4x5 Velvia.

Started 2 months ago | Discussions
Barry Twycross Veteran Member • Posts: 4,187
4x5 Velvia.
8

My father in law wanted to take photos like Ansel Adam, it seems. He had a 4x5 camera he’d take to national parks. The camera he had was a Graflex Crown Graphic. That’s the cousin to the well known Speed Graphic press camera, the difference is the Crown had no focal plane shutter, just the leaf shutter in the lens. He had a Kodak standard “8 inch” 203mm Kodak lens, and a Scheider Kreuznach 135mm wide angle lens.

I'd guess the camera was around $350 when he bought it around 1958, which is about $3,200 today.

He shot black and white negative film, just like Ansel Adams, I’ve found a box of Plus-X dated 1969 in his equipment box. My wife doesn’t remember the camera ever being used after about 1972.

After he passed in 1998, the camera passed to my wife, she got it CLA’d but otherwise it sat largely undisturbed for many years. A couple of years ago there was a challenge to use antique lenses , and I hatched the idea to press the Crown Graphic into service. I taped a small micro-4/3rds camera onto a film holder, and used the camera just as a lens. My wife was quite happy to see the old camera get some use.

Last year I got a Fuji GFX 50R, and one of the accessories available for that is a Graflok adapter to attach the GFX to the back of the Crown Graphic. As I'm cheap I didn’t buy the Fuji accessory for $400, but a third party version was available for $150. After fixing issues with that and flare, I’ve used it to take 130Mpix composites of a 3.3x1.7 or 3.8x1.3 crop out of the 4x5 frame.

I had more or less vowed never to use film again after I got a digicam in 2002, but I was intrigued by the idea of a 4x5 film frame. I broke my vow and ran a couple of 135 rolls through my old SLR, in preparation for another challenge. So I started to wonder about putting some film in the Crown Graphic. I’ve never been into B&W much, and after deciding I much preferred the look of positive film, I decided to try putting some Velvia in it.

First thing is 4x5 film is bloody expensive. A box of 20 sheets from B&H cost $99.99, ie $5 a shot. My regular lab advertises 4x5 development as well, so I thought I’d use them, they charge $5 a sheet for developing. So you’re already up to $10 a shot. I have previously developed E-6 myself, but I didn’t feel like going to the hassle of setting it up for just a few shots.

Next is using 4x5 film is very fiddly. In complete darkness, you have to load up the film holders. That involves threading the sheets under some guide rails on the holder, and then sliding the dark slide into place. Each film holder holds two sheets, one on either side. I had to look up a YouTube video to work out how to do that, and then practice on some of the old sheets which were still in the holders.

Film holder

Once you have your film loaded, you need find something to photograph which is worthy of using $10 a shot. I decided on the California coast, as it’s handy and quite pretty. We had one weekend afternoon which was not successful, then spent most of a week at a hotel for a break, with photography as a major activity.

Next you need to focus the camera. This is not too trivial in itself. This is the sort of view you get on the ground glass screen.

The view while focussing.

I found the magnifier function of the iPhone to be quite handy here. Then you need an exposure, I took to metering with my micro-4/3rds camera and taking a test bracket and selecting the best one. I was using a lens with the same field of view (20mm), so I could compare the results later, and you get some exif data which is almost relevant. As this is 4x5, you have to be careful of depth of field, it can be extremely thin. Ansel Adams was in the f/64 club for 8x10 exposures, so I reckoned the equivalent aperture for 4x5 would be f/16. That made for reasonable exposures by the sunny-16 rule, the shutter only goes up to 1/500.

At one of the stops I also used the GF adapter and took a series of shots with the GFX for comparison.

Taking a picture involves cocking the shutter so the shutter stays open. There’s a button on the lens to stop the shutter closing when you trip it for this reason. Then with the shutter open, you focus on the ground glass, at the open aperture. Once focussed, you:

  • Release the shutter and recock.
  • Stop the lens down to the working aperture.
  • Slide a film holder infront of the ground glass.
  • Pull out the dark slide from the film holder.
  • Trip the shutter.
  • Put the dark slide back, reversed to show it's exposed.
  • Remove the film holder.

That’s pretty fiddly at the best of times, but I also found I hadn’t loaded a lot of the film holders properly, and when you slide the dark slide back, you find the sheet either jams or ends up on the outside of the dark slide, which you need a darkroom to recover from. I think the issue was I didn’t quite get the film under both guides, I did some more practice and if you can move the film significantly, it’s not loaded right and you need to try again.

So far, I’ve shot 14 frames. 3 were ruined straight off by the film being not in the holder after the shot. A few were tricky, and the slide didn’t want to go back, a few of them are suffering from stray light. I have 7 shots which look reasonable. At least one of those is suffering focus issues, probably because the sheet wasn’t in the holder properly, so not at the right plane of focus.

