Taking the plunge into 4×5 film

Bob Rigby 4x5 / Ilford HP5+ / Developed by Panda Labs

Bob Rigby 4×5 / Ilford HP5+ / Developed by Panda Labs

A little while ago I borrowed a friend’s Zero Image 4×5 camera to get a sense of whether or not 4×5 pinhole was something I would want to pursue.

You see many, many months ago I had purchased a Calumet 4×5 with a wide lens and long rails at a really good price from a gentleman photographer. He was preparing to visit India and wanted to unload some gear. I brought the camera home, had some difficulty finding a tripod that would fit the odd rail mount and eventually lost interest in it.

I’ve learned while buying and selling my gear, that if a camera isn’t somewhat portable or easy to carry, I won’t shoot it. If I have to lug a giant box with a heavy tripod around, I won’t want to take it anywhere with me. As much as I loved the idea of experimenting with larger film formats, the 4×5 Calumet was just too much to handle. Then I got into pinhole photography which eventually lead me back to sheet film.

So I played around with my friend’s Zero Image during a day trip to Olympic National Park but didn’t particularly care for it. This was the single Zero Image 45B, their basic camera, with a 25mm focal length and no cable release adapter. Shooting the camera was easy enough, but when I got the sheets back from Panda Labs I didn’t like the final image as much. The extreme distortion was a bit too strong for my taste and the heavy vignetting felt like I wasn’t maximizing on the entire sheet of film. There are additional extension frames Zero Image sells to increase the focal length, but the deluxe 4×5 is a bit costly.

Regardless, I asked my friend Paul to inquire about the Zero Image 4×5 while he was visiting Blue Moon Camera in Portland. They confirmed they had the Zero Image 4×5 Deluxe, but I wasn’t prepared to make that investment yet. Then Paul started sending me snapshots of a different 4×5 pinhole which wasn’t listed on the Blue Moon site – the Robert Rigby 4×5 pinhole camera.

This Bob Rigby 4×5 has a 65mm focal length, an aperture of f/166, 2 tripod mounts for portrait or landscape orientation and is very simple in design. The film holder is secured in the back with two rotating wooden ‘pins’ which allow various 4×5 backs to be attached to the camera. Though I would love a cable release option, the pinhole cover moves smoothly enough so long as I’m careful not to jar the camera. There are also ‘sighting’ pins as described on the website and it helps me visualize the angle of view from the camera. More importantly, the severe distortion and heavy vignetting are gone.

The image above is one of my first shots from this camera taken at my friend’s house while we sat around the dining table enjoying our Thanksgiving feast. There was something about the lighting that I liked. Thanks for your time today and mahalo!

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8 thoughts on “Taking the plunge into 4×5 film

  1. Very nice take; in fact I am surprised of the total absence of vignetting and the quality of lighting in the corners, I would expect some “lose” of light there.
    Regarding the Zero Image 45 with the 25 mm focal length I have to agree with you about “The extreme distortion was a bit too strong for my taste and the heavy vignetting felt like I wasn’t maximizing on the entire sheet of film.” but, in my case, this is part of the “magic” of the camera without forgetting the extensions to 50 and 75 mm focal lenghts. I use mine basically with 25 but, more recently I started to do it also with the 50.
    Anyway I love your interior picture a lot and I hope that you keep showing us your nice pinhole shots!!

  2. Pingback: Back at Suzzallo with the Zero Image 25B « jana obscura

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