Alan Barlow 
Fine Art Photography 



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What is Large Format?

What is a View Camera?




What is Large Format?


Large format is generally defined as a film size (or digital sensor size for that matter) of 4X5 inches or more.  This is the size that I typically use.  Other common large format sizes are 5X7, 8X10 and even 11X14.  For comparison, a 35mm film camera, or a "full-frame" digital camera, has a film/sensor size of 24X36mm (about 1 X 1 1/2 inches).  Most digital cameras actually have sensors somewhat smaller than "full frame". I like large format because I have a passion to make the photos VERY large with a LOT of detail. 


What is a View Camera?


I use a view camera.  Basically it is a large format camera that has a number of shifts and tilts of the film and lens planes that allows for great control over focus, depth of field and perspective; much more than those of the typical camera. There is a very good definition and description on wikipedia: camera. I prefer a view camera over a field camera in that it is a bit more versatile for architectural photography and perspective control. A field camera is generally smaller and lighter but still with most of the functions of a view camera.  When I acquired my Linhof Technikardan 45 view camera I wasn't sure what I was going to be shooting with it, but I had done some architectural work (which needs perspective control), and I did know that I would be trudging it through the Sierras.  Therefore my decision was based on the fact that the Technikardan weighs no more than most field cameras, folds up to about the same size, and can do more things more easily. The wikipedia page on field cameras: camera.


I LOVE all the control I have over the creation and exposure of the image in a view camera.  The drawbacks (which aren't drawbacks to me really) are, when compared to typical cameras of today, focus and exposure are totally manual.  There is no autofocus, no auto exposure, no aperture/speed presets, no built in flash, and a narrow depth of field. The image is projected onto a ground glass (similar to "live view" in a digital camera) at the back of the camera, but to see it in daylight a dark cloth is required over the head and camera. The image is upside down, but most of us get accustomed to it.


Pictured below are: the type of camera I use, a field camera, and a typical dark cloth set-up.  I generally use shifts and tilts in my landscape work to keep the perspective accurate and to increase depth of field.  I used the shift feature extensively on the "Casino Mermaid" photo on a mural of the Casino in Avalon. 


Alan Barlow




Technikardan Field Camera Set-Up


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2009 Alan Barlow Photography, 2009 Catalina Publications