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Thread: View Camera for Studio Thoughts

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    Question View Camera for Studio Thoughts

    Hey everyone.

    I am going to be taking on work with a big creative agency that covers major brands and I am slowly making my way to a view camera for my studio work. In doing so I have realized I don't see a lot of resources online regarding the move. More specifically I want to up my capabilities as it relates to product photography and food, (think commercial advertising big brands). I've searched high and low trying to get a better understanding of the pros and cons but have come up fairly empty. As an aside I am shooting with a P1 XF/IQ3 100 now and am looking to purchase the Arca Swiss M Two.

    A couple of questions that come to mind:

    1) When working with a client that wants a particular shot/focus, what other option do you have if stacking doesn't work out? There are obviously limitations with a standard camera and DOF issues and not having to shoot wide and crop in losing valuable pixels to achieve a look. Stacking can help with this but we know that it's hit or miss at times. The only other solution I can think of is using a view camera. Am I wrong?I understand that a view camera has its own limitations as well but would seem to be a home run in post by getting it in one shot vs. many.

    2) Are there a lot of commercial pros using these cameras in this space? If not, how do they achieve the images they may be requested to capture if they are limited with the current system (as above and aside from massive PS work on the backend)

    3) Let's assume its not necessary. Does this say that view cameras for these assignments are going the way of the Dodo?

    If there are any resources you can point me to I would appreciate it. Of course your feedback is always welcome especially from those that are shooting the work yourselves.

    I feel that bringing this capability in house will help differentiate me from others and provide more options. What I don't want is for them to ask me to get a certain shot and I don't have the ability to make it work as they see it. Also, my wife just thinks I want to spend money but what else is new!

    Thanks in advance!
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    Re: View Camera for Studio Thoughts

    As you're aware, for some photos -- and for some types of photography generally -- the use of in-camera movements is required to achieve optimal results. No ifs, ands, or buts.

    For the vast majority of photos, though, they are not required.

    When in-camera movements are required, there is no substitute for using a view camera ... period!

    They allow the photographer to do things that simply cannot be done (or even mimicked, let alone mimicked well) using a conventional camera.

    But when they aren't required, using a view camera can actually lead to achieving sub-optimal results.

    The key is precision. Or more specifically, the lack thereof.

    High-resolution digital photography can be merciless when it comes to revealing even very tiny alignment errors in the camera gear being used.

    With film, images are captured using a three-dimensional recording medium, which inherently provides the photographer with a "fudge-factor" by setting the ultimate resolution limit low enough that small alignment / focus errors will not be visible, hence effectively disappear.

    But digital sensors are effectively a two-dimensional recording medium, hence they provide the photographer with no fudge-factor whatsoever. This means even very small alignment / focus errors will be accurately captured by the sensor and are (potentially, at least) visible.

    And therein lies the rub, which is that in-camera movements do not come with an on/off switch!

    The same in-camera movements that make some photographs possible can also ruin other photos when they're not required and are applied unintentionally.

    That's because the degree of mechanical precision that can be brought to bear using even the best view cameras available today simply isn't sufficient to completely zero-out or neutralize in-camera movements when they're not needed.

    Being able to apply movements when you need them is great, but having them imposed upon you when they're not needed sucks, big time.

    Worse, due to the smaller formats used by digital cameras, shorter focal length lenses are used to achieve the same FoV as compared to the longer lenses used with larger format film, which has the knock-on effect of proportionally reducing the amount of tilt and swing movements that are required to achieve the same effect.

    Even using geared movements, the degree of accuracy required to apply very small amounts of tilt or swing in some situations can be impossible to achieve or to achieve consistently and reliably.

    And this is especially true when one is photographing in the field, where the resources -- say, tethering the camera to a large, high-res monitor -- and/or luxury of time needed to confirm the accurate application of movements (and its corollary, which is the absence of unintended movements) are simply not available.

    Fortunately, rise / fall / shift movements are much, much easier for the manufacturers of cameras to implement and also much easier for the photographers who need them to use them, hence the proliferation of pancake-type technical cameras, which eliminate those potentially problematic tilt and shift movements altogether.

    Plus, for many photographers -- myself included! -- rise / fall / shift movements are often the only in-camera movements that are really required. For example, I tweak my camera's rear rise / fall movement by some amount for literally every photo I take with it, but I can't recall the last time I felt the need to apply a tilt or swing movement.

