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Large Format and UL
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Ron Stoecklein
(rs7trout) - F
Large Format and UL on 10/13/2005 19:22:48 MDT Print View

Before you think I'm missing the point of UL--at least read on...

Okay I have carried the digital the 35mm film, and the video camera. But I really have a passion for large format, namely 4x5.

I realize the vary name "large" does not seem to integrate with "UL".

And granted I wouldn't carry such a system on a thru hike--but I would if I were going into an area for 3-4 days.

My current thought is--if you can get your packed weight minus camera equipment to 14 pounds or so---you can get a 4x5 system with tripod + film, etc. to around 8lbs.(and maybe less) for a total packed weight of 22 lbs.--easily managable.

I'm just curious if anyone else is into LF and UL and if so if they have any thoughts or tips. I would be more than happy to provide my thoughts on the "optimum" UL LF system.

Reality--I'm still trying to dial in the optimum UL Backpacking system (for which this site has been my primary researh resource--and I am extremely thankful for)and now trying to dial in the LF system is proving to be equal in the search for the lightest while still maintaining one's goal(which in this case is to successfully shoot 4x5 while backpacking and obtaining the best results possible (under the circumstances!).

Edited by rs7trout on 10/13/2005 19:24:40 MDT.

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
Large Format and UL on 10/13/2005 21:26:16 MDT Print View

Hi Ron,

You may wish to look into Tachihara Wood Field Camera that weighs about 3.5 lbs. The camera lacks the ability to take Graphlock backs (for size reduction- as 6 x 9 cm). If you need the reducing backs consider the Horseman Woodman. The Tachihara camera takes the Linhof Technika sized lens boards.

Lenses should probably be purchased in Copal or Compur shutters. As to lenses consider the 150mm lens (close in equivalence to a 50mm lens on 35mm) as your normal lens as the normal focal length. These lenses are available from Rodenstock, Schneider, Nikon, and Caltar (Calumet- depending on the contract either Rodenstock or Schneider lenses). Better corrected lenses are things like the Schneider Apo Symmars or Rodenstock Sironar S's. There are simpler less expensive, and lighter lenses in this focal length with less of an image circle (less projection available for camera movements).

The second lens you should get would probably be a 90mm lens (approximate equivalence to 26mm on 35mm camera). Again the same lens makers apply. I would recommend the 6 element f6.8 or f8.0 lenses. They should have more than enough lens coverage/image circle for movements for landscape photography. You will probably require a recessed lens board for the 2 wood cameras mentioned above. If you want an even wider angle lens consider a 75mm again 6 element f 6.8 or 8.0 by the same makers.

For telephoto work consider a 300mm probably as the upper range for the bellows on the cameras mentioned. You may wish to get a Horseman 2X converter designed for the 150mm focal length. This is the only converter ever designed for large format (only for 150mm). This is a very high performing optic (uses low dispersion glass). Using this instead of a straight 300mm lens will result in a smaller, lighter package that may perform better than a straight 300mm lens because of the light weight on the camera. This lens comes with a special retaining ring that screws the converter to the rear of the 150mm lens.

You will also require the use of something as a dark cloth and a focusing lupe.

A hand meter will also be required. I recommend a spot meter to meter the highlights and the shadow areas to determine if the exposure will hold on film and to determine exposure (preloaded film is too expensive to not expose carefully).

As to film and film holders consider the preloaded Kodak Readyload or the Fuji Quick Load films. I am not sure if Kodak still makes the Readyload Holder. If so, consider this holder for your preloaded film. Otherwise get the Fuji Quickload holder. If you think that you need Polaroid tests you can use the Polaroid 545 or 545i backs for both test shots and film. However, you will loose some area on film from these backs (they are also heavier than the Kodak and Fuji holders). Personally, I use transparency film - Fuji Professional film like Velvia and Provia 100. You will have to decide for yourself as to film maker and to whether you wish transparencies or negatives.