I got them developed (at $5 each) and scanned (another $5 each), so I’d have some idea of what they looked like, as I wasn’t sure I could come up with a decent copy myself. The I set about trying to scan them myself. I’m trying to get a digital copy which looks like the actual transparency, which is challenging, and I haven’t totally managed it.

Frame

I only have a V550 (cheap) scanner which only does 120 film, so I set about scanning the sheets in two halves, and stitching them back together. I found a cheap film holder designed for 122x57mm, and performed a little surgery on it, so the sheet could fit. The sheets themselves are 124x100mm, and the film holder exposes 120x95mm. I haven’t fiddled very much with it, but I’m having trouble getting decent colours off of it. The scanner can resolve about 1300dpi, so it should be able to resolve about 34Mpix off the film.

Scanner holder.

Fuji’s data sheet gives MTF curves which give it a resolution of somewhere between 10 and 100 cycles/mm. At that resolution, you’d be looking at between 4.5 and 450Mpix. Given there was the possibility of more information on the sheet, I thought I’d see if I could do a higher res scan. Using the GFX and an old manual focus 50mm macro lens, I scanned the film in a 5x5 mosaic to give me a 500MPix file. I wasn’t sure if the film or the lens ran out of resolution first, but I was only getting about 40Mpix out of those scans, so I took to taking shots of the complete frame, which gave me about 45Mpix without much bother. The rig to scan the film in the 5x5 mosaic is another story entirely. The lens on the Crown Graphic can actually resolve about 500Mpix, looking at the digital pics I took with it.

What helped was getting a Pixel-Latr film holder . Though that also need a little help to make it usable. A clip, some clamps, sticky tape, and a cutting board as a diffuser also helped. There’s a flash behind the diffuser pointing this way.

Copy setup

There were still some issues with the copies, so I also took a blank frame, with no film in it. That’s to give white balance and a vignette compensation. After putting that all together, I got something which looks not unlike the actual film, but if you look at them side by side, the Velvia is a bit different, maybe less blue, more green, but I haven’t had any luck in adjusting the file to make it look closer to the original.

I could process these to "correct" them, but at the moment my goal is to produce faithful copies.

Some results as 45Mpix.

Montara. This was the lower exposure bracket, but is focussed.

Montara. Lab scan.

Montara. Micro-4/3rds version.

84x44 crop using the GFX as a digital back for the Crown Graphic.

Watching the sunset

Sunset

One thing, there's a lot of dust and hairs on the film. I think the inside of the Crown Graphic needs a good blow out.

 Barry Twycross's gear list:Barry Twycross's gear list
Panasonic GX850 Fujifilm GFX 50R Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 Mega OIS Leica Nocticron 42.5mm Fujifilm GF 110mm F2 +9 more
Gesture Veteran Member • Posts: 8,324
Re: 4x5 Velvia.

Thanks for sharing.

Ansel would be using those GFX cameras and Fujifilm would comply with bellows units and tilt-shift lenses.

Another camera of the Crown Graphic ilk and of higher quality was the Busch Pressman 4x5, which also had a rangefinder. Really nice camera with those limited movements like other press cameras. I still have mine. Probably used the 135mm Optar lens on it.

The 3-1/4 x 4-1/4 press cameras were often used by press photographers as it would contact print a 2-column placement, I seem to remember.  Busch like Graflex had one in that size, also.

I think Burke & James also commissioned press cameras. In the olden days, major camera stores and distributors in the U.S. would commission cameras and, of course, do special imports. An interesting bygone era.

I've been researching.  Even 120 roll film + C-41 processing + shipping from processor = not a trivial expense.

OP Barry Twycross Veteran Member • Posts: 4,187
Re: 4x5 Velvia.

Gesture wrote:

I've been researching. Even 120 roll film + C-41 processing + shipping from processor = not a trivial expense.

The place I'm using, Dexter's Camera, will process almost any format for $5 a pop, but shipping both ways on top adds up a bit.

 Barry Twycross's gear list:Barry Twycross's gear list
Panasonic GX850 Fujifilm GFX 50R Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 Mega OIS Leica Nocticron 42.5mm Fujifilm GF 110mm F2 +9 more
OP Barry Twycross Veteran Member • Posts: 4,187
Re: 4x5 Velvia.

Gesture wrote:

Ansel would be using those GFX cameras and Fujifilm would comply with bellows units and tilt-shift lenses.

That's supposedly why they have the Graflok adapter, so you can attach bellows and large format lenses. Several people in the medium format forum do that sort of thing.

Another camera of the Crown Graphic ilk and of higher quality was the Busch Pressman 4x5, which also had a rangefinder. Really nice camera with those limited movements like other press cameras. I still have mine. Probably used the 135mm Optar lens on it.

The Crown Graphic has a range finder, but I've never used it. I'm not sure I have the right cams installed for it.

