“… 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”.”
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:
Alpa 12 SWA Rosewood Natural shift wide angle medium format digital camera …
Arca-Swiss F-Universalis DSLR camera for Canon, Fujifilm GFX, Leica M, Nikon and Sony E digital cameras via adapters, illustrated with with Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II tilt/shift lens, can be used with a wide range of other lenses.
Cambo WRS-1600 shift/swing/tilt digital view camera for use with Hasselblad, Leaf, Phase One and Sinar digital backs and a range of digital cameras via adapters.
Cambo Actus-GFX view camera for use with the Fujifilm GFX-50S digital camera and in configurations for a range of other mirrorless cameras and digital backs.
Horseman SW612 Professional medium format digital camera with rise/fall/shift camera movements.
Linhof Master Technika 4″x5″ view camera can be used with a range of roll film, sheet film and digital backs.
Sinar LanTec Mobile Camera Platform with SinarBack S 30|45
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 Canon – B&H
Linhof 4×5 Master Technika 3000 Metal Field Camera – B&H
Linhof 4×5 Master Technika “Classic” Rangefinder Metal Field Camera – B&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 Body – B&H
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
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.