You will also require a tripod. If you can afford it consider the 3 1/2 lb Gitzo 1228 Mountaineer. Use a Ball head made by people like Linhof as the Profi II or other makers. You will also want to use a Quick Release System for the Tripod Head and the Camera. You want something like an Arca Swiss Type Quick Release for the Tripod Head and Quick Release plate for the Camera. You also want to use a See the article here on BPL regarding preference of head:

Also, check some of the discussions regarding photography, the use of tripods and heads in the following forum discussion:

If I can be of any more help please let me know.


Edited by naturephoto1 on 10/14/2005 11:06:10 MDT.

Ron Stoecklein
(rs7trout) - F
LF and UL on 10/13/2005 23:27:53 MDT Print View

Thanks for the reply Richard.

I guess I was really looking for more detail as to weights for lenses, etc.

I went with the Toyo 45CF(3.4lbs.)--(actually I think the Tachihara would be a better choice) I have the 90mm CaltarII but am probably selling that(it weights 15 oz.) to go with a 90mm Congo 6.3(the lightest lens I am told in the 90 category)

I am looking for a 150mm lens now--but it's difficult to get the weights on the lenses--especially the older ones--hoping for some insite there--

also Have been told the Fujinon 240 A is a really lightweight lens with high quality--

and thanks for the tip on the Horseman 2x--that would be a great weight saver!

Think I am going with the Gitzo 1227 and the acratech ballhead---but would love it if someone suggested something lighter--thinking about the Velbon PH-253 head also as it is even lighter-(but is it up to the 4x5?).

I do use the Quickload, Readyload--the Polaroid 545i is to heavy.

I use the Sekonic metering system--which isn't the lightest but does provide spot metering as well.

Any insite into keeping things light would be greatly appreciated--especially--tripod, ballhead, lenses.

I did read the review on the pro system--but other than the tripod and ballhead--nothing really applies towards LF--personally I would rather carry a 3.5 kilo LF system than the 7+ kilo digital system that was mentioned--realizing the systems serve two different purposes.

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
LF and UL on 10/14/2005 07:09:40 MDT Print View


For color film, it is generally suggested to try to use 1 brand of lens manufacturer for the purposes of color consistency from lens to lens. This is in part due to the coatings that are used. If you do not consider lenses only from one manufacturer, I might consider using the Rodenstock lenses with the Schneider lenses since they are similar in color both being from Germany rather than using a Nikon of Fuji lens from Japan in this mix.

I will provide info on lenses in Copal Shutters. The following 150mm lenses in are in Copal 0 shutters. The Rodenstock Apo Sironar N 150mm f5.6 lens is 6 elements in 4 groups with an image circle of 214mm at f22 and weighs 220g. This is a very good performing lens from my experience. This lens uses flint glass. If you can afford it I would consider the Sironar S f5.6 lens with 6 elements in 4 groups with 231mm image circle at f22 and weighs 250g. This is the lens that I have been using for 10 years. Outstanding performer.

The Schneider offerings are more expensive than the Rodenstock Apo Sironar N, but a bit less expensive than the Rodenstock Apo Sironar S. Weights are a bit more than the Rodenstock lenses with just a slight more image circle than the Rodenstock Apo Sironar S.

The Nikon offering may be a little less for the equivalent offering when compared to the Rodenstock Apo Sironar N, but a bit heavier.

If you want inexpensive for the 150mm lens consider the Rodenstock Geronar f 6.3. It only has 3 elements in 3 groups and weighs about 230g. It only has an image circle of 180mm at f 22. The lens will not perform nearly as well and will not have any where near the image circle of the previously mentioned 150mm lenses.

As to the Congo f6.3 Wide Angle 90mm lens it is a much older designed lens with 4 elements in 4 groups. The lens weighs about 175g. This lens has an image circle of only 175mm. You need a minimum of 165mm image circle to barely cover 4" x 5". At best, you will only have about 10mm of movement capability for the camera with the Congo lens at f22??? This would therefore only allow about 5mm of rise or fall! By comparison, the newer designed 6 element in 4 group Rodenstock Grandagon N 90mm f6.8 lens has an image circle of 221mm at f22 and weighs 460g. The Congo takes the unusual 43mm filter size while the Grandagon takes the more common and much larger 67mm thread size. I have the Grandagon and my particular lens is an outstanding performer. There has been some question regarding the quality control of the Congo lenses.

As to the Horseman 2XLF Teleconverter 150-300, the converter with the adapter ring and set screw weighs 230g. The Converter is rather expensive new; it is a 7 element/5 group multicoated design with 1 Extra Low Dispersion Glass element. The image circle is 240mm. An f5.6 150mm lens becomes an f11.0 lens with the converter.

If you prefer the 3 section Gitzo 1227 to the 1228 that is fine. It should be at least as strong but will not collapse quite as much. I don't know the head, Acratech but I believe that it has no tension adjustment for the ball, which is a valuable feature. The maker can claim what they want for holding power. The Linhof Profi II that I have with a Really Rite Stuff Arca Swiss type QR does weigh more at about 641g. This head has proven itself over at least a 10 year period. An alternative to a ball head may be a Manfrotto leveling head. You would have to check the weight of this head however. I would not consider using anything less than the Gitzo 1227 or one step lighter for the camera especially using a 300mm lens on the camera. Also, avoid using the center column of the tripod as much as possible. When using the center column, be very careful.

I used my Linhof Technikardan 45S with an f11 500mm Nikon T (ED glass) lens to take the photo of Moonset, Hallett Peak ( on my website. This was difficult, taking the photo between gusts of wind at f32 and 1/8 sec. Any longer an exposure and the moon would have moved through the frame. Photo was taken in 1996 with Provia 100. Needed to use rear tilts on the camera to maintain focus about 1/ 4 mile across Bear Lake to the moon. The photo as a digital 40" x 50" print (printed with the $250,000 Lightjet 5000) is almost as sharp as the 19" x 24" copy. Tripod used was the Gitzo 1228 with Arca B1 Ball (for added mass and holding power than my Linhof Profi II). Photo has been used by Bogen Photo/Gitzo Tripods at Photo Plus East in the Javits Center in NYC and should be on display in the Bogen Corporate Offices in Ramsey, NJ.

Hope some of this additional info proves valuable.


Edited by naturephoto1 on 10/14/2005 09:12:17 MDT.

Ron Stoecklein
(rs7trout) - F
LF on 10/14/2005 08:20:53 MDT Print View

Thanks Rich--thats a wealth of info---
hard to find those kind of details!

Jut curious do you do any packing with your 4x5?

I used to have a Linhof T. IV and a number of lenses(I'd like to use the Linhof now--but it weighs almost 2x the Tach. or the Toyo) and in MF a number of Hassy bodies and about 10 lenses + all my 35 Canon equipment---went through a divorce and came out with my shirt and my kids--so I'm pretty much starting over with equipment---

and am trying to design a system that is compatible with backpacking.

Your info has helped a lot--thanks.


Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
LF UL on 10/14/2005 08:49:48 MDT Print View

Hi Ron,

I used to use the Linhof's for day hikes and short backpacking trips. I am trying to rethink packing.

Looking at my gear and not having the kind of money that I used to, I believe that I can keep my weight for 4"x 5" to between 15 and 20lbs. That is certainly more than you would want. I would hope to keep it closer to 15lbs. I can do that with my Mamiya 7II with a spot meter and several filters and 3 lenses and 1 optical finder.

My problem is my 7 1/2 lb Linhof Technikardan 45S. It folds down fine for space. The weight is another issue. As to lenses that I would carry, I would normally carry 3 or possibly 4. They would include the Rodenstock 90mm f6.8 Grandagon N, 150mm Rodenstock 150mm f 5.6 Sironar S, and the Horseman 150-300mm teleconverter. I may consider supplementing this kit with either my Rodenstock 75mm f 6.8 Grandagon N or my Nikon 500mm f11 T lens.

