is really ultrawide.

    The shortest modern lens designed to cover 5x7 is the 72mm Super-Angulon XL.

    For something wider than 150 but not ultrawide, the best choices for 5x7 are wide-angle lenses like the 115 Grandagon, 120 Super-Angulon, or 120 Nikkor SW.

    My compact field kit built around the 5x7 Nagaoka currently has two lenses - 210mm Sironar-N for normal and 150mm Apo-Sironar (no letter designation, but the design with 80-degree coverage that was the predecessor to the Apo-Sironar-W) for wide. I've also used my 90mm f/6.8 Caltar II-N (Grandagon) on the Nagaoka. If I were taking the 5x7 kit on an outing where I expected to need something wider than 150 but not crazy-wide, I'd add my 115 Sinaron W (Grandagon).

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    Senior Member JoelM's Avatar
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    Re: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    Am I missing something here? You can't shoot 6x17 on a 4x5, right? I always used my 8x10. Suppose it would fit on a 5x7.

    Joel

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    Senior Member darr's Avatar
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    Re: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    Quote Originally Posted by JoelM View Post
    Am I missing something here? You can't shoot 6x17 on a 4x5, right? I always used my 8x10. Suppose it would fit on a 5x7.

    Joel
    Hi Joel,
    You can use a 6x17 panoramic roll film back on a 4x5".
    Here is an example I made recently with a Shen Hao SH617 Panorama Film back and my Linhof MT 3000 and Delta 100.

    Kind regards,
    Darr




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    Re: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    Ive looked at Linhof but their camera products seem to very expensive - way more than what I would be willing to spend.

    What are peoples thoughts on Rittreck cameras? There doesn't seem to be a lot of information about them online. The one in the video below seems to be pretty limited in movements with regards to the front standard - according to the poster. Though one of the comments left for the video suggests that swing is possible on the front standard. I'm assuming that using shift on the rear standard is no different to doing shift on the front standard of a camera?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5A_fa4h-7k&t=1s

    I do find it odd that when the operator demonstrated tilt on the rear standard, he only tilted it by the tiniest amount - less than a few mm. I see now that he was referring to 'micro tilt' but it would have been nice if he showed regular tilt as well with the full range of movement. I did read that these cameras use a different type of lens board that is not a common standard among view cameras. So they may be tricky to get hold of and looking at photos of Rittreck cameras, I can't really see how they would attach.

    On the positive side, the Rittreck cameras are nicely priced and appear to be well made and solidly built. Though on the other hand, they do appear to have some unusual design features that are non-standard and there may be some restrictions on some of the movements.
    Last edited by tribal-warrior; 26th August 2019 at 21:23.

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    Re: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    I owned a Rittreck View outfit for a while. The words that come to mind are "old-fashioned heavy metal" - the camera is mildly klunky in design and weighs something like 8 pounds, maybe more - don't remember exactly. Its main claim to distinctive utility is that it supports a wide array of formats via interchangeable backs. Natively it's a 5x7 camera, but the company also offered 4x5 inch and 6x9 cm reducing backs as well as expansion backs for whole plate, sort-of-6x10 and 8x10. My outfit included the 4x5, 5x7, whole plate and sort-of-6x10 backs. The expansion backs place some limitations on usable focal lengths because of vignetting caused by the geometry of the back extension - just like with the 4x5-6x17cm backs we've been talking about.

    That said, if you don't mind lugging the weight, it certainly is a perfectly usable 5x7 camera at prices that currently are generally quite attractive.

    Don't sweat the lens board - if you have trouble finding enough native boards you can get a Technika board adapter for it.

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    Senior Member JoelM's Avatar
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    Re: Possibility of reducing backs for shooting 4 x 5

    Quote Originally Posted by darr View Post
    Hi Joel,
    You can use a 6x17 panoramic roll film back on a 4x5".
    Here is an example I made recently with a Shen Hao SH617 Panorama Film back and my Linhof MT 3000 and Delta 100.

    Kind regards,
    Darr




    Okay, I see. Then the lens needs to cover more than 5 inches and the back needs to be removed so that you can reach nearly 7 inches.

    Thanks!
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