    Which is the reason why I ultimately found myself moving away from using my digital view camera after I spent a fair amount of time and money to create it. <shrug>

    Because for the type of photography I do -- urban and suburban street and alley scenes photographed late night using long exposures -- and with the increasing resolution of the digital sensors I use to do it, I found myself spending more time trying to avoid the unintentional application of tilt and swing movements than I did their intentional application!

    And since I work in the field, not a studio, this was all the more difficult, despite the many steps I took to improve my odds (such as adding a large, external HDMI monitor to my outfit, so I could better see the effects of tilt and swing movements -- or confirm their absence! -- pre-exposure, instead of only after I have returned home and am reviewing my files on my 27" high-res monitor and there's no chance to re-take a ruined photo.)

    Mind you, I'm merely a hobbyist, so I don't absolutely, positively have to get the shot in order to pay my bills. And for the same reason, I often find that working within and/or around limitations can add to the fun of photography!

    Anyway, with all that as background, to answer your questions: Yes, knowing how to effectively work with a view camera is a specialized skill and possessing more skills is generally a good thing for those who make a living providing services to others.

    Unfortunately, it's also a skill for which it seems there is increasingly less commercial demand, which means one needs to very carefully calculate the ROI that can be achieved when selling this service compared to others.

    If there is a need for a photographer possessing this skill in your market and you can tap into that demand at profitable rates, then by all means, go for it!

    But also remember that he who lives by the sword often dies by the sword, hence trying to use a digital view camera when its unique attributes are not needed is almost certainly doomed to be both very frustrating as well as a commercial failure.

    Good luck!

    P.S.: If you're not aware of it, check out the Large Format Forum at https://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/forum.php
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    Senior Member dchew's Avatar
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    Re: View Camera for Studio Thoughts

    Quote Originally Posted by Mapkos13 View Post
    Hey everyone.

    I am going to be taking on work with a big creative agency that covers major brands and I am slowly making my way to a view camera for my studio work. In doing so I have realized I don't see a lot of resources online regarding the move. More specifically I want to up my capabilities as it relates to product photography and food, (think commercial advertising big brands). I've searched high and low trying to get a better understanding of the pros and cons but have come up fairly empty. As an aside I am shooting with a P1 XF/IQ3 100 now and am looking to purchase the Arca Swiss M Two.
    It is interesting you mentioned food. One of the best local food photographers here in Cleveland uses Nikon/Phase DSLRs; not a technical or view camera in the studio:
    https://www.burklehagen.com

    Same with Jeff Kauck in Chicago:
    https://www.jeffkauckphotography.com

    In my opinion, food photography is one of the most difficult subjects to shoot. Prep, stylists and timing are so critical; let alone the photographic technical side.

    A couple of questions that come to mind:

    1) When working with a client that wants a particular shot/focus, what other option do you have if stacking doesn't work out? There are obviously limitations with a standard camera and DOF issues and not having to shoot wide and crop in losing valuable pixels to achieve a look. Stacking can help with this but we know that it's hit or miss at times. The only other solution I can think of is using a view camera. Am I wrong? I understand that a view camera has its own limitations as well but would seem to be a home run in post by getting it in one shot vs. many.
    Based on the watch images you've uploaded, I think you already know the answer: the one thing that is difficult to do with focus stacking, but not impossible, is a narrow DoF not aligned with the film/sensor plane. Here is a (bad) example of an outtake from a product shoot where they wanted the focal plane at an angle but the front/back out of focus. Of course a Canon 90mm tilt shift could have done it too (unless you need both tilt and swing at the same time):


    Here is another where I had to do a combination of tilt and stacking. Tilt got the plane of focus aligned with the samples. Because the shot required a large amount of tilt, the DoF wedge was really narrow. Probably 5-6 degrees tilt with a 150mm lens. So in addition to tilt, I still had to stack to get the curves in the leather all sharp:


    I am not sure what you mean by, "...not having to shoot wide and crop in losing valuable pixels to achieve a look." I can understand examples of rise/fall where taking a wide angle and cropping after eliminates the need for shift movements, but I don't understand in the context of DoF, which is dependent on camera - subject distance, not cropped wide angle vs uncropped telephoto. Maybe you could explain what you mean here?