I have about 8-9 lenses for the system. So depending on my decision of subject, I have a lot of optics from which to choose. In this selection, I have 2 120mm Schneider lenses (one being the Super Symmar (no longer made) and the Macro lens). Additionally, I have a Rodenstock Apo Ronar f9 360mm lens. I also have additional Schneider Componon M, Leica Photar and Canon Macrophoto lenses that can also be used. I had Steve Grimes make up a special adapter to put the Leica Photar and Canon Macrophoto lenses on the Linhof Macrophoto Tube in the Macro Compur shutter.

The Camera would fit into a foam lined Mountainsmith Day waist pack. The lenses would go into a small camera bag or lens cases. My spot meter is a Zone VI modified Soligor Digi Spot meter. I have used this for quite a long time. Great meter with the replaced color filter pack.

My tripod as mentioned is the Gitzo 1228 with Linhoff Profi II with Really Right Stuff Arca Swiss type QR. This is my backpacking tripod that fits into a 13 oz Bogen tripod case.

I use the Kodak Readyload Holder.

To carry everything, I had Dan McHale make a custom made Panel Loading Pack with a 5000 cu in main compartment, rear pocket, and a side pocket to carry a 1.5L Nalgene Cantene. The Pack weighs about 88 oz and is a Critical Mass Bypass shoulder system pack made of Full Spectra and 420 HT Pack Cloth. At about $750 to $800 very expensive and relatively heavy pack. But, I have never had a pack carry this much weight comfortably. Of course, I have to be in shape to carry this much weight.


Edited by naturephoto1 on 10/14/2005 09:33:39 MDT.

Ron Stoecklein
(rs7trout) - F
LF on 10/15/2005 09:13:34 MDT Print View

I visited your web site Rich--great work!

As I originally stated... if I can create a system around 8 lbs--it would seem feasible to take the 4x5--and even then only when I'm going into an area with the intent of setting up a base camp--and then day hiking from there with the 4x5.

To do that-- a lot of sacrifice seems to be made in the way of optimum equipment.

I think I would go with:
Toyo 45CF..........3lbs.7oz
90mm lens............8oz.
sekonic meter........8oz.
gitzo 1227...........3lbs.
velbon head...........6oz.
film and quickload...30oz.
The weights are not exact but close--its a system that might work to get light enough.

But then comes the question--is it worth it--to leave lenses behind, to skimp on the head, to only take one film format....

I spent almost a year paring down my BP weight-to get to a packed weight of around 14lbs. for 4-5 days(including bear cannister). This equipment set up as is takes me back up to about 24 pounds--manageable.(I have carried the40-50lbs before--I got into UL because--there is no way I'm carrying heavy weights again--not worth it to me.)

My other thought is to try messing around with using a stuff sack filled with sand\dirt as a base and foregoing the tripod and head....which gets my total packed weight down to around 20lbs.

I would use an entirely different setup if I were day hiking--at that point your 15lb setup works--But even then I think I'd shave half the weight of the Linhof by using a Tach. or Toyo.

thanks for your feedback its caused by brain to contemplate!

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
LF on 10/16/2005 07:29:23 MDT Print View


Consider the 3.84 lb Gitzo G-1228LVL Mountaineer Reporter Mk2 tripod. This tripod has a leveling head. You may find that you would not need the addition of a tripod head. Also, it will be worth the weight to use an Arca Swiss Quick Release System Type Clamp and plate for the camera. You will have a much faster, more sure loading system, that will lessen the liklihood of dropping the camera, that will put less stress on the tripod screw, extend the life of the tripod screw, and lessen the liklihood of cross threading the screw.

As to the use of the sand filled stuff sack, that would in most instances limit you to support on the ground or something else at specific heights that will limit composition possibilities. This would certainly limit your creative possibilities for using the f6.3 Congo 90mm wa lens which would only allow 5mm of rise or fall.

As to the f6.3 Congo 90mm wa lens I think that only 5mm of rise and fall will be very restritive for your use. You may wish to reconsider using your Caltar lens. Even though it weighs about 1 lb, if this is the only lens that you are carrying, it should provide an image circle that will allow for movement capabilities. And, being either a Rodenstock or Schneider lens, it should perform very well and allow you to crop to the sizes that you wish for the purposes of simulating other focal length lenses if it is the only lens that you are carrying.


