I was finally able to get my hands on an Intrepid 4×5, which is a bit of a modern rethink of the classic 4×5 field camera:

I got the green bellows so I could blend in with the trees!

The camera is mostly plywood and aluminum, with the more complex parts being high-quality 3D prints. I also got a Fresnel lens to put over the ground glass, which gives a nice bright image to focus and compose with:

All camera lenses actually flip the image on both axes like this, it’s just corrected by the mirror and viewfinder prism in an SLR

This is my first view camera, and today was my first time ever interacting with a view camera. Seeing the world through the HUGE ground glass screen and focusing with a loupe is a truly magical experience. I’m incredibly excited to get this thing outside into its natural habitat.

I chose a normal focal length to start. My only lens right now is a Fujinon W 150mm f/5.6. 150mm is about the equivalent of 50mm in small format; the reason for the boosted stats is because larger format lenses have to be physically further away from the focal plane to cover the massive negative area.

I loaded up 4 shots of HP5+ into my new-old Riteway film holders, and told my girlfriend to hold this IKEA plant:

Shel with Plant #1. 150mm, 1/30, f/5.6 on Ilford HP5+. Click for full-resolution image

Wow. OH wow. The excruciating detail and razor-thin depth of field immediately struck me. These photos are massive: about 8500 x 10000 pixels at my scanner’s maximum resolution (2400 dpi), and around 300 MB in the raw. I urge you to click on the photo and view the full-resolution version. The detail captured here is unreal.

Shel with plant #2. 150mm, 1/30, f/5.6 on Ilford HP5+. Click for full-resolution image

Large format film cameras have several distinct advantages over digital:

  1. The effective resolution is completely unrivaled in the digital world. Large format digital exists, sure, but it’s mostly stuff like this thing which costs $26,000, is huge and only shoots 7 megapixel monochrome images
  2. The focal plane adjustment possible with most view cameras isn’t reproducible in “normal” cameras, film or digital

In a typical camera, focusing the lens moves the focal plane towards you and away from you. In many large format cameras, you can move the film and lens boards independently from one another, which means you can change the distance and orientation of the focal plane, leading to some really interesting creative potential:

The window washer guy. 150mm, 1/125, f/5.6 on Ilford HP5+. Click for full-resolution image

In this photo, I tilted the lens board down a few degrees. This had the effect of shifting the focal plane diagonally as well, hence why both the items on the foreground shelf and the window-washer in the background are in sharp focus. Very neat, and a very unique property of these cameras.

I can’t wait to fill up all of my computer’s storage with killer large-format PNW landscape shots, just as our forefathers intended. I can’t anticipate how this budget-friendly camera will wear through the abuse of a lazy hiker, but I’m excited to find out!