We are around the end of the second Covid lockdown here in Austria. It is hard to even think about any in-person social interaction nowadays. But at least we can recall the times when we still met up with friends. Maybe just for a cup of good coffee or even to shoot with exotic cameras. This post is a memory of such a cool event that took place in between lockdown 1 and 2 in Graz. I went out with my friend Thomas to test-drive his large-format Intrepid 4×5 camera with some Ilford HP5+. To spice things up, I brought along my new medium format beast, the Fujifilm GW690III, as well as my beloved Leica M2. To complete the format wars, Thomas has hidden a Pentax auto 110 in one of his pockets. In the end, we had cameras with four different film sizes ranging from 110 film cartridge up to 4×5 large format.
What did we do with all this gear? Well, first of all, we got some excellent coffee and talked about cameras, film photography, art, geeky IT stuff, and life in general. We also went to a local camera shop to pick up some film for the Leica. We ended up with some Agfa branded B&W stock. Thomas has got the Leica to bring and shoot while I received the privilege to carry the Intrepid with the tripod. Honestly, it was a lot lighter than I expected, but I also wouldn’t have minded twice the weight. I was happy indeed just by holding the thing.
Needless to say that such gear is a great conversation starter. Walking with a large-format camera draws attention like crazy and curious people may even ask to take a photograph of them. This attention could be a good thing if you pursue street portraits, but it could be a course because film is not cheap nowadays. It is funny that most street photographers try to be stealthy in our personal-right-aware world and uses gear such as a Leica or a Fuji X100 to stay under the radar. But the other extreme of the size spectrum might work on the streets just as well. You can even combine the formats. Start conversations based on the big camera and snap a portrait with the Leica.
In the end, we took portraits of each other and some random people we encountered during our walk through the city.
One of which was a girl in a park who happened to also shoot film with a gorgeous Olympus OM1. I got the chance to shoot a picture with that camera too which brought back great memories of my long-deceased OM4 Ti. I am still waiting to see the results of that shoot.
For the last sheet of 4×5 film, I composed an architecture shoot. I did not play with camera movements, partly because the lens had a limited image circle and because I simply forgot about the possibility. Oh well, I guess there will be something to play with the next time.
It was a great experience to try the large format way of shooting. Looking through the ground glass, sliding in the film holder, removing the dark-slide, and operating the shutter is a greatly meditative process. It has higher stakes too, which makes it even more exciting. All that said, such a slow methodical, and expensive process might not be ideal for everyone or at least not in all situations.
Will I personally go for the path of large-format photography? I think in the long run it will be inevitable (hope that Mrs. Camerajunky is not reading this). I am successfully infected. But for my current life and shooting style, the GW690III is the biggest camera I can justify. It produces massive extremely high-quality images and I can shoot it handheld, quick, and dirty on the go. But the negative size and image quality are only part of the picture (pun intended). Large format is at least as much about the process itself as about the quality of the result. I highly recommend it for everybody interested to give it a shot. Affordable cameras like the Intrepid 4×5 makes the entry into this wonderful world if not cheap but within reach for more people than ever.
Thomas A. Galli-Magerl is a Graz based photographer who loves to shoot with his LC-A, a camera that he carries at all times. But he is also experimenting with other formats ranging from half-frame to 4×5 large format. He is a full-stack film photographer who is not only taking pictures but also feels at home in the darkroom. He is interested in documentary photography of the LGBTQ community, street portraits, studio portraiture, and the list is growing.
My goal is to inspire those who see my work to feel and see beyond the outlines of the world around them.
You can find more about him here: