Is this the end?
I started with my large format camera in mid-2016, having ordered an Intrepid 5×4 on the back of their Kickstarter campaign in late 2014.
It’s a beautiful bit of kit – I even have a black cloth to put over my head while I focus it. No exploding hand-held flash though.
Large format was one of those things that had been at the back of my mind for a long time as I experimented with photography, but it was always way out of reach because the cameras were so expensive – Intrepid changed that. I hadn’t shot much film beyond a little bit of pinhole work for several years, but I couldn’t resist when I saw the Intrepid Kickstarter – it was only £130 on the original offer, although they are now £280 now, on the 4th version of it.
OK, I had to buy a lens as well (I eventually bought a second), and I had buy some film holders. And film – that’s not cheap, £40+ for 25 sheets of Ilford Delta 100. I only ever bought one box of transparency film (Fuji Velvia, obvs), which was about £90 for 20 shots – plus another £4 or so to develop each one, so the best part of £9 per shot for that…
Despite vowing not to, I ended up buying the equipment to develop black and white film myself – and doing that was a key enabler for me to start on more film photography in general, which ended up with me buying a Hasselblad.
So yeah, cheap.
I’ve been using the Intrepid for just over 4 years now and I’ve taken 248 photos with it (yes, I have detailed records), so it’s time for a re-appraisal.
TL;DR I think I’ve fallen out of love with it, and I’m probably going to sell it.
I know that slowing down the process of taking photos is one of the big pluses of large format photography, but it takes sooo long to set up everything, to prepare and take a photo – even if I’m not moving much it’s still 5 minutes between shots. It’s very rare that I only go out with the Intrepid, and to be honest I find it gets in the way of taking photos with other cameras – be it digital, 35mm film or medium format film. And that’s not a good position to be in.
It’s also a lot of kit to lug around – I’ve got it in its own backpack along with the lenses and film holders. Carrying that and another camera bag is getting heavy. Then consider that you need a hefty tripod for it, and that’s even more weight.
That means I don’t use it much because I won’t take it very far. Yes, I’m lazy. Looking back at what I’ve taken, I have mainly used it at Cumberland Basin in Bristol and on holiday at gites in Frances, and really quite a small number of other locations.
I find developing film to be a pain – I don’t mind it too much with 35mm and 120 roll film, but I’m not really happy with the large format results. Yes, I could send it away for processing, but that’s adding in even more costs – and if I’m honest even the ones I’ve sent off have come back with some marks.
Yes, it takes nice photos, but does it really take images that are *so* much better than my other cameras, especially the Hasselblad? If I wanted to print huge then maybe it would come into its own – but I don’t.
One of the benefits of large format cameras are the movements – being able to twist and move the front standard to give particular effects. But I don’t use them – I could experiment more with them and get to learn how to use them, but then that’s even more time (and expense) diverted away from actually taking photos!
Also, I *love* the Hasselblad, and to be blunt I would much rather take photos with that instead.
Writing that out does seem to be fairly conclusive – I think it’s had its day, so I need to look at ebaying it all. The idea of selling a camera does pain me slightly, but I did buy a lovely wooden panoramic pinhole camera just before Christmas, so that helps balance things out a little.
So having listed all of the problems, here is a selection of the best photos I’ve have taken with it.
“But Simon, what’s the best shot you’ve taken with it?” I hear you all ask.
This was the first one that made me think “wow”, and I don’t think I’ve taken anything that matches it – there’s something glorious about it, almost luminous and that’s just from a scan. This one might look rather good printed the old fashioned way, on some good fibre-based paper.
This one would have been a contender, if it wasn’t for the bloody drying marks on it.
As it happens, at the time of writing this is the last photo I’ve taken with the Intrepid so it wouldn’t be a terrible one to sign off with.