Large & Ultra Format Film Negative Size Comparison & Why I Choose 14x17

July 25, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

large format film size negative comparison by Tim Laytonlarge format film size negative comparison by Tim Layton I was working on a new project for my new Chamonix 14x17 ultra large format camera and I was trying to explain how much larger this negative was over a 4x5 negative. 

So, I created this graphic to help with my discussion and realized that it would be a good reference for many other photographers as well. 

Look at the tiny red box in the lower left corner representing 35mm negatives.  While we know large format is indeed much larger than roll film, this illustration really helps drive the realities of this home even more.

If you are on Facebook and want to join us in the Ultra Large Format Photograph Group, I would be happy to welcome you to the group.


Join Tim Layton on YouTubeJoin Tim Layton on YouTube I decided to go with 14x17 for a number of reasons over other formats.  I already have 4x5, 5x7, and 4x10 backs for my Chamonix 8x10 camera, so all of the smaller formats are covered.  

I have been using and B&J 11x14 since 2010 and it was time to either update this camera or try another format. 

I did own a Chamonix 11x14 for a couple years and loved the camera, so the decision was really between 14x17 or 16x20 for me. 

At least at this time, I don't have an appetite for 20x24 because I like to do a lot of Pictorialist style soft focus work with the bigger formats and the lens selection is pretty narrow and the costs and workflow is exponentially more complex in many cases.  It is technically possible to either make a single element meniscus lens that will cover 20x24 or purchase a TT Signature Pictorialist lens that will cover, so this wasn't the deciding factor for me. 

I work a lot in the field alone and trying to manage 20x24 by yourself is typically not a great idea.  I traveled around the country with my 11x14, so I feel comfortable doing the same with the new 14x17.  I think it is possible to work with 20x24 alone, I just don't have a use case or the appetite for that at this point in time.  

14x17 Chamonix Ultra Large Format View Camera14x17 Chamonix Ultra Large Format View Camera For my needs, I felt the 14x17 format was exactly what I am looking for at this time. 

I have plenty of lenses that cover this format already and the contact print size when mounted with a 4 inch window mat is 22"x25" making it unique and also substantially larger than the traditional 11x14 format.

Since I make artwork that is intended to be sold to art buyers and collectors, I try and do the small things that set me apart from others.  

The aspect ratio is also fairly close to 8x10 (1:1.21 vs. 1:1.25) and this matters to me because I can easily make 8x10 copy negatives without altering my original composition very much. This opens up the possibility of making very large 40"x60" silver gelatin fine art gallery prints from the 8x10 negatives if desired or needed.  

The main reason I went after 14x17 at this time was because of the contact prints.  I am working on a brand new project where I am making my own orthochromatic film and paper negatives for the 14x17 camera and also making my own silver chloride AZO handmade paper, making this a pure handmade analog workflow from beginning to end. I use film when I want sharper definition and paper when I want a more idealistic rendering.  The silver chloride contact print from either negative renders something to behold and cherish.  

Not every project will require handmade film and paper, so that is why I will keep several boxes of Ilford 14x17 FP4 and HP5 in the freezer.  Ilford has their annual ULF film ordering program every summer, so it should be reasonable to have plenty of film on hand. 

I plan to make classic fiber silver gelatin contact prints using FP4 or HP5 negatives and standard papers like Ilford MGIV and others.  I have done all of this for years on my 8x10 and now I simply scale things up to the 14x17 format.

I have been making platinum contact prints with my 8x10 for a long time and having the option to make the bigger 14x17 platinum prints from my original film negatives will also be a great option in the future as well. 

Much more on all of this in the future.

-Tim Layton

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