I recently bought a Graflex Crown Graphic (u know like Weegee – pictured above) in tremendously good condition and i have a couple questions, if u can help that would be great.
1- the ground glass and fresnel.. if i replace them with newer Yanke Ultra Bright would that make a huge difference in the images? Would I loose that “look”?
2- The camera I bought has a new lens on it… so I’m assuming image clarity will be much improved but will affect the “look” of the old camera?
3- What kinda film do u suggest? I want to shoot in black and white mostly but i also want an option for color. I don’t have a dark room but I live in LA so i can find plenty of places to get it developed and printed on large prints.
If you have any other tips please feel free to share 🙂
thank you so much!!!
This is Mat Marrash of the Film Photography Podcast. Mr. Michael Raso forwarded me your questions, and I’ve most certainly got an answer for you.
1. The fresnel/ground glass is a tool used in focusing your image, and the age or look of it has nothing to do with how the final image will turn out. A newer, brighter ground glass, however, can make it easier to focus in darker/trickier lighting situations.
2. A newer lens on the camera won’t necessarily change “the look” of your final image, unless what you’re looking for out of the image is softer focus. Much of what makes a LF image stand out amongst the others is it’s superb tonal rendition and/or depth of field. Considering you’re mentioned the “Weegee” type of look, Weegee used a standard lens (150mm on 4×5), 1/200th sec. shutter speed, fixed focus of 10ft., and flash bulbs; some of the look of his images (save artistic considerations) boils down to his fixed focus, fixed aperture, flash bulb, and choice of film (most likely orthochromatic).
3. A great B&W film to get started on is Kodak Tri-X Pan. In 4×5, it has an ASA of 320, making it a versatile film in a variety of lighting conditions. It also has a traditional grain look to it, with smooth, pleasing mid tones, and deep, rich shadows. It’s also pretty forgiving with over and underexposure. On the color side of things, look no further than Kodak Portra 400. For skin tones, this stuff can’t be beat, and it can handle an ASA range of 100-3200 (push and pull process accordingly).
Making the jump from digital to film photography can sometimes be a confusing move, here are some additional tips to getting started shooting with large format film:
When making exposures, always err in favor of overexposure. Film works best when there is adequate detail captured in the shadows of an image. And unlike digital, highlights can always be recovered, while shadows cannot.
Get a good, handheld light meter. Unless you’ve already got a method for metering outside your digital, it’s best to have an external light meter as many older film cameras, (your new Crown Graphic included) don’t have on built-in.
Practice loading your film holders with some already developed/dummy sheets of 4×5. If you don’t have any on hand, as the lab you plan on working with the most; they may be able to help you.
In case you haven’t already seen it, we over at the FPP did a nice little intro video a few months back on large format photography:
For more information on shooting large format, I suggest heading over to:
They’re the single best resource for anything you can imagine in large format photography.
Happy shooting, and long live film!