Technical Details

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Chemistry For most of my images, I shoot 4×5 inch black and white film. I process the negatives in Pyrocat-HD and TF-4 Archival Rapid Fixer, from Photographers’ Formulary. With this developer/fixer combination, you don’t need acid stop bath (plain water is fine), and you don’t use hypo clearing agent. It’s simpler, cheaper, and faster: no bleaching, no hardening, and it’s an alkaline process. Pyrocat-HD is a modern improvement on a classic 19th century formula, giving consistent fine grain, superb highlight and shadow rendition, along with high film speed and high local contrast. I use it with TMax 400. Professor Sandy King developed the formula. Read his superb article here. I wash my negatives with a Kitchen Kleen Film Washer from Fine Art Photo Supply.
Digital I scan my negatives with a Microtek ArtixScan 2500 digital scanner. I make minor adjustments in Adobe Photoshop, and print them out on an Epson 2200 printer. To calibrate my monitor, I use Sypder from Color Vision. I use a wonderful custom profile, made just for my printer by CHROMiX Color Valet Perhaps the single most important piece of equipment I use is the Zone VI Viewing Filter which helps me pre-visualize my photographs. The Viewing Filter is available from Calumet Photographic I convert my images in Photoshop to a Quadtone appearence: the blacks are black, the whites are white, but the greys are varying shades of brown and gold”.
Large Format Equipment – The Arca-Swiss Discovery is an affordable 4×5 monorail camera that is small and light enough for travel and walking. It has a full range of movements, including lateral shift – something lacking in most field cameras. It is made of metal, and everything is a component that can replaced or extended. The Discovery is very well made, like a Swiss watch, and all the parts move smoothly and effortlessly, but stay rigid when locked down. It comes with a very nice case: big enough to hold the camera, several lenses, a meter, filters, accessories, and at least 10 holders. The case is strong and light. It is designed so that you can leave the camera in the carrying case with the lens on the camera: just put it on the tripod, and you’re ready to shoot. Arca Swiss does not have a web site, but you can read about their entire line at the F STOPS here. Another great place to buy one is Badger Graphc Sales It is priced below many wooden field cameras, and unless you’re planning to climb mountains with it, you’ll probably find it much easier to set up and use.
The 150 mm Rodenstock Sironar and Fujinon A Series lenses are tack sharp, but very small and light compared to other lenses of equivalent length. They are excellent for hiking. Noted large format expert Kerry Thalmann has described the Rodenstock 150 and Fujinon 240 A as Future Classics.
Concerning the Rodenstock 150, Kerry writes: “Out of all the lenses I own, this is the last one I would ever part with (you’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands)”. Many photographers agree that there is something special about this lens. This image was made with a Rodenstock 150 lens. The tonality and detail is…delicious. Here is a detail section of the original. As you can see, this lens is so good, it’s nuts ! It weighs only 230 grams, and takes tiny 49mm filters. Yet, it covers 231mm – quite a lot for use on a 4×5 as a normal lens.
The Fujinon 240 A is actually a highly color-corrected “process” lens, performing well at very close range as well as distance. This photo was taken with a Fujnon 240 lens. In the 12×15 print, you can clearly see details in the legs and wings of the fly on the lower right. It weighs only 245 grams and takes 52mm filters, yet it has a 336mm circle of coverage: enough to cover 8×10. With plenty of room for view camera movements, it’s a delight to carry into the field, and ideal for portraits.
Like the others in the A series, the Fujinon 300 A is a “super-apochromatic” process lens, and is remarkably small and light, considering its performance. It has an astounding 420mm circle of coverage. It takes 55mm filters, and weighs only 410 grams: much less than comparable lenses for the 8×10 format. When used on a 4×5, it becomes a wonderful longer lens with tremendous accomodation for view camera movements (Check out this vertical rise). This lens was discontinued by Fuji, but you can see it listed in this 1981 catalog. This image was taken with the 300A, with moderate rise. A small section from the top shows plenty of detail, way off-center.
Special thanks are due to Christopher Perez for his Large Format Lens Tests where Chris and Kerry have evaluated many fine lenses. Thanks to Ted Harris, for telling me about the Fujinon 300 A !
Medium Format Folding Cameras – the Latest in 1950’s Technology:
Agfa Record III
Agfa Isolette
If you want a camera that makes large negatives, and yet folds up small enough to fit in your pocket, then the only choice is one of the folders from the 1950’s. They lack most of the modern conveniences, but pack the full punch of medium format. They’re great for travelling. The Agfa Record III produces 6×9 images, and the Agfa Isolette shoots 6×6 on the same 120 roll film. When you wind the film to the next frame, you have to look though a little red window on the back… Remember when you used to have to do that ? Many other folders were manufactured during this era, by such respected companies as Zeiss and Voigtlander – but Agfa seems to have come up with the best design. Hold one in your hands and you’ll know: they’re the BMW of folders. A great place to learn more is Medium Format in Your Pocket Both these cameras have the high-end Solinar lens, a 4-element coated Tessar design. Stop the lens down to around f/16, and you have an amazing machine. A 6×6, scanned at 2500ppi, makes a 33 megapixel file. A 6×9 image is 50 megapixels. Try getting that with a digital camera ! (If you can, it will likely cost you a pretty penny). These cameras have been fully reconditioned, and are good to go for another 50 years. This photo was made with the 6×9 camera, and this one with the 6×6.

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