Why You Should Learn about 4×5 Large Format Photography

A while back I did a couple posts on tilt shift photography and one of the comments in the introductory post was a request by Erica and Ryan to take a look at a bellows camera (thanks for the request!). I thought it would be a great idea to take a look at our 4×5 large format camera to show how everything works.

While you may have not shot a large format camera yourself, or have any desire to shoot one in the future, here are a few reasons it’s worth learning more about:

  1. Learning from the past! Large format photography was where photography all started. Seeing the old way of doing things can often give perspective and insight into the way things are done now. Everyone often thinks that what is “now” is the greatest. In reality there are often tradeoffs (e.g. more portability for less quality).
  2. All cameras have the same basic elements: sensor or film, lens, shutter, aperture, shutter release, body. Seeing how these things all work together (especially on different cameras, and larger cameras!) can help develop a better understanding of what’s happening with our small DSLRs, as well as further developing our understanding of how cameras work in general. We’ve found this to be huge in increasing our confidence when we shoot.
  3. It’s fun! Photography has an artistic side and a technical side (as well as a business side if you’re a professional), and we enjoy learning about it all. It sounds dorky but it’s true. If I’m spending my time learning something, I usually want it to be about a topic that I’m passionate about. Bonus points if I can use that new information in my work and business! Even though the technical side of photography doesn’t always sound super fun, when you figure out how something works there’s an inherent satisfaction gained. And honestly everything is less technical than it seems!


The Video

Here’s a short video tour of our 4×5 camera, how it is controlled, and what positive film looks like after a shot is taken and developed! Very nifty.

First off, our apologies for the hand-held-ness of this video, it’s just easier to move around to show the different parts of the camera! Also I mention that the lens isn’t very fast, but then go on to say that it is comparable to faster 35mm format lenses, which was potentially confusing. What I mean is that it can look similar in terms of depth of field, but it still does require more light than the “fast” lenses I mention.

Finally, since this is just an introduction I didn’t really mention types of film, getting them developed, scanning them etc. However if you’d like to learn more about large format photography right away then head over to largeformatphotography.info It’s a great place to start learning!

Also if you’re interested in equipment you could check ebay or keh.com.

Hope you enjoyed this quick look at a very engaging field of photography!

Rob Lim

Hi there, I’m Rob! I’m a photography ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I love all things photography: shooting, teaching and always learning more! If I’m not reading up on the latest photography news, or studying a technique, I’m probably reading a book or planning our next adventure!


7 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for sharing! I'd love to see another post about the costs for film … how to get it processed … and see some examples that you've shot. This was an awesome post!

  2. Thanks for sharing this! It's been awhile since i even thought about large-format. I haven't used one since school at NAIT. I dreaded lugging it around on the city bus everyday. But when it came to seeing the negatives and polaroids it was worth the dead arms the next day. I would love to get a Linhof. Have you done any polaroids with your large format camera???

  3. Hey Guys! Thanks for commenting! @ Ravyn – We'll definitely be taking a further look at film, processing, scanning in a future post ☺ @ Sandi – We have a 4 precious boxes of Polaroid 4×5 film! I'm going to try to use it to photograph family with. It's pretty special stuff!

  4. Great post. I love learning the technical aspects of camera's, I am always in search for unique camera's at stores!

  5. 4×5 is 15× bigger than 35mm and 39× larger than the sensor in a 60D.

  6. Wow! Thanks for the stats Noah! So if a full frame sensor is currently around 20mp then that places the resolution of large format around 300mp! I think drum scans may produce even greater resolution from the negatives.

  7. Thank you so much for posting this video, you have no idea how long I have been looking for this exact tutorial I am very impressed and greatful!! I have had my bellows, very close to what yours looks like, for at least 5 years and have been searching for information but havent really found any of the things you shared in your video. So thank you thank you thank you, Well done :o)

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