The Guardian: The drifter: Joel Sternfeld on his sly glimpses of wild America – seen from the endless highway

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/jan/11/joel-sternfeld-photographer-america-interview-colour-photographs-1977-88

“… A native New Yorker, he has roamed through America constantly since earning a BA in Art from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, in 1965, already obsessed with “the great underlying theme of my work: the utopian vision of America contrasted with the dystopian one”.”

Linhof Master Technika Classic 4″x5″ sheet film view camera, one of my favourite cameras for architectural and portrait photography.

Commentary

I recommend learning photography with a view camera, analog or digital, if that is an option as it is a very different, more contemplative experience than can be had with most smaller format cameras.

With the ongoing depletion of available 4″x5″ and 8″x10″ sheet film stock, professional processing labs and top-quality analog printing services, it may be wise to consider digital options if contemplating photographing on location with field and portable view cameras.

The gallery and list below contain a number of digital alternatives that accept mirrorless cameras and digital backs of various brands via adapters.

The medium and large format film colour photography of Joel Sternfeld, Joel Meyerowitz and other North American photographers crucially influenced my own ways of seeing and working as much as that of small, hand camera photographers.

Notable colour photographers of the former persuasion worth checking out include these:

Contemporary digital technical and view cameras

Links

Help support ‘Untitled’

fujifilm_gfx_50s_top_shoecover_1920px
Fujifilm GFX-50S

Clicking on and purchasing through these affiliate links helps us continue our work for ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success’.

  • Arca-Swiss F-Metric C 4×5 Field CameraB&H
  • Cambo ACTUS View CameraB&H – versions for Canon EF, Fujifilm GFX, Fujifilm X, Nikon F and Sony E camera bodies.
  • Cambo ACTUS-DB2 View Camera BodyB&H – view camera for digital backs.
  • Cambo Technical CamerasB&H
  • Cambo ACTUS-XL-35 View CameraB&H – view camera for 35mm sensor format cameras, more for studio than location use.
  • Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Tilt-Shift LensB&H
  • Fujifilm GFX 50S Medium Format Mirrorless Camera (Body Only)B&H – remarkable effort from Fujifilm with the next version of this camera to be the GFX-100S, and with a rangefinder or rangefinder-style alternative apparently also coming sometime soon in the form of the GFX-50R.
  • Horseman VCC PRO View Camera Converter for CanonB&H
  • Linhof 4×5 Master Technika 3000 Metal Field CameraB&H
  • Linhof 4×5 Master Technika “Classic” Rangefinder Metal Field CameraB&H – this really is the classic folding portable view camera for use in the hand or on a stand aka tripod, with rangefinder and optical viewfinder.
  • Linhof Techno Digital Field Camera (Body Only)B&H
  • Silvestri Bicam Professional Modular Camera BodyB&H
  • Toyo-View 45AX 4 x 5″ Field CameraB&H
  • Toyo-View 8×10 810MII Folding Metal Field CameraB&H
  • Wista Field-45DX Field Camera (Ebony)B&H – one of my favourite cameras during the analog era.
  • Wista Field-45DX Field Camera (Rosewood)B&H

B&H Explora: Using Optical Viewfinders on Cameras that Already Have Viewing Systems – COMMENTARY

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/using-optical-viewfinders-on-cameras-that-already-have-viewing

“… My attraction to optical viewfinders has to do with visual simplicity. Specifically, when composing a photograph, I don’t want to have to peer through a barrage of backlit numbers and flashing icons. I want zero distractions—I don’t want my subject bordered by a Broadway theater marquee….”

leica_viewfinder_m_21mm_black_1024px_60%
Leica Brightline Finder M-21 optical viewfinder for 21mm lenses (14mm in APS-C and 10.5mm in M43)

Commentary

fujinon_14mm_f2.8_white_square_1024px
Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R prime lens, equivalent to 21mm in the 35mm sensor format.

The appearance of this article by Allan Weitz is a timely one given I am currently contemplating buying a Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R ultra wide-angle prime lens for my Fujifilm X-Pro2, for architectural and documentary photography.

I had hoped to use this beautifully optically-corrected 21mm equivalent (in the 35mm sensor format) lens to shoot high quality 4K video on my X-Pro2 too but have set this plan aside after finding that Fujifilm dropped the ball on allowing us to customize picture profiles and especially sharpness settings in their recent 4K video firmware update for the X-Pro2, doing a Canon by crippling a long-promised, much-needed functionality.

linhof_master_technika_classic_square_1024px_60%
The art school’s Linhof 4×5 Master Technika Classic rangefinder metal field camera taught me the value of optical viewfinders and optical/mechanical rangefinders as well as large format sheet film photography, for documentary photography and portraiture.

I hope we do not have to wait too long for the ability to customize sharpness, noise reduction, contrast, colour, highlight tone and shadow tone for video as is permitted on all the other current and recent generations of Fujifilm cameras so I can put my X-Pro2 to work on producing great video footage to match the high quality of its stills.

The Eterna video picture profile would also be very welcome on the X-Pro2.

The X-Pro2’s amazing Hybrid Multi Viewfinder that I love using in its ERF-in-OVF mode for stills and video, with electronic rangefinder (ERF) image lower right in the camera’s optical viewfinder, can only properly handle focal lengths between 18mm and 56mm inclusive, so I must rely on the X-Pro2’s excellent though non-articulated monitor or its suboptimal electronic viewfinder (EVF) for lenses wider than 18mm or longer than 56mm.

graflex_crown_graphic_b&h_slant_01_1024px_60%
Graflex Crown Graphic 4″x5″ sheet film field camera for use in the hand or on a tripod.

