It’s been almost 4 years since I last used my Sinar Norma 4×5 view camera. A long time indeed. During the past months I have returned to film photography, so it was just a matter of time before I used my Sinar again.
Shooting large format is really something completely different from any other medium. It requires careful planning and patience. Everything has to be done right or you don’t get the image. And at a very high cost per image compared to other mediums, you have to everything right.
Together with my woman Vaia Daldis, we arranged a studio photoshoot session, in order to make a few shots with the Sinar. It is a monorail camera, almost 50 years old, but it still looks and works like new. I chose to use the Scheider Symmar-S 150mm f/5.6 lens and Ilford HP5. 150mm in large format has the field of view of a normal 50mm in full frame format (35mm).
The “good” apertures on a camera like this is at the range of f/16 and f/22, so we needed powerful lights to get the image. I used a Godox AD200 flash and a LED light, which was barely enough at full power to provide sufficient light. The good old PC sync cord was used to trigger the flash. A 80cm octabox was used with the AD200, and a white umbrella with the LED light to get softer light, and the Sekonic L-308s meter was employed to measure exposure.
For testing purposes we shot a couple of instant sheets (Fuji FP-100C) to check light. It is really sad that Fuji discontinued the Fp-100C and Fp-3000B instant films. I have a few packs of them left in my fridge, but eventually the will run out. Today, they are sold at very high prices, and eventually there will be no more peel-apart instant sheet film. I really hope Fuji or another company will produce these films again.
Aperture was f/16 and shutter speed 1/30. I rated Ilford HP5 at ISO 320. In total we shot 4 sheets of film and Vaia processed the image with Photoshop.
The tones and look are different than what I get with a digital camera. A more 3D pop, and smooth transition from shadows to highlights, and keep in mind that we shoot a 150mm lens at a distance that would have required a 50mm on a 35mm camera. Large format is on a league of it’s own and with camera movements you can make very interesting experiments.
I developed HP5 with Ilford Ilfotec DD-X 1:4, 9 minutes at 20C, and scanned the negatives on my Epson V500. This scanner cannot scan the huge 4×5 negative at once (the Epson V700 can do that), but by scanning two portions of the image and stitching them with Autopano pro software, you can get the job done.
The whole photo session was a very interesting experience. It requires patience not only from the photographer but also the model, since it takes some to get just one shot. You open the aperture blades and use the ground glass in order to focus, then close aperture blades, set your aperture and shutter speed, cock the shutter, insert the film holder, remove the dark slide (the one facing towards the lens, since I have accidentally removed the one facing the ground glass in the past and ruined the sheet, things can easily go wrong with large format if you are not focused on what you are doing!), take the shot (preferably with a cable release), put back the dark slide, and that’s it! All that for one shot!
I was really happy shooting with Sinar Norma again, the whole experience was great, and the final result was very rewarding. I am going to print of course the image, you have to see a large format image on paper to appreciate it’s quality.
Here is the final image (click on photo to see large size).
We also shot a few 35mm and 120 film on the same session, and will post the images soon.
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