Large format watch photography – the image gallery on Chillout TGIFridays

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Last week we took the first step towards attempting to make macro photographs of watches using large format cameras and lenses with sheet film. This journey begins in small steps, the first being to start with a 4×5 large format camera and lens, but using a digital back, as it allows us immediate feedback, and to gain some experience. Here is our first shoot with the large format system.

As a reminder, the cameras we used were the Linhof Technica 45, the Silvestri Bicam and the Rollei X-Act2. And various large format lenses from Schneider Kreuznach and Rodenstock were employed.

The photographs

I had not been disciplined enough to practice a system of rigrously recording the other information on a notepad. As a result, the exif only contained the information that the back used is the Hasselblad CFV-50C and the ISO of 100 used in all photographs. Information on which camera was used, the tilt, swing and shift values where they were applied, the lens selected and the shutter speed and aperture were lost. Though in all likelihood, the shutter speed is 1/200s and the aperture set at f/11. 

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

We begin with the Rolex Daytona. This was likely to have been shot with the Rollei X-Act2, with the Rodenstock Apo Sironar Digitar 55mm f/4.5. I found this lens is quite spectacular. The lens is not in production anymore, but it was retailed at about USD 2,500. 

The watch is tilted back somewhat at a larger angle than the other shots, but it can be seen that the entire dial is in focus from the nearest point to the furthest. The bottom of the bezel is slightly out of focus, but very slightly so. This effect can only be achieved by applying tilt to the front standard. Magnification is likely to be about 1X.

Patek Philippe Aquanaut

Probably shot with the Linhof Technika 45 with the Schneider Super Angulon 90mm. This is a rather old large format lens, designed for film use. 

These two photographs are full frame, without crop. The patch shown above is projected at 44mm width on the sensor, and is about half of the dial.  The Aquanaut case measures 40.8mm, so I estimate the dial to measure about 33mm. This gives a magnification of approximately 3X. This would mean a bellows draw of about 270mm from the optical center of the lens to the sensor plane. 

The depth of field is rather small, and the watch is tilted back in a stance the industry calls “cobra”. Some tilt was applied to the front standard to get the dial in focus. Note that where in focus, the details captured is superb. The image has a 3 dimensional feel. For example, on the print of the “PATEK PHILIPPE GENEVE”, the texture of the paint and the slightly raised print is visible. The graining texture of the arabic hour numerals is also visible.

Note that the depth of field is so shallow that the seconds hand, perhaps 1.5mm above the dial surface is out of focus. I also note that there is some purple fringing caused by the lens, visible on the outer edges of the seconds hand. As this is a rather old lens designed for film use, it was not corrected for apochromatic distortion, which appears as colour fringing on the out of focus edges.

Reservoir GT Tour Blue Edition

This is another ‘cobra’ shot, probably taken by the Silvestri Bicam. The lens used is the Rodenstock Apo Sironar Digitar 55m f/4.5. Some tilt was applied to the front standard to achieve the entire dial in sharp focus. This is a more modern lens, and corrected for digital sensors, and this shows up in a much clearer image. The Apochromatic specification on the lens also eliminates the purple fringing which was evident in the Schneider Super Angulon. 

The moiré pattern, which might be visible on the right side of the sloped rehaut of the dial is a display artifact. This pattern is not visible when the photograph is displayed full sized at 1200 pixels along the top edge. But may appear when the photograph is displayed on some smaller devices. This can be eliminated in post production, but I sometimes leave it in as treatment of moiré can soften the picture.

Roger Dubuis Symphatie Bi-retro Chronograph Perpetual Calendar (vintage)

This is an interesting watch created by Roger Dubuis in the early days. The case is in a complicated shape with a form shaped dial crystal which RD calls Symphatie.

These photographs were taken with the Linhof Technika with the Rodenstock Digitar lenses. The photographs are taken at a very high magnification. Both images are full frame, without any crop. Magnification in a large format camera is determined by the focal length and the bellows draw. In both frames, the lens and bellows extension remained the same, and I only moved the watch slightly to change the composition. After each composition was achieved, I focused, and applied tilt and repeated until the entire frame is sharp.

The lines over the movement is scored on the underside of the sapphire crystal, and is slightly out of focus, due to the shallow depth of field at these high magnifications.

Given that the balance is probably about 9mm in diameter and shows up on the sensor measuring approximately 35mm, the magnification is estimated at 8X.

Concluding thoughts

This concludes part 1. It is a learning experience. And I am planning at least one more session, perhaps only using only one of the camera bodies and one lens.

The lens I liked most from the session is the Rodenstock Apo Sironar Digitar 55mm f/4.5, as it delivers the best image quality. And possibly the camera which is most rigid is the Silvestri Bicam, though the Linhof Technika is probably the most charming. I will try to source either a Sinar P2 for the next session.

I also learned that I need to develop a system to record the details of the shoot. I have been shooting digital for so long that I incorrectly assumed that the exif data would contain this information. I also have had the luxury of shooting film on my Hasselblad H3D-HM16-32 film back, and the body imprints the exif data on the edges of the film strip. But for large format, the lens, camera and digital back does not communicate with each other. When I shoot film in large format, as we approach the goal, there will be no exif data recorded, and the notebook and pen method will be a requirement.



  1. Eugenio Demmenie on

    Hi Peter,

    I still occasionally shoot film on 35 mm format. The films I use are Fuji for colour slides (Velvia and Provia), and Kodak and Ilford for black and white. The last couple of months I have not been shooting, I must take it up again :-).

    Thanks again for the article.

    Best regards,


  2. Eugenio Demmenie on

    Hi Peter,

    Great photos. My compliments.

    It is a long time ago that I used a large format camera (Sinar F2 with Nikon large format 120 mm F 5.6 lens). I remember that although it is rather time consuming, it is also a totally focused way of taking photographs. One forgets everything else what is on one”s mind while taking a photograph. In a way it can be quite relaxing if one is not in a hurry 🙂

    As for the format, there is often no substitute for squared inches!

    Best regards,


    • Thanks Eugenio,

      Absolutely! This is the appeal of medium format over 35mm, and of course large format takes it even further. The contemplative, and measured steps needed to take a large format photograph can be meditative and therapeutic. Also the expense of each shot will tend to make one more cautious. The larger the film, the more nuance and subtle tonalities and details are captured. But the cost of each capture goes up exponentially. I would love to try 8×10, and try platinum prints. Do you still shoot film?