When reading Mr Weitz’ article on optical viewfinders, I was reminded of how useful I found the OVFs on the Linhof, the Graflex Crown Graphic upon which I relied in my magazine photography career, my Rolleiflex twin lens reflex cameras and the odd borrowed specialist camera such as the superb Hasselblad XPan panorama camera and Hasselblad SWC Superwide.

The XPan was made by Fuji Camera as it was then known and marketed in Japan under its own product designations, the Fuji TX-1 and Fuji TX-2.

Leica has produced its superb but incredibly expensive external optical viewfinders for many years now, from long before the famous portrait of a young Henri Cartier-Bresson with external OVF-equipped early 20th century Leica was made.

Something I especially like about composing through an optical finder is that unlike the black-bordered, tunnel-like view of the scene you get with LCD, electronic, and conventional reflex viewing systems, optical finders allow you to see beyond the borders of the frame, which gives you a definitive edge when photographing fleeting moments.

_fujifilm_vf-x21_external_optical_viewfinder_for_14mm_lens_02_1024px_60%
Fujifilm VF-X21 External Optical Viewfinder originally for the Fujifilm X70, for use with 21mm and 28mm equivalent lenses such as the Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R and XF 18mm f/2.0 R on the X-70 and other cameras.

I am now in the market for a good but affordable 21mm optical viewfinder to go with the second-hand Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R that its current owner is currently using on a trip to India and hopefully the lens will return safe, sound and free of dust.

Fujifilm, Voigtländer or another brand altogether, I am looking forward to the digital version of a camera view-finding experience that I grew to love during the era of analog cameras, film, photochemicals and, sadly for me, a debilitating photochemically-derived dermatitis that prematurely ended my magazine photography career.

Roll on digital photography!

Help support ‘Untitled’

Clicking on these affiliate links and purchasing through them helps us continue our work for ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success’.

  • Fujifilm VF-X21 External Optical ViewfinderB&H
  • Fujifilm X-Pro2 Mirrorless Digital CameraB&H
  • Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R Ultra Wide-Angle LensB&H
  • Linhof 4×5 Master Technika “Classic” Rangefinder Metal Field CameraB&H

Coming Soon: Arca-Swiss Universalis II View Camera System for Fujifilm GFX 50S Medium Format Cameras

Rod Klukas, operating under the name Arca-Swiss USA, has released an image of the soon-to-be released Arca-Swiss Universalis II view camera system for Fujifilm’s GFX 50S medium format camera. Like Cambo’s Actus-GFX mini view camera, the Arca-Swiss Universalis II uses the GFX 50S as a digital magazine in combination with existing view camera system elements. 

Magazine editorial portrait photography with large format view cameras using 4″x5″ sheet film, Polaroid Type 55 instant positive/negative film and Linhof fixed-size or Sinar variable-format 120 roll film backs with the choice of 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7, 6×9 and 6×12 aspect ratios was a passion of mine during the analog era.

I discovered that my subjects responded very differently to view cameras than they ever did to all other camera types, and I easily achieved an intimacy and calmness in my subjects that took more work to obtain using smaller cameras in the hand or on the tripod.

The cameras’ movements – swing, shift and tilt – provided extra creative control of what was in or out of focus, especially when using longer focal lengths like 210mm and even standard focal lengths such as 150mm.

This hardware also came in handy photographing architecture and figures in landscapes when I was a corporate photographer working for mining companies in the deserts of Western Australia.

I miss those cameras and that very craft-oriented approach to photography. It is so rewarding, then, to see similar aspect ratio and camera type choices appearing in the digital era and I hope that more technical camera makers will adopt Fujifilm’s GFX camera series in the way that Arca-Swiss and Cambo have now.

I was lucky to have learned the art and craft of large format photography with a pair of Linhof cameras owned by a university art school, then bought a Cambo studio technical camera followed by a Graflex sheet film press camera then a Wista folding field camera made of brass and cherrywood.

Those who have not been exposed to technical cameras using 120 roll film or sheet film may wish to do a little reading via the lists of links below.

Technical camera & lens brands, current and defunct

  • Alpa
  • Arca-Swiss – no corporate website, see links below.
  • Cambo – my first studio technical camera
  • Deardorff – made wooden field cameras between 1923 and 1988.
  • Ebony – made wooden and all-metal field view cameras for analog photography only but recently ceased production.
  • Fujinon – made some of the most highly-regarded large format lenses, reportedly Richard Avedon’s favourites, but appears to no longer be producing them. Fujinon large format lenses are being sold on eBay at affordable prices. My two favourite focal lengths are 90mm and 210mm, with both available in f/5.6 maximum aperture versions.
  • Gandolfi & Sons – makers of traditional mahogany folding field cameras from 4″x5″ through to 11″x14″ format for decades from 1885 until closing their doors in 2000.
  • Horseman
  • Linhof
  • Rodenstock
  • Schneider-Kreuznach – appears to have gone out of the large format lens business in favour of DSLR and medium format lenses.
  • Sinar
  • Toyo-View – US website, not updated since 2013. Toyo-View cameras are still sold at Adorama and B&H Photo Video.
  • Wista – appears have stayed with analog sheet film cameras. I owned a Wista 4″x5″ cherrywood folding field camera.

Other Links: