Tim Layton Fine Art - www.timlaytonfineart.comTim Layton Fine Art - www.timlaytonfineart.com

8x20 Ultra Large Format Photography

I created this resource page for analog photographers interested in the 8x20 format.

WHY 8x20 ULTRA LARGE FORMAT?

16x20 and 8x20 Ultra Large Format by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com16x20 and 8x20 Ultra Large Format by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com Each photographer would have to answer the question of why the panoramic 8x20 large format for themselves, however, I will share some of my personal thoughts with you and if you would like me to update this section with your ideas, just send me your comments and suggestions, and I am happy to post them here.

The folded dimensions of my Chamonix 8x20 camera are 635mm x 320mm x 130mm or 25" x 12.6" x 5.1".

As far as lenses, go, since you have 20 inches on the long side, you will effectively need lenses that will cover the regular 16x20 format. 

Ultra Large Format Photography Newsletter by Tim LaytonUltra Large Format Photography Newsletter by Tim Layton

8x20 Ultra Large Format by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com8x20 Ultra Large Format by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com ULTRA LARGE FORMAT CONSIDERATIONS

Depending on your personal situation, you may find that you may actually spend less money overall on your hobby/passion when using ultra large format.  It is expensive in the beginning, but you can use the same exact gear for your entire life and never need to replace it.  This is probably a lot cheaper than upgrading cameras every couple of years like digital photographers. 

For example, if you use smaller formats and make enlargements, then you have all of that expense associated with that workflow.  Large format enlargers and the full range of tools and supplies are typically not a cheap endeavor.  But, if you only make ultra large format contact prints, then you can eliminate a lot of other gear and expenses and enjoy a very simple, but beautiful workflow.  Edward Weston's contact printing was simple and I think it turned out just fine for him. 

8x20 Ultra Large Format by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com8x20 Ultra Large Format by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com Everyone comes to ultra large format with a variety of different needs and desires, so your mileage may vary on some of the considerations that I list in this section.

Depending on your physical ability to lug, transport, and haul your big camera around, this may be an issue for some people.  Make sure you understand the total size and weight of your future kit before making a purchase.  Some of the smaller lenses are relatively lightweight, but others are the size and weight of a small child!

Make sure you have a dark tent or other suitable means of loading your big film holders. 

If you are on the fence about getting an ultra large format camera, do everything you can to see if the new gear is what you are truly seeking.  For example, if you think your 11x14 contact prints will be better than your 8x10 prints, buy an 11x14 contact print from an accomplished photographer or maybe try and work out a print swap deal or something similar if money is tight.  If you have the ability to make enlargements, make different sized enlargements, mount them, and pretend they are contact prints.  What size do you like the best? 

8x20 Chamonix Ultra Large Format View Camera - timlaytonfineart.com8x20 Chamonix Ultra Large Format View Camera - timlaytonfineart.com Make sure you know how and are capable of doing ultra large format negative development in trays because this is most likely how you will be developing your negatives.  If you don't have a proven process for developing in trays, start with a smaller format and master that first because everything is much more difficult at full scale.  You could use a large Jobo drum to develop your film if you don't have a proper darkroom. 

If you tend to fly by the seat of your pants, then ULF might not be for you.  You will need to plan just about everything from ordering your film once a year to doing extensive research if you plan to go out in the field with your kit.  Working with larger formats requires a lot of patience, planning, and willingness to work through a series of inevitable problems. 

I personally think the challenges are worth the end results and when you get to the point of making high-quality contact prints that bring a tear to your eyes, I think you will feel the same way.

Tim Layton's Darkroom Diary on YouTube - TimLaytonFineArt.com/YouTubeTim Layton's Darkroom Diary on YouTube - TimLaytonFineArt.com/YouTube


MY LENSES FOR 8 and 16x20 ULF

Nikkor 450mm F9 Lens by Tim LaytonNikkor 450mm F9 Lens by Tim Layton A normal lens for 16x20 is considered to be about 600mm with a film diagonal rating of 610mm.  As mentioned above, the lenses for 16x20 will be the same for 8x20 as well. 

My personal lenses for 8x20 and 16x20 include the following:

Rodenstock APO Sironar W 300 F5.6 in Copal 3 Shutter (490).  This is the sharpest lens I have ever owned.  

Schneider G Claron 355mm F9 Barrel Mounted (444). 

Slightly Wide: Nikkor M 450mm F9 in Copal 3 Shutter (440). 

Soft Focus: TT Signature Pictorial Barrel Lens 18 inches (457mm) F7.5 and 24 inches (609mm) F10, (DIY Meniscus 335mm F4.6 (510), DIY Meniscus 500mm F6.9 (810).

Nikkor 480mm F9 APO Process Lens (Nikkor APO PDF). 

