The Light Slide

fun with photography

Notes: Digital medium format & large format

A workspace for me to keep notes & links for my research into digital medium format on a budget.

So what I've learned is that there are multiple ways of doing medium and large format digital:

  1. Of course you can buy a Fuji GFX 50 or GFX 100, which I would love to do, but the price is way out of budget for now
  2. You can buy a Rhinocam which is a sort of semi-automated moving back for mounting a mirrorless camera indirectly onto a medium format lens (no bellows, etc)
  3. With view cameras: for large format, you can buy an older 4x5 or 5x7 rail camera and use the controls on the back to manually move your mirrorless camera sensor around the image circle…
  4. …or you can go the sort-of Rhinocam approach with the Fotodiox 4x5 adapter
  5. Honorable mention: You can get a focal reducer  for a mirrorless camera and directly use medium format lenses while capturing most of the image circle; this doesn't give any extra resolution but it does deliver the medium format look

2: Rhinocam

There are two models:

  1. the older Vizelex — which works on APS-C bodies and therefore Fuji X bodies — which involves a bit of legwork (lining up shots with the dots, sliding the camera body around) but has more flexibility because you can flip things around and make some choices
  2. the Vertex which is simpler and faster but much more limited (works only with full-frame mirrorless, limits you to 4 shots) and works by rotating the camera body rather than sliding it around… and requires a FF mirrorless body like the Nikon Z

The Vertex only produces a 6x6 equivalent square frame because the rotations of the body through the image circle are fixed. You can do wide frames with the Vizelex. (I believe the example I saw said 83mm x 55mm equivalent…? Can't find it now though.)

Needless to say, you need a tripod and the Vizelex is probably no good for portraits since it's slower to work. The Vertex is fast enough that you can do portraits.

3: View cameras

This is trickier to use but sooo tempting.

No matter how you go with this approach, it's tricky to set up — you probably have to machine and/or kludge together a mount unless you buy a Just Together adapter — and trickier to use, since you'll be relying on the rail camera's film plane controls to move your camera body around the image plane rather than a pre-set stop system like the Rhinocam.

The movements are inherently slower than any of the other options and so it's no good for outside/landscape work.

But you can get much, much larger images than you can with the Rhinocam.

And you use all kinds of old lenses that you couldn't adapt to the Rhinocam. A view camera body is basically a set of boards, knobs, and a dark tube… you can mount almost any lens to it with a little elbow grease.

[T]he solution I devised was to use a digital camera (namely a 16MP APS-C Sony NEX-6 camera) mounted on the back of a Sinar 4×5 monorail

You have to get the right kind of camera for this: it's got to have a lot of film plane controls, and precise (and fast) is better. The ones I've seen mentioned are:

  • Cambo 5x7 (see example below)
  • Sinar 4x5 mono-rail… people recommend the P1, P2 or P3 for the controls
  • Toyo VX23D, which is specialized for this

I'm not 100% sure if it's workable with a Fuji X body… people seem to be using Sony NEX cameras for this.

But the price is reasonable and the results…!

macro panorama
example of a stitched 20-image pano using a 5x7 Cambo camera with a Sony NEX

The Just Together adapter is for adapting camera bodies to the rear standard of view cameras. And they've got one for the Nikon D750 and Leica M! The price is high and the web site hasn't been updated in years…

4: The Fotodiox 4x5 adapter

Nowhere as flexible as using the view camera's own controls, the Fotodiox4x5 adapter is a lot like the Rhinocam Vizelex: It's got a plane, a slider, and dots to line things up. Naturally this means a limit to a low number of frames / smaller portion of the image circle. This makes the whole setup less appealing.

However, you can sort of cheat around this by using the shift controls to get a wider area, see this video:

5: Focal reducers

There's just one brand for medium format lenses: Kipon Baveyes. And it requires a mirrorless FF body like a Nikon Z, or a Leica M. The adapters are $700-800 new.

Matthias Burling did a review.

Bonuses: You can tote it around and just use it. You don't require a tripod. But of course it's heavy af.

5: Honorable mentions

Shoot the film plane
Kludge together a faux view camera and shoot the film plane — aka a piece of white cardboard. This might work tolerably well if you use a bit of, say, projector screen instead. You get the full view camera "view" but of course none of the increased quality.

Shoot the ground glass