On this cold,  dark and rainy February evening, my Digital Appreciation developed as I realised how lucky we are to live in a world with Digital Photography.  I decided to do some experimentation with a 5×4 camera at home.  You may be wondering what this type of camera is? Well, let me tell you. This is one of the original types of camera, early records go right back to the 1800’s. It’s body is a similar technique to an accordion and every part of it moves and tilts.

The one I am using tonight, still has the original principles on how to use it, with a modern wood finish. EVERYTHING on this camera needs  to  be adjusted manually. I knew before I started it was going to be a challenge, but never this difficult. On a side note,  I am also very stubborn and not one to give up easily, but I’m meeting my match with this camera.

Large format, 5×4 Camera

Like most analogue camera’s you firstly need to realise that when moving the camera it’s always the opposite of what you want. For example

up = down,

down = up,

left = right

 right = left.

 To make it level you require a spirit level. The film only goes in once you are 100% sure you are ready to take the shot and this time you only get 1 chance (2 if you are prepared!). To prevent camera shake, it is worth while investing in a trigger release which screws onto the front of the camera. This will allow you to take the photograph whilst eliminating shake to a minimum.

 Tonight, I spent 30minutes trying to work out why I could not see the image. I had the hood over my head looking in on the glass at the back.  I’m still not 100% sure why I cannot see the image.  I was trying all the different possibilities So I could to ‘find the picture’. Whilst trying to work this out, it made me think about photographers in years gone by. 

Digital Appreciation- My Reflection..

It had made me think how much we are lucky to have digital cameras. The simplicity of the camera doing everything for you (well almost) and how instant we can see what we take there and then!! Where as if I manage to take the one photograph tonight, it will be at least 3 hours in the dark room to develop the negative then the image before I know if it will work.   All this for two images, the generations of photographers who used this technique for decades (even centuries).  I take my hat off to them, and admire the work they put into this process. Yes, it is satisfying when it works successfully, but the unknown is very daunting.

 I really have  loved learning the original techniques of my craft, which many have forgotten. However,  I still don’t think I will be moving back to analogue any time soon! 


After several more hours of trying, I discovered that I was doing two things wrong

  1. I did not have enough light! If there is low light in the surroundings, it is worth taking a torch with you, to highlight the full object while focusing. 
  2. My second part I didn’t do correctly, was that I have the camera facing down, which meant it was really facing up… meaning I was seeing the ceiling and not the object. 

With rectifying both of these, I was able to see the image through the glass at the back! 

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Digital Appreciation – Experience with a 5×4
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