Not Too Big, Not Too Small; In Praise Of 5x7 Format Page 2

Are there no drawbacks? Of course there are. If you are not methodical, you can fog the film, or double-expose it, or fail to record an image at all. The cameras are, inevitably, bigger and heavier than point-and-shoots. You need a tripod, but it needn't be anything very fancy: mine dates from the '50s and cost me about $45. I've another I was given. I had to replace a couple of locking screws, but so? Oh: and you need a black focusing cloth, though at a pinch, a reasonably opaque jacket will do.

Process the film in trays, just as you would paper. If you use ortho film (non-red sensitive) or ordinary (blue sensitive only) you can develop under a red safelight.

The thing is, this was the way that the vast majority of serious photographers worked for the first 70 or 80 years after photography was invented, and plenty still work the same way today. It just isn't that difficult. If it were, photography would never have caught on. So what are you waiting for?

Or, to save space, use a Nova deep-slot processor...

You can even use a Paterson Orbital print processor as a daylight processing tank, for two sheets at a time. Then, you don't even need a darkroom: you can load the tank in a changing bag.

Agitate manually, though, because you may get streaks from overly-consistent agitation using the motorized base.

Once you have your negative you can scan it (any scanner with a transparency hood will have high enough resolution)....

Or contact print it, using your enlarger as a light source...

Or make a traditional POP contact print, in which case you once again don't need a darkroom.

And of course the big 5x7" negative is ideal for "alternative" processes: this still life is printed as an Argyrotype from Fotospeed (imported by Freestyle). As far as I recall I used the Gandolfi with an old 210mm f/5.6 Schneider Symmar from the 1950s.

Or would you prefer architecture? (Interior of St. Augustine's Church, Snave, on Romney Marsh; taken with a Linhof Technika V and 210mm f/5.6 Rodenstock APO-Sironar on Ilford FP4 Plus.)



Very nice and instructive article. It opened my eyes to those incredible Orbital Processors and motivated me enough to buy one.


guitarboy's picture

One of the best things about the 5x7 format is its proportions. It is longer than 4x5, less boxy, wider--more like the natural vision of the human eye.

That's a beautiful Argyrotype! I wonder if you would comment on how easy or difficult the process is to master?