Large Format… Videography?

Large format photography gives a special quality to the images it produces, due to the differences in depth of field and resolution between it and its more modern handheld equivalents. Projecting an image the size of a dinner plate rather than a postage stamp has a few drawbacks though when it comes to digital photography, sensor manufacturersdo not manufacture consumer products at that size.

[Zev Hoover] has created a large format digital camera, and is using it not only for still images but for video. And it’s an interesting device, for the way he’s translated a huge large-format image into a relatively small sensor in a modern SLR. He’s projecting the image from the large-format lens and bellows onto a screen made from an artist’s palette, a conveniently available piece of bright white plastic, and capturing that image with his SLR mounted beneath the large-format lens assembly. This would normally cause a perspective distortion, but to correct that he’s mounted his SLR lens at an offset.

He does point out that since less light reaches the camera there is also a change in the ISO setting on the camera, but once that has been taken into account it performs satisfactorily. The result is a camera that allows something rather unusual, for Victorian-style large-format images to come to life as video. He demonstrates it in the video below, complete with friends in suitably old-fashioned looking steampunk attire.

We have brought you large format digital cameras in the past, but they have invariably been still-only using flatbed scanners.

Thanks [Ferenc-Jan] for the tip.

40 thoughts on “Large Format… Videography?

      1. So please stop commenting about typos. I just overread them – like a mental autocorrection :-) The comments about typos are much more distracting and thus annoying then some typos (or even grammar mistakes) by itself.

      1. He explains that in the blog…
        “… but ground glass is never a truly perfect diffusing filter, so there will always be a hotspot at the center of the image and some grain pattern introduced as well. The hotspot can be reduced—really, just enlarged so it looks more like a vignette and less like a spotlight—by moving the camera further back with a longer lens, but then the already huge setup just gets longer and less practical.”

    1. Scene from Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 “Barry Lyndon.” Lit only by candles, no artificial lighting was used. The lenses used were 0.7f from NASA’s satellite photography. The lowest f-stop used in film so far.

      1. Kubrick used the *LENS* from a satellite camera, adapted and attached to a conventional movie camera. This is essentially a back-projection device, but you’re still reducing your image to the size of the sensor in the DSLR.

        There’s going to be a significant alteration to the ISO – he’ll lose a lot of brightness on that palette. A cool setup, though. You can have a lot fo fun with the tilt-and-shift in a plate camera.

    2. Kubric didn’t use a large format projection captured with a full frame lens. That would have have resulted in the same thin depth of field, but not enough light reaching the film to expose properly.

      T* is a measure of the light lost in the lens.
      Using a projection setup like the above gives the effect, but wouldn’t work to capture the candlelight scenes in Barry Lyndon.

  1. We did similar thing years ago. We were using fresnel focusing screen to project image onto and capture it with camera. Fresnel screen shows less vignetting. Together with F1.4 this gave us ability to shoot almost at dark. There was problem with grain and any tiny particles on screen. So we were using fast circular motion of screen to get it out. All this we did for spectacular depth of image. Thing you can get with nowadays full frame cameras, but impossible years ago.

  2. I thought the whole idea behind “large format” was a larger exposed surface.
    So, a large format DSLR would need an optical sensor much larger than 35mm, with the same number of pixels per square cm as the 35mm.

    1. I think main benefit from Large format is longer focal point which gives you spectacular depth of image with open iris. I mean you can raise pixels per area ratio to get higher resolution even with same size sensor.

        1. If you have a very large aperture, your camera is very sensitive to light (the lens is “fast”) and so you can do with less sensitive film.

          But as the aperture grows the depth of field becomes very narrow, which is an effect often employed but it’s also a problem, because you can’t keep objects at different distances in focus at the same time. However, the absolute size of your depth of field is proportional to the size of your camera, so if you build your camera very big, focusing it becomes easier, and the lens grinding becomes more tolerant to imperfections as well.

          Another reason is that without viewfinders you had to have a frosted sight-glass at the back to check your focus, and it had to be big so you’d actually make out the features in the low light. The whole camera had like a small tent at the back where you had the photographic plates and a small chemistry set, so you could dunk the plate in the developing chemicals right there. The plates were typically glass plates covered in a jelly-like substance that wouldn’t really tolerate transportation before it was chemically fixed.

          For modern use, the main advantage is the fast lenses and the precise control over the depth of field, and if you are using actual film, also the very high resolution.

          1. Also, for early color photography, the way they did it was by making finely ground potato flour colored with food dyes, and they sprinkled different colored particles on the plate. This process was called “autochrome”. The particles acted as the color filters, and were backed by silver based photochemicals. The plate was then processed to produce a direct positive image with the grains of starch remaining in place.

            Because it was a direct positive method, the plate became the final picture, so it obviously had to be as large as you wanted to make the picture.

      1. No, it the exact opposite: larger format with the same focal length and aperture setting (f/stop) results in shallower depth of field (DoF).
        This is why there is a market for “ultra fast” lenses (f/1.0 and faster) for FourThirds and APS-c sensor cameras, so they can have the same shallower DoF as “full frame” (24mmx36mm) sensor cameras with a relatively common “fast” lenses like a 50mm f/1.4.

    2. Large format is not about DPI, it is about the depth of field of the projected image. Notice the very narrow depth of field in the footage – You can get similar images with 35mm, but you need really expensive lenses.

      In the writup he questions if this is a large format camera, or a large format adaptor. I suspect it would cause less confusion if it were treated as the latter.

  3. I’m impressed by the technique but why did he have to add fake movie wind sounds during his speaking parts? Anybody who has actually filmed in wind will know the difference.
    Ooohhh it’s very coooold.

    1. It’s probably part of their Supporting Oppressive Regimes by Restricting Access to Content program.

      The most common cause is a geo-location error which places you in China, Qatar, etc.

      Or alternatively. It could just be one of those sociopathic wankers who troll though new videos flagging them as having ‘inappropriate content’ just for the ‘fun’ of it.

  4. Does anyone know when or why depth of field changed from being shallow or deep to narrow or wide, and does this mean my wide angle lenses are now measured in depth and shallowness?
    Maybe this is an example of why photography is so “difficult”to learn and expensive to have done.

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