Large format photography refers to photos taken with cameras that capture images at a format of 4×5 inches (102×127 mm) or larger. While 4 x 5″ is the most popular size of large format photography, larger sizes are available. The 8 x 10″ format is also popular among professional photographers for certain subjects. Image formats larger than 8 x 10” are referred to as Ultra Large Format (ULF). They are designed to produce large negatives for contact printing onto press printing plates).
The main advantage of using large format cameras, whether film or digital (using a ‘digital camera back’), is the higher resolution in the final print. For example, a 4×5 inch image will have about 16 times the area, and thus 16 times the total resolution, of a normal 35 mm frame. Large format cameras produce a better-quality image, and also allow for greater enlargement, than cameras with smaller formats.
Large format cameras excel in not just resolution. They also allow the photographer to adjust the plane of focus to best match their subject.
Most, but not all, large-format cameras are View Cameras (those old-fashioned looking cameras comprised of a flexible bellows between two ‘standards’, one holding a lens and the other holding a viewfinder with a film or image sensor holder). The standards are independently shifted up/down and left/right. This allows the photographer to control the perspective and depth of field of the image. This ability is especially appreciated by architectural photographers.