 Barry Twycross's gear list:Barry Twycross's gear list
Panasonic GX850 Fujifilm GFX 50R Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 Mega OIS Leica Nocticron 42.5mm Fujifilm GF 110mm F2 +9 more
John Crowe
John Crowe Senior Member • Posts: 1,193
Re: 4x5 Velvia.
1

You're having lots of fun these days.  I shot 4x5 Speed Graphic with 65/8 SA, 90/8 SA, and Zeiss 135mm for close to 10 years.

Yes, you have to pay particular attention to getting the film under the grooves/rails.  You can usually feel and hear when something is wrong.  The film tends to grind if it is not under the edge.  You can also feel it when you try to slide the darkslide in.  I only had one tiny bathroom that I could easily seal off from light, so loading film was extremely tedious.  I never had problems with dust or hairs though.  Shooting 4x5, and trying to focus the 65/8 on the body rails as opposed to the bed rails just became too much to tolerate.  Even at f45 depth of field was limited!

I primarily shot Velvia 50.  Back in the day it was, in CDN $, $3 film plus $2 developing.  I considered getting back into Velvia 50 for 120 format but the price where I am in Canada is beyond my reach.  I would have to develop at home to make it justifiable.  Of course 4x5 costs are even higher.

I stitched 3 rows of 6 shots for a total of 18 images to digitize them with my 5D II.  Seems to me they are about 1 GB file size each.  I will redo them with my 5DSR and a better light source one of these days.  Maybe fewer stitches this time!

I managed to get the colours pretty close to the 4x5 Velvia.  I had quite a bit of trouble with some of the 35mm and 6x6 Velvia 50 though.  Gotta try the 5DSR!

I did a LightJet print of one of my digitized 4x5 Velvia 50 at about 16 x 20 to experiment and I was pleasantly surprised!  I can easily go up to my usual 24 x 30.

Good luck and keep plugging along.

 John Crowe's gear list:John Crowe's gear list
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Eggplantt
Eggplantt Forum Member • Posts: 52
Re: 4x5 Velvia.
2

Great to hear this experience, comparison to a digital setup (even using the same lens). Sometimes I wish there was more stories of people getting into 4x5 like this, because they are inspiring. Keep at it.

matteroner
matteroner Senior Member • Posts: 1,163
Re: 4x5 Velvia.
1

Barry Twycross wrote:

Gesture wrote:

I've been researching. Even 120 roll film + C-41 processing + shipping from processor = not a trivial expense.

The place I'm using, Dexter's Camera, will process almost any format for $5 a pop, but shipping both ways on top adds up a bit.

I used to live right next to Dexters and still use them even though I live in Florida. Shipping is pretty reasonable.  They did leave spots on 2 rolls, but it was an okay effect.  I just can't beat that price even developing on my own.

They get my support for sure.  They definitely aren't keeping pace with their advertising and exposure, but I almost like that more.  😄

 matteroner's gear list:matteroner's gear list
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Autonerd Senior Member • Posts: 1,901
Re: 4x5 Velvia.

Cool results, Barry. I think you could have made your life slightly more difficult by doing all of this standing on your head.

I run into similar difficulties with the RB67. So difficult to use (though not as expensive) that I really have to ask "Is this shot really worth it?"

Maybe go with B&W? At least you could get your film costs down to a buck and change a sheet...

Aaron

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Tomm111 Senior Member • Posts: 1,174
Re: 4x5 Velvia.

That is a nice set up, the Crown Graphic is newer than a Speed Graphic, there was a focal plane shutter on the Speed Graphic. I the lenses you have are excellent, the Kodak is an excellent lens even though it didn't have the Commercial Ektar name recognition. The Schneider was about the best 135 used on Graphic cameras, that was their normal lens. Kind of like a 40mm on a 35 camera. The rangefinder is probably set for the 135, but it maybe set for another lens. The rangefiners weren't the best, I never used the one on my Speed Graphic that my Dad bought in the 1930's. Enjoy the camera!

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hasslebad Junior Member • Posts: 43
Re: 4x5 Velvia.

Wonderful post. Makes me want to try large format. Beautiful images.

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Gesture Veteran Member • Posts: 8,324
Re: 4x5 Velvia.

In many ways, the larger the format, the easier.

NickZ2016 Senior Member • Posts: 2,158
Re: 4x5 Velvia.

Gesture wrote:

I think Burke & James also commissioned press cameras.

In modern terms WeeGee was an paid influencer using B&J press cameras.

https://www.kpraslowicz.com/2009/10/04/the-burke-james-4x5-press-manual

I understand the OP personal links to the camera but press cameras aren't the best option of landscapes or the other extreme portraits.

The B&Js had some movements but none of the press cameras were intended to be landscape cameras. Limited rear movements. Limited wide angle bellows.

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