Special Use: I use a 150mm Nikkor SW F8 lens designed for 8x10 mounted in a Copal 1 shutter as a crazy wide closeup lens.  With 1050mm (~40 inches) of bellows draw on my 16x20 Chamonix camera, I can do some incredible 1:3, 1:4, and even 1:5 macro work (400). A lot of my other 8x10 lenses can also be used as closeup/macro lenses too like the Heliar 300mm F4.5, Cooke Series II 12 inch, B&L 20 inch Triplet, and many others.

14x17 Ultra Large Format - Chamonix by Tim Layton14x17 Ultra Large Format - Chamonix by Tim Layton 14x17 Ultra Large Format - Chamonix by Tim Layton14x17 Ultra Large Format - Chamonix by Tim Layton

Ultra Large Format Photography Newsletter by Tim LaytonUltra Large Format Photography Newsletter by Tim Layton

MOST COMMON LENSES FOR 16x20

14x17 Ultra Large Format - Chamonix by Tim Layton14x17 Ultra Large Format - Chamonix by Tim Layton The most common lenses for 16x20 are the Schneider G Claron 355mm F9 IC 444mm 855g (~$600), Nikkor M 450mm F9 IC 440 640g (~$800), and Fujinon C 600mm F11.5 IC 620 575g ($2600-$4500).

All three of these lenses are typically found mounted in a Copal 3 shutter, but not always. 

For example, my Schneider G Claron 355mm F9 lens is in barrel and I am okay with that because I shoot a lot of very slow emulsions and don't need a shutter. 

My Nikkor M 450mm F9 lens is in mounted on a Copal 3 shutter and this is great when I want a sharp lens and need faster shutter speeds. 

I sold my Fujinon C 600mm lens last year, but that was also mounted in a Copal 3 shutter as well.

The prices listed above were confirmed via eBay in December, 2020.  Note: IC indicates image circle at F22.

The rare and difficult to find Rodenstock APO Sironar W 300 F5.6 lens works on 16x20 as a wide angle lens with an image circle of 490mm.

Tim Layton's Darkroom Diary on YouTube - TimLaytonFineArt.com/YouTubeTim Layton's Darkroom Diary on YouTube - TimLaytonFineArt.com/YouTube

I am fortunate enough to have bought this lens brand new which seemed expensive at the time, but now it is very expensive often going for $6,000 or more if you can even find one. 

If you don't need a longer lens, then the expensive and elusive Fuji 600mm isn't a big concern. 

I personally use a slightly wide to normal lens on my camera and never had a personal need or desire for a longer lens.  I had purchased one brand new when they were available and never used it.  I sold it and I was happy to give it to a photographer that was going to use it.

The G Claron 355mm is the easiest and cheapest to find and considered to be a mid-range wide lens, and the Nikkor M 450mm is still considered to be little bit wide on 16x20 and it is the second easiest to find. 

My TT Signature Pictorialist LensMy TT Signature Pictorialist Lens The Fujinon C 600mm  is the most difficult to find and the most expensive.  The price continues to change on these lenses over time.  Remember, they don't make this stuff any more...

If you are into the 7x17 and 12x20 ULF formats, most of these and similar lenses will work as well.

The advantage of the three lenses listed above is their small size and weight.  With the camera already being huge and very heavy, toting around a small canon makes things even more difficult.

In the section below, I listed some additional lenses that you can consider over time depending on your style of photography. 

8x20 Chamonix Ultra Large Format View Camera - timlaytonfineart.com8x20 Chamonix Ultra Large Format View Camera - timlaytonfineart.com I believe the Gundlach Turner Reich 11x14 Triple Convertible F7.5 Series II No 6 lens will provide coverage at the 36" length if you have enough bellows and the shorter 15 in and 21 in will be fine for closeup work.

The sequence for conversion is: both elements 15 in, rear only 24 in, move front to rear 36 in.

Don't forget to use the proper f scale, there should be three, one for each focal length. It is recommended you use a filter behind the lens when converted, I have used a yellow filter for a slight contrast boost and separation in the sky.

It is also recommended you focus at the f/stop you will take the picture at with the filter in place (this can be tricky, my arms are not 48 in long) so stopping down as you watch the ground glass may necessitate a helper. In the non-converted state, it performs as any 5-pound lens would.  In general, the Turner Reich lenses are not regarded very highly but they were used extensively on all large formats. If you are contact printing I don't think you will find a better performer for the money.

Vintage Soft Focus Lenses (Coverage Up To 16x20)

Crown Anastigmat Series I 23 1/4" F4.5 (rarely on eBay)
Dallmeyer Patent Portrait Lens Series A No.6A 30 inch F4 (very rare and expensive)

Brand New TT Signature Pictorial Lens From Tri Tran (highly recommended, I own one)

16x20 General Purpose Lenses With Coverage Wide Open (Up To 16x20)

B&L Extra Rapid Universal Series D 22 3/4" F6
B&L Special 30" 700mm F6.3
Carl Zeiss APO-Planar 32" 800mm (rare and expensive)
Carl Zeiss Protar 24" 600mm F7.2 (rare and expensive)
Goerz (Berlin) Dragor Series III 30" 750mm F7.7
Voightlander Collinear 24" 600mm F6.3

APO Nikkor 600mm F9 (huge image circle up to 20x24, cheap $300 to $250, razor sharp, in barrel)
 

There are other lenses available that are bigger and heavier.

