Large format

From Academic Kids

Large format describes photographic films, view cameras (including pinhole cameras) and processes that use a film or digital sensor the size of 6 x 9 cm or larger. The most common formats are 4 x 5 and 8 x 10 inches. Uncommon formats include quarter-plate, 5 x 7 inches, and 11 x 14 inches. The Polaroid 20 x 24 inches Instant Camera is the largest format camera currently in common usage, and can be hired from Polaroid agents in various countries. Many well-known photographers have used the 235-pound, wheeled-chassis Polaroid. Large Format Motion Picture cameras made by IMAX and Iwerks use perforated 120 film (aka 65/70mm).

A number of actions need to be taken when using a large format camera, resulting in a more contemplative photographic style. For example, film loading using double-sided Film Holders requires a changing bag or darkroom (although users of the most common format, 4 X 5, may now use Ready-Load pre-packaged film, which is more convenient than loading film holders). A tripod is essential for most view camera work. The scene is composed and then a film holder is slotted into the camera back prior to exposure. A separate Polaroid back using instant film is used by some photographers, allowing previewing of the composition, correctness of exposure and depth of field before committing to film to be developed later. Failure to "polaroid" and exposure risks discovery later, at the time of film development, that there was an error in camera setup.

Some large format cameras are designed for hand-held use. These cameras are fitted with an auxiliary view finder and focusing device. Most often they have been used in newspaper and sports reporting. The 4x5 inch sheet film format was very convenient since it allowed for direct contact printing on the printing plate. This was done well into 1940's and 50's, even with the advent of more convenient and compact medium format or 35mm roll-film cameras which started to appear in the 1930's. The 35mm and medium format SLR which appeared in the mid-1950's were soon adopted by press photographers.

Most large format cameras have adjustable fronts and backs that allow the photographer to better control perspective and depth of field. Architectural and close-up photographers in particular benefit greatly from this ability. Based on the Scheimpflug principle, these adjustments make it possible to solve photographic problems, and create effects, that would be impossible with a conventional fixed-plane camera. Ansel Adams is an example of how the use of front (lens plane) and back (film plane) adjustments can secure great depth of field when using large format cameras.

Large format, whether film-based or with a digital back, will always be popular for some applications. For example, advertising photos of high value consumer items, much fine-art photography, or demanding scientific applications will benefit from the very high quality of the prints or transparencies produced.

examples of photographers who have used large format

See also: Medium format, Sinar



Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools