The Big Camera

I had a problem: I love the large format film camera I have, but film has become too problematic and expensive. Actually, film always was expensive. To use this camera now, it would cost me nearly $20 per shot as it uses large sheets of film, large means 20 square inches of film for each shot.

What is great about this large camera is it forces me to slow down. Also it is an entirely analogue device with dials, and levers, it has a tactictile and visceral quality. And because of its large format, it delivers stunning detail. It also allows me to manipulate perspective and focus in a way that regular cameras don’t. If you have heard of Tilt and Shift, this camera has tilt and shift at both ends of the camera plus a couple of extra movements that modern cameras have forgotten about.

Every problem has a solution. Mine was to bringing this camera into the digital age by fixing my Digital SLR camera to back of the camera where the sheets of film go. A visit to my local engineering shop and it was done.

The digital camera has a small image sensor of only 1 ½ square inches – paltry compared to the original film the camera used. The fix is to move the Digital SLR camera across the back of the large format camera and then stitch the images digitally. This gives me an effective image sensor of 90mm wide.

I went on the hunt for lenses also. What is amazing is that the lenses designed for these cameras are insanely sharp. I also use a photocopier lens and an enlarging lens. Both of these are even off the scale sharp. The beauty of these lenses is they do not zoom, they do not attempt to read your mind or make any guesses on your behalf, they just deliver amazing images when you ask them in the right way.

The results are amazing. I get all the advantages of digital and can produce panoramic images of up to about 20,000 pixels. That translates to prints of over 2 meters that are still sharp when examined closely. I even won some awards using this camera, they let me into a competition for large format cameras and I scored against others using digital cameras costing $40,000 and more

The total cost of my rig was a tenth of that.

The rewards, stacks of fun solving a photographic problem. Contact me if you want to find out more about this camera or want to make one yourself.

What is Focus?

This is a the introduction to my lesson on focus, depth of field and camera shake, and in the end, why a heavy tripod is still sometimes your best friend.

Before we go into how to use focus with your camera it is helpful to understand what is focus. From a mathematical point of view, something is either IN FOCUS or OUT OF FOCUS, no such thing as in focus enough. In practice, in focus enough often wins the day.

Focus is when the rays of light passing through a lens meet exactly on the camera sensor, or film. If the light rays cross over in front of the sensor or behind the sensor, the result is out of focus and what should be a point of light becomes a circle.

A really practical way of seeing FOCUS in action is to use a magnifying glass and focus the sun onto a piece of paper. When the lens focuses the image of the sun a very small circle is formed on the paper, eventually burning it.

When you move the magnifying glass closer or further from the paper, the image becomes more or less in focus, forming a progressively larger circle with increasing out of focus.

In this case you will not be able to create a really small point of light as the lens is trying to replicate the disk of the sun which is itself a small circle rather than a dot.

Let me know if you are interested in finding out more and send me an email or go to the Sign onto my Training list (training page) and get a free sample lesson on photography in the process.