Edited by naturephoto1 on 10/16/2005 15:36:06 MDT.

brian stein
(steb5067) - MLife
fantastic resource for LF / UL on 10/26/2005 06:08:20 MDT Print View

For folks into LF and lightweight Kerry Thalman has done a lot of work on the area: he regularly packs out into the field on prolonged trips to do his photography too.

Nacio Brown
(njbnjb) - F
Toho cameras on 07/20/2007 18:13:28 MDT Print View

Do a search for Toho cameras. Here's a link to get you started:

Ryan Teale
(monstertruck) - F

Locale: Almost Yosemite
Tripod and head. on 09/01/2007 16:37:57 MDT Print View

I don't currently use large format but I have some suggestions for support. A good head I can recommend is the Kirk BH-3. It weighs about 19 ounces and costs around $230. It has the arca style quick release clamp and a plate to attach to your camera and a tension adjustment which is indespensible for heavier equipment with plenty of holding power. It also has a panning base. Another brand of head to look at is Markins. They are available at These heads are rated for heavier loads and come with tension adjustment and quick release clamp and universal plate. The lightest model is 14 ounces and a load rating of 65 pounds. For tripods gitzo carbon is the way to go. The new 4 section tripods should be plenty stiff in the 3 pound weight range. If you don't mind using a Chinese knockoff Benro carbon fiber tripods are available on ebay for half the price. I have one and the quality is plenty good. Check out the models at You can also look for Feisol carbon tripods which are good quality and much cheaper than gitzo. Most of these models from any of these 3 manufacturers can be converted for use without the center column to save some weight. You have to adjust the legs individually to raise and lower the tripod which is inconvenient but the weight savings is worth it. If they aren't configured for use without the center column you can always remove the column and use a bolt and some washers to fix your head directly to the tripod. I use an older Osprey aether 60 I have trimmed down to about 3 pounds without the top pocket with compression straps across the back of the pack that works great for carrying a tripod on the outside. The Granite Gear packs would also work to hold the tripod in the back compression straps. Have fun!!

michael watson
(mwatsonphoto) - F
Large format/light weight on 11/10/2007 18:31:35 MST Print View

Hi all,

I frequently use a LF camera and always take it with me into the back country. I did the JMT with my wista metal field and subsequently decided to look for something lighter. I first bought a Gowland pocket view but didnt like the monorail and then bought a Anba. This camera rocks. You can google it for more specifics.

I also have a set of very light lenses for the back country. 90mm angulon, 150mm f6.3 Fujinon W mounted in a modern copal shutter, 200mm f8 Nikkor M and a 300mm f9 Nikkor M.

I usually take four film holders and a small changing bag and change film twice a day. Yes, it is a pain. I'm planning to mount a graflok back onto the Anba and take quick-load instead.

I also take a pentax digital spot meter... very light and accurate.

Hope that helps some!

Mike Watson

Christopher Holden
(back2basics) - F - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: Large format/light weight on 03/13/2008 19:03:28 MDT Print View

Mike, I bought your Gowland and look forward to taking it out next weekend. I need to get a small ballhead (or just mount to tripod). My old Bogen 405 3way head weighs almost as much as the camera and tripod together. What didn't you like about the Gowland? Shy of geared movements, I thought monorail in the field would be a dream... especially at only 2.1 pounds!

michael watson
(mwatsonphoto) - F
Gowland on 05/10/2008 23:36:58 MDT Print View

It's really light but I didn't like having to take it apart to switch between vertical and horizontal shots. The movements were a little too crude for my tastes. The camera works well but required a lot of adjusting to get it just right. The anba is just as light but much easier to use. How have you found it? By the way, Really Right Stuff makes an ultra light ball head that is awesome. I've used it with a mamiya 645 and it's a champ.

Edited by mwatsonphoto on 05/11/2008 18:54:35 MDT.

Jan Stiff
( - F
Large Format and UL on 06/22/2008 04:51:29 MDT Print View

Another 4x5 to consider (probably not the lightest, but excellent quality and features) is the Wisner Technical Field. I've used one for years with great success.