Linhof

Another large format failure

I really botched this one. Out of four exposed frames, I ruined three of them due to technical mistakes.

The following self-portrat was the best of the bunch, but I didn’t realize that my head was in direct sunlight. I’m still clumsy with the Linhof but it’s fun trying.

Self-portrait, 2022. Linhof Master Technika. 150mm Sironar-N.

For a previous failure, see The Grafmatic back (and yet another 4×5 failure)

Large Format: Challenges

There are too many things that can go wrong when shooting large format (4×5) film.

I made four exposures of my friends Steve and Bryan this afternoon. Two of the four were ruined right off the bat: The first, because I’d left the shutter open when pulling the dark slide. The second because I didn’t expose it at all and processed as though I had.

Large format is hard.

There are so many opportunities to fail that making a successful image is really quite rewarding. Today wasn’t a rewarding day. Both of the photos that weren’t completely ruined were spoiled in other ways.

The above image was taken while facing into the sun. That was dumb. I was so flustered after accidentally exposing the first negative that I basically ignored the actual subject of the shot.

And the following image shows some blooming/flair around the overexposed decking and table areas. I’m not sure why it’s so severe. The lens may have been dirty.

Linhof Master Technika | Rodenstock APO-Sironar-S 135mm | HP5+ 400 Scanned with Epson V750 D-76 1+1

Oh well, I’ll just need to keep practicing because when it works, it’s awesome.

The Linhof Master Technika

Anyone who’s dabbled in large format photography knows the name “Linhof”. It’s one of those companies with a long history and a reputation for building some of the best 4×5 field cameras available. I’ve always been curious about them. Are they really “the Leica of large format”?

My first 4×5 camera was a beat up Burke & James press camera. Then a beat up Crown Graphic. Then a Speed Graphic, and finally a Wista Field Camera. The first three were super cheap. The Wista was bit more serious, but it was such a beautiful wooden camera.

The problem I have with large format is that I hate tripods. I had the most fun shooting the Speed Graphic hand-held. This is not how large format is done today, though. Maybe back when Weegee was doing his thing, but now it’s for sharp and super-detailed landscape and architectural work, mostly. Maybe studio portraits. Nonsense, I want to do hand-held, informal, environmental portraits. My Speed Graphic has a light leak, though, so I haven’t been shooting much 4×5.

Then one afternoon I spotted a Linhof Master Technika kit in one of the forum classified sections. It was the camera, lenses, grip, viewfinder, cams, and film holders. The camera was recently CLA’d and had the bellows replaced with genuine Linhof replacement bellows. Basically, it was everything I’d need for handheld 4×5 work. Plus, it was the mythical Linhof.

I bought it. The gentleman who sold it to me included a stack of large format photograph books, negative sleeves, a cool Grafmatic film holder and a bunch of hand-written notes with details about many of the items. I couldn’t be happier with the purchase.

And the camera? It was made in 1972 but looks and feels almost new. The short version is that it’s as well-built and smooth as I’ve been told. Everything is solid and tight and moves like butter. Its build quality feels so far beyond that of my old Graphics that it’s hardly fair to compare them.

It came with three lenses: A 90mm Schneider-Kreuznach Super-Angulon f/8, A 135mm Rodenstock APO-Sironar-S f/5.6, and a 240mm Fujinon A f/9. All three lenses have lens-specific custom cams that allow for accurate focusing using the rangefinder. This means I can focus and shoot hand-held with any of them. And just look at that giant grip!

90mm, 135mm, and 240mm

I’ve only had the camera for a week, and shot maybe a dozen sheets so far. It’s a joy to use, and I hope to use it often. Here are a few photos I’ve made while getting used to using the camera.

Linhof Master Technika | Rodenstock APO-Sironar-S | Ilford Delta 100 100Scanned with Epson V750Home developed in D-76 1+1 | 11min at 20C
Linhof Master Technika | Rodenstock APO-Sironar-S | Ilford Delta 100 100Scanned with Epson V750Home developed in D-76 1+1 | 11min at 20C