    2) Are there a lot of commercial pros using these cameras in this space? If not, how do they achieve the images they may be requested to capture if they are limited with the current system (as above and aside from massive PS work on the backend)

    3) Let's assume its not necessary. Does this say that view cameras for these assignments are going the way of the Dodo?
    I really don't know. Aside from architecture, my guess is most studios these days are like Burkle Hagen. Steve and Doug would have to chime in on how often view cameras are used for the product photography we see with "major brands." Again my opinion, but the view camera went the way of the Dodo in the early part of the last century when Kodak introduced the Brownie, Oskar turned cinema film sideways and Hasselblad (and others) made medium format accessible to the masses. Our little corner here on GetDPI is a pretty small slice of photography.

    If there are any resources you can point me to I would appreciate it. Of course your feedback is always welcome especially from those that are shooting the work yourselves.
    Since you mention the M-2, I assume you are not talking about large format view cameras, but the MF and smaller options. Regardless, I do think there are plenty of resources online.
    http://www.trenholm.org/hmmerk/
    https://www.largeformatphotography.info
    https://paulturounetblog.files.wordp...-movements.pdf
    https://sites.evergreen.edu/politica...italGuide1.pdf
    Not to mention Ansel's The Camera.
    You may already know most of those sources. Most of them are discussing large format, but I think it still applies even to 35mm sensors with the exception of how to use ground glass.

    I feel that bringing this capability in house will help differentiate me from others and provide more options. What I don't want is for them to ask me to get a certain shot and I don't have the ability to make it work as they see it. Also, my wife just thinks I want to spend money but what else is new!

    Thanks in advance!
    It might in specific situations. My wife works at Nestle in a group that, among other responsibilities, handles photography for their "major brands." Those shoots are full-on productions. Not only the photographer's resources like cooks, food stylists, prop stylists, photographers... but the number of Nestle employees on-site: Graphics, marketing, outside creative agency, in-house social media reps, blah blah. What these companies want is high quality and efficiency when that many resources are being expended each day. One reason Burkle Hagen uses the XF is because of its implementation of focus stacking; just more efficient for them.

    Dante may run me out of town for this, but I think there are much more important aspects on which to differentiate yourself than whether or not you can isolate DoF on a particular shot. And in most cases, the Canikon T/S will get the job done. But, if you love using the view camera approach then that is all that really matters. I could certainly do all the images I need with 35mm equipment, but I just bought a used Actus to make my product setups more efficient vs the pancake technical camera I use for landscape. My wife thinks the same thing your wife does. They may very well be right.

    Dave
    How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! - John Muir

    davechewphotography.com

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    Re: View Camera for Studio Thoughts

    Lot's of wisdom above. Perhaps view cameras are disappearing because they are not often cost effective. I had a group of local pro photographers hanging around the other day and they were puzzling over the movements on my cameras. This group of nice and talented young people were actually ignorant of the whole concept of movements. Doesn't enter into their weddings, baby shoots, fast real estate, etc. If I were looking at offering product shots or architecture, where movements are sometimes of real benefit, the expensive part would not be the equipment. Given the skill set out there today, it would be training the help. Not a problem for an internal corporate application, but definitely an issue for the small independent.

    I use my AS Monolith for most of what I do. That's because I am an absolute dilettante with all the time in the world. If I were forced to feed myself with the work (I would starve), I would probably not even use MF. In particular, I would have a very hard time finding clients willing to pay enough to justify my offering of MF capabilities, never mind MF on a view camera.

    If your talent and rep is such that you can charge premium rates, go for it. Use 8 x 10 film or complex camera technologies as your hook and become rich and famous. Otherwise, be careful.

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    Re: View Camera for Studio Thoughts

    Quote Originally Posted by Audii-Dudii View Post
    As you're aware, for some photos -- and for some types of photography generally -- the use of in-camera movements is required to achieve optimal results. No ifs, ands, or buts.

    For the vast majority of photos, though, they are not required.

    When in-camera movements are required, there is no substitute for using a view camera ... period!

    They allow the photographer to do things that simply cannot be done (or even mimicked, let alone mimicked well) using a conventional camera.

    But when they aren't required, using a view camera can actually lead to achieving sub-optimal results.

    The key is precision. Or more specifically, the lack thereof.


    ...

    And therein lies the rub, which is that in-camera movements do not come with an on/off switch!

    The same in-camera movements that make some photographs possible can also ruin other photos when they're not required and are applied unintentionally.

    That's because the degree of mechanical precision that can be brought to bear using even the best view cameras available today simply isn't sufficient to completely zero-out or neutralize in-camera movements when they're not needed.

    Being able to apply movements when you need them is great, but having them imposed upon you when they're not needed sucks, big time.

