Large format photography is any format that spans 4x5 inches or larger. It's a much more detailed frame than the average 35mm camera, providing an image that's about 16x larger, while still maintaining the same resolution. Large format is one of the earliest photo technologies, and the simplicity allowed photographers to make 1:1 prints from their original negatives. It's the largest possible camera format, with fully manual settings, including focus, film loading and unloading, and exposure. To create a print, you must load and unload the film in total darkness (i.e. a darkroom or dark bag).
Who uses large format photography?
Many historic archives use large format film for documentation purposes, including the National Park Service, the Historic American Landscapes Survey, and the Library of Congress. Typically, 4x5" and 5x7" film is large enough for most subjects, while 8x10" is used for photo duplication of important documents. Large format's superior resolution allows a historic building or park to be captured without distortion. By shifting the lens element, a photographer can keep their subject perfectly parallel with the film and lens.
Where can I find a large format camera?
Today's digital cameras are always trying to do more in a smaller package. This makes large format cameras less attractive to the average consumer. If you're lucky, you can find a used large format body, a few lenses, and accessories for less than your basic digital model.
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