Large format on the cheap!

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Large format on the cheap!

Okay, while you can bottom feed with large format, it’s really not *cheap*. Usually. Lemme ‘splain: Years ago, Mark Sawyer published an article in View Camera about using dollar store magnifying glasses as objectives in LF. I immediately started looking for cheap glass. But everything I found was plastic, small, and had a secondary focal length diopter built into the lens. Didn’t seem like that would work, so I kept looking.

About a month ago, our local Ace had a sale on real, glass, single FL magnifying glasses. Three sizes, a dollar each. I bought one of each size. Mounted one for the 8×10 a couple days ago, but have no film. Tacked the midland length lens (which, turns out, is 7″ f/3.5) into a 4×5 board tonight, strapped a Packard to the front (literally – held on with a bunch of rubber bands) and aimed it at the boy.

I’m happy with what I got. And I’m a little disappointed – all those expensive lenses got very little on this’n. I’m reassessing my Magic Bullet chasing.

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Mother and son…

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Mother and son...

Took this photo this weekend of my wife and son, on 4×5. And I’m dissatisfied. It has me, again, ready to swear off large format portraiture. And I’ll tell you why:

  • My daughter gets her giggles from her mother. While my son is capable of sitting stock-still for multiple seconds, my wife couldn’t handle this 1/2 second exposure, and my son couldn’t stand still while he was telling her *she* wasn’t standing still. So, on large format, with a modern Sironar-N lens, the image is soft. Not what I was going for.
  • The exposure and lighting were not what I was shooting for. When I’m using period lenses, I tend to over expose a bit, which is easier for my scanner to recover. With this shuttered lens, the sensitivity to under exposure (using Arista film, which has horrendous reciprocity) is acute. The negative was under exposed by, maybe, half a stop, but that’s thin enough that I lose shadow detail. And it makes my scanner wacko.
  • Post-processing, while simple and full of opportunities and options with digital, are greatly reduced with a thinly-produced, wonky scan. No color option, no post application of various filters.
  • I’m back to where I used to be: Unless I have a specific reason to use LF for portraiture (i.e. – using a period/specialty lens), I can’t justify it anymore. This image should have been shot on digital, would have yielded a more expressive, technically stronger image. Shame on me – I was more about the process than the result.

    New lens…

    Picked up two new Petzvals today (grr – supposed to be here Wednesday). Mounted one – a Thompson 6″. Thompson was the Boston importer for Darlot, so this lens is like of that lineage. French regardless. I pulled the aperture (not sure why it was there, anyway), and the lens is about f/2.8. Makes focusing incredibly challenging – focus is in and out with the slightest movement of the bed.

    Anyway, here are the first couple from this lens. I think there’s some potential here.

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