    ...

    Even using geared movements, the degree of accuracy required to apply very small amounts of tilt or swing in some situations can be impossible to achieve or to achieve consistently and reliably.
    A great post, but there is one camera that comfortably handles all the issues you raise.

    http://www.capcam.org

    Kind regards,


    Gerald.

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    Re: View Camera for Studio Thoughts

    Hi all- just took a quick trip through the thread. First I appreciate all of your thoughtful responses. Due to the holidays Iíll come back to this so I can really digest and respond to some of your questions.

    Hope you all have a Happy New Year!

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    Senior Member Steve Hendrix's Avatar
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    Re: View Camera for Studio Thoughts

    We have many clients who are shooting food with medium format, and a number of them are shooting view camera. Although I would not say exclusively. They often shoot a fixed plane body alongside for different types of shots. Things are much different than they were in years past. Quality is still appreciated with the right clients, but speed and efficiency have become just as important, if not more so.

    View cameras do things that no other cameras can do. I don't generally see them as a solution for increasing depth of field (any longer). There are so many applications where focus stacking can be utilized, and the results are superior to tilting a lens and straining it at f/11 or f/16. instead, I see them more as creative solutions - creating shots that are not possible with a fixed plane camera.

    But they are time intensive.

    If you're a control freak, having the ability to manipulate all those planes of focus, not to mention the framing, can be nirvana. But as someone once said - Who has time for that?

    The first time someone showed me how a view camera worked and what it was capable of doing (all those years ago), I had no idea such a thing even existed. My mind was fully blown, and all "normal" cameras to me became these limited, arm tied behind your back devices.

    And I still feel that way! But in the meantime, there is work to be done and in 2020, less and less time to do it. If you have the time and the inclination to shoot all or most of your work with a view camera, you're fortunate. But you may find that it taxes your productivity.

    It sounds like you're mostly after increasing depth of field. You said that focus stacking can be hit or miss. But everything can be hit or miss to a degree, and I feel that once you spend enough time focus stacking, the number of misses (maybe not enough shots in the stack, etc.) occur far less frequently.

    On the other hand, last year a food shooting client of mine added a view camera because they wanted to manipulate the focus path through an image, it had nothing to do with depth of field.

    To me, these are some of the important aspects to have a handle on to determine whether a view camera works for you or not.


    Steve Hendrix/CI
    Steve Hendrix, Sales Manager, www.captureintegration.com (e-mail Me)
    Authorized Reseller Digital Cam: ē Phase One | Fuji | Leica | Hasselblad ē
    Authorized Reseller TechCam: ē Alpa | Cambo | Arca Swiss | Sinar ē
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    Re: View Camera for Studio Thoughts

    Iím a working still life/tabletop photographer, I know a few other food/still-life photographers here in London mostly working in the Advertising world. I use a Cambo actus, most of the other photographers I know have moved from MFD to tilt/shift lenses on 35mm (a7r/5ds/d850) some of those still have a mfd system but tend to stick to 35mm for speed.
    Personally I couldnít do the work I do without movements, well I could but itís easier shooting and i get better results with them.

    One thing not often mentioned is the smaller size of the cameras, coming from 10x8,5x4,MFD itís great to be able to work around a smaller camera and the home economists (yes I do some food work too) like it as they can work on set without a huge camera in the way.

    As Steve said, speed and ease of use are a big factor on a shoot day with a long shot list and crew with an overtime start time!
    They are just tools for a job.

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    Re: View Camera for Studio Thoughts

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Hendrix View Post

    But they are time intensive.

    If you're a control freak, having the ability to manipulate all those planes of focus, not to mention the framing, can be nirvana. But as someone once said - Who has time for that?


    Steve Hendrix/CI
    It's a shame the Capcam was never a commercial success, but I do fully appreciate why it wasn't.

    I can set up a tilted and swung shot at anything up to 3x magnification on the sensor (where depth of field is of the order of 100-200 microns, and the focal plane is set pretty much to perfection) in under 5 minutes.

    If you need deeper depth of field perpendicular to the plane of focus, that is delivered automatically.

    I wouldn't even begin to contemplate attempting to get a focal plane set to such a high degree of accuracy with any manual view camera on the planet.

    I can understand why people who need to travel to their subjects to shoot them would dismiss the Capcam out of hand, but for anyone who shoots product exclusively in a studio commercially, it really should be a no-brainer.

    Kind regards,


    Gerald.
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