Large Format…

Ok, so anyone who has read any of my recent posts will have noticed that I recently got a Large Format (LF) camera. What’s LF then? Well, basically it’s a film camera Format where the negative is Large.


The reason to go for LF is that the negative can hold so much more information (assuming that you get the exposure etc. correct). A standard 35mm negative is 36x24mm – scanning at a rather modest 2000 ppi gives around a 6 megapixel image (3000×2000) which is Ok (of course limited by film qualities such as grain, but let’s not go there at the moment). Stepping up from 35mm there’s medium-format (MF) – often a square 60x60mm. Scanning this at 2000ppi gets you to just over 20 megapixels (4500×4500). Stepping up to the entry-level LF size of 4″x5″ – or around 100x125mm gets you to 80 megapixels. Which is a lot in anyone’s money.

Of course, there are little things like the ability of a scanner to actually deal with the dynamic range of film etc. etc., so the ideal solution is to print the negatives optically, onto real photographic paper, using real chemicals to produce a silver-based image.

Now, my enlarger can deal with 35mm and 60x60mm (MF) and I can produce prints upto 16″x20″ (theoretically – the largest I’ve actually done is 16″x12″). Obviously for a given negative size, the maximum print size (whilst maintaining image quality) will vary… i.e. printing 12×16 from a MF negative will show less grain than printing 12×16 from 35mm.

2So, LF should give me the highest quality large prints right? Unfortunately no. Because my enlarger can’t deal with 4″x5″ negatives. Which means I have to contact print my LF negatives, which obviously produces a 4×5 print.

Hmmmm…. this LF stuff might get expensive 🙁

2 Replies to “Large Format…”

  1. I think (and I have to say that no experience backs that up) that the other advantage is a more considered, slower approach to composition and the shot in general.

    I found shooting medium format that having 12 shots to a roll focusses the mind wonderfully, and the end result is a roll with more keepers (compared to digital and 35mm) proportionally.

    Last time I was in New York, I was chatting to a lady who shot 10 x 8 (transparencies too) and had just finished a project shooting portraits. The pace of work, and the end results seemed so unlike anything I’ve done, it was fascinating.

    Looking forward to hearing more of your large format experiences, in any case.

    1. Yes, well it’s certainly a slower, more considered approach. I had a go at some ‘still lives’ the other evening. Took me about an hour to take two pictures. Ok, I had a light and reflector to set up, but there was a heck of a lot of getting the scene ‘just right’.

      Next step is to get a decent tripod and go out and do something a bit more outdoors-y.

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