How Do I Select An 8x10 Camera??

Blog by Mat Marrash

If you're thinking about getting into 8x10 film photography you might ask yourself, "How do I select a camera?" I hope this blog will be helpful as a primer for 8x10!

There are a lot of factors that go into selecting an 8x10 camera that can have an effect on price. Depending on your needs and how you plan on shooting the camera, you can spend as little as $400 or as much as $10,000.

This beginning resource page on LargeFormatPhotography.info serves as a great primer:

http://www.largeformatphotography.info/matos-begin.html

FPP Guy Mark Dalzell with his Calamut 8x10 camera. How much did he pay?? Tune in to Film Photography Podcast #139 for the amazing scoop!

Generally speaking, the less you pay for an 8x10 camera on the used market, the more limitations it will impose on your workflow. Typical cameras in the sub-$1000 range are old non-folding field cameras and monorail cameras. If you don't plan on hauling them around for long distances outside, you can save a few bucks for your lenses and other accessories listed in the above article. Between the two cameras in that category, monorails will have greater functionality at the cost of bulk. Cameras to snag in this category are: Calumet C1's, Eastman Commercial A (wooden) or B (metal, the one I have), Cambo Legend (monorail), and Sinar P (monorail).

Mat with his Eastman Commercial B 8x10 camera and Leslie Lazenby with her 110 year old Century View Camera with original lens. Photo by Lauren Bagley on Kodak CG 35mm film /Pentax K1000

As your camera budget expands to the sub-$2000 range, you'll have access to a lot of nice field cameras which have a wide range of use as well as are lightweight. Nice folding field cameras to look for in this category are: Tachihara, Wista, Shen-Hao, Deardorff V8, and Toyo 810M. At the end of the day, selecting a large format camera is a personal choice. I tend to lean towards a portable field camera, since most of my work occurs outside a studio environment.

You mentioned lenses in your question, the good news here is lenses are, for the most part, independent of your camera choice. So long as your camera has the bellows range to focus the lens, you can mix and match whichever lenses you choose to use on your camera. The most important factor in selecting a large format lens is coverage. A majority of large format lenses available on the market are made for 4x5" cameras, with a minority of those providing adequate image circle to cover a sheet of 8x10" film. The key thing here is to see if the lens provides an image circle of > 300mm. The greater this image circle, the more room for movements you have (aka, more wiggle room to play with rise, fall, tilts, and shifts).

Lauren Bagley shot by Mat - Eastman Commercial B 8x10 - Fujinon W 210mm f/5.6 - 1/30th @ f/11 + front fall, back swing - Kodak Green Latitude X-Ray Film

Finally, the ability to use different films in 8x10 cameras, much like lenses, is independent of the camera choice. To shoot standard sheet films, you'll need 8x10 film holders. They come in two basic flavors, wood and plastic. The plastic holders are a little younger, and easier to load and maintain. For instant films such as expired Polaroid or the new Impossible PQ films, you'll need Polaroid 8x10 holders and a matching processor. Here's a quick primer on 8x10 instant from back in 2012:

http://filmphotographyproject.com/content/features/2011/12/pack-films-big-brother-polaroid-8x10

All of the details that go into it can be overwhelming, my best advice is to take it one topic at a time. If you have the chance, work with someone one-on-one in large format to see if it's something you like before laying down a lot of money on a new camera system. A well-done workshop can save you months even years of hassling around, and leave you with the right impression of the format.

One place I highly recommend checking out often is the Large Format Photography Forum:

http://largeformatphotography.info/forum

If you have any other questions, please feel free to let us know!

Best, Mat Marrash

Mat is a co-host of the Film Photography Podcast and is currently employed by the MPEX - Mid-West Photo Exchange. Mat on the web - http://matmarrash.com/

Comments

PaulCunningham's picture
It's all good advice, but in my opinion this should be written for the beginning 4x5 user, or for the 4x5 user who is moving up to 8x10. 8x10 is not a good place (too expensive!) to start for anyone not already familiar with (most of) these issues, but the article is an interesting introduction for the curious. The shot of Lauren is beautiful by the way. Cheers, Paul
Nasir's picture

Great article, Mat. Is it wrong to own four 10x8 cameras? How many is too many? It's always good to have backups, right? :-)

Tim's picture
Say Mat, I loved the article and the awesome shots also glad to see Leslie is out there giving you a run for your money !!! Very interested in the green xray film . . but I'd have to cut it down to 5x7 unless you guys at the FPP start stocking it in that size. I may have to source it somewhere else online. I am shooting paper negatives and using Harman Direct positive material in my Eastman 2D wooden 5x7 I overhauled last summer. Would give 8x10 a go if one shows up at the "can't walk away price" . . . anyway thanks for all your posts about shooting LF on the shoe!!! Keepin it alive here in central cal Tim
susan huber's picture
I was lucky to ask Mr. Phillips for a 8 by 10 inch Explorer and i still have it- he made it simple and light for a little squirt like me...Linda Connor advised me to move up from the miserable battered 4 by baby Deardorrf to go bigger. What a difference...her advice....never let the technique override your emotions...

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