You can start shooting Large Format Film in 2023

Dmitrii Eliuseev
17 min readSep 28, 2022

There was an estimate that about 196 million photos per hour are made nowadays, and I can bet that 99.999% of them are digital. But you can still use this type of camera for taking pictures, and I promise, the process is fun:

Large Format 4x5 Camera, Source © eBay

How does it work? Let’s figure it out.

History

Photography as a process has a long history, the first “daguerreotypes” were made in the middle of the 19th century. Photographic lenses of that time were far from perfect, and the sensitivity was also very low — an exposure time to take a picture could be from 3 to 20 minutes. Later a dry plate technology was invented, which allowed to increase the sensitivity and decrease the exposure time. But cameras of that time still were big and bulky:

Large Format Camera in Karl Bulla museum © Image by author

As a “light sensor”, these cameras were using glass plates, covered with a light-sensitive emulsion. Later roll film was invented, and cameras became much more compact and portable, like this “Kodak Brownie” from the 1920s:

Kodak Brownie Camera, Source © https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodak_Brownie

(I will publish a review of this camera soon, stay tuned)

Later, in the 1930s, 35mm film became popular — it was smaller, cheaper, and more photos per roll could be made. But the same way as today, the image quality provided by compact cameras, was not good enough for serious shooting, and professional photographers and reporters were using something like this:

Reporters with Graflex cameras, Source © https://shootitwithfilm.com

Many iconic and historical pictures from the 40s and 50s were made using large format cameras. This catalog from the 50s can show the idea of how it was advertised:

Sears Magazine from the 50s, Source © Flickr.com

--

--

Dmitrii Eliuseev

Python/IoT developer and data engineer, data science and electronics enthusiast