Symmar Convertible 360/620mm F5.6/F12 IC 500mm in Compound 4 Shutter 1910g (4.4 lbs)

APO Ronar CL 600mm F9 or F11 1563g/1547g

APO Nikkor 600mm F9 775g

Goerz Red Dot Artar 24" (610mm) F11 ($1750 in shutter 7/2021, $1095 barrel lens 7/2021, $750 without mounting flange 11/2021)

Goerz Red Dot Artar 30" (762mm) F12.5 (longer than a normal lens for 16x20)

16x20 Outlier Lenses For Consideration

The Rodenstock 360mm APO Gerogon F9 will cover 8x20 wide open, but generally, it is a good idea to use it somewhere between F32 and F64.  What makes this lens interesting is that it is very light compared to most other ULF lenses and it takes standard 77mm threaded filters.  And probably the best part is that you can still get this lens for between $225 and $400 on eBay, depending on the condition.  That is a real bargain compared to most other lenses. I have a friend that got a copy for only $75 many years ago and he has created prints that have paid for this lens hundreds of times over.

Another choice that is not very common when you talk to most ULF photographers is the Kodak Ektanon 21 1/4" (533mm) F11 process lens.  Again, this lens is very affordable and is very sharp because it was designed as a process lens.

Ultra Large Format Photography Newsletter by Tim LaytonUltra Large Format Photography Newsletter by Tim Layton


NEGATIVE CHOICES

Tim Layton's Darkroom Diary on YouTube - TimLaytonFineArt.com/YouTubeTim Layton's Darkroom Diary on YouTube - TimLaytonFineArt.com/YouTube Buying 16x20 B&W film is a once-per-year event that will make you cry if you miss the annual Ilford ULF film order.  You don't have to use film.  One good option is to use silver gelatin RC glossy paper as a negative medium.  In fact, it is one of my favorite negatives in the  larger cameras.  I have an entire video workshop dedicated to using silver gelatin darkroom paper as a large format negative.

To get you started in the right direction if you want to explore using silver gelatin darkroom paper as a negative, I highly recommend using an RC glossy paper.  The RC glossy paper produces an incredibly sharp negative and allows you to make very high-quality contact prints that are unlike film, wet plate, or dry plates.  Try ISO 3 as a place to start and adjust based on your results. 

An inexpensive way to get started with 16x20 is to use Arista EDU Ultra Glossy VC RC Glossy paper as your negative and then use the same paper to make your contact prints. 

It is only $85 for 25 sheets making the cost per negative relatively cheap when compared to any other negative type.


Finding a case for an ultra large format camera is never an easy task. I have typically had good luck with Gator cases that are intended to store and protect music equipment on the road.  I was very lucky to find a case that will hold the 16x20 camera and all four film holders!  Here is the link on Amazon for the case in case you want one for your camera. 

The folded dimensions of my Chamonix 8x20 camera are 635mm x 320mm x 130mm or 25" x 12.6" x 5.1". This case allows me to store the camera and 4 film holders all together along with a lens too.  I will take some photos of the system all packed and I plan on doing a video too,  

Gator Case For Chamonix 8x20 Ultra Large Format Panoramic View Camera - www.timlaytonfineart.comGator Case For Chamonix 8x20 Ultra Large Format Panoramic View Camera - www.timlaytonfineart.com


ADDITIONAL ULF RESOURCES

Watch the latest episode of Tim Layton's Darkroom Diary Now - www.timlaytonfineart.com/youtubeWatch the latest episode of Tim Layton's Darkroom Diary Now - www.timlaytonfineart.com/youtube


DARKROOM DIARY PLAYLISTS

Darkroom Gear Talk - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.comDarkroom Gear Talk - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com Darkroom Methods - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.comDarkroom Methods - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com Large Format Contact Printing - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.comLarge Format Contact Printing - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com Large Format Photography - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.comLarge Format Photography - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com New Darkroom Build Project - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.comNew Darkroom Build Project - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com Paper Negatives - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.comPaper Negatives - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com Platinum & Palladium Printing - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.comPlatinum & Palladium Printing - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com Salt Printing - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.comSalt Printing - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com Silver Gelatin Enlargements  - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.comSilver Gelatin Enlargements - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com Ultra Large Format Photography - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.comUltra Large Format Photography - Darkroom Diary by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com Darkroom Diary VLOG by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.comDarkroom Diary VLOG by Tim Layton - www.timlaytonfineart.com