I used medium format and 4x5 large format for a long time before making the jump to the 8x10 format.  I always wanted to make 8x10 contact prints and eventually, I made a cross country trip to source an 8x10 enlarger too.  I am able to make up to 40" x 50" prints in my darkrooom from my 8x10 negatives and the detail is something that must be appreciated and experienced in person. 

Of all the formats, I use 8x10 the most.  The quality is undeniable and with my lightweight Chamonix 8x10 view camera, weighing only about 8 pounds, I can backpack with it just as easy as using roadside.  

I love this classic format just as the masters before me did too. I also have 4x5, 5x7, and 4x10 reducing backs for this camera because this is the one camera that is with me at all times.  

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.  

MY 8X10 LARGE FORMAT VIEW CAMERA

I have more than one 8x10 large format camera, but I use my Chamonix view camera the most.  It is light enough for hiking, which I love to do, and it is a lightweight option (for 8x10), it sets up fast and very easy, and offers every movement and adjustment that I need for my style of photography.  I keep my other 8x10 cameras (Burke & James, Ritter 8x10) for times when I host in person workshops and someone wants to try an 8x10 view camera. 

For lenses I typically use the following:

  • 150mm Nikkor SW F5.6-F64 Copal 1 filter 95mm, 112mm center filter, (IC 400)
  • 210mm Schneider Super-Angulon F8
  • 300mm Schneider APO F5.6-F64 Symmar MC 65 Copal 3 filter 105mm (425 IC)
  • 450mm Fujinon-C F12.5-F128 Copal 1 - filter 52mm (IC 486)
  • 600mm Fujinon-C F11.5-F64 Copal 3 filter 67mm (IC 600)

Note: IC = image circle

MISCELLANEOUS GEAR & EQUIPMENT

I use a Gitzo 5541-LS carbon fiber tripod with a Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head most of the time.  If I am doing floral still life in a controlled environment, then I like to use my Manfrotto 400 geared head.   

For metering, I use a Sekonic 758-DR and I have an older Sekonic 508 that I keep as my backup.  I have been using the 758 since 2010 and really rely on it with a high degree of accuracy.  I still have my Pentax spot meter that was modified by Zone VI Studios and I use it as well.  

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.  

For film holders, I store them in black neoprene cases that are intended to be used with tablets or thin laptop computers.  I typically only take 2 holders (4 exposures with me for a hike).  If it is for multiple days, I may take 3.  I have both film holders and dry plate holders to accommodate the medium I am using and I always store my film holders in zip lock freezer bags. 

BACKPACKS

I updated my backpack to the Denali Pro from the F64 pack. There are a number of reasons for the upgrade, but I will start with the F64 pack first.  The F64 pack has served me very well for five years.  I really like the ability to quickly get to my camera and gear based on the design of the pack.  However, I am doing longer hikes and so I needed a new pack that was designed for this scenario, plus, I needed more room for all the other items (e.g., food, water, camping, etc).  

I still plan to use the F64 pack as a storage case for one of my 8x10 cameras or when I am doing roadside or very short hikes because of the convenience factor.  With the F64 pack, the camera and gear are instantly accessible and ready to go in minutes.  But, it is not designed for any type of real hiking and has no extra storage as well.  I was literally getting severe backaches from using this pack beyond its intended means.  

The new Gregory Denali Pro (no longer manufactured) is the highest rated backpack for long distance hiking for a reason.  This pack is an engineering marvel and is built for long and difficult multi-day hikes.  It isn't a camera backpack, so that presented some new challenges to make sure all the gear was safe in the mountaineering style pack.  The biggest challenge was finding a case for the 8x10 view camera.  After several suggestions from friends and hours of research, I stumbled upon a case manufacturer website where I found a 15x15 padded gator case.  This case was intended to be used for portable electronic equipment storage, so I knew it was well padded. After measuring the camera and the Denali backpack interior dimensions, I ordered a couple of these cases.  The case worked perfectly and had a couple extra inches where I store a few things in it.  It fits perfectly inside the Denali Pro pack and it is nicely padded.  

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 

The Darkroom Underground is your analog photography magazine produced on a quarterly basis serving photographers, artists, collectors, and readers around the world. Publications are released on Jan 1st, Apr. 1st, July 1st, and Oct. 1st.  The Darkroom Underground publishes a balance of technical and creative articles in every issue along with featured photographers and their portfolios. We are pleased to offer editorial from internationally recognized photographers and writers and also publish articles and portfolios from our readers. 

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