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I have a lot of people ask me about my 4x5 large format gear and so I thought I would publish this article and share the most frequent gear that I use along with my choice of 4x5 view camera.

I use a variety of other formats, such as an 8x10 with a 5x7 and 4x10 reducing backs, 5x7, Whole Plate 6.5 x 8.5, and a 11x14, and I recently just added a 7x17.  

Since I am primarily a Platinum printer and also silver gelatin/silver chloride contact printmaker, I need film and cameras or camera backs that match the size of the print that I want to make.  

I love making 4x5 contact prints (Platinum or Silver) and it is always nice that I have the option to enlarge them too.  I can print up to 40" x 50" in my darkroom, so I can make some very large prints that are typically driven by consignment work and special requests from collectors. 

I really enjoy the smaller 4x5 camera because I can literally hike and travel anywhere with it.  My particular camera weighs less than the average professional DSLR, weighing in at only 3.4 lbs./1500g.   

Since you are probably a large format photographer, you may be interested in my Large Format Quick Reference Cards, Split-Grade Darkroom Printing eBook, Color Film Quick Reference Cards, B&W Floral Still Life Fine Art Photography with Large Format Video Workshop, and the Darkroom Underground Magazine.  

4X5 LARGE FORMAT CAMERA EQUIPMENT 

I chose the Chamonix 4x5 45-F1 view camera because of its light weight, asymmetrical tilts, and ability to use a full range of lenses ranging from my 47mm (rare) to my 450mm (occasional).  The dimensions when folded are 208x182x92 mm (approx.8.2x7.2x3.6 inches). The camera only weighs about 3.4 lbs/1500g, making it lighter than many modern pro DSLR cameras.

I use these lenses most frequently:

  • 72mm Schneider F/5.6 Super-Angulon XL
  • 90mm Nikkor SW F4.5 - F4.5
  • 180mm - Nikkor W F5.6-F64
  • 240mm - Nikkor W F5.6-F64 
  • 300mm - Fujinon-C F8.5-F64

I typically only take 2 or 3 lenses from my inventory on any given outing.  I do own and use other lenses for the 4x5, such as the Fujinon 450mm and others, but they are used less frequently.  I have the optional extension board so I can use my 450mm lens and it is rigid and works very well for me.  I also have 6x17 Pano Roll Film Back that I use with this camera too, however, I have migrated towards using my 5x7 with a split dark slide to effectively create two 6x17 exposures on a single sheet of film.  When using the 5x7 for this, I have the advantage of developing each individual sheet of film, versus having 4 exposures on a roll of 120 film.  

MISCELLANEOUS GEAR

For metering, I have a few options.  I tend to use a Sekonic 758-DR and I also have an older Sekonic 508 that I keep as a backup for when I travel.  I have been using the 758 since 2010.  I still have my Pentax Spot Meter that was modified by Zone VI studios, and I use it frequently.  

For a loupe, I use a Wista 5x (the black one) the most.  I also keep a pair of +3 reader glasses in my kit to set up the composition and get the focus fairly close, before moving to the loupe.  

For miscellaneous items, I use a manual stop watch for exposures, a lens brush and micro fiber clothes, an extra battery for my Sekonic 758 meter, extra rubber bands (needed many times in the field), a spanner wrench in case I need to work on lenses in the field, a flexible measuring tape to calculate bellows factor for exposure comp in case I do any close-up work in the field, and a couple cable releases, with one serving as a backup.  I use a dark cloth that has an elastic band around the front side and velcro along the seam.  It also stays in my case to help protect the ground glass too.  I also have an old black sweatshirt with a white t-shirt inside it that I use for a dark cloth too.  

I tend to use the newer Fidelity film holders because many of my older wooden ones are just about worn out.  

If you have any questions, send me an email or post a comment below for others to see too.

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-Tim Layton

Tim Layton
B&W Fine Art Analog Photography
Darkroom & Large Format Training: www.timlaytonfineart.com/workshops
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