A new baby: large format view camera

This is my “new” baby  – a large format field view Linhof camera (1935 vintage), borrowed from TCC’s camera collection for my view camera class. It’s heavy, uses 4″x5″ sheet film negatives that are not easy to be processed and there is no way you can just grab it out of the bag and snap a few quick shots when you feel like it – there’s nothing remotely quick in it. Sounds like a great deal, right? 😉

Well, while this Linhof can’t be my everyday point-and-shoot camera, there are some beautiful reasons to fall in love with it and also to actually use it for photography. It’s the same type of machine that came to be when photography was first invented and when pictures were called Daguerreotypes. Its slowness is actually an advantage, because it teaches you patience, creative discipline and concentration. You are limited in how many pictures you can take – it’s not thousands like in digital photography or 36 like in 35-mm film photography, or even 12, like in medium format. It depends on the number of film holders you own, since two negatives go into each holder. This means you have to really think out those pictures.

There are other creative advantages. With a view camera, you can manipulate the film plane – tilt it, shift it, swing it – and this will allow you to distort the shape of the image to your creative desires. You can have extremely shallow, eerie, dreamy depth of field or the opposite, precision and absolute focus from here to eternity. You get a large negative that you can play with in the darkroom, enlarge it, manipulate it, print it huge…

The possibilities are endless, now let’s see how our relationship works 🙂

UPDATE: I returned the camera (the lens attachment was a little problematic), but the good news is that we now own a Graphlex Speed Graphic camera, also a 4″x5″. It is a jewel, but what I appreciate the most about it is that it used to be the preeminent press camera of the 40s and 50s. I am thrilled to be part of that American tradition! The camera smells of heavy perfume and I wonder just who the previous owner was…

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2 responses to “A new baby: large format view camera

  1. Peggy Helmick-Richardson

    You bought this baby?! New toys are so much fun. I was fascinated with it when you showed it up at JR a couple of weeks ago. When is the gallery showing?

  2. No, I am the foster mom 🙂

    The gallery dates are March 7- April 6, but the official opening is in mid-March. I’d love you to come! Invitations will be forthcoming.

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